There are moments when I wonder if what I am going to say will have any impact. I get these crazy ideas sometimes, and often it is hard to know if they are from Christ or from some warped section of my brain. Thus, when I plan a youth worship service, I always wrestle with things when I have a "good" idea. Knowing teenagers the way I do, "good" ideas can usually go one of two ways, they can go extremely well, or they can crash and burn.
Tonight I wasn't sure what to expect. We were down numerically. Some of the students were ill, and many families are squeezing in their last minute vacations before school starts, so it's been sort of hit or miss. I try not to get caught up in the numbers, not let them hinder me from the work Christ has for me. Yet, being human, the self esteem bug comes in, and you really want people to like you, to want to be there. To send you long explanations of why they couldn't come, like their dog ate their homework type excuses are even better then nothing.
Whether or not I liked it, there was a smaller group tonight, with no excuses at all. I went forward with my plan, how could I not? I spent all day Wednesday working on it.
I gave the announcements and left the students with a volunteer. They were led up the stairs a few moments later. It was dark. No lights, just a few candles I had lit on the ground. My goal was to transition them into reverence, which is never easy with teenagers, especially in the summer.
The youth room was pitch black, but in the middle of the room was a candle. One single candle. It cast a soft glow on their faces as they sat down around it.
I was behind the sound booth, they couldn't see me, and as the room began to get quiet I began to read....
"There was a man named Nicodemus, a Jewish religious leader, who was a pharisee..."
The room was silent. No one shuffled. No one talked. They just listened, looking at the light. I continued to read through John 3, about Nicodemus coming at night, approaching Jesus with questions, and Jesus responding. Jesus talks to Nicodemus about light and darkness. About how Christ wants to bring us into the light, but we love our sin too much to jump into it.
I asked the students to think about light and darkness. What it would be like to live in darkness, then see the light for the first time. How amazing it would be to see colors, and faces! Then I asked them if they were ready to come into the light. That it wasn't about having all the answers, it's about coming to Christ with our questions still there. That we don't have to know everything about Jesus to have a relationship with him, we just have to come to him. We have to enter into the light.
I ended with the song "To Know You" by Nichole Nordeman. I asked them to ask themselves, if they really wanted to Know Jesus, that despite their doubts and fears they really just wanted to say, "Hey! I'm here! I don't know how, I don't know why, but I trust you, and I really do want to know you!"
I prayed. I told them they could stay. They could pray as long as they wanted, or they could leave. They all just sat there. Silently. Reverently, staring at the light.
After a while all but 3 got up.
Then there were 2. We sat there for a while, when the questions started to come. "I want to be different, but how?" "How can I follow, if I can't even see the path?" "I just don't know how to be different... I feel like I'm in some sort of pathless location, with no direction... where do I go? What happens now?"
It's odd how in those moments I shift from the cool, fun, youth pastor, to the serious confidant. I didn't have all the answers, but I prayed with them. I sat with them as they cried and prayed. I told them about experiences in my life the best I could, of how God has changed my life.
That's when the light broke through. The marvelous light that showed me again, that it isn't about me... it's about Him. It's not about big youth groups, or great statistics, it's about lives being changed. It's about allowing God to use us to be his hands, his feet, and sometimes his voice. And, when we do that, sometimes when we least expect it, he shows up and does exactly what he promised he would do... he rescues us and them out of darkness and into His marvelous light.
3 years ago