Scriptures: Mark 10:14, Matthew 16:14-16
I want to talk a little today about student ministries. I want to talk about our attitude toward student ministries and perhaps adjust our thinking a little toward it.
The Bible tells us of a time when young people came to Jesus to be blessed (Mark 10:13). The disciples rebuked those bringing the children to Jesus. Mark 10:14 says that Jesus was "much displeased" at this. The NIV says that Jesus became indignant. Jesus became angry when his people did not recognize the value of young people.
Mark 10:14 But when Jesus saw it, he was much displeased, and said unto them, Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God.
Jesus wanted them to come and he wanted to minister to them. The passage is interesting because it reveals the attitudes of adults toward young people. Often the attitude is don't bother us, but that was not the Lord's attitude. Adults see children. Jesus sees the kingdom. Adults often see something that bothers us and makes noise and interferes with what we want to do. Jesus sees the kingdom. The reason this upset the Lord was because his disciples were messing with his kingdom. They were hindering his kingdom. Please notice that Jesus did not say in Mark 10:14, "such will be the kingdom of God when they become adults." He said, "for of such is the kingdom of God." For such is the kingdom of God.
I am going to ask a question but I want to allow you time to ponder it for just a moment. The question is how many of us had our very first encounter with the Holy Spirit when we were children? When I say children, I mean before we were out of our teens. I know teens. You are not children, but suffer me a minute. When I say you had your first encounter with the Holy Spirit, I don't necessarily mean you began serving the Lord as was my situation. I didn't actually submit to the Lordship of Jesus Christ until I was twenty-eight, but I did have my first encounter with the Holy Spirit as a teen. How many of us experienced that? How many came to the Lord, or had your very first encounter with the Holy Spirit before you were out of your teens?
As we see, the largest evangelistic ministry that a church has is its student ministry. The student ministry reaches the age groups where most people encounter Jesus and the Holy Spirit for the first time. Jesus said to let the children come. This is the kingdom of God.
One of the most unmined kingdom resources in our churches today is our students. For such is the kingdom. One of the greatest untapped assets to church life is our students. For such is the kingdom. Our young people have within them vast resources and a vast ability to change our world. They have the ability to change lives today and continue changing lives for nearly a century in the future. If that potential is mined and those resources are brought to potential, can anyone imagine what could happen for the kingdom of God?
I want to talk today about the student ministry at Life Gate. I want you to know the vision behind our student ministry. I want all of us to be more aware of our students and the potential therein. I believe that if I share this correctly, you will be more supportive with your resources and prayer than ever of the student ministry at Life Gate. I simply want you to know what we are attempting to do for our children and I want you to support it even if you don't have any children or if your children are grown as are my children.
First, why should student ministry matter to all of us? Why should I take a Sunday and talk about this? Why should we even be concerned with that subject? Isn't a youth ministry simply something that baby sit our teenagers? Isn't it something that is suppose to keep them out of trouble? Isn't a student ministry supposed to fix everyone's kids? The answers to all those questions are "No!" Student ministries at Life Gate are to help our young people recognize Jesus so that Jesus can build upon their lives.
I want to use the Matthew 16 passage that Pastor Steve read. You are probably wondering how I am going to tie that passage in with the student ministry. It's simple when we see these dynamics.
The first dynamic is that Jesus is always asking who do we say he is.
Matthew 16:13 When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am?
One reason for that is because who we say he is will become what we tell everyone else he is. Whom we say he is becomes what we tell our children he is. There is as much confusion about who he is today as there was then. Some say . . .
Matthew 16:14 And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets.
Matthew 16:15 He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am?
We have a Baptist Jesus and a Methodist Jesus. We have a Pentecostal prophetic Jesus. We have a Church of God Jesus and a Life Gate Jesus. Jesus wants to know whom you say Jesus is? If we get it right, there is a blessing coming. Whom do your child or children or grandchildren say Jesus is?
The second dynamic is that Peter recognized the identity of Jesus. Some people get this right.
Matthew 16:16 And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.
Peter recognized that Jesus would be the Christ one day. One day Jesus would be the King of kings and the Lord of lords. One day, several thousand years from then, Jesus would be the Christ. Is that correct? Of course not. Peter recognized that Jesus was then the Christ, the Son of the living God! Jesus wasn't like John the Baptist or Elias or Jeremias or one of the prophets. There is not a Baptist Jesus and a Methodist Jesus or a Life Gate Jesus. There is only one Jesus Christ and he IS the Christ, the Son of the living God. Jesus IS the fulfillment of the word of God. Jesus IS the Messiah that Moses spoke about. Jesus IS the seed that crushed the head of the serpent. Jesus IS the light of the world. Peter recognized Jesus AS the mighty counselor, AS the Prince of peace, AS the mighty king. That is what Peter recognized.
We can shout and dance and get excited and say amen about that like we just did until we actually realize what that really means. If he is King of kings today then he has a kingdom today. If he is all of those things to me then he is not going to receive all power and a kingdom one day. He has it all today. Jesus is on the throne today hallelujah! Now, who do you say that he is? That is who Peter said he is. Whom do your children say he is? For such IS THE KINGDOM.
The third dynamic is the one I want to emphasize. Once Peter recognized Jesus as the Christ, the son of the living God, Jesus then specifically pointed Peter out from the disciples to bless him.
Matthew 16:17 And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.
Special blessings come when we recognize Jesus correctly. It takes a heavenly revelation, but when we get that revelation great things happen.
Matthew 16:18 And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
Matthew 16:19 And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.
It became possible for Jesus to tell Peter who he was after Peter recognized who Jesus is. The blessing that Jesus gave Peter was to tell Peter who Peter was.
I want us to see that once people know who they are they then have a life that can be built upon. Jesus said, "Peter, I will build on you." Once we teach people who they are, Jesus can build upon that life. We want to teach your children who they are. We want to help them understand who Jesus is and then help them hear from Jesus who they are. Upon a life like that, hell cannot prevail! That's what we want to do for your children. FOR SUCH IS THE KINGDOM.
Jesus could build upon Peter's life because Peter now knew his potential. Peter was a rock. Peter had gifts. Jesus would uncover those gifts. Jesus would invest into those gifts. Jesus would invest the keys of the kingdom into Peter and Peter's life would be powerful. Peter could stop things and start things. He could bind and loose because he knew who he was.
So, it's very important that we recognize Jesus. It's very important that our students recognize Jesus. It is very important that we know who we are. It's very important that our students recognize who they are. It is then all our lives can be something that can be built upon. It's important that our students recognize who they are if they will have lives that can be rocks in society and in the church.
To accomplish that, we need to invest into them. We must give them some keys. I thought about that this week. I wasn't raised in a student's ministry that did that for me. As I said earlier, it was during a time of student ministry that I experienced my very first encounter with Jesus and the Holy Spirit. As a teen, I went to a contemporary denominational church not far from my home. My parents didn't go, but I went. I had never witnessed a real move of the Holy Spirit of any kind. I was never told who Jesus really was. The things of the Spirit were foreign to me and to that church. Then one day, our church had a youth group from another city come and minister. I was about 17 years of age then. Nearly every one of us in our youth group encountered the Holy Spirit. It was then that I believe I first felt a call to the ministry. You can't forget when the Holy Spirit supernaturally moves upon an entire group of people like that. It was a powerful time and it happened because of student ministry.
It took more than a decade for me to move into that call to the ministry. Probably the reason that it took as long as it did was because I didn't have anyone to lead me in spiritual things. Allow me to explain. The people at that church were great people, but they had never been trained in the things of the Spirit. That church looked at student ministry as baby sitting teenagers and attempting to entertain us rather than train them. It didn't see the need to invest into the lives of teenagers. It didn't know how to invest into their lives. To them, a youth group was something that a church was supposed to do to occupy the time of young people. The way that youth group worked was first this person and then that person and then another person would "baby sit" us during our meetings. We didn't have anyone to teach us who Jesus really was and about the Holy Spirit because they didn't know. We didn't have anyone teach us about the deeper things of the Bible because they didn't know deeper things. We didn't have anyone to teach us about witnessing our faith or praying or ministering to people because that wasn't what those people did. No one helped me develop my spiritual gifts because they didn't know about spiritual gifts. But what if it had been a student ministry that trained me and invested into me? What could I have contributed to the kingdom? I had all this stuff in me then that I have today. I just didn't know who I was.
Life Gate's statement is "Reaching people and making them devoted followers of Jesus Christ." Included in that word "people" are students. Life Gate wants to reach students as well as adults. Students matter to God as much as adults matter to God. For such is the kingdom of God.
What is Life Gate's view of student ministries? How does it differ from the view of others? The difference can be explained by seeing the difference between a youth group and a student ministry. There is a difference.
A youth group is about young people gathering in a group. A student ministry is about students ministering.
A youth group is about activities - a bigger pizza party or swimming party than last year or than the church next door. It becomes an entertainment contest between churches. Actually, that is a destructive cycle because when our children become adults, their idea of a ministry for young people is an entertainment contest. At Life Gate, we see a student ministry is about training students to make a difference. A student ministry is about investing into students so they will minister to our region or wherever they go.
A youth group is about games. A student ministry is about worship.
A youth group is about hearing a voice. A student ministry is about being a voice.
A youth group is about a 4-year time span (short period). A student ministry is about investing for a life time.
A youth group is being a spectator. A student ministry is being a participator.
Now that you know the difference, let me ask two questions? How many of us grew up in a church that had a "youth group?" We were not trained to do the work of the ministry. We were supposed to hang out and be good. How many of us grew up in a church with a "student ministry?" That is a group where you were trained to minister. What if those of us that were not raised in a student's ministry had been? What could we have done for the kingdom? In which do you want your child or children or grand children?
We want to spot gifts in our students. When do we receive gifts from God? Is it when we are 21 years old or something like that? Or, are we born with gifts? Did God form me in my mother's womb with gifts? Or, did I suddenly get those gifts when I became twenty something years of age? The answer is obvious. The gifts of God are already in each of us. This is true with our children. We want to spot those gifts and help those gifts develop.
If there is leadership in your child, we want to spot that gift and encourage your child to develop that gift. See, I had leadership gifts in me as a teen, but I was in a youth group and not a student ministry. I didn't have anyone to spot my gifts and invest in my gifts and train my gifts. What if I had been in a student ministry where my gifts were identified and encouraged? Do we have any idea what our children can be if they are properly trained? Do you believe that your children can actually make a difference for God? I do. The expectation of God is for your child to use his or her gifts. When they do, God will bless their lives beyond belief.
High school students and teenagers are capable of unbelievable amounts of ministry and serving and love. Have you ever watched a high school student rally around a friend that is hurting? Watch your child the next time one of their friends parents go through a divorce. Watch your child become torn up when there is a tragedy going on with one of their friends. Adults "tippy toe" around things afraid to say or do anything. That's not true with students. They will hug each other and slobber on each other and cry with each other. They dive right in there. They attempt to give advice and help in any way possible. Often that advice is doctrinally incorrect, but they try. They throw themselves into loving and helping and serving. The reason I mention this is because students will touch lives. They will reach the lost and reach the hurting. Why not spot their gifts and train them in the work of the ministry? They will bring their friends and people into the kingdom.
Think about the potential. If all our children were well trained and properly invested into, what is the potential of their lives? It is incalculable the potential and the contribution into the kingdom they could make. They would have their roots deep in Jesus and would already be bearing fruit. They would know their gifts. They would already have ministry experience. They would know they can actually make a difference in a person's life. They would enter college, the work force, and marriage with all that ability. They would be contributors into the kingdom for the rest of their lives.
Here is what I want to say to all of us. Let's get our heads in the game. Let's realize that souls are at stake. Let's realize that gifts can be uncovered and trained. I want us all to be far more aware of our student ministry and its potential than ever before. I want you to get your children here when they have Shine. I want you to come up with the money when they want to go to summer camp or winter camp or go hang out together. We are training them. We are investing into them. We believe that your children can and will contribute to the kingdom.
All they need to know is who they are. Have you told them? We will tell them because once they are taught and told who they are, they will have lives that can be built upon. Jesus will build a church that the gates of hell cannot prevail against. The potential is endless.