Baptists are big on behavior. And behavior matters for the kingdom. Behavior can propel the kingdom forward and behavior can thwart kingdom expansion. But behavior is not the primary focus of youth ministry . . . because it is not the primary focus of Christ. The heart is. Behavior is just the natural outgrowth of the heart . . . for good or ill. Notice:
- You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart . . . (Deut 6:5).
- Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer (Ps 19:14).
- Blessed are those who keep his testimonies, who seek him with their whole heart . . . (Ps 119:2).
- Give me understanding, that I may keep your law and observe it with my whole heart (Ps 119:34).
- Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding (Prov 3:5).
- I the Lord search the heart and test the mind . . . (Jer 17:10).
- I will give them a heart to know that I am the LORD, and they shall be my people and I will be their God, for they shall return to me with their whole heart (Jer 24:7).
- You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart (Jer 29:13).
- Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God (Matt 5:8 ).
- But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart . . . (Matt 15:18).
- The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks (Luke 6:45).
- . . . addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart (John 7:38).
Teenagers develop a heart that is more like the heart of Christ for lots of reasons. But the primary factor is the heart of mom and dad. The second most important factor is the heart of a godly adult who loves and disciples them.
So how do parents and youth disciplers come to have hearts more like the heart of Christ? A big part of the answer to that question should be the way the Holy Spirit weaves together their hearts with the heart of the youth minister.
Beyond his influence in the hearts of parents and disciplers, the youth minister also has a direct influence on the lives of particular teenagers. In those cases, the depth of those hearts will hinge to some degree on his. Hearts influence hearts in interaction with the Holy Spirit of God. That is just a fact.
The heart of the youth minister influences the hearts of teenagers. That is magnified even more as the heart of the youth minister influences the hearts of parents and disciplers. Any youth minister finds it sobering to realize that, “The condition of my heart is much more important in our youth ministry than:
- How creative I am
- How well I connect with teenagers
- How cool I seem to be
- How much visible “success” I can generate”
Realizing that leads to valuable insights. For one thing, that makes it absolutely impossible to be “too busy” to worship Jesus at the beginning of the day. If the youth minister’s time in the throne room matters more than anything on the task list, then it is impossible that those tasks should squeeze out early worship.
The same principle applies to the memorizing of Scripture. Youth ministers memorize God’s Word, not because of a Baptist check list, but because they want a heart that carries the aroma of Jesus.
Soul care, personal worship, and the spiritual disciplines are not a break from youth ministry. They ARE youth ministry. They are the root of all youth ministry. They are what prepare the heart of a pastor to influence the hearts of parents, disciplers, and teenagers. And out of those transformed hearts, to see the kingdom come on earth for the glory of God.