I was fortunate enough to hear Kenda Creasy Dean speak at the National Youth Workers Convention this past weekend. While she encourages and challenges me each time I read her work or hear her speak, this weekend was exceptional. She spoke about the concept of mission and how it pertains to your ministry. Her contention is that so much of what we do in youth ministry is simply based upon continuing what was done before us.
In that light, we see mission as a trip, an event, a program. We go on mission trips, then we come home. But that is not the hermeneutic (understanding, view) of mission seen in other Christian communities around the world. They see mission as life. God, the Bible tells us, has breathed into us. He did so at creation in Genesis. He does so when Jesus leaves the disciples in Acts. The very Spirit of God is the breath of God. (the word “pneuma” in the Bible means both “spirit” and “breath”) So, God breathes into us. When you think about the physical act of breathing, in order to live, anyone who inhales must exhale. (please hold all Bill Clinton jokes at this point) We, too, as followers of Jesus have to exhale to live. It’s true physically, and it’s true spiritually. As we receive the breath of God into our lives we will naturally breathe God out into others. Mission is life.
When we truly love something, we will learn about it, and share it. When a student in our youth group falls in love, either with a girlfriend/boyfriend, a band, a video game, or whatever else captures them for a season, they will learn all about it. They become experts, professionals on the subject. They will share that knowledge with anyone who will listen. When our students love Jesus, we don’t have to spend all of our time convincing them to learn how to live like Him and for Him. We program so much of our effort into passing on information, but give so little room, percentage wise, for transformation. Is it possible we have the paradigm backwards?
We need to set students free to live Mission in our ministries, both inside and outside the church. Our job is to serve as translators for the students, to help them see and hear clearly. Our job is NOT to serve as cruise directors. We must let them live their faith out. Are our programs, events, trips, and systems getting in the way of their Mission?
The challenge is that when a group of people have a translation given to them, and they receive it, they end up with the power. If you don’t speak a language, and I do, as long as I can keep that barrier, I can keep control over you. But once I translate everything into your language, then you have the power to go, do, and act as you wish. If we never truly translate the life and message of Jesus into our students, we can keep them under our control. Yet, they will also never truly live. But, if we dare to operate in such a way that we create the room for them to take the message and live it out in their own way, the church will change.
Are we ready to translate for our kids to truly get it? Are we ready for mission, when it doesn’t involve a church van?