Are We Missing Something?

Jesus’ heart for the next generation is evident. He told the disciples to stay out of the way of some kids who were trying to get to Him. He gives a strict warning to anyone who would hinder the young from coming to Him. (And offers death by drowning as a preferable alternative!) He even holds up the faith of a child as an example that the adults he was talking to should follow!

For generations, the faithful church has reflected His heart for the young (as well as His heart in every other matter). But sometimes, our attempts to do so have come with unfortunate side effects. Over the last 60 years or so, as youth culture has increasingly developed its own distinctions from the larger culture, I’m afraid the job of ushering the next generation into the presence and Life of Jesus has been misplaced – it’s been left up to ‘the experts’.

Youth speakers, pastors of student ministry, youth ministers… With good intentions, churches have designated people like me as the ones to make disciples of the next generation. But the unfortunate side effect in this case is that most of the rest of the church begins to shirk its responsibility because “we hired someone to work with the kids.” The truth is, the youth minister cannot do the whole work that is necessary for the church to reach the next generation. It takes (in the case where I serve) a nurse and an entomologist and a lab tech and a paint guy and a painter and moms and dads and grandparents and a social security worker and a veteran and the cable guy… We need teachers and coaches and sales associates and railroaders and office workers and clerks and secretaries and managers and… Hey, what’s your profession? We need those, too.

See, the responsibility for reaching and equipping the next generation to make disciples isn’t just mine. It’s ours. They need all of us to collectively reach out as the Body of Christ and invite them into the adventure of discipleship in every walk of life.

This isn’t really just a youth ministry issue though, is it? Aside from “Love God and love your neighbor.” there may be no other command of Jesus as clear as “Go make disciples.” He said a lot of things that were sort of hard to understand that we’re not quite sure what to do with, but “Go make disciples.” isn’t one of them. And yet… aren’t there a lot of people who show up in church services regularly who aren’t making disciples? How have we misplaced one of the most basic functions of who we are? Is the painter who never paints anything really a painter?

It saddens me to think of how many believers have basically ignored this plain instruction and could not name a single disciple they’re “making”. It saddens me even more to think of how many young disciples-to-be may never know the potential they have in His service because the church hired someone else to take care of the students and stopped making disciples of the kids in their own communities. Would you do a check and make sure that doesn’t describe you? Connect with the kids around you. Invite them into your life and share the journey of discipleship with them. Start now.

Is there something you’re missing that you need in order to make disciples? Can I help you with the nuts and bolts of making disciples? (Use the contact page above or send me a message to get in touch.)

If you’re a church leader, take some time to evaluate how you do things. Are the people you lead making disciples? Are you the all-star quarterback of the disciple making duties of your ministry or the coach, pulling a team together and maximizing every team member’s unique contribution to the disciple making mission?

What About Monday?

On Friday, Death sneered and mocked Life while God calmly answered, “I’m going to count to Three.”

On Saturday, the snickering in Hades acquired an air of nervousness while God raised His head and counted on… “Two.”

On Sunday, Jesus shook Death by the throat and threw the carcass aside. “One. What now? Where is your sting?”

But on Monday…

What about Monday?

“What now?” indeed.

What happens the day after the day death is defeated?

There’s not a chance that the friends of Jesus could have just gone on as if everything He said had ended with Him there on the cross. But what would they do? Who were they to carry His legacy? How were they supposed to continue on without Him?

So they huddled together. Maybe for comfort… maybe out of fear… maybe in hiding… And then…

Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.

With a mission. There was a reason Jesus stepped from His throne into a womb and onto a cross.

Not without strength. God placed all authority in His hands.

Not alone. The Father was always with Jesus.

Receive the Holy Spirit.

It’s Monday now, and we have been sent to bring hope to those who are without hope – To share light in the darkness. But we don’t have to manufacture this hope. The Life that is the Light of men has already instigated and instilled His hope in all who would share in His resurrection.

We are not alone.

He lives still to complete the mission His Father gave Him.

In us.

It’s Monday. What will you do now?

Stop Making It Awkward

My younger son recently joined a Boy Scout troop. Since it’s been 30 years since my last scouting event, we really didn’t know what to expect as we got started. We had a time and place for the first Cub Scout Pack meeting, so we showed up not really knowing what to expect. As we walked into an unfamiliar church building and found a seat among a handful of strangers, I couldn’t help but think that this is how so many people feel when they attend a church service somewhere new.


Out of place…

Needing a friend who can translate all the unfamiliar stuff happening…

When do I stand or sit? Why is that group standing in the back like they’re waiting for something? When will this actually start? Did I miss a signal somewhere? Am I supposed to salute or something?

A thousand questions assail the mind of the uninitiated. Hopefully, the guests at your church will have a better experience than our awkward first moments with the Pack. (It really was horrible.) Actually, you can do some simple things to make sure they do:

  • Say hello. No one should manage to find their way onto your parking lot, through your front doors, and into the auditorium to hunt for a seat without a few people saying hi and helping them get where they need to be. When someone unfamiliar sits down nearby, smile and say hi. Don’t just relegate that to the greeters and ushers.
  • Smile. Seriously, it’s that simple. You’re hanging out with people who love you, to celebrate the Life that will never be defeated. Jesus knocked the teeth out of death so that you could live with Him and His Dad forever. Even if your life isn’t going great right now, that’s something to be happy about.
  • Know why you’re doing what you’re doing with absolute clarity. This is especially important for those who will be on the stage for any reason. Why are you asking people to do what you’re asking them to do? They don’t know, so please explain. If there’s a silent span of time, explain why so that it can be a meaningful moment full of the opportunity to connect with God instead of just an awkward moment of wondering who missed their cue and what’s supposed to be happening. If you’re singing some 90 year old song that “everybody knows,” explain it, because everyone does not know it or why they should join in.
  • Love each other, but don’t ignore the ‘others’. Jesus told the disciples to love each other – and added that it would be an identifying mark of His followers (loving each other). But it’s easy to get so caught up with the people we love that we ignore people we don’t know. Look around the room and notice the new faces. Who’s loving them as they sit there alone feeling like they showed up to a family reunion wearing the wrong last name? Would you help them feel welcome to hang out with the family.
  • Invite them to take another step. Discipleship is a journey that requires friends to walk along with. Help your new guests know what could be next for them. What events are coming up that would help them connect? What new groups might be getting started that they could jump into? Give them a reason to come back.

What a great opportunity we have to share hope with people looking for hope… Let’s make the most of it.