One of my favorite Christmas hymns, “O Come, All Ye Faithful,” invites people to “come and behold him,” Jesus—the One who is “born the King of angels.” The hymn then invites our response: “O come, let us adore Him—Christ, the Lord!”
The adoration of Christ is an essential part of the foundation of all Christian ministries (youth ministries included). This foundation is present in ministries where Jesus is clearly presented for who he is (Christ the Lord) and where the appropriate response of worship is both invited and facilitated. The adoration of Christ involves far more than programs or tasks—it’s a life-style of active participation in the Holy Spirit’s ministry to and through the church.
During the evening before his crucifixion, Jesus spoke with his followers concerning the Spirit’s ministry in their midst. He promised to send the Spirit to be with them and in them as their Counselor or Comforter (John 14:16). The Spirit’s ministry would be focused on Jesus: reminding his disciples concerning Jesus’ teachings (14:26), testifying about Jesus’ person (15:26) and bringing glory to Jesus (16:14). In these and other ways, the Spirit would develop the disciples by giving them a proper concept of Jesus, which would lead them to adore him as their Savior and Lord.
A youth ministry has the privilege and joy of joining with the Holy Spirit in this ministry through the church on behalf of children, teens and college-age young adults. A youth ministry does so, in large part, by providing ministry environments where the adoration of Christ is placed front and center. Such environments are the fertile soil in which the Spirit grows Christ-centered youths.
But what does the adoration of Christ in a youth ministry setting look like? How can pastors, youth ministry leaders, youth ministry workers and parents provide environments where Jesus is fully seen and openly and consistently adored for who he truly is? Consider the following ideas and principles.
It begins with the leadership
The adoration of Christ will grow within youth ministries where the group’s leaders, workers and parents are openly passionate for Christ and share that passion with the youths. This is vital to understand, because the adoration of Christ is more caught than taught. Teaching about adoring Jesus is essential, but a youth minister’s life-style that models open and unashamed devotion and passion for Jesus is far more powerful. The group will tend to reflect what the leaders model.
If you work with youths, let your life be connected to and grounded in Christ. Let me encourage you to cultivate that connection—to spend time with Jesus, to adore him in times of prayer, time in his written Word (Scripture) and time worshiping him together with other Christ-followers. In such times let the Spirit fill you with the Father’s adoration for his Son Jesus.
As you are filled with that adoring love, it will overflow to the young people in your group. They will adore Christ along with you—particularly if you include them with you as you show adoration for Christ in ways that are meaningful to them.
Focus on the gospel
The adoration of Christ involves more than getting a youth group to chant, “we love Jesus, yes we do.” It’s great to openly and enthusiastically express love for Jesus, but you can’t simply tell a person to adore Jesus and expect it to happen. The adoration of Christ flows from a personal encounter with him. A primary place for such an encounter is in the message of the gospel—the good news of what Jesus has done for us that we might have forgiveness and eternal life with God. We effectively focus on the gospel as we personally embrace and then effectively teach the following gospel-centered truths:
Who God is. The adoration of Christ flows out of a proper concept of Christ—a biblical understanding of the glory and majesty of who Jesus Christ is in his union with the Father and Holy Spirit. The more we appreciate who God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) is, the more we will worship and adore his priceless gift, Jesus, the one and only Son of the Father.
Help your kids to know this God in age-appropriate ways. Introduce God to them as the One who is infinite, omnipresent, omniscient, omnipotent, good, merciful, all wise, faithful, just, gracious, loving, holy and personal. Help them know him as Creator, Sustainer and Savior. In your teaching, praying, worship and discussions, focus on the majesty of God.
What God has done for us. The adoration of Christ intensifies as one begins to grasp the magnitude of what this awesome God has done for us—we who are undeserving sinners. Paint a vivid picture for your kids of all that God has given us by grace in and through Jesus Christ.
Look at Colossians 1 and 2 for examples. There we learn that God has qualified us to share in an eternal inheritance, has delivered us from evil, has redeemed us, forgiven us, reconciled us, presented us to the Father as holy, works through us with his power, has made us complete and alive with Christ and has cancelled our debt to God.
As we relate the essential truths of the gospel of Jesus to the lives of young people, they will rejoice—they will adore Christ. Lead them to that place, and they will be transformed.
Who we are in Christ. The transformation that we want to see in our kids flows not from mere behavior modification focused on obedience to rules, but from the kids’ union with Christ and their understanding of who they are in him. That understanding leads them to adore Christ in their whole being—including in their behavior.
Youth leaders, workers and parents struggle with the misbehavior of some youths. Many teen group leaders have spent sleepless nights agonizing about group members who are involved in drug abuse, illicit sex or other God-dishonoring, dangerous behaviors. Youth ministry leaders should have basic codes of acceptable behavior in the group, and parents need the same within their homes.
But more than codes of behavior, we need to help our kids understand that, as followers of Jesus, they are new creations. In Christ, kids are forgiven and released from the enslaving bondage to sin. They have been given new freedom, through the Holy Spirit, to live in newness of life. This life transformation is supernatural and is rooted in a relationship with Jesus that is grounded in the worshipful adoration of Christ.
Do you want better-behaved kids? Then lead them to understand who they are in Christ—to experience the joy of knowing Jesus—and thus to adore him. Do this and the Spirit will transform their hearts and minds—and new, Christlike behaviors will follow. (For a good study on who we are in Christ, I recommend the publication “Thirty-Three Things That Happen at the Moment of Salvation.” It can be ordered from Sonlife Ministries at http://store.sonlife.com/33-things-that-happen-at-the-moment-of-salvation/ or by calling 971-340-4675. The cost is $3.19 for each copy, plus shipping.) [URL and cost verified July 2015]
Provide spaces for adoration
Jesus may be adored anywhere, at any time. But one of the responsibilities of youth ministry leaders and workers is to provide appropriate spaces (times and places) where youths are focused on adoring Christ. One of the best tools for creating such spaces is worship entered into through music.
Music is the heart language of youths in our culture. For most Christian youths, worship music is the preferred language for adoring Christ. Christian worship music provides a powerful and biblically appropriate way for young disciples to adore Christ—fully engaging their bodies and minds. Music that is passionately Christ-centered and Christ-adoring leads young worshipers into the Lord’s presence where they are filled with the Father’s love for Jesus and God’s love for them.
To the tool of worship music may be added the spiritual discipline of prayer. Teach young disciples to pray together—to praise Christ and pour out their hearts to their heavenly Father together. Getting rid of timidity in group prayer takes time for some, but in my experience, most soon learn to open up. A key here is to provide a non-threatening, loving environment (see previous article on creating an atmosphere of love in your youth group).
Another powerful tool for leading youths to adore Christ in worship is to involve them in the dramatic reenactment of the main events of Jesus’ life. By reenacting Jesus’ birth at Christmas, for example, young people are drawn into the reality of Jesus’ self-giving through the incarnation and thus experience more fully the magnitude of his sacrifice on their behalf.
One more idea about providing spaces where youths can adore Christ: take them into nature, where the glory of their Creator may be seen and experienced. How about a float trip down a beautiful stream (caution: wear life vests), or a Discovery Weekend in a rural camp? When Jesus is lifted up in such environments, adoration flows. Much more can be said about providing an atmosphere characterized by the adoration of Christ. It’s not about a set formula, but these are some ideas and principles that work.
In closing, let me encourage each of us to ask ourselves a couple of key questions: Do I adore Christ? Do I express that adoration openly so that I’m adding to an atmosphere of the adoration of Christ in my congregation, family or youth group? Let me encourage all of us to develop a life-style that answers yes to both questions. As we do so, we’ll be contributing to the building of congregations, homes and youth groups where Christ is openly adored. In doing so, we will be making a positive contribution to Jesus’ disciplemaking ministry on earth, walking in step with the Spirit, to the glory of our heavenly Father.