Wednesday, February 4, 2009

It isnt something we do, it is something we are.

So, this is a post that I have been thinking about posting since Monday or so and have decided that I should go ahead and post it. As I have said in a previous post I usually don't like upsetting the apple cart, so I am hesitant to post but at the same time I hope that in writing this there will be some good dialogue to help me work through this in my heart and also in my head. So as most of you know I am a youth minister and if you didn't, well now ya do. I look at the ministry God has blessed me with and I wonder if it is a ministry that is truly teaching students how to live a Christian life. I look at students that have gone through youth group and start college and for some reason the Christian life they lived in high school goes out the window, much like mine did when I got to college, and it make me sad because I know first hand that a life apart from God is not a life at all. I have recently shared with my parents a lot of what went on while I was in college and in telling them I know that it broke their hearts that I wasn't living the way they had raised me to live. My mom asked me "Scott, what could have we done differently?" I really didn't have much of an answer for her. My parents were great! They brought all of us kids up in a strong Christian home. We were in Church whenever we could be, we did all of the things that Christian families do and I did all the things that Christian teens do and my brother and I took two completely different roads heading into college. So for me, there is no way in the world that I could blame any of it on my parents, I willing participated in things that I knew were wrong. I did many things late in high school and into college that early on in high school I said I would never do. I sold out. I gave into the idea of, you are young do what you want, have fun and worry about growing up later. (This wasn't my whole college life though. For the majority of college I lived a good moral life and didn't do anything too bad. This falling away was mainly in my senior year of college.) So I did what I wanted to and I also did church on Sundays and most of the time I was good. I would feel bad for my prior weeks partying sometimes and think about changing but no real change happened until around May of my senior year. (That is a whole dif story for another time) But what was it that I had learned growing up that fostered these misguided thoughts?

Well all of that was preface to the meat of this blog. Sorry this might be a long one! Here are my thoughts on what might have occured and I would like to know what all of you think. For the majority of my life and I could imagine for some Christian teens today when asked what their Christian faith is about their answer and my answer then would be something like this. "Well I go to church on Sundays and sometimes Wednesdays as often as I can. Then we go on a ski trip in the winter and then in the summer we go to Church Camp and it is so awesome!! I get on such a spiritual high from Church Camp. Etc etc etc........" Some of you might be thinking, yeah that sounds about right. Kids are busy and that really is all they can commit to do. Church a few times a week and then a couple of trips with the youth group. Isnt this what we desire for our kids?? Being a youth minister I do desire to have kids come on Sunday nights, I do want them to come to Wednesdays, and the trips we take, and the retreats we go on, the mission trips we attend. I think all of these are very valuable experiences that help mold and shape them. It is very encouraging to me to see a big group on a Sunday or Wednesday night! It feels great for me to be able to tell the Church that I am taking over 30 kids on mission trips this summer. But if that is all their Christian walks are about I am one stinking huge failure! If I view my job and lively hood as only focusing on getting kids to come to Sunday and Wednesday nights and trips I am completely misguided and am ultimately setting kids up for failure putting a stumbling block between them and the true God and the Bible talks about that and I dont wanna be that guy. Will they encounter God on retreats, mission trips, camps, Sunday and Wednesday nights? Yes, but if I am not teaching them to seek to encounter Him on a daily basis I have failed. If I am simply teaching them that their Christian faith is solely about what they do and don't do I have failed. If I am teaching them that the only places you encounter God is when you come to youth group or when you go on trips or when you do this or that, then, I think you know what I am gonna say. I HAVE FAILED!

Lets look at it this way. I grew up in Texas, and as most people know most Texans are proud of where they are from. Being a Texan doesn't mean that you do certain things or talk a certain way ,although you do do certain things and most likely talk a lil bit different those things are not what make you a Texan. Being a Texan means u were born there! (Although there are some who have moved their and since claimed Texas, that is fine too.) A Texan doesnt wake up in the morning and say, I think Im gonna be a Texan today. NO! They wake up knowing they are one and even though they may do many things throughout the day it doesnt change the fact of who they are. In the same way this is how we should live out our Christian lives. It should be something we wake up knowing and something we are well aware of throughout the day and then be something we go to sleep trusting. Being a Christian means you were spiritually re-born through the saving work of Christ on the cross and accepting that salvation. Although, we are Christians we may do things differently than the world, those things that we do or don't do are not what define us. Our identity is in Christ and Christ alone, it is in the saving work He did on the cross. So here are a few thoughts and this might be where some of you disagree with me but thats ok, we can talk about it and both gain valuable insight. (And let me preface this by saying I am very much preaching to my self in this whole area Im just trying to figure this out in community which I think God is calling us to do) Often I get my feelings hurt when a kid chooses something else over Church. I often ,and even hear some colleagues, question a student's priorities when they do choose something else over something we are doing at Church or some big trip we are taking. I do desire them to go and be apart of these things. But how arrogant is it of me to think that the only place they will encounter God is when they come to youth or go on a trip? The thing is, we have taught them this. We have taught them that those are the only places to trully connect with God. We tell them about how Christ desires to come and dwell in their hearts but yet when they choose something over us we question if He truly is in their hearts. This is where I think I have the biggest conflict in my heart. We tell kids to prioritize their lives in this order. God first, others second, and themselves third. But when we say God do we really mean God or do we mean our Churches or youth groups?? The bottom line of it all is this. There are people not just kids, continually walking away from the Church because we have created a culture where we have these great spiritual highs and teach them to simply live from one high to the next and forget to teach them how to live a day to day walk of faith. How do we change this whole way of thinking?? How do we being to teach our congregations as a whole that Christianity isn't merely something we do? How do we teach them it is something we are, it is who we are, it is who's we are? (yeah that was corny i know) I know that was a ton to read, and I thank you if you actually did read it all and please comment let me know what ya think. Anyhow I will put this extremely long rambling of a blog to its end.


Penny Rodgers said...

I'm in 100% agreement with what you said, Scott. Great post.

I know ministry can be disheartening. It's hard to watch the kids who we think "get it" turn away. But we do it for the ONE kid who REALLY "gets it."

Jeff Mayberry said...

I think that you made some excellent points. I actually referenced some of this blog while teaching the high school/junior high kids at church tonight. don't worry, i gave you credit! I do feel some of the same things though. That is actually what inspired me to start this class. I think we have become a little too attached to the technicalities of christianity (not that it ins't important, just not as important as we try to make it) and have forgotten to try and inspire a genuine hunger for God's word as well as a hunger to know God personally. Thanks for the blog though, this was my first time to read it and I'm a fan!

missy said...

Great Blog! You are so righton (new word). We get legalistic and it's all about a relationship with Jesus Christ. He is every where just waiting to meet us not just at church or church events, but right here, right now. Wouldn't the world be changed if we lived that way. I needed that thought myself..thanks.

The Bishop said...

Sounds like you're ready to start investing in disciples rather than creating attenders. Most kids walk away from church because the faith that's been modeled for them is "A good Christian attends..." Reality: a good Christian pursues Christ. And no amount of teaching can equal your life modeling THAT for them. For instance, your kids probably expect you to teach them about Christ ad invite them to faith. They see it as your job; what you're paid to do. But when you make the transition to reaching the other 20 somethings in Artesia, the clerk at the grocery store, the waitress at LaFonda, the "cart guy" at Wal-Mart, they see you LIVING in your personal life a faith that is more than your job. And the cool thing is you can find a couple students and take them with you as you do these things. Jesus' disciples were really apprentices, and not just people who sat a couple of weeks under His teaching. Teach with your life and take a few faithful ones with you to catch the lessons that will shape who they are. I've decided I should focus more on their spiritual formation than their spiritual feeding. In our culture, there are only two kinds of people who can't feed themselves: infants and invalids. Most of our students are infants, but we spoon feed them for so long we help them transition to invalids.

GREAT thoughts, Scott. A couple of books you might be interested in (but I warn you, they will ruin you! You'll never be able to do Youth Ministry the same after these) are "The Shaping of Things To Come" by Hirsch and Frost, and "The Tangible Kingdom" by Halter and Smay.