A couple of years ago I preached this message in our church. Three years later and it is perhaps more relevant today than the day I preached it in our church. We have seen over the past 90 years or so, our country go from welcoming to the gospel, to being indifferent to the gospel, to now becoming hostile towards the gospel. I pray by God’s grace that this changes.
How to raise gospel centered kids in a gospel hating world.
Avoid fear – As we talk through the issues as we have over the past few weeks the reaction I find in me is fear. I don’t want my kids to put any of these bumper stickers on their cars. I don’t want any of the things that have been said to be true of my kids. There are times when I feel like a captive in my home afraid to let my kids leave the sanctuary of the home because the reality of the very real devil is much greater to me than the understanding that we have a magnificent savior.
4 “Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: 5 Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. 6 Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. 7 But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.
Gospel: What you believe about Jesus and His Church will decide who you become
As a young leader what you believe about Jesus and the church will ultimately decide your success in life and ministry. All of the Young Leader posts I have done find their basis in the work that Jesus has done for us. As a leader how you see God and align your life to his word personally is everything…well almost everything. You need to understand and have a personal relationship with Christ but that personal relationship finds it fulfillment in community. Community without a personal relationship is as unfulfilling as a personal relationship without community, both are lacking without the other.
The problem with many young leaders is in lacking experience they tend to fall into two extremes. They either over-estimate their abilities and push on without seeing the need for God’s help or they pull back because they are insecure about the experience they lack. What I love about the Gospel is it produces a much need humility that we all need. To have a proper view of Jesus you have to see beyond your own weakness and strengths. The is no greater tool at the disposal of a leader than humility.
Augustine of Hippo said that, for those who would learn God’s ways, humility is the first thing, the second thing and the third thing.
Martin Luther, when asked to name the three greatest virtues replied, “First, humility; second, humility and third, humility.” .
C.S. Lewis describes humility in his Screwtape Letters as not as having a low opinion of one’s talents and character but rather as self-forgetfulness. This entails a radical honesty with ourselves about ourselves that begins to free us from the denials, pretences, and false images with which we deceive ourselves.
Only when we see Christ for who he is and us for who we are can we truly understand the gospel. And when we see Christ for who he is we see the love that he has for the church it must consume and compel us to love, serve and act with the same attitude that we see Christ demonstrated to us in Philippians 2. When all is said and done young leader what you believe about Jesus and what you believe about the church will decide how you will minister it determines the way you serve. You don’t have to be fluent in Greek and Hebrew but you do need to settle what you believe about Christ and His church.
How do you do this?
1. Preach the gospel to yourself. You need Jesus every day just as much as the people you are reaching.
2. Model to those you lead the same attitude of service Jesus modeled to his disciples. Nothing should be below you.
3. You should be more concerned about who you are following than how many are following you.
4. You should have a passion not just to move people to a personal relationship with Jesus but into a life-giving community of believers
5. Ask yourself who is the community that models their faith in your life.
6. Continually ask yourself if you have ever been more passionate about Jesus than you are today.
Ego: The Church does not need brilliant personalities but faithful servants of Jesus
Genuine authority knows, however, that all immediacy is disastrous, particularly in matters of authority. Genuine authority knows that it can only exist in the service of the one who alone has authority. Genuine authority knows that it is bound in the strictest sense by the words of Jesus, “you have one teacher, and you are all brothers” (Matt. 23: 8). The community of faith does not need brilliant personalities but faithful servants of Jesus and of one another. It does not lack the former, but the latter. The community of faith will place its confidence only in the simple servant of the word of Jesus, because it knows that it will then be guided not by human wisdom and human conceit, but by the word of the good shepherd.
Keeping our egos in check is so important because it is counter-cultural to everything we see and hear. We live in a day where self-promotion is rampant. The church sadly is no different. What worries me is kids who are digital natives are growing up and they don’t remember what it was like before the age of the minor Christian celebrity. You have ministers who start a blog and buy followers on twitter before long they are wearing swag and hitting the conference circuit speaking about things they have heard and seen others do but have never done themselves.
In an earlier blog post, one of a the points that I got the most questions about was why a VBS has to be a church-wide event. My reasoning behind this statement was because I have done VBS as a departmental event and a church-wide event. VBS is such a large event that it either adds to the life of the church or it drains life from the children’s ministry department within the church. Here are a few of the differences I have found between a departmental VBS and a church-wide VBS.
A department VBS is lost in the sea of summer promotions. A church-wide VBS every department feels the pressure so they each push its importance. We canceled our worship team practice because we needed the space but it said to worship team that we are in this together. It served as a reminder that they should register their kids and invite others to come. We canceled our regular programming for youth ministry the week of VBS because of space and because so many of our youth are involved in making VBS a reality.
Experience: Lack of experience is actually a good thing.
One of the things that young leaders have to wrestle with is a lack of experience. It can be very easy as a young leader to push through a lack of experience and lead from a place of insecure confidence. Which sounds like a contradiction of terms but nothing could be further from the truth. I have seen many young leaders make many mistakes because they lack experience and rather than leaning into Christ they act as if they have led for years. The problem occurs when young leaders experience a bit of success and attribute it to the wrong things. It, in turn, produces a skewed view of leadership. They think that their success has more to do with them than it really does. This is where arrogant insecure leaders are born.
The reason many leaders in church ministry are so insecure is because they never learn the lesson their lack of experience was meant to teach them. They build their own kingdom based on what they have done and then spend their life protecting it from anyone destroying what they built. What insecure, selfish, egocentric leaders never learn is that lacking experience is a blessing and if leveraged properly will create a lifelong dependence on Christ alone. As leaders “We are” as Aristotle says “What we repeatedly do”. If you are a young leader repeatedly place your present, your past and your future in the hands of Christ so that he can form you and shape you into what he has for you.
If you are a young leader the best thing you can do is leverage your lack of experience and build into yourself a life long dependence on Christ.
Here are some practical ways to leverage your inexperience:
1. Listen (I blogged about that here)
2. Seek to build up those around you
3. Be about team
4. Give away the credit and take all the blame
5. Remind yourself daily that if you lose everything you still get Jesus
7. Continually ask yourself am I building God’s Kingdom or my résumé