From Milk to Meat
I don’t know what it’s like to be saved. Nor do I know what it’s like to be discipled.
Shocked? Let me explain for those of you who took me too literally. As for the saved part, this past weekend our youth ministry held a Disciple-Now weekend, an in-town retreat, for our students. We talked about fears and how God conquers all fear. During the weekend, two students who had never come before came to know the Lord. In our girls’ small group session that night my fellow leader asked the girls if they felt different, to which both nodded their heads quickly. Then I realized it. I don’t know what it’s like to be saved, or should I say, to feel that difference. I got saved at a young age and am blessed to be part of a very strong Christian family who loves me and who loves God. They are going through something that I was much to young to remember. The difference for them is, I’m sure, much more drastic.
Secondly, I don’t know what it’s like to be discipled. Don’t make the mistake of taking that too literally either. I was certainly discipled by a great many people in my life. Most of all by my family from day one, and also by my youth pastor and his wife, among others, who are currently serving in Red Lion, PA (thank you Dave and Margo for pouring so much of yourselves into me!). But just as I was saved at a young age, so was I discipled. My first response this weekend was to celebrate with the girls this weekend. We went back to our host homes and had Little Debbie cakes for their spiritual birthday even! But immediately afterwards my mind began to explore comes next. These girls live very hard lives and don’t have families that show them love like mine does. They don’t have a strong foundation at home or strong friends at school. They are going to have to fight to be strong in their faith differently than I ever had to.
Why do I even bring this story up? First of all, I want to make it clear that it is definitely not to brag. I bring it up for two reasons. First, I want to congratulate all of you that are making a difference in students’ lives. Too often we hear negative words about what we’re doing wrong instead of getting to celebrating the wins God allows us to be a part of. So go ahead and celebrate when our spiritual family grows! Purchase a cake and have a party. Go ahead, jump for joy when a student brings their Bible to school to the point that it makes their parents worry about their safety (that actually happened to one of our young students, so we got him a smaller Bible). Shout for joy when one of our students leads a friend to Christ. There is so much to be glad over in our line of work and we need to learn to celebrate those things and make them a big deal.
Secondly, I want to encourage each of us to be intentional about discipling our students, especially the babies. I am not an expert at this by any means. I have some schooling and some common sense, but this is probably my first time practicing it. With that said, here are three simple suggestions to get started with:
1. Get them a Bible. This should always be the first step for a baby Christian. Get them a Bible that is easy to understand. Start them with John.. and explain what the books, chapters, and verses are in Scripture. I say this because we can so easily take for granted what is to us common knowledge. I don’t remember not knowing that the book of John was a book in the Bible, not a separate book. Those that haven’t been blessed to grow up in a Christian home may not know this. Christian living books are great reads too but the Bible should always be the foundation. Isn’t it better to first be reading from what God has to say rather than from what man has to say about what God is saying?
2. Get them a journal and encourage them to ask questions. One of the hardest things for a new Christian might be as simple as not knowing how to pray. How often have you heard people ask how to start or say they don’t know how when they pray to ask Jesus to save them? More than not. Maybe one of the easiest ways for them to learn is to explain how it’s just as easy as talking to you or me, explain how God’s Spirit intercedes for us when we don’t have words to say (Romans 8), and get them a journal to write to God. They are also going to have a lot of questions that we may not think to forewarn them about. Journaling could be useful for both of these reasons and more. They can write down questions from reading their Bible to ask you later, they can use it as a prayer journal as they explore what it’s like to communicate with God, and they can express how their feeling now that their life is completely different and will certainly face opposition from those around them.
3. Teach them the basics. I mean two things by basics. First of all, the basics of Scripture. They won’t be able to read the Bible from cover to cover overnight. So do your best to sum it up for them as they begin to explore the Scriptures for themselves. Teach them how God created the world in 6 days and rested on the seventh, give them an overview of Israel’s history touching on the well-known stories, explain books like Psalms and Proverbs, share about Christ’s life, death, and resurrection, explain how the Church was born and spread, and tell them how in the end God wins! The second thing I mean is the basics of Christian living. This could be a wide range of things and may vary from person to person, but quite simply I mean spiritual disciplines. The more you discipline yourself spiritually, the closer you are to God; the closer you are to God, the easier it becomes to love Him and love others. Everything else falls into place:
One of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And He said to him, “ ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:35-40, NASB)
Just like with a newborn baby, the first days and weeks of a newborn Christian are crucial. That is the hardest part of doing short-term missions: getting them plugged in to a local church where the gospel will be preached and they will be discipled. You have not choice but to entrust them into others’ hands. But praise God for the students you get to lead to Christ in your homes, because then you can make sure they are being discipled! I beg you not to drop the ball on this one thing. The enemy will be putting his best foot forward to thwart us in this, and we must fight back. We need to be there for our students. We are not called to simply lead others into our Family; we are called to go and make disciples (Matthew 28:18-19). If all we do is lead them to the Lord, we are not fulfilling the Great Commission. Our lives revolve around this mission; don’t fail here.
Posted on October 5, 2011, in Leadership, Spiritual Disciplines and tagged Christianity, Church, Church Ministry, Discipleship, Family Ministry, Pastor, Religion, Student Ministry, Youth Ministry, Youth Pastor, Youth Work. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.