The most important commandment is this... Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength. The second is equally important: Love your neighbor as yourself. Mark 12:29-31 NIV
Do you see non-Christians as objects to be converted or marks for your judgement and disdain? What does that say about your heart and your "love" for your neighbor? Do you think non-Christians or new believers would feel comfortable at your church or Christian function?
These were some of the questions presented Sunday at the beginning of a new series. This was another impacting message as the pastor shared with us four experiences that changed his life and ministry focus.
I can relate to his experiences and have hopefully been able to remove many of the bad ideas and ministry styles from my life. I'm sure I still slip and make mistakes that push people away from the church, but I try!
One experience was when a college student he was working at Arby's with a bunch of teenagers who always talked about their party lifestyle, which included porn, alcohol and more. He said he would judge and always be looking for ways to interject God and his Christian morals. One day he had a revelation and started seeing them as peers and friends, inviting them over to his house, learning their interests, etc. Eventually he said many of them came to know Christ.
I too have had moments where I was more worried about trying to "push" Christ and my values onto someone who really just needed a friend and some love. I have seen the power of being a friend and sharing love not condemnation onto other people. My memories of this are mostly from high school, where I know several people who were really hurt by condemning Christians.
Another experience was working with Youth for Christ. During this focused outreach and ministry to non-Christian youth he came to realize that there was a huge cultural gap between Christians and non-Christians. When the kids became Christians they would try to enter the Christian culture and weren't successful in making the transition or were pushed out by the cliquish-ness of it.
I would generally agree with this point because it is always hard to switch groups or try to break into a clique. But I do think we have a higher calling to ensure that we aren't exclusive in our Christian culture. We should engage in culture and be able to relate to some degree with it. We should also welcome with open arms anyone who wants to be a part of the body of Christ.
Is there a difference between youth group and student ministries? Not necessarily, but grammatically the youth group is closed while a ministry is more open. So it could be a subtle difference but may have a lasting impact.
There were more examples but this is a good place to stop.
This series also includes daily journaling opportunities. This week's prompts are:
- What things are nearest and dearest to your heart?
- What things do you think are nearest and dearest to the heart of God?
- What obstacles exist in your life that keep you from fully focusing on God?
- How can you more fully live out the Great Commandment (Mark 12:29-31)?
- How can your more fully live out the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20)?
- Write a prayer to God about your desire to have a heart that is more like His.
- Write about what you have learned about God and yourself this week.