The Christian Index editor J. Gerald Harris interviewed 18-year-old Wil Nolan recently to find out how a young millennial thinks about some of the compelling issues of our day. Wil is a junior majoring in Interdisciplinary Studies at Liberty University. His parents are Tony and Tammy Nolan. They are members of First Baptist Church Woodstock.
The Christian Index: Wil, I know that you grew up in a Christian home, but tell our readers about your conversion experience.
Wil Nolan: For some time I walked with a façade. I pretended to be saved. I faked it. One Sunday morning, March 8, 2009 to be exact, our pastor at First Baptist Woodstock, Johnny Hunt, asked the question: “Could you bet your eternity on what your consider your salvation experience?”
That morning the Holy Spirit began to deal with me. There was a war going on in my soul. I felt the prompting of the Holy Spirit, but the devil as a roaring lion was relentless in trying to distract me. My soul was in conflict. I could stand there and resist the warfare or choose victory by surrender. I leaned over to my Mom with a lump in my throat and told her that God was moving in my heart and then walked down the aisle to the altar. That is when things shifted for me.
The steppingstone to my decision was my parents’ example. They demonstrated to me what it was like to be surrendered to Him. They never forced salvation on me, but prayed that God would get hold of my heart. Through them I learned that I must deny my human nature and put myself into the fullness of Jesus. Proverbs 3:5-6 reminds me to deny the things that make me think I can handle life on my own.
The culture promotes the philosophy of delighting in whatever makes you happy. That is dangerous, because that is food for the flesh. Walking with the Lord is a constant state of choosing victory by surrendering.
Index: Wil, why is it important for Christians to grow in their faith?
Nolan: I truly believe it is part of our divine purpose for Christians to grow in their faith. A hero of mine, C.S. Lewis, once said, “Faith is the art of holding on to things in spite of your changing moods and circumstances.” I experience the most significant growth in my faith the closer I get to my Savior. I have found walking with the Lord to be an act of continually drawing nearer to Him. As I draw nearer, I am mindful of the promise of James 4:8 – that He will draw near to me.
Index: What are you doing to grow in the grace and nurture of the Lord?
Nolan: When I think of the word “growth”, I think of “roots”. I grow in the grace and nurture of the Lord by deepening my roots in Him. On a daily basis, this means carving out time to saturate my mind with His word, soak up time with His Son, and submerge myself in His Spirit. I also try to be mindful of the people – the “soil” – I choose to be around me. I have found that this has a direct affect on my roots. Proverbs 13:20 makes it clear that, if you walk with the wise, their wisdom will rub off on you, but if you walk with fools, their foolishness will ruin you.
Index: What kind of influence has your home (parents) had upon your life?
Nolan: My parents have had a substantial impact upon my life. They are two of my greatest heroes, and two of my dearest friends. One of the key things they have instilled within me is having a Philippians 2:3 mindset. This verse says, “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind, esteeming others better than oneself.”
My parents model this verse, not perfectly, but passionately. My parents lead by example, and love extraordinarily. My vocabulary cannot adequately describe how grateful I am for the influence, investment, and example of my parents.
Index: Tell me why you have set your wristwatch to “Praise Him” every two hours and what you do during that “Praise Him” time.
Nolan: Psalms 119:164 speaks of pausing to praise the Lord seven times a day. I read through Psalms 119 throughout the month of December, and this verse stuck out to me. I liked the idea of carving out time throughout the day, specifically to praise the Lord. Now, I have seven alarms that go off sequentially in my day, that are simply entitled “Praise Him.”
This is not a religious ritual for me, it is a reminder that the Lord is praiseworthy, and I ought to be in a rhythm of praising Him all throughout my day. During this time, I praise Him in different ways. Sometimes, I get on my knees, in a posture of humility, and just thank the Lord for His faithfulness, mercy, and love (Lamentations 3:22-23). Often times, I let out a shout of praise, acknowledging Him as Lord. This simple reminder shifts my day into a melody that magnifies and exalts the name of the Lord.
Index: What do you think has caused such a “gap” between the millennial and senior Christians in our society?
Nolan: I often ponder the dynamics of the Christians in our society. Let me be quick to say, I do not have all the answers. However, I would love to share what I have observed, in regards to this question. Very few, both millennial and senior Christians, have a mindset in line with Psalms 34:3, which says, “O come, magnify the Lord with me and let us exalt His name together.” As unified believers, as bearers of the image of God, we have the opportunity to magnify and exalt the name of the Lord together. Unfortunately, I see a large number of Christians, young and old, who are consumed with making much of themselves.
This puts our focus on one’s own appearance, talent, wealth, and social status. If we humble ourselves, pray, and seek the face of God, we would not have trouble with such a “gap” because we would have a common goal of magnifying and exalting the name of the Lord.
Index: What can today’s youth learn from our seniors? What can seniors learn from today’s youth?
Nolan: I have learned much from both today’s seniors and today’s youth. I have connected with young men and women whose lives echo the saying of the Psalmist, “I have more understanding than all my teachers, for your testimonies are my meditation.” These youth have a tenacity for Truth.
I have also had the privilege of gleaning from those who have spent many years growing in the faith. Their roots extend deep and have stood the test of time. These seniors, whose speech overflows with wisdom, whose testimonies display the glory and faithfulness of the Lord, are fuel for my faith.
Index: I am personally very impressed with your faith and commitment to Jesus Christ, but some would negatively judge you because at times you choose to wear your hair longer. Why do you choose to have long hair and what would you say to those who judge people on outward appearance?
Nolan: Great question! I have received a few scowls, many strange looks, and a number of staggering comments in regards to my long hair. However, I believe in valuing one’s heart above their haircut, and one’s character above their clothing. This mindset is a bit of an anomaly in today’s society.
I like to consider Psalms 19:14, “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.” This verse suggests that the Lord is focused on the meditations of one’s heart. I want my focus to be the same.
Index: Church music has changed in recent years. What is your philosophy about worship, particularly pertaining to music (worship and praise)?
Nolan: To put it simply, I like to think of worship as an opportunity to praise the Lord. I believe worship is much more than just a song. However, in our society we correlate music to worship because of the great significance music has in our culture. Music has the ability to connect with one’s soul, without their permission.
Given this reality, we have the opportunity in worship music to connect with one’s soul, and orchestrate the soul into rhythm with the heartbeat of God. This should be the mission statement of the Church, as it pertains to worship. Simply, to orchestrate the soul into rhythm with the heartbeat of God.
When I think of the word “growth”, I think of “roots”. I grow in the grace and nurture of the Lord by deepening my roots in Him.
Index: The church is not being successful in reaching millennials. Why do you think that is true? What can the church do to win millennials to Christ and to involvement in the church?
Nolan: Wow. This is a difficult question. Here are my thoughts… Close. Clean. Contagious.
In the church, we should be seeking intimacy with the Almighty. This intimacy comes by being close and clean. James 4:8 speaks on the dynamic of this reality, saying, “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.” This is the definition of intimacy with the Almighty.
Personally, I have found this is contagious. The millennial and the senior should long for intimacy with the Almighty. If the church can display being close and clean, by their example, I believe it will be contagious.
Index: Describe your worldview.
Nolan: I could say a lot here, but I will attempt to be brief. I have been raised in a family of Judeo-Christian values. My view of the world is that God spoke everything into existence and is upholding all things by the word of His power (Hebrews 1:3). The same God that breathed the universe into its being, knit me together in my mother’s womb (Psalms 139:13). This assures me that God is infinite, yet personal.
This infinite, yet personal, Creator desires an intimate relationship with me, His creation. I desire to love my Creator with every ounce of my existence, and I desire to love others in a way that magnifies and exalts the name of the Lord. My view of the world is that I am in it, but only for a short period of time, and as my pastor Johnny Hunt says, “I want to live in light of eternity. I want to do now what I’ll be glad I did then.”