Jesus called out to them, “Come, follow me, and I will show you how to fish for people!” Matthew 4:19 (NLT)
What if those dudes said “No”? What if Simon-Peter and Andrew were like, “Nah. No thanks, Jesus. We’re good here.” What would Jesus have done? I think we get an answer in the story of The Rich Man in Matthew, chapter 19.
This guy, who was a really good religious person, asked Jesus what he must do to get into heaven. Jesus answered the man honestly. The man then left Jesus because he could not do what Jesus asked of him. He had much and did not want to give up what he had. So he said “No” to Jesus. Then what did Jesus do?
Jesus sprinted after the man and begged and pleaded that the man change his mind and come to Him. Then Jesus spent hours talking circles around the man, trying to convince him that He was truly the answer to all of life’s problems. When that didn’t work, Jesus screamed and ranted about the terrors of hell and how much better the Christian life is. Right?
Jesus let the man go. And that’s what I believe He would have done with Simon-Peter and Andrew. Had they said “No”, Jesus would have moved on. So why then do we behave like the fictional Jesus depicted above? Over and over again in ministerial settings I have seen young NextGen leaders pulling aside target students that they want to “save”. They then berate their target student with their opinions about life, religion and what the student “should” be doing.
A few weeks ago in a NextGen service I sat next to – and eavesdropped on – a couple of young ladies for about an hour. One of them was a leader-type and the other was a searching youth-type. I cringed again and again as the leader made the same points over and over. The student was polite: honest that she was in a searching phase, but was healthy. The leader agreed that the youth was indeed in a healthy place, but that the youth also needed to achieve perfection of the Christian life. Immediately. The leader then painted a picture of the perfect prayer, study, church-attending, evangelism-driven life. She insisted that the youth immediately take on all of these practices. The student – sounding ever so discouraged – held her ground, repeating that she was doing what she could and what she felt was right.
My heart was heavy as the service ended. I wanted so much to break into their moment and share with the student that Jesus loves her as she is. That she is enough for Him. That she is wonderful and He only want’s to be with her. I did not. I felt it would have been inappropriate for me – a stranger – to speak into their conversation.
So instead I write about the situation here. If I were to speak to the “leader-type”, I would want her to know that – as in all things – we need to look to Jesus for our instruction. Did Jesus love the Rich Man? Yes. Did Jesus want to forgive the Rich Man? Absolutely. Why then did Jesus let the Rich Man leave? I believe the answer is in 1 Corinthians 3. The harvest simply wasn’t ready yet. Jesus planted the seed and watered the seed, but that day wasn’t harvest day for the Rich Man. Jesus didn’t force it, and neither should we.
How do you go about teaching your young NextGen leaders to minister with grace? Feel free to share your thoughts and ideas in the comment’s section. Seriously! We’re all in this together.