Reading Through The Bible in 2011, Part 54

What I Read Today: 2 Corinthians 2:5–3:18.

What Stood Out About What I Read Today: 2 Corinthians 17–3: 6, “For we are not like so many others, hucksters who peddle the word of God for profit, but we are speaking in Christ before God as persons of sincerity, as persons sent from God. Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? We don’t need letters of recommendation to you or from you as some other people do, do we? You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everyone, revealing that you are a letter of Christ, delivered by us, written not with ink but by the Spirit of the living God, not on stone tablets but on tablets of human hearts. Now we have such confidence in God through Christ. Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as if it were coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God, who made us adequate to be servants of a new covenant not based on the letter but on the Spirit, for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.”

Random Thoughts About What I Read Today:

College football coach Steve Spurrier left the University of Florida’s football team a few years earlier to coach in the National Football League. Spurrier had won the Heisman Trophy when he played for the Gators, and during his coaching tenure the football team had risen to heights never experienced before his arrival as head coach. National championships. Heisman trophies. When they didn’t win the national championship they were strong contenders for conference championships. They were dominant.

Which led to Spurrier getting a ton of money to coach professionals. He wasn’t nearly as good at coaching millionaires as he was coaching students who would become millionaires.

After that, the head-coaching job at Florida became open as his successor didn’t do as well as hoped. Naturally, since Spurrier was looking for a job and Florida needed a coach, it seemed like a lock.

Until the person in charge of the search told Spurrier that he could submit a resume like any other candidate.

Supposedly, Spurrier was highly offended and said something along the lines of, “Walk down the hall from your office and take a look at all those trophies. That’s my resume.” Spurrier then took a job at a rival school and has done pretty well. He’s taken that school, South Carolina, to levels they’ve never been before and gotten better players than they’ve ever had before (except for maybe one in their history).

While he might’ve been somewhat arrogant in his approach, I think he made his point that he was being disrespected asking for a piece of paper to prove his worth to that particular school.

I kind of get where he’s coming from, though. I mean, I’ve been in ministry well over 22 years dealing full-time with other people’s teenagers. Trust me when I tell you that parents of teenagers all have an opinion of how I should do my work. Or even if I should be doing my work. In other words, I take a lot of heat in my job.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I knew that when I signed on for the job. In case I forget, it happens about once a week…but I won’t bore you with specifics.

And it used to bother me a great deal.

But my years in youth ministry have helped me so much with how I view things.

See, when I first started, all I had was this idea that youth ministry, as it was being done at that time, was really a mix of entertainment and legalism and got rewarded for keeping kids out of trouble until such a time as they were “ready for leadership” in the church. What that meant was that you should have positive things to do for kids so they’d stay out of trouble until they went off for college for a couple of years of wilding until they had kids and came back to be deacons at their church. Repeat process.

Well, I had this idea that teenagers weren’t the church of the future, they were part of our church NOW. I had this idea that we should be about more serious stuff than lock-ins and ski-trips (even if we did them, we’d do them for a DIFFERENT REASON with measurable goals & objectives) and other positive events that kept kids out of trouble. I had this idea that if you taught grace as the motivation for the spiritual life, you’d help kids grow faster than if you managed their behavior by legalism (even if that would result in more kids making more unwise choices here and htere). I noticed that people who followed Jesus weren’t really “safe,” but more revolutionary (hence, “dangerous”).

So, when I first started, I didn’t have much of a track record.

But then, the years started piling up. Those guys from my first small group Bible study became full-time pastors, college ministers, youth ministers and curriculum writers for some nationally known Christian ministries. Others went from being drug addicts to going to rehab and walking with Christ. Some were just good kids who started walking with Christ for the first time. Some were athletes who simply started doing the same things but for entirely different reasons. Those early years were so much fun.

Then even more years. That next group of kids has church planters, youth ministers (and a youth minister’s wife), a pastor, a full-time missionary, some loving housewives/moms, and some guys in the business world doing the same things but for entirely different reasons. It was a smaller group but I had more time with them so it was incredibly fun.

In my current position I’ve had even more years. Pastors. Missionaries galore (something I attribute to our church’s support & emphasis on missions). Youth pastors. Working with Christian musicians using their gifts and talents. Serving other churches in ministry. Schoolteachers who are dangerous even within the confines of their curriculum. Seminary grads. Doctors who get where their gifts come from. Mechanics who work with integrity. Housewives who run Sunday School programs. Children’s ministers. Parents who served on a mission trip, left their job and now are on the field. It’s pretty cool.

They’re my “living letters,” folks.

Transformed lives.

And I don’t do it.

Says right there the Holy Spirit does it. And His agents are all over the place in the form of parents, nursery workers, children’s Sunday School teachers, interns and assistants, college ministers, pastors & small group leaders, and on and on and so it goes.

I’m simply one part of the process…where I try to build a foundation with the best materials: gold, silver & precious stones. I plant. Others water. God causes the growth. I didn’t miss that day in seminary, folks.

Which is why I’ve learned to do my ministry for an Unseen Audience of One.

Because when people don’t understand the method or necessarily see the results they want to see in their kids or think I’m out of bounds (and yes, in some of those cases I need to be taught and learn and find a better way to serve…or tone it down a bit if needed)…

…God has put me here to His work the way I think He wants me to do it and gives honor to Him.

Believe me, I get the last few verses I highlighted here:

I’m not adequate on my own.
It all comes from God.
I’m a servant in His process.
The New Covenant of grace will cause people to grow…
…not rules or programs or personalities or anything else because they’ll kill growth.
Only the Spirit gives life as it was meant to be lived.

That’s for sure.

And I think that’s the question any search committee should ask, or anyone evaluating a ministry’s effectiveness and/or a minister’s effectiveness, “Where are the transformed lives?” If you answer that question, well, who needs a resume?

And my “trophy case” lives and walks among you. For good or bad, that’s the way it is. Believe me, I truly love my “living letters.” You really have no idea how much.

(Tomorrow’s Reading: 2 Corinthians 4–5)

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