Teenagers are my mission field.


Today I am leading a team from Youth Dynamics to Urbana 2012 in St. Louis. With 16,000 young adults in attendance, it is certainly the largest missions conference of its kind in the U.S.

But why would Youth Dynamics be at Urbana? We are a stateside youth ministry. What business do we have at a missions conference? Conventional wisdom might say we don’t belong, that we should be at Youth Specialties or some other youth ministry conference to recruit staff. So why are we at Urbana? Simply this… we are missionaries. Here’s why:

1.       The U.S. is a legitimate mission field; the Northwest is as dark as any region in the States.

We are constantly battling with the Northeast as the most unchurched region of the U.S. In fact, the Northwest is called “The None Zone” because of it unbelievably high % of people who have no religion or religious affiliation at all. (See our new 3 min video on the “Rise of the Nones”)

2.       Teenagers are an unreached tribe.

I just finished reading a book by Vincent Donovan, the first missionary to work with the Masai tribes in Tanzania. Another one of my heroes is Jim Elliot, missionary martyr to the Auca Indians in Ecuador. I imagine I see Northwest teenagers in the same way they both saw the people God called them to reach ….  I see them as lost tribes. Teenagers need missionaries to live among them, to be Jesus with skin on, to a people who have never met Him.

3.       We raise our own salaries.

I speak at regional and national Youth Ministry Conferences. When we try to recruit staff there, youth workers come from a paradigm that says: “How much will I make?”  “What will my salary be?” However, at a missions conference, those who are answering God’s call to missions have already crossed that mental barrier. They know that they will have to raise their own salary to follow God’s call on their life. The questions then become… “Could God be calling me to be a missionary in the U.S.?”  “Could I see myself using adventure ministry to reach lost teenagers in the Northwest?”

4.       We are all about the Gospel.

Yes, we take teenagers on all kinds of amazing experiences. White-water rafting, kayaking, rock-climbing, hiking, mountaineering, etc., and I would contend we have some of the best adventure guides in the wilderness industry. But for us, adventure ministry is not an end to itself. It’s a tool. Our aim is NOT to convert young people from being indoor people to being outdoor people. Our staff uses adventure ministry to introduce teenagers to Jesus and to go deeper if they know Him already. Because at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter if they love the outdoors, they still go to Hell without Jesus.

5.       Lastly, the Church has stopped seeing youth ministry as missional.

It used to be that pastors and church boards saw youth ministry as a key strategy piece in reaching lost families in our local communities. That’s changed. Tragically, some are even questioning its legitimacy in the local church. This may be a bit of an overstatement but I contend that for the most part, youth ministry in the church used to be a place where we reached the lost; now it’s become a place where we take care of the saved.

Missions has always been my first calling. I remember the service as a Bible college student where I went to the altar, knelt, surrendered my will to His, and said “Wherever you send me, I’ll go.” I fully expected that meant I would be living in a mud hut in Africa soon after. But surprisingly He never asked me to go overseas to do missions. He asked me to do youth ministry in the States. And 27 years later He continues to ask me to reach lost tribes of teenagers in the unchurched Northwest. I’ve taken students all over the world on short-term mission trips. And every time God rocks their world. Inevitably on the ride home some of them begin to ask the questions… “What if I knew their language?”  “What if I understood their culture?”  “How many more could I reach then?”

Then I remind them, “You do know a language. You are a native to a tribe and a culture that others do not understand, the American Teenager.”  And I challenge them:  “Whatever your end up doing with your life, wherever you end up… Be missional with your life.”

We are all missionaries, we just all don’t get paid to do it.

~Mark

­­Is 52:7 “How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news.”

Advertisements

About markmoder
https://about.me/mark.moder/

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: