Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Was Jesus a Youth Pastor?

I am a teaching pastor.  But years ago…I was a “youth pastor.”

I put that term in quotes because it usually comes with many unsaid connotations.  And unfortunately for adults today, most of those connotations are negative.  And the one that perhaps matters the most, is the idea that what youth pastors teach…is only for youth.  The idea that whatever is good for teens to hear…isn’t that important for adults.  Youth ministry is often considered a ‘lower level’ of learning than other pastoral teaching.

Now here is the big problem.  The 12 disciples were teenagers!  Jesus today would probably be called a ‘youth pastor.’  Does that mean that what Jesus had to say was only for youth?

I know all of our movies about Jesus and the disciples cast actors that are in their 30s and 40s.  But if you were to study the scriptures and the historical culture of the Gospels, you would find that Jesus started his ministry at 30 years old, and the disciples were most likely teenagers.

How do we know?  Well, basically cultural studies of that time tell us that this was the age that men of that time would follow a “Rabbi.”  Jesus was 30, an age accepted for a teacher of that time. And a teacher at that time would take young people, approximately 15-22 years old, as their scholarly students.

Another evidence directly from scripture is in Matthew 17:24-27. Here we see Jesus and Peter pay the temple tax which was required to be paid by every man aged 20 years and older (Exodus 30:13-14).  The other disciples were there, but didn’t pay the tax, thus it is logical that they are then under 20 years old.

There are many great blogs that discuss the many biblical and cultural evidence that the disciples were teenagers, so I don’t feel the need to repeat their work.
(Here is one if you are not yet convinced:

As we dive into our “Harmony of the Gospels” study this year, it is important for us to understand the true context of Jesus and his disciples.  Their age is significant for many reasons, but primarily as we ask:  Who was Jesus talking to?

The answer is of course “everyone”…but that doesn’t mean “everyone” was who he spent most of his time with.  It was these 12 ‘teenagers.’  Why teenagers?  I have read several articles over the years, showing how powerful teenagers and college students are.  They have a huge say in culture, and even politics.  But perhaps more than that, teens are usually ‘undecided.’  They don’t have everything ‘figured out’ yet.  They are still searching and actively learning truth.

Unfortunately adults typically aren’t.  I have said this before, that there are some questions and truths I often raise with teenagers that I would never say to a congregation.  Teens are ready for controversial questions like this and often adults can’t ‘handle’ the smashing of their neat little world…especially theologically.

My point:  Jesus was spending his time teaching a group of people who were eager to learn from him something that would change their lives.  Most adults don’t expect what they will be learning each Sunday from scripture will change much of how they live and act in their day to day lives.  As you read scripture are you prepared for Jesus’ words to change your life?  If so, you just might be eligible to be a part of the ‘youth ministry’ of Jesus.

Are you a teenager?  Jesus was spending his days primarily with people like you:  young, maybe with hurt backgrounds, high expectations, low expectations -

His message is for you-for those who know they don’t have everything figured out and are searching for truth and a better way to live.

Are you ‘older’ than a teenager?  Then I have two questions for you:
First, Are you still 'young at heart?'  Are you searching for truth?  Are you still hungry to learn and grow?

But secondly, are you actively following Jesus’ example to lead and teach the “youth” of this world? It might simply be the positive influence you have with just one or two teens in your world…but it matters!

I will always be a ‘youth minister’ at heart, because Jesus was my example to follow.  Will you?