It is amazing how far some churches are willing to go to fill the pews with people. A common practice for churches today is to try to determine the "felt needs" of the community and build the church around these things. Naturally if you offer people what they are looking for then they will come. What is often forgotten is that it is Christ who builds the church. He also builds the church His way. Paul tells Timothy that the church is the "pillar and ground of the truth." As Jesus said "Thy Word is truth" (Jn. 17:17). So the church must be the place where the truth of God's word is central. The reason for this is that God and not man knows what people actually need. Because of sin man's mind is tainted. He thinks he needs certain things, but many times these things are substitutes for what He really needs. What He really needs can be summed up in one word: Christ! This brings us to the final principle for that any ministry must embrace to glorify God.
7. Every person’s one true need is Christ Himself.
Colossians 1:28-29 We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ. For this purpose also I labor, striving according to His power, which mightily works within me.NASB95
In this passage Paul is giving as a glimpse at the heart of his ministry. Under the inspiration of the Spirit of God Paul tells us that the central feature of his ministry is the proclamation of Christ. Whatever Paul and his team were doing they were constantly proclaiming, preaching, declaring Christ. Now, if there is anything that we do in any Christian ministry that doesn't have something directly to do with proclaming Christ--then we shouldn't be doing it. Paul and his team labored to instruct and encourage people in the wisdom of God's word with the goal of seeing everyone become mature in Christ Jesus. Maturity in Christ Jesus has to do with becoming like Him. We become like Him when we see Him in His Word and Christ is revealed to us through the Spirit and transforms us by His power. Paul knew that God's power would be working in him if he was faithful to preach Christ in the power of the Spirit of Christ.
When one sees Christ in the Word of Christ energized by the Spirit of Christ it transforms Him to be like Christ. This is the glory of the ministry! This is what Paul speaks of in 2 Corinthians 3:18:
2 Corinthians 3:18 But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.NASB95
Jesus said Himself that when someone builds their life on Him and His word that they will be prepared for anything that life brings.
Matthew 7:24-27 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock. “And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock. “Everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not act on them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. “The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and it fell—and great was its fall.”NASB95
In this we see that a person's ultimate need, no matter what they think it is, is to be exposed to the teachings of Christ: the Bible. Christ's word actually promises blessing in all things for those who read and obey His word.
James 1:25 But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does.NASB95
Now these blessing go far bayond what we think we need. Naturally we want everything in our lives to be smooth and comfortable, but that's not actually what is best for us. If we give people what they want we will forfiet for them what they really need. The spiritual blessings of Christ are primary:
Ephesians 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ,NASB95
Authentic Christianity is a life that is hidden in Christ.
Galatians 2:20 “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.NASB95
This applies to youth ministry as well. It would be very easy to design a youth ministry around what teenagers want. Doubtless we can fill our facilities with this approach, but will we be giving them what they really need?
We must give them Christ. This is what we are called to do. As we are faithful to proclaim Christ we can know that God will build His church in His way and we will be blessed and those who we minister to will be blessed.
I close with another description of Paul's ministry and how it works:
1 Corinthians 2:1-14 And when I came to you, brethren, I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God. For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling, and my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God. Yet we do speak wisdom among those who are mature; a wisdom, however, not of this age nor of the rulers of this age, who are passing away; but we speak God’s wisdom in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God predestined before the ages to our glory; the wisdom which none of the rulers of this age has understood; for if they had understood it they would not have crucified the Lord of glory; but just as it is written, “Things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard, And which have not entered the heart of man, All that God has prepared for those who love Him.” For to us God revealed them through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God. For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so the thoughts of God no one knows except the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God, which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words. But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised.NASB95