The Future of the Church Isn’t Our Youth…

1205206_64700205It’s been pretty customary to hear for years this phrase, “The youth are the future of the church”. And I certainly understand and agree with the sentiments behind that statement. But it’s actually a bit misleading on two fronts.

First, the youth aren’t the future of the church…they are the church now. Since when are committed followers of Jesus not fully functional members of the church family? Being part of the church is about a decision to follow Jesus together, not about your age, stage, or whether you are out of high school or not. If you are a follower of Jesus, you are not the future of the church, you are the church. Period.

Secondly, this statement “the youth are the future of the church” is misleading in a much more subtle, and dangerous way. Because the way this phrase functions is to assume that the youth are the guarantee of the future of the church. That if we lose the youth, the church’s future is in danger. So we must pour money, time, and effort into developing the best and most current youth ministries.

But this is wrong for two reasons. First, it distances us from the youth themselves. Rather than being persons to be loved, they become a means to what we want (a church in the future). And secondly, and most dangerously, this idea is actually idolatry.

Let me be clear about why this idea of “youth being the future of the church” is idolatry. Because the future of the church is not guaranteed by getting youth to come to church, it is guaranteed by Jesus Christ. The sustaining and growing of the church is not dependent on wonderful youth ministries, but on the faithfulness of Jesus Christ to his bride. And while in some ways this point can seem like semantics, it’s actually important because it’s about priorities.

If we assume that “youth are the future” of the church, we can mistakenly forget that the most important thing isn’t getting youth to come to church, but for all of us to come to Jesus. If anything supplants Jesus from the centre of our thought and practice, we will go off course. Youth ministry is absolutely important (I was a youth pastor for 8 years), but it is not primary. Jesus is at the centre and primary. And whenever anything good, like youth ministry, being missional, family ministry, or any other new thing, pushes Jesus to periphery and takes centre stage we’ve missed the point.

Bonhoeffer puts it this way.

The future of the church is not youth itself but rather the Lord Jesus Christ. It is the task of youth not to reshape the church, but rather to listen to the Word of God; it is the task of the church not to capture the youth, but to teach and proclaim the Word of God.

This is what I mean by priorities. We need to first be centred first on Jesus, and not anything else. It is so easy for the desire to have a cool youth ministry, a missionally based church, or any other desire to move Jesus from the centre. This is what we must guard against, if we want to see the future of the church come to pass. Of course youth ministry, being missional, and relevant are all good things. All I’m saying is that they shouldn’t push aside the best and most important thing – a person – Jesus Christ.

Advent Reflection: Worshipping Jesus during Christmas

1371540_95553958On Sunday we looked at one last response to Jesus. We’ve already looked at how we wait for Jesus’ arrival, we are to respond with willingness when he shows up, and yesterday we saw how we are to respond with worship.

We looked at the story of the wisemen or the magi. In it they do something remarkable. They actually fall at Jesus’ feet and worship him when they find him. This is quite amazing because these are professional men, these are wealthy men, these are probably powerful men. And their response to a little boy in a hovel of a town, in the shadow of Herod’s third largest temple, fall on their face in adoration.

This is the response that we are to have towards Jesus Christ when we enter into his presence. We are to adore him. The magi do not fall at the feet of Jesus because of what he has done for them. They do not fall at his feet out of gratitude, because Jesus hasn’t done anything for them at all. They fall at his feet because of who he is. And this is a central part of worship. We need to worship Jesus not just for the good things he does for us, but we need to worship him for who he is.

Because he is King.

Because he is Good.

Because he is the Messiah.

Because he is God.

So we landed on one question from this story. When was the last time you worshipped Jesus like the wisemen did? When was the last time you entered into Jesus’ presence, fell at his feet and really worshipped him?

I think this is an important question because Christmas is to be about Jesus. And if we want to put Jesus at the centre it means to focus on him and worship him. I know when I asked that question, that for me, it’s been too long since I’ve just worshipped Jesus.

So we left with this challenge for this week: Christmas will soon be here, so find time to worship Jesus fully this week. Carve out time to worship him. For you that might be painting, walking, praying, singing, dancing, sitting silently, writing or whatever else. The point isn’t how you worship Jesus, but an invitation to actually do it. So Christmas is here in a few days so why not take up that challenge. If we truly want to bring Christ back into Christmas I think it begins with bringing him back in our lives with a focus on worshipping and adoring him. Because he does deserve it.

Sermon Notes:

Big Idea: We need to worship Jesus fully

Take Aways…

  • Advent should be a season of worship
  • They “Fell down before him and worshipped him”
  • To be prostrate is to be in a position of submission
  • The magi fall at Jesus’ feet out of adoration
  • Adoration differs from other forms of worship such as supplication (asking for things), confession of sins, and offering thanks, inasmuch as it consists in devout recognition of God’s transcendent excellence – Catholic Encylcopedia
  • We need to worship Jesus fully
  • Our response to Jesus in this season, needs to be to worship him fully.
  • When was the last time you came into Jesus’ presence and fell at his feet like the Wisemen?

Adult / Group Discussion Questions: What stuck out to you from the sermon? What was challenging to you? How did God speak to you through it? What was new?

Think through this advent season and simply reflect on where your focus has been. Has it been on Jesus or other things? How can you shift your focus to Jesus this week? When was the last time you worshipped Jesus like the wisemen? How might you worship Jesus fully this week? What activities or practices draw you closer to him? Set aside some time this week to spend with Jesus.

Discussion Questions for Young Families: Talk to your kids about the real reason about Christmas – how it’s about Jesus. Talk to them that its about worshipping him. Ask them how they might want to do that. Maybe they want to dance, maybe they want to give some of their toys to others, maybe they want to draw a picture and talk with Jesus. Whatever it may be why not actually do it with them.

Challenge for this Week Worship: Jesus fully this week

Advent Reflection: Where’s Your Focus?

1373026_24335944On Sunday we are looking at one last response to Jesus in this season of Advent. We’ve already looked at waiting, and being willing to follow and on Sunday we are looking at worshipping. We will be looking at the story of the three Wisemen and their response to Jesus. We’ll be covering a lot of territory including a fight I had with sequined shorts trainer Richard Simmons…not once but twice, the meaning of adoration, and what Christmas is all about. But this post isn’t about Richard Simmons but about Jesus.

So the point is this: Christmas should be about Jesus, so why not make it about Jesus? Why wait till we talk about worship on Sunday, why not find ways to worship Jesus today? Why not make him your focus right here and right now?

If we truly want to bring Jesus back into Christmas I think it begins by bringing him back into our lives. The wisemen’s first reaction and response to Jesus is to fall at his feet in worship, and I think we can learn a lot from that. I think what we can learn is to follow in their example. I know, for me personally, I think about Jesus a lot, I talk to him a lot, I spend time learning about him a lot, but I’m not sure I could say I worship him a lot.

For me this realization isn’t something to feel guilty about, it’s simply something to change. So that’s what I’m going to try to do today – I’m going to try to worship Jesus as fully as I can.

What about you? How can you focus on Jesus and worship him today?

Its a good question to think about, but it’s an even better question to act on.

 

Asher in The Dishwasher and its Spiritual Ties

IMG_3171My little boy is scary fast. I mean this in all honesty; you’d think with such short legs it would take him forever to get anywhere…but no. In a few seconds of your back turned he can be up the stairs and into the bathroom. In essence, he ends up in all sorts of situations so quickly. Twice in the past week my oldest son, Hudson, who is three, has yelled, “Daddy come see something crazy, look where Asher is”.

And I’ve discovered him in these two places: the dishwasher, and our Tupperware drawer. I, of course, took pictures.

But it’s amazing with a little lapsed focus, where IMG_3151this little man can get to. In almost no time he’s into something that might not be healthy or good. You really have to keep an eye on him. And that’s not a bad thing, it’s just a real life thing.

And I know this might be a bit of a stretch but I think it’s same with our spiritual lives. I think that if we don’t spend regular time in reflection and paying attention to our spiritual lives, they can end up in places we wouldn’t have dreamed so quickly. Things can be going well, but we aren’t paying attention, we aren’t reflecting and focusing, and all of a sudden we end up in a dishwasher, stuck in a drawer, or worse, stuck in a moral failure, a moment of weakness, a mistake that takes years to rebuild.

The point is that we don’t often go from making good decisions to really really bad ones. We often, instead, go from making good decisions to forgetting to think about decisions, to bring God into our choices, to reflect on how God has or hasn’t been active in our lives.

The main point is this: when we forget to pay attention to what’s important, it’s only a matter of time before trouble comes. This is the same thing with my son, but it’s also the same thing with my relationship with God, my wife, and my character. When I stop paying attention to Jesus, my wife, or my character, it’s only a matter of time before something slides and trouble comes.

So my challenge to you today is this: pay attention to what matters. Spend time reflecting on your relationship with God this week. Ask yourself where he has been active, when you’ve felt distant from him, and what you can learn from this. Pay attention to your important relationships; friends, family, or spouse. In essence, just be alert to all that’s going on around you.

And that’s it for me today, because I gotta go.  Asher is trying to climb into the washing machine 🙂