It is officially summer, and been a while since I have had time to sit and write, but having an almost week old boy can slow things down for you, in a good way. I’ve been tearing through a book over the last week entitled The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert: An English Professor’s Journey into Christian Faith by Rosario Butterfield. It is a book by a former professor at Syracuse, whose whole life’s worldview was staunchly opposed to Christianity. The book describes so well what is involved in salvation and growth in Jesus.
She begins by accrediting her journey to this unlikely end through the means of a pastor in the area. She writes, “ had a pastor named Ken Smith not shared the gospel with me for years and years, over and over again, not in some used-car-salesman way, but in an organic spontaneous and compassionate way, those questions might still be lodged in the crevices of my mind and I might never have met the most unlikely of friends, Jesus Christ himself (1).”
The questions came as result of her world collapsing, and needing answers. She received answers through the gospel. I really like that phrase “ lodged in the crevices of my mind” as it connotes a sense of the reality of the gospel seeping into our DNA, or our identity, shaping our outlook on life, usurping the doubts and questions of life, as we come to a relationship with Jesus. The means by which this occurred was through years of an “organic, spontaneous, and compassionate” relationship.
She then moves to actually describing her conversion, and her growth in obedience in this new relationship. She states that conversion is “arduous and transformative (34),” and that’s why we need a community in conversion and growth, as she continues, “sanctification-growing in Christ-is always personal and communal. We need one another. Our faith struggles and our successes are part of the Body of Christ, not possessed by our own little kingdom. This Christian life is was war-of this I was certain. Who…would go to war without an army? (38).”
These thoughts from this book merge into another matter that has been on my heart, and been developing over several months now. What do these things look like for our young people at Emmanuel and in Hermann. In other words, what doconversion and growth look like for our young people. A framework that our team has been working through is continuing to develop a large group culture that centers on kids encountering Christ, and learning to walk with him. This has begun with JAM and Overflow on Wednesday nights. We are extending such to kids ages 3-9 on the alternating Wednesday nights (the first and third Wednesdays of the month). This new group will be known as Seedling, and so we will provide an opportunity for youth, stretching from the age of three, all the way eighteen, to encounter Christ, and develop, hopefully, said relationship.
The other element that our team would like to add will be what we’ll call Ignite groups. These will be small groups. These small groups will hopefully close what I would like to call the “backdoor” of ministry. We have developed a wide open front door for our youth, but need to grow in closing the back door. These Ignite groups will hopefully accomplish said goal.
These groups will consist of adults from our church taking on a group of four or five kids, and developing an intentional relationship with these kids. It will consist of some formal discipleship, working through a discipleship study with them. Something akin to what Tom has been working through with a group of JAM kids this summer. However, another element of this small group culture will be a lot organic, informal things albeit very intentional though. It will consist of having these kids on your heart, praying for them, meeting their parents, having them over for dinner, taking them out for ice-cream, going roller-skating, and visiting them at their ballgames or recitals. Youth grow when they are in groups, and when they have another adult presence that authentically displays the realities of the gospel to them.
So the questions is, to use the language above, will you join the army? There are two ways to participate: 1.) will you help with our design for kids converting and encountering Christ through our Wednesday night events? There are behind the scenes roles with this too. 2.) will you help with our design for kids growing in Christ through “ organic, spontaneous, and compassionate” relationships in our Ignite groups? Prayerfully, consider where God may be calling you to in regards to this.
These will be taking root in the upcoming fall, and it will be exciting to see where God will be leading us!