This week I have the joy and privilege of being at the Bible Centred Youthwork conference, a conference dedicated to focusing the work among children and young people in our churches on the principles and content of the Bible.
Each morning I’m hoping to share my notes and whatever thoughts/wisdom I have that might be helpful to people who aren’t able to be at the conference this year, or to those who want to sharpen their thinking with regard to biblical youth and children’s ministry in the UK today.
Here are my notes and thoughts from the two sessions on Day 1.
The Bible Centred Worker
1 Kings 8
Do we want to know the presence of God? Most will say ‘yes’, but how does that actually happen?
God’s presence is found where he dwells
We often use the language ‘God showed up’ but that is unhelpful. As if it is a lottery as to whether God is going to ‘turn up’ at church today.
We must remember that God’s presence is found where he lives, where he dwells. But where does God dwell? The universe was created as God’s dwelling place, spread out like a tent to live in (Isaiah 40:22, and videos like this put this into perspective!). Although sin divides heaven (God’s dwelling place) and earth, throughout the Old Testament we get glimpses of heaven teaching down to earth. 1 Kings 8 is such a glimpse.
The centre of God’s dwelling is his Word
In 1 Kings 8, we see that at the centre of the temple is the Most Holy Place, which fills with God’s presence, his Glory. Yet at the very centre of the Most Holy Place is the Ark of the Covenant, the very Word of God. It is only when God’s Word is brought in to the Most Holy Place that God’s presence and glory enters in.
We cannot experience the presence of God without the Word of God.
We experience God’s presence in Jesus and his Word by the Spirit
In Jesus, the Word became flesh and the Most Holy Place became a man. God’s presence is found in Jesus and now, after Jesus’ ascension, God’s presence is in is by the Spirit. The Spirit brings God’s Word to us and writes it on our hearts.
The church therefore is now the dwelling place of God by his Spirit, and the church is founded on God’s Word preached and accepted by faith (Ephesians 2:19-22).
If we want to experience the presence of God, then we need to accept Jesus, receive the Holy Spirit and then simply go to his Word, which is in the Bible.
The glorious task
2 Corinthians 2:12-3:18
Glory is that which invokes praise. What is glorious to us?
God is ultimately glorious, but we musn’t lose sight of the glory that is in the ministry of the Gospel and the Word of God (because of whose Gospel and Word it is).
2 Corinthians is a response to Paul’s critics. The accusation is that Paul is nothing compared to the latest ‘super-apostles’; his messages hasn’t changed and his preaching is weak.
We face such similar accusations today in youth and children’s ministry, either explicitly (‘why do we need to teach the Bible, isn’t it irrelevant?’, etc) or implicitly (‘young people really need fun, games, blah blah…’ but this is saying they don’t need the Gospel or the Bible).
The Corinthian church was the victory fragrance of Paul’s ministry (2:12-27). They showed the power and worth of the Gospel, and validated the ministry of those that taught and preached it.
The Corinthians were also Paul’s letter of recommendation, his CV (3:1-6). They demonstrated the transforming work of the Gospel in their very lives.
Paul’s ministry was the ministry of the New Covenant (3:7) which is far more glorious than the Old Covenant…
- it is a Covenant that brings life, not death (3:6-8).
- it is a Covenant that brings righteousness, not condemnation (3:9).
- it is a Covenant that is permanent, not temporary (3:11).
- it is a Covenant of liberty, not slavery (3:17).
- it is a Covenant of increasing glory, not contempt (3:18).
As ministers of the same Gospel as Paul…
- dwell on God’s glory.
- beware of ‘super-apostles’ and personal pride (in ourselves and others).
- serve in weakness (2:16).
- serve with integrity (2:17).
My thoughts from the day
2 Corinthians 2:12-3:18 is a great reminder for pastors, ministers and church leaders/teachers that while our ministry might not seem glorious to the world (in fact, what the world often glories in isn’t actually glorious at all), it is truly glorious because of whose ministry and message it is. So keep on going.