Navigating being “in the world” and not “of it,” is one of the most complicated mine fields of our life with Jesus. Wouldn’t it be awesome if we had it written in black and white in the Bible that we should avoid Snapchat and Grand Theft Auto V while we CAN post on Twitter and Instagram as long as we are never wearing a bikini. It’s all well and good that Leviticus tells me clearly how to deal with a dead cow I find in a field while I am out for a stroll. This has not been an issue for me as of late. Instead the list of actual “rules” seems much shorter than that of guidelines to living for Jesus.

Recently we navigated the Grammy Awards. There was the usual shock & awe that accompanied the show. Katy Perry’s performance was called, “demonic glorification.” The mass wedding during Macklemore’s “Same Love,” caused gasps across the nation. Then of course we love to just poke fun at poor Taylor Swift, this year with her head banging piano playing.

Christian artist, Natalie Grant was nominated for two awards.  Her actions have become viral as she posted on her FaceBook wall that she left the show early:

“We left the Grammy’s early. I’ve many thoughts about the show tonight, most of which are probably better left inside my head. But I’ll say this: I’ve never been more honored to sing about Jesus and for Jesus. And I’ve never been more sure of the path I’ve chosen.”

It was such a vague statement that a variety of people began to basically say, “See she was offended by what we were!”  Instead, she graciously pointed out that it was conviction that caused her to leave, not any one performance.  (You can read more about that HERE)

My reaction to the Grammy Awards? The world acts like the world.

It may sound flippant. I am not saying there weren’t things that I learned about that didn’t offend me, they just didn’t surprise me. It’s sort of why I was indifferent to the awards show in the first place.

The better question for us as Christians is how are we navigating what will feed our soul?  For Natalie Grant she realized that singing for Jesus to people who want to sing to Jesus is her conviction and calling. What I don’t know is if Natalie Grant knew the words to any of the songs she heard live. Some of us will never listen to anything on the Pop radio station, some will and enjoy it while feeling guilty about it, others will proudly sing at the top of their lungs, some of us might even, “ROAR,” during “The Best Day Of Our Lives.”

When students ask me what they should do when it comes to navigating culture choices, I ask this question: “Does it bring you closer to God, or farther away from Him?  Sometimes it truly may do neither. Speaking of Taylor Swift, I don’t feel closer to God when I listen to her, but I may learn how to navigate heartache. Some things are indeed inert.

Where the “shame” lies is when we point fingers at others (namely our students) while screaming, “AHHH! Plank in my eye. Plank in my eye.” We indulge in “guilty pleasures” with a shrug and nervous giggle.

What I respect about Ms. Grant is, she has never once judged anyone in this process, but for whatever reason staying would have caused her to “stumble” as we say, so she left.

This begs the question.  Are we so busy creating a list of “Do’s and Don’ts” that we forget it’s about the state of our soul? I think the reason there are so many guiding verses about watching our heart, tongue and soul, is so we will ask the Lord what He thinks is best for us. Are we willing to delve into Scripture and ask Jesus before we turn the radio up, go to see a movie or turn on the television? None of these are “evil” however, some of them may not be beneficial for me?  If we are going to spur our students on to more, will we do the same in pressing in to be closer to Jesus?

So I wonder, “Would you have left the Grammy Awards?”  Not because of an “agenda,” but simply because the Holy Spirit nudged this is not where He wants you right now?

Some of us would stay and enjoy the show. Some of us would turn to our neighbor and ask them if they know Christ. Others would get up and walk out and let the world know about it.

Tell me how are you dealing with your convictions, and how are you sharing these with your students?

Now excuse me while I chart a path around this dead cow I just happened to find at the Super Bowl Halftime show….



Watch this short video…

This guy was trying to block the trajectory of the pass…and, well, you saw what happened.

Sometimes in life tough things come out of nowhere.  Completely unexpected things.

Life will slap you with no warning.

And, sometimes, the last thing we want to hear is “God has a plan for your life.”  As true as that may be, sometimes we have questions and/or doubts because of what we are going through that aren’t answered or addressed by that statement.

Here are 2 things I’ve learned keeps me grounded when facing unexpected trial/pain/etc:

  1. Ask for help remembering.  Jesus says the Holy Spirit will call to remembrance all he has taught (John 14:25).  Often in times of trial, we ask for answers that have never been revealed.  It’s not wrong to ask God for the “why’s” of our situations, but rarely do we get the answers we want in the timing we desire.  I’ve found that asking the Holy Spirit to remind me of what has already been revealed is a much more helpful way to go.  Trying to remain deeply committed to what we already know is most often the best way to make it through the ambiguity of pain.
  2. Remember what God has done.  In times of trial we go through a ton of different emotions…and sometimes all at once.  We can feel like God isn’t there or listening, we may question whether or not he is somehow angry with us.  Asaph deals with these same feelings in Psalm 77.  But in verse 10-11 he moves beyond his emotions and remembers the things God has done in the past.  This moves him to a place of worship even though his emotions are everywhere.  I’ve found this really helps keep me grounded.  I remember the things God has done throughout history, but also in my life and in the lives of those closest to me.  This helps me worship God rather than get angry or bitter at Him.

Several years ago, as my wife and I were stepping into a new season of Ministry, one of my mentors asked me an incredible question. He said, “What are you consistently and deliberately praying for in your ministry?” At the time, I prayed for our ministry regularly, as I am sure you do as well, but I had never considered a consistent and deliberate prayer request.

In that season, I began to ask God to give me a clear prayer focus for the Student Ministry I led. In the first few years my requests were fairly normal… God help our ministry to do this… Help our kids to be that… I would wake up, and begin each day with prayer, making sure to include that request. In time, I watched God multiply the incredible things He was doing in our ministry (or at least increase my ability to see them).

As I sought this consistent and deliberate prayer focus at the beginning of last year God very clearly turned the attention of my prayer to my own heart. John Calvin once said, “The human heart is a factory of idols.” Powerfully true. You and I have the ability to turn basically anything into an idol. Now, we all know that some idols are easier to identify then others. I wasn’t bowing down in front of a golden calf, or anything, but God quickly revealed that I was beginning to make an idol out of my “ministry.”

Here’s the deal… I am a good Youth Pastor. I am not bragging, it’s just true. I am a good Youth Pastor, and I am sure you are too. In fact, you are probably much better at it then I am… But my concern is this: Some of us are probably better “Pastors” then we are followers of Jesus. As my friend Lance Witt accurately explains it; Jesus is the gift and ministry is simply the box by which we deliver the gift, yet some of us have switched the two.

It seems to me that some of us unintentionally slip into viewing what we get to do as our occupation rather than our calling. If I view my role as an occupation than I can do it, I can make it happen, I can figure it out on my own… If it is a calling, however, than I am in desperate need of the Holy Spirit to help me do what God has asked me to do. We forget that.

I had begun to try and “manufacture” ministry from my own spirit, in my own strength, and in my own direction. I was doing what I thought was best for our kids and our ministry… Some of us subtly believe that we can teach, preach, meet with families, recruit Ministry Partners, hang with kids, and host huge killer events with little to no reliance on the Holy Spirit. At least I did.
So my prayer became simply this: God, help me not try and manufacture ministry, but to be deliberately dependent on You. Praying this everyday of the year (sometimes several times a day) gave me life in ministry like I had never experienced before. It took the pressure off, because I was forced to remember that I am not the Holy Spirit (we all need that reminder sometimes). It restored my energy, and renewed my excitement to see what God was going to do next. It is teaching me to be more thankful. It is helping me to remain open and teachable. Most importantly, it is teaching me to stay out of the way of what God wants to do in and through our ministry.
This question has helped me, and maybe God will use it to help you: Am I trying to “manufacture” ministry, or am I being deliberately dependent on the Spirit of God for every step I take?

The reality is that God’s plans for our respective ministries are far greater than we could ever think or accomplish. The more we try to do in our own power the more we rob ourselves and our students of experiencing all that God has in store. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to miss out on anything God wants to do.

Consider seeking a consistent and deliberate prayer request for your ministry this year. You never know what God might want to teach you…

Ryan McDermott is the RP Director of Student Ministries at Christ Fellowship – Royal Palm, FL. Follow him @ryanmcdermott.

I’m excited to point you toward a new resource published by Simply Youth Ministry called Trinity. It is a 3-week series on The Father, Son and the Holy Spirit. You can read my blog entries from the series when we did it in HSM [week 1, week 2 and week 3] to give you an idea if it would be helpful in your youth ministry setting as well.

When planning youth ministry sermons, it’s sometimes tempting to shy away from deep theological topics. Why is there evil in our world? Why did God give Adam and Eve the choice to obey or disobey? Why does God permit boy bands to exist?

The Trinity can be a challenging topic to address, but this sermon series with Josh Griffin will help your students gain a clearer understanding of who God is–the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

God is a Father who rescues sinners as the Son, and the Holy Spirit dwells inside us and guides us. Understanding the Trinity will help your teenagers realize that God is not some distant God who simply created the world and left it all to its own devises. God truly is close by.