Getting in the way

Greetings friends,

While I'm on vacation I've been blogging about some thoughts that have just been floating around in my head as relates to youth ministry. Today, I'm going to tackle something that really upsets me, so I hope not to offend anybody, but I feel like there are some things that need to be said.

I remember when I first started in youth ministry, and had teamed up with a collection of the youth workers in our neighborhood on a big worship night. The town I was in had several youth ministries and churches, each of us having a fairly small number of students. The thinking was that every now and again we could get together, and feel like one big group. If you ask me, this was down right biblical. I don't think Jesus had denominations in mind when he established God's Kingdom on earth. But believe it or not, that's not the point here.

My pastor at the time was pretty upset about the notion of us partnering with other churches, particularly churches who might have a different political leaning than our church. I don't remember much of the specifics, because I think I was in some sort of low-level rage that only appears in movies, but what I do remember is how mad I was. I remember my face being red as could be. I remember storming out of his office into mine, slamming the door. Basically, I remember being a 22 year old fresh out of college little boy.

Now I'm a 27 still immature as could be little boy, but I have a bit more of a framework to form my argument with. You would think this was an isolated incident, the denial of partnership on the grounds of political issues, but in fact it just happened to a good friend of mine. His pastor specifically asked him not to partner with us, because of something our senior pastor supposedly said that gave away our political leanings one way or another. So today, I want to speak for a second to senior pastors, and issue a challenge.

I challenge you to find any of the following words in the Scriptures: liberal, conservative, democrat, republican, progressive, new age, redneck, or hippie. I mean, if the argument some of you senior pastors are making is as serious as you make it sound, surely you can come up with a place (or ideally several places) in the Scriptures to back up what you believe, right? The idea of denominations, and even further the idea of denominational isolation are in there too, right? Jesus mentions that you should only associate with people who are righteous and agree with everything you agree with, right?

While you're looking for those Scripture references, let me throw one at you for your consideration:

"Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all." (Ephesians 4:3-6)

Is keeping away from the people who believe in Jesus yet disagree with you politically sound like making every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit? Is withholding spiritual experiences from teenagers because of something their senior pastor said in that vein? Have we made every effort? Are we still making every effort?

For whatever reason, it seems like youth ministries are starting to get the hang of this. Every year, I head to the National Youth Workers Convention, and I spend a long weekend with youth workers from every possible denominational heritage. And every year, I am completely unaware of our denominational differences. For those four glorious days, we are one faith, following one Lord, one Father of all. And I'm not over-stating it when I say that it feels like heaven. We're going to have to deal with each other for an entire eternity, we might as well start getting used to it.

I love when youth groups partner together, pull resources together, and put on events with the aim of reaching as many students as they can for Christ. Not making as many Presbyterians or Methodists or Catholics as they can, but sharing the love of Christ with as many as they can.

Now for sure, I bet there are youth pastors out there who are every bit as guilty of this as I'm blaming senior pastors for. But in my experience, we seem to be the ones trying our very best to tear down the dividing wall. We may disagree on everything from gay marriage, abortion, predestination, which party God wants us to belong to, whether or not we should belong to a party, what to do about war, how to best support our troops, what color the carpet in the sanctuary should be, or whether women should be pastors, but we all tend to agree that we are sinners and that we're sunk without the love of Jesus Christ. Could you all do me a favor and set the rest aside, and let's work together on better understanding that grace and our need for it?

I think we'd be pretty amazed at how much faster we could run the race!



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Location:W Market St,Breezy Point,United States


Anonymous said...

i couldn't agree with you more, Jason...