The Truth of Who God Is

truth_websiteI believe the basis of our Christian faith relies on two questions… “Who is God” and “What is truth?”  Yes, our faith is based on a personal relationship with Jesus Christ – believing that He died and rose again for our sins – but until we can answer these two questions from a Biblical perspective, it is impossible for us to experience an authentic relationship with Christ.  God and truth have become relative in today’s society.  In other words, we have created our own gods and designed our own truth.

About a year ago I surveyed a group of high school students in preparation for a series we were doing.  I found that our lack of understanding of who God is and what is truly true has tainted our view of Christianity itself.  Today’s younger generations use words like awesome, amazing, and big to describe God.  Is that seriously all God is to us?

We have not completely thrown out words like holy, just, gracious, and sovereign to describe God, but much of Christianity today does not fully understand God’s true character.  We do not spend time with Him, so we do not know who He truly is.  Today’s teens spend hours upon hours playing video games, stalking friends on Facebook, watching YouTube videos, and playing sports, yet they lack the desire or passion to get to know who God truly is.

A true understanding of an authentic relationship with Jesus Christ must begin with a grasp of who God is!  Anyone of us can say we “know” someone.  But do we really know them?  Could we call them up and be like… “Hey bro…let’s go to the movies.”  Name a professional baseball player and I could tell you who they play for and what position they play (I dare you to test me on that one.)  But I cannot think of one baseball player that I know well enough to invite over to my house for dinner.  For many of us, it is the exact same scenario when it comes to knowing God.  We think we know Him, but reality is we only know something about Him that we heard in Sunday School or on TV.

Do you really know God?  Can you describe and explain how you have experienced His holiness?  Do you comprehend and grasp the vastness of His unconditional love?  Do you fear and stand in awe of His power and majesty?  Do you trust in His sovereignty?  Finally, can you call God up and be like… “Hey God…thanks for being my Father, my Comforter, my Helper, my Friend, and my Savior!”

This leads to the second question… What is truth?  Our society has absolutely destroyed the definition of truth!  Public Education provides the view that everybody can have his or her own view on life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  Our teenagers are flooded with views of coexisting, scientology, and evolution.  They are encouraged to come up with their own views on how life begin and their purpose for living each day.  Today’s family is destroying the sanctity of life and annihilating God’s purpose of marriage…ultimately attempting to defeat truth.  There is a famous question that stands like an elephant in the room of our schools, families, and even student ministries… “Is truth relative?”

Our overwhelming response must be… “NO!!!”  We all know the words of Jesus in which He says, “I am the way, THE TRUTH, and the life…” He does not say I am A truth, instead Jesus says, “I am THE truth!”  One of the overwhelming responses within the survey I did with high school students was that truth is simply “not lying.”  I believe truth goes way beyond not telling a lie.  It is living a life of Biblical integrity and Christlike character.  It is living out our authentic relationship with Jesus Christ on a daily basis.  We must not avoid the truth God has placed before us in His Word.  As much as we would like it to be, truth is not relative.  Truth is not about accepting the lies of the world as other people’s truths.  Instead, it is about sharing the story of who God is with the world.  The one aspect we must not leave out though is love!  We must display humility, love, compassion, and forgiveness while sharing truth with those we come in contact with!

My prayer is that I never lose sight of who God truly is and what is truly true and really real!  As Autumn and I continue living out exactly what God has for us, my prayer is that our kiddos see the truth of who God is shining in and through our every word and action.  God has given me the responsibility and opportunity to share truth with students every day!  I pray we begin seeing a generation that not only understands who God is on a personal level, but are also not afraid to stand for the truth of His Word!

What are you doing to instill the truth of God’s Word and a relationship with Him into your daily life and into your ministry?

Attractive Christ Centered Student Ministry

I remember the first time I laid eyes on my wife…  It was exactly 11 years ago tomorrow, at a student ministry New Year’s Eve party.  There she was – blonde hair, blue eyes, bubbly personality, athletic, and a great family!  At least for me, there was an instant attraction that made me want to come back for more!  Now to be totally honest, she would tell you a completely different story.  She saw a cocky college kid who had a weird eye.  While there was not much of an attractional appeal on her end, she was nice enough to at least give me the time of day.

After I moved from Michigan to Florida, I made my first big move and asked Autumn out on a date. Again, she didn’t see it as a date, but a friendly dinner and game of putt-putt golf.  We spent several hours that evening talking about life, family, movies, sports, and more!  She became more and more attractive every time we got together, and yes, she even began falling for me lol!

Although my wife is the hottest woman on the planet, the friendship I have with her is far more attractive than the blonde hair or blue eyes.  The relationship we have may not always be perfect, but I know she is there for me at all times – no matter how good I am at something or how many times I fail.  She is there to love me, pray for me, pick me up, and kick me in the butt when necessary.  Now that is attractive!

“The Google” defines attractive as ‘pleasing or appealing to the senses…’  Too often I believe churches look at student ministry as an avenue of appealing devices, lights, sounds, food, and more!  In other words… if we have the loudest, rockiest band, the biggest light show, the craziest leaders, the best coffee and pizza, the wildest games and events, and the most emotionally attractive message we will draw hundreds, if not thousands of students to our location!  While that may be true, what is it actually accomplishing?  What are we truly drawing those students to? Are we just filling seats with crazy middle and high school students, or are truly seeing lives impacted for the cause of Christ?  What type of life journey are we taking those students on?  Is Christ at the center of everything we do and say, or is he sitting in the back row watching from a distance?

Now please hear me out for a minute… I believe in attractional ministry.  I love loud worship, crazy light shows, insanely wild leaders, and yes… we even serve coffee and pizza every Wednesday night!  But our focus is on sharing Christ through intentional conversations, relationships, message, and worship.  I am not nearly concerned as much with our worship set or service structure as I am with the amount of time and energy our leaders are pouring into their own personal relationships with Christ.  I am more concerned about how much time our small group leaders and speakers are spending in prayer and spiritual preparation than I am about whether or not they follow the exact list of questions given to them ahead of time.  

As leaders, we must rely on the direction of the Holy Spirit – within every individual conversation and overall service.  Our students must experience the love and compassion of Christ, while being challenged with the truths of God’s Word and what it means to have a relationship with Him.  Music will impact people, but it alone cannot eternally change lives.  Food will draw students, especially if it is free, but it will most likely not be the turning point in somebody accepting Christ as their personal Savior.  The moment the crazy, insane middle school leader gets a student to eat a blended McDonald’s Happy Meal will most likely not be the turning point that causes somebody to see their need for a Savior.

While creating a program or service that is culturally attractive for our students, we must never miss our purpose in carrying out the ministry God has called us to…creating a space for students to experience Jesus Christ!  Just like it is the relationship I have with my wife that makes her most attractive, it must be the relationship one can have with Jesus Christ that makes our ministries so attractive!  My prayer is that we have students returning each and every week because of their desire to become more like Christ.

Here are a few questions to ask yourself and your leadership team in regards to an Attractive Christ Centered Student Ministry…

  • What are the main reasons students attend your student ministry?
  • Have you defined and communicated the vision to your entire leadership team?
  • How much time do you and your leadership teams spend in prayer before every service or event?
  • What are you doing to encourage and help hold accountable the spiritual growth of your leaders?
  • Is there more time spent on the logistics of the service than on intentional relationships amongst students and leaders?
  • Do you and your leaders display the same amount of intentionality and passion during the message and small groups as they do during game time and worship?
  • Do you spend more time researching the latest craziest games or on studying how to clearly teach the truth and love of God’s Word to students?

Creating a Discipling Culture Within Student Ministry

I have spent the last several months going through an in-depth study on the book of Acts, while also speaking to our students from the Gospel of John every Wednesday night.  God has challenged and restructured my view of spiritual formation more than I could ever imagine.  Most of the time and energy I have spent developing spiritual formation programs has been in the context of coaching and mentoring, but very rarely have I focused deeply on true discipleship.  Coaching can be expressed through talent and skill development.  Mentoring will take coaching to a deeper level relationally and may involve training on goal-setting and basic life application.  A good mentor will often speak wisdom into their students’ life, but they may never reach a level of deep, intimate challenge based on Scripture.

As Christians we are called to be disciples – true, authentic followers of Christ.  We are not only called to a life based on skill and knowledge, but rather a life focused on living every second for Christ!  A discipling culture will always take coaching and mentoring to a level of Christ-like intimacy.  In Luke 9 and Luke 14, Jesus describes the expectations that come with discipleship.  We must first prioritize the cross of Christ above everything else – above every human relationship, every talent and ability, and everything we either have or don’t have.  Being a disciple is all about following Jesus.  Choosing to continue to follow Jesus when the coaches are gone and the mentors have left.  Following Jesus isn’t about belonging to a club or a group.  It begins with a passionate ‘at once’ followed by a series of mistakes, failures, questions, and most of all a committed focus on becoming more like Christ everyday!

There is a much deeper cost in discipleship as well.  If you desire to become a professional athlete, it takes total commitment, total dedication, tons of time, energy, and money.  As a general contractor, if you were to build something, you must sit down and think through whether or not you want to give all that you have into what you are building.  The same is true with our relationship with Christ – We must count the cost to follow Him – we could lose everything.  It may cost you friends, relationships, popularity, and opportunities to have the spotlight put on you.

Are you willing to give everything up for Christ?  Material fades away. As time goes on things get rusty, brake, and you have to replace them. Cars, houses, the latest fad all fade but NOT Jesus. His love endures forever. His kingdom will never end.

True discipleship also provides us the ability to live with a purpose that goes far beyond anything we could ever imagine!  In his book, Purpose Driven Life, Rick Warren says “It’s not about you.  The purpose of your life is far greater than your own personal fulfillment, your peace of mind, or even your happiness . . . If you want to know why you were placed on this planet, you must begin with God. You were born by his purpose and for his purpose.”  

A true follower of Christ has purpose that goes beyond themselves, beyond scoring the winning touchdown, beyond being the most popular student in their class, and beyond getting straight A’s.  While all of those things can help fulfill our purpose in Christ, it must not become the central focus.

I recently came across an article by Greg Laurie.  In it he writes this… “While every disciple is a believer, not every believer is necessarily a disciple.  Many may think that the term disciple refers only to the early followers of Christ. We know that they were a praying, worshipping, loving, giving, and evangelizing group of men and women who refused to keep the truth of the gospel to themselves. Yet, God still desires disciples today – ordinary people like you and me whom God can use to do extraordinary things.  The Christian experience of the believers in the first-century church may seem radical to many in the church today, but to those early believers, it was normal Christianity. And these men and women, empowered and motivated by the Holy Spirit, turned their world upside down for the sake of Christ. In short, they were true disciples of Jesus Christ.”

My desire is to see our students turn their schools, their sports team, their communities, and even their families upside down for Christ!  My prayer is that we see a generation rise up that is in love with God’s Word and is passionately on fire for Jesus Christ!  I don’t see this happening through a skill-based coaching program or through the knowledge and love of a mentor, but I do see it taking place through the invitation and challenge of a discipling culture!

While I do not have all of the answers, I have seen the impact a discipling culture can have on a student ministry.  When students live out what it means to be true disciples of Christ, a revolution takes place, spiritual and numerical growth occurs, and most importantly, lives are radically transformed for the cause of Christ!

As we seek to build a Christ Centered Student Ministry, our spiritual formation must take place through true, authentic discipleship.  Through conversation, community, seeking the Holy Spirit, and studying Scripture my goal over the next weeks, months, and years is to layout what it looks like to create a discipling culture within student ministry.

I would love to hear your feedback.  What are you doing that is working?  Where are you struggling when it comes to spiritual formation within student ministry?