Last night was interesting, to say the least. Since I wasn’t working, I decided to actually show up to the Under Cover video series thing at my church that goes on every Wednesday. I debated going just because I’ve missed about three weeks now and likely wouldn’t understand what John Bevere was talking about, but it turned out not to really matter too much. He brought up some great points about submitting to authority, even when they are harsh or corrupt. Obviously, if they tell you to sin, we’re not to obey, but in all other cases, we are to do what they say with the proper attitude of respect towards them. In the case of unfair treatment, we are to let God judge the matter instead of trying to defend ourselves. After all, when we defend ourselves and try to justify what we did or didn’t do, we set the other person up as our judge, and since they are human and fallible – and already accusing you of something you didn’t do, in this case – it’s not going to work out too well. When we let God judge it, on the other hand, He always judges justly, and if you were truly mistreated, He understands and will eventually make things right, in His own time.
Anyways, after watching the video, we always split up into our Life Groups and discuss some group questions that sort of expand on what was said and also applies it to our own lives. The youth go into the library to talk, and the Poultons lead the discussion. I’ve found, though, that authority tends to be a touchy subject. After all, everyone loves to be in control, but nobody likes to have to submit to someone else in power. So, the discussions generally degenerate quite rapidly, and that bugs me. Last night was a particularly bad case of this, as people kept getting off-track so frequently that Kim eventually just gave up on trying to ask the questions. It seemed that people wanted to talk about anything but the subject at hand, and that really bugged me. It didn’t bug me as in being annoying, but rather it bugged me because everyone in our youth group seems to be so unwilling to talk about anything “spiritual” at all – or if they do, they like to gloss over it with some general statements that really tend to deal with their opinion rather than what the Bible teaches. I refuse to name any names, even though some people tend to be worse than others, but in general, that’s the overall atmosphere. They are all so caught up in the world that all these issues that are so much more important get missed – they’re just not interested. And it bugs me, because why are they even at church if they don’t want to learn about God?
Of course, I know the answer to that question. Most are there for one of two reasons: their parents either make them come, or they are there to socialize with their friends. In other words, they’re there for all the wrong reasons. And while I can understand what’s going on in their head, since I used to be like that as well, there comes a point when everyone needs to evaluate themselves. Of course, no one likes to do that, because that means that they may have to change themselves, but it’s necessary. I used to go to church to keep my parents happy. I had no desire to really grow closer to God, although I made sure to keep up that appearance – like most “good” Christians, in other words. But then one day, I stopped and asked myself, “Why am I even here?” I finally saw through my self-deception and saw that there really was no reason for me to go to church. Church is for worshipping God, learning more about Him, and fellowshipping with other believers. I wasn’t there for any of those reasons, and so it came down to the question of whether I was going to go there for the right reasons or not at all. And so, I sat down and figured out which was going to benefit me the most.
I’ve been a Christian kid all my life. I grew up in a Christian home, went to a Christian school, and went to church ever since I was a wee lad. I’ve been told countless times how important it was to have a close relationship with God, and I sure saw the benefits. Even if the entire Christian faith was completely false, the principles it contains would still make everyone better people. Of course, I know that people are completely unable to be good enough to get to heaven, but if Christianity was false, that wouldn’t really matter. The point is that the Christian faith has benefits, and it makes people “better people,” and if everyone followed all the rules, we’d all end up having less crime and all that stuff. So I saw the benefits. On the other hand, I also saw what following the world had to offer. At this point, I had just come out of some horrible, horrible choices that I had made, and I knew how that felt and what that offered me – not much. And so, as I really thought this through, past all the smokescreens and false pretenses that we set ourselves up with and that become such a part of our being that we don’t even realize it, I realized what I had to do. Right then and there, I decided that if there was anything that was going to benefit me, it was the choice to pursue God with as much energy and passion as I could possibly muster inside of me. And that meant making some changes in attitude.
As I said before, I was going to church for all the wrong reasons. That certainly needed to change. I decided that there was no point in me even coming to church if I wasn’t going to listen to the sermon and try to apply it to my life. I decided that there was no point in coming if I didn’t clear my mind beforehand and just focus on worshipping God. I decided that there was no point in coming if I didn’t get involved and active as much as possible with the talents I had been given. And so, that’s what I did. I changed my attitude about coming to church, and the rest fell into place. I worked hard at pushing aside all the problems of life for even just one day that could be used to worship God and get closer to Him. I got involved in playing bass for the morning service. And I’ve never regretted that decision I made. The only thing I regret is those days when I was just too tired of trying that I didn’t give it my all. Those are the days that I wish I could redo.
For a while, the passion sparked within me. Somewhere along the way, I partially lost it, and now that I have been alerted to that fact, I’m working hard at getting it back. The way I found to do it was to pursue God with all the passion I had, and then as that happened, His desires would start to become mine, increasing the passion within me. The closer I got to God, in other words, the closer I wanted to be. It’s an amazing concept, and one that I hope will only continue to grow. Sometimes discouragement blocks my path, and because of that, sometimes I’m just sick of trying. But I know it’s important, and that’s what keeps me going. I know that if I just keep trudging through even in the times when I don’t feel like it, I’ll break through the other side with a renewed vigor. And of course, God is good, and He helps me through those days when I just have no strength left. He sustains me and keeps me on my feet and moving, and then the passion returns as I realize just how awesome a God He is.
And then I look at the faces of those in my youth group. I won’t go so far as to say that none of them have any desire to be at church, but certainly the majority don’t. And it pains me to see all the gossip, the slander, and the criticism running rampant through the group. There are some people who are shunned completely, whereas others are accepted on the outside, and then as they leave, the talking starts. I see these things happen, and I try to do my best to be an example, but since I’m not perfect either, it doesn’t seem to be working. Besides, I think they’d be more likely to follow an example of a good person if they were actually aspiring to be good people. It’s hard to lead others when they don’t have any intention of following you. And so I fear that more drastic measures are going to be needed. That’s where I start to look around and whistle nervously, trying to be invisible under God’s all-seeing eye.
The fact is, because of the size of our youth group, there aren’t many examples of people who desire to get closer to God. And while the people that are in the group certainly want to make the youth group good, it’s more because they like having a good social club that they belong to more than that they want to be able to serve God and worship Him better. But because of the lack of any quality leaders, I can pretty plainly see that our youth group isn’t really going to get anywhere. We need leaders that will first incite the desire to follow God, and then lead us to Him. But the only thing is that, as I look around, I can’t really see anyone to do that, except if I look down or in a mirror. I’ve been praying about this a lot, just asking God to change the youth group, and all He’s saying is, “Well, why don’t you do something about it?”
The fact is, though, that I’ve tried before. A month or two ago, I decided, after a good suggestion from Angelie, to start up a guys’ book study on the book Wild at Heart. But for a variety of reasons, one being that the guys in my youth group would likely get to about the first or second chapter and give up on reading, and another being that there were already going to be two book studies going on in the church already, I decided that it would likely be better to just suggest the book for Life Groups on Sunday nights. That would cut down on at least one book, and it would still hopefully help the guys learn to become leaders – myself included. The only problem was that (for the reason that nobody would ever read the book) Scott and Kim decided to do the video series instead, and the video series has been quite unhelpful, even for me, though I’m listening and trying to learn something from it. It’s just not working. At the time when I decided to do the book study, I was completely unsure that I would be able to lead anyone. I didn’t think I had enough respect from the others to actually get them to listen to me. I was just sort of the bass player over in the corner who didn’t get talked to unless he hit the wrong note. But now things have changed.
As I’ve gotten more involved with the group, and gotten to know the others better, I think that I have enough influence to at least talk to them and have them respect what I have to say. I’m not completely sure about that, but obviously if anything’s going to happen, I need God on my side with this to help change their hearts even as I talk to them. And so, I have been trying to figure out how best to approach this. The way I see it, there are two options. I could either ask Pastor Al if I could speak one Sunday night, and then have a little lesson on unity, making sure to keep it very practical so that they can apply it to their lives in a hurry. The other option is to speak to the people that it applies to the most individually and hope that they listen to what I have to say. The problem is that I don’t know what would work, and time is running out. I’m not sure what’s going on with one person in the group, but I think they might eventually stop coming altogether. I’m basically the only person who has befriended them, and the others, for several reasons, have practically shunned them. This person has some things going on in their own life, and honestly, if anyone needs to be in the church, it’s them. And yet they’re the one getting pushed away. If I don’t do something within a week or two, I’m not sure that the situation can be fixed. By then, it may be too late. And so, lots of prayer is needed, along with some tact and lots of love in my heart.
Honestly, I want the best for each and every person in the youth group. They’re all important, and this disunity is killing the group. It’s amazing when even one new person comes to youth, because that basically increases our attendance by about 10%. We generally have more people up on stage during worship than out in the pews. And that’s sad. The entire group is crumbling, and though I doubt that the one major clique will break apart, soon that one clique may be all that’s left. Over the past little while, they’ve been more open and receptive to letting new people in, but that’s likely more because they realize just how incredibly small our youth group is – even in a church of a few hundred. I know numbers aren’t what’s important, but when the attitudes of the people in the youth group affect the numbers, then it is important. Unity is the only way to get things back to where they should be, and this unity needs to come fast – not that we need to be perfectly unified right away, but we need to at least realize the problem and be trying to fix it. Then, and only then will we be able to grow, both in quantity and quality.
I guess what would be best to do is talk to Pastor Al about the situation. I doubt he really knows what’s going on, since most of the gossip and slander occurs when it’s just a group of a few, but I’m sure he’s at least partially aware of it. Perhaps he’ll have a good suggestion as to what to do, and then something can be worked out. But anyways, I guess that’s all I have to say for now. I just wish that we had a real, full-time youth pastor right now – I suppose that God knows what He’s doing, though. He has some sort of a plan for this whole situation, so things are in good hands. But that’s all I’ll say for tonight. Stay tuned tomorrow for more in the life of Jeff.