Teens are not the future of the church.

I’m spending a few days this week at a youth conference. I brought three teenagers with me who are eager to worship and grow in their faith. As I write this post, they are standing and listening to Lacrae, a well-known Christian rapper. And they’re with a couple thousand more teenagers who are shouting and praising Jesus. It’s awesome.

I just came back to my seat a little bit ago. I was in a room full of teens who were giving their lives to Christ. I got to pray with a couple teens who were rededicating their lives to Jesus. It was awesome.

It reminded me once again that we have and lot of hope for the future of the church. God is still in the business of calling out a people for Himself, including the next generation. And that’s awesome.

It sure seems like a lot of teens are taking their faith seriously. They’re taking worship seriously. And I bet if we give them the opportunity, they’ll take service seriously.

The preacher tonight said something I’ve heard before, known for awhile, and firmly believe. He said that youth are not the church of tomorrow. They’re the church of today.

My Christmas Sermon Will be Average

I read an article last night encouraging pastors to make sure their Christmas service is done with excellence because there will likely be several people in attendance who don’t regularly gather with the church. Among other things, the article encouraged me to preach an extra special good sermon on Christmas day. The rationale was basically that we want to leave a great impression on our guests so that they’ll want to come back again.

I don’t necessarily disagree with the motive, but I think the article generally gave bad advice.

I often need to fight (in my own heart) the tendency toward professionalism in the church. Yes, we want to do all things with excellence, but if that means telling someone they can’t sing a special because they don’t have a good voice, we’re defining excellence wrong. Excellence in the church is not about doing things in such a way that we can all nod in approval and say, “Yes, good song” or “Yes, good sermon.” Excellence is worshiping with the mindset that we have an audience of One: God Himself.

If that’s our goal in worship, then the day of the year and/or the presence of guests makes little difference. We should always seek to do everything with excellence. That should be the norm in church. That should be our “average.”

Whenever I prepare a sermon, I study the Scripture text, wrestle with it, and once I feel like I’m beginning to adequately understand it, I prepare the message that I feel God wants me to preach from that particular text at that particular time. And I don’t stop preparing until I feel like it’s perfect (or at least as perfect as I can possibly comprehend and state it. I often have to go to bed Saturday night and pray, “God, I’ve done all I can possibly do; please speak through this broken vessel.”)

My sermon preparation leaves no room for attempting to preach a more excellent sermon. I’m not saying I can’t improve in my preaching. I definitely can. I’m not saying I shouldn’t give it all I’ve got on Christmas morning. Of course I should. But I give it all I’ve got every Sunday. That’s my normal. That’s my average. Because that’s what my Audience deserves.

So if you come to Grace Baptist Church to worship with us this Christmas morning, know that everything said and done is how we normally worship God week after week. It’s not flashy. It’s not professional. We’re a real family worshiping a real God, who always deserves our very best.

Review: Embracing Obscurity: Becoming Nothing in Light of God’s Everything

Embracing Obscurity: Becoming Nothing in Light of God’s Everything
Embracing Obscurity: Becoming Nothing in Light of God’s Everything by Anonymous
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I loved the concept of this book. I think it’s a great message, not only for our society today, but for myself. Even those who don’t want recognition often seem to want to be rewarded in some way in this life. This book encourages us to make much of Christ, because He is worthy of all praise.

I feel like the book could have been less than half as long, though. And it’s not even close to being a long book! While it started off great, somewhere in the middle of the book, I lost interest because of its repetitive nature and sometimes unnecessary stories. I still finished it, because it was good enough that I was curious if the author would add any other support from Scripture, but I felt like this is one of those books where the title and subtitle pretty much says it all.

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I don’t know what I’m doing.

I don’t really know how to be a good pastor. Or how to be a leader. Or a servant.

I wish I did, but I don’t. When I talk to or see the ministries of other pastors, they seem to know what they’re doing. They’re clear about the vision that God gave them for their church, and even though they often say the journey has been hard, they always make it look so easy. Because even throughout the difficult periods of ministry, they had clarity about their purpose, which drove them toward being steadfast in faith and practice.

But when I even begin to think I have even the slightest clue about what I’m doing, something happens that reminds me that I really have no idea what I’m doing. Ministry is a mystery to me.

Actually, all of life is kind of a mystery to me.

Wishing that I knew what I was doing, sometimes I foolishly spurt out some ideas and goals that I wish I were able to implement with some kind of wisdom and passion, but I know inside that I’m not able to do it. I fail, over and over and over again.

But maybe it’s supposed to be this way. Maybe constantly realizing that I’m not able to do this keeps me crying out to the only One who is able to fulfill His purpose in me. And maybe it reminds me over and over again that the church isn’t about me, but about Jesus, and Jesus is the One who builds His church.

And maybe that’s true not just in ministry, but in all of life. Our sin and failure highlights God’s goodness that much more, because God shows His goodness even toward us who have failed over and over and over again.

For God has consigned all to disobedience, that he may have mercy on all. Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! “For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?” “Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?” For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen. (Romans 11:32-36)

Therefore, our joy and hope should not be in ourselves, our abilities, or our futures, but in God, who is the hero of the story.

So even though it’s often hard to fight discouragement in life and ministry, I know that God does have a purpose for me, and it doesn’t depend at all on my competence or wisdom. It depends on God. Because it’s His work, His will, His wisdom, and we simply get to be a part of it.

Battling Discouragement

I get discouraged easily. Far too easily for someone who believes in and preaches about the hope that we have in Christ. And so when I get discouraged, I can also get somewhat sorrowful, because I think that I shouldn’t be so discouraged. As a pastor, I think that I should always be encouraged, and encouraging to others, as I find my hope in God.

But then sometimes I get discouraged precisely because I am a pastor.

One of the primary tasks of the pastor is to equip the saints for works of ministry. The goal of the pastor is not merely to get more people to listen to his sermons, but to see each person transformed into a servant of God. Into someone who gives his life to minister to people.

So it can be extremely discouraging when this doesn’t happen.

Or, I should say, when this doesn’t happen in the way that I want it to.

But this just goes to point out the obvious: my discouragement often has nothing to do with the saints, and everything to do with my pride. It comes from desiring to see results that prove that I’m doing a good job. But perhaps God just wants me to be faithful, and to leave the results up to Him.

Or maybe God is even more concerned with how I rest rather than how I work. In other words, maybe my faithfulness shouldn’t even be the focus. Maybe resting in Christ’s faithfulness should be the focus. Because if I focus on my faithfulness, I’ll still end up being discouraged, because I can’t always be faithful. But Jesus was and is always completely faithful to the Father, and to His Word, and even to us, whom He loves.

John Piper puts it this way: “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.”

So the answer to life’s discouragement isn’t seeing the results you want, or doing a perfect job, or trying harder, but resting in Jesus Christ.

That, after all, is the gospel.