I would put on a link that works, if I could.
Will have to get back to you with that one…
I would put on a link that works, if I could.
Will have to get back to you with that one…
Then he told them a story: “A youth worker worked for a youth ministry that produced fine young people. He said to himself, ‘What should I do? I don’t have a strategy for all my young people.’ Then he said, ‘I know! I’ll tear up all my plans and build bigger ones. Then I’ll have accounted for every young person and every leader. And I’ll sit back and say to myself, “My friend, you have planned for years to come. Now take it easy! Eat, sing, and design icebreakers!”’
“But God said to him, ‘You fool! What if you die this very night? Then what will happen to the master plan you have worked for?’
Look here, when we say, “Today or tomorrow we are going to teach a certain topic and learn all about it. We will run a small group and make the Lord known.” How do we know what the life of people will be like tomorrow? Their faith is like a fire—it burns brightly a little while, then dies downs, then brightly again. What we ought to say is, “If the Lord wants to, He will use us to reveal Himself to them.”
Otherwise we are boasting about our own plans, and all such boasting is evil.
Four well-dressed men are sitting together on comfy chairs
Aye, very passable, that, very passable bit of worship singing that.
Nothing like a good sing song to Chris Tomlin, Josiah?
You’re right there, Obadiah.
Who’d have thought thirty year ago we’d all be sittin‘ here talking about Chris Tomlin and worship, eh?
In them days we was glad to hear a bit of guitar.
An out of tune guitar
Without drums or keyboard.
In a drafty church an all.
Oh, we never had music. We used to have to just sit around and sing to ourselves.
The best we could manage was to hum old hymns.
But you know, we were happy in those days, though we didn’t have proper music.
Because we didn’t have any proper music. My old Dad used to say to me, “Music doesn’t buy you happiness, son”.
Aye, ‘e was right.
Aye, ‘e was.
I was happier then and we had nothin’ in the youth ministry team. We used to run youth club in this tiny old shed with great big holes in the roof.
Shed! You were lucky to run youth club in a shed! We used t’ meet in one room, all seventy-six of us, no furniture, ‘alf the floor was missing, and we were all ‘uddled together in one corner for fear of falling.
Eh, you were lucky to have a room! We used to have to meet in t’ corridor!
Oh, we used to dream of running youth club in a corridor! Would ha’ been a palace to us. We used to meet in an old water tank on a rubbish tip. We got interrupted every Friday by folks dumping loads of rotting fish all over us! Shed? Huh.
Well, when I say ‘shed’ it was only a hole in the ground covered by a sheet of tarpaulin, but it was a shed to us.
Our ‘ole in the ground was filled in by t’council; we ‘ad to go and run youth club in a lake.
You were lucky to have a lake! There were a hundred and fifty of us meeting for youth club in t’ shoebox in t’ middle o’ road.
You were lucky. We ran youth club for three years in a paper bag in a septic tank. We used to have to get there at six o’clock, clean the paper bag, buy a crust of stale bread from tuck shop, work with young uns from down t’ mill, for two hours every week, week-in week-out, and when we got to church the vicar would make us sit at back in the church, without so much of a thank you.
Luxury. We used to have to get to the lake at four o’clock, clean the lake, eat a handful of hot gravel, work at youth club for four hours every day for a month, go to all three services on a Sunday at church and listen t’service from outside t’church, if we were lucky!
Well, of course, we had it tough. We used to ‘ave to get to shoebox at two o’clock in the afternoon and lick road clean wit’ tongue. We had two bits of cold gravel, worked twelve hours at the youth club, every day all year, go to all three services on a Sunday, and monthly praise evenings and the vicar would complain that we hadn’t turned up to the prayer breakfast.
Right. I had to get to the youth club at ten o’clock in the morning, seven hours before I had finished work at t’ mill, drink a cup of sulphuric acid, work twenty-nine hours a day at the youth club and pay the vicar for permission to volunteer, and when I got to church the church warden would hit me over the head with a church Bible, and the vicar didn’t even know who I was.
And you try and tell the youth ministry of today that ….. they won’t believe you.
ALL: They won’t!
This is an attempt to crystallise the thoughts that have been going around my mind for ages. The proposals and thoughts are all couched in the proviso that I have no formal theological training. So I apologise in advance if I have misinterpreted the message of the Gospel and I am more than willing to be corrected. I am also well aware that I am more than likely going to be hypocritical in the comments that I make.
What I would like to come up with is a short essay outlining the basis for the necessity for young Christians, all Christians, to be involved in social action and community. Perhaps this project could be called “Authentic Community” or “Authentic Action” for ease of reference, but it is really just working out how to make the Gospel real and relevant. So for the sake of clarity I’ll refer to this project as “Authentic Community” in this essay. It would be great to come up with the following statements:
But perhaps we need the young people to do that?
The crux of the problem
Put simply, how do you balance the following bible verses against one another:
“As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.” James 2v26
“For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved” Rom 10v10.
The latter verse is part of a section in the Bible that explains that we can do nothing to earn the love of God and that we are simply to accept hi grace, but the passage in the letter from James rebukes believers who fail to live out that grace and fail to show it to others. Their faith is described as dead, meaningless, worthless. Despite that we know that nothing can separate us from the love of God, so once we have accepted his love and grace through Christ Jesus why do we need to bother to love others?
Back to Basics
Loving others is quite simply what Jesus commanded us to do. He said: ” ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’” (Matt 22v37-39).
I believe that this is the action that James is referring to. He is referring to the sharing of God’s love with other people, our neighbours, our families, strangers (remember the Good Samaritan?). If the recipients of James’ letter were not keeping the greatest and simplest commandments of Jesus then how could they claim to have faith in Him?
Jesus makes it clear who we are supposed to love. He also has something to say on how we are supposed to love other people:
· Clothe the naked
· Feed the hungry
· Give a drink to the thirsty
· Care for the sick
· Visit those in prison
· Selling all we own and giving the money to the poor
· Give away our clothes is someone asks for our coats
All seems a bit extreme, doesn’t it…?
Especially when we live in the suburbs and don’t often come across sick, naked, thirsty people in the street. How do you live up to that kind of thing when you’re not yet 16 and can’t join a community scheme because of daft child protection issues? When you can’t visit old people in a care home as they would have to be CRB-checked? When you can’t accompany adults on a soup run because it is perceived to be dangerous? As an aside, I’m sure Jesus said he would look after us as He cares for us even more than He cares for the birds in the sky; and they do OK the majority of the time. If we believe we are doing what God wants then surely we should be able to trust that He will look after us?
Who can we help?
In Paul’s letter to the Galatians (a misbehaving church) he says:
“Therefore, whenever we have the opportunity, we should do good to everyone—especially to those in the family of faith” Gal 6v10
This is really a call to keep up the old saying that “charity starts at home” – that is we should concentrate on showing love and doing acts of kindness for other members of the church./ After all when we are “born again” they become our spiritual brothers and sisters as they are all born again of the same Father, God.
So perhaps that is the safest and most biblical place to start. Rather than looking for a “cause” or and “issue” to raise funds for or get involved in, young people need to find people to care about and get involved with. Shane Claiborne says “Don’t choose issues; choose people”. And for young people who are yearning to live out the gospel then caring about people within the church could and should be the start of them learning how to love their neighbours next-door, their neighbours in school, their neighbours at the margins of society that have no-one else to speak up for and care about them.
I would hope that this would lead to young people coming to the church leadership and saying “It’s great loving and caring for people, but Jesus said we should also be inviting people to our parties that normally get ignored – I want to reach out to the sick, the homeless, the poor, the oppressed. Help me to care for these people. Help me see Jesus; not just lifted high, but I simply want to see Jesus in other people and show my love for Him by loving them”; or words to that effect… It’s not something that can be forced upon them. I’m hoping that we can provide the spark and ask the Holy Spirit to breathe upon it and burn up the young people with love and passion.
But what about grace?
Love that comes from a sense of guilt, service or debt will not be sustainable. The challenge will be to present these opportunities to young people and let their imaginations run away with the ideas. The best and most sustainable projects will come from them. God does not impose his will on us and so this project should not be imposed on anyone. A sense of conviction is healthy but not guilt. Furthermore love for someone else that is an overflow of grace received from God is the goal. We are to love people as we love ourselves, which means we have to love ourselves and want to have a deeper understanding and knowledge of God’s love for us and His grace and mercy. We can only share that which is a reality for us.
Imagine a see-saw. The see-saw itself is your faith. The pivot on which it balances is God. The weight on the right hand side (where you are) is the grace of God. The movement on the left hand side is action or good deeds. Grace causes good deeds through faith, which is resting on God. If we try to do good works alone, pushing down on the left hand side of the see saw then God’s grace gets pushed up in the air, away from us. If we are closer to God then a small amount of grace has the chance to cause more good deeds (more movement on the left hand side). If we have more faith, we have a longer see-saw and so it moves more and more good comes of that too. It’s dynamic. A still see-saw is no longer a see-saw, it’s just a useless bit of modern sculpture that doesn’t hold the attention.
So, authentic action needs to be underpinned by faith, grace and an experience of God’s love. Wth a desire to get to know Jesus, the Holy spirit, the Bible and a passion for praise and prayer which will fuel it.
The nuts and bolts
“In this life we cannot do great things. We can only do small things with great love.”
So what can we do?
I propose that we start really, really small. Miniscule, in fact. The first question to ask is “who are the needy people in church that young people could help?” The short list I would come up with would be:
· The elderly
· Young parents
· The unwell
One of the biggest problems with elderly people is loneliness. Perhaps we could use Catriona Foster to find out which of the older members of the congregation would like someone to come to chat with them once in a while. And if it will make the church feel better to CRB check them, then let’s do that. Let’s get consent forms and make sure that we know when and where the young people are going to be – to start off with. But as an aside how absurd does it sound that we need to be informed of all random and not-so-random acts of kindness motivated by the love of Jesus?
There seems to be a baby boom going on. And all is not light and sweetness with very young children. There’s the fatigue. And although everyone is smiles on a Sunday I know for a fact that some young parents with children don’t eat properly – let’s cook for them. Some can’t find time to clean the house properly – let’s clean for them. Some may find it hard going to the park with 2 children – lets go with them to help push one of the swings. We just need to follow our ears and our noses and ask the mums and dads if there is anything a young person could do to help.
And given the age of young parents they are often don’t belong to the generation of the young people or to that of their parents. So, unless they do youth ministry work they won’t normally form relationships with young people. This kind of project would help to foster an interdependence and a sense of family between members of the church. It would also help the young person to see how God works in other people’s lives and relationships. Again, absurd as it may sounds why not CRB check new parents – just to check that it would be safe for a young person to spend time with them (hang on they’ve just become a parent…!).
Get the church service sheet. Look at the names. Pray. Pick one. Look up their name in the church phone book. Call them or their family and see you can help. Simple.
YOUth Ministry – living by example
I’ve always been intrigued by the bit in the bible about the right hand not knowing what the left hand is doing. I think that means you shouldn’t do something if you expect to be rewarded for it (that’s why you should invite tramps and beggars to your birthday party – they’ll eat everything and won’t bring you cool presents). However, we are supposed to bring things to gatherings that will comfort, encourage and strengthen each other and I think the youth ministry and other members of the church could encourage the young people with examples of what they do to share the love of Jesus. Not for the benefit of getting praise but to MAKE IT REAL and more than just a two thousand word essay on why we should help young people to love each other and other people.
And who knows where it might lead? Inviting homeless people for lunch? Giving out presents to children in the waiting room at the Children’s Hospital? Handing out our spare coats to homeless people and asking if we can pray for them? Mentoring young students from Harborne Hill? Visiting elderly people as they are discharged from hospital? Visiting dying children in the Acorns Hospice? Holding open air barbeques in the street to tell the neighbours that God loves them?
Much of the teaching of Authentic is about words (not all, but quite a lot). It has been a time of explaining where the kingdom of God is, how to get there. Perhaps the next step is showing young people how to actually live in the Kingdom of God, to explain the “do’s” and not just the “don’ts”. The foundation of knowledge is there and we all need to move from being to believers in Jesus (even the demons believe in Jesus) to being followers. If the young people catch this vision and it is fuelled by the gifts and fruit of the Holy Spirit then there will undoubtedly be revival. They will cross the River Jordan into the promised land of life in the Kingdom of God and will be shouting to the rest of the church “Come on over – it’s not safe, but God is good and this is amazing!”
Greetings from Paul
1 This letter is from Paul, a prisoner for preaching the Good News about Christ Jesus. I am writing to Authentic, this amazing youth group, 2 to the cell groups that meet in the evening, to the adults in the youth ministry team and to all the believers who attend the church of St John’s. 3 May God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ give you grace and peace.
Paul’s Thanksgiving and Prayer
4 I always thank my God when I pray for you, young people of Authentic, 5 because I keep hearing about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your experiences with the Holy Spirit. 6 And I am praying that you will put into action (I hear you have started Authentic Action) the generosity that comes from your faith as you understand and experience all the good things we have in Christ. 7 Your hunger for God has given me much joy and comfort, my young brothers and sisters, for your faith has often refreshed the hearts of the people at St John’s.
Paul’s Appeal for Authentic
8 I am writing to you to advise you about a few certain things. These are not heavy demands in the name of Christ, but a few simple suggestions. 9 Consider this as requests from me—Paul, an old man and now also a prisoner for the sake of Christ Jesus.
10 It is my greatest wish that you all be filled with the Holy Spirit and experience the reality of living a life with your will entwined with His. 11 Only the Holy Spirit can open your hearts and the hearts of your friends to the splendour of God’s love and grace for you. 12 Only the Holy Spirit can provide you with the fruits and gifts that you need to live a life as a true believer in Christ.
13 I know that some of you are not so certain about what you believe, but have faith and keep asking questions and keep asking for more of the Holy Spirit. 14 Then there are those of you who are certain of your salvation in Christ and are itching to spread the message of his grace and mercy. That is brilliant.15 But be sure to do this with grace and mercy so that you don’t make your fellow brother or sister in Authentic feel bad. Gently help them to experience God’s love too. 16 Do your best to make sure that the life you lead lives up to the words that you speak about Jesus and His love. Not because He demands this of us, but because you cannot help but express the love of Jesus through your words, your thoughts, as well as your actions.
17 Be patient with the older folk of St John’s if they do not understand your words, or your way of thinking. I am sure that the love of God also burns within their hearts. 18 Do not give them reason to doubt your love for God – so commit yourself fully to worship in song. And as well as in song, through your actions both in church, at home and at school. 19 Do not forget to forgive those that have wronged you and pray constantly that God’s Holy Spirit will also help you to forgive others.
20 Yes, my brothers and sisters in Authentic, please act as true believers at all times for the Lord’s sake. Give me this encouragement in Christ.
21 I am confident as I write this letter that you will do what I ask and even more to glorify God! 22 One more thing—don’t forget that the message of Christ Jesus needs to be spread amongst your friends that don’t yet fully know him. Do not fall into the trap of thinking that you are superior to them. You are children of God, not because of what you or your parents have done, but through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Paul’s Final Greetings
23 Jon Tattz and all the leaders, my fellow believers in Christ Jesus – may God bless you and encourage you in the work that you do with Authentic. 24 I pray that the Spirit of God would guide every word to the hearts of the young people, that your lives would be examples of God’s grace and that you would be certain that God smiles on you and is pleased with the work you are doing.
25 May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with all of you and the Holy Spirit empower you to a greater involvement in God’s Kingdom, to spread the message of Jesus, to heal the sick and crush the power of Satan. Amen