Let me tell you about a person I have not always liked. He is 20 years old, reasonably bright, friendly, and—when he wants—capable of influencing people. His name is Tom.

Until recently his life appeared to be unraveling. His parents, who live 2,000 miles away, are on the verge of divorce, and that's thrown him for a loop. I don't think he has the slightest idea of how much his crumbling family has hurt him. But those of us who know Tom are quite aware. We have worried for him.

Recently, Tom received a form letter from his university telling him that if he has one more semester like the last, he will be suspended from school. This I find perplexing because he has a better mind than that.

One of the reasons I have struggled to like Tom is because his character is defective. His work habits are poor, and he moves from job to job. Financially, he lives from day to day. His personal life is undisciplined, disorganized. He's a people-pleaser and often makes promises he does not keep. Result: people tend to be disappointed in him.

Having been brought up around church people, Tom knows the language and the appropriate behaviors of church people. But there is little about his Christian life that one would find compelling. Tom is not a bold sinner (his "testimony" is not worth a book); he certainly isn't a bold follower of Christ.

I keep wondering what is going to happen to Tom. I see versions of him every day. Do young people like Tom ever think about the future? Do they understand that choices have consequences? Will they ever settle down to steady relationships, to work that adds value to their generation, to faith that is durable and connected to vital issues?

But then, hey, I'm an old guy. What would you expect from me when I look ...

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Summer 2003: Emerging Leaders  | Posted
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