I will never forget the moment I was humbled by a young middle-schooler. He had recognized to some degree that I was making a conscious effort as his youth pastor to entertain the students instead of shepherding them toward Christ.
Although I had the best intentions – to reach the largest amount of students possible and connect with them – it looked and felt more like I was a clown at a three-ring circus trying to put on a show.
After yet another youth group filled with just about everything they could get ten times better somewhere else, he said to me, "Would it be cool if we studied more of the Bible?"
My initial reaction was to dump a multitude of ignorant and selfish excuses on him, justifying the reasons why I was trying to be "seeker-friendly." In that moment, however, I was convicted to the core. I realized that God was using this young man to tell me to start putting His Word at the center of our ministry – where I had put myself at the center in an attempt to entertain.
I discovered a simple but powerful truth that day.
No matter how hard I tried, quite frankly, there was no way I was going to keep up with the trends of this world. This world is pursuing our younger generations and intentionally targeting them with lies about how they can find happiness and satisfaction apart from the Salvation found only in Christ. I also realized that no matter who we are leading, shepherding, serving, and discipling, it is “the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God” (Eph. 6:18) that most effectively attacks false doctrine and teaching.
I used to look at ministry through the lens of this world, rather than looking at how to do ministry God's way through the lens of the Word.
There is a seemingly endless amount of pressure to please people instead of proclaiming the truth – pressure to entertain instead of humbly submitting to what God’s Word and Spirit exposes in our hearts.
How do we battle those pressures as we study, teach, and present the truths of the gospel?
I believe the primary way we do this is by making the Word central and God the main character. If we apply this to the way we study, teach, and serve the body of Christ, together we can reach the lost for the sake of God’s glory. I believe Biblical discernment comes from being rooted in the Word so intentionally and consistently that we are able to distinguish what is from God and what is not.
I believe it ultimately boils down to the question of whether or not we truly believe that Jesus is the only way to eternal life with the Father.
Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." – John 14:6
That core truth battles the seemingly countless false teachings and belief systems that say otherwise.
When the Word of God that reveals the truth of the gospel is at the center of our lives and ministry, then everything from personal worship and biblical community to disciple-making and reaching the nations flows from that.
Please do not get me wrong. I still want to be incredibly relational with the next generation and to connect with them in ways that can be a lot of fun – even funny, at times. However, I believe the Word of God empowered by the Holy Spirit needs to be at the core of our relationship, so that we may grow more together into the image of Christ and better follow Him as we obey His commands.
That is something that the world cannot offer. I also believe it is the most effective way we can guard our minds and hearts against false doctrine and defend against the pressure to please people over God.
May the Word be central to who we are and what we do for the advancement of the gospel and the glory of our God.