We have just come through the Christmas season. Now, Christmas for many means GIFTS. What am I getting this year? What deals am I going to find to give to my family and friends? What will I put on my Christmas list this year. This past week in youth group, I asked our students and leaders what was the greatest gift that they have ever been given? Some responses were boots, clothes, a guitar, or video game systems. One leader responded a poem her kids had written her. Now, what if we opened gifts, and there was a bill at the bottom of the gift for what we owed for the gift? Also, what if how we acted during the year determined if we got a gift or not? This would change things! A gift is given not based upon how we acted during the year, or how much we will pay for the gift. A gift is freely given to us not based upon us being deserving of it or on us giving something in return.
Now, these are all great gifts that these students and leaders mentioned, but NONE of these gifts even begin to compare to the greatest gift ever given! This gift is the gift of grace given by Christ. “For by grace are ye saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God!” Think about the extravagant grace of the Father in the parable of the Prodigal Son. The story is not all about the son living a sinful life, it is more about the grace demonstrated by the Father. When the Son came to himself, he realized that even the lowliest of his father’s servants lived better than he did. So, he went back to try and but work for his father as his servant. He had disgraced his father’s name and brought shame to the household. As his father saw him a far off, his father RAN to him! He did not wait for the son, he ran to the Son demonstrating his grace toward his son. In this culture, running was not a dignified thing to do. His father was willing to run (pulling up his robe-bearing his bare legs) despite the shame he would face for his son. In a way, he took on the shame so that his son would not have to experience it. This is grace! Grace is giving something that he did not deserve. His son did not deserve grace or the acceptance his father gave him! Do you understand, we do not deserve what our Heavenly Father has given us. We did nothing to earn it, or even to keep it. He willingly laid down His life (bearing our shame and pain) in order to give us NEW LIFE even when we were enemies of Him. This is Grace, and the greatest gift that a person could ever receive.
It would be stupid to say that social media does not have to affect our students. It is going to in many different ways. I am going to share with you a way that has really caught my attention lately. We do youth group every Wednesday night. I have had numerous people raise their hands showing their need for Christ in their heart, and when given the opportunity, not moving to get help with this question. They sit there. Now, this could be nerves. I have approached them afterward to see if they had any questions about Jesus, and they respond, “Nah, I’m good, talk to you later.” Then, within minutes I receive a Facebook message or a text from that same person with a question. Why could we not talk in person. This is the affect social media is having on our students. Now, we could argue is this could or bad for students, but that does not matter, it is going to happen regardless. So, let’s try and embrace it and cultivate it. Let’s don’t shy away from it. We can encourage talking face to face, but let’s not shun a conversation just because of the culture of today’s society. By the way, this is a person’s soul we are talking about here so it is the most important decision. So, Facebook, text, or tweeting, I do not care, I am going to share Christ and seek to answer questions in whatever way we can and hopefully then, we can see students accept Christ. I have been in many discussions through Facebook and texting lately about new life in Christ! I have tried to answer questions about this doctrine. Please pray for several of our students as they are making steps toward a commitment to Christ!
I went to pizza hut with Brian Baker. Brian is a Word of Life local missionary. Brian has been a huge encouragement and help to me in my new ministry at Union Grove. I love hanging with guys, like myself, are interested in students and what is reaching students. Brian is extremely passionate about students and building healthy relationships with them. One major discussion was how to develop student leaders within the student ministry. This is one of the most important, but most difficult things to do in student ministry. We began throwing ideas and discussing what other guys’ are saying. Here are some of things that came to our minds while discussing this:
1. Spend time discipling specifically at least 1 student a week. We need to be being discipled by someone at all times, but always using our time and resources to disciple students below us as well.
2. Keep them accountable. Accountability is needed at every stage in life. Keep them just as accountable as your adult leaders in the student ministry.
3. Train them. All student leaders need time with training. Put resources in their hands to read that will help develop their skills and help them become a better leader. Take them to conferences that will challenge them to become a better leader for Christ.
4. Model leadership for them. Students need to see us modeling it for them. Paul said in Scripture, “follow me as I follow Christ.” This is how student ministry should be run. They should be following us (student pastors) as we follow Christ. Perhaps the problem the student ministry has in developing student leaders is their youth pastor is not setting the example for them to follow.
As you know, I am a student pastor at Union Grove Baptist Church in Lexington, NC. I have the privilege of speaking to about 80 students every Wednesday evening and building authentic relationships with each of them during the week. Lately, we have been doing a series on the afterlife. It has brought us to a place where we have discussed hell and what hell (according to the Word of God) will be like. It has opened up tons of questions from our students. I have been asked, “how could a loving God allow people to go to hell.” I have seen students raise their hands acknowledging their need for a Savior. I have seen students accept Jesus! These lessons and these conversations have really spoke to me. I have been overwhelmed by a God who loves us. I love that song, “Oh how He loves” by David Crowder. I could listen to that song with my eyes closed for hours just dwelling on the fact that we have a God who loves us. Now, some think yeah, we are pretty lovable creatures, but we are unworthy of His love. All of us are! I encourage every person to thank God for His love every day and never miss an opportunity to tell Christ how much you love him. If you have never experienced the love of Christ, I encourage you to reach out to Him today, and you will find a love reaching out to you that is never ending!
I try and do a little reading every day. Oftentimes, it does not work, but I definitely try. A book that was given to me from my super cool brother in law (Kelly Johnson) is the book, “Radical” by Pastor David Platt. David pastors The Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, AL. This is a book that I have wanted to read for a while. In the book, David is calling for RADICAL ABANDONMENT from all believers. I have been deeply convicted for the level of complacency that is plaguing the church! The typical church member believes that it is only the pastor or professional in ministry’s job to be sold out for Jesus, but it is for everyone. We tend to think that the radical areas of the Bible are up to the full time church workers when the calling goes out to all believers. “In the process we have unnecessarily (and unbiblically) drawn a line of distinction, assigning the obligations of Christianity to a few while keeping the privileges of Christianity for us all!” David challenges all of us to examine our lives and get in on the radical abandonment that is throughout Scripture. Will you radically abandon yourself for the furtherance of the gospel of Christ? I highly encourage the book to all believers, but be careful, because the book may hurt after you read it.