“Joy is the serious business of heaven.” -C. S. Lewis
Let’s restate this for the purposes of this blog:
“Joy is the serious business of student ministry.” -Josh Watford (kind of…)
You could exchange many other aspects of the Christian life into Lewis’s quote because he is getting at the core of how Christians interact with the world.
When we talk with our students, teach our students and counsel our students, what is our default demeanor? If someone were to ask your student ministry, “How would you describe your student pastor in one word?”, would joy show up?
I want to call on student pastors to be examples in joy.
- Live joy.
You can preach sermons on joy until even you’re tired of talking about it. But for those who don’t have joy, they don’t need to be told to have joy as if it’s something that can bubble up from inside themselves. What they need is the Gospel.
They need the Gospel preached and lived. They need to hear and see the true joy that only comes from knowing Christ. They need to see you joyfully even amid adversity.
When things go crazy at camp, do you lose your cool or display joy? When that one kid won’t shut up during the sermon, do you snap or handle the situation as if Christ died for him? When you talk about your family, friends and church, do they hear joy in your voice?
- Speak joy.
When deciding how to have a joy-filled ministry, the sermon should be one of the first areas that come to mind. Are we explicitly teaching our students about the importance of joy in the Christian life? Do they know how powerful of an evangelism tool it can be?
Many kids sitting in our churches may think that God, Jesus and all this Christianity stuff is dull.
As you’re living joy, take them to the Scriptures to show them the beauty, majesty and joy of our God.
Show them Psalm 16:11: “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”
Show them the joy in the Christmas story in Luke 2:10 (ESV): “And the angel said to them, ‘Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.’”
Show them the joy God has for us in Jude 24: “Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy.”
- Understand joy.
As you’re living and preaching joy, the message you communicate is not: “Be happy all the time. Repress all other feelings except happiness. Your sadness and worries are not welcome here.”
We need to create spaces at church where the downtrodden, the heartbroken, the depressed and the outcast can all come and feel welcome. But what they need to hear is NOT: “Yeah, that’s just the way life is. Everyone gets hurt. Time heals all wounds.”
No. Time does not heal all wounds. Only God can do that. As stated above, joy only comes from Christ and the Spirit’s saving work in our lives.
Again, we take them to Scripture.
Habakkuk, who would live through the siege of Jerusalem and the destruction of the Temple, understood the situation and did not pretend like it was better than it was: ” Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, ” (Habakkuk 3:17) He does finish that with, “Well, then, I’ll just sit and mope. Wallow in my pity.” There’s a time for sorrow. But it is always done on the backdrop of joy in Christ: “Yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation” (Habakkuk 3:18).
Joy is the serious business of student ministry. Whether or not Lewis would agree with that particular statement, I do believe he would agree our churches need to look like foretastes of heaven.
So, student pastors, let’s live, speak and understand joy for the sake of the Gospel among teenagers. They will be better for it. You will be better for it. And the kingdom of God will grow because of it.
All Scripture above is from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Text Edition: 2016. Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.