Fall Update

On My Mind:

Here’s just a brief update on things we did around here the past few months.

Signals of the Kingdom

Mission impossible:

Well, we waded across a small river, got lost in the woods, injured a few knees, and still didn’t win. But we had fun and enjoyed hanging out with a few other youth groups from the area over at Camp Sancanak.

Lead day:

Our juniors and seniors spent a day discussing what we want our youth group to become and explored what it means to be a leader. We also stopped by the mall to interview other teenagers on religion, church, etc. Interesting...

Camping trip:

And of course we had our usual fun up in the Catskills (NY), hiking, camping, freezing, eating ourselves sick on pizza, fussing with the stupid tents, and new for this year, hunting down Joel Moreau.

hink with me for a second, if I say the word “teenager”, what are some of the first impressions that come to mind? Energetic, impressionable, reckless, curious? I’m guessing here, but I wouldn’t be too surprised if something associated with the term...oh, I don’t know...rebellious (?) popped into mind. Perhaps not that exact term, maybe something a bit more endearing like individualistic or unconforming; the basic idea being, someone who’s not too keen on the rules or towing the company line. Well...believe it or not, we’ve actually been encouraging a little bit of that “teenager-ness” around here in recent weeks. Now let me pause before going any further and say we always seek to be supportive of parents and encourage the teens to make sure they’re in proper submission to God’s established leadership and authority. What I’m talking about here has more to do with things on a cultural level. But hold that thought... If we wanted to sum up the teaching of Jesus, a good place to look might simply be the first recorded words of His public ministry. In the first chapter of Mark, we read, “Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” (v.15). Jesus tells us early on in the book of Luke that preaching the good news of the kingdom of God was one of the purposes for which He was sent (4:43). This is not only Jesus’ mission, but also the mission of the apostle Paul (Acts 19:8, 20:25, etc), Peter, and all the other writers and teachers in the New Testament. Okay, so next question: what is this kingdom of God? The short answer to that for our purposes here could simply be the reign of God, broken into the present world through the person of His Son, Jesus Christ. Or we could say it like this, the kingdom is the way its supposed to be, the way God intended things to be. It is His program of shalom, which is the Jewish word for peace, but more properly understood means everything from peace to justice and celebration, healing and full prosperity (cf. Rom. 14:17). We know of course that this is all enjoyed to the fullest when Christ returns, but it burst onto the scene in part in His life and exaltation 2000 years ago. So this is what Jesus offered, preached, and demonstrated in His public ministry. He spoke of reconciliation with God. He acted in mercy and compassion towards the oppressed and wounded. He restored and healed the sick and those enslaved in sin. All of these are signs of the in-breaking of God’s long-expected kingdom. Jesus’ ministry was in part to demonKingdom strate and invite people to receive and enter this glorious new reality, to be a part of this new program at work. Final question: what does that have to do with us, and more particularly teenagers? Well, one way to think about the church could be that group of people who have been brought (by the Spirit) into this great kingdom and share in the task of signaling its presence. We see and taste the newness, freedom, and restora-

The YOUTH GROUP is a ministry of the BIBLE FELLOWSHIP CHURCH OF ROYERSFORD—429 North Lewis Rd. Royersford, Pa. 19468

...On My Mind (continued)
tion of God’s reign. We marvel at His gracious redemption and new creation at work in the world. AND (“and” being a key word here), we share in Christ’s ministry of signaling— declaring, demonstrating, etc—the presence of that kingdom. As we ourselves enjoy all that this kingdom brings, we in turn “pitch” it to those around us and like Jesus, invite them to turn, leave behind their old kingdoms, and enter into this greater truth and reality in the world. And now finally we get back to the original point I was making about teenager-ness. See, this kingdom of God is new and different. It’s counter-cultural (not anti, but counter cultural...significant difference!). It’d bold and defiant against the dominant ideas, “values”, influences, and powers that govern the societies we live in. It’s just a very different take on life and the world! And so yes, we’re actually encouraging the teens to be better teenagers, to live up to their calling of being a bit rebellious and be a bit different, distinctive, etc. We want them to be true signals of the kingdom, and they can’t really do that if they just tow the cultural line and themselves buy in wholesale to whatever the other cultural kingdoms might sell them. For instance, one of the dominant voices of 21st century American culture is this sort of selfcentered individualism. Look after yourself, secure your own prosperity, pursue individual happiness as the goal of life. We challenge our youth group to defy that assumption and to represent a greater communal outlook on life that demonstrates the more perfect intents of the kingdom of God. Another example: culture is plagued by a consumerist approach to love. I’ll love you...as long as you supply me with love in return or meet whatever felt-needs I might have. And if you don’t, I take my love back and go look for a more profitable setting to invest it in. How radical is kingdom love that suggests love is something we do because that’s the way life is designed and intended. We love not just to get back in return. We love not just when it’s profitable for us. We love even when we’re slighted, rejected, or even ridiculed and persecuted. Isn’t this exactly what Christ demonstrated for us! And so we’ve discussed recently how we can become a youth group that loves better, so that, among other things, we might be a defiant and unavoidable signal that there is a greater reality, a different and much better kingdom that invites everyone to trade allegiances and come enjoy life in line with God’s program. Final example: we read throughout the bible (and especially in the prophets that looked forward to Jesus and the coming of the kingdom) that God’s kingdom is a kingdom of justice. This is not simply criminal justice as we most often associate the term, but also justice in the sense of everyone receiving proper treatment as men and women created in the image of God. It involves attention given to people’s suffering, affliction, and weakness, be it physical, emotional, spiritual, etc. And so to be signals of God’s kingdom involves displaying this concern for justice, caring for the poor, helping the widows and orphans as James puts it (1:27), or feeding the hungry and clothing the naked as Jesus commands (Matt. 25). I include this to give you a small sense of why we’ve started this new nursing home ministry on Sunday nights. Again, the goal is to join Christ in this ministry of signaling the in-breaking of God’s glorious kingdom, to stand opposed to the defeated and continually failing “kingdom-orders” of society, and to invite whoever might see or listen to come and enjoy the benefits of God’s reign!

Upcoming Events
Football Tournament:
Saturday, November 10th It’s us versus the other youth groups from the area. Typically, its us watching the others take all our trophies and walk off with heads high while we congratulate ourselves on good team spirit. But we’ve been practicing this year and are hoping for a little more.

Guys All-nigther:
Friday, November 16th Video games on the big screen, finger blaster wars, late night hot-wings, and perhaps even some mischievous happenings involving toilet paper. It’s a guys night! What else can you we say. Come at 8 PM and leave at 8 AM. And don’t plan on anyone sleeping.

Christmas party:
Friday, December 14th Every year we vote on and enjoy some sort of Christmas festivity. The date for this year is the 14th. The event is yet to be determined, so stay tuned and keep the calendars opened. Parents are welcomed to attend.

Resource Review
A few helpful websites... We’re getting a jump on our mission planning for the older kids in the youth group (juniors and seniors). We this year decided to work with CURE International (cureinternational.org), a Christian mission agency that specializes in children’s ministries and also a lot of medical services in impoverished nations. They received a call this past summer from their contacts in the Dominican Republic requesting additional help from short term church teams. It was about the same time that we started investigating CURE ourselves to see about teaming up with one of their projects. So after several discussions and careful prayer and pre-planning, we decided to sign on to be a part of the Dominican Republic mission for the summer of ‘08. But now here’s the big change in this year’s project: We don’t want this to be a teen-only effort. We realize that the goal here is ultimately to serve God’s mission as best we can, and to do so, we felt we needed to make this a whole church effort. So this year, we want teens, but also parents, brothers and sisters, other leaders and servants from our church body, etc. So let me officially invite you as parents to at least get some more information about this trip and prayerfully consider whether it might something you could help take part in. By the time you’re receiving this, we’ve probably already had our first info meeting (Sunday, November 4th). But there’s still plenty of time to get the brochures and meet to go over any questions or concerns you might have. The first official meeting and registration deadline won’t
Aaron Susek: Youth Pastor 610-948-9764

Monergism.com and theresurgence.com—helpful sites loaded with articles, sermons, lectures, and even full classes on the Bible and theological/social issues. cpyu.org and youthspecialties.com/articles—great sites stocked full of articles and information on understanding and engaging the teen culture. Myspace.com and facebook.com—wanna see some of your teen’s social interactions? Get a myspace account and check out their sites.