Moving from Stay Woke to Pray Woke (Part 3) | Rock, Paper, Scissors, God

John McNeill
December 30th, 2020

My eight-year-old son, John III, surprised me this month with his profound and meaningful adaptation of an old childhood game.  John said “Dad, let’s play Rock, Paper, Scissors?” My reply, “Indeed.” Knowing that I was familiar with the rules, John proceeded to initiate the first of three rounds of the game saying rhythmically, “Rock, papers, scissors, shoot! Anything you want to do!” Everything was normal to this point. If you’re not familiar with the game, the rules are simple.

Each person extends their hands in gesture that resembles either rock, paper, or scissors. Rock crushes or beats scissors; scissors cuts or beats paper; and, paper covers or beats rock. A few of my family members who were present turned to see the outcome or to see me, the man, lose to the son, a child, in a child’s game.  Well, I made a fist to represent the rock.

Simultaneously, John held his hand high above his head with his fingers spread and shouted, “God.” My son the young theologian, John III, embodied Soren Kierkegaard’s words that, “youth are never too young to take hold of the truth or for the truth to take hold of them.” John embraced what he was taught at home and executed an eternal Spiritual Truth.

To me, God is Sovereign and above all.

To John, God always wins. 

When we learn of or encounter the truth, we ought to strive for the wisdom to know how to apply the truth to our lives.

The Truth and Other Truths

As a Christian leader, I believe that Jesus is “The Truth” (John 14:6) and that the Holy Spirit guides us into all truth (John 16:13). A few enduring truths found in the Scriptures that relate to the series theme of, Moving from Stay Woke to Pray Woke and inform my writing are, that government ought to work for the good of its citizens (Romans 13:3-4); faithful persons ought to do justice (Micah 6:8); and a believer in Christ ought to live to the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31).  

Old Enough to Make Witness

Kierkegaard’s words performed—as I wish more writings would—spiritual surgery on my heart and transformed how I viewed my context for ministry at home and in community. We, parents and youth leaders, pray and hope that the children and youth in our care would take hold of the Truth, Jesus Christ, and other edifying truths at an early age. Teens today have a legacy of pursuing justice. 

One legacy example occurred in 1963 when thousands of school-aged children marched in Alabama during the Civil Rights Movement, intentionally filled jails and exposed the callousness of the racist systems. It was not an easy decision for Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King and other leaders to support. Eventually, Rev. Dr. King reconciled the issue and said, “Children who are old enough to join a church are old enough to make witness for justice.” 

Truth Towards Edifying Results or Solutions

A local group of youth who were interested in discovering truths and working towards edifying results or solutions invited me to dialogue about the role of youth during social justice movements.

Fundamentally, the youth with were interested in impacting and improving their communities, so they asked that I consider a couple of crucial questions towards social change:

  1. What are the basic features of social movements and why are they important? 
  2. How can youth mobilize today?
  3. Can a school principal discipline students for protesting during school hours?

The students were not focused on being famous and recognizable leaders of a movement. Instead they wanted to understand what they were getting themselves into and how they could be effective. God needs good and faithful stewards in ripe spaces for justice seeking. The light from their questions exposed an area that I would like to explore. I will appropriate the theological shorthand of time, talent and treasure in the church to give examples of how Christian youth can engage in justice seeking. Time, talent and treasure, in the church, means all aspects of your life that God has given you to responsibly steward.

Time and Justice 

Does your schedule include justice work or reflect that justice is a priority? Yes, youth can make time to make a difference their school, community or world. Plan to write a letter or let your voice be heard. Set aside time to attend a meeting or planning session regarding an issue where injustice exists.  

Talent and Justice 

The gift of faith is indispensable when one cannot see the end of a justice seeking effort. God has blessed every young believer in Christ with a gift and may contribute to justice efforts. Often God will use more than what we think we are good at to help others. Perhaps you could build relationships with people who may support your interest. Your presence or signature could be helpful in a justice effort. Persuasive and compassionate writers are always needed.    

Treasure and Justice

Treasure in the church usually refers to money or other tangible resources. So, what does this look like for a young person?  The donation of an item, the allocation of one’s allowance or the appropriation of one’s salary to an organization to support a particular cause is always a great act towards giving. 

Finally, always advise youth to check with a responsible and informed parent, guardian or adult for guidance towards any social justice effort a youth chooses.

John McNeill

John C. McNeill, Jr. is a transformational leader, gifted preacher and creative teacher with a heart for and a keen understanding of 21 Century cultural trends and young people. John presently serves as Youth Minister at the First Mount Zion Baptist Church in Dumfries, VA and Staff Consultant with Ministry Architects. With more than 20 years of experience in church-wide ministry and family ministry, He is notably a trained Pro-reconciliation Anti-racism facilitator.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the YS Blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of YS.