Archives For youth

Allie High School GraduationEvery May, since I became a pastor over 20 years ago, I review what I want to say to graduating students on one page. I prayerfully refine it every year. This year I have consolidated points that were previously separate and I have added points #5 and #6. I welcome your interaction . . . you may talk me into changing what I say before I pass this out to graduating seniors in May.*   

Dear Graduate:

Congratulations on your accomplishment! We are so thankful for you.

For over 20 years I have thought about what I would tell graduates on one page.  Each year it is my goal to prayerfully refine this letter even as I refine our philosophy of youth ministry. Here is the 2015 version.

  1. Know that following Christ is both right and best. Believing in Jesus is right because Jesus is the One true God. He deserves all glory. Putting our faith and trust in Jesus is best because Jesus came that we might have life more abundantly (John 10:9-10). If you have not done so already, give your life to the King. On the Cross, he paid the penalty for His people so that we could spend eternity together on the New Earth in his presence. This is the Gospel (or the Good News of Christ) and it should shape every area of life. The alternative to believing in Jesus is unthinkable (John 3:36).
  2. Be warned and be sure. First, be warned: the way of the sinner is hard. As someone has said, “choose to sin, choose to suffer.” Don’t buy the lie that you can make wrong choices and not reap the consequences (Galatians 6:7-8). Do not choose to suffer by dating unbelievers! Hate, hate, hate pornography and other potentially addictive behaviors. Second, be sure. Be sure you really are a Christian (2 Cor 13:5, James 2:17). Many think they are Christians and they are not. The worst words that will ever be heard will be when many stand before Christ thinking they are Christians and find out that they will spend eternity in hell (Matt 7:21-23). The thought that some in our flock may be in that group is what scares me most as a pastor. Talk to someone soon if you have any questions!
  3. Remember that God makes bricks with a building in mind. The Apostle Peter compared individual Christians to living stones so that he could make the point that Christians should be mortared together in local churches (1 Peter 2:5). Gifted and empowered by the Holy Spirit to serve together, local churches are called to be salt –subtly seasoning and preserving every bit of our communities – – and light – – boldly proclaiming the truth to light the darkness. Be baptized and join. You need a church as much as Noah needed the ark. Don’t put church on hold for the next few years. During that time, you will make decisions that affect the trajectory of your life. Be aimed in the right direction. If you move, or go to college, make it your first priority to find a church and Christian fellowship. This is especially critical the first three weeks of college.
  4. Sharpen your wisdom saw with the Word (Philippians 1:9-11, Romans 12:1-2). Wisdom is skill for living.  It is the saw we use to cut our way through life. We need a sharp saw to make quality decisions. We sharpen our wisdom saws by memorizing and reading the Word and by hearing it preached. Be Word-centered! Rinse in Scripture. It is more precious than gold and sweeter than honey (Psalm 19:7-11).
  5. Envision a beautiful bride walking down the aisle in a Christ-centered wedding. Most of you will marry. God’s plan for sex and marriage is breathtakingly beautiful. All of us, even those who remain single, must remember that the Church is the bride of Christ. Marriage and the gospel explain one another (Ephesians 5:29-32). We cannot allow unbelieving culture to corrupt our vision for Christ-centered weddings and homes. Both marriage and the gospel are at stake.
  6. Think deeply about true answers. Don’t stumble through life as an unconscious zombie. Too many in our day never think about life’s big questions: Where did we come from? Why are we here? Why do we love? Why is there pain? How can we know God? Don’t be a zombie! Insist on answers (1 Peter 3:15). Let’s welcome discussion about what we believe so that we can point others to our King.
  7. Be assured: the people of the Red Brick Church love you. Love didn’t evolve. Love wasn’t invented. Love is eternal because our triune God is eternally love: ever giving and self-giving. He loves us and tells us to love one another. And we do. We love you. When we get to the Heavenly City, we want to know you will be at our meeting spot: 5th tree, right side of the river, facing the throne. We will be there soon. In the mean time, I am a pastoral resource available to you!

In Him,

 

Pastor Chris Brauns

www.chrisbrauns.com , @chrisbrauns

*This is a working document so I am revising it over time. I have already revised point #5 after an excellent comment. More revisions are probably coming. Proverbs 27:17

Spiritual retreats and highs are good and necessary. But be prepared to return to everyday life.

Spiritual retreats and highs are good and necessary. But be prepared to return to everyday life.

Being at camp, or on a spiritual retreat, is like free falling with friends. The rush of “sky-diving” is great. Soon enough, gravity takes over, and we are back on “land.” If the decisions made at camp are to make a lasting difference, we need a strategy for everyday life. Getting together with other believers must be central in that strategy. WITH GOD’S HELP, IT CAN BE DONE!

Many of us enjoy times of refreshment and renewal during the summer months. Times of spiritual renewal and refreshment are good and necessary. But we need to be prepared for what happens after our feet hit the ground again and we have to take everyday steps.

When I was a youth pastor, I enjoyed retreats immensely. It was a chance to see teenagers withdraw from all the distractions of the world and be renewed. So many times we saw teens be convicted about the need to deal with sin in their lives. In our days of cell phones, video games, and other distractions, there has never been a greater need for spiritual retreats.

As much as knew that retreats were necessary for teens,  I also knew as a youth pastor that very soon the sky-dive of camp or a retreat – – -or a vacation – – – was going to be over and that if there was not a strategy, that teens would quickly feel defeated about decisions they made at camp. Without a strategy, sincere decisions flame out by Monday morning.

If decisions we make are to have a lasting impact, then we need not only the time of a decision, but also a strategy for implementation once we return.

In terms of our current context, our church has a number of teens returning from camp on Saturday. They have been at Camp Forest Springs all week – – listening to Greg Speck preach – -I am confident that they will have prayerfully made many sincere decisions.

But this Saturday it is back to reality. And if the decisions that our teens make at camp are going to last longer than the campfires they were made around, they need help going forward. So Sunday night – – before they’ve even rested up from the return – — my wife and I are going to have them in our home to talk about what is next and how they can persevere in their decisions.

The Red Brick Church in Stillman Valley, IL - Teens for SH 2013I will be talking to teens and young adults about a number of post-spiritual-high strategies. But none is more important than determining to intentionally get together in an ongoing way for Christ-centered fellowship. Specifically:

  • Be in church. Hear the Word preached. Sing together.
  • Talk about your decisions with one another. Be accountable.
  • Connect with older more mature believers.
  • Memorize Scripture together. Pray together.

If you have the opportunity to be renewed spiritually this summer, you can count on the fact that very soon Satan will whisper in your ear, “It wasn’t real. It was just emotion. It won’t last. You can’t do it.”

Don’t buy that lie. There is nothing more real than being together with other believers, hearing the Word proclaimed without apology, making decisions to be obedient to Christ. You CAN follow through on those decisions. But only if you are committed to being together with other believers when your feet hit the ground again.

If you need a strategy for your return to reality, and you’re within 500 miles of Stillman Valley, IL – – you’re invited to my house on Sunday night.