Youth News for April, 2017

As I write one week prior we had the opportunity to see a great many come out in support of our youth ministry at the incredible Pancake Supper put on by the small group of Creston and Amy Groover. Tomorrow we will be having 22 of our youth participate in the potentially life-changing Disciple Now 2017. Summer is soon to be under way with all of its activity and excitement. All of these things point to the incredible opportunity we have here at FBC to invest in the lives of young people throughout Jesup and Wayne County. I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity I have been given to serve here and be a part of what is happening.


In the midst of all of this, what has been most exciting to me is the chance to help open the eyes of students to the glory of the gospel. Over the past several weeks we have looked at six areas where the unique message the gospel offers us triumphs over all of the weak stuff of this world. Like a steak dinner is better than a pb&j, the gospel puts the world’s perspective on hope, meaning, morality, identity, satisfaction, and freedom to shame. Nothing is sweeter, more satisfying, and more powerful than the gospel we have been given.


1 Thessalonians 2:4 speaks of the apostles as those who have been “approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel.” We have been entrusted now with that same gospel. It is now our incredible privilege to share that same sweet gospel with those around us. That Christ calls us to Himself in spite of our sin, and that we can fulfill the purpose for which we were designed because of His grace as those in His kingdom, is sweeter than life.


So, then, if we have been entrusted with so sweet a gospel, what stands in the way of sharing it? There are a vast number of responses we could make to that question, but I think the ultimate reason is this: our experience of the sweetness of this gospel has not made its way from our heads to our hearts. An intellectual proposition is no substitute for an experiential acquisition of that taste. It is, as one theologian put it, the difference between knowing that honey tastes sweet because you have been told so by reliable sources, and actually tasting the honey for yourself. So how do we move from one to the other?


The answer is the subject of many books, but what it boils down to is primarily this: prayer. Prayer, in all its forms, but especially as a meditation upon the word of God and the beauty of the gospel, works the taste into our experience much as yeast is worked into bread, eventually leavening the whole loaf. I need to be better at this. I need my intellectual assent to become experiential reality. I need to be better at prayer. What about you?

Youth News for March, 2017

It has been a strong month for the youth of FBC Jesup. As the days have gone by, we have seen evidence in the lives of our students of a deepening commitment to the love of Christ and the work of His kingdom. The Spirit has been at work in teaching us what it means to be human, made for the work of serving Christ and created in the image of God as His ambassadors. Our students are taking ownership of their identity as disciples. It has been a blessing to watch.

The month of March carries with it a sense of excitement for me. It sits at the heart of the Spring semester and reminds me of the faithfulness and strength of God’s work in this place. It stands on the doorstep of the summer, the busiest time of year for youth ministry with all its challenges and all its promise. And it carries with it one of the most exciting single events in the life of this youth ministry.

This month we are gearing up for one of the biggest events of the year, Disciple Now Weekend, taking place on March 24-26th. As we gather names, assign host-homes, prepare our leaders and run final checks, one thing stands out to me as more important than anything else we can do: we need to pray. Nothing (significant) can happen without the miraculous power of God’s Spirit at work in our midst. No true change can take place in the hearts and lives of our students if God does not initiate it Himself. Over and over again the Bible makes clear that apart from Him we are a dead people, walking in darkness, blind to the truth, incapable of finding hope or freedom.

All of our planning, every aspect of our preparation, then, is approached with a deep sense of humility. But there is also hope and expectation. Nothing is possible without God at work, but we know that He desires to call His people to Himself and He wants to use us in that work. And so we can approach the throne of God with confidence! Whatever happens this Disciple Now Weekend, we can be certain that in the secret places of the heart God is doing His miraculous work of healing and regeneration. We have only but to call upon Him and be faithful to proclaim the gospel He has entrusted us with.

So let me ask you this: Will you pray with us? Will you kneel and seek the face of the Father asking Him to do what only He can, reveal where there is darkness, bring life where there is death, and create a passion within His children for His glory and His Name? Nothing else you do, nothing else I do, is more valuable than this.

Soli Deo Gloria!

Zach

 

P.S. - Registration for Disciple Now 2017 March 24-26th and Mission Fuge July 24-29th remains open. The window for Disciple Now registration will close in the first days of March, so sign up quickly!

Youth News for February, 2017

On Sunday and Wednesday nights our students are diving in to the question “What does it mean to be human?” In the midst of a culture that seems only to be concerned with the self, we are issuing a call to our students to leave the bankrupt philosophy of “be true to yourself” for the gracious call of Christ to “follow me.” But how do we face the assumptions of such a pervasive cultural narrative with the claims of Christ?

The problem with trying to combat the assumptions of our culture is that these aren’t messages we are asked to consider and make decisions about. Our culture doesn’t have a weekly meeting in which a cultural pastor stands up & preaches from the book of America and calls on us at the end to respond. Our culture doesn’t give us the choice. It simply assumes our values for us. We are surrounded by constant themes day in and day out in our media, through the advertising industry, and in the narratives of our world. The bravest thing one can do, we are told over and over again, is to find the deepest self and be true to it no matter what the world around you, and especially the authorities in your life, say. After all, you deserve it.

This is the thinking behind the phrases we so easily assume, statements like “Be true to yourself,” and “Follow your heart,” and “Nobody has the right to tell anybody else how to live their life.” When faced with these ideas outright, we might be quick of wit enough to say “Hold on a minute, that’s not quite true.” But when surrounded by it, when these things are simply assumed, they become the unconscious norms by which we operate. It’s not a decision. It’s simply an assumption.

We need to be a people more aware of the influences of our culture. We need to set the assumptions of the world up against the teachings of Scripture and show where the culture is lacking and where our faith is so much stronger. That’s exactly what we are doing with our youth.

The world says, “Be true to yourself.” Jesus says, “Crucify yourself.” The world says, “You should follow your heart.” Jesus says, “Come follow me.” The world says, “Do what makes you happy.” God says, “Delight yourself in the Lord.” The world says, “Nobody has the right to tell anyone else how to live their life.” Jesus says, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey all that I have commanded you.”

Want to hear more? We’re going to be talking about how this affects our understanding of what it means to be human and how we find meaning, satisfaction, freedom, identity, morality, and hope in Christ. His ways are so much better than ours.

To listen to our discussions, you can go to the youth website, youth.jesupfbc.org, and click on “Service Podcasts.”

Soli Deo Gloria!
Zach

Youth Ministry News for January, 2017

It’s the beginning of a new year, and in churches, school rooms, offices, and homes across the nation the message is clear: let’s make 2017 the best year yet! It’s a message of hope, a call to look out into the unknown with determination and good will. It’s a chance to wipe the slate clean and make the best of every moment. But where do you start?

The choices are overwhelming, the to-do-lists unending, the priorities confusing. It’s easy to get swept up in the emotion of a new year and get lost in the never ending demands of that “best year yet.” But what does Scripture counsel us in moments like this? I think if we turn to the Psalms we can find a way forward through it all.

In the midst of the chaos and confusion, the Psalms seem a constant call to “be still.” Psalm 46 speaks of wars and tribulation, troubles and the general chaos of the world, and in the midst of all of it we hear those so familiar words to “be still, and know that I am God.” To be still is to relinquish control, to acknowledge that One who is greater than I stands sovereign over our world.

When we look at the world around us and it seems the wicked are running things, that it is only they who are living the full life, we are counseled in the Psalms to enter the sanctuary of the Lord. Psalm 73:16-17 says “But when I thought how to understand this, it seemed to me a wearisome task, until I went into the sanctuary of God; then I discerned their end.” It’s in His presence that what makes no sense begins to make sense.

And when we simply don’t know what to desire, where our hearts should take us, we find the Psalms once again ready with an answer. Psalm 37:4 encourages us to “delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.” Make Him the center of your delight, and your desire will be for Him. He will not fail to give you Himself.

This year, before anything else, above the busyness of the modern calendar, we need to make time to be still, enter the sanctuary, and set our hearts on the Lord. Before we can have our “best year yet,” we must realize whose hands hold the year, and what is truly Best in this world. Only with that perspective in place will we make any headway in 2017.

Soli Deo Gloria!

Zach

P.S. - A great opportunity to retreat and reflect on the proper perspective for our youth is coming this March 24-26. Disciple Now 2017 will focus on what it means to be a Follower of Christ. Cost is $25. We are also beginning sign ups for our summer missions camp coming July 24-29, $50 deposit to secure your spot. Sign up with me today!

UPCOMING EVENTS:
Winter Jam
January 13th

Youth News for December

We are Rooted. Over the course of the last year we have been creating an identity for this youth group, one that helps us to define and encapsulate who we are. We are long overdue to take a concept, an image, and give it a name. And so the discussion began a few weeks back about who we are.

           We are a people centered on the Word of God, allowing it to be planted in the soil of our hearts and take root (Matt. 13:1-23). This reality is embodied in our Wednesday night Roots groups. We are a people gathered in worship, coming together like the trunk of a strong tree, firmly planted by streams of living water (Psalm 1). This reality is embodied in our Sunday night worship. And we are a people in the world, spread out and producing the fruit of gospel labor like the branches of a great fruit tree (Gal. 5:22-23). This is embodied in our service in the community, our work both as a group and as individuals to better the world for the Kingdom of God.

Worship, discipleship, service. The roots, the trunk, the branches. We are Rooted, the youth ministry of FBC Jesup. Let’s grow deep. Let’s grow strong. And let’s be a name of hope in this community.

Soli Deo Gloria!

Zach McCain

UPCOMING EVENTS:

Winter Jam

January 13th

Jacksonville, FL

 $10 at the door.

Disciple Now

 March 24-26th

Youth News for Nov 2016

It’s a growing trend in ministry circles to lament the loss of the younger generations from the church. A common statistic given for the evangelical youth dropout rate is that 87% of evangelical youth drop out of church after graduation, never to return.  The problem with this statement is that it simply isn’t true.  LifeWay Research has done some probing in this area, and found that “about 70% of young adults who indicated they attended church regularly for at least one year in high school do, in fact, drop out.”  More significant, however, is that of those 70% almost two-thirds will return and become regular attenders once again.

While not as catastrophic as we may assume, this is still a problem.  As followers of Christ, these are numbers we cannot ignore.  And yet, I wonder if these overblown statistics, and in fact numbers games in general, often do more harm than good. Think about our reaction.  Much of the seeker-friendly church movement, the good with the bad, is a direct result of these kinds of statistics.  These numbers pose a significant problem, and as human beings often do, we are quick to rush in and propose a solution.

And so we begin to alter our thinking in ways that focus more on pleasing the crowds and less on pleasing the King.  Instead of trusting the Master of the harvest, we begin to trust the masters of the markets, and our youth groups begin to look less and less like houses of reverent worship and more and more like warehouses of safe entertainment.

Not only that, but as a culture we have begun to expect this.  Our students, we believe, will only be served if our youth groups are exciting, fun, engaging, full of spark.  The reality, however, is that drawing crowds and making disciples is two very different things.  One looks great on the outside but when we poke deeper we find the results are students highly entertained but rarely transformed.  The other can at times feel boring, too churchy, unengaging, but when done properly creates life change that reshape the desires of our students from entertainment-driven to a deeper more eternal focus and purpose, unsatisfied with the vapid pass-times of the culture because they have had a taste of the eternal glory of God.

So, here’s the question: how will we respond to the numbers?  Many of you have figured out by now that at FBC we aren’t interested in being event planners for bored students.  We are in the business of making warriors for the kingdom.  This means at times we won’t be the most entertaining, the most exciting, the most flashy youth group in town.  But I firmly believe we will produce some of the most firmly rooted disciples in our community.  Then again, I am a little biased. 

All of this in mind, I urge you to do all you can to see your students and the students you know to be involved here.  We are making an eternal impact.  God uses His people gathered around His word to change the world.  Sometimes our students just need the accountability to be involved in something greater than they have previously imagined. 

Soli Deo Gloria!

Zach McCain