This article is part of our Is the missing generation’ still missing?” report to find out more click here.

In March 2020 my aspirations were high. The long-imagined days when I have free time had finally come. I’d heard Shakespeare wrote King Lear during the plague. I was told Paul wrote half of the New Testament in prison. Friends filled their feeds with extraordinary home-baked accomplishments.

Now it’s 2021. I’m staring out of my window into the sleety-slushy-drizzle falling from a sky of grey nothingness. My Great British Bake Off aspirations are in tatters. The familiar ache of my poor posture is telling me I’ve been in front of a screen too long today. 

The pandemic has been a kind of apocalypse. Not (quite) in an end of the world’ sense but in a true-to-the-etymology revealing what’s really there’ sense. It’s uncovered the less-than-healthy patterns I was able to ignore in the busyness of life before coronavirus but which now confront me every day in my life of agonising domesticity.

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Like many of my young adult peers, one of those unhealthy patterns was a predisposition towards busyness. Being in as many places, seeing as many people and accomplishing as many tasks as each day would allow. The fruitful life Jesus promised was tangible, even attainable, if I could do enough. I bounded into the first lockdown with considerable enthusiasm. But come 2021 I think I might be hearing Jesus’ words in John 15 for the first time: 

I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit He prunes so that it will be even more fruitful… I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”

Here are three insights that Jesus gives us in this passage – insights that might be just as pertinent to the young adults you’re discipling as they are to the young adult that has written this very article.

#1 – Disciples always bear fruit

This is a promise to trust, not a requirement to prove anything. And in this promise is freedom from legalistic expectations about doing enough’ each day. It’s also a promise that invites us to see differently: fruitfulness isn’t the same as busyness. Here are six M’s we use at the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity (LICC) to help everyday Christians see the fruit God is growing through them, whatever season of life they’re in:

  • Modelling godly character. Think fruit of the Spirit. Think relationships with housemates in a confined space for a long period. Opportunities abound: patience shown when that dirty dish is left out, gentleness in mentioning it, self-control in not needing to have the last word.
  • Making good work. Crafting that difficult email. Preparing for that meeting, to honour the one who invited you to it. Perfecting that line of code.
  • Ministering grace and love. Cooking a tasty meal for those you live with. Writing an actual letter. Telling the delivery driver you appreciate them and wishing them well on their way to their next job.
  • Moulding the culture we’re in. You might not be in an office, but you can be sure your organisation’s culture is alive and well. Who is there to celebrate? What is there to fix? How might you influence the way you do things to see the kingdom coming in your organisation as in heaven?
  • Being a mouthpiece for truth and justice. A lot of us have more free time than we used to have. What causes are there to be involved with? On whose behalf can you speak out? Where might you be able to volunteer your time to help the less fortunate?
  • · Being a messenger for God’s gospel. It’s never been easier to invite someone to church. Pray for opportunities to naturally share who Jesus is and the difference He makes, and then pray for the courage to take those opportunities. 

#2 – Fruitful disciples get pruned

Jesus says His Father prunes those who are already fruitful, which means that even if we feel cut back’ in some way, God is still at work. It’s just that what was good in one season isn’t what’s needed for another. Homeworking requires a new skills set, for example (here are a series of blog posts about just that). Greater autonomy means pursuing integrity in how we use our time on tea breaks or social media when we’re at work, and how we draw healthy boundaries around emails and our physical workspaces when we’re outside working hours. 

I’ve found that lighting a candle and putting it next to my monitor is a helpful reminder: my daily tasks are still prepared in advance for me to do by the God who trusts me to do them.

#3 – Disciples only have to remain

None of the above is a new set of requirements for super disciples’. Bearing fruit is what’s going to happen when we do the one thing Jesus does in fact ask His disciples to do: remain in Him.

According to Jesus, remaining comes first. Not busyness. Not even doing stuff for Jesus. Just remaining. So can we simplify, rather than mystify, what that looks like, for our young adult friends? 

There are apps that help us start the day with Jesus’ priorities (remaining) rather than other people’s (emails): Pray as You Go, Lectio 365 or Reimagining the Examen are all great. LICC has its own set of prayer journeys. Why not practise remaining with Jesus using any of those? He’ll take care of the rest. Fruit will come, whatever the season.

In 2021, our aspirations can still be high. Jesus isn’t worried. His Spirit is not on lockdown. His Father is working to this very day. So here’s praying that we, and the young adults we love, will be disciples who bear all kinds of good fruit. If we need to be pruned, we’re in safe hands. And may we aspire to remain in Jesus most of all. It’s all He asks us to do. 

Is the ‘missing generation’ still missing?

Is the ‘missing generation’ still missing?

A brand new resource for every church to be encouraged and to facilitate a conversation around making young adult disciples in this season Find out more