Thursday, September 22, 2005

The long way around

About a year ago, I referenced an illustration that C.S. Lewis presented in his book The Four Loves He points out that if you are at the top of a mountain, the quickest way to get down the mountain is often by a path that goes around and around. The best way often is the longest way.

That illustration really resonated with me then, and I'm beginning to realize even more how true it is. In the past year, I've seen some new scenery, experienced all too familiar sights, faced struggles, walked with others who encouraged me, parted with others who did not, parted with some of the ones who did encourage me, seen sunsets, and weathered storms. I've circled back around the mountain, and the view is a little clearer this time. Some familiar emotions are creeping back in, but in a new context, and my joy is unspeakably greater than before.

I am so grateful for God's faithfulness over the course of my journey this far. More than ever, I realize that God has placed a calling on my life, and God's promises are perfect. When I agreed to follow God, God agreed to go ahead of me and prepare the way. One lesson I learned this summer is that I need to trust God with every moment of my day, and every day of my life. It is amazing how things just worked out when I stopped and asked God to help me trust and obey.

The problem with the long way, besides the length, is the fact that you can't see around the bend in the road. All I see is a curve of road, and then nothing by sky and the ground below. All I can do is rest in God's promises, and praise God for giving me the freedom to do so.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Abundant Ministry

(From the October Newsletter)

If someone asked you what the purpose of youth ministry is, what would you answer? My guess is that most people would say something along the lines of, “to give the kids something good to do so that they won’t get into trouble.” As a church, one of our responsibilities is to care for the youth in our congregation and community. In part, this means giving those kids a safe place where they are comfortable to hang out and grow, but our responsibility goes beyond babysitting teenagers once or twice a week.

Matthew 25:14-30 has helped to shape my vision of what youth ministry should be. In this parable, three servants are left to care for different amounts of money. While the master is away, two of the servants invest and increase the master’s wealth, but the third buries his share in the ground. When the master comes back, this third servant is called lazy for not investing, and Jesus’ message is “To those who use well what they are given, even more will be given, and they will have abundance.” In other words, we have been given a precious gift in the youth of our community, but rather than just sitting them in the fellowship hall once a week for safekeeping, we need to be investing them in the life of the church.

It is tempting for me to define success in terms of attendance, because my hope is that area youth will be drawn to our church rather than to physically and emotionally unhealthy situations. We often have the unconscious attitude that the main point is that kids come; spiritual growth is a bonus. Often youth groups focus more on food and fellowship than discipleship and service so that we don’t scare anyone away. We aim to keep them in the church so that they can mature spiritually when they get older. Jesus calls this lazy, and I think we sell our youth short when we have such low expectations.

The amazing fact is that God calls individuals of every age for service, and our privilege as a community of faith is to support and equip the called. Our church family has been blessed with an amazing group of youth people who have hearts for God, and our task is to help each of them find their own personal calling. I wholeheartedly believe that our youth ministry balances food and fellowship with discipleship and service, and as we continue to intentionally invest these teenagers in ministry our entire community will be blessed abundantly.