There have been two churches that have been of great influence to me. One is Westpoint Fellowship Church. The other is Mars Hill Church.
The second, led by pastor Mark Driscoll, is in the process of getting down on paper, after year ten, some core values and unique distictives. The thought that they keep coming back to, he says, is that they are to be "the city within the city". That Seattle is their big city, and those of Mars Hill are the little city. The idea is that the little city would seek to transform with love the greater city until the greater city worships the Jesus of the Bible.
Now, for youth ministry, this has unique application. This because every day we send our students to "big, little cities" called high schools. And within those little cities are even smaller, almost extinct cities of high school Christians. So how does the little city transform the big city?
I think that key to this are four motions. Four things that every student must not simply know (which is why I don't call them truths) but must live out in the daily as things that that their entire being revolves around.
The first is that they must LOVE PASSIONATELY. Most high schoolers have a healthy disdain for school, teachers and at least half the student body. For the longest time we've been telling them to win over these others with the message of Jesus Christ, all the time assuming that they share at least some concern for them. But, often if anything the only evangelistic motivation isn't the love that a Christian student has for another non-Christian student, but a sense of obligation and duty, perhaps even guilt, that they must "evangelize" them. What if our students loved passionately their school?
The second is that they must INVEST WHOLEHEARTEDLY. They must not only love their city, but act out of that love by investing themselvs in it. By 'it' I do not yet mean the people of the school (that comes next, and is seperate) but the actual institution itself. They must seek positions in student leadership, wether it be through government, clubs, sports, activities or academics. They must seek out positions where they can be stragetic for Christ. They must invest themselves in the school as Jeremiah asks those in Babylon to pray for the peace of the city. The goal of a Christian student in a high school should be that by the time he or she graduates they have been a part of something that has made their school a better place to be. What if our students invested themselves in their school so deeply that if Jesus came back, the school shuts down?
The third, like the second, is that they ENGAGE RELATIONALLY. This is a little different in that we have moved from the good of the institution to the good of the people. In particular, this means that we are doing are jobs so that our students understand the value of community. And not just 'community' in the 'lets go sit at the Christian table for lunch today' but community in the sense of 'let's go sit at the table where my friends are'. We must do that which all youth pastors are afraid to do... teach Christian Liberty. We must teach them how to be Christians in a high school without a WWJD bracelet. What if our students, instead of retreating from culture, engaged it?
The final motion is that they LIVE DIFFERENTLY. Central to the idea of a 'little city, big city' is that life in the little city is different. Love, sex, money, power, friendships, vocation, use of time and much more is done differently by those who are of the little city. We don't just invest ourselves and engage our culture that we would lose it all by not being able to show that we are different because of Christ, and Him crucified. The idea behind this is the prophetic imagination. We must give the school a picture of what their life would look like with Christ in it. What if our students lived differently, not as a way of showmanship, but as a witness to the hope that Christ offers?
So there they are. The four motions that I believe are central values of those in the little city. More to come... see you soon.