Equipped for a mission-focused
Journey With Jesus

Where Is Jesus? Part 2

Teaching biblical literacy is needful,
teaching intimacy with God is life-changing.

By Dishon Mills, Pastor, Charlotte, NC

In the May edition of Equipper, I wrote about “Danny,” an 8-year-old in my congregation who enjoys asking questions. He inspired me to think about how we make Jesus real to our younger members. Since writing last month’s article, I had another encounter with Danny that I think is worth discussing. Needless to say, Danny is a great source of material for me! Don’t tell him because he will keep asking me, “Why?”

I shared the piece with Danny’s mother and father because I wanted them to know the impact their son had on me. They appreciated the gesture and mentioned it to Danny. When I saw him next, I told Danny, “Talking with you helped me see something about Jesus. Because of that, I wrote an article that may help others see something about Jesus. You are a blessing to people you do not even know. I just wanted to say, ‘Thank you.’” Danny froze for a moment, and I could see him processing my words. Finally, he cocked his head to the side, met my eyes, and asked, “Me?”

I said, “Of course, you! You’re awesome!” In the typical behavior of an 8-year-old, he left to go find his brother without saying another word. However, I believe, in a small way, I helped Danny see the truth about himself. I helped him get a glimpse of what God sees when he looks at him. This may be one of the greatest gifts we can give our young people.
In my early days of children’s and youth ministry, I was concerned with helping young people learn facts about God. I used curricula that helped young people memorize the books of the Bible, learn about Noah’s Ark and other Old Testament stories, and do mini plays about the feeding of the 5,000 and other highlights from Jesus’ ministry. If I take an honest look at the past, the goal was Bible literacy not intimacy with God.

Bible literacy is not bad, but it should not be the primary goal of any discipleship efforts. It is a means to an end. In the words of the apostle John, “But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (John 20:31). The verb translated “believe” here gives the sense of belief borne out of trust. In other words, John wrote his Gospel in the hope of guiding people into a trusting relationship with Christ, who is both God and a man, and to realize that he is the source of life. I believe the same should be true of our children’s and youth ministry efforts.

The conversation I had with Danny helped him see God at work in his life. I find this is one of the best ways we can help Jesus feel real to our young people. It sends the message that they are already loved, accepted, chosen, and blessed by the Lord. It also shows them that Jesus is at work in their lives and encourages them to get familiar with his movements. Speaking with Danny did not cost me any money and very little time. Yet, I believe it made an impact — far more of an impact than if I talked with him about David and Goliath. I intend to make similar investments into all of our children and youth.

In the May article, I encouraged us to show our young people where Jesus is through supporting them in serving others. We can also make Jesus more visible to them by helping them see their own Christlikeness. I am convinced that both practices will help our young people “believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God,” and have “life in his name.”

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