The people who we disciple are our disciples. We’re called to raise up the next generation, the simple way to do it is through relationships. The model is Jesus, and the way he discipled. He discipled many people in different ways: e.g. Peter, John and James, Mary and Mary. As a human he had to choose who to invest in.
Sometimes we get scared of making a choice as we think it looks like choosing favourites. We’re not talking about that, we’re talking about who we should invest in. Jesus didn’t choose favourites, he chose those who he needed to invest in. At first Jesus’ choices seemed bizarre, men with anger problems (Peter, James and John), a terrorist (Simon), a tax collector (Matthew) – imagine the conversations between Simon and Matthew, a man who always doubted (Thomas) and then there’s Judas!
Time and time again as Jesus told stories they said that’s nice Jesus but what does it mean. You can hear the frustration in his voice, and yet it’s those guys who led the early church and wrote most of the New Testament.
Jesus was vulnerable with the disciples, he allowed them to see him weep, forgive people, serve people. Jesus carried on the tradition of honouring your guess by dipping the bread in the wine and offering first to the most important person – in this case Judas – so amazing.
Raising up the next generation
A couple of stories:
- Matt Redman was in Mike’s youth ministry from the age of 13. They saw potential, not just in worship but in who he is, and so Mike fully invested in Matt and his wider family. They weren’t a project, they were Mike’s family. When you treat people as family they grow, and they develop.
- Tim Hughes who Mike knew since he was 11. Tim and a friend prayed for Mike to cast out the demon of ugliness! But watching Tim and his friend grow and develop and Mike saw their passion for Jesus to develop. They did a gap-year in a church in Durban, and Tim’s mate got ill and had to come back to the UK so he was their on his own with a non-existent youth work. Having spent the year working there he ran a long weekend away – a few days before both the speaker and the worship leader had to pull out – on the first night he saw 7 young people come to faith, and loads during the rest of that weekend – God did miracles there.
- Matin Layzell come on camp aged 11 with Mike and become a Christian. Over many years of sharing and investing together.
- Jamie aged 16 who led worship at Soul Survivor this Sunday, four years ago would hang around after the morning to help stack chairs, and would linger around the prayer team. Both Ben Cantelon and Mike ended up praying with him sensing he had a gift for leadership. Ben invested time teaching him in guitar but the heart stuff matters more than the gifting.
Some people say Mike is lucky to have all those people with gifting but apart from Ben none of those worship leaders are natural musicians. They’ve been invested in, but equally it’s not that Mike has a gift of raising up young people, we’ve just done it the Jesus way.
Jesus involved the disciples
Jesus didn’t just get them to watch, he got them involved:
- The disciples did 2/3 of the raising of Lazarus – they rolled the stone away, they took Lazarus grave clothes off, Jesus only said “Lazarus come forth” – it was a team.
- Then there was the time the demon didn’t come out and had to go back to Jesus. They’ll never forget the lesson Jesus gave that it needed prayer and fasting. As they went out and did it, Jesus was so proud of them. He then teaches them the next lesson – it’s about being in the book of eternal life.
- The feeding of the 5,000 they did it together. They got the people into the groups of 50 and handed the food out.
Failure v Encouragement
If we’re going to do this right we have to embrace failure, there is no other way. It’s the only way people grow and learn. In our culture, and in our church culture we don’t learn this. The journey is as important as the destination – the journey is we raise them up. In every youth group there are guys and girls who just need someone to believe in them, to encourage them. Barnabas was fantastic at this, he made Paul the leader he became.
Some many of our young people are insecure, they hate themselves; you chat with them and think “you feel like that”, why, but you can’t ask that as it’s what they feel. It’s one of the things that Hillsong and HTB do so well. Mike remembered telling Tim to improve in singing out in ministry time as it wasn’t going well – Time turned round and said “I don’t thrive on disappointment”. Lex Buckley panicked about leading worship the first time, Mike tried to explain that it wasn’t a test; it was a belief that she should be leading worship regularly in the church that year.
Used the sit in a circle and write something encouraging for everyone in the group, it had such an effect. Many of the young people still had theirs in their bible and pinned on the wall. We all need encouragement.
In that context you can correct, as they will receive anything from you when it comes from the motive of “I love you”. We’ve got to create that culture as that’s what grows leaders.
We need to do this because …
- It’ll be how we raise up a generation who aren’t consumers
- It’s the best way to follow Jesus’ model to change the church
Youth work is the best job, watching young people raise up. Sometimes it’s the most difficult, the most awkward young people who raise up to be leaders. There is nothing more wonderful than seeing young people fly and knowing that you had something to do with that. And lastly, we grow, they challenge us, they stretch us. We have to hear them as adults. Those relationships last, even when they move out to new places.