Like the priests who took the first steps to lead Israel into the icy waters of the Jordan River (Joshua 3), young leaders today need to be apprenticed toward brave new leadership. When you take into account the huge youth population bulges in many nations coupled with geopolitical instability likely for decades to come, vanguard student ministry organizations and churches committed to introducing more kids to Jesus must start thinking more about strategic sustainability. Strategic sustainability implies health and growth even in the midst of unpredictability. To achieve this you must have a principle-driven leadership training framework.
At the center of any strategy to influence wide swaths of young people of any nation is to identify, train, and empower younger leaders. In this post I’m not writing to just any leader, I’m addressing those young leaders, organizations, and churches out there who dream about changing the next generation with the Gospel. As I look at young leaders in the Bible who stand out as models for us to follow today, Daniel rises to the top.
LEADERSHIP TRAINING MUST ADAPT, RE-EDUCATE, AND RE-TRAIN
Daniel provides a clear pathway for leaders to expand their influence more broadly. We can’t rely on cultural norms to provide an incubator for basic leadership understanding anymore. Churches and mission organizations must pioneer the way and in many ways re-educate and re-train their younger leaders who want to serve. We can’t make assumptions anymore. We must have much more than mere skills training. Instead, leadership training must involve a combination of education+training+apprenticeship. That will be the foundation of strategic sustainability for student ministry organizations in a world of fracturing cultural norms.
Daniel had four remarkable qualities that broadened his leadership: COMPREHENSIVE KNOWLEDGE, CHARACTER, COMPETENCE, and an ability to CONNECT people to God by using his spiritual gifts. These four qualities are the mark of catalytic leaders. Now lets look at each of them in context…
The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field. -Matthew 9:37-38
Some people are called to full time vocational ministry. If you have an insatiable draw toward missions or ministry that you just can’t shake, then maybe God is calling you. There will always be a need for cross-cultural missions until Jesus comes back. Missions is temporary. When Christ returns, there will be no more missions, that window will be closed. Yet right now it is wide open. There is a famine for the Word of God on every continent, and the Holy Spirit is raising up men, women, and young people from just about every nation to lay their lives down for Jesus to advance the Good News. And some of those whom he calls will be sent out as full time workers for his Kingdom.
Confucius is one of China’s most revered sages. Although he lived and taught his disciples somewhere around 551-479 B.C., Confucianism is still the most popular philosophy in China today. The context of Confucius’ rise in popularity is interesting. Times were chaotic and quite violent in China at the time of his professional life. There were great divides between classes and clans and this was disturbing to Confucius because it weakened society and created distrust and poverty. He grew up with minimal personal family connection so this seemed to create a vacuum in his own heart for connectedness and the benefits of a tight-knit family. Understanding his background helps us understand where the deep roots of his philosophy came from.
Those that fail to learn from history, are doomed to repeat it. – Winston Churchill
It is a common tendency to look back at the good old days with nostalgia, thinking “those people really had it right.” I actually think this is better than looking back with condescending criticalness of people or eras that we don’t fully understand. But there is also value, if handled gracefully, to look back at the good old days and see where people may have gone off course. We don’t do this to blame or put ourselves above them, on the contrary, we need to be honest with the past mainly because we are more like them today than we are different from them. We look back with a wondering eye not out of pride, saying “look how much smarter we are,” but instead we look back saying, “I know that I/we are more like people of antiquity than we are different from them, so maybe I can learn something from where they missed the mark or veered off course.”
Human nature will not change. In any future great national trial, compared with the men of this, we shall have as weak and as strong, as silly and as wise, as bad and as good. Let us therefore study the incidents in this as philosophy to learn wisdom from and none of them as wrongs to be avenged. – Abraham Lincoln
Student ministry in Asia
What Does the Bible Teach about God’s Design for a Plurality of Eldership to Lead the Local Church?
Imagine a group of men of various personalties, ethnicities, and spiritual gifts seeking to lead alongside one another within a relational context of mutual respect and godly commitment for the progress of the gospel in and through a given local church family. This is what the church in Antioch, Syria in the first century possessed, which God used to take His glorious gospel to the far reaches of their known world in the first century (Acts 13:1-3). It is still happening today. The church planting network I am a part of, Crossway Chapel, is committed to this kind of leadership that existed in Antioch.
Meeting with Elders of a Crossway Chapel in Asia
Student ministry is one of those vocations that sometimes perplexes people. I often get asked, “So what do you do?” I love it when people ask me that because it gives me a free 30 seconds or so to promote and advocate for what I believe is one of the most important ministry priorities for any church or para church. I want to see every young person in every city of the world have an opportunity to meet Jesus, grow in their faith, and to grow as a leader to impact more young people in their arena of influence.
I came to Christ as a high school kid through Young Life and then served for 15 years on staff with YL in Arizona, Colorado, and New Zealand.
Leaders and decision-makers are critical in times of crisis. We have been investing in leaders in Nepal for the past 10 years and we are hoping to be able to encourage and resource them as much as we can as they prayerfully step into relief work that few are prepared to do. As of today 5,000 are reported dead and estimates are that those numbers may rise to 10,000. Relief agencies are on the ground providing food, water, shelter, and medical help. But there is also a long term need of coming alongside leaders who will have the will and the ability to follow through on projects to help rebuild people’s lives.
If you are wanting to find a way to help, I’ve listed below a few resources that may be of interest if you know people in Nepal or just want to get involved…. (read more)…
Yesterday morning a destructive earthquake shook central Nepal causing significant damage and loss of life. I am in contact with several pastors who I have known for the past 10 years and by God’s grace the people who I know directly are safe, yet some of them have probably lost friends or relatives. At the moment the families are living in tents outside because the buildings are unstable and aftershocks are still coming (and will be for months most likely). I’m staying in constant communication with those I can reach to get updates.
The death toll from the Himalayan Earthquake is over 3,500 today and continues to rise especially as relief agencies venture out into the villages. Most of the news is coming out of Kathmandu, but the epicenter was between Kathmandu and Pokhara (where I spend most of my time there) so in the coming days the destruction to villages will become more known to us.
The pastors who I’ve been working with are uniquely positioned to reach out to many of the rural villages surrounding Pokhara. One leader has been literally hiking into villages for years and years to share the Gospel and equip churches in youth ministry in these remote areas. He travels into some of the poorest regions of Nepal where relief agencies will likely not have a significant presence in the coming days as they will set up their centers in the larger cities.
WE’RE GOING TO ASSESS & SERVE THE REMOTE AREAS AFFECTED BY THE NEPAL EARTHQUAKE
Some of the villages we will likely visit: Chapang (the poorest people group in Nepal), Tirsuli, Ghorka (90% of houses are damaged), Barpak, Shading, Lanajhung. Information is barely available yet for villages in the epicenter, so a long relief effort is anticipated.
We have made a plan to leave in a few days to join up with our partners in Kathmandu and Pokhara to accomplish a few simple goals:
- ENCOURAGE: Encourage and support our partners who are leaders of leaders as they begin a very long journey to restoring lives and communities.
- ASSESS: Assess the situation in several cities and remote villages where our partners have the most significant relationships. We will make plans for follow up visits, short term missions projects, and immediate financial needs.
- AID: Offer some financial assistance for food, water, shelter, medical supplies and transportation. Transportation is something we have known is a problem for a long time, and we have decided that now is the time to try to get them a 4WD vehicle for their ministry. This will also greatly enable leaders who can assess and make decisions while visiting less reached areas of Nepal.
- FOLLOW UP: In the coming months we will determine how to come along side the churches and leaders we know to maximize their potential to get glory for God in the midst of this trial.
WE AIM TO RAISE $25,000 IN 5 DAYS. PLEASE CONSIDER A GENEROUS GIFT!
In faith, we have a goal, to raise $25,000 in the next 5 days. If you would like to contribute to this initial relief effort please follow the link below to give online. We consider your gifts a sacred trust, and it will all go directly to those who are most in need and those who can lead and facilitate the distribution of resources with the best stewardship possible. Please respond by Friday, May 1, 2015 and GIVE at:
Thank you for your support. We will report back to you as we learn more and see how God is working in the midst of this difficult trial.
Young people need someone who is crazy about them. – Walter Brueggemann
The first youth ministry book ever written was Francis Clark’s, Christ and the Young People. Clark spent enormous amounts of time with kids. He studied them and discovered that there were certain things that they were drawn to in their adult leaders. His vision was to see the development of a robust youth movement that modeled the personality of Jesus. He was convinced that making his dream a reality would depend on recruiting and then training volunteer youth leaders to have the heart and skills of relational evangelism….
The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.
― Frederick Buechner, Wishful Thinking: A Theological ABC
Youth + International = Authentic Missiology
Crossing into other cultures (and subcultures) often raises questions. This is good for our theology. Theology is simply asking questions and seeking the answers to those questions in the Bible. Engaging in relationships with people across ethnic and geographic boundaries forces us to use our energy to think authentically about theology. I find this especially true among young people internationally. They have keen insights if we take the time to ask them. Relevant local theological development begins to happen when we engage in cross cultural missions. We discover new questions and we have to go to the Bible to search for answers.
For example, if you look at the past 10-15 years of evangelism among youth in Nepal, local youthworkers would tell you that it has actually been fairly easy and fruitful so far. But the process of helping them to grow in faith is very difficult. If a parent discovers that there child has become a Christian, they can become very angry. They may even stop their child from going to church forever.
Nepalese youthworkers wrestle with what they can do about this problem.