Today when I visited the blog of my former youth pastor, I really liked what he had to say. Truth be known I am fond of a lot of what he publishes over at his site "I'd Laugh...But All This Happened To Me!" but his "Give Them Jesus" struck me deeply and I asked him if I could share it with you here as a "guest post". I am delighted to say, he approved. So without any further ado, I present:
Give Them Jesus
by Carl Jones
I heard Tony Campolo say many years ago that "too often people come to us looking for Jesus and we give them church. If the church doesn't give them Jesus, then do we really have anything to offer?" After a few months at the Union Church of Hinsdale, it was apparent to me that far too often people were coming for "church." The radical, life-changing Jesus was too often missing from the things we did. In fact, the church seemed quite afraid of Jesus, choosing to study his words without ever seeking to follow Him. The more I prayed about what my role should be at UC, the clearer the answer was. I was there to push the limits. I was there to raise the bar. I was there to make sure this large church began to give people Jesus.
So how did I do it? Let me first say that I was not a prophet or some sort of Christian superhero, and I didn't accomplish anything miraculous. I just made a conscious decision to remind the staff, the committees I worked with, and most importantly the youth of the church as to why we were there. In staff meetings I was constantly questioning the way we did things, wanting to know how we were helping our congregation experience worship and experience Jesus. I questioned how the community around us saw our church- it seemed to me most of them hardly noticed us. We lived next door to a guy named Paul Allen, a pastor in another church in town. He told me once that after 5 years of living there he still knew nothing about what UC stood for. I decided it was time to step out in faith and show our church and the community what it looked like to live boldly for Jesus. And as always, there were no better ambassadors than the youth.
Hinsdale Middle School was located directly across the street from the church. One of the guys who had been attending our middle school group (TNT) was in a band made up of his peers from HMS, and I began talking to him abut doing an outdoor concert after school on church grounds. We put it together and put out tons of publicity. In addition to the live band I got Domino's to give us 50 large pizzas. Several hundred students came to hear the music- but they also heard a short message about the love of God whose name is Jesus. It was a great afternoon that created quite a stir in the community. And it got the church talking about what we could do next...
A month or so later I brought my old friends Spooky Tuesday to UC, where they played for out students and a few others in the overflow of the worship room. It was without a doubt the most radical, rocking event ever to be held inside that church. I kept pushing for more contemporary music in worship. I challenged the staff to keep finding ways to remind our members of how radical the teachings of Jesus were, and that we were called to follow his example. I don't know that I was making much of difference- but I was living out one of the basics of ministry I had learned from J. David Stone way back in 1978- "we are called to be faithful, not successful." And that was what mattered most to me. I still was battling with why God had sent me to Illinois. But if people were going to come to UC while I was there, I was going to make sure I gave them Jesus!
A few other things were going on in the student ministry that were giving me hope as well. I'll get on to those stories next week. Have a blessed weekend!
Jesus- the only hope for me is you...and You alone!
Photo by: Derek Boggs