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Arise and Shine (Luke 3:10-18)

I want to petition that we begin considering John the Baptist the patron saint of youth ministers. Think about it:

He reaches out to people of all walks of life and challenges them.

His fashion sense and diet leave a lot of people very, very confused.

Some people think he is crazy, yet his mission is oddly exciting.

And, most importantly, his entire mission, ministry, and life point back to Christ.

That last reason alone is enough for us to begin asking for the intercession of St. John the Baptist and looking to his example.

Gut Check

Advent features this strange character found in the desert “preparing the way of the Lord” (Isaiah 40:3). He heralds the coming of something greater than himself and challenges the people to be prepared. All that John does – his preaching, his life, his baptism – prepares the hearts of the faithful for Jesus. What about our ministry?

Can we honestly say that everything we do points back to Jesus? Or do we find ourselves sometimes becoming the anti-John the Baptist:

Instead of proclaiming truth and challenging teens, we choose to keep them comfortable, even if it means withholding the truth of the Church.

Rather than preaching repentance and calling out sin, we focus on affirming people “just as they are.”

We get focused on “my ministry,” “my talk,” “my work,” and the “good things I am doing for God.”

That is a recipe for disaster. When we become complacent in proclaiming truth we don’t prepare the hearts of teens to encounter Christ. When we are afraid of calling out sin, we speak a half-truth – yes, Jesus loves you as you are but Jesus doesn’t want you to stay where you are if it is a place of sin.

When we make it all about us, then we point teenagers back to us. And, my friends, we cannot save the soul of anyone. John’s baptism was for repentance, but not of salvation. It prepared the hearts of the people, but it didn’t save them. Jesus does that – and John is always quick to point out this reality.

Become the Baptist

What would it look like if every word, action, ministry, talk, dynamic, or game pointed back to Jesus? It doesn’t have to be heavy handed or super Churchy all the time – we can still have a lot of fun doing what we do. But if what we are doing isn’t being done with the intent of leading teenagers closer to Christ, then what is the point? Why waste the energy? John wasn’t interested in making “good people,” John was interested in helping people be holy.

That is what we are all about, too. This Advent, let’s rejoice in the ministry that we are called toward. Let’s proclaim the salvation that is won by our God. And let’s make our entire lives a big sign that points back to Jesus. There is no greater mission or responsibility than that – and we are blessed to accept it joyfully.

 

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About the Author

Joel Stepanek

I spent most of my 8th grade year in detention because there wasn’t a dare I wouldn’t accept. But in high school, my youth minister dared me to follow Christ and I haven’t looked back. I love all things Wisconsin, especially the Green Bay Packers. I can probably eat more cheese than you. (Please don’t dare me to prove it.) Follow me on Twitter and Instagram at @LT_Jstepanek.