A wise young woman once said to me, ”Don’t stifle your personal religious experience just because other people are watching.” Actually, this wise young woman happens to be the 17 year-old girl that I disciple weekly. Just a few days ago we were finishing up our weekly meeting in Starbucks when the Lord led me to ask this wise young woman to pray. It doesn’t sound like a strange thing for the Lord to ask, so of course I obeyed and asked her to pray. What began as a typical end-of-our-meeting prayer, ended as an extensive “popcorn” prayer session that lasted at least fifteen minutes. Mind you, in a busy, crowded, Starbucks in the middle of rush hour, in a crowded suburb of Washington DC. You can imagine how many people saw us, heads bowed, eyes closed, praying to the Lord.
For me, it’s not really a new thing to be seen in public praying with people for such a long time, with anyone around you to hear or distract the prayer. I work at a church, we do this during lunch meetings on a regular basis. But for this wise young woman, it was a new experience. It was out of the norm. Maybe it was even taboo. But the result was an experience that I don’t think either of us will want to ever do without from now on. We had such an intimate experience with God, even in such a busy, loud, unwelcoming place! We had no reservations. We were bold, even though we weren’t talking to strangers or shouting at the tops of our lungs. We were standing up for what we believe in; in a nation where religion is growing & God is shrinking.. where we are free to worship whatever God we please. We were taking advantage of our rights as Americans to the freedom of religion.
As much as I’d like to get into politics (not really!), I’ll get to the point already. After we prayed, we talked about how intimate that experience was for both of us & how much bolder & closer to God she felt just by praying to Him in such an environment. This led us to discuss some reasons why many Christians aren’t bold with their faith; why many Christians are afraid to stand out for their faith & turn heads for living righteously. This led her to that brilliant quote above, that I’ll repeat here because I think it’s important:
“Don’t stifle your personal religious experience just because other people are watching.”
And she’s right. We shouldn’t “stifle” our personal experiences with the Lord because people that might not know Him like we do are around. And it is “stifling” our relationship with God when we are withholding “the real us” to other people for any reason. We will feel so fulfilled, encouraged, & joyful when we cast all our cares upon Him, forget our reputations, & just live authentically with everyone consistently. We as youth workers should especially make sure we aren’t living out our faith differently when we’re at youth events & Bible studies, just because we think we have to be relevant to the culture or “dumb down” things for middle schoolers. They get it. They see us. They need transparency & authenticity in their lives just as much as we do.
So where is this concept in the Bible? Everywhere. But one of the most memorized verses of Scripture encompasses all of this in just twenty-four words:
“Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.” – 1 Timothy 4:12
Jillian Zavacky is youth associate at Reston Bible Church in Sterling, VA. She graduated from Liberty University with a degree in Youth Ministry in 2009.
Posted on October 24, 2011, in Spiritual Disciplines and tagged Authentic, Christianity, Church, Church Ministry, Family Ministry, Pastor, Religion, Spiritual Discipline, Student Ministry, Youth Ministry, Youth Pastor, Youth Work. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.