It is not living that matters, but living rightly – Socrates
In the hours after posting my open letter I received many comments, texts, and calls from church members and people who shared the same sentiments from other churches in different denominations. Many appreciated my honesty and shared their disappointment in the lack of enthusiasm they find in their own church community. I apparently struck a chord with those who feel frustrated my a lack of passion by the Christian community at large.
But what I don’t want people to miss in the whole thing is that through it all I have not given up and moved on. I have found the good and choose to seek strength through a power greater than my own. My purpose in writing the letter was not to complain, vent, and walk away, but to challenge everyone to respond to the Christian life with action to service. You can’t complain about a problem unless you yourself are willing to do something about it.
So now what? For all the people who resonated with the first part of the letter, how will you respond to the second part? The call to do something. The challenge to “preach the gospel and if necessary use words”. This is the part that divides the sheep from the goats.
1. Don’t let your own frustration lead to apathy. Don’t fall into the trap of “No one cares so why should I”. One person can make a difference. Last night I received a note from a student that brought me to tears. After reading the open letter they sent me a personal message saying “I’ve always felt a little out of place there so it’s good to know I’m not the only one. And just so you know, youth group was the only thing that really kept me coming to church all through high school so thanks for sticking with it and being there every week.” What that student doesn’t know is I almost gave up on them because I was burned out, unappreciated, with no help, and a kid who seemed like they didn’t care. But there’s a saying among youth pastors “you never know what seed you are planting and when it will take fruit”.
2. If you don’t see a passion for ministry and a heart for God in your church you’re looking in the wrong places. I currently have 9 youth who have been selected as leaders and visionaries for our youth group. Upon sitting down with them to ask if they would accept the position, I was overwhelmed by their enthusiasm. Like Bruce Banner changing into the Hulk, these high school teens took it upon themselves to engage not just their peers, but the entire church. To change it from the inside out. We are now trying to hold them at bay while we mentor them to constructive ministry. (Although Anarchy in the name of the gospel wouldn’t be such a bad thing either). Don’t get blinded by the big picture. Look for the details and you will find the hidden gems. Without them, your church would have closed it’s doors a long time ago.
3. Ministry does not have a job description and a requirement. Many people look at a list of ministries and duties associated with them and don’t feel like they would fit in. Who cares? What do you enjoy doing? Do you like baking pies and reading? There’s a new ministry; it’s the book and pie club. I’ve been doing youth ministry long enough that people just think I’ve always done it. But I had to learn the curriculum and teaching parts. My success started when I said “I would really like to play paintball and need other people to shoot. Let’s ask those high school students”.
4. Pray that you would feel the Holy Spirit. I have not left my church because I feel the Holy Spirit whisper in my heart. It’s rumbling under the surface waiting for me to use it to do great things. If you feel bogged down like there is nothing you can do and you’re fed up with those around you, pray that you would see the world as Jesus would see it.
5. Quit thinking, talking, and planning. Do Something. I’ve suggested ministry opportunities to others before and it inevitably leads to conversations, research, and committees. Hours are spent brainstorming and figuring out if it’s a good idea instead of just doing something. By then the passion has died and people have moved on. Just get out there. Grab some friends, invite someone you think is looking for involvement, and go. Faint heart never won fair maiden.
Now is not the time for discouragement and self pity. It is a time for inspiration. We are in a time and place in the world where people are looking for something or someone to inspire them.
Jesus did not change the world by founding a mega-church and running for public office. He left a few dozen, and of those he nurtured 11 (12 before Judas hung himself). My encouragement to others is to find the few. And through the few, you will find many.
What are you going to do about it now?