Last week I was invited to speak at the National Conference on Youth Ministries in Colorado Springs, under the aegis of Pike’s Peak. The list of topics discussed, classes held, and platform speaking was impressive, and I want to express my gratitude to Josh Jones and Josh Graves for the invitation, and it was great to spend time over lunch with one of my preaching heroes, Mike Cope, and then a splendid dinner with Chris Seidman. To top this off, late one night I spent a couple hours with one known to this blog audience, Jeff Cook.
It is no surprise to this audience to hear that I find youth ministers exciting because I know they are digging the trenches for the next generation’s ministries. I met so many, heard from so many, and had chats with so many that I dare not begin … other than it was good to meet Robbie McKenzie and Frank Viola (whom I had not met until after his plenary session).
My plenary session was an appeal to raise up the significance of the local church. I focused on Jesus’ words in Matthew 16:13-23, where Jesus says he came to build the church. I zeroed in on these words in order to point a long finger at the naughty tendency today to define kingdom as “action done by Christians in the public sector.” Jesus’ focus was not the public sector, but to reshape the entire public sector through the church, which embodies the kingdom in our world today (notice how connected church is to what happens in the kingdom in these words of Jesus). I could go on… I’m sure not all agreed as so many today are focusing all their efforts on this so-called “kingdom” work, but we need to think again what kingdom means to Jesus.
As I am now teaching at Northern Seminary I have become convinced even more of the significance of youth ministry — many of my students now have served in this ministry and nearly all have benefited from youth ministers. Youth ministry is a gateway to the church.
Then I had a class session where I dipped into Matthew 5 in light of the commentary that will be published this fall in the Story of God Bible Commentary series. (Lynn Cohick’s Philippians commentary will join mine as the first two in the series. Zondervan is our publisher — and we have a great line of writers.) Anyway, my focus is that Jesus wants “more” and here the focus is on the word “more” that is either implicit or explicit in the translation of Matthew 5:20 (“greatly” or “more” surpassing), 37 (anything “beyond” or “more” than this) and 47 (what are you doing “more” than others). Jesus calls his followers to a more expansive righteousness, to more honesty and to more love of enemies. Good questions, good time.
Thanks again to the organizers of this wonderful conference.