How to #Adult (Learn from Mentors)

Scripture  |  1 Corinthians 1:1-9

As the only staff member of this church who is also a member of the millennial generation, I feel it is my duty to inform you that my generation has created a new word this year

In the same way the company name “google” was turned into a verb as in “oh you should google that”… the word that my millennial brothers and sisters have come up is also a noun that has been turned into a verb …to “adult”

The linguistics journal American Speech has offered up these definitions:

1. to behave in an adult manner; engage in activities associated with adulthood
2. to make someone behave like an adult; turn someone into an adult

 These definitions are great, but I like the one on the cover of the bulletin better … “Adulting”- The act of engaging in responsible actions and tasks that make you feel like a real adult

This word or forms of it has become wildly popular. It is all over twitter and Facebook as a hashtag and it has kind of an ongoing joke that millennials use to poke fun at themselves and our unwillingness to grow up. We write about how we filed our taxes for the first time, or applied for life insurance with excitement and then conclude our message with #win #adulting

I am pretty sure every college student I know has used this word in at least one post. One even went so far as to make this cross stitch for her dorm over winter break, which boldly declares in flowery text “I can’t adult today.”

This verb has really come to define my generation’s sense of what it means to grow up, to take on responsibility, and leave behind adolescence.

Which is why I’m grateful Karen and Philip humored me in our worship planning by letting me use this new verb as the title of the sermon series we begin today that will focus on Paul’s letter to the Corinthians

#adulting is actually a pretty fitting term to describe Paul’s letter to the Corinthians. In fact, several times throughout his letter, the apostle Paul refers to the corinthians as children! He calls them babies in Christ. And if you could summarize this letter as a whole you could almost say Paul is writing this children in faith in order to urge them to grow up, to mature in the faith to which they’ve been called. To remember that they

It may be helpful to give some context as to how Paul began to see the Corinthians in this way. Paul arrives in Corinth roughly 20 years after he converted to Christianity, he has already set off on one missionary journey to tell people about Christ, and by the time he gets to Corinth he is on his second trip. It is fair to say he has been spreading the gospel for sometime now and is no stranger to telling people about Christ, no stranger to developing disciples in Christ, and no stranger to forming worshiping communities that should be able to continue on without him. 

Paul spends around a year and a half in Corinth, working as a tent-maker to support himself, and preaching in synagogues and bringing both Jews and non-jews or gentiles to Christ. He leaves to continue this work in other towns but it is evident he is leaving Corinth in a pretty good place. There are people worshipping together who have come from many different backgrounds but who have been brought together in faith and there at least two functioning house churches that make up the church in Corinth.

So Paul leaves Corinth and continues on his missionary journey, and after a while he gets word from several people that the church in Corinth is struggling. Some folks are boasting about their spiritual giftedness over others. They are falling back into their old way of life, forgetting the new life their faith has called them into, and in doing so they are falling back into their old societal divisions, and distancing themselves from each other.

Paul hears of all that is happening in Corinth and even though he’s begun forming a church in the town of Ephesus, he feels he must intervene and try to fix some of the problems in the Corinthian Church. 

So Paul writes this letter hoping to call out their broken behavior and to try to re-unite the people of these communities. He writes this letter and he urges the Corinthians to grow up, to start “adulting” in their faith in Christ.

Over the next few weeks, We will look deeper into some of the ways Paul suggests the Corinthians grow up and #adult. Its won’t necessarily be a clear process or some easy 5 step recipe, but by looking into this thoughtful letter from a leader who cares deeply about these people and the well-being of their church, by looking into their relationship and Paul’s suggestions for the church we may see some insight into how each of us might mature in our own faith.

But for now, we are right here in the beginning of his letter. And, right off the bat... in his first 9 verses of “Dear Corinth, this is why I’m writing you.”  There is something even here that is important for the church in Corinth to understand, and I think there is something here for all of us to understand. Paul is clearly frustrated by how much the church in Corinth is falling a part, Its what has moved him to the point of needing to write them but listen to his words in his writing to them…

“From Paul, To God’s church that is in Corinth: To those who have been made holy to God in Christ Jesus, who are called to be God’s people. I thank my God always for you because of God’s grace that was given to you in Christ Jesus. You’ve been made rich in everything through him. Our God is faithful, and you were called by him to partner with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.”

These don’t sound like the words of some distant frustrated church-planter. Paul spent a year and half with these people. He knows them, He cares about them. He told them the story of Jesus, and he saw how it changed their life. He earnestly wants them to flourish in their faith and is not content hearing about them struggling.

In short, Paul is a good spiritual mentor. He cares about them, he has invested his time with them and through He has left them to continue his work, he doesn’t want to leave them to flounder on their own.

In these first few words you hear Paul give thanks for them, you see how he still respects and cares for them. Even through their struggles he still sees them as a people who have been made holy to God and called to be God’s people.  Paul will soon have some choice words with him, and help them understand just how far they’ve come. He will soon call them out for their behavior but Paul never loses hope for them and still thinks they can get back on the right track.

Though its not clearly stated in Paul’s words here, modeled in his writing and in his actions is one of the most foundational things “to adult” in our faith. To properly mature in our faith, you need to develop a relationship with a good mentor, someone who you respect and look up to. 

Someone who you can try to imitate, but also someone who cares enough about you and your faith journey to maintain that relationship like Paul does, reaching out after years of not being in touch.

You need someone who cares enough about you to thank God for you, to still see hope and potential in you even when you are at your worst. Someone who cares enough to call you out when you are starting to veer from the commitments you made in faith, and from your calling in Christ.

As a mentor, Paul himself tries to follow the example set by Christ. He tried to live his life as a role model to others who sought to follow Jesus. Was Paul perfect? No. Did he follow closely in Jesus’ footsteps throughout his life? No. Yet as he matured in his own faith walk, Paul always turned back to the role model of Jesus and tried again to walk in his ways. 

Who are the people in your faith life that might fit this mentor role for you? 
Who are the people in your faith life… young or old who seem to be walking in Christ’s ways? 
Who are the people in your faith life… young or old …who care enough to regularly check in with you about your walk with God? 
Who are the people who care enough to speak the truth to you? To hold you accountable and with love, call you out your failings?
Who can do all of that and still find hope and potential in you?

Faith is not a road walked alone. We need each other. We need spiritual guides for the journey. Mentors to not only keep ourselves accountable but also allow us to flourish in our walks with Christ.

As a youth pastor, this is something I think about often. At least once a year we attempt to pair our confirmands with an adult mentor that they’d connect with, in hopes of forming a supportive relationship that lasts beyond the confirmation class. The hope is that seeing the faith modeled in a person, and building connections outside of their age group will help them grow deep in faith and their commitment to Christ.

In fact some of the most recent studies into youth ministry suggest that the youth who are the most active in their faith can name 5 adults who they respect, trust and look up to that help to mentor and shape their faith life. Those of you who grew up in the church, can you name five adults who shaped your faith when you were a youth? 

One pastor, I know of takes this model even further, suggesting that mentorship doesn’t have to only be adults mentoring youth, but he believes that every person in faith, whether a child, youth or adult, should have five people across all the different ages and stages in life to serve as their faith mentors. You can even grow and mature in faith by learning from a mentor who is younger than you! And he believes the church has a responsibility in helping to nurture and support those kinds of relationships because we are better Christians and a better church when we are connected.

We can’t follow in Christ’s footsteps alone. We need people in our life who can help us #adult in faith. People who can guide our steps and help you grow in faith. May you find people within these pews, who can be like Paul for you, who can thank God for you, remind you of your calling, and help you walk in faith

May you find the folks who can see hope in you on your worst days, 
and who take pride and find joy in you when you are flourishing in your faith.

And if you struggle in that search. If you find it hard to connect, or don’t even know where to begin. May we the church follow through in our calling, to nurture and support you in your faith walk by helping to form and nurture those relationships. May we empower everyone from birth to beyond, to mentor others in Christ, while being mentored themselves until together, we grow into fully grown #adult Christians. Amen.