Writing to the need

Up in Michigan, I worked with a pastor whose congregation included a retired Bishop. In a preaching class, Pr. Jon told us that the most common preaching question people asked him was "Don't you get nervous with the Bishop in your congregation?" He always answered "No," because the Bishop had himself spent years preaching and knew the pressure pastors were under to come up with a sermon every week. What made him nervous, he said, was seeing a new person in the back row on Sunday morning. "What brought that person here this morning, and will this sermon speak to that need?"

Last night we held our first high school youth gathering, called DropZone. Going along with our JUMP theme for the year, we decided to name the group DropZone because after leaping out of the airplane, or into a commitment of faith, the next important thing you need is a safe place to land. So our youth group's name is "DropZone-- a safe place to land." I'd decided not to go easy on anyone with the first meeting, or have much fluff in it at all-- I wanted the idea of our mission as Christians to come out strong, so our project was learning about hunger and poverty and how we could help to solve them, and I spoke on the Great Commission.

The two phrases I think are really important from that passage (Matthew 28:16-20) are "but some doubted" (vs. 17b) and "And I will be with you always." (vs. 20b) The first phrase doesn't leave anyone out of the mission; it says that perfect faith isn't required to follow Jesus, just a pair of good shoes and the willingness to do what Jesus does. The second phrase reminds us that we're not alone, that there's nothing to be afraid of, and no excuse for not going along. The whole passage is like a classified ad for a job with Jesus, and the headline says "No experience necessary-- on the job training will be provided!"

I had a conversation with a student last week about doubts. And when I came across the "but some doubted" note in Matthew's Gospel, I felt the Spirit move through it and grabbed on. It was something I'd never considered important before that reading, but I couldn't get away from that insight. And that same student came up to me afterward and said "That's exactly what I'm struggling with. Did you do that on purpose?"

When we hear about a need in our ministries, we need to speak to that need. It's not just one student who's having it; that one was just brave enough to bring it up.

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