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Posts Tagged ‘youth ministry’

Question: As a Christian, is Satan afraid of me?

I think this is a fascinating question. A youth in our student ministry asked this question recently, so this post is the written version of my response to him. The answer has two parts. I hope you enjoy!

(1) I believe there is a sense in which Satan is terrified of Christians, but it has absolutely nothing to do with the ability of Christians to stand against Satan. Instead it has everything to do with Jesus’ power to send Satan to flight.

Satan’s fear is locked-in on Jesus, because Jesus will destroy him in the end. Where we stand toe-to-toe with the forces of evil as infantry in Jesus’ army, Satan is fighting a losing battle — and it’s because of our captain, Jesus, not simply because of us.

James 4:7 teaches, “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” The picture is similar to the standoff between Satan and Jesus in the wilderness. Jesus’ temptation is the antitype of Adam’s in the book of Genesis, where Adam and Eve both crumbled under Satan’s simple argument. We must not think ourselves better than they, or we will set ourselves up to fall just as hard! Instead, we bank on God’s strength for resisting the devil, “and he will flee from you.”

So the wise Christian hears the Word of God and does not boast foolishly that Satan is too weak to hurt believers. He stands and agrees with Rev. 12:9 — that Satan is the “ancient serpent” and one “who leads the whole world astray.” He remembers that Satan even “rose up against Israel and incited” David, Israel’s great king, to sin (1 Chron. 21:1). He remembers that Satan’s ways can fill even the hearts of believers and lead to destruction, as with Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:3). He wisely remembers that the devil “himself masquerades as an angel of light” (2 Cor. 11:4). He cautiously knows that Satan, as he did with Paul, can even try to stop you from doing what you want to do for God (1 Thess. 2:18). Then, perhaps most dangerously, the Bible warns that some turn away from Jesus to follow Satan (1 Tim. 5:15).

I list those verses to help us keep our heads on our shoulders. Satan is a formidable enemy! He hates the people of God, and he will do whatever he can to stop the advance of the gospel, most obviously, by destroying one’s testimony. So, my caution to you is not that you can’t face Satan with Jesus’ help and see him flee, but more that you humbly take to heart that this is a serious fight, not a simple-answer-fight against the devil.

And here is the second part.

(2) Here are some verses that should give us a rush of exhilaration knowing that Satan is no match for Jesus!

In Zech. 3:2, God himself rebukes Satan — imagine that scene! In Luke 10:18, when the disciples returned from the nearby towns after preaching the Good News there, they returned in excitement; and Jesus described it this way, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven!” In Acts 26:18, Paul says that the gospel has the power to “open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God.” And, I love this: Romans 16:20 teaches, “The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet.”

I would like to encourage you to note that wherever there is victory over Satan, it is because of what God does. It’s his power over Satan, not ours. Notice that it is God who will crush Satan under your feet. So, I believe that is a biblically accurate way to say that Satan is not happy with you!

Satan is not happy with you, because you are now a light in a dark world, who is commissioned by King Jesus to share the gospel, and snatch others out of the grasp of the ancient serpent. Satan would have a much easier time deceiving people if there weren’t Christians onward marching, telling the world what the Word of God says! Satan would have a much easier time directing peoples’ paths to destruction, especially since that is their natural path anyway, if it weren’t for born-again Christians thwarting his plans by the power of God!

As Russ Moore says, “Tremble, O Proud Snake King” . . . for

“The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet!” (Rom. 16:20).

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One thing I struggle with is creativity.  I have now been the Family/Student pastor at my church for about 8 months and I haven’t come up with a name for our student ministry.  I have just been calling our Wednesday night meeting, “Student Night.”  I know that is lame!  So now that much of the foundation has been laid for our new church, its time to start casting a clear vision for our student ministry, setting some clear goals, and seeking by God’s grace to attain to those goals.  While names are relatively unimportant in the big scheme of things, there certainly is nothing wrong with thinking about presentation.  So as I think through the vision and goals of our student ministry, I think its a good idea to come up with a helpful name to illustrate our vision and to draw attention to our ministry and what we are doing.

So here is what I am shooting for:

1.  I want to come up with a name both for our student ministry as a whole as well as our Student Bible study on Wedneday night.  I have had more trouble thinking of the former, so perhaps the latter is more important.

2.  I want both names to be Biblical (the name doesn’t have to be Biblical words, but it should relate to the Bible’s teaching in some way that isn’t weird).

3.  I want both names to be related.

4.  It would be nice if there was a direct connection to a Bible verse that illustrates our theme/purpose.

5.  It must NOT be cheesy.  If there is even a wiff of cheese in the name that would be disastrous.  Some of you would argue that the very act of “naming” a student ministry and/or Bible study night is cheesy.  That may be, but I want to attempt the feat as faithfully as I possibly can!

I don’t know how many of my students read my blog, but if you are one of my students and you read this, feel free to give your two cents as well–I intend to you get your feedback before making the final decision anyway.

Here are some ideas I have so far (I don’t have many, like I said, I am not very creative):

I thought we might call our Wednesday night Bible Study:  “Boast” and our Scripture would be Galatians 6:14–“But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.”  The idea here is that what we do primarily on Wednesday night is boast of the Lord Jesus Christ and even more specifically we boast of the gospel–what Christ has done for sinners like us on the cross.

I thought of making T-Shirst that say:  “I Boast”  or perhaps just “Boast”  and of course people would think that is a little odd or perhaps arrogant, but the explanation would be gospel-centered–“we boast in the Lord Jesus Christ!”

Under this same Scripture, Gal. 6:14, we could also call our Wednesday night meeting: “6:14″  What do you think?  We actually start our Wed night student activities at 6:00, so 6:14 doesn’t work for the time that we start, but I suppose I could actually start activities at 6:14, and have the first 14 minutes of our night devoted to fellowship.  What do think? Is that cheesy or clever?

Most of my other ideas focus on Philippians 3:1-11 simply because that is probably my favorite passage of Scripture.

I could call Wednesday night:  “Glory” (kinda similar to Boast) as Christians are those who “glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh” (Phil. 3:3).

T-Shirts could similarly read “I Glory” (which is less clear to those outside our group than “I Boast” I think but perhaps you like that better?) or “Glory”

We could also go reverse psychology and call Wednesday night:  “No Confidence” which would be more intriguing on a T-shirt.  Of course what we would mean by that is that we put no confidence in our flesh or in ourselves but all our confidence is in the Lord Jesus Christ and his sacrifice on the cross.

I have tried to think of what we could do with the verse numbers here but cannot think of anything.

Another wonderful portion of Phil. 3:1-1 is verses 8-9, “Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ. (9) and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith-“

If you can come up with a theme incorporating verse 8-9 or just verse 8, that would be awesome too and I would love to hear it.

Anyway, let me know what you think of my ideas, if you think they are kinda lame, feel free to express that, I don’t want to present something to my students that they will laugh at me about!  And if you have an idea completely unrelated to what I have shared thus far, feel free to share that too!

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Fire HydrantHere is how I tend to counsel people in my church, especially students:

A student comes up to me and tells me about a decision they made at school–they want to know if they did the right thing.  My response is to throw absolutely everything I know from Scripture about that issue on them.  I ask every question that comes into my mind to try to force them to understand all the ins and outs of the issue.  I share with them every story I can think of in my own life that relates to what they are going through. Its as if they came to me asking for a drink of water and I turn on a fire hydrant!  The typical result is that the student feels overwhelmed and often not really helped.

I think I see things my students don’t.  I don’t mean that to be arrogant, I just think that I live in a different world than they do.  I am older but young enough to remember high school clearly (and I didn’t like it btw!).  In addition, I live in the world of Bible Commentaries, Student Ministry books, Piper books, Biblical Counseling books, biblical worldview books, pastor’s conferences, Christian blogging, Neighborhood evangelism, and pastoring.  My students don’t live in that world–they aren’t opposed to the world I live in, they just don’t know always know that much about it.  They live in the world of high school or middle school–where there are all sorts of cliques and there are all sorts of unwritten rules about which cliques interact with each other.  They live in a world where all around them other students are making decisions that they feel uncomfortable making.  I am not saying one world is better than the other, just want to point out that we are wading through different waters in life.  It was not too long ago that I was wading through the same waters and I need to remember that.

Again, I am not saying my world is better by any means.  The world I live in carries with it all kinds of temptations to self-righteousness, pride, and hypocrisy.  The temptations they tend to face in their world are typically a little more tangible.  My point in this little post is simply that when you live in a different world from those you are seeking to counsel in the Lord, be wary of fire hydrant counseling.  Fire hydrant counseling is where you throw everything you know at someone in an attempt to make them see things exactly how you do.  You may be right in what you are saying and you may even be able to clearly back up what you are saying with Scripture, but you can be right in your position on an issue and wrong in the way that you present it at the same time.

If you don’t live in the world of those you counsel, take pains to enter their world.  Try to see what they see.  Don’t force them to drink from a fire hydrant because if you do, you will probably knock them over.  Sometimes counseling people in the Lord involves speaking hard truths but make sure when you speak the truth, you speak it in love (Ephesians 4:15).

Beware of making a practice of answering questions those you counsel are not asking.  Sometimes you will need to tell people hard things even when they are not asking to hear them, but before you tell someone something that you know is going to be hard for them to hear–ask yourself, is this the right time to speak this truth into this person’s life?  Try to put yourself in their shoes and try to take notice of how the person you are counseling is trying to grow in the Lord.  Don’t assume that just because someone isn’t where you are on a particular issue that they need to be rebuked.  You can’t force sanctification on anyone.  If you are in discipleship relationships, God will use you to help sanctify those you counsel but don’t make the mistake of trying to get those you are counseling to fix all the sin issues in their life all at once. The Lord doesn’t grow  you that way so don’t try to force others to grow that way.  Trust me, I know from experience, it doesn’t work.

Discipleship takes patience and time.  Sometimes we grow in leaps and bounds, but more often in baby steps.  Certainly I want to say that speaking the truth is always a good thing, but if you love people, you will want to speak truth in such a way that it is heard.  That doesn’t mean you hold back, but just make sure you genuinely love the people you are counseling.

And check yourself before you check others.  Take the plank out before you lovingly help your brothers and sisters in Christ take the spec out of their own (Matt. 7:3-5).  Instead of always busting out the fire hydrant, how about leading people to the waters and inviting them to drink?  There may come a time for hard words, but pray, be discerning, and don’t let hard words become your default counseling strategy.  Let love be genuine (Romans 12:9).

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What is the vital need of American Youth?  As a family pastor privileged with the opportunity to lead youth ministry in my church, this is a question I have been trying to answer for my students and Thabiti Anyabwile answers it well.  Of all the needs our youth have or think they have (acceptance, confidence, education, solid friendships) what they need more than anything is to know the Lord Jesus Christ personally and live for his matchless glory!

This is what I continually labor to communicate to my students and their families:

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I case you haven’t been following my recent posts, I have been blogging about how youth ministry has been failing at its stated goal of making committed, fruitful, passionate disciples of Jesus Christ. I see this failure stemming from a number of factors many of which reside in the fact that most youth ministries to not adequately promote the family as the primary avenue of discipleship (see my previous post: What is Wrong with Youth Ministry? Some Stats and a Proposal). Youth ministry must begin to not only equip parents for ministry in the home, but also to value, promote, and encourage discipleship in the family at church. This means the effectiveness of youth ministry in the church is tied directly to the faithfulness of individual families to disciple their children in the home.

Scripture clearly teaches that it is the parents who are to be the primary disciplers of their children (Deut. 6:7, Eph. 6:4), but what about those youth in our midst whose parents are not supportive of the student ministry? What about those parents who do not want to be spiritually involved in their child’s life?

Here is briefly what we need to do:

First we need to seek out such parents. We as a church (parents, youth leaders, other adults and students) ought to visit them in their home and explain to them what we are doing in the youth ministry as well as see if they might be open to hearing the gospel. If this young person’s parents are lost, then we need to share the gospel with them. If this young person’s parents are members of the church then they need to be held accountable for both their membership in the local church as well as their responsibility to diligently teach their children to seek the Lord. Having students whose parents are disengaged doesn’t throw a wrench in the family-driven model of student ministry–the fact that parents are disengaged simply raises the stakes for the church in reaching out to such parents and their students who are involved.

There will likely be students whose parents refuse to support what we are doing at the church despite our efforts to reach out to them. In such cases, the church must attempt to (the church cannot replace the family altogether) make up for the spiritual void of godly adults that the students has due to unbelieving parents. James 1:27 says, “this is pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father, to visit orphans and widows in their distress.” Students who do not have godly parents are spiritual orphans in our midst and it is the church’s responsibility to help fill the void of spiritual upbringing that is missing. The church cannot raise such children, but the church can invest time into such children. We need to plug as many godly adults into the lives of such students as possible. Families in the church with students need to invite such students into their homes and seek to model what a godly home looks like. We need to be active in investing in such students lives as well as in plugging other adults into their lives.

We need to do all these things with a mind to respect the student’s parents but also to diligently help and invest in them. There is always hope that the student’s growth will result in the parents taking an interest in our churches-for God “chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong” (1 Cor. 1:27).

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I believe that a biblical student ministry understands that it is the call of both the church and the family to disciple students and thus present all people complete in Christ. Some would argue that biblical student ministry is an oxymoron. That may shock you–but you may also be unaware of the current state of student (or youth) ministry in American evangelical churches. I don’t think the answer is to get rid of student ministry altogether as some have suggested. However it is clear, as the statistics that follow are quite alarming, that student ministry must change if it is to honor the Lord and succeed in making disciples of Jesus Christ.

The current youth ministry statistics reveal that there is something wrong with youth ministry today:

  1. According to recent research somewhere between 70 and 88 percent of Christian teenagers are leaving the church by their second year in college (Voddie Baucham, Family Driven Faith, 10).
  2. Over 80% of teens who claim to be “born-again” do not believe in the existence of absolute truth (Baucham, 11).
  3. A recent Barna survey focused on finding out how teens beliefs differ from their parents found that:
    • 63% don’t believe Jesus is the Son of the one true God
    • 58% believe all faiths teach equally valid truths.
    • 51% don’t believe Jesus rose from the dead.
    • 65% don’t believe Satan is a real entity.
    • 68% don’t believe the Holy Spirit is a real entity (Steve Wright, Rethink: Is Student Ministry Working?, 34). The vast majority of those polled claimed that they and their parents were Christians. It is clear that these statistics do not square up with John 14:6 where Jesus says, “I am the way the truth, and the life, no one comes to the Father but through me.” The sad reality today is that most of the people in our churches, especially our youth, do not possess a biblical worldview, so that when they get to college they are not prepared to defend the faith as they may or may not even believe defending they faith is necessary. It is clear that youth ministry needs to change!
  4. In a recent survey of parents by the Barna Group, it was found that the number one goal parents have for their children is that their children would get a good education (Baucham, 19). Only half as many parents considered their children’s having a relationship with Jesus Christ as important as their child’s education.
  5. Another recent study focused on college freshman found that:
  • Parents play an extremely important role in developing the religious attitudes and practices of their offspring.
  • Parents of students who did not leave the church emphasized religion twice as much as those who students who left the church.
  • Students who stayed in church through college said that the first thing they do when they have doubts or questions was to talk to their parents and then read their Bibles (Wright, 48-49).

These statistics may seem shocking, but they shouldn’t given the direction that most youth ministries are headed today. Most youth ministries pull students away from the family rather than equipping and encouraging families to raise up their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. God created the family and intended for the family to be the avenue in which faith is passed on from generation to generation (Deut. 6:7-9; Eph. 6:4). Parent’s must teach their children “diligently” to love the Lord with all their heart, soul, and might (Deut.6:4-7). There are some stunning correlations here-the majority of students who graduate from our youth ministries are abandoning the faith by their second year of college and most parents see their child’s faith as less important than their education. Perhaps even more profound is the fact that God created the family and commands for it to be the primary avenue of discipleship and the students who are sticking with the faith through college are those whose parents are spiritually engaged in their lives. In other words put the Biblical data together with the current youth ministry statistics and we find that youth ministry is failing at its stated purpose to build up and equip students to be passionate disciples of Jesus Christ.

So here is briefly what I propose:

Parents are essential to effective student ministry. It is the parents who are called upon in Scripture to oversee the spiritual upbringing of their children (Deut. 6:6-7; Ps. 78:1-8, Eph. 6:4). In fact the Scriptures have much more to say about parents meeting the spiritual needs of their children than it does about pastors. I believe that if student ministry is to be biblical, parents must be the primary disciplers of their children. If we are to be faithful to God’s call to disciple the young people in our churches, we must begin to restructure our student ministries so that they encourage, build up, and partner with parents to disciple their children in the home.

In posts to follow I will give a more detailed plan of action and address the inevitable question–“What about student’s whose parents are unbelievers or unchurched?”

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Sixty years ago there were no youth pastors in evangelical churches. Today, if a church does not have a youth pastor or at least a youth ministry structure, it is considered strange and behind the times. It would be arrogant to say that churches 50-60 years ago that did not have youth ministries were less faithful and yet most people, including myself, have an inward sense that Youth ministry is important. Most Christians are aware of the oft-quoted statistic that more people come to faith in Christ in their middle/high school years than any other stage of life. Youth ministry is important–we must teach, equip, and make disciples of the youth in our churches lest we fail to live obediently to Christ our Lord.

However, the question remains, are the most common models utilized in youth ministry today working? Are the current practices of youth ministry succeeding in making disciples of the youth in our churches? I am afraid that the answer to that question is no! The most common model of youth ministry present in the average evangelical church today is not succeeding in the goal of making committed followers of Jesus Christ out of the youth that attend. Steve Wright and Chris Graves have recently written a book called reThink: Is Student Ministry Working?, in which Wright and Graves ask the timely question of whether the current student ministry models are working. Wright and Graves’ book is an invaluable resource toward understanding the state of student ministry today as they have compiled and assessed a wealth of current research on the trends in youth ministry and their results. Upon extensive research, Wright describes what he sees as the current lay of the land in most present day youth ministries:

Today our mission as student pastors is at a critical point, but you would never know it by watching some churches. Our methods have stayed the same, while the statistics are becoming ominous. Students are leaving the church at an alarming rate. Student pastors are walking away from ministry. Fewer students are being reached for Christ and baptized. Fewer Christian teens have a basic understanding of the Bible. Our mission is becoming one of survival, but our ministry model isn’t changing accordingly. It seems that most student pastors are tapping their knuckles on the gauges, thinking surely the gauges must be wrong. They are not wrong, and if we do not change course, our mission will fail. (pp. 16).

Wright and Graves go on to gives statistics in four critical areas that help gauge the temperature of current youth ministries. These areas include: student retention rates (students that continue on in the church after high school and into college), student baptism rates, student pastor tenures, and student Bible literacy. Wright and Graves call for a change of course in youth ministry for two essential reasons–first statistics in the four previously mentioned categories are profoundly alarming and secondly because most current youth ministry models fail to adequately incorporate and value the contribution of the primary front-line warriors of youth ministry–parents!

I am very concerned about the current model of youth ministry in the majority of evangelical churches today. Thus I plan to publish a short series of posts in which I will both report on the alarming statistics cited in reThink, as well as set forth a biblical model of youth ministry which restores parents to their rightful role as the primary disciplers of their children.

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