Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Speaking at a Youth Retreat

Some things in our ministry here happen pretty regularly. I get invited to preach a sermon at various churches. Other times, I'm asked to be on a worship team for an event. I've also taught courses at our church. I love all of the opportunities to open God's word with his people and see what he has to say. A few weeks ago, I was honored to be able to do that again. The leader of the youth group at our church asked me to come for one night and speak twice as a part of the bible teaching at their youth retreat. It was a huge honor to open the Word with these young people. Here are some of the thoughts we looked at.

I was given Colossians 1 and the first few verses of chapter 2 to deal with in just two sessions. We weren't able to hit everything in our times together. One thought that really jumped out at me was right at the beginning of the letter. Paul has a pretty normal greeting structure that involves introductions (who is writing to whom) and a quick "grace and peace to you from God" greeting. He then thanks God for three things that the Colossians already have. 1. Their Faith in Christ 2. their Love for all of the saints and 3. Both of which are based on the Hope they have in the Gospel. So these three things: faith, love and hope are what Paul thanks God for. Of all of the good things that he has heard about the Colossians and all that God is doing in their midst, this is what he is most thankful for.

First and foremost, that is a pretty good list of qualities. In a lot of ways, it is a great all encompassing list of qualities. Their faith is grounded in Christ, which is the central message of the book of Colossians. If you want to avoid believing false teaching and straying away from the core, keep Christ at the center. Keep pursuing Christ. 

The second is equally as laudable but also difficult to live out. It is their love for all the saints. This second aspect to their character as a church is something that is difficult to live out alongside the first aspect. What do I mean by that? We all have known churches that are very focused on Christ, they are very focused on teaching correctly the things of Christ. They want to make sure that every doctrinal particulate is sorted and sieved. But they are so focused on that, they miss the chance to show love to all the saints. The word "all" there is important. I think it focuses on unity in the face of geographic distance, cultural distance, and ethnic origin. Probably this took the form of direct financial investment or support of workers or churches. 

Finally, what is great is that both of these things flow out of a hope in the gospel. All of this faith in Christ and love for the saints is all set on a foundation of hope. They hope in the promises of God and the future that he has in store for them.

These three things are what the Colossian church was known for. These were the things that Paul praised in them. The question I challenged the students with was this:

What is this youth group known for? How do you want to be known?

If a friend of your youth leader visited you and then went and reported back to your your youth leader's mentor, what would that friend say? Would the mentor thank God for your faith and love that is grounded in the gospel?

I challenged them to think and take an active part in knowing what the vision for the youth group was. They have the chance to either hinder or help that vision to succeed. The youth leaders can point them in the right direction, but if they want to be a youth group that is focused on the Word of God, then they need to actively take part in it.

I hope and pray that the youth are going to take on this challenge. I pray that they would grow in Faith and Love that is based on the Hope of the Gospel.

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