The church has portrayed Jesus a type of spiritual “Superman” that came to rescue us from our sins. I believe this is a distorted view of what Christ came to do. The history of the incarnation and the struggle that the early Church Fathers had over this issue seemed to divide them on how to describe the incarnation. Some believed that Jesus’ divinity and humanity were separate and never affected the other. Others believed that they kind of worked together as if Jesus was like Superman. His humanity was like Clark Kent and His Divinity was that of a super hero. The way we view the incarnation will have a great influence on how we approach youth ministry.
A proper view of the incarnation will allow us to share that Jesus did not come to give us a “gift”, but to be there “for us”. The incarnation will allow us to share with students the true hope that Jesus offers. By God choosing to come “in the flesh”, we have a Savior who understands us. He will be there when we need Him. If we act as if God is this great benefactor that does great things for us, we will have a skewed perspective of what God is trying to do in our lives. God is not just “doing things” for us. God is “for” us.
Student Ministry is the perfect arena in which to practice Incarnational Ministry. Jesus’ ministry gave us insight into how we should approach our culture with the message of renewal and restoration. All Youth Ministry is local. We need to ask ourselves, “How can I be an expert on the local youth culture?” As a Student Minister, I must bridge the gap between Biblical culture and local youth culture. Jesus was great at this. He used common everyday language and situations to communicate God’s love to the people He came into contact with. His message was presented differently depending on the individual He was speaking with. We must learn how to construct Local Theologies. We need to figure out how to best communicate the love of Christ to our culture.
The history of the incarnation plays a vital role in helping us understand who Jesus is. It helps us to see that Jesus is more than just a person to call on in times of trouble. He is God in the flesh. He is a person who understands us. We can truly say that Jesus “gets me”. He knows my thoughts, my needs, and my dreams. He is not just a problem solver. When we understand the incarnation, then we can see the power of the cross revealed. We see a God who came in the flesh to show us how to live, how to die to our sins, and how to be raised to walk in His righteousness. The incarnation transcends cultural boundaries. Students want to be understood. They are looking for a place to belong. They want someone to understand them and identify with their struggles. We can help them see that the incarnate Christ is that person. If we become an extension of Christ’s life, we can impact this generation in a mighty way. By investing our lives in students, just a Christ invested in the disciples, we will see much change.
In John 1, we see that “Jesus dwelt among us”. He became a part of the culture. He was “one of us”. We must have the same mindset. Paul encourages us in Philippians 2:5-11 to have the same attitude as Christ, which means we must live out the Gospel before the people that we have been entrusted with. The Holy Spirit allows us to be the “incarnate” representative of Christ on earth. We will have the same spirit and mind of Christ if we tap into the power and guidance that the Holy Spirit offers.
We must keep the BIG picture in mind. We have to put people before programs. We cannot underestimate the power of presence. Just being available and listening to students share the successes and failures in their life; we will make a great impact. Remember, we are a model of relational ministry.
We need to be real and authentic with our students and leaders. Jesus was able to do this very well. His disciples saw Him in His full glory on the Mount of Transfiguration and in His brokenness in the Garden of Gethsemane. Authenticity is really at the heart of the incarnation. When Jesus was baptized and the Father spoke His affirmation over His son by saying “in whom I am well pleased”, we see who Jesus really was. His divine nature and human nature were transparent for all to see. All we have to do is look. His miracles testified to his deity while his sorrow and brokenness in the Garden displayed His humanity.
Incarnational Ministry is what every believer is called to. We are the body of Christ. We are an extension of His saving grace. We must be willing to step outside of our comfort zone, and “dwell” with those who need to experience the incarnate.