Time Out: Weekly quiet times for the youth worker’s soul.
(by Benjer McVeigh)
What are you proud of?
Before you answer, know that I’m not looking for a surface-level, feel-good answer such as “my kids” or “my country.” I’m talking the deep-down, I-stake-my-identity-on-it kind of pride. The kind of pride that makes you feel just a little better than your neighbor, spouse, or co-workers. It might be your work ethic, your intelligence, or the fact that your youth ministry is bigger than the one at the church down the street. You might never have said what you’re proud of out loud, but it’s there, and if you sit quietly long enough, God will bring it to mind.
So, let me ask you again: What are you proud of?
It’s very likely that you gain a lot of confidence from what you’re proud of. In fact, I’d be willing to bet that somewhere deep inside, you derive your worth from what you’re proud of. Whatever accomplishment, talent, or character trait you are proud of, chances are you believe that it somehow makes you a better person, or perhaps you even believe that you have a better standing before God because of it.
That’s a bunch of crap. Literally.
Before you denounce me for just another youth pastor that uses a foul mouth to “stay relevant,” hear what Paul has to say about having confidence in our accomplishments, talents, and good morals:
“If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless. But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.”
— Philippians 3:4-11, ESV
The word most English versions of the Bible translate as “rubbish” seems to actually be a very crass word. Daniel Wallace of Dallas Theological Seminary writes, “The term conveys both revulsion and worthlessness in this context. In hellenistic Greek it seems to stand somewhere between “crap” and “s**t.” Paul didn’t want to communicate that his own efforts to please God were worthless; he wanted to communicate that they were repulsive.
And so I ask again: what are you proud of? If you’re like me, you tend to judge how much you’re worth by how well you perform, both personally and publicly. Many leaders struggle with this sort of thing, and youth workers are not immune. I’m not saying that we should not strive to be the best youth workers we can be, or that we shouldn’t try to lead top-notch youth ministries that helps teenagers be transformed by Jesus. What I’m saying is that no matter what gains we have as youth workers, we ought to count it all as a loss “because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.”
Yes, youth ministry is wonderful, and yes, to devote yourself to the task of telling teenagers about Jesus — whether as a volunteer or a full-time youth worker — is a wonderful thing. But compared to knowing Jesus, it is all one big pile of dung. I don’t say that to discourage you from youth ministry. I say that to urge you on toward the cross, where you “may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible…attain the resurrection from the dead.”
- What are things that you rely on (or have relied on) to boost your standing with God?
- As a youth worker, has a part of you ever felt like you were owed anything because of your sacrifice?
- Have you ever experienced failure and wondered if God still loves you? If so, what do Paul’s words in Philippians 3:8-11 tell you about where you derive your righteousness?
- How would it change the way you work with teenagers if you really believed that good thing we do is repulsive compared to knowing Jesus?)
Benjer McVeigh is a youth pastor in Ogden, UT, where he works with students in grades 9-12 and their families at Washington Heights Church. You can read more from Benjer at www.benjermcveigh.com or follow him on twitter.
Posted on March 12, 2012