An Interesting Youth Pastor (Sample Chapter)

“Jesus And The Woman Caught In Adultery”

Early in the morning he came again to the temple. All the people came to him, and he sat down and taught them. The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst they said to him, "Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?" This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, "Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her." And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground. But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. Jesus stood up and said to her, "Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?" She said, "No one, Lord." And Jesus said, "Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more. John 8:1-11 ESV

Bold.

This one is going to be hard for parents. It's hard for me to write. Because I am one and I've had to come to terms with the two separate poles as both an over protective father, and a convicted theologian. You wouldn't think this particular part of the gospel of John would translate into youth ministry. Yet statements from Jesus like this (Matthew 5:27-28) makes it clear that this type of thing happens before your clothes ever come off. So given the age we live in, where the average age of explicit sexual exposure is eleven (a good two years before the child ever comes to your youth group), It's clear from where I'm standing that what happened in John chapter eight, is happening in our youth groups. So what will you do when it happens in your youth ministry? I say "will" and "happens" because it's the reality we live in these days. So let's take a trend that I hope and pray is going out of style soon, and see how Jesus would handle it.

Our hypothetical situation has a few characters to add to the plot. We all remember Billy from previous chapters on Jesus skateboard salvation pitch right? While Billy sees more stage time later on, we’re going to focus on his girlfriend Christy right now. There’s also Mrs. Smith (from the barbeque at Cana) a youth group sponsor about to meet sin and salvation. All in the course of a night at youth group.

Christy is a senior about to graduate from the local high school, her family isn’t religious, but she likes the way church makes her feel. The people make her happy and the games at youth are fun in a way she doesn’t have to feel bad about later.

Like the fun she has with her boyfriend Billy. Fun we’ll read about soon enough. Mrs. Smith on the other hand has practically lived in the church her entire life. Spent her childhood in the Sunday school and her youth in the youth group. She’s borderline ecstatic that her church has Jesus as the new pastor. Finally a leader who knows for certain how to do things right.

Right?

Our story has Mrs. Smith pulling Jesus aside with an embarrassed youth in tow. Christy is swimming in a nearly visible sea of regret and shame with clothes that were hastily put on as she was caught in the act. The act of taking a nude selfie. A portrait aimed at her boyfriend’s inbox. The cultural standards of the day dictated that this is what girls did for their boyfriends. So, having the means and the motive she decided to commit herself to this pixel of indiscretion. She was no sooner topless in the girls’ washroom, than in the condescending gaze of Mrs. Smith. She had heard the shutter sound of Christy’s phone go off while washing up for the youth groups snack and went straight to work making sure this kind of thing wasn’t tolerated in her youth group. She Slammed on the door, demanded to see the pictures and snatched the smart phone away from this teenage trollop. Marching her straight to the churches new youth pastor.

Jesus Christ.

As they arrive during the first dodge ball game of the year, Mrs. Smith hands Jesus the smart phone and ask Him to look at what she found on it. Jesus looks, even though He could figure it out without seeing the evidence. Disheveled hair and clothes, angry mom sponsor, yup. Someone wasn’t leaving room for the Holy Ghost. And sure enough there is the youth scantily clad and posed for her boyfriend.

She was caught in the act of committing virtual adultery in her boyfriend’s heart, while in the girl’s washroom. Caught by a sponsor with children of the same age and gender as this adulterer of the mind, and with an agenda of conformity where their youth pastor should think, act, and judge the same way as they do. The problem being that Jesus knows what happened, what's happening and what He's going to make happen.

He takes the phone from the sponsor, deletes the pictures, and hands it back to the girl. She nearly drops it but stows it quickly in the pockets of her hoodie. Mrs. Smith’s eyes widen and she begins to protest, but He raises His hand to silence her. He then pulls out His Blackberry and begins an email (recipient unknown but I imagine it's headed to an inbox in the church). Disturbed at her saviors lack of action and subsequent crowd that is gathering to see what Jesus will do. Mrs. Smith asks Jesus in a hurried and harsh tone.

"What are we going to do?"

Jesus looks up. "We? We are not going to do anything. How about ‘We’ (gesturing to himself and then heaven), all the persons who have not sinned, deal with this problem? Is there anyone here who can prove they have not sinned in any area and are therefore fit for the processing of this particular sinful person? Any one?”

“Cricket Chirps” (It’s a small town rural church after all.)

“Didn’t think so. Snacks in the kitchen guys” Jesus hollers to the crowd of onlookers.

He returns to His email message and doesn't watch as the obvious, the reluctant, the determined yet delinquent, all leave one by one realizing they are not qualified to be the judge of this sext-ual discretion.

Mrs. Smith finally leaves not quite sure what to make of this Jesus now. He finishes His email and then starts a text message. The poor girl stares frightened at the floor expecting the wrath of a righteous judge. Instead the same phone used to sin with vibrates and chimes with a message from her Savior.

"Where are the blamer's?”

Christy can believe that He’s texting her. She half expected to have her phone confiscated and her dad called. She text’s back without lifting her head to make eye contact.

"They're gone." She says.

"Has no one stayed to make you pay for it?" Jesus replies.

"No."

"Well I'm not going to, don't do this again ok?"

"Ok."

And as Jesus turns to walk away she sees the light from His Blackberry’s screen. Shining boldly through a hole in His hand. Quietly rewriting everyone's punishment. Day in and day out, to say paid with the pounding of nails.

Could Jesus get away with that at your church? What would Jesus say to the father of this forgiven sinner when the grapevine inevitably informed him of her actions and Jesus restraint? What would Jesus do when this got to an elders meeting because of concerns from the congregation? It’s a nice church after all with a nice youth group. We can’t have this kind of behavior at church, right?

The part of this text that we don't want to deal with is that the reality we live in now has Jesus living in it. It's that same reality that Jesus lived in when He didn't cast the first stone, and simply asked her to go and sin no more.

That’s the reality that everyone is accountable to God for their sins and everyone's sins are paid for by God. We have no legitimate place to judge or ensure judgment for the sins of any other person. We are unqualified just as the mob that wanted this New Testament hooker stoned was unqualified. So now that our youth are getting younger, as their exposure to the depth of sexual sin is getting closer and closer to diaper sizes, will we settle for how the mob acted in this part of the good news or act like Jesus? Will we chastise and exclude or show grace and forgive? Does the fact of our salvation from our sin ever affect the way we interact with other people’s sin? This part of scripture challenges us to not view sinners as different or other, but as same in the light of a savior.

If all scripture is God breathed (2 Tim 3:16) then this part must be good for teaching, doctrine and/or reproof.

So which is it?

If it's teaching then why do we have rules and procedures detailing the process that takes these sinful kids, from the retreats and camps they go to, on public transit back to their parents? Or a detailed chain of phone numbers to call when youth are caught in sin we knew they would commit, because they are sinful like all of us? It’s real hard to teach a kid about a biblical view of sex when you’re at the retreat and they’re on a bus back to town. Could it be that instead of stepping up into the authority Jesus left us with to preach teach and baptize in, we still aim for His job as righteous judge?

What if this is about doctrine, then it would mean a lot of churches are a far cry short from good doctrine aren't they? How fast does your grapevine move and would you necessarily beat Jesus to the parents’ voice mail, if He did decide to call them? Gossip hides in the darkest shadows of church life often cast by the bright lights of prayer chains and bible studies.

What about reproof? Could it be that an omniscient God could see a world that would not apply His sacrifice and payment? For all the people’s sins like He did? That He doesn't just forgive and allow for second tries but covers sin and imparts His righteousness on our behalf. So this sinfully photogenic teenager is not guilty and in need of punishment, supervision and consequence. She's guilty and in need of a savior.

And Jesus did save her with the same nails, whip lashes, crown, robe, and cross that pay for the sins of her parents, her pastors, her peers and her persecutors.

Jesus would make an interesting youth pastor, not because of his technical ability to handle this scandal. But to stand as He always has in the way of sin. To be the back, feet and hands of our payment for that sin. To make amends with the world to bring us closer to heaven and farther away from hell. We overlook the biblical reality that at one point God’s plan for us did not include the ways we sin with each other. Jesus knows what a youth group without sin would look like.
While we’re on the topic of sex, has it ever crossed your mind that Eden’s youth group would have no clothes on, and yet no sin as well? What would that look like when Jesus took the youth group to the pool? We have a heart attacks with bikinis at the moment. Jesus was there when that future was a possibility with Adam and Eve. He was there when His righteousness made that future impossible, as sin and sinful humans were separated from God.

But most importantly He was there when He was separated from the Father and three days later rose to make all things new.

We will be bloody at the end of this struggle. We will be tired and sore and scarred for the love and work we do in youth ministry.

Teens will do deplorable things in the name of their sin. Rape, murder, and destruction creep closer to our schools every day. We need not protect ourselves vainly from the sins of others, while avoiding the sin we still need Jesus to save us from. Because He did save us from sin, He does save us from sin.

So I'll ask the question again the one that got us into this mess "So what will you do when it happens in your youth ministry. I say "will" and "happens" because it's the reality we live in these days.