Have you ever missed a check up? I knew it was getting time to change the oil in my car and so I set out to check the mileage and get the car serviced. I was pretty sure I had the oil changed a few thousand miles ago, but much to my surprise there were almost double the miles that should be on any oil change! The time and miles had snuck up on me. My regular checkup had been missed and the oil was grimy. The mechanic went into great deal about how I really needed to make sure I hit the checkup times as this can seriously affect the function and longevity of the engine and that I really need to take better care of my car.
Not but a few hours after dealing with my irresponsibility as a car owner, I was faced with a similar reality as I was putting my two and a half year old son to bed. We were getting out the book we use for devotions with him each night as he asked us (as only a two year old can) “Where is your devotion, Daddy?” Followed up with, “Why we do devotions?” He didn’t need to say any more, I could see that he thought devotions were only for him, and not important for me or his Mommy.
This conviction went deeper as I realized that I was communicating only the law to him. Devotions must be done and in a particular order and he must sit still or face the wrath of Dad! While I could make the argument for my approach to the nightly routine, I know the truth. I had turned the precious life-giving Word of God into something that was purely a to-do list item and something to endure.
I shouldn’t have been surprised by what God’s response was to me in that children’s devotion book. The message was simple and the very thing that I needed to hear. “God loves you no matter what.” As a professor who teaches theology classes I work hard to make sure there is a proper distinction between law and gospel in my classroom, but apparently I hadn’t applied to my home life. I was brought to my knees by a two year old. The checkup I really needed was a Gospel checkup!
How many times in our ministry with families and youth do we miss communicating the Gospel or assume that the message is being received? How many times do we worry so much about the process and the fun that we forget the message? We may even cause the recipient to disengage long before they even hear the message. I remember Oswald Hoffman telling me that if you are not sure about whether to share Gods Law or Gods Gospel with a person or even what to say at all, “give them a good dose of “Jesus loves you” and God will fix your words”. The Gospel is what makes the difference.
Consider this a Gospel checkup for you as you reflect on the ministry you have been given with youth and their families. Have you checked the oil lately? Are you personally drinking Living Water? Is God’s saving message of “Jesus Loves You” in the homes and hearts of those you work with?
Resources worth considering as you check up on your ministry and keep Christ the Center.
Deep Ministry In A Shallow World by Chap & Kara Powell
Transforming Children into Spiritual Champions by Geroge Barna
The Godbearing Life: The Art of Soul-Tending for Youth Ministry by Kenda Creasy Dean
Practicing Passion: Youth and the Quest for a Passionate Church by Kenda Creasy Dean
Rest well this evening. God loves you no matter what!