Ministry Isn’t Flashy

 

DSC_0395Ministry Isn’t Flashy

I love the feeling going into a concert, or SummerSalt worship!  The anticipation, waiting for the doors to open are stimulating. You don’t just hear the music, you feel it.  It’s really incredible, and God uses these moments to change hearts, and that is the best of all.

At times in my ministry I have felt the need to replicate those sights and sounds.  But time, maybe experience, or just simply wisdom has led me to recognize, ministry isn’t flashy.  Ministry is meeting real people right where they are, in the hurt, in the pain, in the struggle, in the uncertainty and helping them to trust Jesus, love Jesus, and follow Jesus.  There is nothing wrong with a great program, these tools are beneficial, but not essential.

There are so many stories, right now, of broken families, kids removed from homes, poor choices bringing harsh consequences.  Every person looks for a way out of the brokenness, but the truth is, only Jesus offers a way out.  Our Lord and Savior did everything for us on the cross to make a way for us to enjoy abundant life, and not worry when life is hard.  It’s His sacrifice that restores our joy and our hope.

Whether we serve 100 students or 10, we will serve.  No matter who walks across our paths, into our facilities, in earshot of these Bible studies, we will love them, and lead them to know Jesus.  Ministry isn’t flashy, it isn’t easy, often it’s

Straight Paths Ahead

Proverbs TitleHave you ever been on a path?  I remember just a couple years ago, some students and I went to on a Bible study retreat.  We had free time one afternoon, and some of us wanted to hike to a waterfall nearby.  It would take us about 2 hours total.  One of the counselors would guide us along because the path hadn’t been cleared of overgrowth yet to be ready for summer activities.  We’re traveling pretty good, winding our way through the woods, crossing over the creek half a dozen times, and the minutes keep passing by.  At one point our guide turned us around, and said we need to double back.  We were somewhat lost, just took a few wrong turns.  We eventually made it to the waterfall after about an hour and a half!  I remember students seeing tourists visiting the waterfall, and going back to their cars.  You mean we could have driven here?!  Needless to say, some of us went back, got the vehicles and picked the rest of the group up.

That was a path I won’t forget.  Great memory!  There are a lot of different paths in the world.  There are hiking trails, sidewalks, roadways, aisles in the grocery store, maybe even footpaths across your backyard.  Even computers have paths to locate files and websites.

Paths have common characteristics:  They are designed with clearly marked boundaries to move us to a determined location.

Often the Bible compares our lives to a pathway, a journey we are on. And like other paths, our lives are designed to move us to a determined location – to fear the Lord and obey His commands.  Solomon drew this conclusion at the end of Ecclesiastes, and the book of Proverbs continues this thought saying, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of all knowledge…”  As you read the book of Proverbs, you learn quickly that God has given us clear signs to keep us on the path toward a greater, holy fear of God.  Proverbs 3 for example, exhorts us to learn God’s Word well (3:1-4), let God lead with every step (3:5-8), honor the Lord with our wealth (3:9-10), and not to despise the Lord’s discipline (3:11-12).  If we keep in step with these, not as occasional pieces of advice, but as a deep, heart transforming way of life, God promises us great blessing now and forever.

So, are you following the path God designed for you well?

Tips for Discipling Students

Hey Leaders!

A few weeks ago I sent out 10 Questions for you to consider about yourself and how you disciple others.  Thank you to those who sent responses back in.  I enjoyed looking at these!  The reason for these questions is help me see where each of you are in discipling others, and how I can come alongside you more intentionally.  Here are 5 observations and encouragements I took from the responses I received.  Consider how you might do one or more of these as you make disciples.

 

  1. Pray for Students by name!
    Many of you responded with 2-4 students with whom you could establish a positive relationship built on trust.  Students need older men and older women teaching them and modeling for them what it is to follow Jesus.  Start by praying for them by name!
  2. Invite a student to be with you in a normal routine.
    Relationships are strengthened when you’re with someone.  We all have certain things we do each week like running errands, working in the yard, going to extra-curricular activities.  We are busy, and it’s really HARD to carve extra time out of our schedules to spend time with students.  So, why not bring them along with you in what you are already doing?  Don’t make excuses, make opportunities!
  3. Listen to their story, Share your story.
    When you are with them, learn their faith story. Find out how they came to Jesus, and discern if they really understand who Jesus is and what He has done.  Often, we take this for granted.  Don’t stop there!  Share your story!  Tell them how you came to know Jesus, how He changed your life, and why you are following Him now!
  4. Have Word Conversations.
    When you spend time with students, whether it’s an hour or just a few minutes, find a way to speak the Word into their lives.  You don’t have to preach or present a Bible study, but you can share with them how God’s Word speaks to their situation, or how it has helped you go the right way.
  5. Be consistent.
    Relationships are built over time, through ups and downs. Students need to know you care about them before anything else!  If you choose to invest in a student, to disciple them in following Jesus, then you choose to keep going as long as the opportunity is there.  Find a way to make contact with them (outside church) on a regular basis (text, being with them, letters, phone calls, etc.)

 

Tell me what you think!  Is this pie in the sky thinking, or real ministry opportunities?  If you didn’t get the questions from the first email, they are below.  Thank you for what you are doing.

Be Fruitful and Multiply

 

Be Fruitful and Multiply

“And God said to them, Be fruitful and multiply…”  Genesis 1:28

Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. 20 Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”  Matthew 28:19-20

In the beginning God created all things including man and woman.  He blessed the man and woman and told them to be fruitful and multiply.  Should I explain what that means and the process?  Probably not, but imagine if God had not told them to do so.  What reproduction wasn’t part of God’s plan for the family?  Would any of us be here today?  It would have all ended when Adam and Eve died.  Multiplying has always been part of God’s plan.  Multiplying is a simple concept to understand:  what starts with two parents produces 1-2-3-4-5-6…. Kids, who grow up and give you grandchildren, and if you’re blessed you’ll even see the great-grands!  Have you ever thought that reproduction is part of God’s church plan?

Before Jesus ascended into heaven He told his disciples to go and make disciples.  At the beginning of His ministry (Matthew 4:19) He called the disciples into a process that would make them fishers of men.  Multiplication, reproduction, replication…whatever you call it, it’s what the church does.  If the church doesn’t reproduce it dies out!

So, how are you being fruitful and multiplying in your spiritual life?  Are you sharing the Gospel with someone at work or at home with the intent they will receive Him?  Are you investing into someone regularly, teaching and showing them how to read the Bible, how to pray, how to serve, how to give, how to trust God?  Are you leading someone else to multiply too?

Think about it this way – Jesus invested in the disciples so that they would invest in others when He was gone.  Are the people, or students, you’re investing in doing the same for others when you’re not around?

What if there wasn’t a Youth Ministry

“Listen, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord alone] And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength. And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today. Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up.  Deuteronomy 6:4-7

What if there wasn’t a youth ministry?  What if children’s ministry ended?  What if there wasn’t a choir?  What if our church programs ceased?  Would the church make any disciples?  Would our kids love Jesus and lead others to love him too?  Would our neighbors be introduced to Jesus and invited to know Him as Savior?  Would the gospel reach our community, our schools, our workplaces?

The Bible commands us to love God, to love people, and to make disciples (Matthew 22:37-40; 28:18-20).  The Bible commands us to gather together for worship, teaching, and meeting needs (Acts 2:42-47, Hebrews 10:25).  Sometimes we make church more complicated than it was intended to be.  We rely on so many other things to share the Gospel for us, to meet needs for us, to make disciples for us.  We build programs to do it all.  We invite friends and neighbors to our programs and hope it makes a difference for them.  Sometimes it does!  But nothing, not even a program replaces you and me.  We are responsible for sharing Jesus with others, for inviting them to know Jesus as Lord and Savior, for helping someone mature in their faith, for showing them how to lead someone else to Christ.

Church activities are good and essential tools to help us grow in Christ and reach our community.  But programs do not lead others to Christ, people do.  I am in support of activities we do at our church, so don’t misunderstand me.  But consider this question:  if our church wasn’t here, would our community notice?  If you moved, would your neighborhood notice?

I Love How God Works

After 20 years of a childhood growing up in a divided home, I truly believed and accepted Jesus into my life.  Life was good from then to now, growing closer to Him, but a few months ago I was struck to the fact that I wasn’t doing what I need to do as a Christian.  I’m not spreading the Word.  So I’m wishing to serve the church and God to the best of my ability.”  – Former student

 

Wow!  I love getting these notes!  You and I spend so much time praying, preparing, and laboring in ministry for students and their families.  Sometimes we wonder if any of it is making a difference in their lives.  The enemy wants us to feel like we’re failing, and on our own we will.  But God is working!  He is working in His time which is perfect!  Often I remind myself that God’s ministry of reconciliation is bigger than the ministry He has given me.  Nothing succeeds or fails because of me.  So we keep laboring in the harvest, we keep planting, keep plowing, keep watering, and see what God does.

Thank you for serving in student ministry!

Eager for Jesus

57 And they were deeply offended and refused to believe in him.  Then Jesus told them, “A prophet is honored everywhere except in his own hometown and among his own family.” 58 And so he did only a few miracles there because of their unbelief. Matthew 13:57-58

In Matthew 13:54-58, Jesus goes to his hometown of Nazareth and teaches, performing miracles.  These people knew Jesus well, even from when he was a little boy.  They knew his dad, his mom, his brothers, his sisters.  They understood his background and the skills of his family.  It is interesting that they were amazed at Jesus’ teaching and his miracles, but quickly their amazement turned to scorn.  They blew Jesus off!  They didn’t believe Jesus, and even were offended that he would presume to teach them.  Their hearts were closed to the Word of God, “dull” as Jesus said earlier in the chapter.

Notice that Jesus didn’t continue to do miracles, he didn’t push harder, he didn’t beg for their belief.  Instead, Jesus did few miracles in his hometown because of their unbelief.  Why?  Why wouldn’t Jesus do everything possible for his hometown to believe?

I won’t pretend to know the answer, but I will share a stark reality we see in this passage.  Some people just don’t want to believe.  Some people do not desire God but prefer other things.  Some students are indifferent to faith, just don’t want God.

But look what Jesus did next in Matthew 14!  He got word that his cousin, John had been executed.  He left to grieve alone, but the crowds followed him on foot (13).  They came from many towns (I’m guessing not from Nazareth).  When Jesus saw the crowds he had compassion, performed miracles, and then fed more than 5000 of them!  These crowds were eager to hear, eager to see, eager to understand what Jesus was teaching and doing!  Jesus did not hold back from teaching, performing miracles, meeting needs and showing God off to those who wanted to hear and see!

Some may have had closed hearts, but others may have been ready to receive with great faith!  You and I don’t know the hearts of our students, but we can recognize the students that are eager to hear and see God.  We need to pour all we can into those eager hearts!  Jesus didn’t completely cut off his hometown, he still did a few miracles, but he intentionally did more for those who wanted Him.

What does this mean for student ministry?  What does this mean for your personal ministry at home, in your neighborhood?  Who do you know that is eager to hear and see God?  Is it hard to find someone eager?