I’m currently reading Sustainable Youth Ministry by Mark DeVries. It’s a book published in 2008 and I can’t actually believe I haven’t read it yet. Anyway, while it’s been resting on my shelf since last Christmas I thought it worth bringing it out at years end. At the 70 page mark I can certainly tell it’s a zinger, with a number of challenging quotes and comments. Here are three that have stood out to me thus far.
From page 13:
“The short-term, high-number, razzle-dazzle, success of your current youth ministry might blind you to the fact that success in youth ministry is measured in decades, not in year-to-date comparisons with last year’s mediocre youth staffer who, quite honestly, just didn’t have your gifts.”
From Thomas G. Bandy quoted on page 16:
“The declining church always assumes that the solution to youth ministry is programmatic. If only they could get a good leader! If only they could find a great curriculum! If only they could renovate a room in the building for youth meetings! They fail to recognise that the solutions to youth ministry, like the solution to decline in general, is systematic.”
Quoting Roland Martinson on page 29:
“The history of primary calling inexperienced and inadequately trained young people to do youth ministry reflects the myth that youth ministry is a beginner’s job that doesn’t require much education, experience or skill. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Youth ministry is one of the most demanding ministries–so demanding and frustrating that many pastors and congregational leaders don’t know what to do.”
In 1952-1953 Martyn Lloyd-Jones preached a number of expositions on John 17. These have been put together in a book called “Life In The Spirit: Classic Studies In John 17”. Although, it now looks like its been retitled and republished as “The Assurance Of Our Salvation“. In his second exposition, “Why Pray?” there are some terrific quotes about prayer worth being reminded of here.
“We might have considered a man very saintly because his will was conforming to the will of God, and because he meditated about these things and because his supreme desire was to live to the glory of God. Well, you might say, such a man would have much less need of prayer than anybody else, but it is not the case. Look at the most outstanding godly men and women, how often they spent much more time in prayer than anybody else. They did not just passively wait for God’s will to be done, no, they, more than anybody else, went, rather, and talked to God. And as you proceed to read the history of the church throughout the centuries, you will find exactly the same thing. Whether he belongs to the Roman Catholic Church or the Protestant Church, it is always the hallmark of a saint that he is a great man of prayer. John Wesley used to say that he had a very poor opinion of a Christian who did not spend at least four hours in prayer every day, and that is but a typical statement of God’s outstanding people in the church through the centuries.”
(John 17:1, Why Pray?, p26)
“You show me a man who does not pray very much and I will tell you the real problem of that man. It is that he does not know God, he does not know God as his Father. That is the trouble. The problem is not that he is not a moral man, or that he is not a good man. He can be highly moral, he may be very faithful in Christian church work, there many be nothing he is not prepared to do, but if he does not pray, I tell you that the essence of that man’s trouble is that he does not know God as his Father. For those who know God best are the ones who speak to him most of all.”
(John 17:1, Why Pray?, p29)
“Let me put it like this: the saints always prayed to God, and our Lord supremely did so, because they believed in God’s power, because they believed in God’s ability to help, and, above all, because they believed in God’s willingness and readiness to help. That is tremendously important. They, of everybody, knew the power of God, yes, but the world and its trials tend to shake our confidence in him and there is no better way of reminding ourselves of the power and the greatness of God, his ability and his readiness to help, that to go and talk to him; that is why the saints always fly to prayer. ‘The name of the Lord is a strong tower: the righteous runneth into it, and is safe (Proverbs 18:10). In other words, the saint rushes to God in prayer and reminds himself of these things.”
(John 17:1, Why Pray?, p31)
I’ve recently been reading The Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning. I came across this paragraph from Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who Manning quotes while describing how many churchgoers aren’t honest with themselves but believe they’re more righteous than they really are.
He who is alone with his sin is utterly alone. It may be that Christians, notwithstanding corporate worship, common prayer, and all their fellowship in service, may still be left to their loneliness. The final break-through to fellowship does not occur, because, though they have fellowship with one another as believers and as devout people, they do not have fellowship as the undevout, as sinners. The pious fellowship permits no one to be a sinner. So everybody must conceal his sin from himself and from the fellowship. We dare not be sinners. Many Christians are unthinkably horrified when a real sinner is suddenly discovered among the righteous. So we remain alone with our sin, living in lies and hypocrisy. The fact is that we are sinners!
(The Ragamuffin Gospel, p136)
While searching for more details about the above quote I found the paragraph that actually follows this. It’s taken from chapter 5 in Bonhoeffer’s work “Life Together”. It provides the answer to the above problem and brings it back to the hope through the Gospel.
But it is the grace of the Gospel, which is so hard for the pious to understand, that it confronts us with the truth and says: You are a sinner, a great, desperate sinner; now come, as the sinner that you are, to God who loves you. He wants you as you are; He does not want anything from you, a sacrifice, a work; He wants you alone. “My son, give me thine heart” (Prov. 23.26). God has come to you to save the sinner. Be glad! This message is liberation through truth. You can hide nothing from God. The mask you wear before men will do you no good before Him.
Hudson Taylor was one of a kind. He is remembered as a missionary to China and a great man of God. Yet, in his walk with God he battled with seasons of temptation and doubt about the forgiveness that comes through Jesus. At the age of 37 he wrote his mother the following:
“My own position becomes continually more and more responsible, and my need greater of special grace to fill it; but I continually to mourn that I follow at such a distance and learn so slowly to imitate my precious Master. I cannot tell you how I am buffeted sometimes by temptation. I never knew how bad a heart I had. Yet I do know that I love God and love His work, and desire to serve Him only in all things. And I value above all things that precious Saviour in Whom alone I can be accepted. Often I am tempted to think that one so full of sin cannot be a child of God at all; but I try to throw it back, and rejoice all the more in the preciousness of Jesus, and in the riches of that grace that has made us “accepted in the Beloved.” Beloved He is of God; beloved He ought to be of us. But oh, how short I fall here again! May God help me to love Him more and serve Him better. Do pray for me. Pray that the Lord will keep me from sin, will sanctify me wholly, will use me more largely in His service.”
After receiving an encouraging letter from another missionary some time later he came to understand the forgiving nature of salvation through Christ, declaring, “God has made me a new man! God has made me a new man!”
The letter he received said:
“To let my loving Saviour work in me His will, my sanctification is what I would live for by His grace. Abiding, not striving nor struggling; looking off onto him; trusting Him for present power; trusting Him to subdue all inward corruption; resting in the love of an Almighty Saviour, and the conscious joy of a complete salvation.”
Perhaps a good word for those of us who follow and podcast the great preachers in this world…
“A stated and regular attendance encourages the minister, affords a good example to the congregation; and a hearer is more likely to meet with what is directly suited to his own case, from a minister who knows him, and expects to see him, than he can be from one who is a stranger. Especially, I would not wish you to be absent for the sake of gratifying your curiosity, to hear some new preacher, who you have perhaps been told is a very extraordinary man; for in your way such occasions might possibly offer almost every week. What I have observed of many, who run about unseasonably after new preachers, has reminded me of Prov. 27:8: “As a bird that wandereth from her nest, so is the man that wandereth from his place.” Such unsettled hearers seldom thrive: they usually grow wise in their own conceits, have their heads filled with notions, acquire a dry, critical, and censorious spirit; and are more intent upon disputing who is the best preacher, than upon obtaining benefit to themselves from what they hear. If you could find a man, indeed, who had a power in himself of dispensing a blessing to your soul, you might follow him from place to place; but as the blessing is in the Lord’s hands, you will be more likely to receive it by waiting where his providence has placed you, and where he has met with you before.”
From John Newton’s On Hearing Sermons.