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At the Edge of the Cliff: Reaching Beyond the Walls


Jesus announced to his hometown that he was their long-awaited messiah. The people were excited and proud. That was until Jesus announced he was also messiah to the Gentiles. The Jews, having no desire to associate with Gentiles, were outraged. They took Jesus to the edge of town with the intention of throwing him over a cliff. The announcement Jesus shared was welcomed, but not if it meant associating with outsiders. The disciples lived in this tension as they urged the Jews to embrace the message of Jesus. He did not come for one, he came for all – both Jew and Gentile.

Are we living in this tension today? Does the church desire to know the Messiah while not wanting to associate with those who need him?

Maybe you’ve echoed the announcement Jesus made by extending your ministry beyond the walls of the church. When you connect your church to hurting, marginalized, non-believing teens, do you feel things get a bit dramatic? Have there been attempts to throw you over a cliff?

As a youth pastor at a local church, I gathered a team of volunteers to reach out to youth in our community through basketball. We were meeting teens who had never stepped foot into a church. They were foul-mouthed, competitive, and loitered in the church parking lot for hours. It was spectacularly messy!

We were thrilled, but not everyone shared our enthusiasm. One night, a church member made a beeline for me and asked two questions I’ll never forget:

“Why are they here?”
“Are any of them even our kids?”

I’m sure this member didn’t love my response,

“They’re here because we’ve invited them to be here. And yes, they are all our kids.”

Are you confronted with tension when you invite non-believers to your campus? This is a tension we must be willing to live in and handle with grace if teens beyond the walls of the church will be reached. We must constantly go to God in prayer and keep his heart for all his children central.

What can we do when it seems our heart to reach beyond the walls of the church creates tension?

Focus on serving.
We are not called to fight God’s battles. We’re called to serve.
We must focus on serving those God loves with humility, passion, and laser focus on Jesus. Let God fight his own battles in the hearts of others.

Embrace collaboration.
By embracing collaboration we share the burden for the lost.
Many of Jesus’ accusers, after stalking Jesus and trying to trap him, walked away believers. It’s hard to witness Jesus at work without experiencing our own transformation. Invite the involvement and collaborative efforts of your accusers.

Take risks.
When I began inviting teens to join us for basketball, I knew there would be trash talk and competitiveness that could lead to fights. Calculating that risk allowed me the foresight to recruit volunteers who had experience on the court. When the competition got heated, leaders would step in and assist in the situation. They didn’t just break up fights. They prevented them from happening by modeling and teaching great sportsmanship and promoting Godly character.

Let people wrestle.
Sometimes people need to wrestle with change. This doesn’t make them the enemy. Not every Jew wanted to throw Jesus over a cliff, and not every Jew yelled, “Crucify him.” Some of them went through the process of wrestling. Those who wrestle with the truth will embrace your vision and passion to reach the lost. They just need time to process.

Share stories of transformation.
People can’t support what they can’t see. It is up to us to share the stories of transformation our teens are experiencing. Thank your community for being a part of the transformational work of God.

Many of us have managed the expectations to grow our youth programs and the tension that exists when we associate the church with Gentiles. You are living out the Good News. The good news is, Jesus came to be Messiah to both Jew and Gentile, believer and non-believer. Continue to be courageous, even when you find yourself at the edge of the cliff. God is with you.

– Theresa

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