Young leaders share lessons learned in 2020

Jonathan Pokluda (left), pastor of Harris Creek Baptist Church in Waco, discusses biblical approaches to issues millennials have struggled with in 2020. (Texas Baptists Communications Photo)

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Young adult leaders from Texas Baptist churches considered biblical responses to escapism, racial injustice and political division during an online event prior to Texas Baptists’ virtual annual meeting.

During the past two months, young adult Texas Baptist church leaders have shared reflections through an online series called “20 Things We Learned in 2020.”

Those discussions culminated in an online event—the Devoted Young Adult Rally—streamed on Facebook Live and Texas Baptists’ website. Ten watch parties were scheduled around the state for young adults to meet and discuss what they heard.

Jonathan Pokluda, pastor of Harris Creek Baptist Church in Waco, discussed biblical approaches to issues millennials have struggled with in the midst of the challenges of 2020.


In a video, Kaitlyn Anderson, a student at Baylor University’s Truett Theological Seminary, discussed escapism. Millennials often have a tendency toward escapism and a desire to flee from silence, negativity and pressure, she said. She talked about the rising mental health needs among teens and young adults.

After deleting apps that allowed for escapism and binging, Anderson discovered “there in the stillness and heaviness was Jesus.”

“We are called out of binge culture and escapism, and then we are comforted by the fact that our God is right in the middle of it, calling us to come alongside him and advocating for the gospel and everybody’s place in it,” she said.

Pokluda also addressed escapism and how the millennial generation often tries to escape from the challenges and hardships faced in this world.

“When we feel that, it’s a reminder to me that we weren’t made for this world,” Pokluda said. “He’s made for us another world, a kingdom, and he calls us to set our minds on the things above.”

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Pokluda referred to Jesus’ teaching in John 16 that in the world there will be trouble, but Christ has overcome the world.

The solution to escapism is to lean into the church and be surrounded by the body of believers, Pokluda said. He also encouraged young adults to press into the Scripture, to seek God and to renew their minds by focusing on the promise that believers will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.


Kingsley Demakpor, associate student pastor at the Heights Church in Richardson, talked about racism, defining it as “placing the value of one race over another.”

“It is not just a social issue. It’s a gospel issue, because it is at the very heart of the teaching of the gospel in saying that God wants to reconcile all things through Christ,” Demakpor said. “As believers, we don’t shy away from the topic of racism, but we embrace it as a gospel issue, realizing that God wants to work through us to bring peace to our society.”

He described how Jesus transcended boundaries and asked the question, “In your life, in your church, do you have a faith that transcends boundaries?”

Pokluda then addressed the young adult group, teaching from Mark 10 about how Jesus did not come to be served but to serve.

“What I see in the life of Jesus is how amazing he was at empathizing with others. I think that’s an opportunity to lean into others to ask questions,” he said.

Drawing from 1 Corinthians 9, Pokluda discussed how Paul encouraged believers to become all things to all people that they might win some for Christ.

“There’s an exhortation in the Scripture to learn from those that we are around, to become like them so that we can minister to them,” Pokluda said.

Pokluda went on to say ministry could be a number of things such as helping others to heal, be a bridge, build a bridge and to reconcile.

“Reconciliation is core to what it means to be a follower of Jesus,” he said. “Reconciliation is really putting the pieces together.”


Matt Thigpen, a young adult pastor in Austin, talked about how so many aspects of life in the United States have become politicized in the past year.

“The church should have always been known solely as a people about Jesus,” he said.

When everything becomes a political issue, however, Christians find themselves “getting in arguments about stuff that we were never meant to,” Thigpen said.

Drawing from James 1:19, Thigpen encouraged young adults to seek to listen to those around them and be slow to respond without drawing assumptions about others.

“I have this hope for the church that more than anything else we would be known for our love for Jesus,” he said.

Rather than a connection to a political party or another affiliation, believers should be known for their love and Jesus Christ, Pokluda insisted.

“Our identity has to be, first and foremost, beginning and end, identified with Christ,” he said.

Pokluda pointed to Joshua 1:9, saying he wants his household to be known for serving the Lord.

“We have to think, engage our minds, pray, seek the Lord and at the end of the day based upon what we know about God and his values, move forward,” he said.

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