Monday, October 17, 2005

Emerging Generations: III

Dann Spader, who wrote the original material for Sonlife Youth Strategies, had this interesting observation to make about the average youth group and approach to youth ministry:
"Jesus spent the first year of His ministry teaching His followers who He was. They had a wrong concept of the coming Messiah. They thought He'd come as a conquering King - instead Jesus came as a suffering servant. Jesus knew that only as people understood who He was and why He came, only then would they begin to have the right motivation for following Him. Christ's disciples slowly began to see that He was different than their perception of the coming Messiah.

"Those we minister to are no different. People have wrong concepts of who Christ is, what He has done for us, and what He asks of us. It is very difficult to yield your life to someone you do not know properly. Proper motivation to serve and minister stems from a proper understanding of Jesus Christ."

Knowing Whom you serve, and what He wants of us, is absolutely crucial. However, the number of times that people get the WRONG idea about Jesus is appalling. Somehow, far too many Christians live in a legalistic manner, trying to earn God's approval or at least avoid His disapproval, thinking that Jesus is generally disappointed in them, if not outright angry.

"Performance orientation" in our walk with Jesus is only going to bring condemnation and death to us - and that's what we'll reap in the youth if we teach or model anything but that God has unconditionally accepted us in Jesus.

We love because He first loved us. We serve because He served us. We give our lives for Him because He gave His life for us. Any motivation for serving that is not rooted in our being acceptable to God in Christ will result in striving, legalism, and condemnation.

Three things we need to repeatedly emphasize:
  1. Who Jesus is.
  2. What Jesus has done for us.
  3. Who we are in Jesus.
The goal is youth and leaders alike who love Jesus. Everything that we do or say should be done out of this love for Jesus. Law, legalism, "putting the screws" to people (often in the guise of "challenging") is anti-grace, and only results in a spirit of manipulation and control in leaders, and condemnation and defeat in the lives of the youth.

Checklist

Observe our own actions
  • What is the tone of our life & actions?
  • Is it a tone of law, performance or "doing" for God, or is it a tone of love, grace & acceptance?
Observe the people around you
  • Why are people doing what they're doing - because they want to, or because they think they have to?
  • Do they talk about God and His goodness, or about their performance (or lack of it) before God?
Teach the Character of God
  • Does our teaching worship God through emphasizing who He is, or do we emphasize man and only what we are to do?
  • Are we teaching the character of God, or only data about Him?
Emphasize grace and acceptance
  • In our conversations, do we emphasize God and His character, or man and his efforts?
  • In our actions and lifestyle do we emphasize performance for God, or grace and acceptance, out of which flows good works?
  • In our own spiritual formation, do we only see what we are to do for God, or can we see God in all His glory and what He has done for us?

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