It’s hard to serve those who cause you heartache.
(Pause with me a moment as we each consider who that is for us.)
I’m going to guess we have one thing in common with our answers. It’s the reason why youth workers and pastors who are otherwise strangers can find immediate camaraderie with each other. Not only do we share the same Christ, but we also share a similar burden.
Sometimes the church we serve feels like an abusive, adulterous lover.
But… is it?
You have your war stories and war wounds. I have my war stories and my war wounds.
If we were candid, the people who serve above, below and next to us have war stories and ware wounds, too… some of which we’ve caused.
I was recently reminded of two things that may breathe some perspective into this. One is from pop culture, and the other is from church history.
The singer Pink released a song last year called “Just Give Me A Reason.” She explains how she’s feeling broken over how the relationship doesn’t feel like it used to, while her counterpart in the song (Nate Ruess) offers a different perspective. Imagine that you’re sharing Pink’s words to your church, and your church is replying back in kind:
Right from the start
You were a thief
You stole my heart
And I your willing victim
I let you see the parts of me
That weren’t all that pretty
And with every touch you fixed them
Now you’ve been talking in your sleep, oh, oh
Things you never say to me, oh, oh
Tell me that you’ve had enough
Of our love, our love
Just give me a reason
Just a little bit’s enough
Just a second we’re not broken just bent
And we can learn to love again
It’s in the stars
It’s been written in the scars on our hearts
We’re not broken just bent
And we can learn to love again
I’m sorry I don’t understand
Where all of this is coming from
I thought that we were fine
(Oh, we had everything)
Your head is running wild again
My dear we still have everythin’
And it’s all in your mind
(Yeah, but this is happenin’)
What an intriguing exchange. There’s a great line in the chorus that’s sung on both sides… “we’re not broken, just bent – and we can learn to love again.”
That brings me to the other thought I wanted to share with you. It’s from Augustine’s Essential Sermons, sermon 213 – he’s referring to the Church:
“Let us honour her, because she is the bride of so great a Lord. And what am I to say? Great and unheard of is the bridegroom’s gracious generosity; he found her a whore, he made her a virgin. She mustn’t deny that she was once a whore, or she may forget the kindness and mercy of her liberator.”
A church/youth ministry doesn’t grow because of what happens at its gatherings, but in what happens outside its gatherings.
What happens outside of its gatherings doesn’t grow until the people who are intentional about shaping that culture let God reshape the culture of their own hearts.
Will the church let you down? Absolutely. Maybe to the degree that Tony Campolo suggests: “The church is a whore, and she is my mother.”
Then again, maybe it’s not just broken… just bent.
And you can learn to love it again.
Imagine that’s possible. What would you be willing to do for it to happen?
Need a hint?
This is how greatness and servanthood are defined:
Jesus, on the night He was to be betrayed, knelt down and washed all His disciples’ feet… including Judas.
Then he said, “Do you understand what I have done to you? You address me as ‘Teacher’ and ‘Master,’ and rightly so. That is what I am. So if I, the Master and Teacher, washed your feet, you must now wash each other’s feet. I’ve laid down a pattern for you. What I’ve done, you do. I’m only pointing out the obvious. A servant is not ranked above his master; an employee doesn’t give orders to the employer. If you understand what I’m telling you, act like it—and live a blessed life. (John 13:12-17, The Message)
Thank you for loving students (and the Church!)