The Gospel Transforms the Teen Years: An Interview with Jaquelle Crowe
“Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.” — 1 Timothy 4:12
This is a well-known Scripture passage to anyone who’s been around The Rebelution for any amount of time, and it’s all about how the gospel changes everything.
Think about it. Another way to state this verse is to say the gospel transforms what we say, what we do, how we love, how we relate to God, and the very inner-workings of our heart. The gospel changes everything.
As someone who was raised in the original Do Hard Things movement, I’m so excited to see it continue to inspire young people to live the life God created them to live. I believe one of the greatest ways this gospel-centered movement will advance is through a new book by Jaquelle Crowe called This Changes Everything.
I was thrilled by the opportunity to read Jaquelle’s book (P.S. it just released on March 31st!). I contacted her before I even finished the book because I saw the importance of this message for every rebelutionary.
To share more with you, I asked Jaquelle to do an interview for The Rebelution to tell us more about her book.
I encourage you to listen well to her wisdom, catch her passion, and grab a copy of This Changes Everything so you can run toward everything God wants from the teen years.
You can listen to our interview in full below:
The Questions and Highlights
1:16 – Why did you write this book?
2:30 – What does God want from teenagers?
4:12 – What are the biggest reasons teenagers don’t run after God’s plan?
5:30 – How do we become the teens God wants us to be?
8:48 – Jaquelle talks about how her parents have been involved in her walk and addresses the student without Christian parents in the home.
12:20 – What do you think teenagers misunderstand about the church, and what opportunity is there for them?
15:20 – What words of wisdom would you offer to a teen who says, “I’m ready! Where do I go from here?”
17:58 – Jaquelle prays for students who want to run after Jesus during the teen years.
Some Key Quotes
There is a serious myth that is very rampant in culture and in the church today that says teenagers can say they love Jesus but live like they love the world. (3:08)
[Teenagers] haven’t always been given that personal training to become the people that God wants us to be. So there’s a disconnect in knowledge and in practice. (5:13)
Teenagers are just as part of the church as every other member. And when teenagers understand that, that is the catalyst for giving them the proper view and perspective of their place in the church. (13:58)
If you have parents who love Jesus, start talking to them about how to obey God and what a gospel-centered life looks like in your home and your family and your experiences. (15:56)
Bury yourself in God’s Word. That’s where you’ll find God’s will for you. That’s where you’ll find joy. That’s where you’ll find courage. That’s where you will find the life that you’re looking for. (17:16)
Full Transcript of the Interview
Hey everybody, my name is Camden McAfee. I’m a friend and contributor to TheRebelution.com, and today I’m so excited to be interviewing our very own Jaquelle Crowe! Now, if that name sounds familiar to you, there’s a good reason for that! Jaquelle is the Editor-in-Chief of TheRebelution.com, she co-founded the Young Writer’s Workshop with Brett Harris, and she is the author of the brand-new book This Changes Everything: How the Gospel Transforms the Teen Years. Jaquelle, thank you for joining me on this call!
J: Thank you, Camden. This is so fun!
C: You have a book coming out, and that is a huge deal! And I know you’ve shared before about the book and your writing journey. But I want to take some time for our listeners and readers to talk more about the book itself and the message in it, because it certainly is a message that resonates with the theme and the mission of The Rebelution.
C: So, I just want to start by asking the question: Why did you write this book? What compelled you to undertake this writing project?
J: That’s an excellent question. Ultimately, I think it because it was the book I wanted to read as a teen. As a younger teen, that’s what I really began to follow Jesus personally and passionately. And as I was growing in my faith and reading God’s Word for myself, I began to read other books that helped teach me how to live a gospel-centered life. And I just couldn’t find that many for teens like me, and definitely not the kind that I wanted to read, which was a book that gave a solid, practical, fun overview of what it was like to pursue holiness as a teenager. That was kind of the ultimate reason.
But also as I got older, I started meeting and interacting with more and more teenagers like me who are following Jesus and want a resource that meets them right where they are in this totally unique season of life and giving them a kind of specific and targeted encouragement and coaching.
C: That’s great. You talk about the pursuit of holiness, and in the book, you cast this vision for the teen years. What do you believe God wants from teenagers? What is His grand vision for their lives?
J: Short answer—everything. God wants everything from the teenage years. I believe God wants young people to give their lives to Him, so surrendering their present opportunities and their future plans to Him. God wants our bodies and our money and our talent and our intellect and our will. There is a serious myth that is very rampant in culture and in the church today that says teenagers can say they love Jesus but live like they love the world. They can surrender some, give God some, but really use the teen years for their own pleasures and pursuits—when that’s really the opposite of God’s call for teens. He calls teenagers to live in radical, countercultural obedience to a completely new path and run after God’s plan in a way that shows we’re totally different from the world.
C: You talk about the hindrances or reasons teens don’t run after God’s plan, and I heard something that sounded a lot like what Do Hard Things calls “The Myth of Adolescence,” that culture has these low expectations of teenagers, and that really does bleed into the Church a little bit, that we have this lower expectation.
Besides culture’s expectations, what do you think are the biggest reasons teenagers run after God’s plan?
J: You kind of alluded to the fact that Church really has been advancing these low spiritual or theological expectations for teenagers. So a lot of teenagers haven’t realized that they’re called to pursue obedience. For much of the teaching they receive in the church, the solid, specific stuff is directed to adults, and teenagers often don’t get that call—that clear call to obey Christ as teenagers, right now. So they haven’t really thought about it, that all people—especially young people—are called and commanded to sold-out obedience to Christ.
But then also, connected to that, they haven’t practically been taught how to run after God’s plan. They haven’t always been given that personal training to become the people that God wants us to be. So there’s a disconnect in knowledge and in practice.
C: That disconnect between knowledge and practice raises the next question: For a teen that’s listening to this and says, “Oh, you’re right! I don’t want to live by those low expectations,” the natural next question to ask is, “So how do I do it? How do I become who God wants me to be?” Share with us—you go into this more in the book—but give us some tips and points around how we become these people who are sold out for God and for the gospel.
J: Of course. There are so many things, practically and on a big scale, but maybe one of the most—if not the most important—is to get in God’s Word for ourselves. This is where we are going to find our training manual—everything we need to know for life and godliness—to figure out how to pursue God rightly. So getting into God’s Word for ourselves.
Also, fostering communication and communion with God through prayer. And those are almost obvious things, but they’re things that are so critical for a teenager’s pursuit of holiness that we really need to talk about how teenagers can do those things and why teenagers should.
Another one is memorizing God’s Word—hiding it in our hearts so that we have the hope and encouragement, the solace of God’s Word in times of discouragement and fear and suffering and temptation.
And then one more way is to reach out with this gospel message, with this story that we know, in sharing the Gospel with others. That is a huge thing that young people can do to shape their own hearts and passions in evangelizing.
C: Like I said, I know you go into this more in the book, but I love how you paint it in a deep and a rich way for teenagers. Because I think there’s that temptation to say, “I’ve heard this before. I’ve heard that I need to read my Bible more and I need to pray more and I need to do all these things more”—but you really get down to the heart level. You’re not really so much interested in, “Make sure you read X amount of chapters per day and spend fifteen minutes at least in prayer everyday.” You really get down to the heart level, and I think that’s where things really begin to change for us.
J: Definitely—the delight instead of the duty in looking at these things—what’s your perspective of them.
C: Deviating from this a little bit, as I was reading your book I was really struck and encouraged by the way that your parents are involved in your life. And for teenagers, obviously that’s a big deal and big topic that we don’t really talk a lot about—our parent’s involvement in our life. So, maybe just real quickly, share about how your parents have been involved in your spiritual formation, and then also talk to that student who maybe is coming from a place where they say, “My parents aren’t religious or spiritual. I don’t think they would get this.” What does spiritual development look like in the home for that teenager?
J: I have been very blessed to grow up in a home where I have two parents who are Jesus followers and who are passionate about discipling me and teaching me God’s Word and training me in the faith. They were absolutely instrumental in my spiritual formation, in teaching me what it looks like to follow Christ as a young person—as a person at all—what it looks like to get into God’s Word for myself, in modeling how to pray, in modeling so many spiritual disciplines, and then walking with me through them. We read books together and we had so many conversations about what this looked like, so they played a massive part in discipling me and bringing me to this place.
Now, for teenagers who do not have that, that is so hard, and I feel for those teens so much, because I know the blessings of growing up in a family that wasn’t like that. But I do think that teenagers who live in a home where their parents are not their spiritual leaders but these teenagers do want to pursue God do have unique opportunities for gospel witness.
So first, I would suggest that you be willing to initiate conversations about the gospel with your parents: not in a hostile way, not in a way that tries to attack or appear non-submissive. But just in a heartfelt way about the gospel, talk to your parents about religion and faith, and why they don’t believe or what they do believe.
And then I would also say not to resent your parents, because this can be difficult when you are looking at other parents who may be Christians, and you’re comparing them. You may have trouble because you wish your parents were like that, and it can seem easy or tempting to resent your parents. But don’t do that. Your parents are still your parents, and God gave them to you, and gave you to them for a reason.
But then I would also say that you do need to find spiritual mentors. Your parents love you and have a lot to teach you, but they cannot be your spiritual mentors, and you do need spiritual mentors. So the primary place that you need to go and you need to look for that is in the Church.
C: Jaquelle, one of the things that I appreciated most about your book is how you talked about the Church. Because I would say that is something that is almost entirely absent in a lot of the Christian teen world. There’s not a lot that praises the Church or says, “You need to be part of the Church.” It’s just sort of accepted that, “Well, you’re a teenager, so you have to go to church until you get old enough to be part of the church.” And you just knock that down flat, which I love. So tell me—tell the listeners and readers—what do you think teenagers misunderstand about the Church, and what opportunity is there for them?
J: That is an excellent question and one that I am so passionate in talking about because you are exactly right. This is something that we don’t talk enough about, and that’s why I love to talk about it.
First of all, I think that the primary thing teenagers misunderstand about the Church is that they think of it more as a building. So the church is a place—you have to go to church—and it’s a place that you attend almost as a spectator rather than as a personal family that you serve and invest in. And this really is a point that is a game changer. If you view the Church as just something that you go to, it becomes an obligation instead of a personal delight. If you look as the Church as a family though, there are so many opportunities you have to get involved and personally be invested in the church— ways that you can serve and engage with the teaching that you hear and fellowshipping with other believers.
The Church often can seem like a place for adults. But really that is not the picture that Scripture gives us at all. The Church is a place that we go to celebrate with a very diverse family of people of different ages, of different races, of different occupations and social statuses. So teenagers are as just a part of the church as every other member. And when teenagers understand that, that is the catalyst for giving them the proper view and perspective of their place in the Church.
C: One of my personal favorite Scriptures that I think about a lot is Proverbs 20:29, that says, “The glory of the youth is in their strength, but the glory of the old in their grey hair,” not talking about actual hair color there, but their wisdom and their experience. And I think there’s such a compelling picture to be made for teenagers working with those in older generations to move forward the gospel in our churches and to become the young men and women of God that God has called us to be. So, again, you do this so well in your book, and it’s one of my favorite parts of it.
Just to close out this interview, I want to end with this question: What words of wisdom would you—as a teenager, or as a teenager when you started writing this book—say to another teenager who says, “Okay, I’m ready! I want to live this life that God has called me to live. Where do I go from here?”
J: First of all, praise God, because that is such an exciting question to ask! Jonathan Edwards, he actually talked about the fact that if teenagers want true happiness in life—because we teenagers, we’re always looking for happiness—the only way we’re going to get that is through following Jesus. So you’re about to set out on a path that will give you eternal joy. It will of course be difficult, but you are on the road to true happiness, so that’s an exciting place to start.
As far as where to go from here, I would say first, if you have parents who love Jesus, start talking to them about how to obey God and what a gospel-centered life looks like in your home and your family and your experiences. Start there.
But then just as we were talking about how you need a church—get plugged in to a local church. So that’s not just attending, because you may already be attending an excellent local church, and that’s perfect, because that’s the first step. But then get invested in this church. So that means being willing to serve, being willing to give, being willing to encourage others and really tune into the teaching, being open to your pastor. That’s a big thing.
And then third, I would say, read good books. A few off the top of my head are Do Hard Things, of course by Brett and Alex Harris, Don’t Waste Your Life by John Piper, The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness by Tim Keller—so read good books.
But—and this is the most important point—read God’s Word more. You want to follow Jesus as a young person; you want to live the life God has called you to live. Bury yourself in God’s Word. That’s where you’ll find God’s will for you. That’s where you’ll find joy. That’s where you’ll find courage. That’s where you will find the life that you’re looking for.
C: That’s powerful. I didn’t have this planned here, but I think the right way to close this time out is to have you pray. And would you pray for that student who’s listening, that teenager who’s listening, who’s saying, “I want to go after this; I need that encouragement in my life. So they’re a listener on TheRebelultion, they want to go after this. Jaquelle, would you close our time by praying for that person?
J: Of course. Dear heavenly Father, I thank you so much for the life that You have given us—for the lungs and breath that You have sustained us with. And I thank You for saving us and for transforming our hearts by the power of the Gospel, by the power of Jesus Christ. I thank You for the young people out there who are ready to lay everything on the line to follow You wherever You lead. And I pray especially for the young people who want to pursue holiness, who want to obey You as You have instructed in Your Word—that You would give them the grace they need, that You would give them wisdom through Your Word, that You would direct them where to go, that You would give them communication and a firm, solid relationship with their parents. I pray that You would get them connected and invested in a local church where they can be held accountable and learn and grow and fellowship with Your people. And I pray that you would impress upon their hearts this deep, deep desire to obey and to love You more. And I pray that You would give them happiness—that You would give them true joy as they seek to follow and serve You, that You would give them lasting satisfaction as they seek satisfaction in You. In Jesus’ name, amen.
C: The book is This Changes Everything: How the Gospel Transforms the Teen Years. I’ve been talking with Jaquelle Crowe, who is the author as well as the Editor-in-Chief of TheRebelution.com. Jaquelle, thank you so much for taking the time and sharing this with us.
J: Thank you, Camden. This was a blast.