From grade-school courses to the Olympic games, personal performance is measured and identified as a success or failure. These terms have set standards in our society that cause us to modify our behavior.
Of course, many of us make these modifications to increase our odds of success. However, if you’re like me, a fear of failure is the greater motivation. The reason being, success is often linked to strength while failure is viewed as weakness. This perspective also affects the Christian faith.
The Apostle Paul has long been viewed as “…The Christian of all Christians” – a man bent on following Christ, allowing nothing to stand in his way (Phil. 3:8-10). Today, many believers who read Paul’s story consider his effort toward being that type of follower, successful. His success in furthering the gospel from conversion until his final days, is inspiring and even goal worthy. Be that as it may, Paul was no stranger to weakness.
In addition to numerous obstacles, Paul had a hurdle that he was unable to overcome. In 2 Corinthians 12:7-8, the apostle writes about a thorn of the flesh being given to him so that he would not become conceited. We don’t have enough information to know exactly what this “thorn” was. What we do know is that Paul begged The Lord three times to remove it. In verse nine, God responds to his requests, “…My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
Paul goes on to boast in his weakness for the sake of Christ. Verse ten emphasizes the importance of a proper perspective of weakness.
“…For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
Regardless of where you’re at in life or what goals you’re pursuing, let me encourage you – boast in your weakness. If you’re a follower of Christ, work hard at any and everything you do. Yet, be mindful of where your strength is coming from.
Studies have long shown the most active age-group in the church are teenagers/students. Think about it, with their summers full of camps/mission trips, and school years full of retreats and bi-weekly services, it’s not hard to see why that is. These valuable years before college, marriages, children, and mortgages are spent developing deep, faith-based relationships and learning more of God’s heart through His Word.
Alarmingly, however, studies also show that the most inactive group in the church are young adults from 18-29. There is a MASSIVE spiritual drop off rate once our students head to college, and we have to ask ourselves - why?
There are clearly many factors – cultural disconnect, new-found freedom, or even just misplaced priorities that make it easy with their busy schedules to justify sleeping in on Sundays…
But one of the BIGGEST reasons our students fall away from the church is that they are put out in a pluralistic world and immediately confronted with a barrage of ideologies and questions they have never faced.
Many of these questions are deeply theological, personal, and tricky to navigate. Having our faith fundamentally challenged without appropriate preparation can feel like going to the Olympics without a coach or any national support. The temptation can be to just give up, and statistics are showing that’s what many choose to do.
To combat this, we will be taking our high school students to the Lead Defend Conference in Conway on March 3rd. We want to ensure that we are equipping our students with the practical tools needed to handle thinking and conversing through deeply polarizing issues. Our desire is for our students to confidently and securely know how to make a stand for Christ in the face of opposition.
My prayer for this conference is that as our students learn to seek deeper matters of faith, they find joy and more joy as they encounter the heart of He who is Truth, and that they feel strengthened in confidence as they go forth to proclaim His name.
Nic Miner here, and welcome to the first ever First Students blog! As a team, we are always looking for ways to better communicate with and equip the parents and students involved in our ministry. We feel like our monthly newsletter, LIFE Group announcements, and website do a good job of communicating WHAT we are doing, but not necessarily HOW we are doing. So, if you are interested, we decided to create a weekly blog of mission reports, thoughts (and maybe sometimes rants), and encouragement from your favorite student ministry team.
I listened to a podcast a few weeks ago featuring a group of guys that I don’t typically agree with (I find this good practice for critical thinking). As I listened, these church leaders attempted to make the case that it is irresponsible for student pastors to encourage their students to evangelize and invite their friends to church, citing that students need to focus on their own Christian walk before they start worrying about the unreached. In their view, asking students to evangelize is too much, because we are putting the burden of their friend’s eternity on their shoulders. They even went as far to say that the Great Commission in Matthew 28:18-20 was only given to the disciples, not Christians today.
I’m still appalled.
It is very dangerous to teach that someone needs to be good enough, know enough, or be a certain age before they are qualified to share the gospel. The reality is that evangelism and discipleship can never be separated, they are forever linked. Matthew 28:19-20 reads:
“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” ESV
The command here is to go and make disciples. How? By baptizing and teaching people to do what Jesus said. This includes teaching people Jesus’ command to go and make disciples! Jesus set up a brilliant system of replication: disciples, who make disciples, who make disciples, who make disciples…….
Super Sunday is one of our events that is focused heavily on outreach. Students are able to bring their friends to a fun, relaxed environment where they are able to experience Christian fellowship and hear the gospel. With countless invites, numerous guests, and two salvations the work of our students will echo in eternity. I could not be more proud of our students.
2 Corinthians 5:18-20 says:
“All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us.” ESV
Let’s continue to teach and encourage our students to be ambassadors for Christ.
Mission Reports, observations, and encouragement from your favorite Student Ministry Team.