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.
It is interesting to see how power is a commodity that is very valuable in a church body. Everybody wants it, but very few know how to use it to leverage the mission of God within a given community. Instead they use it to leverage a hidden agenda or program that they want to see happen. If you really think about it, it almost mirrors what takes place in our government in the US Congress. Each person drives their agenda and has lobbyist to publicize and promote that agenda. All the while a community and the world are dying apart from a relationship with Christ. I had a Senior Pastor tell me one time that if I did not learn how to navigate the politics of a local church that I would not last long in ministry. I told him that the day I got into politics in the church I would find something else to do. I have not accepted a call to give my life to set of political ideas or hidden agendas. I am called to take the gospel to the masses with no strings attached. I pray as I continue in ministry that the power plays that come up along the way will reveal themselves and I will be able to handle them with the grace and wisdom of Christ.
As a leader, we must have a strategic purpose and invest in the people we lead, in turn creating future leaders. Jesus acted with a strategic purpose. He wanted to create a dynamic, multiplying movement capable of evangelizing the world. He chose to reveal the gospel first to the Jewish people. Many rejected Him, but there were some who embraced Him as Messiah. He used the disciples who were Jewish to help spread the gospel. Jesus had a heart for the Gentiles as well. On several occasions during His earthly ministry he reached out to Gentiles. From the woman at the well to the Roman Centurion, He proved that the salvation He would bring through His death, burial, and resurrection was for all people. Jesus chose to focus on a few believers and empower them to take His message and purpose to all the earth. He wanted to reproduce His character in them so that they might be witnesses not only with their words, but also with their lives. He also wanted them to reproduce the structure He had established. Through the disciples, the church was formed. The church was to be structured so that believers would be filled with the character of Christ.
Staffing must fit the church’s overall mission and vision. This is key to having the right people on board for growth. In Student Ministry, it would benefit us to develop more into a Multi Divisional Model that would allow more people to be involved in the leadership of the ministry. I would like for students to be more involved in leadership positions and take ownership over a particular Ministry Team that fits within their Spiritual Gifts and Personality. We all know of students who are a part of our Student Ministry that are not members of our church. Their families are not even attending our church. I would like to see a deacon / elder assigned to the “unchurched” students in an attempt to allow that deacon an open door into the family that might help get that family involved in the church. This would provide one more touch point for that family to be connected to the church. These families expect the Student Pastor to contact them because I am the Student Pastor, but the more people who are involved in the life of that family, the more impact we can have on the spiritual development of that family.
A well-planned budget will allow the church to be a good steward of the money that its members give for the ongoing mission on that local body of believers. As Ministers of the Gospel, we are entrusted with the sacred duty of using the money given to God through the local body wisely. By planning, we can use those gifts to advance the gospel in the community and the world
A Student Pastor must lead from the front and be the “example” of Christ-like leadership within the Student Ministry and the Church. Christianity is far more than a system they have been taught or a set of teachings to believe. Luther believed that the church isn’t a place to participate in programs. He believed the community is the church. And their Christ-like, compassionate life lived before those around them continued to perpetuate God’s transformational movement. Additionally, those they influence also sense the opportunity and commitment to pass on this legacy to the next generation because it has been engrained within them from you and your band of Christ followers. They have been taught and mentored that their gift to the next generation is the instilling of a Christ like way of life into their own children through their own model of Christ likeness.
Is a move of God like this possible? I believe he wants to bring his Body – his transformed followers of Christ – together in prayer, in unity, and in the power of his Spirit to minister to the spiritual, physical, and relational needs of others in a cradle-to-grave strategy. God has not called Christians to engage in a cultural war simply to protect and preserve a moral way of life. God has called us to be “a transforming salt” and “an attractive light” to the world; to bring hope and healing to a needy world. Jesus said our light is “like a city on a mountain, glowing in the night for all to see. Don’t hide your light under a basket! Instead, put it on a stand and let it shine for all. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father” (Matthew 5:14-16, NLT). We must not only view the church through the lens of scripture, but also view it through the lens of the larger community in which it is planted.