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

Youth News for October 2016

We are two months into the school year, students have returned from their vacations and we have re-established a routine. It’s good to find ourselves striding forward, reaching students, watching older students develop into leaders and seeing new faces enter the fold. We’re in a good place.

Last September my family packed up and moved to Jesup, GA sensing the call of God to come to this place and use the talents He has given us to further His kingdom here. Now, a year later, we have had the opportunity to witness a little of what God is doing in and through us. We have seen how well He has matched us to His flock here in this place. We have fallen in love with you, His people, and we are excited to see that journey move forward. Much can still be done to improve this ministry, but that will always be the case, because God chooses to use weak individuals like me to accomplish His purposes. One thing we do know: His purposes will be accomplished.

I said a moment ago that we are in a good place, but we have a long way to go. One specific area I hope that we can focus on in the remainder of this year is living up to God’s calling on all of His people to be missionaries on this earth. We have all been given a mission, to “go and make disciples.” We all know our purpose. But that purpose needs to be more than head knowledge. We need to fold it into our thinking, our systems, our objectives, and into the very longings of our souls. But how?

First, we need to begin seeing our role in our faith not as though we were a cog in an institution, but as a soldier in a movement. So often we get caught up in the busyness of church life and church attendance that we forget to look outward and focus on our neighbors, coworkers, and friends. Like missionaries, we need to be strategically assessing the worlds we live in for the ways we can bring the power of the gospel to bear.

What does that look like? Perhaps it could be reflecting God’s intentional love of us through intentionally investing time to get to know those around us who are in need of the gospel. One of the incredible truths of the gospel is the depth of God’s knowledge of us, not just head knowledge, but heart knowledge. God knows us as a father knows his children, and we feel the love and compassion of His knowing. We should be reflecting that in our intentional knowing of those around us, deeply caring for them and loving them in our understanding of who they truly are. We can’t know everyone in this way, only God is omniscient, but we can be intentional about knowing some. And through that we have the opportunity to show where the gospel intersects the lives of those we know.

This is just one way a missionary lives. Learning the culture around you, discovering the passions of the people, finding hurt and working to heal it, all of these are the marks of missionary living. How can we be better at that today? And then, let us mentor our young people by bringing them along side us as we pursue the mission of Christ in this missionary endeavor. They will only go as far as we will take them.

Soli Deo Gloria!
Zach McCain

Youth News for September, 2016

“Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil” (Eph. 5:15-16 ESV).  

What is your relationship with time?  My own experience is often flooded with moments of bitter endurance, face defiant as the winds of time pummel the ship, hands gripping the railing like a stubborn captain determined to make it through the storm.  Put simply, my relationship with time is often simply that of grim perseverance.  Time seems to master us, dictating our movement and ruling over our destinies.

But when we open the pages of Ephesians we see a very different picture of time. When Paul speaks of time in Ephesians, he imagines it not as an enemy that masters us but as a tool in our hands.  Time, much like a well equipped tool belt, sits about our waists providing the opportunities we need to accomplish the tasks we have at hand.  We, as those who have been made wise to the plans of God for the salvation of this world, have been called out to use the time we have for the glory of God and the good of our fellow man.  How, then, do we accomplish this?

As I write this, we are in the first stages of a new emphases in our church called the Pray for Me Campaign.  Through it our students are being connected with adults throughout this church, prayers are being daily offered up on their behalf, and kingdom fruit is undoubtedly being planted through these efforts.  This, I would argue, is a picture of what it looks like to “make the best use of the time.”  Instead of sitting idly by while time sweeps us up in its flow, intentional investment is being made from one generation to the next.  Time is, quite literally, the tool resting in our hands for the glory of God and the good of our fellow man.

Consider with me what precisely is happening.  22 students are being lifted up in prayer each day by at least three adults each, most by 4 or even 5.  81 of our adults are engaging in the discipline of prayer.  If we consider that each of these spend an average of 5 minutes in prayer for their student each day (a low estimate I think), then each day our students are collectively receiving 405 minutes of prayer.  If we consider that this will take place over the course of an entire year that looks like 147,825 minutes, or 2,464 hours of prayer on behalf of our students this year.  That number alone is staggering!  

I firmly believe that we are making an impact on the kingdom that will be eternal.  Now, let me throw in this challenge.  If a simple commitment such as this can have such an impact, what would happen if we began living each day seeking to “make the best use of the time?”  Paul goes on to describe what that looks like in that same passage in Ephesians, and the primary function of disciples in making the best use of the time is a soul intoxicated by the Spirit, living in complete abandon to His goodness out of a mirth and joy that comes from drinking in our Triune God.  If we can orient our hearts in that direction, the transformation will be gloriously exalting to our God!

 Soli Deo Gloria!

 Zach