Why should I give it my all to teach a small Sunday School class or clean the church toilets?
Worlds Greatest Drag Race
Why should I give it my all to teach a small Sunday School class or clean the church toilets?
Worlds Greatest Drag Race
I was in a conversation with a middle-aged lay youth leader last week. He has been serving in his church with his wife for years. He has teenagers himself. He really cares for the teenagers and goes out of his way to love them and connect them with Christ, but he still appeared a bit discouraged that he himself was not connecting with them. Moments later he said, “I am too old to be a youth leader. I do not feel relevant.”
Relevant is a word that is often overused and hard to define. It’s a buzz word. It is a word that gets tossed in the air but quickly evaporates into cultural jargon. Relevant supposedly has connotations towards how one generation relates to another, but is seemingly out of style or touch.
I like Webster’s definition of the word relevant, “closely connected or appropriate to the matter at hand.” Could older Christians be more relevant according to this definition than they get credit? I want to encourage all the older people serving in churches among teens, children’s Sunday school classes, young adults, and the man I met this week struggling to be relevant to today’s generation.
You might be old, but your faith is still refreshingly youthful. I think it is great when parents of teens serve their own teens in their church. My favorite servants as a youth leader were the old ladies in the church that would pray for and write cards to the teenagers. They loved it and the teens loved getting real mail. Faith does not have a sell-by-date expiration. Nothing stirs the faith of a church more than multi-generational ministry.
Youth are the same today as they were when you were a youth. I would also add, youth are the same today as when Jesus was a youth. Teens are sinners. When you were a teen you were a sinner too. Each generation of young people have the same temptations just disguised in new clothing: pride, lust, and issues with authority. Even though a decade or generation may have passed since you were a teen, as a sinner you have something in common, and together you can help each other look to Christ to fight your temptations.
The struggle to be relevant is one of the great lie of our ministry-age. To think about the amount of ministry that has been missed or messed up because elder believers did not feel relevant enough to minister to younger believers. This is a tragedy. Satan’s strategy is to deceive and the church has bit into the fruit of the tree of relevance. Young and old need to stop believing the lie that they are not relevant enough.
The gospel message is always relevant. It has been for 2000 years and it will be for 2000 more. It never goes out of date. Sinners need a Savior. Stick to this truth. Stop trying to be so relevant. Teach about Jesus and seek to live like Jesus. What could be more appropriate or connected to the matter at hand than the good news of Jesus?
Now I might sound like an old codger myself, but I’m an advocate of being relevant and change for the sake of change. However, while being relevant I do not want to forsake the gospel or compromise biblical truth. I am encouraged that for more than two millennia Jesus and His message has been relevant enough to transform lives and communities. It will for two millennia more! In my opinion, working in youth ministry the past 8-years, being relevant has less to do with you and more to do with your message. I’ll stick with Jesus.
Who are the top-5 most popular teenagers in the world? According Google search engine the top-5 are: Justin Bieber, Miley Cyrus, Selena Gomez, Demi Lovato, and Emma Watson. Are you a Bieliber? Biebergasted? Have the Bieber fever? Or OJBD? [Obsessive Justin Bieber Disorder] Are you a cult follower of Bieberism? [i.e. screaming crowd of 10-year olds]
Fame and fortune are fleeting. We have seen how the fame and fortune have gone to the heads of many teens, such as Lindsay Lohan, Brittany Spears, and countless others. Next year there will be a new set of teens that will top the billboard charts and gets their moment to shine in the spotlight.
Who are some teenagers God highlights for their relentless passion for Him?
God uses teenagers throughout the Bible and history. God loves young hearts that and not polluted by the world and are willing to relentlessly and tenaciously give themselves to God. Are you willing to be used by God? Are you available to obey Him no matter the task or cost?
You know Mary. She is the one you see knelt next to the dirty manger with the Son of God swaddled inside with animals huddled together for warmth. A star is shining brightly above. It is a beautiful scene in Bethlehem. But let’s go back 9-months before the baby is born. Let’s look at Mary. Why did God choose Mary? What’s so special about her that God gives her the task of bearing in her womb the second person of the Trinity? You might be in for a surprise.
On an unordinary day, an angel appears to Mary with a message from God Himself. Days like this did not happen everyday with people in Bible times. She is somewhat scared yet curious about what she’s seeing and hearing She probably heard stories from her Sunday School teacher about how God came to people through messengers in the past. Little did she realize she’d become one of the characters you and I would read about centuries later.
Why does God choose to work through people, including you? It is not because you are worthy, popular, rich, good looking, smart, or have some special skills that make you are more favorable than another. It is just the opposite. God is worthy, good, rich in mercy, generous, and wise. He enjoys using ordinary people to carry out His extraordinary redemptive plan.
God has shown favor to Mary by His grace. Mary is young. She is only a teenager. She was probably no more than 13-15 years old. She is pregnant and not married. This would have been socially scandalous. She could have been label loose or a whore. Imagine the conversations among the girls in the hallway at Mary’s school. “Did you hear? Mary’s pregnant! I didn’t think she was that kind of girl. Who’s the baby’s daddy? Could it be her boyfriend Joseph?”
Mary is the student at your school who isn’t well known. She isn’t great athlete, not a scholar, not the coolest kid on the block, she isn’t drop-dead gorgeous, she isn’t a gossip girl; she isn’t obsessed with fashion or boys. She’s a simple girl. She’s from a rural hick town. She’s from an average family that’s has an average salary. She’s got a modest amount of Facebook friends. She’s the kind of girl you probably would not notice walking through the hall. But God noticed her. He has a plan to use her. Overnight Mary becomes a key character in His story.
If you were Mary what would you be thinking if God asked you to do something really important? “This is crazy! This cannot be happening to me! What about Jennifer or Kevin, they much better looking and smarter than me? God, you want me to have a baby?” It might be hard to believe—if not miraculous—that a virgin can conceive a baby. That is exactly what God’s going to do. He gives Mary a sign by raising to life the dead womb of Elizabeth, her elder cousin.
Wow, what an incredibly wonderful day this is for these two ordinary women. Mary cannot contain herself any more. She bursts out in a song of praise [Luke 1:46-56; cf.1 Samuel 2, Hannah]. Look at how she worships. She lets begins by listing over 17 attributes about God. She is humble and available to trust God [1:48]. She is both innocent and obedient. She believes “what is impossible with man is possible with God.” [1:37; cf.18:27]. She has all she needs to know it is God who was at work in her. She does not care what others thought about her situation. She doesn’t fear man. She fears God. She desires to bring Him—and Him alone—joy. And this is what you were made to do—worship God, which brings Him joy.
It is clear from Mary’s words (and from the whole Bible) that God is not biased to the rich, the powerful, or the proud. How could God be partial to the things, which in our world are—more often than not—substitutes for God rather than pointers to God? Vast numbers of people have perished because they were enamored by pride, power, and wealth.
Today’s Teen Magazines and websites are filled with messages about finding favor with others: “Get a smaller waist in 2-weeks,” “Hot summer looks,” “5 ways to get her to notice you,” ”Pick up lines she likes to hear.” What are people trying to figure out when you read this? Do any of them deliver the promises you were seeking? Sure. Why do we want others to notice or be impressed with us? It makes me feel important and secure. If the Bible were a magazine article or web advertisement what would it say? Find out how Jesus can satisfy your needs forever.
Notice how others around the incarnation of Christ responded to His coming: Elizabeth gives glory to God [Luke 1:39-56], prophets eagerly anticipate the Messiah [1:67ff], shepherds lift up praises [2:8-21], angels worship [2:14-15], even magi’s seek Him [Matthew 2:1-12]. How would you respond? How do you respond to God’s presence in your life? How have you been blessed by Jesus? How have you been overwhelmed to praise by the presence of Jesus?
God sent His Son into the world. God took on skin and a human body. He humbled Himself by become a human for humans. This little baby boy born in a barn and feed trough would grow into the most important man in human history. As Gabriel said, “He will be great…He will reign…He will be called holy—the Son of God.” [1:32-33, 35] The next 33 years would forever change the course of history. This child’s purpose was to live to die, to die for the sins of humanity, to take upon Himself the wrath of God in place of sinful man, to become the perfect sacrifice for your sin. The feeble infant would conquer sin, death, and Satan.
Mary had within her womb the Messiah, and if you know Christ, you too, have the Holy Spirit within you—Immanuel—“God with us,” is also with you. Wherever you go He is with you. Mary carried inside her the Savior of the world. You also carry the message of the Savior. A message that will resurrect dead souls to new life.
God used young Mary to accomplish His redemptive plan. And He still uses young and old who are humble and available to be characters in His great redemptive story.
Let me tell you about a teen named, Hannah. You probably don’t know her. She’s not on any teen top-5 lists. Hannah goes to church, she’s from an average family, loves soccer and Spanish. As a teen, she signed up for a few short-term mission trips with our church to Spanish speaking countries like Dominican Republic, Haiti, and Costa Rica. She was able to share the love of Christ with people in a language she learned at school. Now Hannah desires to translate the Scripture in unique languages so more people can hear about her Savior. Whether God uses her that way or not in the future is up to Him. But Hannah is humble and available and God loves using characters like that in His story.
Questions to consider whether you are young and old from the life of Mary and the birth of Christ
Are you available to do whatever God wants you to do? How do you know if it is from God? It won’t contradict the Bible or what God has done historically. Do you fear God more than man?
Are you humble enough to be a character in God’s story rather than having Him be a character in your story?
Will you write a poem or song that expresses your heart toward Jesus?
Connecting the Stories: How to Use Scripture in Personal Ministry
1. Some passages speak more clearly to certain issues that others, but all passages provide a lens through which to view any issue.
2. In ministry to others, we move from life to text or text to life.
3. Some passages are more easily used in ministry situations than others.
4. Major on connections that arise from the passage as a whole, not so much on isolated phrases.
5. Remember that all passages are linked some way to Jesus Christ and His redemptive work.
Adapted from the book, CrossTalk: Where Life & Scripture Meet, Michael R. Emlet. New Growth Press, Greensboro, NC. 2009. 83-88.
Yes, of course. But can you explain what morality is and where it comes from without God? That’s the key problem for an atheist worldview. Craig Hazen explains in this Biola Magazine article. Here’s the conclusion…
I’m afraid the framing of this discussion leads us to ask the wrong questions. Like the junior high boy who wonders how “far is too far” with his girlfriend, we are quickly caught up in questions about how rich is too rich, how poor is too poor, and the like. Where is the line?
Four years ago a teenager church wrote pastor Piper for advice about life in general, and identity in particular. Here is what he wrote, with a big dose of autobiography for illustration…
Ever hear the old adage: “Marriage isn’t primarily intended for your happiness, but for your holiness?” Well, it’s true and it’s a glorious thing.The growing in holiness part doesn’t always seem blissful. But it means that God isn’t finished with you yet, either. The purpose and hope in marriage isn’t defined by you or your spouse, but by God.
Paul refers to himself numerous times as worth “imitating” when it comes to spiritual growth and maturity (1 Cor. 4:16, 11:1; Phil. 3:17, 4:19; 1 Thess. 1:6; and 2 Thess. 3:7, 9). What do we see when we look to Paul as an example? He makes three significant statements about himself throughout his years in ministry that are helpful insights into his view of spiritual growth.
Spiritual Depression [D. Martyn Lloyd Jones]
This is the first day I step off the pastoral staff of Battle Ground Bible Church, but it is also the first day I step onto your mission outreach team. Although the role of my family will change within BGBC, we will still be an outreach arm linked to this church in North Africa.
For the last 6-months I have been thinking about this day. I am reminded of Paul the Apostle’s third missionary journey when he gave his farewell message to the elders at Ephesus [Acts 20:17-38]. I can feel what he feels. I can understand his heart for the church. If I could I would make this my farewell address to my church too.
Paul had little time left to talk to the elders of the church in Ephesus [vs.16-17].
I only have one hour left with you.
Paul spent 3 years in Ephesus, which is longer than he spent in anyone place [vs.18,31].
I have spent almost 8 year with you [began September 21, 2003].
Paul wears his emotions on his sleeve. He cares for this church as a shepherd who suffers with his sheep [vs.19,31].
I wouldn’t consider myself a stiff board.
Paul was bold in his preaching. He did not hold back [vs.20-21].
I did not shrink back either.
Paul leaves Ephesus under the conviction of the Holy Spirit [v.22].
I take my family to North Africa by the call of God. Our family is gripped by the glory of God.
Paul anticipates the journey ahead to be difficult and full of trials, but worth the risk [vs.22-23].
I know it will not be easy in the desert among the unreached peoples.
Paul views himself as nothing and Christ as everything. Even his ministry is of Christ and for Christ [v.24].
I am humbled by the ministry of Christ and ministering for His namesake.
Paul encourages the church to preach the gospel with boldness [vs.25-31].
I have sought to protect this church and uphold the doctrine on which it stands.
Paul has worked hard, earned his keep, and challenged the church to give to the mission of Christ [vs.32-35].
I have labored hard for you because Christ is my boss.
Paul, not knowing if he would see them again, was sorrowful because he loved their faces [vs.36-38].
I know I might not see you soon, but we will see each other again if we are eternal friends!
In summary, Paul is saying to the church in Acts 20, FAITHFULNESS IS WAY BETTER THAN LIFE [vs. 24-25]. As missionary Bill Bentley to Mexico said, “I don’t want make a living, I want to make a [faithful] life.” Faithfulness to my call is far more important than whether I live—whether I live at all or live comfortably. Faithfulness is better than life because the rewards are literally out of this world and God is gracious.
I am grateful that I am not leaving BGBC because of disgruntlement, conflict, joylessness, tiredness, or unfaithfulness. I am leaving BGBC with joyful sorrow because I will severely miss the immediateness fellowship, worship and mutual ministry of this Body of Christ. I have not viewed being a pastor at BGBC as being a job, but a joy. I love my church.
1. Jesus sacrificially loves it. [Ephesians 5:25] He built it, established it, died for it, and is still the Head over it.
2. God is glorified through it. [1 Timothy 3:15] He is working out His eternal plan through it.
3. I am a member called to it. [Hebrews 10:24-25] It is the most precious reality on earth [and a glimpse of heaven].
When I first arrived at Battle Ground Bible Church I was 23 years old. I was green. I had just graduated from Bible College. I spent the year before serving in South Africa as a church planting apprenticeship and then served at Montrose Bible Conference for a summer leading evangelism workshops. While at Montrose I had a conversation over lunch with a missionary from Bangladesh named Sam Smoker. We were exchanging funny names churches we had attended. In the course of that conversation he mentioned the name Battle Ground Bible Church. That week I found BGBC’s name on a pastoral search placement list and the rest is history.
I have grown exponentially since coming to BGBC. Not only have I grown facial hair and a little belly, but also more importantly I have grown up in my faith. That didn’t just happen. Growth doesn’t happen in isolation. It happens in a community of likeminded Jesus followers. God designed growth to happen in togetherness. As a church you have stirred me, shaken me, encouraged me, matured me, prepared me, and helped me to want to be more like Jesus Christ.
You have prayed for me. Bore patiently with me. You have prodded me to continue to dig deep into the Word. You have sent me to pastor conferences for spiritual encouragement. You sent me to seminary to continue my education. And now, you are ready to send me oversees as a light for Christ. Thank you for not holding back in stirring my growth. “Let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” [Hebrews 10:24-25]
Your pastors need to be stirred. Thank you for stirring this one!
God has used many of you to stir me to love and good works. Like Paul, you have helped guard my heart from carelessness [v.31], shallowness [v.32], covetousness [v.33], laziness [v.34], and selfishness [v.35].
I have been spiritually and physically refreshed from bike rides with Steve “Z”. I have enjoyed friend chicken and birthday cakes with Edith. I look forward to Sunday hugs from motherly Karen O’Leary. Every Tuesday I hunger lunchtime talks with Brent Childs. I will miss slugging bats with Rollie and praying with the sweaty men on my softball team. I will miss random calls and quirky questions from Sheila Norton. I will miss having a secretary like Joyce [aka: boss]. I will miss the ministry of music played by the fingers of Greg and Alana.
I have cherished prayerful cards from Linda Wheat, Arnetta Berenda, and the Turpin’s. I am grateful for the roof top talks with Steve Fry while hammering shingles onto my home. I will miss praying with Granny Dee Marion [and watching how she did not waste her illness]. I have learned how to suffer graciously by watching Charlie Haines. I am blessed by the visual expression of the Zinn’s and Miller’s when the Word of God is preached. And I could go on and on listing VIP’s [Very Important Partners] in this church.
Fellowship is partnership. Partnership is more than just a liking of a sports team, talking about the weather, or ranting about the warts of our church. Fellowship is having a common partnership is what matters the most—the gospel of Jesus Christ. Paul said, “I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. And I am sure of this, that He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” [Philippians 1:3-6]
Those who know Kenny know he proclaims the Word of God with boldness. He is not an ear tickler. He does not hold back out of fear of man or a desire to please people. He faithfully and meticulously exegetes the Word of God, and delivers meat that I am forced to gnaw on. Steak is hard to swallow sometimes, but I’d rather chew on steak than suck blended spiritual food out of a straw of baby bottle.
You have expanded my vocabulary. In my Bible I have a list of words that I still need to go to the dictionary for a definition. I have learned how to use the word flagellation and ghastly without sounding boyish. I suppose I will now need to subscribe to Readers Digest and enrich myself with Word Power.
You have also expanded my love for the church, the Word of God, and living a real faith. I have had the privilege of seeing you work from behind closed doors. I have seen you wrestle through sermon preparation trying to apply the truth to your life, your family, and your church family. I have watched you suffer with your people, weep for them, pray over them, losing sleep because of them, and unconditionally loving them [even the difficult ones].
Kenny, I will miss you. You are my pastor. You have been just the pastor I’ve needed. You have shepherded my heart.
As a pastor, it is humbling to know that the money I have to buy groceries comes from the generosity of faithful givers. You have given above and beyond.
When I first arrived at BGBC, as a single guy, I had nothing to my name other than a few books, a folding chair, and an extra pair of glasses. The church had a pantry party and afterwards I literally had enough boxes of Mac & Cheese to last me through a famine. A few Christmas’ ago an unknown group of people bought me a new wardrobe, a suit coat, neckties, and really sweet Super Man PJ’s. The gifts were individually wrapped with encouraging verses and letters. Each day in December I was able to open a new gift. When Sarah and went to North Africa earlier this year we got news that Emma Lawson was having a bake sale to support our vision trip. We were so blessed that the kids of our church get ministry and Christ’s mission.
The first Sunday Sarah came to visit our church you lovingly encouraged our blossoming relationship. When I asked for her hand in marriage you came alongside us with generous support. When you learned that we were having our first child you showered us with baby clothing, diapers, wet wipes, and other baby goodies. I think we are still working through all the diapers and we have only bought Justus one original outfit.
Your generosity over the years has been overwhelming, but an incredible blessing. I challenge you to continue to be a blessing to the next assistant pastor and his family. As you have blessed me, I would hope you would also bless him. I have bragged about you to Pastor Jeremy and Jen. I am excited to see how you will come alongside them in the days ahead. A generous church is a Jesus-centered church.
Young people keep you real. You cannot hide or fake your spiritual walk around them. I have enjoyed ministering to and being ministered by the teens of our church. Though sometimes they make me want to pull out my hair I have enjoyed praying with many of them through difficult times, discipling them through a critical life stage, and learning the great privilege of partnering with their parents to serve the whole family. It truly takes a church to raise a child!
The student leaders have been a source a spiritual growth for me. Hannah Starrett, Betsy Goodale, Amy Stratton, Brittany Ristau [Scheiner], Debbie Hill [Fights], Greg O’Leary, Andrew Ristau, Emily Ristau, Levi Starrett, Kyle Miller, and Wonho Rhee are just a handful of student leaders that have challenged me to live more like Jesus, love Jesus, and model servant leadership like Jesus. Many of these youth have been a source of spiritual conviction to many adults because of their love for Christ and willingness to serve Him.
The youth leadership team is a family to me. Many of you have served together with me for years. Some since the day I started [i.e. Starrett’s and Norton’s]. You have struggled and suffered alongside the youth teaching, modeling, and discipling them in the truth of the Bible and reaching out to them the gospel. I am incredibly proud of our young people and I know the students and youth leaders will be a blessing to our new assistant pastor.
I love how the church supports and spiritually invests in the youth. I am grateful for the slew of older ladies who faithfully pray over the youth. We never have a shortage of scholarships for retreats or camps. We never have a shortage of homes will to host events or fellowships. We never have a shortage of volunteers willing to pour themselves into the lives of the young people of this church. We never have a shortage of opportunities for our young people to serve in the church [1 Timothy 4:12]. Thank you for loving the youth who are the younger generation of this church. Keep it up and our church will live long into the future.
Missions and gospel outreach is in the DNA of BGBC. You love what God is doing globally and are willing to invest locally. You have encouraged and supported the youth of the church to consider short-term missions, which has spurred some to go out or be sent out. Bethany has gone to Dominican Republic and Costa Rica. Hannah has a heart to do linguistics work where people have no Word of God. And you have fueled my passion for global gospel outreach. Continue to go, sent, pray to the Lord of the harvest!
The people in our small group are so different, but yet we so much the same. We are all a work in progress that is willing to work hard to help each other be more like Christ. Anand David has blessed me through his passion for Christ and longing to live for him. He asks me hard questions that keep me sharp and vulnerable. I have learned a lot about perseverance from him as he has waited for a godly bride.
It has been a joy to see Brad Kerns and Pete and Brittany Ristau own their faith and explode spiritually as young adults. Both Pete and Brad have move from being boys to being men! Austin & Hannah Mattern have become great new friends. Even though I know little about farming and country living their passion for Jesus has brought life to our group.
Janel Haines has been a rock to both Sarah and me. There is not one person in this church that does more behind the scenes in this church than her. She has her hands in almost every ministry it [i.e. youth ministry, children’s ministry, Children’s church, gardening, VBS, writing cards, prayer support, counseling, and more] and she obviously loves it. Her growth in Christ has been nuclear and the radiation from her spiritual walk has leaked into the lives of many in our church including the Hutts!
I remember the first time I met the leaders of Battle Ground Bible Church. I was sitting across the dinner table with them at The Hour Time. Immediately I had a respect for these men who dedicated themselves to the church. These men absolutely love this church, and they sincerely care about one another. These men have been used by God to trim my young, rough, and thorny branches.
These men have held me accountable through some spiritually challenging days. They have held the frontlines with me—a man who sometimes lacks confidence—helping me gain a backbone. I have appreciated it when they have confronted sin, rebuking at times, and challenging my vision to make sure it meshes with the Word of God and the spiritual direction of the church. These men have certainly stirred me to godliness.
I love meeting with Mike Fights over a tasty breakfast. He is my David and I am his Jonathan. His wear-it-on-your-sleeve kind of love for the Word and God is contagious. Cort Starrett is a software engineer for a living, but he has been used of God to do some hardware engineering on my heart. Cort intimidated me for a long time, until realized he is wired as one who likes to get to the point of matters. Now I want to be like him. I enjoy Phil Kerkoff’s generosity and knack for the practical. Dave Criswell is simply a rock and prayer champion. Gary Elliott and Todd Rice are full of wise insights and keep our long meetings sane. Deacons meetings—though long—have never been a drudge but a delight.
Together, us leaders have walked through some difficult minefields casting vision for the church, while upholding the doctrinal and theological integrity of the church. We have made some decisions that have met opposition. Yet these men would rather stand before God and give an account to him than please man.
I will miss praying over and pouring over Christ’s church with them men. I will miss caring for and coaching our church to be more like Christ with these men. I will miss the bond of brotherhood with these men. By the way these men lead this church they have reminded me that FAITHFULNESS IS BETTER THAN LIFE.
“And now, behold, I am going to Jerusalem [North Africa], bound in the Spirit, not knowing what shall befall me there; except that the Holy Spirit testifies to me in every city that imprisonment and afflictions await me. But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may accomplish my course and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. And now, behold, I know that all you among whom I have gone preaching the kingdom will see my face no more.” [Acts 20:22-25]
This year our student ministry leadership set a goal: be disciples discipling others to be disciples. We decided to do ministry biblically, thus the discipleship experiment took life. It was a risky move, but a bold biblical endeavor.
We had some speed bumps, U-turns, and engines overheat along the journey, but overall I am ecstatic to see our adult leaders become more actively involved in the spiritual growth of our students. Though many would admit, “I feel like I’ve failed.” I would say their input into the lives of the students was exceed by the spiritual output. In other words, high risk [discipleship] equals high reward [disciples].
Student ministry biblically is a ministry of the church coming alongside families equipping them to become faithful followers of Christ. Student ministry is intensive discipleship geared towards students and their families. Intensive discipleship is both encouraging one another to follow Christ [evangelism] and equipping follower in Christ [followership].
Discipleship is difficult. It’s difficult because of the cost involved. The cost may involve time, studying the Word to help student see their lives mirrored in the Word, willingness to get messy as students fall into sin, and desire to pour your life into another by living in a way that models a disciple of Christ. Discipleship takes a willingness to be selfless for the sake of another to see and savor Jesus Christ.
It is easy to disciple for all the wrong reasons. Some disciple to feel needed, important, or appreciated. Others disciple to impress, lord-over, or act as mini-Messiah’s. This is not discipleship. We don’t disciple as matter of self-defense or self-promotion. You don’t pour your life into others to fill yourself up. How selfish. Discipleship is selfless because it is promoting Christlikness.
When you gaze at the cross and get a glimpse of the gospel you see that you are unworthy, but God in Christ is worthy. Discipleship must always be rooted and nourished by the living message of the gospel. Jesus died, He was buried and resurrected that you and I might have abundant life [Galatians 2:20; Philippians 1:20-21]. Without the gospel discipleship is dead.
This year I watch Brent pour his heart into middle school boys. Middle schools are not the easiest flock to shepherd. He would take them out to Taco Bell before FUEL or have them work on construction projects at the church. These middle schoolers know that Brent cares. Brent made a risky move–doesn’t feel like he did enough–but was willing to pour Christ into middle school boys. To Brent discipleship was more of a risk than being a stunt man. He was willing to get get messy and be spent of the sake of Christ.
Christ became the servant of all. It is crazy to think that a King and Creator of the universe became a servant to His creation. Jesus gives us a genuine model for leadership and discipleship: humility [Matthew 11:29; Luke 14:7-11; Philippians 2:3-4], trust [Mark 10:32-41], shepherding [Mark 10:45; John 10:11], gift oriented teamwork [1 Corinthians 12; Romans 12; Luke 9:1-2], responsibility [John 13:15; Ephesians 4:11-13]; and risk [Hebrews 11:1].
Discipleship is a risky move, but it has great rewards.
For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven (Ecclesiastes 3:1)
And the youthful choirs are soon going to be singing, “School’s Out for Summer!” Solomon understood the profound truth that our lives have seasons: periods of growth and maturity. Summer brings a season of vacations, outdoor activities, travel, and loads of rest and relaxation. Summer can be a time when we can put life on pause because we have been barreling full steam ahead for the past 9-months. However, summers can slyly be a season of stagnation or stalemated faith. Thus some of the greatest moments of defeated and careless compromise have happen during the off months of summer.
Have you ever seen the movie, What About Bob? Sarah and I were just watching this classic last week. It is one of my favorites. Bob Wiley, the chronically psychotic, but very lovable character played by Bill Murray, proclaims “I’m taking a vacation from my problems!” When thinking about our summer vacation, isn’t that basically what we want to do; take a vacation from our problems? Not do anything? Regress into nothingness?
I would encourage you to use the season of summer to grow in your faith! Here are some things you could do to protect yourself from the trap of the stagnant slide of a slothful summer:
Don’t take a vacation from God this summer! Use this summer as a season of grow in your faith.
“Our Lord’s first obedience was to the will of His Father, not to the needs of men. His obedience brought the outcome of the saving of men. If I am devoted to the cause of humanity only, I will soon be exhausted and come to the place where my love will falter. But if I love Jesus Christ personally and passionately, I can serve humanity though men treat me as a doormat.” – Oswald Chambers
True followership begins with a passion for Jesus Christ. Jesus is passionate about building His church. This passion is as contagious as a runny nose in mid-Winter because it flows into our compassion for others. Those who discipled me from middle school until now have modeled a real passionate faith. So passionate that I want to be like Christ because they looked so much like Christ.
Whether we are discipling to Christ or in Christ all Christ’s. I cringe at the idea of calling someone “my disciple”. This is a term we find in the New Testament only coming from the mouth of Jesus. As believers in Christ we are His disciples. I am not a disciple of any man but Christ. Paul talked about “my son” Timothy, “my brother” Ephaphroditus, and co-laborers as “my fellow servants”. New Testament authors never called a fellow believer “my disciple” or “my follower.” in fact, Paul freaks out when he hears that some are calling themselves followers of Paul or Apollos. “ Is Christ divided? he wrote, with evident frustration. “Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized into the name of Paul?” [1 Corinthians 1:13] Paul had his eyes on Jesus, so He must be our focus and passion as followers too.
Christ appointed twelve followers and “designating them apostles, that they might be with Him and that He might send them out to preach.” [Mark 3:14] Christ is the initiator in challenging and calling men. His vision is clear: before they were unleashed to the world they were invited to “be with Him”.
As a follower of Christ His presence is with us always [cf. Matthew 28:20; Hebrews 13:5]. The original twelve followers were “with Him”, and Jesus “with them.” We find Jesus in their homes, having dinner with their friends, and engaging lovingly with their enemies. True followership begins by inviting others to be with you.
“We proclaim Christ, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ. To this end I labor, struggling with all His might, which so powerfully works in me.” [Colossians 1:28-29] Our goal for every follower is to reach maturity in Christ, that their life begin to look like His.
An artist was asked what he would paint on the white canvas. “You see a blank canvas,” he said. “But I see a mountain, lake and beautiful sunrise. As I gaze at the canvas I smell the mountain air, feel the brisk morning air coming of the lake, and then simply brush the strokes of color onto the canvas.” As followers of Christ His portrait should always be before us, and the canvas of our lives is being transformed into the beautiful image of Christ.
In Matthew 28:19-20, we often miss the an important point of the Great Commission. I would call it the Great Omission because Jesus says to His followers, “teach everyone everything you have heard and seen in me.”
As a follower of Christ I am doing the ministry of multiplication. No one is becoming mature in Christ until they begin to reproduce Christ in others. Jesus sent His followers out to serve without Him. He warned them they would need at some point to carry the message on their own. A follower of Christ was prepared from the beginning to make other follower, who in turn made other follower, who made still more follower. And so the gospel of Christ reached you and me.
What if doormat discipleship characterized each of our ministries? What if people were truly shaped into the image of Christ through discipling relationships? What if followership began to take on a life all its own, bigger than any program in our church? What if people left our ministries and continued to make followers of Christ for the rest of their lives? This is the path Jesus destined for His followers to walk after His death [Matthew 28:19-20].
Changing the way we do ministry towards a gospel-centered focus is not easy. It is a paradigm shift from the cry of our culture. Or cultural proverb says, “Build it and they will come.” There is some truth to this Field of Dreams proverb. However, it depends what you build on that could affect whether it will last.
We are not about building the greatest ministry that makes the cover of Christianity Today. We are not about growing huge numbers, having the coolest coffee-shop-like atmosphere, blasting the craziest and latest worship tunes, or any other low-level purpose. We have a higher purpose: we build on the foundation of Christ [1 Corinthians 3:9-17]. All other foundations mentioned above–if not grounded in the bedrock of Christ–will blow over in the gale force storms of culture or sink into the quicksand of lustful lures and low-level goals. Christ is our goal and the gospel is absolutely central to a surviving and thriving ministry.
Our number one job and joy as ministry leaders is gospel centered discipleship [Acts 28:31]. Between Acts 1 and 28 the church of Christ grew not by a Christian circus rolling through town, but by constant and relentless followers proclaiming the core gospel truths about Christ. Our student leadership has been growing in their understanding of this truth this year as we have implemented changes to meet this goal. We have seen first hand how difficult it is to cultivate a Christ-centered culture of followership. The past few months, I have observed some amazing blessings through the diligence and sacrifices of our student leaders:
Our students are recognizing and excited that their leaders really care about their walk with God and want to help them apply God’s Truth [Philippians 2:12-13]. Followership is fulfilling your role as a priest under the Priesthood of Christ [1 Peter 2:4-5, 9-10]. Every believer is a priest of Christ who is leading others to Christ worshiping and sacrificing for the sake of the glory of Christ. Like Luther, we are reformers who desire to point people to the person and work of Christ.
Our student leaders are less passive and more active in their faith knowing that they are expected to dig deeper into the lives of one another. By its very nature the gospel is the saving sacrifice of Jesus’ person and work. The gospel impacts every aspect of our life. The gospel never sleeps and is actively involved in the process of conforming us to the image of Christ [Philippians 1:5-11]. Followers are participates of Christ’s gospel to the world and specifically to those they are ministering.
Our student leaders are coming along side our students encouraging them to follow Christ. By doing this they are resembling the incarnated Christ to those they are discipling. They struggle along side the students striving to live for Christ even though they see themselves as chief sinners [Philippians 2:4-5] spreading the grace of Christ with compassion.
In conclusion, our number one job and joy as ministry leaders is gospel centered discipleship [Acts 28:31]. Changing the culture of our youth ministry to model this goal is a process that will not happen over night, in a semester or even in a school year, it will be an ever-changing process. Followership is a life-long process followers encouraging others to follow Christ too. Building a ministry that will last is built on the gospel of Christ. He has built it, all we need to do is come to Him.
Before you take any trip you have to map out where you are going or you might get lost and watt a lot of time and money. It is also the same with discipleship in the church. Before you guide another on the journey of transformation you must consider the keys to the map.
Being a follower begins and ends with God, not man. God calls us into a relationship with Him by following Him. In Jesus day students would usually ask their Rabbi’s if they could follow them, but with Jesus that Master of all He asks us to follow Him. God initiates the relationship. He is the starting point of our relationship with Him [Rom.8:29-30].
Being a follower means knowing Christ personally and intimately. Is a relationship with God personal. Yes, it is really personal. It is not just knowing facts about Jesus, but a lifelong commitment. When a student would ask a Rabbi to be a mentor it was a life long commitment. The same for a relationship with Christ. He asks us to commit for the long haul. Knowing what the Bible says about Jesus is not enough. Jesus is the living God [John 1:14].
Being a follower has to do with the image of God. We were created in God image and likeness. We are dominioneers [Ge.1:27]. This gives and eternal and valuable aspect to our following Christ, the King of the dominion of man. Discipleship is not our agenda, but Gods, “teaching them to observe all I commanded” [Matt.28:19-20].
Being a follower means God is for us, not against us. Do not believe in the god of your own opinion, but the God of the Bible. The way we view God, can be on of the biggest distraction to our spiritual growth. A little view of God can mean little growth. God is not a gregarious ogre, He is a Rescuer, Savior, Lover, Helper and Care-giver.
Being a follower starts and end with God. If we think we have any part in changing a person we are prideful and overly arrogant. Give God the credit and glory for what He can do in a followers life. Followership is not a program, behavior modification, a magical formula seen in Scripture, or a sacred system that works for every person. It is a daily delightful relationship with the God of the universe. This is the journey to discovering the life of a true follower.
I get the privilege of ministering and serving with teenagers almost every day. There are some things that challenge me, fascinate me and drive me absolutely coo-coo about our teenagers. I love’m and hate’m at times.
1. Authentic. What you see is often what you get. They can be genuine and real. They can see through your junk. Sometimes brutally honest.
2. Commited to relationships. They want significant and deep relationships. Friends are really their most important desire. If you got their trust you got a loyal friend.
3. Open-books. They are curious and willing to engage questions and doubts in their faith and God, more so than the older giants.
4. Momentous. They have constant energy and think they can change the world. They had contagious passion and willing to light the world up for Christ
5. Cultured. They know a little bit of everything from the past hundred years of music, movies and media.
6. Williams Carrey-ites. They expect great things from God and expect to do great things for God. They often have a big view of God.
7. Learners. They are sponges that soak up Gods Word. They want to know truth, to be challenged in their thinking, and discover how it applies to them right now!
8. Complex. They are simple, yet sophisticated.
9. Crafty. They have brilliant ideas. Sometimes those ideas can get them into trouble.
10. Contagious. They forever make me want to be youthful and spunky.
1. Busybodies. They have jam-packed schedules and pride themselves on busyness.
2. Entitlement. They think they can have want ever they want when they want it. They are horrible at waiting sometimes. They are big consumers, but I think they learn this from wasteful parents.
3. Compartmentalizatism. They are good at separating areas of their lives. They do not mix faith with school, parents, sports and other things. They are quite bi-polar in their faith.
4. Media Addicts. They are a gajillion times better at texting, facebooking, gaming, iPoding, and technology than any generation. And they flaunt it.
5. Worldly. They are easily influenced by what the world was is wonderful. They are swayed by sex, listen to toxic philosophies that cloud their faith, and chose to be torn between two radically different worlds.
6. Family Mess. They often have families that are absent, broken, and not living biblically.
7. Authority Issues. They do not trust or listen to those who are over them. They back talk in disrespect, often to God too.
8. Lazy. They do not like to say more than one word at times and think about it. They zone out to what matters at times.
9. Discernment. They will make decisions based on what others think of them. They do not make decisions often based on personal convictions.
10. Pants on the ground [check out this video]. Whoever invented the idea of young dudes wearing low-ride pants with boxers should be sent to fashion school.
Sometimes relationships go sour. Sometimes discipleship hurts. Sometimes those we invest our lives into bail on life and our efforts seem bankrupt. What do I do when I pour my life into someone and there are empty returns? What do I do when I am left speechless on the other end of and unanswered call? Or your cries are unheard or ignored? Here are some good thoughts to remember:
Discipleship is intentional. When I invest in someone’s life I want him or her to know that I am. I intentionally let them know that I want to spend quality time encouraging their relationship with God not because I have it all together, rather together we can begin sharpening iron. Echo the voices of Jesus and Paul, “follow me.” [Matthew 4:19; 8:22; 9:9; 10:38; 16:24; 19:21; 1 Corinthians 11:1; 2 Timothy 1:13]
Discipleship is eternal. I am intentional about discipleship because I feel the weight of my responsibility before God: to reproduce my vertical relationship with others horizontally [John 15:16ff]. I am responsible for the spiritual growth of our teens. That is a heavy burden to bear, but God brings the fruit. My relationships matter to God. My relationships have eternal ramifications. That is huge.
Discipleship is generational. My relationship does not end with someone after a year or 12-class study. They last a lifetime [Matthew 28:19-20]. From one generation to another I must be willing to disciple and be discipled.
Discipleship is personal. When relationship end or the parking brake seems stuck that can be frustrating. Relationships do not come with 90-day money back guarantee. We might get burned and bruised. If you have some one you are investing in that does not want to be around you: give them over to God, keep tabs on them and don’t close the door on them ever. Chose another to invest in and press on. May our motto be, “I will most gladly spend and be spent for your souls.” [2 Corinthians 12:15]
Goulash is a mixture of random ingredients that make up a tasty meal. This is a recipe of random discipleship ingredients for FUEL leaders inspired by FUEL leaders.
Be a disciple that is discipling disciples and be willing to be discipled [goal, Mt.28:19-20].
We are devoted to discipleship that changes lives [core value].
You are like the One [or one] you follow. The Eastern mindset of Jesus’ day was, “Follow Me, I will show you as we do it together.” The Western mindset of today is, “Follow me as I tell you how to do it.”
You have to be creative when reaching spoon feeders and meat eater [1 Cor.3:1-4].
Discipleship is messy [especially when one doesn’t want to be discipled].
Discipleship is tough because it takes time.
Discipleship is not about information, but transformation.
Discipleship is a process, not a program.
Expect unbelievers to act like it.
Confront sin by calling it what it is.
Until you care to know them, they will know you care.
If you give an inch, they will take a mile.
“If you haven’t failed, you haven’t tried anything.”
Sharpen regularly your tools of the trade.
You are not babysitting, rather spiritual parenting.
You are a spiritual coach cheering victory in Christ.
You cannot change Christ’s child, alone.
Two words: Grace and Truth [John 1:14].
Sarah and I traveled to the Congo this summer where we were involved in running youth training seminars and connecting with church and youth leaders to try and get them thinking about youth issues, Christian camping and developing youth ministry training. This is my first visit to the Congo (my wife grew up there) and we are trying to work out ways in which we can encourage training for youth leaders in a country where it doesn’t really exist.
The Congo is not unusual—in many countries in Africa the idea of a formalized or structured youth leaders training doesn’t exist. Most youth leaders just do what they have seen done by others and they follow the patterns and styles of what they know. What this means is that youth ministry in many countries is stuck and young people are drifting away from the church because youth ministry is irrelevant to them.
Some of the issues youth leaders are facing in the majority world (like Congo) are:
Sarah and I are passionate about helping churches in Africa uncover the realities of youth ministry and to be able to connect into the spiritual and practical needs of young people so that the church of Jesus Christ may become so real and meaningful in their lives. I believe that this loss of meaningful youth ministry in churches in the majority world is starting to cause churches in these countries to lose their place and effectiveness in society.
There was such a large desire by many in the Congo who want to reach out to young people and to provide relevant youth ministry to young people inside and outside the church community. The thing that they lack is good training on understanding youth culture and leading youth ministry.
In the Congo there is no denomination or organization that provides consistent youth leadership training. Occasionally a group might run a seminar but there is nothing consistent where youth leaders can start to really grasp the basics of leading a youth ministry. The Congo is not alone in Africa—I am not aware of many countries in Africa where there is structured training in youth ministry. Many of the youth leaders we came in contact with around Congo are looking for ways in which they can even learn the basics of youth ministry. They can see the possibility of what could be, but for many of them this reality is far away because they do not have a way to learn and grow in developing and running effective youth ministry.
I came away from Congo even more committed to work out ways in which structured youth ministry training can be provided in countries where it doesn’t exist, countries from the majority world, countries where they do not have the same access to resources, countries where you do not have a place in society until you are thirty years old. I am also more fired up to continue leading our youth here in the USA to become better disciples of Jesus Christ.
What kinds of movies, TV, music, books, etc., can a Christian enjoy and still be honoring to God? No other issue has been the source of more debate and friction between Christians in our media-saturated and pleasure-seeking society. This issue has been the source of so many legalistic rules in an attempt to keep Christians from being contaminated by the world.
Some Christians say we should avoid movies altogether; others would say G-rated ones are acceptable, and others say that you can watch whatever you want. Christians are far too loose on their entertainment standards, but on the other hand, many others overreact to the dangers of modern media by setting up rules that “go beyond what is written.” Can we understand these issues in a way that avoids extremes and maintains a biblical balance?
If someone were to approach me and say that I were in sin for watching and promoting the movies list in my blog or shelved in my personal library then I would say, “Let’s look at the heart.” Is what your are convinced in the heart to be sinful or evil what I should be convinced is sinful or evil? Is there law or liberty on this issue?
The Bible offers very few specifics on the issue of media/entertainment. Here there is no easy answer. It is a matter of “the heart”—a term which the Bible refers to as the “inner man,” where we think, desire, worship, and make decisions (“mind” and “will” are aspects of the heart; Gen.6:5, Prov.4:23, 23:7). Jesus says that “whatever goes into the man from outside cannot defile him,…that which proceeds out of the man, that is what defiles the man.” (Mk.7:18-21) He then goes on to say evil comes “from within, out of the heart.”
What I take into my eyes and ears can definitely tempt and influence me, but it cannot necessarily cause me to sin. Why take the risk then and use my liberty to watch an R-rated movie I know will have violence, vulgar language, etc? To this there is no easy answer.
There is nothing inherently wrong or evil about some of the media people enjoy today, and there is nothing wrong with enjoying it merely for entertainment. Ecc.9:9 tells us to “enjoy life” and throughout the book to “eat, drink and be merry”, of course we are to enjoy life within the moral confines of the Scripture. Now if the entertainment is causing you to be desensitized by sin or tempting you to do evil them it should be avoided altogether. And such verses have been used offensively, “avoid of the appearance of evil”, and do not be conformed to the world,” which both of these verse are primarily targeting the heart/mind rather than appearance.
Media and entertainment can be used for godly purposes. Even Hollywood produced TV, movies and music can be a great platform for sharing the gospel. I have often used movie clips and songs from today’s popular culture to share biblical truth. Both the strength and weakness of secular media can be useful tools for building an unbelievers (and believers) understanding of biblical truth. I have been encouraged to hear from a few teens after using a secular song to amplify a biblical truth that later when they were listening to secular radio and heard the song they were reminded of the biblical truth.
Most Christians can enjoy the music of Mozart and Tchaikovsky even though one was a libertine and the other a homosexual. So why can’t we enjoy modern media even though they are ungodly? To His people God “has given wisdom and knowledge and joy, while to the sinner He has given the task of gathering and collecting so that he may give to one who is good in God’s sight” (Ecc.2:26). The abilities that unbelievers have been given to them by God and can be used for His glory even though they do not give credit to God for their gifts and use them with evil intentions. This does not mean all of the unbeliever’s media is for Christians to enjoy, but it is certainly reasonable to assume some of it is.
The movies I enjoy and promote illustrate biblical principles. Now I am guilty of watching far too many movies that I would be ashamed to admit I have watched and enjoyed. For these I have repented. I know it is my responsibility to be wise and careful what I take into my eyes, and discerning about the trust and error depicted in movies and TV. If there are movies in the list that offend another Christian and cause them to have a tarnished view of my walk with God. Then I must ask, “Who are they to judge?” And do they know my heart?
The 7 E’s of Entertainment(by Dave Swavely):
Exalt God. 1 Cor.10:31; Mt.4:10, Lk.4:8; Rom.14:6, 1 Thess.5:18
Exercise biblical discernment. 1 Thess.5:21; Phil.4:8
Expose evil rather than enjoy it. Eph.5:10-12
Economize your time. Eph.5:15-16
Edify your brothers and sisters. 1 Cor.14:26, 8:13; Rom.15:2, 14:13; Lk.17:1-2
Excise anything that tempts you to sin. Mt.5:29-30; Rom.13:12-14
Eliminate anything you’re not sure about. Rom.14:23