Keep trying to take the drugs, alcohol, and other substances out of Vernon, but it’s still never going to change.
This is the sentiment I’ve heard from many about the place I call home. The place where I serve as a youth pastor. In the wake of a humongous drug bust, families are reeling, angry, broken-hearted, and confused. I’ve seen some become particularly jaded and cynical to the reality of change in this community.
There are times in youth ministry where I can feel the temptation to fall into the same mindset. Last Spring, I would drive home from youth group every Wednesday night thinking that nothing was ever going to change. It was like banging my head against a brick wall over and over again. I would share the love of God and the good news of His Son, but my students would appear to not really care as they simply waited through the lesson to get to the open gym at the end. Honestly, this perception was inaccurate. I would come to find out this week at camp that our students are listening more than we think. What’s even more simultaneously encouraging and challenging is that they are watching us way more than we think.
Since my wedding day (three weeks ago), I have been giving the greatness and glory of God a ton of thought. Some of this is because of my Bible study I did through the book of Jonah, and partly because of the book Not God Enough by J.D. Greear. I’ve felt the desire to pray daily for a greater glimpse of God’s glory, greatness, and grace. Each day I’ve had him answer this prayer through the stories I hear of His faithfulness, my time in His Word, or other things. I prayed this prayer as we headed off to camp.
My eyes well with tears as I think about what God did this week. He worked in every student that we brought. We had salvations, rededications, calls to ministry, calls to mission, and the building of many relationships. God is not done y’all. I get really discouraged way too often because I look all around me and I feel alone. I feel alone in what I believe the Bible says, and what I believe this life is supposed to be about. But here this week I have a great testimony of God’s faithfulness to look back on.
Here’s the deal you guys.
I can’t change Vernon.
I can teach and preach and plead and beg and disciple and pray and hope all I want, but I can’t change Vernon.
However, God can.
God can change the place I call home.
And he can do it through His church.
The heart-breaking thing for me is that His church isn’t sold on the mission. Instead we chase the world. Instead we get busy. Instead we are unfaithful to our promises.
I asked the family group I had this week to raise their hand if an older believer committed to mentor and disciple them and yet forgot about them within a month of their commitment and blamed getting busy.
Y’all. Every single one of them raised their hands.
Shame on us. Shame on us for making our lives about other things instead of the gospel. No one is too busy to disciple, it is simply a matter of passion and priority.
I was reading the other day about the book of Leviticus. And the book of Leviticus really emphasizes the gulf between us and a holy God. The author of the study I was going through said this about mankind:
“They live selfishly: seeking and hoarding more and more, shutting his or her ears to the needs of the poor, the hungry, the suffering, the lost.”
People say our community can’t change.
I am prone to believe them when I see that I’m living like the quote above.
Well, when’s the last time you shared your faith with a non-believer?
When was the last time you shared what God has done with someone in your circle?
When was the last time you committed to disciple, encourage, and support a younger believer?
When was the last time you opened up your home to share about what God has been doing in your family?
Guys, God can change our community. In fact, God is already changing our community. In fact, God doesn’t need us to help him change our community. But one of the most beautiful aspects of the gospel is that we have been gifted with the opportunity to join God in what he is doing.
Don’t let another year go by with church attendance without gospel commitment.
Share. Disciple. Pray. Give. Invest. Encourage. Support. Worship.
The sentiment of men and women like that at the beginning of this blog post is partly right. We can keep trying to take all of the drugs out of this place and this place simply won’t change. Change isn’t going to come through merely the removal of illegal substances. In actuality that doesn’t do very much.
Instead, change comes through discipleship.
Pick one person this year. I plead with you. That’s it. One person to be faithful to in walking them through their faith.
My students are watching us. My students are watching the generations above them in our community to see if they truly are disciples of Jesus. My students are watching to see if you just sit in the pew or if you get in the game.
I don’t care how old you are, God isn’t done with you yet.
I love you all. Whoever you are reading this, regardless of what town or city or country you live in, God is at work in your community. Join him.
I’ll be honest guys, the temptation to deaden my passion, quiet my voice, and fade into the back is high at times. I’m 24. I’m not all-wise, and I am prone to mistakes. The pressure to shut up and play the game of going through the motions is heavy at times. But I just can’t stop talking about how good and great God is and how we have a high calling to join Him in what He is doing. I know that I can learn to do so with more kindness at times, but I can’t stop. It’s who God has wired me to be.
In conclusion, please hear me out.
I don’t know it all. I’m not perfect. I don’t do discipleship perfectly. I’m not always faithful. That’s why I need men in my life too.
All I do know is Jesus is my Lord and Savior, God is great and good, and He is changing our community, and we can join Him in that work.
I love you all.
In His Name,