Everyone expected Eva to attend these parties, but she was a Christian now. At first she struggled over what she should do, but her indecision faded away when she read the words Jesus prayed for His disciples–and for all His followers through the ages:
“I gave them your word; the godless world hated them because of it, because they didn’t join the world’s ways, just as I didn’t join the world’s ways. I’m not asking that you take them out of the world but that you guard them from the Evil One. They are no more defined by the world than I am defined by the world (John 17:14-16, MSG).
Is there hope for the next generation? Check the news and you’ll find plenty of stories about teen accidents, teen drinking, teen shootings and other behavior that is often both dangerous and illegal. Add to that studies predicting that only 4 percent of young people born after 1984 will grow up to be Bible-based Christians. Or reports from major evangelical denominations that eight out of 10 Christian young people will leave the church and fall away from their faith by their second year of college. If you only look at these statistics, the future for the next generation looks grim.
Yet, in between accounts of teenage apathy, recklessness and drift, light is beginning to shine through. Teens like Eva are committing their lives to Jesus Christ and are finding the courage to stand for Him, even when it means going against the tide of culture. Over the past three years we have seen thousands of normal teens who are embracing God-sized passions and achieving incredible results at young ages.
We’re here to tell you that God is doing something great in the hearts and minds of our generation. Young people are rebelling against the low and ungodly expectations of our culture by choosing to “do hard things” for the glory of God.
These are teens who were 12 when they began to hate slavery, 14 when they had compassion on the homeless, or 17 when they raised tens of thousands of dollars for Christian ministries and missions. They offer us a glimpse of what God is doing in the next generation–something great for the good of His Kingdom.
Rumblings of a ‘Rebelution’
For us, this movement began during the summer of 2005, when we were 16. It was a tough summer–not so much because of what we did but because of what we didn’t do. For several years we had been heavily involved in high-school speech and debate, spending most of our summers doing research and writing speeches. Our parents had decided that it was time for us to move on, and while we agreed with their decision, we felt lost.
We welcomed the break, but we were looking for direction. We wanted to do something that mattered, but what was it? Every time we thought we had a plan, God closed the door.
Then one morning Dad announced, “I’m putting you two on an intense reading program this summer.” He placed a large stack of books on the kitchen counter. We eyed one another warily. We loved to read, but something about the way Dad said the word intense caught our attention&mdashthat and the thickness of the books he was pointing to. The stack included books on a huge range of topics: history, philosophy, theology, sociology, science, business, journalism and globalization.
For the next few months we didn’t do much besides read. The more we read, the more our minds were filled with exciting–and at the same time troubling–thoughts about our rapidly changing world and our generation’s place in it.
We began to realize that even though the books we were reading were written for adults, teens were the ones who most needed to wake up to what the books were saying. After all, aren’t teens the ones who will grow up to lead the world those books describe? If so, we were convinced that there had to be more to the teen years than pop culture suggests.
We decided to start a blog as a place to share our thoughts with friends and any others who might stumble across it. We called the blog The Rebelution.
The word rebelution is probably new to you. That’s because we made it up. We combined rebellion and revolution to form an entirely new word for an entirely new concept: rebelling against rebellion. More precisely, we defined rebelution as “a teenage rebellion against low expectations.”
Striking the Right Chord
If you had told us then that our humble blog sporting a generic design template would go on to become the most popular Christian teen blog on the Web, we would’ve laughed. But our ideas about what God can do through teens like us have come a long way since then.
One of the first series of articles we posted was called The Myth of Adolescence, calling into question the modern notion of the teen years as a time to goof off. Almost immediately other teens started to comment on our posts. “What you’re saying is what I’m missing at my church,” wrote one teen. “Don’t stop!”
When we asked on the blog why teens weren’t rising up against our culture’s low expectations, the response overwhelmed us. “Everyone I know at school is shackled by low expectations,” commented 16-year-old Lauren from Colorado. Nate, a high-school senior from Florida, wrote, “Man, did you ever say exactly what I’ve been feeling, well, ever since I became a teenager!” Word spread. New questions sparked more discussion and inspired new blog posts–sometimes two or more a day. Something big was starting to unfold.
A lot bigger than we realized. Just three weeks after the blog launched, the New York Daily News wrote a feature column about it. The headline read, “Think Big! HS Twins Tell Peers.” The column opened with the words, “Most high schoolers’ blogs are the online equivalent of perfumed diaries or locker-room walls–outlets for teens to gossip, confess and network with their pals. But a pair of 16-year-old homeschooled twins from Oregon … are out to change that.”
“The teen years are not a vacation from responsibility,” we had told the columnist. “They are the training ground of future leaders who dare to be responsible now.” Our words were bold and idealistic, but we believe they are also biblical.
You see, the words teenager and adolescence do not appear anywhere in Scripture. And you won’t find any reference to a period of time between childhood and adulthood either. Instead you’ll find the Apostle Paul writing in 1 Corinthians 13:11, “When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me” (NIV).
Notice what he doesn’t say. He doesn’t say, “I became a teenager, and I looked and sounded like an adult but still acted like a child.” No! He said, “I became a man, and I gave up childish ways.”
What we find here is clear evidence that God does not hold two standards: one for young adults and one for adults. He has high expectations for both. Where some might look down on or excuse young adults, God calls us to be examples. Where our culture might expect little, God expects great things.
So whose expectations are we living by? The Bible says, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world” (Romans 12:2, NIV).
History is full of examples of young people who used their teen years to accomplish great things and to launch themselves into world-changing lives.
George Washington was just 17 when he became the official surveyor of Culpeper County, Virginia. David Farragut, the U.S. Navy’s first admiral, was only 12 when he was given command of his first ship–taking a captured vessel and its men back to the United States after a successful battle. Clara Barton, founder of the American Red Cross, was 11 when she helped nurse her brother back to health after a serious accident and by the age of 14 was a nurse to her entire village.
In our case, in three years our Web site has received over 18 million hits from several million unique visitors around the world. We’ve interned at the Alabama Supreme Court, served as grass-roots coordinators for four statewide political campaigns, coordinated an international conference tour, written a book and launched a 20,000-member grass-roots organization for a former presidential candidate.
We don’t think we’re all that special; we think we’re just normal teens living a radically different way for the glory of God. Reinforcing this conviction are hundreds of stories of teens we’ve met through our blog and Web site. These teens love God and want to honor Him by rising above the expectations of our culture. Teens like 15-year-old Conner Cress and his friends, whose efforts last year provided clean water to 20,000 people in Africa. Or like Brantley Gunn, who at the age of 13 launched a nonprofit charity that purchases and remodels abandoned houses, arranging bank financing for new owners–usually poor single mothers.
These are teens like 16-year-old Jazzy Dytes, from the Philippines, whose rebellious attitude resulted in her falling out of school and nearly ruining her reputation. Then a pastor’s daughter visited Jazzy and invited her to church. She left some Christian reading materials along with a link to our Web site. Jazzy began to read the Bible, and she committed her life to Jesus Christ. From then on she threw herself into sharing Christ’s love the same way she had thrown herself into her previous rebellion. Within two months she was volunteering with two nongovernmental organizations as a child’s rights advocate working with gangsters, sexually exploited girls and abused children.
These are normal teens with a different focus. They want to serve God–now, not later. They want to raise the standard for their generation.
Salt and Light
Jesus said, “You are the salt of the earth” and “You are the light of the world.” (Matthew 5:13, 14, NIV). In these images, Jesus provides a model young people can follow to make an impact on our world–not just to love God and His Word but also to radically affect the world with life and truth.
Our generation is ready for an alternative. We are ready to do something big, even when that means standing against a culture that wants nothing to do with Christ. Already, thousands of unlikely heroes are leading the way in redefining what the teen years are all about. We hope we’ve given you a glimpse of what is–and what could be. A generation is waking up–we can feel it. Rebelutionaries like Eva, Conner, Brantley and Jazzy help us see it. This is real. It is happening.
Join the rebelution–to the glory of God.
Alex and Brett Harris, co-authors of “Do Hard Things,” founded Therebelution.com in 2005. Today, at 19, they are among the most widely read teen writers on the web.