The father's broken heart

I grew up in the Mennonite tradition – a rich heritage that emphasizes non-violence, reconciliation, simplicity, communal living, and other positive aspects of the Christian faith. 


Many of those ideals still shape my life and ministry today.  But I have to tell you, if someone snuck into the hospital and stole my kid out from under my nose on the day he was born, I would stop at nothing to get them back.  I would go find some of my Baptist and Presbyterian friends that do go to war –and who really know how to hurt in the name of Jesus—and we would go get my kid back no matter what.  The passion of the Father God drove Him to send Jesus to earth.  He will not rest until the kids He loves are back safely in His arms.  



Every summer, my organization takes over a hundred kids to camp at UCLA through our partnership with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA).  Students from the inner-city get to experience life at a Division 1 university.  They sleep in the dorms, eat in the cafeteria, play a sport of their choice all day, and then worship and hear about Jesus in Pauley Pavilion, where the Bruins play basketball, each night.  This exhilarating week benefits students athletically, academically (by experiencing college life for a week), and spiritually.  We see many lives transformed through this experience each summer.  Imagine with me, though, if I took 100 students in several charter buses with me to camp.  No matter how excited kids and parents are to be apart at the beginning of the week (I once had a parent ask, “Can I pay you to keep my son for two weeks), both parents and students look forward to the reunion in the parking lot when we return.  If I leave with a hundred kids at the beginning of the week, how many kids do parents expect me to bring back when I return?  Rough estimates are fine.  I have to come back with 100 students – and they have to be the exact same kids, funny how that works.  What if I left with 100 kids, came back, and got off the bus with only 10 kids.  Those are the statistics for youth in my home city.  What would happen to me as a pastor?  Some neighborhoods would sue me, others would try to get me fired, some might straight up jump me…why?  Because I lost their kid on my shift.  If fallen, flawed earthly parents will not tolerate a 90% casualty rate for their own children, what makes us think our perfect heavenly father is pleased with similar numbers of kids going to school but not to church?


What I would not be able to say to earthly parents after loosing their kid is, “The kids who made it back safely had a great time at camp.” 

This misses the problem that so many are lost.  Yet I often hear youth pastors and church leaders making similar statements when evaluating the health of their ministries.  Statements like, “Everyone is feeling good about the youth group” or “the kids that are coming are having a great time” may not indicate that a proper measure of success has taken place.  Just because the majority of parents and the senior pastor are happy with the youth ministry does not necessarily mean that the kingdom of God is being advanced into the next generation or that new people are being reached.  The higher standard and the bigger question becomes, “Are we joining with Jesus to seek and to sake the lost?”  Since that is what Jesus came to do, we cannot claim to be his followers unless we dare to do the same. 



When we stand face to face with God the Father he is going to ask us what we did with his kids on our shift.  When we view our neighborhoods, schools, and cities through the eyes of Jesus, every young person —inside and outside of church—becomes part of the church’s high calling and kingdom mission statement.