Building a Culture of Faith
We at the Student Outreach have a concept we affectionately call the Triad of Life. It’s a distillation of Scripture’s most basic building blocks for the Christian life—a three-pronged, mutually enforcing and informing concept that shapes everything we do as believers. In our writing, in our speaking, and in our equipping the Church across the country, this is the principle we encourage parents and youth leaders to integrate into the lives of their kids, enabling students to use and steward their sexuality for the glory of God.
And in this first post of a series on the Triad of Life, I want to look at faith.
But why is faith necessary to steward our sexuality for the glory of God, and how do we create a culture of faith in student ministry?
A Necessary Faith
Jesus’ announces His ministry in Mark 1:15 with an enormous statement: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” Look at the claim Jesus is making. He’s turning the gaze of mankind towards Himself and commanding people, in light of the immanence of the very Kingdom of God in His presence, to believe in the Gospel. And the Gospel is the Person and Work of Christ for sinners. The “gospel of Jesus Christ” (Mark 1:1) is the fact that “Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). Belief in the Gospel includes knowledge of, agreement with, and trust in the Son of God for the salvation of mankind.
But sexual sin would destroy faith in the Son. Porn, making out with boyfriends or girlfriends, sex outside of marriage, or whatever the sin, would have us turn our eyes away from the resurrected and ascended Christ. It would have us deny His Lordship and His transforming grace and forsake Him for our glory, fame, and way. Sexual sin presents the next orgasm, the next moment of watching porn, and next moment alone with a boyfriend or girlfriend as all-important and all-satisfying.
Ultimately, then, stewarding our sexuality begins by trusting not in ourselves but in abandoning ourselves to rest in and cry out to Jesus in faith. It takes faith in Christ to say no to the temptations and voices that would have us do life on our own terms. It takes faith in Christ to develop eyes for both the emptiness and lifelessness of sexual sin and the superior beauty and worthiness of God.
Embody the Language
So how do we begin to create a culture of faith in student ministry? The first thing we need to do is to actually embody faith. And this is an easy aspect to fake. The question to ask ourselves is this: “Am I a man of faith? Am I a woman of faith?” This certainly looks like being honest with ourselves to see if we are actually Christians or not. But it is so much more.
It means we need to ask the hard questions of ourselves, like, ”What has been my functional savior today? When I looked at porn last night, what was my functional savior? When I lost it with my volunteers, what was I trusting in? When my numbers were low at my meeting and I was totally frustrated, was I trusting in Jesus or wanting to make a name for myself? In my discipleship relationships, am I banking on the Savior to work, or am I trying to be the savior?”
Faith begins with us, not with our students. And if we want a culture of faith in our student ministries, it must begin in our own hearts.
And we must pray. Prayer is the ultimate posture of faith, because it confesses reliance, helplessness, and desperation. Are we pleading for the Lord to do mighty works in both our own hearts and in the hearts of our students? Are we bringing individual students before His throne, asking that He might rescue and set them ablaze for His name?
Use the Language
Anyone learning a new language can tell you that if you don’t use it, you’ll never truly learn it. This means we need to actually talk about faith. In other words, our ministry vocabulary needs to be a scriptural vocabulary. What would that look like?
- We are constantly calling on students who have never trusted Christ to trust now. And we are also encouraging Christians to keep putting their faith in Jesus. Faith in Christ is not something to be done once and left behind in favor of Christian moralism. Faith is to be exercised daily in perseverance, because every day I’m tempted to bank on a million different “gods” besides the One True God.
- We are constantly drawing parallels between the faith narrative of the culture and the faith narrative of the Christian walk. What is the culture begging us to trust in instead of Jesus? What does a worldview that is all about my happiness and gain tell me about faith in Jesus?
- We are constantly demonstrating how a vital faith in Christ actually changes how we live practically. Trust in Jesus moves us towards loving and sitting with the kid in the lunchroom who no one else wants to sit next to. Faith in Christ sometimes means we get rid of a smartphone in favor of a dumb one because of the temptation to look at porn. Resting in the Son means fighting our same-sex attraction by crying out to Him for help and strength.
It is faith—true, vital, and practical faith—in Jesus that will enable us all to thrive sexually as He works powerfully within us by the Spirit. Let’s work toward building ministries that desire to know and trust in nothing but the risen and ascended Lord, awaiting in faith His glorious appearing.