“Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.” (James 3:1 ESV)
When I look at this verse, it’s easy to quickly see how scary it can be to be a teacher of God’s Word and in one sense, it should put us in a place of fear and trembling. But this verse also carries a sense of emboldenment to preach the Word to all who will hear.
It is true that God’s Word is sufficient enough to teach us the things of God (2 Timothy 3:16-17), yet we are called to preach the Word (2 Timothy 4:1-2). It is not because the Bible is lacking in being culturally relevant, but Scripture has power for our lives and guides us toward the One who gave us His Word. Biblical Preaching seeks to show us the depravity of ourselves and the glorious beauty of God. We aren’t called to make the Bible “relevant,” but to preach it as it is for it transcends all culture as it is rooted in God Himself (as it is from Him).
Now I am not saying we rid our messages of stories, illustrations, humor, analogies, and personal thoughts. Those help our engage our students minds and relate to them. But what is more of our focus: engaging our students, or engaging the Word? Do we spend more time in words, or in the Word? Do we read the Word once and then give wonderful (and at points very deep biblical truths) thoughts, or do we show the wonder of Scripture and how it relates to their lives? We must value engaging our students, but we must cherish and honor engaging the Word.
Student Ministry needs to return to expository preaching as its main diet (loosely based off of Tim Keller’s introduction to his book Preaching to which I highly recommend reading). We need to return in our weekly ministries to the Word of God as the authority of our lives, not the words of man. You could be the most brilliant, clever, engaging, storytelling Pastor, but is that more valuable than the brilliance of God and His Word? I am not saying we throw away “topical messages/series” (such as Dating, Gender, Who is God, Forgiveness, Sin, etc), but is our main diet as a Student Ministry preaching straight from the Word?
If this is our hope and aim for our message time in our weekly ministry, is it also the same for our retreats and conferences? When we plan retreats and we think and pray about who we want as a speaker, what do we want more: a speaker who is relatable, entertaining, and engaging, or a speaker who will preach the Word of God and relate God’s Word to their life?
Does the speaker spend more time in words, or more time in the Word?
Does the speaker tell us of great stories, or the Great Story of God?
Does the speaker read from a text, or speak from a text?
Does the speaker relate and engage with students, or engage the Word of God and show how it relates to us?
Does the speaker desire to tell the students about the students, or about the glories of Christ?
Does the speaker fill the air with multiple small points, or focus in on one spiritual truth?
Does the speaker care about the students engagement, or the students understanding?
Does the speaker give good content with no source, or shows great content from Scripture?
Does the speaker want them to share what happened this weekend, or share the Gospel of Christ out of the Word of God?
I want a retreat speaker who is going to engage the Word of God and show our students the truth and beauty of God through His revealed Word. The illustrations, humor, analogies, and stories are fine, but use them to show us the complex beauties of God in His Word. Use them to engage our minds to understand the glories of Christ. Paint pictures for us that don’t replace the Word of God but only use the paint of God’s Word.
Why does this matter? Because the truth is, the students will only remember the stories and never the Scripture. But if we bring a speaker who desires to show us the glories and beauties of Christ in the Word, our students can go back to that Scripture and remember (whether clearly or faintly) what was said. There’s a source! There’s a foundation! There’s a backbone! There’s a post dug 6 feet deep and immovable!
Students may not remember everything, but if they can recall at least the passage, we have helped show them the glories of God in His Word, we have helped biblical literacy, and we have placed Gods Word as our authority over our life as it rightly stands.
Student Ministry needs to return to Expository Preaching. Students need the Word of God. Students need to be shown the glories of Christ. If we do not plant ourselves in God’s Word, we will hear more of “well my pastor says this,” instead of “God says this in His Word.” We must stop being speakers, and start being preachers. We call them the Church of today. Treat them as such with your Preaching.
Youth/Student Pastor, preach the Word always. Do not fail to present the Word of God to your students. We have been placed in a position of great authority. Let us use that position in order to make much of God and less of ourselves.