Every week, I receive another postcard for a new youth ministry conference pledging to have the magic bullet for today’s youth. Nearly all of these ministries and conferences have much value for this field – I wish I could go to a dozen per year. Amidst the many options, I still feel passionately that Rooted has an important place in youth ministry.
When I was a junior in high school, our varsity football team played Central-Tuscaloosa in the quarter-finals of the state playoffs. Central had the #4 team in America and had not lost in two years. They had three players who would start at Alabama as freshmen and nine players who went on to earn Division 1 scholarships. My Spartans were slow and small and lacked a single D1 player. Among Central’s cadre of studs stood Alabama’s Mr. Football, Antonio Williams, the top running back in the South. In the first half, Central ran Williams to a ten-point halftime lead; we looked virtually helpless against him.
However, in the second half, Central seemed never to give Williams the ball. We all were dumbfounded. It was obvious that the Spartans had no chance of stopping Williams. He was virtually invincible. Unfortunately for Central, their coaches did not realize this fact, and he carried the ball only a handful of times. Eventually, the Spartans marched back, shut down Central, and we toppled the national powerhouse.
In the full Gospel of grace, we have The Magic Bullet. The message that God perfectly loves desperate sinners is The Message that will redeem the world. It is not instructions to help us live better or some padding for our self-esteem. The Gospel rescues people from judgment, heals ultimate wounds, and brings dead people to life right now and forever.
Doing ministry without centering all things on the Gospel is like having LeBron James on your team in a pick-up game at the YMCA and never passing him the ball. We need to pass the Gospel the ball at every turn, in every relationship, and in all circumstances.
With Rooted, our mission is to reflect on how everything we do in ministry- missions, relationships, measures, discipline, lessons, messages, counseling, recruiting, volunteers, etc.- can be more deeply anchored in the message of Cross and God’s grace. Hopefully, engaging in this consideration will yield deeper, more vibrant ministries that offer life and that foster life-long disciples of Jesus Christ.
Consider joining us at this year’s Rooted Conference in Birmingham, August 9-11, as we take an in-depth look at how the theological doctrine of adoption offers hope to a desperate generation.