Yesterday, the sermon at church was about discipleship, specifically around this passage in Luke 14:
“25 Large crowds were travelling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: 26 ‘If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters – yes, even their own life – such a person cannot be my disciple. 27 And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.”
The preacher said that your love and allegiance to Jesus must be above that of your family. He said it was that simple.
I don’t find that simple. I don’t think it’s that straightforward.
In two weeks, I’ll step down as youth worker of South Beach Baptist Church in Saltcoats and move my family three hours away to Preston where I’ll take up the position of youth minister at Hutton Grammar School. My last two weeks will involve a number of meetings where I seek to hand the work over as smoothly as possible to the youth work volunteers as the church is not seeking another full time youth worker for the time being.
I have many questions about moving away from the church. Is this God’s will? What about the young people who feel I am deserting them? Is this the right thing to do? How do you know if you’re following God’s will? Does God even have a plan for my life?
I know there are people in the church who will be quite happy that I am leaving; people that believe I am unbiblical. But there are also people who are really upset that I am going, including some of the young people. I know some of them think that I am abandoning them.
One of the older members of the congregation, who took the news quite hard, said to me, “well if you’re sure it’s Gods will for you…”
The truth is, I don’t. I’m not sure I’ve heard anything from God on the matter.
Around Christmas time, a friend of mine said that there was a job coming up near where he worked that I should apply for. He is doing a similar job in a school and I saw how much he enjoyed it (and that the pay was really good too). So when it came up, I applied for it. There was no lightning bolt from God. No clear word that this was ‘right’ but I went for it and got it.
I’ve always felt a little uncomfortable doing church youth work as some of my theology is not ‘mainstream’ and I’ve had a lot of criticism for it. Also, church youth work does not pay that well either. The new job allows me to share my views without fear of judgement and gives our family financial security for the next few years.
So, I sat in church yesterday hearing that Jesus should be put first and I’m thinking, “well that’s all good in theory but does it work in practice?” It may have been Gods will for me to stay in the church (and get further into debt financially) but instead I’ve thought about my family and went for the better paid job. I’ll be honest. the wage was the reason I went for it in the first place. It’s the only reason I would move from Scotland to England; move away from the rest of my family and friends. Yes, the job will be challenging and exciting and play to my strengths but, first and foremost, it will provide for us as a family.
So I’m left wondering, am I putting Jesus first or my family first? Am I putting security and a ‘comfortable’ life over being a true disciple?
It’s a hard one isn’t it? It’s not the first time I’ve wrestled with this and it certainly won’t be the last.
On reflection, I guess this situation has taught me two things:
1) Trust. I have to trust that things will work out for my family as well as the church. In everything we do there is an element of trust that we are throwing out there and this situation is no different. I have to trust God. I have to trust those that have been left with the youth work.
2) I really don’t like pithy statements about faith. It’s easy to say you should love God more than your family but it’s far more difficult to know what that means in practice. Let’s not pretend that things are that easy. Life is complicated. Decisions and motives are complicated.
Do you agree? Surely I’m not the only one who thinks like this?
Before I joined my present employment as youth worker at south beach baptist church in saltcoats, I worked part time for a small church of Scotland in Mauchline. Our Sunday night youth fellowship ground had a grand total of five young people and so I had to restructure how I ‘did’ YF.
I was brought up with the mini church service still of YF. You would have an intro/ icebreaker, followed by some songs, a short talk and then maybe a discussion group.
I knew that with the small number we had I couldn’t rely on that structure and so by default, the group became very interactive.
Skip forward 12 months. After several people’s recommendations, I’ve started reading “deep church” by Jim Belcher (a fantastic book that I would encourage you to read if you haven’t already). I was reminded of my passion for reinventing groups to make them more interactive and more young people driven and led.
But I look at the YF we run at south beach and I get a little depressed. Rather than being dynamic, its fallen back into the mini church service still where, for the majority of the time, the young people face the front and listen. Yes, they interact a little but not a huge amount.
Should YF be like this? I mean, I have issues with the way the church service is done because it is all led by a select few from the front. Christian education is reduced to listening to a talk for twenty minutes and that’s it. This isn’t how Jesus modelled discipleship but how else would you do it?
I’ve put an online questionnaire out to all of the young people to find out what they like/ don’t like about YF and what could make it better. Over the Summer, I want to come before God and hear his heart for the group. Is there a different style that would work?
What are people’s own thoughts about it? How do you guys structure your youth fellowship meetings? Is it all about the young people listening to a talk and being ‘educated’ or do you guys do something different?
Please leave your comments.