There is a commonly made comparison between the lives of “Max Jukes” and Jonathan Edwards. Edwards lived a life of integrity and godliness, and Jukes lived a life of rebellion and ungodliness. Jukes was a criminal who’s descendants became criminals, prostitutes and alcoholics. Edwards was a Christian minister who’s descendants became ministers, college professors, authors, and government leaders.
For some, the point of the comparison is to show that good and bad character is in the genes. Others use it to show the value of education, or the power of opportunity. Some reject the facts in the stories and say there is nothing significant about it.
Regardless of how true some of the facts are about these stories, the principle found here is strong: a life lived with integrity leaves a positive legacy. Jukes v. Edwards is not the only comparison one can make. Think about some of the prominent leaders and criminals of history, and what sort of legacy they have left.
Above all, these stories prompt me to consider what sort of legacy I am leaving. Stan Toler says it well:
Integrity cannot be faked; the future will bring it to light… integrity isn’t available on eBay. Neither can you borrow it from another. It comes by diligent effort.
For myself as a new pastor, this effort includes frequent prayer, Scripture reading, and a refusal to allow secular standards for leadership to infiltrate my ministry.
“You probably won’t like this, but I work at a liquor store.”
I had asked this gentleman what he does for a living after just telling him that I was recently hired as a pastor. My first experience being stereotyped as a pastor. I have to admit, I didn’t like it.
I recently read an article in Leadership Journal about making the best of stereotypes as a pastor. One of the stereotypes is that pastors are out of touch with, or sheltered from, “the real world.”
The author turns this stereotype around by pointing out that, “if the only things I pay attention to are what everyone else is paying attention to, I have nothing to say.” In other words, pastors need to be somewhat disengaged from “the real world” because the business of a pastor is to be immersed in the world of prayer, the Scriptures, and the wisdom of God. We are in the business of knowing God and knowing the human heart so that we can help to point the way to Christ.
It is a relief to me knowing that immersion in prayer and Scripture may at times cause me to be thought of as out of touch with some aspects of the world. So, the next time someone thinks they are making me feel uncomfortable by what they have said, I can be reminded that it is all part of the territory of being “professionally holy.” I can embrace it as a calling rather than a criticism.
Brian Cosby is not proposing anything new in his book Giving Up Gimmicks. But, that’s exactly the point. Cosby is rightly concerned that the entertainment culture has infiltrated youth ministry. Giving Up Gimmicks, then, is written for youth pastors, volunteers and parents of youth, in order to remind us about what is truly important when it comes to youth ministry.
Cosby traces five main themes, which he refers to as “means of grace” through which God works in His church, and he encourages his readers to implement these into youth ministry. These consist of Word, prayer, sacraments, service and community. Cosby seeks to show how youth ministry will have more depth and effectiveness by focussing on these things that are central to the gospel, than if youth ministry is driven by the entertainment culture.
I expect there are very few youth pastors out there who would disagree with Cosby’s argument. It is obvious to state that a gospel-centred ministry will result in greater depth and effectiveness in discipleship, than one that is focussed on entertainment. However, it is difficult to know how to implement a means of grace emphasis into a youth ministry, especially when the youth live and breath in an entertainment-saturated society. This short book helpfully provides some ideas for how to make youth ministry more gospel centred.
As I prepare to enter a pastoral position that has an emphasis on youth ministry, I found Cosby’s material to be a refreshing reminder of just what I am getting myself into. Although there is very little in this book that will be new to most youth pastors, it is material that we all need to be reminded of, whether we are just starting out or have been pastoring for years. For the less experienced pastor, Cosby provides somewhat of a template for youth ministry, and for the more experienced pastor, he provides a challenge to return to gospel-centred ministry.
For youth pastors, parents, and volunteers, Giving Up Gimmicks is an easily accessible guide to helping provide an environment that is challenging and healthy for the young people God has entrusted to our care.