We Serve the Reconciler, Not the Reconciled

As youth ministers, we are agents of reconciliation (2 Cor 5:20-21).

“Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us. We plead on Christ’s behalf: ‘Be reconciled to God.’ He made the one who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”(2 Corinthians 5:20–21 CSB)

Agents don’t get much recognition when they do their job well. For example, think about professional athletes who are negotiating a new contract. Their agents broker an agreement between the athlete and the franchise owner. Good agents are happy to be invisible because they work behind the scenes so their client and the team can get the recognition. 

When youth workers think of themselves as “agents of reconciliation,” it’s important for us to remember we serve the Reconciler, not the reconciled. Yes, we serve students too. But we do so as under-shepherds who are seeking the shepherd’s straying lambs. 

This might seem like a fine detail, but the impact is significant. 

As I meet with students and talk with parents, it’s important for me to remember that I serve God before I serve the elders or students or parents or anyone else. This is not some cliche — if it sounds like one to you, then take a long walk outside and think it over before you continue to read the rest of this article. 

I am a people-pleaser. I want students to like me and I want parents to respect me. There have been more times I could count when I’ve been tempted to remain silent when the Spirit has prompted me to speak. I’ve been tempted to give affirmations (“Oh don’t worry, it’s not that big of a problem!”) when I knew I was supposed to call for repentance, because I didn’t want to appear harsh. I can honestly say that I have not regretted a single conversation when I trusted the Lord’s guidance, even when those conversations were extremely difficult and uncomfortable. But I’m less proud of those times when I pulled back and kept the conversation polite. 

Reflecting on those conversations, I think the key difference is whether or not I saw myself as an agent of reconciliation whose allegiance is first and foremost with the Reconciler, or if I saw my primary allegiance with the reconciled. 

As Paul writes, “we plead on Christ’s behalf, ‘Be reconciled with God.’” Perhaps the reason some of us struggle with evangelism and people-pleasing is because we see ourselves as ministers who plead on people’s behalf. Friends, we are agents of reconciliation. We serve Jesus. We speak on his behalf to students, calling them to receive the righteousness of God that was purchased for them through the blood of Jesus Christ. 


Mike McGarry is the Director of Youth Pastor Theologian, has served as a Youth Pastor for 18 years in Massachusetts, and has two youth group aged kids at home. He earned his D.Min. from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and has published three books – most recently, “Discover: Questioning Your Way to Faith.” Mike is committed to training youth workers to think biblically about what youth ministry is and to training them to teach theologically with confidence. You can connect with him on social media @youththeologian.

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