|Credit: Creative Commons (Francois Schnell)|
Admittedly, this quality is difficult to objectively measure in a person. There's no quick test to determine one's commitment to Jesus and his mission, but when you're around someone long enough, you at least can gain a good idea where they stand. But if you're willing to spend some serious time in prayer and self-evaluation (not to mention asking for honest input from friends or your spouse), it probably won't take too long for God to reveal to you how committed you are to Jesus and his mission.
But why Jesus and his mission?
Good question. Simply put, to be committed to Jesus is to be committed to his mission. In the Gospels, Jesus makes it clear that to be committed to him is to be committed to being on mission. If you love Jesus, if you have committed yourself to him, you'll also commit yourself to the reason he came to Earth to die, which is to reconcile people to his Father. "No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God" (Jesus in John 9:62).
If we leave out the "and his mission" part of this leadership quality, then we're only left with a feel-good version of faith that seems to wax and wane based on how we feel about Jesus. Of course, this doesn't mean that we spend every waking minute doing something to stay on mission. Jesus himself spent time alone with his Father not doing anything but being in relationship with him (Mark 1:35-37). Too many of us don't take nearly enough time to do this. However, faith in Jesus isn't all quiet times and Bible studies. Jesus gave his followers a job, and by God's grace, we need to do everything we can to do it.
What is Jesus' mission?
Simply put, Jesus' mission is to draw all people to himself (John 12:32). To be committed to Jesus and his mission is to desire Jesus and to desire to see people be reconciled to God through him. How being committed to Jesus' mission will look differently depending on the ministry context. And certainly, there's a lot involved in being committed to Jesus' mission, such as showing mercy, serving and giving sacrificially, serving the poor and oppressed, and telling people about how they can come to Jesus and be forgiven. But if we're not regularly evaluating how we and the people we lead can be more committed to Jesus and his mission, then we're not leading well.
It's this part of the leadership quality that will be difficult for some youth pastors to accept. After all, most people would agree that to be a youth pastor in a Christian church, one should definitely be committed to Jesus. But it's one thing to say that we're committed to Jesus. It's completely another to be committed to his mission. I'm going to assume that all of us in youth ministry love teenagers. But do you hurt for those who don't know Jesus and may be eternally separated from him for eternity? Does a good chunk of your prayer life include begging God to draw teenagers and their families to himself, to heal and to save, or do you primarily pray for your own concerns--YOUR life, YOUR time crunch, YOUR teaching/preaching? Can you honestly say that you have wholeheartedly committed yourself to Jesus and his mission?
There are a lot of ways to be a youth pastor, and each youth pastor and youth ministry have strengths and weaknesses. That's just the nature of ministry in general. Some youth ministries will be great at training and sending out students who make a huge impact in whatever arena of life God places them in. Other youth ministries are great at drawing in a whole lot of teenagers to hear about Jesus. But whatever work it is God has given you and the youth ministry you lead to do, it needs to be on mission. Great youth ministry leaders are committed wholeheartedly to Jesus and his mission, and they refuse to be distracted.
QUESTION: What does it look like to youth pastors to be "on mission" as leaders, and how does this play out in our youth ministries?
Update:You can read part three in the series here.