It is tough to write about a place you hate to leave. Saturday night, the last night of the conference was a good night. The worship was moving, and the entertainment for the evening was excellent. I enjoyed the round table-ish discussion that Jeff Walling, Buddy Bell and Don McLaughlin took part in. They answered the questions we are asking as youth ministers, as church leaders. It was especially good to hear them speak from their hearts and all agreed that they don’t have this stuff fully figured out. There was a comment that touched my wound though, that God also healed as well. It was a comment, I am sure, that God saved until the end of the week to bring me a to place of brokenness and healing. Don McLaughlin talked about our weakness and ministering out of weakness. For out of our weakness God’s strength overflows. I don’t remember exactly how he said it, but the way he said was what I needed to hear. Somewhere on this journey of youth ministry I have listened to the lies from the enemy, that I am no good, that my ministry stinks, that nothing is changing. I constantly wrestle with seeing the good that has come from my ministry. My wife elbowed me in a loving wifely way at what Don said. Her nudge was a, “I told you so,” nudge. Jen has always seen the good in what I do, even when I can’t see it. I couldn’t have been lead to a better, more wonder woman to have as a ministry partner. As I was listening to what Don was saying, it dawned on me that indeed, God is at work in my weaknesses, and in my frailties. He is powerful when I am weak. For me that comment was a powerful reminder.
Jeff Walling asked us to pick a couple of things that were especially challenging that we are taking home to focus on. Here’s my list:
1. Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so. Yes, Jesus loves me, yes Jesus loves me. Yes, Jesus loves me, the Bible tells me so.
- Often, in my walk I have had a hard time embracing God’s love fully. Once I take my eyes off his love, I begin to feel less than human, I feel enslaved to the things that don’t matter.
- Once my perspective is renewed I can rest in my identity as the beloved of God and not just a professional minister.
- God made a way for my wife and I to be at the conference when there seemed to be no way. I have a renewed understanding of the Lord as my Provider, not as genie or a God that I can manipulate, but as Sovereign over all of the universe. The last couple of weeks reminds me of the time when the Lord hide Moses in the cleft of the rock and passed by him. I feel that Jen and I have seen the Lord pass by.
2. The church is not the buidling:
- Jeff Walling did a series of classes on the missional church. It was good stuff, one of the fundamental things we discussed was that placing special emphasis on a place or a building is not the plan of God at the outset of the church. Duh, the church is the people, not the place.
- In order to impact our communities the church must leave the building.
- This missional stuff sure is messy, but my God is the God of the mess.
3. Hang on
- I know that I could pick a whole host of other points to write about as things I take away from the conference, and indeed there is more, i.e., the role of the Spirit in my life and in my ministry, the importance of the spiritual disciplines. But, I am reminded, encouraged to hang in there. I know there are other guys and gals that come to the conference every year hanging by a thread, and are renewed and encouraged and even find some more rope to hang too or solid ground to stand on. I have rediscovered a passion for youth ministry and found new rope!!
4. This generation of teens needs to see authentic expressions of discipleship
- Chap Clark in his book Hurt, writes about the systemic abandonment that our teens are experiencing. Our teens are leaving our churches after graduating high school, and many of them are hungry for meaningful adult relationships, particularly with their families.
- This generation is willing to roll their sleeves up and serve, wherever, however, and whomever.
- This generation expresses themselves differently than the gen-x, Boomers, and the WWW2 generation. Different expression isn’t sinful, just different.
- Families need to be reminded, encouraged to fight for their families
- One of the questions that teenagers are asking, is “mom, dad, will you fight for me?” This generation of young people has been abandoned by the adult institutions. I recommend a very troubling book, Hurt by Dr. Chapman Clark. Clark’s book looks at the abandonment that teens feel. By and large, our young are growing up and going off to college and leaving the church behind. There is a great verse in Nehemiah 4 that drives this point home. You Nehemiah was given the task to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem, well this was a daunting task. They got started and faced some difficulty. Look at chapters 1-4, but zero in on 4:1-14, ” 13 Therefore I stationed some of the people behind the lowest points of the wall at the exposed places, posting them by families, with their swords, spears and bows. 14After I looked things over, I stood up and said to the nobles, the officials and the rest of the people, “Don’t be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons and your daughters, your wives and your homes.” Notice what Nehemiah does, he makes the struggle that Israel faced urgent and personal. Nehemiah challenged the people to fight their families. Are you willing to do the same. What are the exposed places in your family that is most susceptible to attack? We have to defend those places.