This morning Peter led our team in devotions during breakfast, then we headed out and caught the train over to The Legacy Center in Brooklyn. We helped sweep and clean the sidewalks around the building then worked in the warehouse sorting and organizing donations of school supplies. When we finished working, Diana, one of the LC staff members asked the students about their hopes and dreams, then shared about how the LC works to help people and how our contributions were helping them to be able to minister to their friends in the community. We then gathered around the LC staff and the students prayed over their ministry. We left at 2pm and took the train back to Living Waters. We had lunch, prepared 75 bag lunches, had a little downtime, then the team went to Manhattan and walked over the Brooklyn Bridge into Brooklyn where they had pizza at the famous Grimaldi’s Pizzeria. While the team had dinner I went to Manhattan where I had the joy of reuniting with my youth pastors from when I was growing up. They were in town from Florida, and we were able to have dinner together. It was the first time we had seen each other in some 23-24 years! What a privilege! They were a major influence on my life as a teenager, and a big reason why I went into youth ministry. It was so great being able to have dinner with them while two of my former students, Rebekah and Peter, now on staff with me, were leading my current students. They are an extension of the legacy that was passed on to me by Bill and Carla Clark. After dinner we all met back up at Living Waters. At 9pm we prayed over the 75 bag lunches we had prepared, and for the people who would be receiving them, then we headed down to the park and gave them out to people. Within about 30 minutes we had given them all away with a smile and in the name of Jesus. We came back to the church and had a good time of debriefing and sharing.
“I really feel called to youth ministry,” the young man across the table said to me. As a youth pastor who pours his life into students, for years these have been words I love to hear. Especially when they come from students that I have personally invested in. Such was the case of the the young man I was looking at that day.
I was so excited. I was proud of him. He was a man after my own heart. And yet, unbeknownst to him, for quite some time I had been wrestling with the exact words he said.
I feel called to youth ministry.
I understand what this young man was trying to communicate. I grew up hearing people say they felt called to ministry. It’s the old way of saying you feel God wants you to serve Him in ministry, often in a vocational sense. I’ve used the phrase myself many times, and I still find myself saying it from time to time. And yet, through the years, I’ve come to realize that it is actually not an accurate statement.
This really struck me one day while I was meditating the words of Mark 3:15-15 which say, “Jesus went up on a mountainside and called to him those he wanted, and they came to him. He appointed twelve that they might be with him and that he might send them out to preach and to have authority to drive out demons.”
When I read those words, I felt God speak to me so clearly: Kevin, don’t confuse your calling with your assignment. I have assigned you to youth ministry for this season of your life, but that is not your calling.
Did you catch it? Jesus called to Him those He wanted “that they might be with Him.”
Our calling is to Jesus Himself. Our calling is not to ministry; our calling is to be lovers of Jesus. Our calling is not to doing, our calling is to being — being with Jesus! In John 15:5 Jesus said, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” Our calling is to relationship. Our calling is to live intimately connected to Jesus. When we are connected to Jesus, He imparts His truth into our hearts. He begins to speak our identity into us. He reveals His heart to us. He makes His desires known to us.
It is then out of our calling that Jesus commissions us to go into the world. Jesus did indeed have a work for the disciples to do. And Jesus has a work for us to do. Ephesians 2:10 says, “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Jesus gives us assignments — places us in positions, relationships, situations — for us to advance God’s kingdom. As we stay close to the heart of God in Jesus, we learn that our God is a God of mission, and He sends us to declare and demonstrate the good news. Our assignments may (and often will) change, but our calling never does.
I am not called to ministry, and neither are you. We are called to Jesus.
Are you living in your calling today? Are you drawing near to Jesus? If you are, you will surely begin to feel His heart for people and situations, and you will hear His voice and the promptings of the Holy Spirit to respond and do something about what He is revealing to you.
Here’s a little glimpse of our incredible weekend in Pennsylvania for Youth Winter Fest 2017! I want to say a very special Thank you to our amazing team who worked so hard and tirelessly to put this event together and made it possible for students to come and have an encounter with Jesus. Also, a big shout our to Josh Griffin for coming as our speaker, Dan Bremnes for leading us in worship, and John Branyan and the Nubian Gents for blessing us with their gifts and talents. Let’s continue working with Jesus as He is building His kingdom on earth as it is in heaven. #YWF17
From 4/6/16: Kerri Ann is a resident at West Haven home for the developmentally disabled in Jamaica. She just exides Jesus! Mission Discovery knows her well from their years of visits. She told us she wanted a Bible, and yesterday Hannah told her she would give her her Bible! Today she delivered it and you should have seen the smile on her face. She has also been asking to be baptized for quite some time. Unfortunately her church would not baptize her because of their insistence that it must be by immersion, which is impossible for this young lady. Jen and Scott approached the director and asked if we might be able to baptize her today, and he agreed! We asked her if she wanted to be baptized today, and she lit up. When we gave her the news that she could, she had no words and simply covered her mouth and cried tears of joy. Nathan from MD drove up, and we all gathered under the shade of a tree where she professed her love for Jesus, and Jen, Nathan, and I had the tremendous joy of pouring a bottle of water over her head to baptize her. It was one of the most sacred thigs I have ever witnessed or been a part of!
The longer I walk with Jesus the smaller the world gets. I just had another one of those INSANE connections while traveling that only God can orchestrate. Yesterday I bought the upgrade to the exit row for my flight from Detroit to Denver. The lady from Michigan seated next to me, named Marlene, and I engaged in a little small talk, then we settled into our individual reading, uncomfortable napping, etc. I was reading some Philip Yancey and was also working on a wedding I am doing in a few weeks. With about ten minutes left in our flight, the woman inquired as to what kind of training I was going to Colorado for. I told her it is for a camp that I am speaking at this summer. Putting this together with the book I had been reading she asked if I was a pastor, to which I replied I am. She told me her husband had been a pastor and now leads a missions organization. I asked what part of Michigan she was from, and she said, “Rochester Hills.” I told her I used to attend church in the neighboring town of Oxford 20 years ago. I asked if she had heard of Christ The King Churh, and her eyes got really big. “That is the church my husband was a pastor at. His name is Tim Cummings.” I totally remembered him. Not only did we attend that church, we were involved as volunteers in the youth ministry, were (and still are) friends with many people from the church, including several who we had attended Bible college with, and the youth pastor, our good friend Jon Waters asked us if we could help start the youth group at their church plant in Lapeer, Michigan which we did until we moved back to New York. There is no doubt we met 20 years ago during our time at Christ The King, and it was just incredible to find ourselves – a person from New York, and a person from Michigan – sitting next to each other on a plane all these years later. What an amazing thing the family of God is!
Over the next few weeks my staff and I will be meeting with all of our volunteer adult youth leaders one-on-one. During our conversations, here are the 5 questions we are going to be sure to ask:
- How can I Pray for you? For your family?
- What do you need to Understand about the youth ministry or something coming up?
- Who is another potential Leader that we could invite to consider being on our adult leadership team?
- Tell me Stories of how you see God moving in the lives of students. How do you see God using you? Who are you connecting with?
- What can we do to Equip you to be a better leader for students?
Small groups are the most important thing we do in our ministry to students. Today I put together kits for each of our groups to help them maximize engagement and eqip our leaders to be even more effective. You can put all kinds of things into a box like this. Our leaders already have thri curriculum content, so here’s what we put in ours:
- Small Groups Info Sheet (purposes of small groups, schedule, guidelines for meetings, tips and reminders for leaders)
- 99 Thought for Small Group Leaders
- Hot Seat
- On the Spot No Prep Games
- Throw and Tell Ice-Breaker Balls
- Nerf ball (can be used to designate who is allowed to share during discussions (i.e. If you have the ball, it’s your turn to talk.)
- Index cards
- Pens and Marker
We have just returned from another amazing encounter with God at Youth Winter Fest. We are so thankful to all of the churches, leaders, students, and staff from 15 different local churches who came together as ONE CHURCH this weekend! God is building His kingdom and it is so exciting to be a part of it. Our speaker for the weekend was Brock Morgan, and we were led in worship by Tim Timmons. So great! Make plans now to join us next year January 6-8, 2017 at Tuscarora Inn in Mt. Bethel, PA!
In just a few weeks we will be opening up registration for our summer missions trips. There is a question I often receive that I thought would be good to address. A few months ago one of my students asked: Why do we bother going to countries that speak other languages? Wouldn’t it be more valuable to just go to English-speaking countries? Just a few weeks ago a woman sitting at the table with me at a church event asked: With all of the poverty and need in America, why don’t we just do missions work in the United States?
These are fair and valid questions. There are indeed issues within our own country and our own communities that present opportunities for service. Indeed, we must address these issues. But it is a false construct to pit ministry at home against ministry abroad. I heard a saying many years ago that I always emphasize: The light that shines the farthest, shines the brightest at home. It would be a mistake if all we did was serve abroad while paying no attention to the needs at home. However, it would likewise be a mistake if all we did was serve on our home turf without serving the greater needs of others around the world. The bottom line is this: It is not either-or, it is both-and. We seek to engage our students in ministry opportunities in our own back yard throughout the year as well as in other countries, typically in the summer time.
In response to the question about why we go into cultures different than our own, I point to the various levels of missions and/or evangelism. Donald McGavran has identified several levels needed to reach different groups of people.
E-0: Evangelism is needed to win church-goers to Christ. It produces internal growth.
E-1: Evangelism is needed to win those of our own culture to Christ. It, too, produces internal growth.
E-2: Evangelism is needed to reach those who are slightly different from us. It produces cross-cultural evangelism.
E-3: Evangelism is needed to reach those vastly different from us. It produces bridging growth.
This idea is rooted in Jesus’ words to His followers in Acts 1:8, which illustrate these levels of evangelism:
- Jerusalem and Judea (Acts 3): E-0 and E-1
- Samaria (Acts 8): E-2
- Ends of the earth (Acts 13): E-3
Through summer missions trips we are seeking to help you minister at E-2 and E-3 levels. It doesn’t negate the other levels (which we also seek to minister at), but we want to develop Christians with a global Christian worldview, not just ones that are sheltered within their own cultures. In this we are taking our cues from Jesus Himself. Jesus was the ultimate cross-cultural missionary. Philippians 2:5-11 says, “… Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Imagine if Jesus had just stayed where everything was familiar to Him. Imagine if Jesus only wanted to go where people “spoke His own language” (if you will). He would have stayed in heaven with God and never ventured to the earth where people desperately needed to know God and His purposes. Jesus said, “Go into ALL THE WORLD and preach the gospel to all creation” (Mark 16:15). The fact that we live in a time in history in which we have the technology to literally be able to go into all of the world is incredible. And so, following the example of Jesus, we want to have a heart for God’s whole world – all of His children and creation – and to go and serve in humility and love.