Sunday, October 29, 2006

Are You Unmasked?

The youth ministry in which I work is called, "Oneighty," signifying a person's decision to turn (repent) and go the other way (toward God). It's unlike a traditional youth group in that every Sunday night, anywhere from a few hundred kids to several hundred kids converge in a very large, teenager-friendly building for an evening of fun programming and a short message.

Oneighty's goal is to communicate Christ's acceptance and love, believing the old saying, "They don't care how much you know until they know how much you care." Many of the kids who come to Oneighty have never been to church before in their lives.

Since the focus of this ministry is outreach, we've learned exactly what 1 Corinthians 9:22 means: I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some. Personally, I have become an SNL Spartan Cheerleader, an 80's nerd, an "extra" in videos, etc. Seriously, though, we try to meet them where they are.

In fact, what happens on Sunday nights looks a lot like a sanitized version of Saturday Night Live, with videos, occasional bands and "big nights," when we give away prizes and food, etc. The goal is to get kids to return repeatedly, come to trust Jesus as their savior, then move to a Wednesday night group similar to a traditional youth group. "Reach, teach and launch," is our motto.

Tonight, a "big night," we did a take on Halloween. (Which, by the way, my family has never done for several reasons. Mainly, no one in my family likes it.) Dressing up and getting candy is a BIG deal to kids, so we oblige. We had a costume contest, in which I was one of the judges, and we gave away lots of Visa check cards, the grand prize being $500.00.

At the end of the evening, our youth pastor, Jeff Hughes, from Abilene, TX, gave a short, and I mean short, message. He encouraged the kids to live "unmasked," that is, to be real, about who they are and how they're living.

It was a great night, esp. for the kid who won $500.00!.

I'm not above applying Jeff's messages to my life, regardless of my "advanced" age. Lately, the issue of being "true faced" is popping up all over in my life. I've been led to ask myself some pretty probing quesstions, like:

How do I mask my insecurities? Am I "unmasked" enough to be vulnerable to others? Do I subtly trust in works (accomplishments, ministerial or otherwise) to garner approval from God and other people? Do I wear one mask with one person and a another with someone else? Do I say one thing and mean another? Do I wear masks to cover shame?

The Lord knows every mask I've ever forged and wants me to lay them aside.I'm praying that this week he will show me the masks I wear, whether they are fragile as porcelain or tough as the chain link curtain under a knight's helmet.

Believing it pleases him to continually peel away layers of defense, I'm trusting in 1 Corinthians 2:10 The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God, for the Lord to reveal deep things which I've not addressed in my life.

Already the Holy Spirit has reminded me of John 14:26, which says The Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.

This week, I'll be listening for the voice of truth that sets us free, to teach me "all things" about my hidden, insecure life, so that he can help me live unmasked.

Here are some Unmasked pics, used with permission:

Miss Longstocking and the White Witch from Narnia. This is one section of the crowd. There were two more like it.

Kids at the cafe, and Jeff saying goodbye at the door. Our $500.oo winner was "Braveheart." Braveheart says he is going to put the money toward a horse. I mean, a car.


Big Mama said...

What an incredible ministry. Y'all are letting God do some great things.

I just read another Blog that used the name El Roi for God. It means the God that sees me. Thanks for making me look and see the "masks" I am wearing. Great post.

Big Mama said...

What an incredible ministry. Y'all are letting God do some great things.

I just read another Blog that used the name El Roi for God. It means the God that sees me. Thanks for making me look and see the "masks" I am wearing. Great post.

Susanne said...

For a minute there I thought Mel Gibson had shown up at your party! What a cool ministry you guys have there and my hats off to you for working with youth. That is huge and not everybody has a heart for that hard work! My prayers are with you!

We do tend to hide behind masks in this life don't we?

Melanie said...

Thank you for sharing this exciting ministry. I love that you go where they are- just as Jesus did. We have to meet them where they are in life and be careful not to stay there with them, but lead them to a higher place- that place being salvation and discipleship, of course. It takes a strong Christian who is willing to "check" himself or herself constantly to stay in The Spirit. Sounds like you are where God has called you to be! How exciting!!

Anonymous said...

What wonderful approach! I love your motto. Too often, youth groups tend to focus more on entertainment than on the message, but it sounds like you guys have a well-balanced ministry. When the leaders themselves are challenged by the messages that the young people are hearing, you have to know that no one is leaving hungry. That is awesome and very exciting!

Linda said...

Well, no ministry is perfect, of course! sometimes we hit the mark, and sometimes we miss. There is a lot of seed sowing in this ministry. Thanks for stopping by.

Carol said...

That isn't a typical "outreach". It's more like a reformissional "pull in." I love it!

Cool costumes, too! That's what church should be - a place where the unchurched want to go.