Marian Shek—Leicester, UK
The idea for this youth-focused special issue was conceived pre-pandemic, in a seemingly simpler time, before the words “unprecedented” and “coronavirus” entered the daily discussions of ordinary people. Now, this issue is emerging into a landscape more challenging and complex than we could have imagined. It has been unequivocally shaped by the pandemic and the many forces that have risen in concert with it. The same can be said of the generation of youths who are now coming of age. While the Omicron variant has signaled the shift to a new, endemic phase for this disease in many countries—as we learn to live with the virus—if the last two years have taught us anything, it is that the situation can change in a heartbeat. Natural disasters, environmental devastation, conflicts, political unrest, divisions and disparities, will continue to upend the certainties that past generations trusted in (Mk 13:7–8). At the same time, the internet and social media have accelerated trend cycles, blurred the lines between truth, fiction and misinformation, and heightened the tenor of social discourse, causing massive shifts and schisms in social attitudes. This constantly churning world is one that our youth must navigate while undergoing the disorienting mental and physiological changes of adolescence, typified by risk-taking behaviors, novelty seeking, and an increased focus on peer relationships and how one is perceived by others.
Amid such a maelstrom of pressures and influences, how can our True Jesus Church youth maintain their faith—to Be Rooted and Grow?
Throughout the process of putting this issue together, as the world transformed around us, the relevance of the theme we chose three years ago has become all the clearer, thus revealing the timeless truth of God’s word. Though the youth must adapt to the challenges of this strange new world, we do well to remember that we are not of the world, and that our Lord Jesus has overcome this world (Jn 17:15–16; 16:33). Jesus Christ, and His message, remains the same (Heb 13:8), no matter how the world evolves.
This issue discusses how young believers can become rooted and grow in Christ through three sub-themes: Plant Firm Roots, Nurture Growth, and Bear Fruit. We have also experimented with design, digestible formats and infographic-style features, as well as addressing topics ranging from pop culture, to mental health, and stepping into independence, to speak more directly to our Gen-Z readers.
The youth have a vital role to play within church, within their families, and within society—they are to be like the tree of life bearing fruits of righteousness and bringing healing to the nations (Ezek 47:12; Rev 22:2; 2 Cor 9:10; Eph 5:9). To do so, they must be securely rooted in the truth, watered and revitalized by the pure waters of God’s Holy Spirit, and nourished through an intimate connection with Christ—the true vine—and His church (Col 2:6–8; Ezek 47:1–12; Rev 22:1; Jn 7:37–39; Jn 15:1–8; Eph 3:8–19).
Giving a plant the proper care and growing conditions allows it to develop strong roots and thrive. Do we take the same amount of care to nurture the faith of our youth? If we are a youth, do we cultivate ourselves and ensure that we are firmly rooted in the truth? If we do, then our young saplings in faith will grow strong enough to withstand whatever winds and storms this life may bring, to flourish in the courts of God and bear fruit into old age (Ps 92:12–14).
 “Adolescence,” Psychology Today, accessed February 20, 2022, https://www/psychologytoday.com/gb/basics/adolescence.