Saturday, April 27, 2013

Stop Being a Youth Leader

I'm not a huge fan of "youth" stuff. Youth groups, youth books, youth bands, youth Bibles, youth this, and youth that. Whenever I read the word "youth" preceding a different word that is used to describe a certain type of genre, I'm almost immediately turned off.


Ok, first of all, please lower your voice. Mostly, whenever you hear about something that's been modified for youth, it simply means taking the adult version of that something and dumbing it down, making it cheesy, or slapping on some weird graphics that don't add any real substance to that something. In other words, it's just a worse version of the original.

"That's not true!"

Look, y'all are gonna need to learn to use your inside voices. Anyway, think about it. Youth Bibles are usually just ones that look "edgy" and have commentaries that use "relevant" lingo. (Don't even get me started on The Message Bible.) I have to precede this next one with telling everyone I've known in a youth band that I'm sorry and I love you. But please, if you're going to form a band for your church's youth group, dedicate your time and energy to it just as any other "normal" band would dedicate themselves to becoming great at what they do. Youth books usually have the same powerful messages delivered in their normal counterparts, but with a lesser vocabulary. Thanks, but I can read.

Probably the worst of all of these youth things are youth leaders. Theoretically, this is a great sounding idea: take a student who shows promising qualities of faith, encourage leadership potential, and disciple him. However, if my time in youth groups has been representative of youth group culture, youth leaders tend to end up being a "good" kid that's been in the youth group a long time. These people have no passion for Christ and other people, but they like the way "youth leader" rolls off the tongue. They are simply riding on the coattails of their youth pastors ministry, and they eventually fade away because they never really had a heart for a specific ministry.
"But thanks be to God, who put into the heart of Titus the same earnest care I have for you" (2 Cor. 8)
Titus. I'm not saying he was a youth, but here we have a guy who caught his own fire. Even though Paul already had a ministry to the Corinthians, Titus jumped in and also made it his own. Working with youth leaders that have no passion is an uphill battle. Trying to motivate them is impossible unless the Holy Spirit gives them a heart-cry for the students they minister to.

Titus didn't need anyone to motivate him. He didn't need anyone to come alongside him, constantly nudge him to do work, or have to continually persuade him with weekend retreats and revivals. He got passionate about the Corinthians and he served them.

My point?

If you're involved in some kind of ministry just because you got old enough, take some time and truly evaluate what you're doing. Find out what God's naturally made you passionate about, find out what work is already being done in that area, and jump in. Because almost nothing is worse than a bored leader.

Stop riding the coattails of man, but jump into the passion of God.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Rotten Soul-Stink

I smelled really, really, really bad. I wouldn't be surprised if my odor garnered the attention of some local flies. As I sat there in one of my school's student-organized worship nights, I tried my best to stay an adequate distance from people so that they wouldn't think I was some crazed, wandering vagrant who believed that showers were the devil.

I had spent the three hours prior to this event longboarding at my local skate park with a bunch of guys from the longboarding club at my school. The sun was hot and there was more wetness on our shirts than we were drinking. Before coming out to skate, I thought to myself, "Self, you probably won't be there that long. You could go skate, take a shower, and make it back in time for the worship nights."

Well, let's just say I was right. Except for that one teeny-weeny part where I was actually wrong. Which was the whole "take a shower part."

So, considering the fact that I desperately wanted to check out what this whole worship night was about, I resigned myself to going without bathing. And as I stood there, (near the back of the room, where the smell would offend the least amount of people) I realized just how rank I truly was. I think it had to do with the fact that, since I was finally able to stand still for a few moments, my stench was finally able to catch up with me.

Then, it kinda hit me that my outer stench matched my inner soul-stink. Knowing all of the weaknesses and cycles of sin I was beginning to let creep in, it made sense. Knowing my recent failures at pleasing the Only One Who deserved being pleased, I faltered. So often, people look at me, with all of my writing, ministry involvement, and charisma, and they don't realize just how messed up I really am. How I consistently fail at doing the things I encourage others to accomplish. And so, I sat there wondering what God would do with this rusted-over, rotten, maggot-filled, good-for-nothing pump we call a heart.
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. (2 Cor. 12)
Earlier this week, I was listening to a sermon by Matt Chandler and he said, "People will always be more encouraged by your failures than by your successes." I guess it helps people to see that you're not different than any other shlub walking in weakness. They get to see that God uses anyone, regardless of their place in life.
"I think many of us try to escape from life when we are at the end of ourselves- ‘resting‘ through quiet times and attempting to get our hearts into a good place again so that we can go out and ‘do ministry’. But it seems to me that God doesn’t need us to be in a healthy spiritual state to use us for His kingdom. He wants us to offer ourselves exactly as we are- broken, weary, tired, frustrated, even angry- and trust that He is going to be the power working through us." (Annie Heathorn: The World Race)
I have little else to say other than this: God uses everyone. He even uses those with a rusted-over, rotten, maggot-filled, good-for-nothing heart. Which coincidentally ends up being everyone. He will pick up the fight when you finally realize that all your efforts to win are futile. Let God fight, and let God win.

I hear He tends to do that. Even with unwashed skaters.