The Heart of Youth Ministry

23 04 2010

In contemporary youth ministry there are tons of resources and ideas (good, bad, and everywhere in between) for how to effectively reach and minister to students.  Networking with other youth pastors is great, getting ideas from books and websites is awesome, staying up to date with all the latest trends and technology is a must…

But today, I just want to ask you what is the core of your ministry? What is making your youth ministry’s heart beat? I hope that it is the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.  There are tons ideas out there to incorporate into your youth ministry by pastors and ministers who may or may not understand the Gospel. Sometimes people who don’t properly understand the Gospel do have good ideas that you can adapt for an outreach, program, or event.  Sometimes people who do properly understand the Gospel have bad ideas that you should run from! So this post isn’t about how to properly find and evaluate good and bad resources based on the Gospel, rather it’s about whether or not the Gospel is at the heart of your ministry.  Is everything you do centered around Jesus Christ and Him crucified?

What is the Gospel? I hope that you understand the Gospel clearly enough that you can articulate it in 60 seconds or less.  Obviously there are parts of the Gospel we could go into very deeply, studying tons of verses, that might take a long time to discuss.  However, the Gospel is simple enough for children to understand.  Here’s an outline of the Gospel: (the headings are used from Greg Gilbert’s book What is the Gospel?)

God the Righteous Creator: Genesis 1 tells us this story.  God created the heavens and the earth and everything in the universe, including mankind. He is Holy, Righteous, Loving, Just, etc….

Man the Sinner: God gave Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden the command to not eat of the tree of knowledge of Good and Evil… They disobeyed.  Since Adam was our representative his curse is our curse.  It’s not that we are born perfect and then mess up, we are born as sinners! (cf. Romans 5).  Romans 3 tells us that “None is Righteous…” and that on our own, none of us seek God.  The Bible is clear that mankind, left to itself, is in a hopeless condition.  Everything we do is sin, and unable to please God.  We overlook our own sin and make ourselves into our own idols.  We worship everything that is not God: money, sex, T.V., power, fame, etc… We are totally depraved, meaning that we are not always as sinful as we could be, but that every single fiber of our being is tainted by sin.

Jesus Christ the Savior:  God is a Holy God, unable to fellowship with Sin.  There did not HAVE to be a Way made for salvation. God, justly so, could have left us in our sin to punish us for all eternity.  Because of our Sin we deserve an eternity of judgement.  However, in His compassion and grace and mercy He decided to make a way by sending His Son to die on the Cross IN OUR PLACE.  Jesus is God the Son and was conceived by the Holy Spirit.  Jesus lived the perfect life and then died our death.  He was our substitute! He took the beating, lashes, and crucifixion that we deserved.  He died on the Cross in our place  (Is. 53:5-6).  Because of our Sin there had to be a perfect sacrifice to make atonement.  Jesus was that sacrifice.  Then, to exemplify His power over death, Hell, and the grave Jesus rose from the dead.  After 40 days He ascended to heaven to be with the Father and He is coming again soon in power and glory… (Romans 5 contrasts the first Adam and the second Adam- Christ). 

Our Response Faith and Repentance:  All this being said, what’s left? When God opens our eyes to the Gospel and the wonders of His infinite love, mercy and grace, it is our responsibility to respond with faith and repentance.  Jesus says “repent and believe” (Mark 1:15), and in the book of Acts the Apostles say “repent and believe”. So what must we do? Repent and Believe! (respond in faith and repentance). Faith means that you trust Christ alone for your salvation. It means that you acknowledge you are totally dependant upon Him for your salvation and the final righteous verdict.  It is by His righteousness that you can stand before God completely justified.  Let us not forget that faith is also trusting Christ not only as the King of the Universe, but also King of our lives (Lordship Salvation).  Repentance is where you acknowledge your sin and turn from it!  Repentance is not just acknowledging your “sins”, i.e. “I lie”, “I think bad thoughts”, etc., but acknowledging your Sin! That to the very core you are a sinner in need of a Savior.  “Turning” from our sin implies asking God to forgive our Sin. When God saves the Bible tells us that we are a new creation (cf. 2 Cor. 5:17) and that we will be known by our fruits (cf. Matt. 7:16).  The good fruit that flows out of our Salvation is not what saves us, but what Christ Himself produces in us. Now, as Christians we live for the King, awaiting His triumphant return.

So, there’s the Good News! I know some of that would make a presentation a little longer than 60 seconds, but I felt there were a few things that you might have needed clarified.  For some of you reading this blog you might not be a Christian.  For the first time, God has opened your eyes to His truth.  If that’s you, what you’re left with, is the responsibility to respond to Him in repentance in faith.  It’s not some “magical” prayer or long process of using the right words and rituals.  Trust Christ.  Put your faith in Him as the King of kings (the God-man) who paid for your sin and died in your place.  Turn from your sin and your self in repentance by asking Him for forgiveness (cf. Rom. 10:9). God is merciful and mighty to save by His great Grace, but remember too, that God is just and will punish all sin.  For those who’ve been redeemed our price was paid on the Cross.  But for those with hard hearts who refuse to turn to Christ, God promises an eternity in Hell (the place He will carry out His righteous judgement), a place prepared for the Devil and his angels.

If you work in the ministry I hope that the Gospel is central to all that you do.  Does this mean we can’t ever have “fun” in youth ministry? NO WAY!  As Christians we experience life on this earth as no one else can (cf. John 10:9-10).  My point today, and challenge/encouragement is to make the Gospel central to everything you do.  It is the foundation upon which we build our ministries.  And anything “we build” is not really our doing anyway, but the work of Christ in and through us.

Hope you have some feedback…

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Church Covenant?

16 02 2010

In most Southern Baptist Churches in some corner of the building or posted on the fellowship hall is the Church Covenant. 

In order to keep this blog fairly short and readable I don’t have time or space to go into all the details of a church covenant other than to say this: I do think it’s biblical for people to write out what they believe and hold one another accountable for their actions.  Obviously a covenant should be based solely on the Bible. To read more about covenants in detail please CLICK HERE.

The main thing I wanted to write about today was this: Did you even realize that your church has a covenant? Do you even know what it says? You see a covenant helps us to keep one another accountable by expressing what it is that a church believes and how a church expects it’s members to live.  It’s not a “legalistic” tool, but rather it is to be used for the type of discipline Jesus spoke of in Matthew 18. CLICK HERE for what a typical SBC Church Covenant says.

When we join a local body of believers shouldn’t we know what it believes? Don’t get a Covenant and a Constitution confused (see one of the links above).  Pastors and other ministers: Are you helping your congregation know what the church expects from them? Of course we should say: “Read the Bible”. But a Covenant helps us write out what the Bible says about our conduct in a shorter, “easier to remember” statement.  There are many SBC churches in the Reformed movement that have covenants that the church recites together before the Lord’s Supper.  In this way, each member can be reminded of what the church expects from them.

Another important reason for a church covenant, as alluded to above, is for use in church discipline.  If you want to bring discipline (for the purpose of reconciliation) against a member who is always gossiping, it is much easier if he or she has already signed a church covenant agreeing to keep certain standards in their walk.

Anyway, please email or comment below for more discussion.  I am interested in other people’s take on this issue… Also, please visit the 9Marks site (the first link above) because they write much better than I do and it will give you some more insight to the history and biblical basis for church covenants…