One of the foundational pillars in my philosophy of ministry is the priority of grace. I’ve written before about how my time at Covenant Seminary in St. Louis helped formulate this conviction in me, and now the idea that grace alone can change a sinful heart probably leaves a stamp on every sermon that I preach, and every day that I live in ministry – or at least I hope it does! During the Gospel Coalition 2009 National Conference, right before graduating from Covenant, I remember a second pillar in my philosophy of ministry being kindled as I listened to Tim Keller’s talk The Grand Demythologizer: The Gospel and Idolatry. I’ll never forget listening to his last sentence – “do you know how to take the gospel to the idols?” – and thinking afterwards, “I can never preach or think about ministry in the same away again after hearing this – understanding idols will transform my preaching as much as learning about grace at Covenant Seminary.”
The other night, in the midst of an evening of thinking about my ministry here and wrestling with God a little bit in prayer, I stumbled upon John Piper’s recent interview of Louis Giglio and God struck me with something that’s been revolving around in my heart ever since. Throughout late high school and college I was fairly involved in going to Passion concerts, 722 events, and the 2000 OneDay in Texas, so I’ve benefited a ton from Louie’s ministry, and I’ve been familiar with some of the main themes of his teaching. But I was really struck afresh by Louie’s discussion of the glory of God as one of his central ministry pillars. As I was listening, I realized, this is a missing pillar in my philosophy of ministry. I’ve emphasized grace, I’ve even emphasized grace vs. idols, but I’ve not done so against a backdrop of the infinite weight and majesty of God (or at least as well as I could have). Of course I’ve always believed it. But it hasn’t wiggled its way down into the core of how I operate, such that I see on every page of the Bible and it leaks out in every sermon, every counseling session, every pastoral moment. I’ve emphasized the sweetness of the gospel but not always its grandeur. I’ve pointed students to the comfort and forgiveness of Christ, but not always to his enthralling worth and majesty, and his claim on our lives. I want to grow in seeing for myself, and helping others see, that the gospel invites us to continually sacrifice ourselves to His cause, His fame, His renown – and that doing so is life.
I’d just been praying recently, “God, what is your passion and heart for our youth ministry’s future?” and didn’t feel as if I’d received an answer yet. This was the answer. God’s passion for our youth ministry is that it would be aflame with students who are living for his glory alone. Students whose daily bread is to see His name and His renown advanced in their schools and communities. Students who want to raise a banner for Christ in their generation all across the San Gabriel Valley. I know this can happen, even with teenagers, because I’ve seen it at passion concerts through Louie’s ministry in the past. I also saw it on a smaller scale at various times in my youth group back in Augusta. Oh, that it would happen here.
Seeing afresh God’s heart for our youth ministry is so refreshing and clarifying. Thank you God for helping us see the target. Help us to aim for it with wisdom, and pull the trigger with courage. Be glorified in our midst, Living God.
As I was walking home today from Starbucks thinking about this, I felt this unbelievable weight, like, “wow, its real. God really is there, and He is big enough to live for.” I also felt a rush of courage. If this is what we’re fighting for, what can stop us?