March 27, 2012

All Ministry is Adult Ministry

To Youth Leaders, Children's Workers & Parents:
You might be involved with some type of ministry through your church, either to children, youth, or adults. Maybe you’re a Christian parent. In all of these cases, my message to you is the same. We all need to realize that all ministry is adult ministry.

Everything we do will be shaped by the goal we have in mind. Many student ministries have the end goal of developing students who follow Christ. Many children's ministries have the end goal of producing kids who follow Christ. That sounds great, but it is not. These ministries will have their effectiveness short-changed by that attitude. There is something much greater to aim at.

It is very important to know what a “win” is for your ministry. What is it that you are ultimately trying to achieve, and how do you know when this has happened? Someone told me about another youth program that defines a “win” as any time they are able to create a comfortable environment for students to come. If they are able to do that, they considered it a win. Now, my hope is that this church doesn’t really consider this their ultimate win. If they did, it would be like a football coach who is content with first-downs and doesn’t really care about getting touchdowns. There are intermediate wins and there are ultimate wins.  Having a good experience is an intermediate win, but it is not an ultimate win. 

For any ministry that cares about the Bible, we have a non-negotiable task. We have been told to go and "make disciples" (Mt. 28:19-20). There are many good things we can do, but if we fail at this, we fail the mission. Making disciples means "getting people saved" but it means more than that. God saves us apart from our good works, but He saves us for good works and ministry (Eph. 2:8-10). Part of our mission is to help people to be born again, but we don't end our mission with abandoned newborns. Neither do we end our mission with children or teens who follow Christ.

Babies are Not Our Goal...Adult Are
The goal of our work is not to produce a grown-up baby. The goal of evangelism and discipleship is to train up a mature Christian adultThis means working with young people so that when they are adults they will be spiritual adults as well, not adult infants. That is why all ministry is adult ministry. That is our win.

In student ministry, our goal is to transform and equip young people so that they become mature Christian adults who serve Christ in ministry. This what our goal for everyone. The goal of adult discipleship is the same thing, but without the benefit of the head start.

Our goal is not kids who follow Christ.
Our goal is not teens who follow Christ.
The bigger win for all of our ministries is this: ADULTS who follow and serve Christ as mature believers.

It is absolutely necessary for student ministries to focus on this. If you only equip teens with what they need to live life as Christian teenagers now, you have not helped them in the long run. They are only going to be teens for a few short years. Yes, meet them where they are at, but disciple them for their lifetime ahead.  Look at the long view. You aren't merely ministering to a teen; you are ministering to an entire life.

Disciple Adults Before They Get There
Don’t just equip students to cope with the stress of not being able to get their locker open. Prepare them for marriage. Prepare them to be solid parents. Turn boys into men who will love their wives as Christ loved the church and will be compassionate leaders for their families. Give them all the values and training that they will need for a lifetime of service.

In my mind, my goal is to produce Navy Seals of ministry.

In the high school youth center of our church, I put a sign in the kitchen as a constant reminder for our leaders. It reads, “Peace Student Ministry: Discipling adults before they get there.” I want our leaders to remember that they are training adults to do kingdom ministry. They are training ministry leaders, missionaries, elders, deacons, youth sponsors, parents, pastors, small group leaders, teachers, and mentors… not just kids. We are pouring into them so they will pour into others, now and for the rest of their lives. Keeping this goal in mind changes the way we do things now.

Individual ministries inside a local church need to view each of their programs as part of one whole, with the same goal. It is a tag-team effort. We each do everything we can with the people we have, and then pass them off to the next ministry to continue the work of growing these young people into adult disciples. Individual programs need to count it as a “win” when they make a successful hand-off of a young person to the next ministry. This is an intermediate win to the bigger win of producing an adult disciple.

Make adult disciples. Whatever your ministry, keep this goal in mind. In my church, I work with students and I work with adults. I do adult ministry with adults and I do adult ministry with students. 

Related: Adult Baby

March 22, 2012

Adult Baby

You might hate me for this, but here is a disturbing image that should be burned into your mind. Stanley Thorton is a thirty-year old man who was featured on National Geographic's program Taboo. Thorton lives his life as an adult baby. He is bottle-fed, sucks on a pacifier and uses baby talk. He also sleeps in a giant crib, plays with baby toys in a playpen and, yes, wears a diaper.

You can watch the video clip below to see more about this guy. Fair warning: it may be painful to your stomach to see this. Please believe me that I'm showing this to you for a purpose. I'm trying to make a point.

I want people to look at this because I want you to be disturbed. An adult living like this is simply not right. That's why I want this image to be forever burned into your memory.
Now, I want you to imagine that you are given special pair of glasses that allows you to look around and see what people look like spiritually. What would most people look like? What would most people in your church look like? What would you see in a mirror?

If we had these glasses, I'm afraid we would see that America is crawling with adult babies.

There is an appropriate time for someone to be baby Christians. We don't expect babies to be mature right when they are born. Babies need appropriate care. Babies need milk. And, babies make...messes. We shouldn't expect Christians to be spiritually mature the moment they are born again. Also, none of us will ever reach perfection in this life, but we should grow up. It's normal to be a baby for a while, but after a long time, it's disturbing. 

Getting older happens automatically. Becoming spiritually mature does not. 

Paul chided the Corinthians Christians for still being "mere infants" in Christ. He lamented that he still had to give them spiritual milk instead of solid food because they weren't ready for it (1 Cor. 3:1-3). The author to the Hebrews made a similar statement. He wrote: 
"We have much to say about this, but it is hard to explain because you are slow to learn. In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God's word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil." -Hebrews 5:11-14
In contrast, Paul wrote that the goal for Christians is to become "mature" and to "no longer be infants" (Eph 4;11-14). So, how are you growing? If you are a young person, what are you doing now so that you won't end up being an adult baby? If you're already a biological adult, what do you look like spiritually? Are you where you think you should be? If not, remember, it's better to have a late start than to stay in the playpen forever.

Let these images haunt you. Please be terrified of being a spiritual adult baby.


March 8, 2012

How to Silence God on a Subject You Don’t Like

I’ve noticed that if you want to silence the Bible on some topic, an easy way to do that is to tell people that the Bible is “unclear” on that topic. People do this all the time and people fall for it all the time. If you don't like what the Bible says about homosexuality, say that it is “unclear.” If you don’t like what the Bible says about gender roles in the church, say that it is “unclear.” If you don’t like what it says about salvation or hell, say that the Bible is “unclear.”

Someone might object and say the Bible is clear on a topic. If they do, then just tell them that if it was clear then everyone would agree. Since people disagree, then the Bible obviously isn’t clear. Hopefully they won’t realize that there are other reasons why people disagree, such as the fact that some people just believe what they want to believe, or that some people buy into bad arguments. If they go this way, emphasize that good Bible-believing Christians disagree about these issues. This makes it hard for them to disagree with you and sound nice at the same time.

Now that you have eliminated the voice of God from the conversation, you can argue whatever point you want. 

There are some problems with it though.

The first problem is that it is saying that God is a bad communicator. It is one thing to say that He hasn’t spoken on a topic, but it is another thing to say that He has spoken but we can’t figure out what He is trying to say. 

The second problem is that it makes us the judge on these issues. If we silence the Bible on these topics, then we have to decide based on popular opinion, culture, our own desires, and other such things. We make ourselves, or our society, the judge rather than God. This isn’t a good idea.

Also, people are never consistent in this. To make this argument work well, you have to say, “Since people disagree, then the Bible is unclear.” The problem is that there are plenty of counter-examples to disprove this.  In the early church, the Arians said the Bible taught that Jesus is not fully God. Since people disagreed, does this mean that the Bible isn't clear about the deity of Christ? Some teach that salvation is a mix of grace and works. And some of the same people who will tell you that the Bible is unclear on some things would never say that the Bible is unclear about their pet issues, even if Christians disagree about those things. 

And finally, by blowing off God’s Word and what He says, we are rebelling against Him and probably making Him… not happy.

Still, if these things don’t bother you, go ahead and use this tactic. It has a very successful track record.

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