I will never forget Rodney. He was a second degree black belt in Kung Fu. The dude could literally work three numb chucks at the same time. His hands were so big that he could hold on to two in one hand. Rodney spun those babies so fast that they looked like airplane propellers whirling at full speed.
A neighborhood friend introduced me to Rodney when I was fifteen years old or so. I had the privilege of leading him to Christ and he had the opportunity of training me in some of the secrets of Kung Fu, perfect stuff for a preacher-in-the-making to know. Because if you weren’t ready to meet Jesus I could introduce you to a little Moses, if you know what I mean.
One day Rodney was trying to teach me how to block a punch. He told me to hit him as hard as I could in the face. Pretending to not want to do it I suddenly threw a hard punch as fast as I could right toward his nose. With lightning fast speed he whisked his hand up and blocked my punch, which missed it’s target by a mere inch or two. He looked like he barely expended any effort in the block. But with my arm still outstreched he did dispense a little bit of fortune cookie fighting wisdom, “One must not use all their effort to block a punch. One must only distract it by a few degrees. Your lucky numbers are 4, 16 and 21.”
I’ll never forget Rodney’s punch blocking proverb that day. Hopefully it will never come in handy in real life. But it does help when it comes to understanding how our real enemy “blocks” our kingdom advancing punches. Like Rodney, I don’t think Satan expends a lot of energy blocking our fists of pious fury. I think he, like my high school friend, just distracts our punches by a few degrees.
To be honest I think Satan is blocking many of our punches in youth ministry. I saw it last week at the Youth Specialties convention in Sacramento. I needed to buy a new Bible so I went to go pick one up in the exhibit hall. As I walked aisle after aisle and booth after booth in the exhibit hall it literally took me 20 minutes to find one booth that was selling a Bible. Don’t get me wrong. It’s not YS’ fault that I couldn’t find a Bible in the exhibit hall for so long but I think it points to a larger problem in youth ministry. I am convinced that, by and large, youth ministry in general is getting distracted from the power punch of God’s Word and God’s mission by the many books/causes/issues that is getting churned out by much of the youth ministry industry.
And even as I type these words I realize that I have become a part of the very youth ministry industry that I am railing against. Somewhere along the line Dare 2 Share got, well, kind of big. What started as small seminars held at local churches in and around Colorado have turned into large training events across the nation. It humbles and scares me that God has given me such an honor. And as I reflect on it, this is the first tour year that we have sold a Bible at our Dare 2 Share store. Excuse me while I take the beam out of my own eye and beat myself silly for a few minutes.
My aisle walking time at YS is making me think about my ministry specifically and about youth ministry in general. Am I getting distracted? Am I allowing Satan to divert my punches? Has youth ministry tapped out and sold out against it’s chiseled opponent in the octagon?
Back to the exhibit hall.
Although I coudn’t find a Bible for twenty minutes there was plenty of other stuff that I couldn’t miss if I tried. If I wanted to send my kids to camp I was covered. If I needed a speaker or illusionist or musician for my youth group event I had plenty to choose from. If I needed a seminary degree I could pick up plenty of shiny pamphlets to leaf through later. Oh yeah, if I needed some books on social justice all I had to do was close my eyes and grab. Chances are I would either seize air, hair or the latest book on Jesus and justice.
Again, these aren’t bad things. They are good things. Camp is good. Social justice is good. Seminary degrees are…seminary degrees. But I am more and more convinced that good has become the enemy of great in youth ministry. As I walked through the exhibit hall on my quest to find a Bible (movie idea: Indiana Jones and the Search for the Sacred Scroll) it occured to me how distracted we in youth ministry have become.
The same day of my YS walkabout I was asked by a youth leader what books I was currently reading through. I actually felt guilty for saying “The Bible.” Although I usually have a stack of books I concurrently work through, I am in a season right now where I just want to absorb God’s Word. When this well intentioned youth leader asked me the question I felt a sense of genuine shame that I couldn’t wield off a list of the latest and greatest theology, youth ministry, sociology or leadership books. Later on it hit me how stupid and wrong those feelings of shame were.
Reading the latest youth ministry manifesto is a good thing. Reading the Bible is the main thing. Feeding the poor is a good thing. Reaching their souls with the gospel is the main thing. Building houses at a work camp is a good thing. Building disciples for eternity is the main thing.
And yes I know it’s not an either/or venture. We can and should do both. But I am convinced that when we choose to do just the good things and refuse to do the main things the Devil smiles. Why? His nose is safe for another day!
Our main book is the Bible. Our main objective is to make disciples. Our main law is love. No longer will I qualify that I love to read the Bible more than other books. No longer will I try to sound acceptable to those who find evangelism detestable. No longer will I downplay that making disciples is the most important activity than we can participate in and that everything else is merely good.
We cannot waste our lives on just doing the good. Instead we must throw every punch for maximum kingdom impact. There’s too much at stake not to.