God of the Present Tense

Every now and then, when I’m teaching at youth group, a teenager will roll his or her eyes at me and say something like, “We’ve already learned this, ugh! We already know this!” Most of the time, I resist throwing whatever is in my hand at the teen that makes the comment (most of the time), but it always gets me thinking about what I’m teaching, “Have they heard this all before? Am I boring? Am I making God’s Word boring (which is a sin if you didn’t know)? If they know all this, what am I suppose to teach them?” Then there comes a moment of thankfulness, because I remember that God often speaks through the complaints of teenagers whether they know it or not, and this complaint reveals something that I’ve forgotten—the thing that’s really important in youth ministry…scratch that, all ministry.

We are coming up on the Christmas Season in the church. I’m willing to bet that we are going to hear familiar stories, see familiar colors, and hear familiar songs. I really doubt anyone will say, “Boring! Heard it! I know all this stuff already!” When I think about the repetition of this story, year in and year out, I’m reminded that ministry, worship, and community (the things that make us who we are) are much more than simply the transfer of knowledge. We already know the story, but when we hear it again, we are reminded that God’s love is present, right here and right now. Ministry, worship, and community help us experience God’s love right now, in our very present.

I’m guilty of trying to make my ministry primarily about teaching teens things that they’ve never heard. Some times I forget that ministry is about letting teens experience God in the present, after all, the present, this present moment is the only place that we can experience God. It’s the only place that we are. We already know so many truths—God is love, God loves us, there is nothing more that we can do to be any more loved than we are right now. The trick is remembering it in this very moment.

There are so many things in our pasts and in our futures that tempt us to regret or worry, when the truth is that God is present to you right now, loving you more than you can imagine. So rest in that love, right now. And right now. And right now. It’s always exciting to hear a new idea or new knowledge, but sometimes we just need to remember the things we know, and be present to God in the moment. Merry Christmas!