I Desire Mercy, Not Sacrifice

Tax collectors and other outcasts had gathered in Matthew’s house for a feast. In the center of the hubbub, Jesus and his followers reclined at the dinner table. Noticing Jesus’s presence among such riffraff, the Pharisees scoffed. How could Jesus consider himself a rabbi and party with such a disreputable bunch? So they pulled a few of Jesus’s converts aside and huffed, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” (Matthew 9:10).

Overhearing their question, Jesus responded, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick” (v. 12). The religious leaders’ blindness astounded him. How could he reveal God’s love to these folks if he didn’t hang out with them?

Jesus then admonished the Pharisees. “Go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice’” (v. 13). He was quoting the prophet Hosea, who, centuries earlier, had condemned the Jews for attempting to excuse their idolatry and their oppression of the poor by offering the prescribed animal sacrifices.

God always values “mercy” over “sacrifice.” But what exactly does that mean?

Mercy and Relationships

In Matthew 9, the Pharisees looked around Matthew’s house and saw nameless  “tax collectors” and “sinners.” Jesus saw people he cared about, people he wanted to hang out with.

And he knew their names.

When we view what we do in Jesus’s name as faceless sacrifices, we’ve missed the whole concept of “love as I have loved you” (John 13:34). It’s all personal with Jesus. It’s all about relationships.

So many ministries and organizations vie for our time, money, and interest. Not even a millionaire could help them all. But if we truly want to move beyond sacrifice to mercy—as Jesus calls us to do—we need to get our heart involved with at least one of those ministries or organizations. We need to develop relationships with people—people with names and stories, joys and sorrows, prayer requests and praises. Otherwise, I don’t think we’ll ever understand what Jesus meant by “mercy, not sacrifice.”

Part of the problem is that mercy sounds too much like pity to us. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines mercy as “compassion or forbearance”—words that convey a certain condescension: Aren’t I something, helping out this person who’s less fortunate than I am?

Jesus never responded to people with that attitude, even though he, the sinless Son of God, was indeed stooping to their level. Instead, he placed himself in a position—as he did in Matthew’s house—of reaching across the table, of treating each person with respect and dignity.

I Desire Mercy, Not Sacrifice

Jesus longs for us to move beyond the idea of sacrifice—what we feel obligated to give up to be perceived as religious. He wants us to get our hearts involved, tangled up with other people’s lives, so the word sacrifice drops out of our vocabulary, so that all we know is the passion to love others as he loves us.

Jesus ate with Matthew and his friends because he wanted to. He loved them. I envision laughter, jokes, backslapping, and joy. Especially joy.

The Pharisees couldn’t conceive of that kind of camaraderie between the pious and the publicans, the upright and the upended, the moral and the maligned. But Jesus didn’t label people. So he loved Nicodemus as genuinely as he loved Zacchaeus, and Mary of Bethany as he loved Mary Magdalene. He always looked beyond a person’s history toward a person’s future.

I’m asking God to move me toward that kind of love. I want to be as comfortable at a table of ex-cons and alcoholics as I am with church folk. I don’t want to be satisfied with hands-on rituals. I want God to move me toward “hearts-in” mercy, Jesus’ mercy.

How about you? Are you willing to move beyond once-a-year, suitable-for-the-occasion sacrifices toward year-round, inconvenient mercy and love that build relationships? Ask Jesus to give you a hearts-in ministry.

1 Detail in the Easter Story You Didn’t Think Of

Society’s Idea of Resurrection

We’ve all seen the TV dramas in the operating room when the heart monitor suddenly goes flat with the ominous and unceasing tone. Then the shock paddles are brought in and the formerly and technically dead person is brought back to life.

Maybe it’s like that—jolts of electricity running through the body.

Or maybe it’s the way most of us feel on a particularly early morning when the alarm clock goes off. We jump out of sleep, but as we switch the near blinding light on, it takes a few moments to rub the sleep out of our eyes. We have a sense of weakness in our hands and fingers as the blood starts to get going again, until we can eventually stagger to the bathroom to turn on the shower.

Maybe it’s like that, only greater—we need a couple of hours to regain control of our faculties and get some strength to just sit up.

What Really Happened on Easter Morning

Something tells me that Jesus didn’t stumble out of the tomb. Something tells me He didn’t cough and gurgle, or need the blood flow to return to His extremities on Easter Sunday morning. Sure, His death was messy. Undignified. Bloody. Gruesome. Embarrassing even. But His resurrection? That was different.

Can’t you just see it?

I love the fact that John, right in the middle of his Easter morning account, drops a little detail into the narrative that not only describes the resurrection of Jesus, but helps us see it. Feel it.

We see Mary coming to the tomb—hopeless and despondent, her faith dying with Jesus. We hear the night sounds starting to fade as the sun begins to rise. We sense the stillness—even the emptiness—of the air. We see her tears and feel the crushing weight of her even greater grief as she discovers in the darkness of the morning the stone rolled away. We hear her shrill cries as she sobs out her testimony to Simon Peter and John that grave robbers have come and stolen the body.

One Curious Little Detail

Then comes the running. We hear the panting. We feel the hot breath. We see the younger of the two outrun the older. Then, by the first rays of light, we see along with, first, John and then Peter, that the tomb is indeed empty. That’s when we get the detail:

“The wrapping that had been on His head was not lying with the linen cloths but was folded up in a separate place by itself” (John 20:7).

It’s a curious little detail to include, don’t you think? John was there; he saw the whole thing. It’s possible that the memory was so ingrained into him that he wanted to record every last detail.

But maybe too, buried in this little detail, is a commentary about the nature of the risen Lord. Jesus was raised to life, and when He was, He took on the dignity befitting Him. He simply got up in an unhurried manner.

Like the Lord of All Creation that He is, He took a few moments to put things in order, even going so far as doing something like making His bed. Jesus didn’t stagger and stumble, bleary-eyed and numb from the coils of death; He rose as a conquering hero. And He strode out of the tomb like He owned the place. Because He does.

Out of Death and Into Life

This is not like the resurrection of Lazarus whom Jesus pulled out of death. Just a few chapters earlier in this Gospel, he came out of the grave “bound hand and foot with linen strips and with his face wrapped in a cloth” (John 11:44). Jesus Himself gave the order to “loose him and let him go” because Lazarus couldn’t do it himself.

Jesus took a few moments to give us a little glimpse into the fact that centuries before the cross and the tomb, creation was broken by sin. It was set in a spiral of disorder where up was down and left was right. Everything was flipped on its head, but when He stepped out of the tomb, He announced to that broken creation that He was setting everything back the way it was always supposed to be.

Out of disorder and into order. Out of death and into life. Out of brokenness and into wholeness. And maybe that reordering started with that simple act of taking what might have otherwise been a wrinkled, tattered mess and folding it up neatly.

Then He walked out into the light …

The Son of Man Coming With Power and Great Glory

son of God is coming with great glory

Luke 21:1-38

Key Verse: 21:27

“At that time they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.”

Every Sunday we recite the Apostles’ Creed, which includes Jesus’ incarnation, his birth, suffering, death, burial and resurrection, his ascension and his coming again. This is the gospel. Jesus’ second coming is a very important part of the gospel message. Yet it is easy to avoid it because we don’t want to think about the end of the world; we are very attached it. On the other hand, it can be tempting to overemphasize Jesus’ second coming as a kind of escape from present reality; this is caused by fear and anxiety as we live in this troubled world. Some students hope that Jesus will come before they have to pay back their school loans. But when Jesus comes he may say, “You should pay back your school loan.” It is vital to have a right attitude toward Jesus’ second coming. In today’s passage Jesus speaks about his coming again with power and great glory. Let’s listen to Jesus’ teaching.

First, signs of the end times and warnings (1-19). The teaching in chapter 21 is given mainly to Jesus’ disciples. They were not yet spiritually mature. They were still vulnerable to desire for human recognition and greed (20:45-47). Jesus helped them to see what was truly valuable in God’s sight. In 21:1-4, as Jesus and his disciples were in the temple, he drew their attention to a great contrast between two types of offerings. There were thirteen collection chests in the temple with trumpet-like openings for the donations of worshipers. It seems that the rich were putting their offerings into the chests in a grandiose manner to draw attention to themselves. On the other hand, there was a poor widow. She was dressed in shabby, old clothes. She might have felt ashamed that her offering was so small. But overcoming her feelings, she offered two very small copper coins out of her love for God and thankfulness for his grace. She put her coins in the box as quietly as possible. Still, it made a clinking noise which indicated how little she gave. She might have been embarrassed and quickly exited.

Jesus quietly observed this scene. Then he used this chance to teach his disciples a lesson. He said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all the others. All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on” (3-4). Jesus’ viewpoint makes a great contrast with the way people view things. People see the dollar amount, but Jesus sees the measure of sacrifice. People see the outer appearance, but Jesus sees the heart of the giver. People value relatively in comparison with others, but Jesus values absolutely based on the faith of the giver. The poor widow gave herself first of all to the Lord, then she gave all she had to the Lord in the midst of poverty. God loves those who offer in this way.

It seems like the disciples didn’t pay any attention to Jesus’ teaching. Some of them were remarking about how the temple was adorned with beautiful stones and with gifts dedicated to God (5). Indeed, the stones of the temple were impressive. They were massive, made of white marble. The largest was about 45 feet long, 11 feet wide, and 16 feet deep, and weighed almost 600 tons. In addition, many parts of the temple were covered with gold offered as a gift to God. When the sun shone on this temple, it was breathtaking. This temple was the crown of Jewish culture and the center of their nation. We can understand its attraction. However, Jesus had revealed the utter corruption of the temple when he cleansed it. The disciples should have had insight that pierced through the outer appearance to see the spiritual condition of their nation. They should have known how brokenhearted Jesus was for the people of Jerusalem. But their hearts were stolen by the glittering things of the world. How easy to be fascinated by politics, the Internet, entertainment, sports, and lose spiritual insight.

How did Jesus respond? Did he join them in admiring the temple? No, instead he said something so shocking that they probably never forgot it. He said, “As for what you see here, the time will come when not one stone will be left on another; every one of them will be thrown down” (6). Jesus foretold the complete destruction of the Jerusalem temple. And indeed, it happened. In A.D. 70 the Roman general Titus invaded Jerusalem and destroyed the temple so completely that not one stone was left on another. Upon hearing Jesus’ words, the disciples were shocked. They asked, “When will these things happen? And what will be the sign that they are about to take place?” (7) In Luke’s account, they asked only about the destruction of the temple. Jesus not only answered their question, but he extended his response to cover the signs of the end of the age and his coming again. Jesus wants us to know that just as his prediction about the destruction of the temple happened—it is a fact in history—so his prediction about his second coming will also come true, just as he said. As we study verses 8-28 let’s realize there is an intertwining of Jesus’ predictions about the fall of the temple and his second coming. Mother Barry has said that this is like looking at a mountain range. In the same line of sight there is a mountain near and one further away. Through the lens of Jesus’ predictions we see both of them at the same time.

In verses 8-19 we find both signs of the end of the age and warnings. Let’s consider these signs and warnings. Look at verse 8. “Watch out that you are not deceived. For many will come in my name claiming, ‘I am he,’ and, ‘The time is near.’ Do not follow them.” Throughout history many have claimed to be the Messiah: Simon Magus, Tanchelm of Antwerp, Ann Lee, who claimed to be the female incarnation of Christ, and more. In 1972, Lazlo Toth claimed he was Jesus Christ as he battered Michelangelo’s pieta with a geologist’s hammer. That is why Mary’s arm, nose and eyelid are damaged. In hindsight, false messiahs look ridiculous. But they are indeed dangerous. The devil uses them to deceive vulnerable people by confidently projecting false hope that attracts the fearful and anxious. So, we should indeed watch out for them. If any human being claims to be the Messiah, they are lying. Do not follow them.

In verses 9-11 we find wars, uprisings, conflicts, and natural disasters such as earthquakes, famines and pestilences. Just recently, we have witnessed so many uprisings, such as the Arab Spring and ISIS, and wars in Crimea, Turkey, Venezuela, Libya. And that is just in the last few years. What about earthquakes? On average, magnitude 2 and smaller earthquakes occur several hundred times a day worldwide. Major earthquakes, magnitude 7, happen more than once a month; magnitude 8 and higher, occur about once a year.[1] Then there is famine. According to the United Nations, 21,000 people die of starvation every day.[2] Jesus said, “These things must happen first, but the end will not come right away” (9b). So we must live through many tragic events. How we respond when we hear about these fearful events makes a big difference. If we become frightened and doubt God’s love, we can lose faith. For example, when Chuck Templeton saw an African woman holding her dead baby at her breast, looking upward with grief, he decided not to believe in God, and became skeptical and dark. On the other hand, when we hold firm in faith, God uses tragedies to purify our faith and hope in the kingdom of God (1Pe 1:7). The prophet Daniel kept his faith through the Babylonian invasion, grew in wisdom and insight and foresaw the Messiah and God’s kingdom.

After giving some general signs in verses 8-11, Jesus speaks directly to his disciples in verses 12-19. They would be persecuted, and even put in prison because of Jesus’ name (11-12). This persecution comes from religious and political sources, as well as through close relationships. The disciples would be betrayed even by their parents, brothers and sisters, and friends (16a). It would be so severe that some of them would be put to death, and so widespread that everyone would hate them because of Jesus (16b-17). Most leaders promise to make their followers’ lives better. But Jesus warned his disciples that they would face unbearable persecution because of him, and even die. Is it worth it to be persecuted and even die for Jesus? Can you do that? D.L. Moody prayed a lot about this and finally concluded that if Jesus asked him to die as a martyr, Jesus would give him the grace to do so. Actually, we don’t need to worry about it. If we face that moment, the Holy Spirit enables us to overcome it.

This persecution does not come because of our sins, but because of our faith. What is the meaning of such persecution? Jesus said, “And so you will bear testimony to me” (13). Historically, when Stephen was martyred, persecution broke out against the early church. All believers who scattered preached the word and many people believed in Jesus (Ac 8:1-4). In this way, the gospel spread rapidly to all Judea and Samaria, to Antioch, and to the Roman world (Ac 11:19-21). Persecution is not bad. God works for good through persecution to spread the good news through the testimony of his people. During persecution, there is a danger that we will worry about how to defend ourselves (14a). We may want to prepare our answers and rehearse. Yet this cannot solve our worry problem. Jesus said, “make up your minds not to worry. I will give you words and wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict” (14b-15). Jesus also promised “not a hair of your head will perish” (18). Our lives are not in other people’s hands, but in God’s hands. God empowers us to testify about Jesus amid persecution.

Jesus encourages us, “Stand firm…” (19). To “stand firm” is also translated “endure.” It means to continue to bear up under persecution. In America, we hardly understand what this means. But throughout the world, Christians are being severely persecuted for their faith in Christ. It is estimated that in North Korea, 30,000 Christians are in deadly work camps. They face the threat of death every day. Yet they keep their faith. Shafia, a Christian Pakistani woman was arrested and imprisoned for her faith.[3] Her family members had to work as slaves to earn money for her release. But she never denied her faith in Christ and found peace. Jesus promised, “Stand firm, and you will win life.” Whatever our situation, when we keep our faith and endure to the end, we have eternal life. Eternal life is worthy of any suffering we go through in this world.

Second, people will see the Son of Man coming (20-38). In verses 20-24, Jesus predicted the fall of Jerusalem. A few days earlier, when Jesus entered Jerusalem, he wept over it. It was because the city would be punished for not recognizing the time of God’s coming to them (19:41-44). Jesus foretold that Jerusalem would be surrounded by armies (20). At that time, they should flee (21). It was a time of harsh punishment for their sin of rejecting the Messiah (22). Many people would die and many others would be taken prisoner (24a). Indeed, this happened. According to the historian Josephus, more than 1,100,000 people died and 97,000 were carried off into slavery. As Jesus foretold, Jerusalem has been trampled on by the Gentiles, and this will continue until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled (24b).

After predicting the destruction of Jerusalem, Jesus expanded his scope to describe the signs that would precede his coming again. Jesus said, “There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars. On the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea” (25). These are not local signs, but cosmic signs that cause irreversible destruction. When these signs happen, it means the end has come. Luke only mentions the sun, moon and stars. But Matthew and Mark state more explicitly what will happen to them: “the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken” (Mt 24:29; Mk 13:24-25). When the sun is darkened, earth’s source of light, heat and energy is gone. Imagine a world like this with no light, no heat, no energy. It would be utterly dark, extremely cold, without food. Nothing could survive, not even bacteria. Of course, the moon has no light to give without the sun. The stars have been so constant for thousands of years that we could chart their movement well in advance. But the stars will fall from the sky, like leaves from a tree in a hurricane. The sea will be totally out of control, roaring and tossing. Its chaotic power will wash away vast regions in a moment. I was told that in 1948, the Columbia and Willamette rivers of Oregon flooded disastrously. Water broke through a levy system and entered the city of Vanport. Though it was the second largest city in the state, it disappeared completely in one day.[4] But this is mild compared to what will happen at the end of the age. At that time, people will faint from terror. There will be no value in money, diplomas, social status, science or politics. All the technology people brag about will be useless. There is no hope in the world. But there is hope in Jesus!

Look at verse 27. “At that time they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.” When Jesus came into the world the first time, he was quiet and humble. He was born as a baby and laid in a manger. He was despised, rejected and at the end, even crucified. After he died, people thought they would never see him again. But by the power of God he was raised from the dead. He ascended into heaven and sat at the right hand of God. And he will come again. This time, he will come in power and great glory. Paul says, “For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God…” (1Th 4:16). He will come with thousands upon thousands of his holy angels (Jude 14). He will send his angels to gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other (Mt 24:31). He will open the book of life and call his people’s names one by one, and we will respond with a sense of victory. Jesus will give us a crown of righteousness, glory and life, and we will be with Jesus forever. What a glorious event! This is the hope of believers. This hope will not disappoint us. This hope gives us inner strength to endure all kinds of hardships while we live in this world. Sometimes we think believing in Jesus does not matter so much. But at that moment, believing in Jesus is everything.

When we see these signs, what should we do? Jesus said, “…stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near” (28). For various reasons, we go around with our heads down. But Jesus urges us, “…stand up, lift up your heads…” When we have Jesus’ hope in our hearts, even in the midst of trouble and hardship, we can live with a sense of victory in this world.

In conclusion Jesus tells a parable and gives some final warnings. The parable of the fig tree and all the trees indicate that when we see sprouting leaves we know that summer is near (30). Likewise, when we see the signs of the end of the age we know that the kingdom of God is near (31). Jesus assures us that his words will surely come true (32). Heaven and earth will pass away, but Jesus’ words will never pass away (33). Jesus wants us to be spiritually alert. Jesus said, “Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you suddenly like a trap. For it will come on all those who live on the face of the whole earth” (34-35). We don’t know when Jesus will come, or when we will go to Jesus. Jesus told us, “Be always on the watch and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man” (36).

Even though Jesus was about to be arrested, suffer and die, he spent his days teaching at the temple, and his nights in prayer on the Mount of Olives, and many people came to listen to his teaching (37-38).

The world is getting more chaotic as we near the end of the age. There is no hope in the world. But there is hope in Jesus. Jesus will come again in power and great glory. Let’s hope in Jesus and live with a sense of victory.

What Is Humility?

In 1908, the British writer G. K. Chesterton described the embryo of today’s full-grown immature culture called postmodernism. One mark of its “vulgar relativism” (as Michael Novak calls it) is the hijacking of the word “arrogance” to refer to conviction and “humility” to refer to doubt. Chesterton saw it coming:

What we suffer from today is humility in the wrong place. Modesty has moved from the organ of ambition. Modesty has settled upon the organ of conviction; where it was never meant to be. A man was meant to be doubtful about himself, but undoubting about the truth; this has been exactly reversed. Nowadays the part of a man that a man does assert is exactly the part he ought not to assert — himself. The part he doubts is exactly the part he ought not to doubt — the Divine Reason. . . . The new skeptic is so humble that he doubts if he can even learn. . . . There is a real humility typical of our time; but it so happens that it’s practically a more poisonous humility than the wildest prostrations of the ascetic. . . . The old humility made a man doubtful about his efforts, which might make him work harder. But the new humility makes a man doubtful about his aims, which makes him stop working altogether. . . . We are on the road to producing a race of man too mentally modest to believe in the multiplication table. (Orthodoxy [Garden City, NY: Doubleday and Co., 1957], pp. 31–32)

We have seen it most recently in the resentment over Christians expressing the conviction that Jewish people (like everyone else) need to believe in Jesus to be saved. The most common response to this conviction is that Christians are arrogant. Modern-day humility would never cry, “Fire!” since the smoke might be vapor from the clothes dryer.

If humility is not compliance with the relativism of sophomoric skepticism, what is it? This question is important, since the Bible says, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble” (1 Peter 5:5), and “Everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted” (Luke 14:11). God has told us at least five truths about humility.

1. Humility begins with a sense of subordination to God in Christ. “A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a slave above his master” (Matthew 10:24). “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God” (1 Peter 5:6).

2. Humility does not feel a right to better treatment than Jesus got. “If they have called the head of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign the members of his household!” (Matthew 10:25). Therefore humility does not return evil for evil. It is not life based on its perceived rights. “Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in his steps. . . . While suffering, he uttered no threats, but handed [his cause] over to him who judges righteously” (1 Peter 2:21–23).

3. Humility asserts truth not to bolster ego with control or with triumphs in debate, but as service to Christ and love to the adversary. “Love rejoices in the truth” (1 Corinthians 13:6). “What I [Jesus] tell you in the darkness, speak in the light. . . . Do not fear” (Matthew 10:27–28). “We do not preach ourselves, but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your bond-servants for Jesus’s sake” (2 Corinthians 4:5).

4. Humility knows it is dependent on grace for all knowing and believing. “What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?” (1 Corinthians 4:7). “In humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls” (James 1:21).

5. Humility knows it is fallible, and so considers criticism and learns from it. But humility also knows that God has made provision for human conviction and that he calls us to persuade others. “We see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known” (1 Corinthians 13:12). “A wise man is he who listens to counsel” (Proverbs 12:15). “Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade men” (2 Corinthians 5:11).

Humbled under the mighty hand of God,

4 Steps to a Great Start in Youth Ministry

It’s your first week at your new church. You’ve unpacked all your boxes and set up the office in a way that makes it feel comfortable. You’ve met several of the youth, a few parents, and are beginning to know the rest of the church staff by first name. Now you are sitting at your desk with a cheap promotional pen from some company and a notepad and aren’t really sure what to do next. If this description hits too close to home for you, here are some tips to help you get your first year in a new church off to a strong start.

Step 1: Develop a Focus

Begin by working on the youth ministry’s focus rather than youth ministry events. Many youth ministers, especially those new to youth ministry, begin by looking at the old youth ministry calendar, getting some ideas from some friends in other churches and then start to fill up the youth calendar with events. But event planning isn’t a good starting place. Back up one more step: Think through first what you need to do to help your students grow into healthy followers of Jesus.

Step 2: Meet Everyone Involved

Sit down with your pastor and talk about the youth ministry. He has a vision of what a healthy youth ministry looks like. Hopefully, the two of you match up in youth ministry philosophy. But if you don’t, start moving toward his philosophy, or make sure he is with you every step of the way in your planning. Have the humility and foresight to see that his years of experience may have taught him something about ministry in the local church. Also meet with your parents, youth workers and church staff to get a feel for the key issues your youth ministry will need to address

Step 3: Brainstorm What You Need to Accomplish

As you’re meeting with all those who have a significant interest in the ministry, brainstorm around three areas every youth ministry will need to focus on:

  • What youth will need to know (doctrines)
  • Who they will need to be (morals/values)
  • What they will need to do (spiritual disciplines)

In each of the three areas, brainstorm all the things that your youth must be taught. There will be many biblical truths to consider, but narrow your list to the ones your youth will especially need to understand and practice before they leave high school. As you brainstorm, be sure to allow for free discussion, since there will be disagreement on the truths the youth ministry should teach and practice. Make the list as long as you can in each of the three areas. Then, when you’re alone in your office the next time, put your cheap promotional pen aside, type up the list of priority truths and mail it to everyone.

Step 4: Follow Up and Start Planning

After your first meeting, plan a follow-up meeting to narrow the list to no more than 36 issues. When you finish this second meeting, you should have a list of priority truths the youth ministry will work to teach over the next three years.

Next, choose 10 to 12 items, a few from each of the three areas, for year one, year two, and year three. These topics now become the foundation for next year’s events. Before you plan an event, have an idea of how it will accomplish the key teaching you’re working with.

When one of the topics comes up in the Sunday School materials during the same month, teach that topic on Wednesday nights and maybe even Sunday nights. This will ensure that it receives special emphasis since it is a focal truth for that year. If you plan a DiscipleNow study or a retreat, don’t just get the newest materials out. Instead, select topics based on the goals for that year and the best way to teach that goal.

So, as you’re sitting at that new desk, keep in mind that God did not call you to a title or a church. He did not call you to an office or a city. He called you like He called the disciples. At some point you heard God say, “follow me,” and today “follow me” means that you are serving as minister to youth in this church. God may leave you there for 30 years, or He may move you tomorrow; but for this moment, use these tips to help you find out how make the most of your time there.

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