It’s taken a little while, but you have arrived at the final post in this series. If you’re finding this for the first time, you can start the series here.
The last quality students said they appreciated about my time with them was that I did not sugar coat the truth. I told them the truth in love, but I told them the truth. I wasn’t angry, I didn’t scream ( I yelled, a little) and I wasn’t mean; I simply told them what the scriptures said and allowed the Holy Spirit to do His work.
I didn’t hold back when it came to three areas.
I told them the truth about Jesus
It’s not in vogue to be detailed about what Jesus did for us. I have zero issues with talking about Jesus’s suffering, the shedding of His blood and His brutal death. If students are to understand he extend of Jesus’ love for them, they have to know what He was willing to go through for them.
I didn’t stop there, I always mention Jesus’ resurrection. The most glorious part of Jesus’ death was His victory over it. Jesus defeating death sent the messages that we also would conquer death. Students need to know that we follow a living, conquering Savior, not just suffering one. They need the hope that they follow a living Savior ever interceding for them. God wants them to win.
Student need the whole truth about Jesus, his life, death, and resurrection, if they are to have any hope in this life or the next.
I told them the truth about discipleship
Believing in God is easy, following Jesus is hard. I never stopped at having students praying a prayer. In fact, I quit asking students to pray simplistic prayers and asked them if they wanted to follow Jesus. The truth is, a prayer is only the begging but too many people treat it as the end.
I made sure students knew there was more, another step and I programmed our ministry that allowed them to take the net step. I went so far as to cancel our youth meetings for three months at a time so we could go into our communities and reach people and meet needs. I detail all this in my book The Disciple Project.
Jesus didn’t exactly make the onramp process of following Him very easy,
Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life[a] will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul? Matthew 16:24-26
Now when Jesus saw a crowd around him, he gave orders to go over to the other side. And a scribe came up and said to him, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.” And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” Another of the disciples said to him, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” And Jesus said to him, “Follow me, and leave the dead to bury their own dead.” Matthew 8:18-22
I didn’t make it impossible for kids to follow Jesus, but I didn’t switch the price tags either. I told them what it meant and what it would cost them. The call to follow is not a one time thing, but continuous through out our lives. Maybe this is why Jesus went after to Peter after he denied him, to show him his calling was forever and not just for the moment.
I told them the truth about the church
I told them they were the church, often. I called them the Body of Christ, God hands and feet, the light of the world and the salt of the earth. I dd not call them the church youth group, we were called LIFT but that was not their true identity.
I wanted them to know if they were a follower of Jesus they were a part of His body and had a responsibility to their brothers and sisters in Christ.
Church is not some place we show up to play games occasionally, church is who we are. We bear the marks of Christ on our hearts and wherever we go we carry his mission of ministering to and loving others with us.
Students can join any club they like, but their identity is not in the Spanish Club, the Key Club or in their sports team. Not their true selves. No student, a year after high school says, “I am a representative of the Spanish club and the values they taught me.” Clubs only go so deep.
A students identity is not even connected with any particular body of believers or denomination. I let students know that wherever they go, even if they left our youth services, if they had made a commitment to Christ, their identity is still in Christ.
Jesus did not sugar coat the truth to those who followed Him or to those who opposed Him. We owe our students the truth in love accompanied by a youth program they can practice living that truth in addition to our unwavering, unconditional love when they do not live up to it.
Truth is revealed, never forced.
If you’re interested, here are a few of the other series I have written,