So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers,to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up… – Ephesians 4:11-12
LEADERSHIP IS ABOUT EMPOWERMENT: BUILDING SOMEONE ELSE UP
Jesus spend most of his time building up Peter, James, and John. Three guys. And the rest of his time was primarily invested in building up the other eight disciples. Then the crowds got a little bit of his time too as he spread seeds of the Gospel extravagantly up on the masses. Things happen in a person’s life when they have someone intentionally trying to build them up. Empowerment is God’s design.
Years ago one of my good friends, Howard Baker (who is now the professor of Christian Formation at Denver Seminary), led me through what he called an “Adventure in Prayer.” It was a time of spiritual direction to slow me down and experience Jesus’ love for me in a time, as a leader, that I was being tempted a lot by performance and achievement. Howard’s guidance through Scripture nurtured my soul. He pointed me toward some passages that continue to bring life and more life as I consider them (Psalm 63, 23; Isaiah 55; Psalm 139; Isaiah 43; Hosea 11:1-4).
Mark Cannister’s well-written article, “Doing it How They Did it,” is a fantastic overview of the origins of youth ministry. If you are looking for a brief primer on where youth ministry has come from and the implications for youth work today, I highly recommend his article below as one of the best youth ministry resources to have in your library:
I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing! -Galatians 2:20-21
Our faith muscles are strengthened as we meditate on the grace of God, not on his impossible standards.
Can you imagine ever saying to someone that “Christ died for nothing!”? Yet the Apostle Paul says that in our actions and in our beliefs we may as well be saying that out loud. That is really convicting. I think leaders in particular sometimes get baited by performance, goals and expectations put on them and fall into this trap of trying to live up to impossible standards.
The good news of Jesus Christ is that you are loved.
But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” –Romans 5:8
Jesus loves us not because we are these incredibly loveable fur balls who deserve his love. He loves us in a much deeper profound way than that. Jesus knows we are made from dust. He knows that we can’t possibly fathom how great and worthy he is of our awe and worship. He understands that we were all born of the seed of Adam which means in our own strength we have no chance of ever being completely pure. He knows how broken and frail we are even though we put on all sorts of prideful masks and crutches of victimization. And in the midst of all of that, when he was on the cross, paving a path for us sinners to cross over from death to life, he cried out to the Father in our defense:
Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing. –Luke 23:34
WE NEED DAILY REMINDERS WE ARE LOVED
Most of us need daily reminders that we are loved so much. Without Gospel reminders we become jaded, cowardly, judgmental, and self-protective. And when we sway from feeling loved our ability to reflect the Light of Jesus’ love to others dims and dims and dims…
I really believe that ministry is more “caught” than taught. What I mean by that is that young people learn more about being a disciple of Jesus by being around someone who is intentionally pouring their lives into them. Jesus spent most of his time with Peter, James, and John, and then the bulk of the rest of his time in ministry with the other eight of his 12 Disciples. Jesus was intentional about showing them day by day what it looked like to be in relationship with him. By being around him all of the time they learned by observation what his priorities were, how he spent his day, and what seemed to matter to him. They even observed what he ate, when he slept, how he recreated, how he talked to the Heavenly Father in prayer. For Jesus, it was “quantity” time with his Disciples as much or more than the “quality of time.”
Then I saw another angel flying in midair, and he had the eternal gospel to proclaim to those who live on the earth—to every nation, tribe, language and people.He said in a loud voice, ‘Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come. Worship him who made the heavens, the earth, the sea and the springs of water.’ – Revelation 14:6-7
As I get to know student ministry leaders in dozens of countries around the world, one of the most important topics we constantly keep at the forefront is the Gospel of Jesus and how we can communicate it effectively to young people. As the passage from Revelation above excites our imagination about the activity of God in the spiritual realm to spread the yeast of his Good News to every tribe, tongue, and culture, we need to keep reminding ourselves that evangelism is absolutely central to the mission of the church. As we explore the Parable of the Sower in Mark 4:1-9 in this post, I want to encourage you that no matter how hard you find it is to share the Gospel, or how discouraged you get, never give up on introducing people to Jesus. The central message of this parable is exactly that: NEVER NEVER NEVER STOP SOWING.