– A Word to Young Men –
At the most fundamental level, a young man must learn to keep his commitments. This is the essential virtue by which he will either flourish or wither. He must learn to consistently choose against passivity and self-indulgence, the marks of most young men today. Some remain confused as to why things in life are not working out; let there be no confusion, it is very likely because he cannot keep his commitments.
He arrives late or not at all. He does not endure challenges or setbacks, but acquiesces. He does not seek to better himself in spirit, mind, and body, but is content to passively wait for more appealing opportunities and friends. He does not dream and then risk, then endure; rather, he dreams and grows slothful.
He does not know, but his relationships depend almost entirely on this ability to keep his word. His ability to love and provide for a spouse and children depends upon this. His ability to represent Christ to unbelievers depends upon this. His ability to endure the trials of life while remaining faithful to God depends upon this.
Today, there are many gifted men, fewer exceptionally gifted me, yet even fewer committed men. No matter how gifted he may be, if a man fails in his commitments, he will fail everywhere.
This mark is what separates leaders from the lazy, husbands from the co-habitators, fathers from “biological dads”, shepherds from hierlings, do-ers from dreamers, and the faithful from the faint.
Young men, I would urge you, as I do myself, to keep your commitments. In doing this, you will be approved by God and trusted by man.
Why Easter is Important
On the third day, the friends of Christ trod mournfully toward the tomb where He had been buried. To their amazement, they discovered not a well-guarded sepulcher but an empty one. The stone, that colossal sign of finality, had been rolled away. No easy feat. Slowly, in the dawn of that morning, it began to dawn upon them that it was not their Lord who had died, but death itself. Our Lord, the Great Gardener who had sown the cosmos with His words, now walked afresh among His creation. One of His dear friends, a woman, was first to see Him, yet mistook His identity.
Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” She, supposing Him to be the gardener, said to Him, “Sir, if You have carried Him away, tell me where You have laid Him, and I will take Him away.” (John 20:15)
Easter is a day of celebration. On this day, we reflect on the time Christ took back the keys of the grave. His triumph becomes our song. As His perfect, atoning blood flowed from His body, the power of sin was broken; and as the power of God flowed into Jesus’ tomb-encased body, the power of death was taken. Our redemption was secured. Heaven rejoiced and Hades trembled. The mountain of eternal death was rolled away; the centurions saw it. We rejoice that our Lord was not confined to the grave, but that this Holy One would not see corruption. It was His resurrection that caused His sacrifice to secure our redemption.
And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins! —Paul, the apostle(1 Corinthians 15:17)
Easter commemorates the greatest triumph history has witnessed. Few men escape stone-clad tombs; no man escapes death. Many great men, kings, and conquerors have dotted the historical hillside. Men wielding incredible military power, minds of flashing intellect, men of notoriety and fame—yet all these illustrious tales acquiesce to the reaper. Death’s jaws open wide for a one-way trip to which all succumb in spite of their marvelous achievements. Yet, here is a poor carpenter from Nazareth. Lowly and meek, He comes onto history’s scene, surely forgotten if not for the tales and letters and books that would outline His extraordinary life. He’s not like the rest. He doesn’t wield swords or parade His achievements (at least not yet). Only some know but, as a greater David, this Bethlehemite defeats giants like Death. When this perfect Man came to hell’s gates, Death himself came out welding his crooked keys and fearfully said, “Here. These are Yours.”
“I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. Amen. And I have the keys of Hades and of Death.” —Jesus Christ, the Son of God (Revelation 1:18)
Easter is eschatological in that it points to our future. The accounts make clear that Christ’s resurrection was a first of many to come. First comes the offering, then the harvest. First came His sacrificial offering, then we, the harvest, shall appear with Him in glory. What is sown in pain and sorrow will suddenly be snatched up again by power from the mouth of God. The same Man that left His tomb will call forth men from theirs. Dust will regather, dry bones will rattle, bodies will animate and be filled with the consciousness of saints long past. Lives now may be wrought with toil and misery, yet it shall not always be. Mary wasn’t completely wrong when she mistook Jesus for the gardener at the tomb, for He is indeed the Great Gardener of our lives. Easter reminds us that we are to look ever forward to the harvest of that great day.
Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming. —Paul, the apostle (1 Corinthians 15:23)
Many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life,
some to shame and everlasting contempt. Those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the firmament, and those who turn many to righteousness like the stars forever and ever. —Daniel, the prophet (Daniel 12:2–3)
Rejoice, church! Rejoice, you former sinners! Rejoice, you who were once dead but now made live in Christ. Celebrate with friends and family. Laugh and rejoice, for because of the day of His resurrection, the great day of your resurrection lies before you. The tomb is empty! Our redemption is secure! On that day, we too shall say, “Oh Death, where is your sting?”
I quit being a youth pastor. I would highly encourage you to do the same. Just before the time I agreed to a role within Student Ministries at IHOPKC, I flatly stated that I had no intention of doing roller skating and pizza parties. And bless God, neither did my friend and supervisor at the time, David Sliker.
Certainly on paper my role still states: Director of Student Ministries, but I couldn’t find the term youth group or see anything that remotely looks like modern youth ministry in the Bible. That’s why I resigned in my heart instead, deciding that I would dedicate my life to something I was actually interested in: building the glorious church of Jesus Christ. A quick survey of the generational landscape yields a troubling picture. No need for the statistics that abound in thousands of books, websites, parenting materials, and youth pastor city-wide meetings. Just ask yourself, “How many teenagers do I know that extravagantly love Jesus?”
I’m told that youth ministry is, historically speaking, a relatively new endeavor. While the onset of youth ministry had the spark of life, gradually it’s as if someone began thinking, “These young people are disinterested—let’s put them in another room.” The separation of teenagers from the main body over decades evolved into a subculture with a particular set of expressions and opinions. Insert a youth pastor attempting to be relevant to an established subculture. Now, when someone says, “youth ministry,” immediately an image floods the mind giving illustration to what that should look like. But does that image look biblical?
The troubling pressure that faces parents, teachers, leaders, and youth pastors is ultimately the very thing we cannot do—we cannot change the heart of another human. Jesus likes changing hearts forever by His power. He is really good at that.
The gospel is the power of God to salvation. Does God need us to alter the gospel to make it relevant? As a leader, I don’t need creative ways to rehash a message that is volatile when applied to the human heart. We need the power of the God unto salvation. We can’t get to God without His power. We can’t get His power without the gospel. The gospel supersedes culture, even the powerful subculture of teenagers.
At some point we forgot that Jesus, and His message, was rejected by the world. Further, though the world desperately needs His power, we’ve convinced ourselves that slightly altering the gospel will lessen its offense and make it more palatable to young people. We’d rather have 100 youth in the room than five. In doing so, we’ve decreased its effectual power.
God is not in need of our gospel adaptations. The gospel is the gospel. God is God. And His power is His power. The power that cut 3,000 to the heart by the preaching of Peter at Pentecost is the same power that today converts the soul and brings a person from darkness to light. The power that brought you to the cross and to the delight of the resurrection is the same power that touches the heart of the teenager.
My aim isn’t to fix youth ministry. It’s to kill it (or at least, kill the caricature of it).
First on the chopping block is this idea: more people means better ministry. The pervasive temptation we face is to measure success primarily by outward growth. As long as it’s getting bigger and better everything must be grand. However, a quick look at the Bible finds the need to evaluate success instead by the measure of love (see John 15 ) and faithfulness (see Matthew 25). What if we got a vision for teenagers to bear the fruits of repentance, the fruit of the Spirit, and live in a way that looks like Jesus (Matthew 3:8; Galatians 5:22; Colossians 3:10)? What if we got a vision to disciple five genuine teenagers rather than 100 lukewarm ones?
The gospel is entirely relevant because it addresses the deepest needs of man. What is the deepest need of mankind? That is the deepest need of teenagers. Man does not know God or glorify Him, and desperately needs His power to be changed into something new (Romans 1:16, 21–23, 6:4, 8:11; 2 Corinthians 5:17). The intrinsic needs of adults in the main auditorium are the same needs as the teenagers in the youth room. The gospel is not relevant to world. It never will be. It is considered a “base thing,” inherently “foolish” (1 Corinthians 1:18–31). But the gospel is the wisdom of God and the power of God.