Praying For Schools Really Works

After posting my last blog regarding praying for our local secondary school, I received a message from an old school friend which I think is a real encouragement to be praying for the school. I’ve reproduced the edited highlights here, with his permission and with the names disguised for privacy reasons.

“Hi Paul! 

…the thing that spurred me on to get in touch was reading about your initiative for praying for your local school – what a great idea! I don’t know if you were aware of this, but there was a similar group that met to pray for our school about 10 years ago (when we were young whipper-snappers!). 

I used to go along to these meetings, along with a couple of other people, and I can remember that we once had a brainwave to pray for members of staff there, so I mentioned Miss P, my form tutor at the time in year 10/11. (If you can’t remember her, she was the R.E. teacher with blonde hair). At the time, she wasn’t a christian (AH asked her if she was once, to which she replied “Er…. no, definitely not!”), and we decided to pray that God would work in her life, and that she might hear the gospel and be saved. We did this a few times, and then to be honest, I think we kind of forgot about it…

Recently, I’ve had the privilege of going back into our school to speak in the CU, and guess what? Miss P  tells me that she became a christian just after we left the sixth form!!! Isn’t God good?!!

Another thing I remember is a guy in the year above us called L coming along to the CU. At the time, I think he came along because it was a good place to meet people and have a bit of fun, although again, he wouldn’t have called himself a christian. Again, he was one of the guys we prayed for at those meetings, and again, God faithfully answered our prayers – he heard the gospel at uni and was saved as a student!

Can I just encourage you with these two examples to pray expectantly for your school? You may not see answers to prayer immediately (although God is God, and He can do what He likes, so He may surprise you!), but be assured that He is powerful, and that prayer works!

By the way, your high school CU is in good company; our CU got banned from eating food in classrooms in 2003 immediately after an evangelistic meeting with free donuts!!! (Sounds familiar!) Similarly, it caused attendance to plummet, and again, it was very much an issue that we prayed about as a CU, and as part of that prayer meeting. I think in the end, after much prayer, we wrote a letter to Mr G explaining our predicament, and asking for exemption for the CU to be able to eat in classrooms. At first, this was fiercely refused by the powers that be, although about a week later, I was called to a meeting with Mr L and Mr G, where they said that they’d had a change of heart, and would give us permission to eat in classrooms! Bearing in mind the resistance that we’d previously faced, I still believe that was a clear example of God’s hand at work, and a real life (albeit mini!) miracle! 

So yeah, one thing I learned at our school is that God really is faithful and that he does answer prayer! (A much more useful lesson than Maths with Mrs W, in my opinion! :P) Do press on with praying for your school, even if there are only a few of you (there were 3 – 5 people at our one), and see what God does!

God Bless

Andrew”

What a great encouragement for us to hear as we start to think about praying for our local school. I hope that encouragement like this will lead us to come to prayer expectantly and trusting that God will open doors for the gospel.

Focus on the Good

Every month, our church has a prayer meeting in order to pray for the life of the church, as well as those it supports in missionary roles and things like that. A few weeks ago I was asked if I could lead a short section on the youth work for the evening meeting (there’s a lunchtime and an evening session). I have to admit my heart sank. I go to the lunchtime meeting as it always follows on from our staff meetings and so I don’t normally go in the evening. In all honesty, it’s a horrifically boring meeting and so the thought of having to endure it twice filled me with dread.

However, the whole thing was actually a really good experience. I decided to put together a powerpoint and a handout which detailed four areas of my work, each with two categories of things to pray about: things to give thanks for and things to be praying for. The process of thinking through these areas was really encouraging and allowed me to see how many good things are actually going on within our youth work. Then to get together with the rest of the church and pray that over with them was great. It was really encouraging to hear people praying out freely and not holding back and it was just really clear that people were behind the work that was going on.

So if you work in any kind of Christian ministry, I really recommend sitting down and making a simple list of things to give thanks for, even if you’re not about to lead a prayer meeting.  In the every day grind of life, it’s easy to end up focusing on the problems and the things that need prayer and so it’s easy for the good stuff to get overlooked. When you sit down and try and think of the encouragements I reckon you’ll be hugely surprised by how much there is to give thanks for. Give it a try!

On a slightly different note, the change to working on a Saturday continues to be encouraging. I met with one of our teenagers for breakfast today and it was good to be able to get to know him a bit better away from the church and to shine some light on other areas of his life. It also threw up a few areas where there are clearly misunderstandings in terms of his grasp of Christianity and so it was good to be able to try and address some of those. When I’ve arranged a meeting with someone I’m always praying for the courage and boldness to ask them about their faith. It’s easy to feel like you’d be intruding and so back away from asking the hard questions, but I’ve found that 9 times out of 10 people are happy to chat about their faith and sometimes I think they’re almost hoping you’ll bring it up as there’s something on their mind.

So there’s a lot of good to focus on at the moment and that’s encouraging.

And the award for biggest overuse of the word “encouragement” in a blog goes to me!

One Isaiah Than The Other (Here I am; send me!)

One of my unofficial resolutions of 2011 (alongside my official one of brewing my own beer) was to get stuck into the Old Testament a bit. I’ve got a pretty good grasp of the early history from Adam & Eve up until David but then I’m a little bit fuzzy. You know what I mean. The kingdom splits in two, the Assyrians rock in up North, the Babylonians charge in down south and there are prophets getting in on the action all over the place. It’s pretty confusing, especially as the Bible isn’t in chronological order. Someone should make one that is…oh wait.

Well with all that in mind I’ve started to look at the book of Isaiah in my quiet time and frankly it’s phenomenal stuff (funny that, you know, word of God and all!). I’ve been lucky to be able to use David Pawson’s “Come with me through Isaiah” to shed some light on the book and it is just so encouraging. I’m only up to chapter 5 but there has already been so much in it which is clearly relevant for us now. Obviously that shouldn’t be surprising but without Pawson’s comments I probably would have missed some of the nuggets within.

Chapters 2-4 are made up of a sandwich of looking to the future, looking at the present and then back to the future (great scott Marty!) again. Isaiah looks forward to a time when all nations will come to the God of Jacob and nations will not learn war anymore. Obviously for us as we read this through the lens of the New Testament, we know this refers to the ultimate return of Jesus and Isaiah paints an awesome picture of that future. For me, the real highlight is 4:3  which speaks of those who are left in Zion and those that remain in Jerusalem being called holy. Clear connections to all that we receive in Christ and just great to see written hundreds of years before Jesus even appeared. But in between these two sections on the future, Isaiah puts down the telescope and picks up his microscope to look at Israel itself.  The grim reality he finds couldn’t be much further removed from the glorious future he speaks of. What he sees is a nation obsessed with superstition, money, war and idolatry. Sound familiar? Who says the bible doesn’t have anything relevant to say to us today? Chapter 5 only reinforces the Bibles relevance with Isaiah’s commentary on the perils of business/materialism, drinking/pleasure, a demand for miracles and the twisting of what is good and evil. It would easy to think he was looking straight at the modern church.

And what will happen to Israel because of their sin? Well, quite simply, judgment will come. In this case in the form of Assyria. 5:26ff point to the invasion and exile to come. I can’t help but wonder what this means for the church in the UK today. Could the persecution the UK church faces from the increase of secularism be a form of divine judgement for the kind of ungodliness Isaiah has already highlighted? I’m not sure how this sits with me theologically. I think as long as we apply this to the church, who are the modern day Israel, then it’s OK. I’d be more wary of applying this to the life of the individual.

The thing that struck me most and the real reason I’m posting (I know, take your time already), was reading chapter 6:8-13. I’ve already blogged about how we should feel when we don’t see the results we’re hoping for in our ministry and so to read about the struggles of Isaiah’s ministry only serves as an encouragement. Isaiah volunteers himself to go and speak for the Lord and God  commissions him to go out but tells him from the off that his ministry will be a failure. The more he preaches the harder the people will become. People will hear but not comprehend, look but not understand.

What this shows is that it is possible to be being completely faithful to God and the ministry he has called you to, to be doing exactly what God wants you to do, but yet to see no result and be faced only with negativity. God in his wisdom and sovereignty decided that the people wouldn’t respond to the word. Why? Who can really say with certainty why God hardens anyone, apart from that it’s His will and must ultimately bring Him glory.

Now I’m not suggesting that this sums up my youth group. Far from it. I’d have to be pretty pessimistic to look at the group in that way. There’s actually a lot of good stuff going on in the group which is really encouraging. It stands in stark contrast to Isaiah’s experience. That’s the encouraging thing. But what really struck me about this passage was that Isaiah was doing exactly what he was supposed to be and he didn’t see any results, only doom and gloom. Imagine how he must have felt.

I guess what I’m basically saying is, even if you’re not seeing any results, it doesn’t mean you’re doing something wrong and no matter how bad you think you’ve got it, it’s not anywhere near as bad as Isaiah had it.

And then he got sawn in half. Bummer!

 

 

 

 

My Gardening Ministry

Following on from my last blog I thought it would be worth sharing some encouragement I found in the Bible regarding how we view our ministry.

My concern in my last blog was with whether the change in size of my group was an indicator of something being wrong, for instance the choices I was making in leadership. I was looking at 1 Corinthians yesterday and I felt it was encouraging so  thought I would share it with you.

5 What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task. 6I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. 7 So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. 8 The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose, and they will each be rewarded according to their own labour. 1 Corinthians 3:5-8.

The thing that struck me is that I simply have no way of knowing whether I’m planting or watering and in fact, it’s probably different  in regards to each individual in my group. If I’m not seeing people changed now, maybe it’s just because this is a time for planting. Someone  may come along in the future and do the watering. That might be me, it might not. And that’s OK, because ultimately it’s not down to me. God and God alone is the one who gives the growth. I just have to be like the farmer in the parable of the sower; a faithful servant who keeps on scattering the seed even though he has no idea what soil it will land on.

That’s the problem with ministry. We can never be sure which soil the word is falling on, and sometimes those that seem encouraging actually have no root. Only time will tell.

The other part of 1 Corinthians that encouraged me were Paul’s words at the beginning of chapter 2.

1 And so it was with me, brothers and sisters. When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God.[a] 2 For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. 3 I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling. 4 My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, 5 so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power. 1 Corinthians 2:1-5.

Paul, quite likely one of the greatest evangelists to ever walk the earth (except Jesus) says that he didn’t come to the Corinthians with big words and clever arguments. He simply came to preach Christ and him crucified. It’s as simple as that. When the temptation comes to try and make your group more fun and exciting or any of the other buzzwords that are so often thrown around, what we need to remember is that it’s not about that. It’s not about gimmicks and it’s not about academia and the accumulation of knowledge. It’s about Jesus Christ crucified for us. And why should we preach that (apart from it being the truth obviously)? Because if we try and use gimmicks or grand arguments, then the glory goes to us, not God. And people’s faith will rest on those things rather than on Christ crucified.

That’s why I’m going to keep preaching Christ crucified. It’s not big and it’s not clever but it’s all that matters.

18 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 1 Corinthians 1:18

Here goes nothing!

As this is my first post I suppose I should just mention why I’ve decided to write this blog. I feel like I have to say something grand and attention grabbing to draw you in. I also feel like that isn’t very likely to happen but hey you never know.

I’m a Christian Youth Worker or Youth Minister as my job title would say, which always seems to make me seem more important and/or qualified than I really am. I guess I’ve really just set this blog up as a place to talk over what’s going on in my job, a place where I can just speak freely (within reason) about the joys and struggles that a job like this brings.

I suppose in the long run, I’d love for other Christian youth workers to be reading this and going “hey me too,” and just encouraging and supporting each other. That would be a massive help to me and if I can be of any help to them, that would be great too. A nice community of sorts.

I guess that my feelings on my ability in this role are slightly given away by my user name and the name of this blog. I’ve been in my position for just over a year now and in all honesty, I don’t really know how I’ve managed to get this far without causing some sort of major disaster. I swear it can’t be long before someone works out that I don’t really know what I’m doing and that anything I do that does work is just a spectacular case of serendipity. I can’t help but feel like a bit of a fraud, a wing and a prayer type. Praise God that he is in control. I really don’t say that lightly. Thank you Lord for getting me safe this far and for the great things you’ve taught me in this last year.

I don’t want to spend a long time talking about background, I’d rather use this blog to just speak about my everyday experiences of Christian youth work as they come along. So no time like the present really.

We had our 11-14’s group this morning during church and the topic was hell. Fun, fun, fun! We’re nearing the end of a series which mentions a lot of the basic Christian doctrines and I had rota-ed myself in to speak on this topic. It was actually OK. I was worried it would be difficult, although I didn’t want to shy away from an important scriptural truth. I spent some time in the week reading the chapter on hell in Wayne Grudem’s “Systematic Theology,” (if you don’t have it, buy it. I love it. I could read it in bed, but then I am a bit odd) and it really hit home the horror of hell and I felt challenged to get that over to the group. The passage we used was Mark 9:42-48 and I talked through how Jesus shows us the seriousness of sin and where that leads us. I used a clip from the Simpsons to illustrate what hell is not like, just to lighten the mood a bit.

We normally break into small groups at the end each session and discuss what we’ve heard. It was hard to judge what they had taken in. I think some of them were frightened by it and so didn’t say much. But it was good to talk through how Jesus gives us a guaranteed way of steering clear of hell. We try and make sure the cross is there every week without fail. It’s easy to think they know all about it but even my limited experience has taught me that you could teach the cross as clearly as humanly possible and some people would still be blinded to it. I just trust that God knows when the time is right to open people’s eyes and in the meantime, we as a team just concentrate on throwing out the seed.

I’m encouraged tonight by our 14-18’s group. We talked a lot about evangelism tonight which is again something we want to keep on the radar of our young people. One of my co-leaders led the session and he did brilliantly. Really engaged the group. He got them to get into pairs and talk for 30 seconds each about something they’re passionate about, then swap over. Then he did the same again but with them talking about what Jesus means to them. I know this would have made some people feel awkward, as actually for some of the group, the answer is probably very little, but it helps to show that we don’t just talk about Jesus for fun, this is serious stuff that people need to know.

The group had been making notes during the evening in regards to friends they wanted to tell about Jesus, as well as on what Jesus meant to them. At the end of the evening a large number of the group handed their notes in or left the paper on the floor, and so rightly or wrongly, I looked at them. I’m glad I did. It was so encouraging to see what they had written about Jesus: salvation, hope, purpose, trust, reliability, forgiveness, everything. Even in these small words I feel like I’m seeing some fruit and that makes me happy. And I’m happy for them that they’re beginning to grasp how amazing Jesus really is. I hope this continues.

Consciously Incompetent