When the Giants in your life are your fellow staff

A funny thing happend at the YS Unconference this past week.

A veteran youth worker had recently been told that he was teaching wrong and that he had been for years. His example came from teaching about David and Goliath and offering a look at the biblical text, setting in context and then transitioning to talking with his students about the giants in their lives…what seems to threaten their very existence and faith. He told stories of rich conversations and it being a great time with teens leaning into reliance on God when something seems insurmountable. The critique came not in that he moved to application of the principles from the passage regarding David and Goliath, rather that he did not make it end with Jesus nor tie it to the death, burial and crucifixion of Jesus in some way.

He was sincerely struggling and questioning whether he had been teaching wrong all along as he was increasingly running into leaders, in particular young (and by young I mean late 20’s – early 40’s) leaders that taught all teaching must be directly or indirectly about Jesus to be legitimate in a Christian church. In fact, it seems after 20+ years in youth ministry, he now finds himself serving with a ministerial staff which is split on whether this is or is not the only way to bring about formational teaching in a ministry.

There seems to be a sort of sick obsession with Jesus in certain circles. I am acutely aware that this very sentence that I just wrote can be taken wildly out of context but there it is. It is an obsession that sounds so good as we seek to be followers of Christ when in reality it distorts scripture, context and deems one hermeneutical lens as THE hermeneutical lens. It denies the Trinity, belittles the Old Testament and offers a truncated version of what it means to join the great cloud of witnesses who came before us. Our teenagers deserve better than this.

I hope the youth pastor who was sharing felt affirmed by the end of our time in the circle. In our small group, clearly all but one were appalled and trying to encourage him. The one who seemed in full agreement with those who said “Jesus Only”. Interestingly, this one man was so confident in what he held, that he simply made his statement then turned to texting rather than offering any pastoral presence or response. Apparently “Jesus Only” also means dropping your statements of absolute truth like a declarative wall to either surmount or to keep you out.

Be encouraged my new friend…this too is a Giant that with the help of God (including the entire Trinity) you will be able to slay!

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About Amy Jacober

Amy Jacober (PhD, Fuller Seminary) is a youth ministry veteran with ministry and teaching experience. She focuses on practical theology, urban ministry, theology & disability, and marginalized communities. She is a volunteer youth worker in her church and community, lead consultant with Youth Ministry Architects and serves on the Young Life Capernaum national board. In her free time she can be found playing with her three young children, husband, and oversized dog.