We were in the midst of our high school youth group meeting, and a student said three words that confirmed why youth ministry as we know it has failed.
“It doesn’t work.” When pressed for details, this student talked about the camps, the trips, the events, even threw prayer and reading the Bible in for good measure. The student talked about post-trip spiritual highs and promises of this time “being different.” Finally, the words, “I’m done trying” were said.
I read from Hebrews 12, where the author (Paul?) writes this: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin the so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on CIY, or summer camp, or the ski trip, or the service project…WAIT! It says nothing of the sort. We are to fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
For too long, youth ministries have looked to events to draw kids to Christ. I know that I have. And that, is a fail.
But, our adult ministries are no different. Daily, we receive emails and brochures for various items promising to solve all of our ills. A church down the street gets an electric guitar and pays a worship leader, and people flock to them, because what they want, what WE all really want, is some emotion, some feeling, some hint the God is there and this is all worth it. We want something that “works”, with the word “works” of course defined as an experience. But, like last year’s fireworks show or the newest movie, the next one had better really captivate my attention. If it doesn’t, we’re gone.
At the beginning of Hebrews, we read, “In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son…”
How does God now communicate? Jesus.
Not through camps, loud guitars, “feelings”, bright lights, a parking place up front, more money, a bigger house, a wonderful home life, a perfect marriage or the perfect church.
God communicates through a man hanging on a tree.
And every attempt, every single attempt to experience what Jesus alone offers will leave you empty, sad, scared, and wanting.
“But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who believe and are saved.”