Think Again (and again)

Dann Spader, the brains behind Sonlife Youth Strategies, has this to say about building a youth ministry foundation:

“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.”

When I first read that, years ago, I immediately thought of the most common problem – based on an inaccurate view of God – that I saw affecting 1980s youth. And, just like the “safe place to take risks,” the same problem is equally rampant among 21st century adults:

Neurotic performance orientation, based on an erroneous (and usually unconscious) assumption that God’s perpetually disappointed with us.

For example, in several different churches over the years, I’ve led the following group discussion:

  1. If you could ask God any ONE question, what would it be? Answers varied to a degree, but roughly 90% were some form of, “If God is good, why is there so much evil and injustice in the world?”
  2. If God could ask YOU any one question, what do you it would be? Answers varied, but not much. “Why aren’t you doing more?” or “Why don’t you trust Me?” or “Will you ever get serious about your faith?”

Their guiding perception was that whenever God looked at them, His gut reaction was disappointment (if not impatience).

That’s heart-breaking. It wasn’t uncommon to see tears welling or hastily wiped away during the discussion.

We need to clearly communicate – over and over, as often as it takes – both sides of the discipleship coin:

Nothing I say or do will make Jesus love me more.
Nothing I say or do will make Jesus love me less.

In other words, despite our Romans 7:15–24 struggles, Romans 8:1 is still the final answer: “There is no condemnation.”

We love because He first loved us. We serve because He served us. We give our lives to Him because He gave His life for us. A key Scripture to emphasize is Hebrew 10:14: “For by one sacrifice, He has made (past tense) perfect forever those who are being (present tense) made holy.”

Generation to generation ... there will always be a need to revisit and re-emphasize even our most basic foundation: “Jesus loves me.”

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