Championing Their Walk: Making Sunday School Drive the Individual Walk with Jesus

Originally Posted on September 1, 2020

Webinar Transcript

– Today we have a very special guest, good friend of mine. We went super summer Alabama and roomed together and that was where we really hit it off for the first time, got to know each other pretty well. And then over the years we’ve just been serving in youth ministry together along the way. He’s at First Baptist, Oxford, Alabama, as the Minister of students. And we’re just so thankful to have Justin Nelson with us. He has a wealth of knowledge of youth ministry, he’s been doing a long time. And so we’re really, really excited to have you here today, Justin. So thank you for being with us. Thank you for sharing with us and on this Saturday morning. And we look forward to what you’re gonna bring and teach us this morning. So I’m gonna give it to you and turn it over to you. And then I’ll be back when you finish. We’ll answer some questions and talk about things.

– Thank you, Scooter. You say a wealth of knowledge. And that’s really a good lead into what I wanted to start talking about. One thing that we’ve been saying at First Baptist Oxford is that in this pandemic time, that there are no experts. Nobody knows. And so it’s really the same thing in dealing with teenagers. When you encounter somebody who says, “Yeah, I’m an expert in student ministry.” you can pretty well bet that they don’t know what they’re talking about. We’re trying to figure this out. We’re doing the best we can. How can we lead teenagers to Jesus? How can we disciple teenagers get them to become more like Jesus. We’re all just fighting this fight day in and day out. So whether you’re watching this as a youth pastor or as a Sunday school teacher or if you’re like the vast majority of youth workers in the state of Alabama, you’re not a professional. You are a guy or lady who, I just do this because I love teenagers and I love Jesus. We’re all in that same boat, regardless of what our title may be, or which side of the computer you’re sitting on here today. In talking about that pandemic, and how none of us are experts, something that this thing… And I’m not gonna talk about the pandemic so much, because I know everybody’s sick of hearing that. I’m gonna talk about what the pandemic has shown me and what led us to this topic today, championing their walk, championing the teenagers walk with Jesus. In the opening days of this pandemic is everybody’s quarantined. I’m sitting in my house here in my little guest room/office. And I’m trying to learn how to do videos and I’m not real tech savvy. And I’m trying to figure out what a Zoom is and ways to reach teenagers and I’m looking and I’m calling camps and canceling. And I’m on calls with Scooter talking about super summer. And I’m on calls with other places trying to figure out what we’re gonna do with all of the events and activities and the band stuff and all of these different stuff that we were doing. And finally, the Holy Spirit, just hits me, but not physically but that intellectual slap. And says, “Can you not see that this pandemic “is stripping away all of the extra?” All of the fluff, all of the attractiveness, so to speak, of what we were doing in church life, has been stripped away like you put paint thinner on it. And all that is going to remain is that individual walk, at least for a time. From that moment, from that fault, the Holy Spirit, God began to show me that what I was doing in student ministry was tying everything to group gatherings. And we’re not taking anything away from group gatherings. We need to be worshiping together. We need to be in D groups and Sunday school. In our context, we got worship, D groups and Sunday school groups, student worship on Wednesday nights. Those are good things and they are beneficial to a student’s walk with Jesus. But at the end of the day, we have to use those opportunities to point to that teenagers individual walk. Even in talking about making disciples, if we’re making disciples who are dependent upon somebody else to feed them, then we’re not really making disciples. So how do we do that? That’s gonna be different in everybody’s context. Obviously, if you’re watching this, and you’re a student pastor, and you’ve got a student worship, and you’ve got D groups, and you’ve got Sunday School groups, and you’ve got this, that all of these different elements, then you’ve got a lot of different ways that you can work that versus somebody who is our student, we meet for Sunday School morning, and that’s all we do. So that’s obviously two very different windows. So you’ve got to put that into your context. But what we’re gonna do is we’re gonna talk about some principles of how we can make that happen. So, again, two illustrations to show us what we’re talking about here. The first one from the nation of Israel. Israel wanted the promised land, and that promised land was a physical symbol of the spiritual relationship between them and Yahweh. Well, what happens? They get in the land and they’re jumping up and down. And they’re like, “Yeah, we got the land, we got the land, “we got the land, but we’re worshiping Baal.” We do the same thing with the church building or with our gatherings. We want the physical symbol, “Yeah, I’m at church. “I’m at church. I’m at church.” But I’m not walking with Jesus. I’m not actually following him. So we’re in that same context. The second illustration, I mentioned this earlier, coming from the ability to feed yourself. So often we talk about milk versus meat. When is somebody ready to move beyond the milk of the word and craving that pure milk. And we should continue to crave that, that’s the gospel. Gospel continues to impact but then there are areas in a different setting and what Paul talks about is we move beyond milk and into meat. Well, if we’re cutting a 16 year old’s piece of steak and feeding it to him, he may be eating stake, but he’s not feeding himself. And so that’s still not where we want to be. So we need to look at how do we make this not about the church building or the gathering? How do we make a relationship with Jesus be more than I am feeding you and to the point where we help disciple them to where they are feeding themselves and then teaching others to feed themselves? If we look at, and this isn’t research, other than in my own mind and in my own experience. To give you a little bit of background, I’ve been in student ministry, July the 3rd was 15 years that I’ve been on church staff as a student pastor, either part time or an animal called three quarter time, whatever in the world that meant. Basically meant that I worked full time and got paid part time. And now two different full time churches. And what I have seen as I’ve thought about this topic, out of all the factors that play into is this student going to stay in the church? Is this student gonna persevere in their relationship with Jesus? Just in thinking about this, whether or not that student was walking with Jesus, individually, I believe plays, if not the biggest role, one of the biggest roles in that decision. I know you can talk about whether or not there’s a father in the home. I know we can talk about what does that home life look like and how their parents, society look like. But I’m seeing students who had a terrible home life, but they were walking with Jesus day in and day out. Matter of fact, this young lady is leading worship right now in the church, the girl that’s in my mind. And on the other side of that, I’ve seen families who, it looks like they have it all together. Their student wasn’t walking with Jesus day in and day out, individually, was piggybacking off of their parents relationship and they would fall away. So we need to try to guide these teenagers, shepherd these teenagers into that individual walk. I wanna read to you John chapter 15, the first 10 verses. The Bible talks a lot about a walk and walking in the Spirit, keeping in step with the Spirit, you can think about fruits of the Spirit. Over and over and over through the New Testament, you see the word walk. When I’m thinking about a walk with Jesus, I’m thinking about John chapter 15. And I’m gonna read the first, I think it’s 12 verses here. It says, “I am the true vine “and my father is the vine dresser. “Every branch in me that does not bear fruit, he takes away. “And every branch that does bear fruit, “he prunes that it may bear more fruit. “Already you are clean because of the word “I’ve spoken to you.” Listen to this, “Abide in me, and I in you. “As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, “unless it abides in the vine, “neither can you unless you abide in me. “I am the vine and you are the branches. “Whoever abides in me and I in him, “he it is that bears much fruit. “For apart from me, you can do nothing. “If anyone does not abide in me, “he is thrown away like a branch and withers, “and the branches are gathered “and thrown into the fire and burnt. “If you abide in me and my words abide in you, “ask whatever you wish and it will be done for you. “By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit “and so prove to be my disciples. “As the Father has loved me so I have loved you. “Abide in my love. “If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love “just as I’ve kept my father’s commandments “and abide in his love. “These things I’ve spoken to you that my joy may be in you “and that your joy may be full.” I’m not gonna preach John 15 right there because that’s not really what this is about. I just want to focus on that word, abide. 10 times in 12 verses, John says, abide, abide, abide, abide, abide. Now, many of your translations are going to have rest, they’re gonna have remain. But out of my study, I don’t think those words are adequate. They’re used because that’s what makes the most sense in our language. So it’s not a wrong translation. But in an effort to make it where it sounds the best to us because we don’t use the word abide very much, so they put rest, they put remain. But the way I tell teenagers is like this, I’m resting if I’m vegging out in front of the TV, and I got my bag of potato chips, and I got my Dr. Pepper and I got it and I lock it. And I’m just mildly staring at whatever TV is going on. That’s resting, that’s remaining, but that’s not abiding, even though technically, both have to do with rest. I can be resting. I’m sitting in my home and I’m watching the TV. But I’m watching it and I’m on the edge of my seat. I’m so caught up in this movie that I’m missing my mouth throwing the popcorn. You know what I’m saying? Because I’m totally and completely engaged. That’s the picture that we’re looking for in abiding. It’s not just that I’m kicked back, that divine abiding in the branch, it’s actively taking nourishment from the branch. And so yes, it’s a I’m resting because of my trust in Jesus. Yes, I’m remaining in him in the sense that I’m not going away from him. But it’s more than that. I’m actively pursuing, I’m actively taking that nourishment from him. And so we get our walk. Now, you can take that and fill in every one of those items where it says abide. If we’re not abiding, that’s giving evidence that hey, I’m not really in Christ in the first place. So hugely important that we are abiding, that we are walking. Now, that’s the principle. But how do we actually go about doing this? Very practical now, how do we go about championing these teenagers walk? Well, when you talk about championing, I think you’re talking about three things. You’re talking about teaching them to walk, you’re emphasizing the walk, you’re sharing the walk, and then we’re going to troubleshoot the walk a little bit. Let’s look at teaching them the walk. Now, caveat before we even begin this, none of this is hard and fast rules. We are under grace, we are not under law. And so as you go into your Sunday school class or your Wednesday night or your discipleship training, D group or whatever it is, don’t go in and say, “Well, I went to this thing online, “and Justin said that this is what we had to do. “And this is what it looked like to follow Jesus.” That’s not what I’m saying. Because we are under grace, and not under law. But these are some things that you can use to measure, to give an indicator of where that students at, are they abiding, are they walking? Now, you could shorten this up and say, “Well, a walk with Jesus, if we’re gonna teach them to walk, “we’re gonna teach them to have a quiet time.” And I would say yeah, that’s part of it. But that’s not everything that a walk with Jesus entails. I pulled some of my teenagers, in my search and I got some interesting answers, and I’m gonna share those as we go along. But first of all, when we talk about teaching them to walk, we need to teach them, Donald Whitney, in his book, The Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, he calls it Bible intake. And there’s two aspects of Bible intake. And I think both of them need to be in place in the life of the believer. And he uses different words, but I just call them quality and quantity. When you think of quantity, we need to have read the Bible through as believers. That should be something that we should pursue. We need to know what the minor prophets say. We need to be able to sit down and read through the Gospels or all of the epistles. So it’s a good thing in a season of our life or as a part of our daily walk, however, each student wants to do it, that we look at big chunks of Scripture. And reading that just for edification. Right now in my own Bible intake time, that’s what I’m currently trying to do. I’m trying to It doesn’t have to be crazy. Even when I’m doing, I’m trying to read three, four or five chapters, out of, right now I’m in 2nd Kings. I’ve just been reading some of that narrative type material in the Old Testament over this summer. And I’m really enjoying it. It’s a great story. It’s like reading a story everyday. And the Holy Spirit would show me things out of that, and then I’ll journal them down. We will talk about journaling in just a minute. So the point being, there needs to be times, in our walk with Jesus where, I’m reading the Bible through, I’m reading the Old Testament through, I’m reading the New Testament through. I’m just reading scripture as a big picture, and I wanna see what it looks like. That’s quantity, then there’s also quality. And that may be, I’ve heard of people, I’ve never done this personally. But I’ve heard of folks who say in their Bible intake time, they’ve spent months and months on the same two or three verses, just exploring and meditating on that one passage of scripture and what God has to say. One of my leaders, one of my teenage girls shared with me in talking about this that we’ve been doing leading the D life, which is a chapter a day. And she has done that for a few years now. And she said, “I just felt like I need “to do something different. “And so “I “have started reading, “I’m not reading a chapter a week, and I’m just slowly “biting it, just digesting it.” If you look at these in two different ways, the quantity is like we’re having a hot dog cooking. There’s a bunch of hot dogs on the grill and you can get as many as you like. We’ve just got a feast of hot dogs. Whereas the quality aspect of it is we’ve sat down at a nice restaurant and a suit and tie. And I’ve ordered filet mignon and I’ve got to enjoy this and savor it. Because it’s about big round as a golf ball and it cost $50. I never personally have had that experience, but maybe you can relate. I saw it on a movie one time. So you get the idea. The key in this is, is that both need to be in place, but they don’t have to be in place at the same time. So part of walking with Jesus is I’m intaking the Bible and I’m intaking it in both those different ways. I’m studying it, I’m breaking it down, I’m digesting it, but I’m also getting it in big chunks. The second thing that we have to teach is we teach the walk, part of championing the walk is teaching the walk. We teach them Bible intake, we teach them prayer. Now, I’ve got a five year old. I also have an eight month old little boy. I got a five year old girl and she says the same little prayer just about every night. And she always prays for my mom’s dog. Tubby is his name. He has gone on to go wherever dogs go. And he had to be put to sleep. And she prays every night, and God bless Tubby because he died. That was the dog’s name and stuff. So real cute, real sweet, we love it. We need to be able to teach our teenagers to move beyond prayers by rote, by just rote memorization and to be able to truly talk with God. Now, when we say prayers by rote memorization, you’re probably thinking Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep. You’re probably thinking, the little blessings that you pray. Well, do we not also by rote in phrases like, dear Lord, we thank you for this day and all the blessings that are in it. We pray your blessings over this food and those who prepared it. Lord, we pray that you would accept this offering and use it for the benefit of your kingdom. Those might be accurate prayers. But are they meaningful prayers? Or are they just something we just learned to say? The, Lord, I think you for this day, I believe is the greatest one. Do we say that as a catchphrase? Are we truly being thankful for another day? And that’s hugely important as we talk to teenagers about their walks because they are not walking with Jesus if they are parroting somebody else’s prayer, and that’s their entire prayer life. We’ve got to challenge them to move beyond that, to move into a conversation with Jesus. They are in a relationship with him and they’re talking to him. And that needs to be something where they can grow. We need to be asking questions like, how long are you spending in prayer? And well, 30 seconds. Great. I’m glad you’re praying, but let’s try to grow from that. And again, this isn’t a legalistic thing. It’s just very simply, as we get to know Jesus more, we should be wanting to spend more time with him. And this is a personal struggle myself because I lean much more toward the Bible study end of this walk than I do with the prayer. So I have to try to challenge myself and discipline myself in that area of of prayer. So it’s what is said, how long are you praying, how much time are you spending. But also how consistent are you in that prayer life. Is it every day? Is it twice a day or once a week? Are you maintaining a consistent attitude of prayer throughout the day? As Scripture tells us 1st Thessalonians, pray without ceasing. So again, we’re on a grace, so it’s not like, well, you’re not a Christian, if you don’t pray for five minutes a day or whatever, that’s not what we’re saying. But at the same time, if we’re gonna champion that walk, then we need to challenge in some areas. We’re never going to see growth without challenge. And you can talk about that in your Sunday school groups or whatever. So along with prayer, one thing that’s helped me in my prayer life, is this third area. And that’s an area of journaling. And not everybody likes to journal, guys in particular, they think it’s a diary. And here’s the thing, it doesn’t matter whether you ever write down anything personal or not. You may want to and that’s fine. But when I teach journaling to my students, I tell them, I say, “Look, write down every day, make it a part of your “devotion time to the Lord.” You’re writing down what God said to you that day. This is the verse that meant something to me, this is what stood out, and even if it’s just two or three sentences. but another way to journal is also, in talking about prayer life, teach them to journal their prayers. Teach them to not have to write it out, but almost like a note taking section of their prayers. And that’s helped me tremendously in my prayer life. Journaling gives them a point of reference, a sense of completion in their walk, because they’re able to look back later and say, “Where was I at this point a year ago?” They’re not gonna remember if they don’t write it down. And so I would encourage you to encourage them to make that part of their walk. One of my students gave me this next one. And I never really tied this in with a walk with Jesus. Like I said I’d always thought quiet time until I began to do some research for this. But one of my girls wrote, “The part of my walk “that I enjoy the most is being able to use my gifts “and abilities that Christ has given me like leading worship “and serving in other capacities.” She said that essentially, what impacts me the most of my day in and day out walk with Jesus is how I serve in local body. Now, you may say, “Well, wait a minute, we just said we want “to take the emphasis off of those meeting times together “and look at “championing their individual walk.” And that’s true. But first of all, number one, service is, in a sense, edifying that individual walk, even though it’s about meeting together. And like I said, we’re not separating the two. We’re just making much of the one that is hardest to fake. We can fake showing up at church, but we can’t fake that individual walk with Jesus. Who are you gonna fake it to? Unless we’re lying to ourselves, nobody else is seeing it. At the same time, those meeting times, push our individual time and the individual time should push that meeting time. So the service aspect of it is an individual conversation then. The point that we come to is do your teenagers have a job? Do they have a role in the church? And I’m not talking about just picking up chairs or picking up trash or something that anybody can do. I mean a meaningful, significant role in either your student ministry or your Sunday school class or even your church as a whole. And if they do, like we said, for this young lady, her role in the church, and she plays guitar on Wednesday nights, and sometime and on Sunday morning, she’s in the rotation. She does everything. Matter of fact, she could probably do this that I’m doing right now as well as I can. But the point is, she says that one of the biggest factors in her individual walk, that’s what she enjoys the most. So if it’s true for her, it’s gonna be true for others. And so we need to celebrate that. And then the next thing we need, and we’re gonna champion their walk, we’re gonna teach them to have this walk. We need to talk to them about consistency and about schedule. It’s not a walk if you’re three days on, six days off on three Sundays meeting together with my brothers and sisters on and then I’m five off. That’s not a walk. Could you imagine a relationship with a friend that you talk to him a bunch for two or three days and then you don’t see them for three or four months. It wouldn’t be very good relationship, would it? Not always works that way, all of us have friends from high school or whatever, and we get together every once in a while. But I think that’s a little different. But I’m talking about somebody that you’re in relationship with day in and day out. Your husband or your wife, could you imagine talking to them for three days and then not talking to them for five days? It wouldn’t make any sense. So we need to push the consistency of this daily walk and this daily time. We need to talk to them about changing consistently to not be stuck in a rut, incorporate music, journal for a while and then don’t journal for a while, incorporate some silence and solitude. And this is something that I’ve done in my own life, but I would do five days in one type of, did the living the D life material for five days for the D group that I was leading. And then the other two days, I would do something else. Like on Sunday mornings, because I’m a little bit teaching Sunday school, right now I’m preaching every Sunday morning. And so I didn’t spend the time so much in the Word, I spent it in worship. Now, obviously, that doesn’t need to be all that I do. But if a kid comes and says, “Hey, I want to incorporate worship “into my daily walk with Jesus.” By all means, as far as the time that they’re sitting now. And for that champion, that worship time, let them, what is your car ride look like? And then I would if we’re gonna teach the walk, then we’ve got to talk about what is the motivation for the walk? Why are you doing this? And if it’s anything other than because I love Jesus and I want to know more about him, then we’ve got some heart level issues that we’ve got to discuss and we got to talk about. The motivation for why do I want to walk with Jesus and what all of the aspects of that walk whether that’s church attendance, small group, evangelism, my quiet time studying the Bible and praying, a journal, why am I doing all these things? And it has to come out of not because I’m wanting to follow the rules because that’s the wrong motivation. Not because I’m trying to earn God’s love. And nobody’s gonna just come out and say that, but we’re reading between the lines and we know that’s what they’re saying. But simply because Jesus loved me, He saved me, I love him, and as a result of that, I want to get to know him more and I want to be in relationship with him. And that needs to be motivation. I can’t say this enough, out of all of those things. they are measurable, they are helpful in teaching students how to walk with Jesus. But we can’t get them in there and say, and I was guilty of this, y’all. This is hot off the press of my heart and mind kind of a thing. I’ve been teaching teenagers for years, that if you you’re gonna follow Jesus, you’re gonna have a quiet time every day. That’s one of the biggest indicators. And it is, but I was making that like that’s a prerequisite to following Jesus. And that wasn’t my heart, but that’s the way I was coming across. And recently, I came across some stats from the southern Baptists Ethics and Religious Liberties Commission about North Korea. There’re estimated 300,000 believers in North Korea. About 50,000 of those are in some sort of detention center or prison camp or something along those lines. How do those brothers and sisters have a quiet time? It’s illegal to have a Bible in their country. If they get caught with a Bible, they’re going to their prison camps. So what you’re talking about is probably, I’ve never been there and certainly wouldn’t want to share too much what they’re doing. I don’t have any inside info, but I would imagine somebody has got a New Testament or a Gospel of John, that they’ve got in a Ziploc bag or something, and it’s buried somewhere in the backyard under a bush or whatever. And then at one o’clock in the morning, the brothers gather together, the brothers and sisters come together, and they go dig up the New Testament, and they read it together. But they’re walking with Jesus. You see, it is individual, and then they’re coming to meet together. So we have to be careful in saying, you wanna walk with Jesus, it’s got to look like this. And we also have to be careful in making it all about these disciplines that I just talked about. Those disciplines are important. And discipline breeds devotion, and then devotion breeds discipline. It’s cyclical. And one feeds the other. But at the same time, we can’t be all about discipline, and nothing about relationship. But neither can we be nothing about relationships, or all about relationship and nothing about discipline. It’s a fine line to walk. And I don’t understand it completely myself, to be honest with you and I don’t think anybody does. But somewhere in there is the correct balance of I love Jesus, and he’s my friend, but yet he commands me to do this. He’s my Lord, and somewhere that meets correctly, and that’s that sweet spot that we need to strive for. So we’ve taught them the walk, and that’s the bulk of what we’re gonna talk about today. But I also want you to know, to emphasize the walk. We talk about the most, what we love the most, and what we value the most. If you spend some time with me, you would hear me talk about my kids, my family ’cause they’re important. You’d hear me talk about, right now because of the time of the year, you’d hear me talk about my grandparents have this place at the lake and we love to go down there. That’s important to me. And then we do that as a family, we enjoy that. I love to hunt and fish. I love to play golf. Those are the things that you would hear me talking. And I’m saying outside of my relationship with Jesus. I hope that’s what you would hear me talking about the most. I’m just using the regular life or “secular”. We’re all one body, one being, but anyway topic for another day. But the point is, even in our specifically within our relationship with Jesus, we’re gonna talk about what we value the most. So as you’re teaching your Sunday school class or you’re doing your D group or you’re on your Wednesday night, whatever it is, if you value that individual walk with Jesus, that’s what you’re going yo talk about. If you value them coming together as a group, then that’s what you’re gonna talk about. And that’s what I found that I was doing in my student ministry and in my disciple and teenagers. All I was doing was talking about, are you coming on Wednesday night? Are you coming to D group? Are you doing this? And I would say, and this is gonna push you to your individual walk with Jesus. But we didn’t emphasize that. We didn’t talk about it. So it wasn’t perceived that we care about it. So find a way to talk about their individual walks, in your social media posts and when you teach, everywhere that you can. Here’s what you wanna do. You want that individual walk with Jesus to be a part of the culture of your church. Even the online culture of your church. And you can figure out ways, like said I’m not giving you this is what you must do, but most churches are online now since the pandemic age, figure out what is my culture? What are we pushing? What are we valuing? And then what does it look like for me to be able to say, “I want to make sure that we emphasize the value “of each person’s individual walk.” And then along those same lines is share the walk. We want to give the teenagers opportunities to share what Jesus is doing in their life. In order to champion this individual walk, then you got to bring back the testimony service. And it doesn’t have to be some huge deal but maybe every week or every other week, you got your class or five or six teenagers there, and you’re sitting down on Sunday morning, Sunday school and everybody socially distance and you got your mask on and all that. And you say, “Well, John, I tell you what, “why don’t you share what Jesus said to you this week “in your devotion times, and in your walk with him? “What did you learn this week?” And just begin to allow them to talk about it. And that’s gonna change the culture. But that’s also going to help you in this championing idea, because that’s what we’re celebrating, that’s what we love. And then on your end, you need to share what Jesus is doing in your life and in your day to day walk. If you’ve noticed, and I did this intentionally, as I’ve taught here, I’ve dropped some things about this is what I do, this is where I’m struggling. And that was very intentional, because I was bringing it to this. Just like I’ve done, and it may be a more formal setting. In your Sunday school class, you may say, “Hey, guys, I want to take a minute “and tell you about what Jesus said to me this week.” And that will be fine. But whether you’re dropping it like I did, or whether you’re saying, “My testimony time for this week.” You need to model what you want them to do. And now it needs to be appropriate content. You don’t need to be talking to your teenagers about the issues that you’re having with your husband or wife. There are some areas of sin even that may be and that would be between you and the Holy Spirit, your past or whatever, but you may not want to go confessing everything to them depending on your context. So appropriate content, but also appropriate length. And you don’t want to let it be all about you. You want to let them have the opportunity. You’re championing their walk and what you’re doing is model. We’re setting the example. So we’re teaching the walk, we’re emphasizing the walk, we’re sharing the walk. But let’s troubleshoot this for a minute. Troubleshooting the walk. The biggest issue that I see, and there may be others, but as far as what, as I was preparing for this, the biggest thing that came to my mind, was won’t this make it easier for students to say, “You said, we didn’t need to come to church “because our individual walk was more important.” I could see somebody saying that. “Wait a minute, Justin, you said that “I’m not worried about coming to church this summer “because you said our individual walk was more important.” Well, not really. First of all, for somebody to say that, that’s somebody that’s not walking with Jesus. Let’s just be up front with that, ’cause like we said, our walk and our church attendance should be reciprocal. If I’m walking well with Jesus, then I’m wanting to be more in his presence. Not if I’m walking well with Jesus, that means that I am looking for opportunities not to meet with my brothers and sisters in worshiping. It doesn’t make sense. Those two things can’t live together in the same person. That’s salt and freshwater coming out of the same spring. Now, it may result, and this is okay, in somebody who says, “Hey, Justin, “I know normally we would rush back from our once a year “family vacation to be at church. “But we’ve been talking about grace and not law. “And we’ve been talking about “how the individual walk is important. “And so we’re gonna go ahead and stay at the beach this year “on Sunday instead of rushing back late Saturday night “from and trying to be there and all that. “And we’re just gonna spend some time with the Lord together “as a family for one week out of the year.” I can’t argue with that. As you get into this church attendance versus individual walk, there’s all kinds of things. I think self evaluation, the travel baseball thing comes into play many times. Folks say, “Well, I’m introducing people to Jesus. “I’m here and we’re meeting together as a church.” If that student has a legitimate chance of having a platform playing Major League Baseball, then maybe we’ve got legitimate concern there. But the kid’s throwing 60 miles an hour, you probably won’t have to worry about it a whole lot. He’s probably better off being in church. The point is, each situation is gonna be different. We’re coming back to that fact that the individual walk is driving my church attendance. It is making me love being with my brothers and sisters more, not less. So the kid who comes to you and says, “You said I don’t have to come this summer. “I’m gonna play baseball or I’m gonna do whatever, “because “I’m walking with Jesus individually.” Well, our response then is the very fact that you’re saying this means that you’re not walking with Jesus individually. It’s a circle. It’s a wheel and when one side of it breaks down, we run off the tracks. So, out of everything we’ve said, I’m concluding with this. We must champion their walk with Jesus. In order to see them become disciples, then we have got to see them walk with Jesus day in and day out. I don’t think that’s new information for you. What I hope is new information because it was new information for me is that this walk with Jesus is more than I am checking off my list of I must do this today. This is just how I go about this. It is spiritual, it is emotional, it is practical, and it encompasses so much more of that individual’s life and it’s really so much harder to pin it down than I ever really thought before studying this. So we want to see teenagers, walking with Jesus day in and day out, even if it doesn’t look exactly like what we think it should look like from when we grew up experiencing. So see if we got any questions here. Scooter, that wraps me up.

– Well, great job, Justin. Thank you so much for sharing with us. That was great. One of the things that stuck out to me throughout the whole conversation, for me was you were talking about not being check boxes. You were talking against legalism in a lot of ways. And so we as leaders are responsible to lead and encourage and help our teenagers and champion their personal walk. But what that looks like sometimes is there might be some kids who need a checklist. Not to be legalistic, but that’s just how their brain functions. I am not that kid. But there’s also some kids that probably need that. They just need Justin to come live life with me and take me to lunch and invest in me. And so I would say that I don’t know, look at that, just answer that for just a minute. As well as we need to lead differently when there’s different students. We also need to realize that the kids are different, some needs are different from us as their leaders.

– I think you’re exactly right. When we talked about teaching the walk, I think the word I used was these are measurables. So we all need measurables in our life. I had a conversation with a young lady this past week, who said, “I want to be one of our D group leaders. “I want to “be a part of “the leadership aspect of students ministry.” And so what did I do? I pulled her Sunday school attendance record as a measurable. Say, “I like what I see in your life “But there are some measurables here that are out of place.” And I’m thinking a seventh grader, a seventh grade little boy football player, he probably needs a checkbox. Absolutely. But what happened and I need a checkbox. I like a check box, ’cause I’m a detail oriented, I like to check that box. My relationship with my wife, we’ll use that for an example. If I’m saying, honey, I took out the garbage today, check that box for me. Well, then that’s not love. About the same token, if I’m saying, “Honey, I love you,” But I ain’t never took out the garbage, that’s not love either. And so that motivation is love. But I think you’re right. It’s going to depend on the individual. We’re walking that line between law and grace, and we don’t want to get too far inside of that.

– That’s right. That’s exactly right. That’s what I was trying to just bring to light and to further that conversation. When I was a teenager, I had a youth pastor who, man, he put me on a roof for the first time and was wanting me to help him build a shed. I will tell you, I’m not a handy guy. I’ve gotten a little better over the years but I’m not a very handy guy. But I’ll tell you what, he took me to Bill’s Hamburgers in Amory, Mississippi after it and I’ll tell you what, I’ll never forget that. Those things that I never forgot. And even still today when I graduated high school, I went and learned youth ministry under him because I surrendered to a call to ministry. And then just through the years, he’s been a mentor. We still stay in contact. And I really do think it all started from the relational side of that for me because that meant me. He’s the guy who said, “You done your quiet time today?” I’m like, “Ah.” “Go do it.” And he’d just send me off. I needed that. But it was that relationship that allowed him for a lot of ways for me to tell me to go do it. So, anyway, I appreciate all that that you were talking about.

– Accountability is huge in anybody’s walk. But what happens is, like we said, when accountability becomes a witch hunt, we’re all for accountability and we’re all for holding each other together. That’s where that that individual walk being reciprocal. It’s I’m walking with Jesus individually because I love Jesus. But then in those moments when I fail, and I don’t love Jesus as I should, that’s when my youth pastor, my brother in Christ, whoever it is steps in and says, “Hey, man, where are you at in your walk?” That’s a beautiful picture of being right in the middle, where you wanna be between law and grace.

– Also, your wrap up on the troubleshooting students that want to be, we’re telling people about Jesus at the ballpark. And I’ll tell you, I love sports, sports are great. Something that Lord’s convicted me of as a youth pastor but also as a believer is anything that consumes me more than the Lord is sin. But also for me, is I also same thing with what we’ve just been talking about is the more I tell students that we miss them while they’re gone and then try and build that relationship towards them loving Jesus more than they love baseball or any sport has shown for me over the years to be proven to be a win. But the thing that I would say to that comment is if you’re walking personally with the Lord, you want to be with the church. And yeah, you could say that we’re meeting with fellow believers or we’re telling people about Jesus. But let’s just be honest, there is something about corporately worshiping with your body of believers. Now we are a body of believers. But there’s something sweet about your body of believers and you should wanna be a part of that. That’s people that you struggle with. That’s the people that you hurt with. That’s the people that you celebrate with. That’s the people that you are happy with. And so, I don’t know, there’s something about that disconnect of if you’re walking with Jesus, you wanna be a part of the church. I think that one of the things that God has given us here on earth, as resemblance of who he is and our walk with Christ to help us is the church. And so to say that you’re out of the ball fields. Again, not that sports are bad. But if you’re saying you’re out there and justifying that as a part of being away from your body of believers, I think that you need to check your walk with the Lord. I’m not saying it’s wrong, I’m just saying you need to check it.

– I got a great story about somebody who like we said, walked that line of all of this is really, how am I balancing these things? So this young lady, she was a junior in high school last year, and was going to play travel volleyball. She’s a big volleyball player. And this is what I love about it, she didn’t come bragging about this to me. I heard about this through the grapevine and then I went and asked her about it. She turned down playing on the team. She wanted to get on this particular travel volleyball team because that was the best team or whatever. She gets the opportunity to be where she wanted to be, but found out that they played on Sundays at every weekend, pretty much every Sunday through the course of their season. And their main practice time was on Wednesday night. And she told them that she wouldn’t do it. So she went instead to another team that they still played on a Sunday or two during the season. But it wasn’t every single time. They played a lot of Saturday only tournaments. And then they’d practice on Wednesday night. And I went, “My girl’s got it figured out.” That’s where we wanna be.

– That’s exactly right. That is the perfect example. Well, Justin, I’m thankful for you and thankful for all the things that you have given us to think about this moment. And so, Jamie, do you have any questions for us or for him or things like that? I thought Justin did a great job today. It was very, very good for me to sit and listen to.

– I think this is something that is so right on target. Justin, and I’ll agree I believe that maybe the Lord is allowing this season in our churches life to remind us, it’s not about the activities, it’s about the relationship. And as a youth minister for many years, it’s easy to allow it to stress that. I need you at youth group. I need you at camp. I need you at this and it’s about the activity, not about their personal walk. But I think you nailed it as well. And like Scooter just said, you can’t have that personal walk, it’s like me telling my wife I love her and never come home. Well, you can’t tell the Lord you love him and you got this in intimate relationship with him, but you never go to his house. You’re not interested in his bride. That’s contradictory. Man, I thank you for that reminder today. That is wonderful. I think this is something that we will be able to use for some time because this is being recorded and hopefully, even after today that folks will be able to sign on and listen to this and be reminded, boy, such, such good reminders. I appreciate what you’ve done here today. Good word. And I appreciate Scooter hanging in there with us. And I would say trying to keep you straight, Justin, but hey, you know It’s the two of us that keeps Scooter in line here.

– Well guys, I appreciate y’all hanging. And I appreciate what y’all do for the state, the Alabama Baptist and the support and the trainings that y’all offer and y’all’s friendship to me but so many other ministers across the state. So anybody watching this, listening this, if you’re going, “I don’t know who these other “two people are, I don’t know anything about “our state board of missions.” Look, call these folks. They’re not gonna know who you are either if you don’t seek that out. So I promise you, everybody at, I wanna say Board of Missions, wants to see Alabama churches succeed. And they want to support Alabama staff, the Baptist staff members, and pastors and youth pastors, whatever the case may be. So I just encourage you to use the resources, benefit from their wisdom, man. You’re missing out if you don’t.

– You can reach us at Skellem. That’s S- K-E-L-L-U-M @alsbom.org or Jbaldwin@alsbom.org. We’d love to come with you and do anything we can to help you along your journey, as a minister, help you make a kingdom impact and do kingdom work. So we appreciate you very much. Thanks, Justin. Thanks for that kind word. Thanks, Jamie for all you do. One day, I would like to be like you. You are my role model.

– Scooter, would you close us in prayer, please. I appreciate it, man. Justin again, thank you so much for your time today and all your work in this. We greatly appreciate it.

– Thank you for the opportunity.

– Let’s pray. Father, we love you. And we thank you so much for this day. Thank you for the opportunity to come and just to learn, Father, I’m hosting this thing this morning. And I took away a whole lot. And so I just thank you for the man Justin is, for the passion that he has, God, for students, for your word, for You and for that walk, Father, and then most of all, for the church. Father, we’re thankful that he has a passion for the church, the body of believers. And Father, we just thank you for his willingness to come and share some of the things he has learned along his journey, Father, and his walk with you. God, thank you for Jamie, for all that he does, God, for so many people, God. Father, I just thank you for letting him be in my life and for so many lives, that he has made an impact in. So Father, we just so thankful for them. God, I pray for this day. I pray that for those who are watching this, Father, that they will too walk away, feeling like they have learned something, that they have been challenged. But also God, that they will be charged and encouraged to go and lead students and champion a personal walk with you in Jesus name. Amen.

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