“I write to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God lives in you” – 1 John 2:14
Yesterday, I received this message from a previous student in my youth ministry.
“Thank you for being such a great youth pastor over all these years. Here at LCU, we are talking about community, and thinking on the loving presence of others. I am deeply thankful for you. Thank you for every lesson you have given at Collide and teaching me to be a better Christian man.”
This young man is truly a gift from God. He is a strong, mighty and courageous young man through the power of the gospel. I am so proud of him. I am deeply touched by his words because they confirm what I held in my heart as I attempted to share God’s love with as many students as I could muster.
Love is what Jesus centered His ministry on. When asked what the greatest commandment was Jesus said, “Love the Lord your God…..and love your neighbor as yourself.”
We must remember that before Jesus led people, He loved them. Indeed, it was the reason why He led them. Even in the story of the rich man who comes to Jesus to see how he might receive salvation, before Jesus challenges Him to let go of His life to take up a brand new one to be led by Him the Bible says, “He looked on him and loved him.”
I heard a quote on the radio yesterday that said, “All of the decisions we make in life are either made with fear or made with love.” Love is what young people need. More often than not, as adults, we impress our fears upon the people we meet. Sadly, we create ministries centered on our own ego’s and agenda to fill some unhealthy insecurity in our life. I’ve done it. My first few years in ministry my time and energy were spent on patting my ego with results to show for it. My fear changed no hearts because I was simply a leader who was led by fear.
A ministry directed by love, now that can change the world.
One of my primary focuses as a youth minister was to ensure that every student that walked through our door felt seen and deeply loved. With the rise of social media, you’d think that people would be more connected and feel like they’re known, but it’s just not true. People are just as lonely, if not more. God made us for genuine relationships with others. He made us to give and receive love. He made us for investing in other people.
Many people in our country are starting to wake up to the reality that we need to focus more on making disciples. I would say this, start with love. Love and grace are what changed Peters heart that day Jesus reinstated Him. We don’t need more strong, independent leaders in the church. We need more leaders whose hearts have been filled with love. A leader without love is just a person who leads in fear, but a leader whose heart has been captured by love is someone who will see God’s kingdom come in whatever setting God has placed them.
One of the scariest things to do is show people your heart. To share your insecurities and vulnerabilities. Good leaders, lead by example in this. They don’t believe the lie that says sharing my fears means that I’m weak and people won’t want to follow my leadership.
When God opens a leaders heart and they share it with others a pathway is created between God’s heart and theirs. A doorway for others to see Jesus through them. A connecting piece for those from the outside to say, “I feel that way too.” As we let out hearts be directed by love we allow for God to create bridges between us and people for His love to meet them as it flows from within our hearts to theirs.
Lord, you are so strong. Thank you for students whose lives have been changed by love. Thank you for using me to share your love. Continue to use my life to be a vehicle of love and to share your good news with everyone that I meet. May my heart never be led by fear but always be directed by love, in Jesus name, Amen.