The Homelanders Rebellion

Originally published October 15, 2009

A long time friend of mine will be leaving American soil next year for a mission for three years to an undisclosed Muslim country.He will be 40 when he starts this exciting phase of his life, which is not exciting his widowed mother at all.This was causing some considerable stress until he was sharing at her church about his mission.During his presentation he told the story of how his parents always had him pray for missionaries as a child and that made an impression on him.Now he’s getting ready to become like one of those missionaries he always prayed for as a child.My friend told me how he watched his mom’s jaw drop during that part of his presentation.It dawned on her right then that this was her fault.She had raised her son to want such a life even if that meant leaving her.

I am holding this story and some other like stories for my near future.For the last 8 years we’ve been doing a church family-based youth ministry at our church that has the parents and church family quite directly involved with our teens.

These teens are growing up with wide opportunities because of all this adult involvement.For some I see that their only option for responding to their faith will be a life-calling to some sort of mission because they’ve already had so much opportunity.Another very real possibility is some sort of job in a dangerous part of the world because they desire a career that will also serve as a mission.I predict that a parent or two are not going to like his/her son to be in that kind of danger or even that far away.I’m getting ready now to tell them that this is their fault.They raised him this way.And what a wonderful teenager he is.


A lot has been written about our kids being raised “safe” today.Truly today’s kids are coated in hand-sanitizer.How did we ever withstand plagues without hand sanitizer?I won’t rehash the great amount of research and opinions out there but I will bring up two points to re-emphasize this.

Neil Howe is the sociologist who coined generational names such as "Generation X" and "Millenials."When he ran a contest on his website to name this generation, the winning name was "The Homelanders" as in security because this generation has grown up in sidewalk versions of SUVs, wore tracking monitors, and parents have been able to watch them in the classroom through webcams.I actually had a parent (and I love my parents) ask me if I thought it was safe for their son to jog around their middle-class suburban cul-de-sac neighborhood because he wanted to lose his baby fat.They had told him no originally.

Some teens have become so softened that any sort of rejection can be devastating to them.Even for the successful students from Harvard.Yes, the students who have gotten into one of the most selective colleges because of their hard work and goals.But with this economy, even these students are experiencing the pain of being rejected.So much so that Harvard’s Office of Career Services hosted a new seminar in April (2009) on handling rejection.The advice from the assembled panelists could have come from a caring, patient parent.Advice such as, no rejection is the end of the world even though it might feel that way at the time.Participants also wore buttons with the word “rejected” stamped in red and received a pink booklet of rejection letters and personal stories from Harvard faculty, students, and staff members.(, April 21, 2009)

So many good intentions are manifesting themselves not in the ways we intended and the fruit may even be negative.With the same good intentions, many youth ministry decisions have been made to give teens a safe place and we’ve offered them a safe God in those safe places.Again, with good intentions.But as Mr. Beaver’s famous line about Aslan is, "’Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good.

I’m not contradicting the great resource book, Better Safe Than Sued, here.We need to make safe decisions so teens don’t get injured on our watch.But our teens do not need a safe God.

This is the message that is resonating in many teens from Alex and Brett Harris with the Rebelution movement and Shane Claiborne with The Simple Way as well as others.(I admit, that this is not the majority of teens.)After being sanitized in so many ways, teens are reacting to something that is challenging, uncomfortable, and Wild Frontier-ish.It speaks directly to the adolescent development stages of increased concern for others, increased self-reliance, increased concern for the future, more importance is placed on one's role in life, interest in moral reasoning, and capacity to use insight. This stage used to include binge drinking or other experimenting but now that is even trying to be done safely.Seriously, Google “safe binge drinking.”

And doesn’t this message also speak directly to Jesus’ message?Plus when Paul challenges us in 1 Corinthians 9:24-25, do you think he meant strict training to be safe?

Back in 1990, film director John Waters (Cry-Baby, Hairspray) wrote a backpage article for the special edition Newsweek issue to kick off the last decade of the Twentieth Century.This quote inspired us in those early days of Wild Frontier.To quote John Waters yet again, "Sex, drugs and rock and roll all seem so old hat. Who would have ever thought you could die from sex? It was much more fun when you only went to hell. In the old days, the most curious rebels took drugs to think more; now the stupidest ones take them so they don't have to think at all.

"...Stop being so rebelliously lazy. Here's how to horrify me so it will work. Start off by making it cool to be poor again, the only way left to be un-American. You shouldn't want to be rich, you should want to embarrass the rich. Don't move to New York or Los Angeles; stay home and scare the neighbors. ...The uncoolest thing in the '90s will be racism. My generation will pretend to be liberal, while still thinking the same stupid racist thoughts. Expose us by reversing the usual negative cliches and watch all the phony, politically correct parents see red. ...Since you can't have promiscuous sex anymore, consider yourself lucky. No sex makes you more nuts and that's good. Besides, you didn't get to think up sex in the first place, so why bother? ...Yeah, yeah, yeah, they took drugs in the '60s. So what?! Then they all became alcoholics and addicts. And now, even worse, you've got to listen to how they overcame their addictions.

"See? It's easy to get a rise out of us old farts. You're finally on to something new--a dawn of devious teen behavior to mock the millennium. Get moving!"

This call to rebellion didn’t happen in the 1990s but it has started to happen in the late 2000s.Are you seeing it?

Does your youth ministry teach a safe God?Or does your youth ministry teach the challenge that faith really is?

I’m sure without intending to, the five kinds of hard things Alex and Brett Harris came up with do give a good guideline for youth ministry.Hard things are:

  1. Things that are outside your comfort zone.
  2. Things that go beyond what is expected or required.
  3. Things that are too big to accomplish alone.
  4. Things that don’t earn an immediate payoff.
  5. Things that challenge the cultural norm.

This is just another filter to put your youth ministry plans through.And you’ve got the entire church family to help you plan.

So I close with this wonderful Wild Frontier quote:“I would like to think that when I pronounce the benediction at the end of our services, I am sending dangerous people back into their natural habitats to wreak havoc on the enemy.”--Mark Batterson, Neue Quarterly, Issue 01