January 20, 2009. A historical day for the nation as our first African American President took the oath of office. I love inauguration day. I’m always amazed at the spectacle that plays out when we witness the peaceful transfer of power.
This year I had to settle for watching in my office at church. After the final prayer, I walked into our youth room to prepare for Wednesdays service. That’s when I felt it. Looking around the room….staring at 18 folding chairs and an out of date large screen TV …I couldn’t help but feel very small and profoundly insignificant. In all my years in ministry I can honestly say that I had never felt that way before! However, after watching such a grand spectacle unfold on the world stage, I found myself wondering whether or not what I do as a youth worker really matters. Then I remembered Jesus and His “small group” of twelve.
Now I realize that there’s no special virtue in being small…or large for that matter…but there are important lessons to be learned from Jesus’ discipleship style. It’s clear that His emphasis was on individuals and not the crowd. Yes, He ministered to the crowds but He could only disciple a few. In Luke chapter 15 Jesus gives us a clear picture of His heart for the individual. The lost sheep parable shows the Master pursuing a sheep and, when He finds it, He “…joyfully puts it on His shoulders and goes home.” How about the story of the lost coin? Again we see the Master pursuing the individual and celebrating when He finds him.
I’m starting to think that it’s ok to feel small…
As a matter of fact, I’m beginning to wonder if small really is at the heart of youth ministry…
If that’s true then why is there so much attention given to the large, big and flashy? Why do we place so much significance on growing big youth groups while not much attention is given to producing spiritually healthy kids? I think it’s because sometimes we forget that our youth groups are a patchwork of individuals, a tapestry of souls, each one precious enough to provoke the Master to leave the crowd; each one special enough to cause Him to rejoice when he brings them home!
Do you still rejoice over the individual or are you caught up in someone else’s definition of success?
This weekend, my wife and I went to watch two of our younger students play basketball. It was going to be a busy day without this extra commitment but we made the decision to invest an hour of our time in their lives. When it was over, I found myself feeling like we had just ministered. Even though I didn’t preach or give an alter call, we both realized that just being there spoke volumes to these young hearts.
The truth is discipleship takes time. It takes sacrifice. It messes with your plans and it can wreck your schedule! Discipleship can make you feel very small. It can make you wonder if what you’re doing is really worth it. But that’s ok! Jesus was all about small. He was all about us. Each one of us individually! He’s patient with us and He never grows tired of putting us on His shoulders and bringing us home! I really believe that if we learn to focus on one soul at a time, we’ll find that the great commission isn’t so overwhelming and that feeling small isn’t so bad after all.