I’ve had the privilege of walking the middle and high school students through God’s Story, the Bible, at youth group. The story in which all of us find ourselves in as characters- regardless of whether we have surrendered our hearts to Jesus Christ. The story that begins with creation, climaxes with the enfleshing of our savior, and ends with the renewal of all things. Every man, woman and child you know (or will one day know) is caught up in this grand story as a character even if they are unaware of the all encompassing plot line with its Hero and demons.
According to Google, the definition of character can be summarized like this:
“a person in a novel, play, or movie.” I like that definition. It’s straight and to the point. I recently read Donald Miller’s ‘A Million Miles in a Thousand Years’, which gave me a deeper grasp on characters’ dynamic dual meaning. Again, according to Google, character can also be defined as, “the mental and moral qualities distinctive to an individual.”
As your youth pastor, it has been my heart to help locate our student’s individual stories within the wider story of what God has been up to on planet earth. In the past six weeks at youth group I’ve asked older characters with a Christward orientation in God’s story to come in to youth group and share their personal stories. Elders, deaconesses and beyond have proclaimed in these weeks that they did life on their own for a time but that Christ’s life is superior. Amen. As we submit our hearts and minds to Christ (Romans 12) they are renewed for correct worship, which enables us to more faithfully participate in God’s over arching narrative. In a very real sense, our character shapes our character. Has our character undergone spiritual rebirth or are we still living in darkness? We all have a part to play in God’s story, building for his Kingdom… what will it be?
Have we ever thought about the Gospel in terms of story?
My generation, growing up in possibly the most highly entertained and bored society in the world, has the convenience of choosing from a plethora of stories. From pursuing drugs to Facebook, sports, information about God, comfort, pornography, video games and beyond. We are all looking for a story to be a part of, something bigger than ourselves (which makes sense as eternity has been written on all of our hearts, Ecclesiastes 3:11). Each promises adventure and conquest, but ultimately we were created for more than this. We were created for unending relationship with the Creator God of the universe. We were all once characters walking in darkness who are invited into God’s mission of inviting others to participate in His story, His adventure. The daily choices we make shape the personal stories in which we live. The trajectory of my story changed drastically when an older man who wasn’t my father began to invest heavily into my life. I consider him one of the greatest men to walk the face of the earth. What did this man do? He spent time with me. He listened to me. He challenged me to live as Christ. He invited me into his life and home. Maybe this is why I’m so passionate about discipleship- I’ve seen how deeply it has changed my character.
A few months ago, God placed the Sequim Boys and Girls Club on my heart… and he wouldn’t let it go. I was surrounded by other individuals at DCC that already recognized the potential of journeying alongside younger students and families for the sake of the Gospel. During a sit down meeting with the director, I unpacked DCC’s vision and model of discipleship. He then asked me if we as a church could bring that to the B+G Club. My heart leaped. Christians… being invited into a secular organization (?!)- someone pinch me! Since this meeting, other DCC leaders have seen the potential this has to impact the community in which we have been placed, with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This Fall, a new type of discipleship will begin. Come September, I’ve asked more from my High School disciples and their older mentors, an additional two hours a month to be exact.
I can’t tell you the joy I have in seeing older generations of men and women come alongside high school students that in turn journey with middle school students. I can’t unpack my total vision here or all of my dreams for DCC, but what I can say is that we, as the community of faith, need you. I need older men and women to respond to Christ’s call to disciple our young people. In the next two years, my dream is to see every sophomore age and above (Christian) student at DCC, have a mentor. “But Piper, I’ve never mentored anyone before and I’m not very “cool”.” That second part may very well be true, but when you love, truly love, you participate in the very life of God; God’s love mediated through you makes you something far greater than being “cool,” you’re desperately needed. I pray a mosaic of individual student disciples and mentor stories will converge for the glory of God’s over arching story. On top of this, I pray that those who have never even heard that they are characters in God’s story would hear that their lives have purpose and meaning as we invite them into something greater than themselves.
In Matthew 26, the gospel writer paints a disturbing and wonderful scene. A colorful character, a prostitute, comes in and anoints Jesus with an expensive perfume. What captivated me most was Jesus response to her. He said, “...wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.” What? This spoke to me so clearly. The value of the things we do for Christ and in His name will have a ripple effect until eternity, even if we never see the fruit of our life’s impact on another. 1 John 4:19 says that, “we love because Christ first loved us,” meaning that after meeting Christ our stories are to be lived out of our response to him, his overwhelming love for us.
What stories will people share about your response to the love of Jesus Christ? What will your story be as part of God’s story? I want to invite you into a story of altering the course of a young persons character through discipleship at DCC or volunteering at the Boys and Girls Club. Interested? Compelled? Please talk to Ben Hegtvedt, Mark Holloway or myself.