This week was my first week as a legit youth pastor. I’d been a volunteer youth worker at my own church, but this week marked the first time I was a legit, employed youth worker (I even have the paycheck to prove it). My first assignment was heading up the youth program for VBS week. Given that I knew the teens would range from card carrying members of a Sunday School Class, to never having stepped foot inside of a church, teens who have a great home life, to teens who lack any kind of decent home life, I tried my best to put together lessons that could be understood by them all. So how does one approach a situation like this? With honesty. Every night I got up to speak, I spoke honestly to them. I didn’t sugarcoat anything, sing any stupid songs (you know the ones), or tell them any stupid saying (breaking news: a nifty saying doesn’t magically make life better). On every subject I was honest, because I don’t think that deception really has a place in ministry.
When I look at the state of the church today, I don’t blame atheists and I don’t believe God has stopped working, I believe christians have gotten in the way. We are so focused on finding the right formula for outreach, that we don’t let God work. We desire results and stories that are huge, and fail to accept that perhaps God wants us focused on quality rather than quantity. I see it in many churches and I even see it on my own college campus. Instead of being genuine with people, christians try to put their own spin on God and replace a loving Savior who isn’t a coward nor a kill joy, into some mystical being that only delights in horrible music, approves of sloppily made movies, accepts you only if you’re the right type. OR they get soo focused on getting someone saved that they’ll do anything to get them saved, they’ll promise them complete happiness, a perfect relationship, or absolutely anything just so they can say “I was responsible, for that guy coming to Christ”. If you notice though, they’ll never ever take responsibility for the person slipping in their faith. Basically they become used car salesmen of faith, and although they give you a nice product, they wont teach you how to maintain it,because once you’re off the lot, it’s your problem.
So after that rant, you may still wonder how exactly the whole “honesty” thing, worked out. Well to put it simply….it worked incredibly. After the second night, one of the teens texted me for some advice. After we talked for a little bit, they thanked me for listening and I told them “You’re absolutely welcome, I am glad you opened up to me”. Her response was “Well after you got up and were so honest about life and your faith, I felt like I could open up to you. You’re the first person in church to be honest with me”. You see, she didn’t open up because I sang a corny song, she didn’t open up because I tricked her, and she didn’t open up because of “Brandon’s Gospel Experience”, she opened up because I approached her with honesty and to her that was the difference between, once again walking away from a church without seeing anything different, and leaving a church and seeing something different.