November 2011 | Front Lines of the Kingdom >>

 

It’s been nearly three months since Matt and I (Christine) moved to Bloomingdale and started partnering with the Bloomingdale Church youth ministry.

And let me tell you…youth ministry has been more than I expected.

What is going on at coffeehouse and youth group? That is an excellent question. And while I could tell you about intense games of jugball, the fall costume contest, or dance parties in the church van while traveling to various events, I’d rather tell you about something way more incredible. I’d rather tell you about how I see God moving regularly in our midst.

“Of course,” you may be thinking, “this is church… it’s always about God moving, right?”

Absolutely. But I said it has been more than I expected.

We as a youth ministry are finding ourselves at the front lines of the Kingdom– and it’s a very exciting place to be.

Let me unpack that a little more: Over the past three months, we’ve had nearly 70 different students attend Friday night Coffeehouse. Many continue to come back. Many do not attend any other church. Some unchurched students have begun coming to youth group too. Others are coming to Sunday school and staying for the 11:00 service after. These are incredible developments; they are ways we see God moving.

As influencers of youth, we are hopefully walking alongside students who face some incredible challenges. On a weekly basis, our youth leaders talk to students dealing with family crises, depression, and anxiety about the future. We should not be surprised with the onslaught of life issues confronting them–it is a result of being on the front lines of the Kingdom.

A question we’ve been asking ourselves a lot lately as youth leaders is, “How do we respond to the type of needs and hurt students come to us with?”  I think one of the answers is in realizing our own sin.

When you’re a follower of Christ …you know about sin. You know you used to be a sinner. But I think I sometimes get so used to my “new creation” state of holiness that I forget the depth of what God has saved me from. I’ve recently started praying the Jesus prayer regularly, which simply states what our position in relationship to Jesus is: “Jesus Christ, son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Brennan Manning puts it this way: “My deepest awareness of myself is that I am deeply loved by Jesus Christ and I have done nothing to earn it or deserve it.” I think being humbly aware of the ways I mess up is so important. It helps me realize how astounding it is that God loves me in the first place. It is also important, because it helps me see others like Jesus sees them instead of judging.

Being at the front lines of the Kingdom means that we are bumping up against real issues in each of our lives. It means that we have to learn about the depth of our own souls and the souls of others. Sometimes we don’t like what we see. But through that realization, and through forgiving myself and others, I experience the Kingdom of Heaven on earth.

Jesus said, “The Kingdom of Heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servant.” This particular servant owed the king and amount equivalent to two lifetimes of work, something the servant would never be able to repay. And when the servant begged for patience, the king forgave all his debt. That king is God. That servant is us.

What happened next? The servant went out and found his fellow servant who owed him a small amount of money. He had his fellow servant jailed because he couldn’t repay the sum.

How often am I that servant? How often do I forget the sum the king forgave me when I deal with my fellow servants?

I pray that God will give me more grace. I pray that God will remind  me what I’ve been forgiven.

As a youth ministry, we are having regular experiences that remind us how astounding God’s grace is– and through it we are experiencing “your kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven.”

It’s exciting to be a part of.  It is more than I imagined.

 

It’s been nearly three months since Matt and Christine moved to Bloomingdale.  They LOVE IT here!   Christine keeps a pretty busy schedule… “I work 45+ hrs a week as a nanny for a family with three girls: ages 10 months, 4, and 6. I’ve also been working to get my teaching license transfered from Ohio to Illinois, trying to stay faithful to my Jillian Michaels workouts, and enjoying the plethora of stores available here… namely Trader Joe’s and H&M.”