This was a question from one of our church elders during the brief part of a meeting I’d been a part of a few weeks ago. In youth ministry, or really any ministry, that seems to be the million dollar question. How can we get students to be hungry for God’s Word as opposed to what the world has to offer them? Many churches and ministries have tried to become more relevant by leaning toward the “excellence in production” model, utilizing flashy lights, smoke machines, and this best of the best technology and music production. Others have been steadfast in the traditional ministry model, everyone comes in, sits down, announcements, plays a game, sits and listens to someone give a 20-30 minute lecture, prayer, and leave to go home. Is there a right or a wrong way for this to be done? Is either of these methods better than the other? Is there an absolute way to minister in your context? I’ll be honest with you, I don’t know. I’ve only been a part of two student ministries in a leadership capacity in the last 7 years, so I will not claim to be an expert in this area, especially because I’m still fighting to find that balance that needs to be found.
My main intent when it comes to ministry, whether it be students, parents, music, is to lead people to seek God’s Word. To pursue Him over the world. Some days I feel like I’m doing pretty well at accomplishing that, others, well…I feel like it’s my first day on the job and I’m more lost than Christopher Columbus on his way to India…The culture our students are growing up in, even the church culture, tells students that they can be their own god. Maybe those words aren’t being spoken out loud, or even intentionally being instituted, but the idea is there in all facets of society. In the church (the American church), specifically, I see it week in and week out where parents are justifying their child forgoing Bible study for club sports, work, and a myriad of other reasons. What is this telling and teaching our kids about the importance of church fellowship? Moreover, why are we canceling out what the author of Hebrews wrote in chapter 10:23-25 regarding fellowship? He wrote:
“23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” (ESV)
When from a young age, we place importance on something that, while potentially beneficial to our child, over the importance of Biblical fellowship, we begin a trend that is unhealthy. If I am a Christian, and I take seriously the command Jesus gives in the great commission to “…go therefore, and make disciples in all the nations…,” why would I place so much importance on something that is so temporary? Whether it be sports, concerts, etc., all of these things will wither away. They don’t last. Now, don’t take this as me saying that you should never have fun or do something that you enjoy, that would be ludicrous of me. What I am saying though, is what the author of Hebrews is saying.
When we read this passage, the author is encouraging the audience, Hebrew Christians who were under heavy persecution, to hold onto the faith and knowledge that Jesus saves and died for them. We can somewhat relate to that situation, though I would argue we haven’t been afflicted as these would have been, but the temptation for them to turn away from the hope they profess is great, so it is for Christians in the culture we live in currently. He next urges the audience to push one another to love and good works, meaning that our actions and words should push others closer to Jesus as opposed to away from Him. So many times in church culture, we miss this message. Instead of pushing each other toward “love and good works,” we push each other into frustration and anger. We think that our way is right and that the other person couldn’t possibly have the insight we have, so we get aggravated with them. How is that possibly moving someone toward love and good works? I’ve been guilty of being the offending party, the one who pushed someone away from love and good works. I may have been the reason it was easy to miss church that day. This is not what we are called to do as believers. We need to focus on how to love others like Jesus did, and push them toward love and loving Jesus. This will result in the last part of that passage being easier to accomplish.
“…not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” How powerful are those words? We should desire to meet together as much as possible, especially as believers, for encouragement and teaching, also known as, fellowship. In the New Testament, we don’t see individuals gathering at their own home away from other believers, instead, we see them all meeting and gathering together throughout the week. In each other’s homes. *GASP! Yep, in each other’s homes. I’ve observed in more than just one or two church contexts where everyone meets up on Sunday mornings and smile, shake hands, sing, nod their heads, and pray. Once the clock strikes 12:05, however, it’s nose back to the ground and wait til we see you again on Wednesday or Sunday. How often during the week do we try to interact with other believers? How often do we keep our Sunday lunch plans open so we can go continue fellowship after church? I know there are many times when we want to just go home after church and nap, and don’t want to have any interaction with anyone except my pillow and sheets. Would us changing our plans from being solitary during the week to spending meaningful time with other people be something that we would be willing to do to have a kingdom effect? The times that my family has had people over after church, or gone to eat with someone have been some of the sweetest fellowship time. We may have been sacrificing that precious nap and rest time, but we ended up with the opportunity to get to know someone and begin building relationship and community with them. When we skip out on the once weekly fellowship of Sunday morning, we miss out on the growth that the Holy Spirit provides through that fellowship, and we miss out on the opportunity to encourage others, and even be encouraged ourselves. Those are two incredibly important parts of being in the family of God. Our lives have to be directed at giving Him glory and honor before ourselves.
What I want to encourage with this post, is for us to really examine our lives. Are we going out of our way to avoid interaction with others, or are we going out of our way to have that interaction? Being an introvert makes being around large groups of people incredibly exhausting, and overly stimulating for me, and I struggle often with the desire to be around anyone sometimes. There are times that I will send my wife to bed and just stay up by myself for hours because I need that recharge time, so I definitely understand the need for quiet and solitude. But Jesus calls us to live opposite of that in our daily lives. He calls us to “…go…and make disciples…” meaning that we don’t get to sit at the house and hope that people come and ask us about Jesus. We take the gospel to them, daily. In order for us to recharge spiritually, however, we can’t just sit at the house in the solitude and quiet. That recharge time comes from going and being a part of fellowship and hearing the Word proclaimed through musical and teaching worship.
Find somewhere to get plugged in this weekend.
Find someone to build a meaningful friendship with this weekend.
Don’t disregard the importance of Sunday morning.
Most of all, pursue Jesus and find a hunger for His Word.