What I Value in Student Ministry

For this week’s Student Ministry post, I wanted to share with all of you an article I wrote for the church’s newsletter during my first month of ministry here. You’ll see what I find to be the most valuable in ministry and why I long for the entire church to be involved in the lives of teenagers. Enjoy!

When you think about youth ministry, what’s the first thing that comes into your mind? Is it the high-energy crazy games? Is it memories of your time in a student ministry, learning about what Jesus wants you to do or how to avoid sin? Do you think about an individual who was there for you in a difficult time, pointing you to Jesus and giving you hope when you felt like there was none? Do you think about the potential this “future generation” of the church holds?

Certainly, many ideas and stigmas exist regarding youth ministry in the church today. Many churches are beginning to truly understand the importance of a ministry to teenagers as they see the struggles adolescence presents, which have become all the more apparent with social media on the scene. We know the issues are present, and many of us believe that the church needs to step in and help. The question is: what role does a youth ministry play in reaching those youth?

Youth ministries thrive through community that is built on the Word of God. The beauty of this community is that teenagers don’t just thrive in the community they have with one another, but they need connections to the church as a whole. The reality is that many of these teens are facing adult problems without the adult experiences necessary to properly process these problems. They need adults like you and me to demonstrate how to hold on to the gospel of Jesus Christ in the midst of difficult times. They need relationships with trusted leaders in the group, but they also need relationships with the church as a whole. 

I believe teenagers contribute so much to the mission of the church, and my wife and I are looking forward to continuing to shape the youth ministry of Mountain Creek into a place where the Word of God is taught, community with one another and the church is vibrant, and parents are equipped with the tools and resources needed to train their kids up in the knowledge of the Lord. We look forward to getting to know your families, and to partnering with you to train the teenagers of the local body to share the gospel with the lost in the community. Will you join us in praying that Mountain Creek would be a church known for a culture of discipleship and making a difference in today’s teenagers? 

Legalism and the Tower We Build

For a long time, I used to think that God’s delight in me was somehow attached to my performance on any given day. If I spent most of my day wrestling with sin and messing up, I would think God was unhappy (and maybe even angry) with me, but if I read my Bible and did enough good things, I would think He delighted in me. This thought process was rooted deep in my mind and my heart. 

On the surface, some may think it’s beneficial. After all, doesn’t this provide motivation to be a good Christian? And while our lives are to be marked by a healthy desire to please our Heavenly Father, I had let this pattern of thinking get out of control.

The difference was a misunderstanding in my identity. It wasn’t that I was serving God because He already delighted in me. Instead, I was serving trying to earn His delight. Suddenly, I found myself becoming frustrated even on my best days: Why can’t I just do enough to make God happy with me?

This type of thinking is closer to believing in Karma than it is to the gospel. Now, to be clear, it’s still a battle I face each and every day. I need to remind myself of the gospel and my need for Christ. But that’s just it- the answer has already been provided in Jesus. I no longer have to earn God’s favor because Christ earned it for me. Let me give you an example:

Genesis 11 contains the story of the Tower of Babel. The descendants of Noah had spread out on the earth. At this point in history, all humanity spoke one language. Having one language, and having invented a reinforced brick and mortar, they set about seeking to make a name for themselves. They decided to use this incredible new technology to build a tower to Heaven, thus making a name for themselves and proving once and for all that they didn’t need God. 

As the people were striving and trying hard to reach Heaven, God came down in ease to look at what they had created. In loving kindness, and to slow the evil within the people, He confused the languages and dispersed the people. So, why do I share this?

My desire to earn God’s favor with my performance alone was the tower I was trying to build to reach to Heaven. It may not have looked prideful on the surface, but it was an attempt to earn His favor without needing Him. This is dangerous on two levels: first, it’s dangerous because trying to earn Heaven apart from the finished work of Christ is impossible. It’s like trying to make a deal with God in a currency He doesn’t accept. On another level, even if we’ve submitted to Christ as Lord and repented of our sins, this is dangerous because only following the rules isn’t what Christ has called us to. First and foremost, God wants our hearts. 

Living as a Christian Legalist is like trying to build a tower after God has come down to offer life, peace, and rest. In fact, He’s offering us His delight in a way that is far more secure than any favor based on our actions, because it’s based in the finished work of Jesus Christ. This favor now belongs to all who will place their trust in Jesus. I write this as a recovering (and still struggling) legalist: stop building the tower. Rest in the God who came down for you.

The Things I’m Reading This Week (January 8th, 2020)

Every Wednesday, I’m going to be sharing a list of the things I’m reading and find beneficial. This week includes some insight into the research I did before starting this blog, three helpful articles on reading through Scripture, and a link to some timelines to help us all feel old. (You can access the links by clicking the titles!)

This particular blog was helpful as I was thinking about pursuing this opportunity to write. Tim Challies has been blogging for years, and his encouragement to share our thoughts and make it available to others spurred me on to make this website. We live in an unprecedented time where we can publish and access more writing than ever. So is there a place for blogging? Most definitely.

The new year has begun, which means it’s time for a fresh start. For a lot of believers, January 1st means it’s time to start a new Bible reading plan. Maybe you’ve been reading for years and need a reminder as you approach the Scriptures, or maybe you’ve decided this is the year to finally make it through from Genesis to Revelation. David Mathis gives six principles to help us read the Word better.

I love to know the context of the books of the Bible as I read through them. For me, the I like to dig deep to find out what was going on at the time the different books of the Bible were written. The Village Church recently published this helpful timeline of when the books of the Bible take place in history. This can be beneficial for you as you read, or maybe even spark conversations with your kids during family devotions. It’s a great reminder that the Bible isn’t detached from history.

Continuing with resources to help as you read through the Bible, here’s my favorite Bible app right now. This app is called “Read Scripture” and breaks the Bible down into daily manageable readings, while preserving the grand narrative of Scripture. Many days feature videos to help set the context and clarify the main themes of the text planned for the day. I’ve found this app particularly helpful as I’m reading through Leviticus right now.

Here’s a fun one. Ready to have your mind blown? This post features a series of timelines showing just how far 2020 is from, say, 1990. And yes, it hurts to see some of these.