Heather Zempel – Orange Conference 2014

The Orange Conference

Three dozen names of people who believed in Paul, disciple him, and went on journeys with him. Paul couldn’t make his statements in a vacuum. It was molded by people.

If we want to say yes to the next generation, we must say yes to building churches of people that matter.

Programs don’t disciple people. People disciple people.
Programs provide the way for people to enter into relationships.
Are you programs just keeping people busy or are they bringing people into relationship?

1 -Make disciples
What if we made sure our structures serve people? This is about MAKING disciples, not finding them. You can’t just go find disciples, you make them. This means hard work. You must organize your time, resources, and energy around this.

People mattered to Jesus and they felt it.
Fishermen became followers
Tax collectors became philanthropists
Political powers became servants

Paul understood it was about being invited into a story bigger than your own.

In Romans 16 Paul shared about the people who shaped him.

Who has shaped you?
I have a Romans 16 list of people who have invested in me and walked alongside me.

Whose list is your name going to show up on? When the kids walk out the door and the credits roll, whose name will be on their list? We have the ability to be able to control that. Who will tell their story and include your name? We’ve got to build the Romans 16 list for the kids.

2 – We also have to name their potential
What if we could draw out the person Jesus created each kid to be?

This is more than words of inspiration or admiration. Your words matter. You’ve got to see things in kids that they may not even see in themselves.

When Samuel looked at David, he didn’t see a shepherd he saw a king.
Jesus saw Peter not as a fisherman but the rock who would build the church.
Paul saw Timothy not as a punk kid but an example for all believers.

We have got to name the potential we see in kids’ lives. We can’t control the choices they make but we can the words we say.

3 – Brave their mess
We have to say yes to stepping into this mess they will create or find themselves in.

Community is messy. Always has been and always will be. But sifting through the mess can be the catalyst for growth.
We say yes to mess from the time they are in diapers and drool. If only it could stay that clean.

Illustration: The text message I received at a baseball game
While sitting on the third base line watching the Nationals I get a text message from a teenager. She’s confused and frightened. Two innings later, she confesses that she thinks she may be pregnant. So after the game, I try to find a CVS so that I can get a pregnancy test. We sat together to find out what her future would be looking like.

We have to say yes to the mess. Sometimes sins they have committed or sins that have been committed against them.
There’s life mess.
Family mess.

How will respond in the midst of it? We have got to brave the mess and speak life into it. We’ve gotta say yes to stepping into the mess.

Remind kids: Mess is not final and fatal this could be the incubator for growth. Brave the mess. God does not leave you in the middle of the mess; it can be for growth and God’s glory.

Saying yes to mess means inconvenience and shifting priorities.

4 – Tell them a story that is larger than their own
It’s one thing to explain grace, another to experience it. We have got to find ways to make kids experience grace. We have to create spaces where grace lives.

It’s one thing to believe a list of statements and rules to follow. It’s another thing to give a person who lives it out. What if we told stories of grace over and over? We’re not going to win by statements. We have to lead with conversation not condemnation. It’s not rules to live by but a calling to live for.

There are two preachers I admire, Wesley and Whitfield. Many left tremendous sermons in their wake. Whitfield was the better preacher, but Wesley spent time and energy building up other preachers. Wesley left an entire generation of people who created a movement.

We may not be able to control the messes kids find themselves in, but we can control the people in their life. We may not be able to control what the world tells them who they are and should be but we can make certain they know who God says they are.

If we are going to say yes to the next generation, we cannot let Jesus’ last command become our least concern. We must provide a safe place to present the Gospel and invite them into a story that is larger than their own.

We have to invite them to experience grace.

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