God’s world is one world. The unity now being thrust upon us by technological revolution has far outrun our moral and spiritual capacity to achieve a stable world. The enforced unity of humanity, increasingly evident on all levels of life, presents the Church as well as all people with problems that will not wait for answer: injustice, war, exploitation, privilege, population, international ecological crisis, proliferation of arsenals of nuclear weapons, development of transnational business organizations that operate beyond the effective control of any governmental structure, and the increase of tyranny in all its forms. This generation must find viable answers to these and related questions if humanity is to continue on this earth. We commit ourselves as a Church to the achievement of a world community that is a fellowship of persons who honestly love one another. We pledge ourselves to seek the meaning of the gospel in all issues that divide people and threaten the growth of world community. (Book of Discipline Paragraph 165)
John 3:16 is one of the most widely known verses from scripture. It has dire importance to how we consider our final part of the United Methodist Social Principles. Here is the verse from the Common English Bible:
God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him won’t perish but will have eternal life.
God so loved the world…..he gave his only Son…..so that everyone who believes…..
Sometimes especially today we forget that we live in God’s world. Everything that we have in this life is no thanks to ourselves, but completely thanks to God. It says in the scriptures that every good and faithful gift comes from God. I and my fellow classmates in Spark Youth Ministry Certification are preparing for our course this January. One of the required books for this year is a book written by Fred Edie called, “Book, Bath, Table, and Time: Christian Worship as Source and Resource for Youth Ministry.”
I just started reading this book last night and it’s one of those books that hurts to read, but in the best way. It is a much needed reality check. Check out this quote from chapter one about worship:
Whether strategically or unwittingly many communities have indeed come to emulate the entertainment industry in their worship practice. Worship “guests” are offered worship “performances” targeted to their specific demographic tastes and designed to feed their desire for entertaining experiences. Thus, as a youth worker at a large church once told me, his staff offered “humans and pipe organ” to the older folks at an early service, “praise band and ‘Cat’s in the Cradle'” to the baby boomers at another, and “sacraments and Taizé chants to the Gen-Xers” at a third “because they’re into the really old stuff.” Worship in this view qualifies as whatever satisfies my individual preferences for an entertaining worshipful experience. In the process, God and neighbor are bumped to the balcony to make room for me front and center.”
Every time I read this quote I can’t help but think of this:
I mean really. This quote hurts, because it’s true because there is a deep level of “me centered” Christianity in our church today. How we engage in worship is how we engage in our faith and the world. Christ died for the world and we were created to be in God’s presence while in worship and while we are not. Ultimately, our life is a constant state of worship. For instance have you ever asked yourself, “How can we make worship more appealing to our youth?” Why don’t we ask ourselves, “how can we ensure that youth will encounter the fullness of God?”
We are so me centered.
We need to be Jesus centered. We exist to serve as a conduit of God’s grace, and that doesn’t necessarily mean we are happy. We are not called to happiness! We are called to holiness, transformation, love, grace, forgiveness, and so on.
How can we ensure that our youth experience the fullness of God?
By worship, discipleship, and fellowship we actively teach our youth that it is not about ourselves, but about the communal activity of being a part of the body of Christ. It’s not about being entertained. Your entertainment is not on God’s agenda, be a part of God’s great story of redemption for the world is. The way we engage in entertainment will teach this louder than anything else, and the way we minister to and with and engage in discipleship and worship as well.
I would strongly encourage you to analyze what you are doing with your youth ministry. Are you seeking to entertain your students or are you discipling them? There is a huge difference. I am not saying you shouldn’t have fun with your kids from time to time, but we honestly have a limited window for forming these young people into vibrant and effective disciples for God’s kingdom. That is not done by entertainment solely.
Let us remind ourselves of the Social Creed to give us focus and direction as United Methodists.
We believe in God, Creator of the world; and in Jesus Christ, the Redeemer of creation. We believe in the Holy Spirit, through whom we acknowledge God’s gifts, and we repent of our sin in misusing these gifts to idolatrous ends.
We affirm the natural world as God’s handiwork and dedicate ourselves to its preservation, enhancement, and faithful use by humankind.
We joyfully receive for ourselves and others the blessings of community, sexuality, marriage, and the family.
We commit ourselves to the rights of men, women, children, youth, young adults, the aging, and people with disabilities; to improvement of the quality of life; and to the rights and dignity of all persons.
We believe in the right and duty of persons to work for the glory of God and the good of themselves and others and in the protection of their welfare in so doing; in the rights to property as a trust from God, collective bargaining, and responsible consumption; and in the elimination of economic and social distress.
We dedicate ourselves to peace throughout the world, to the rule of justice and law among nations, and to individual freedom for all people of the world.
We believe in the present and final triumph of God’s Word in human affairs and gladly accept our commission to manifest the life of the gospel in the world. Amen.
As always my prayers are always with you and your ministry. If you have any prayer requests I would love to pray for you and help you in any way I can. We youth workers and disciples need to stick together in the love and grace of Christ. Please don’t hesitate to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org so that I can pray for you and help you in anyway I can.
Thanks for all you do for the Kingdom of God!
Grace and Peace,
Bradley W. Alexander
Director of Student Ministries