by Phil Bell of Life Church in Canton, MI.

It stands to reason that it’s not a good idea to buy hair products from someone with no hair. It stands to reason that you should not go to a dentist who has teeth like Austin Powers. It should stand to reason that our students will not likely pursue God passionately if it is not modeled for them. It should also stand to reason that students will not intensely pursue their friends for Jesus if they do not see key people in their lives doing the same. Therefore, If you and I want to see students become passionate about God (Deep) and passionate about reaching their friends for Him (Wide), we need to ask some honest questions of ourselves:

  • How are we modelling this for them?
  • What passion for Jesus do the students see in us?
  • What do our lives display to make the gospel worth intensely following? 

Before I go further, let’s pause for a minute… I want to be clear that you and I ultimately are not the answer to what students need. Jesus is! But we are certainly a guide and shepherd to help them discover and embrace Him.  Therefore, do students see someone before them who can be trusted to lead the way? They need someone who will navigate an exciting path with and for them. Do they see passion and authenticity evident in our lives and will they follow us as we follow Jesus? 

I believe that when we read 1 Thessalonians Chapter 1, we are given a great picture of the power of example to the students around us:

You know how we lived among you for your sake. 6You became imitators of us and of the Lord; in spite of severe suffering, you welcomed the message with the joy given by the Holy Spirit. 7And so you became a model to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia. 8The Lord’s message rang out from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia—your faith in God has become known everywhere.     – 1 Thessalonians 1:5b-8

In this chapter I am challenged by the idea that faith is caught more than it is taught as students become imitators of us and of the Lord. And the key is not to be their hero or best friend. The key is to be an authentic Christ follower who students want to become like. As you and I imitate Him, our lives become magnetic to them and they begin to discover and embrace Jesus. What’s more important is this: When these students themselves are living out the deep and wide principles, they too begin to impact their friends, families and communities in ways we would never had imagined. Their faith in God will be known everywhere… Can you begin to dream of what that could look like in some of your students lives in the next few years? 

So, what kind of imitators are your students becoming? Today, take a look at some areas of your leadership and consider what small and important things you can do to model authentic faith to your students. But most of all, take some time today to allow God to fill you up with His presence. What is God saying to you today about who He wants you to become? How will that impact your students? How will impact God’s Kingdom?

Phil BellPhil Bell
Pastor of Student Ministries
Life Church

3 thoughts on “The Deep and Wide Leader

  1. The first step to influencing students to live the Christ way is to show them the futility of living life as dictated by TV and the Media. Over the years there are some things that have become culturally instilled in the minds of students e.g. binge drinking. Binge drinking is accepted as normal and expected of college students and this was not always the case.

    While modeling oneself after Christ does help, what would help more is to encourage the children define themselves after the law of God and shun the laws of man, daily!

  2. I don’t feel that law or gospel is more important than the other, they must work TOGETHER.

    My point really is this: Students respond positively to the possibility of following a radical, loving and embracing Savior when it is modeled for them. I have found that students are less likely to respond when it is presented in the negative.

    Students live in a world where talk is cheap and many adults are fake. Our example TOGETHER with BIBLICAL TEACHING will be effective. But we need to understand that students will look at our lives closely to examine if what we are saying is true and worth following whole heartedly.

    In 1 Timothy 4 Paul encourages Timothy to watch his life and doctrine closely, because if he did he would save himself and his hearers. Timothy lived in a world of false teachers (like our culture of today). Paul knew that if Timothy held fast to his life and doctrine it would be his fruit that would eventually allow people to see the real truth from the false teaching. Did Timothy teach people in Ephesus to define themselves after the law of God? I bet he did! However, Paul once again teaches that the power of example and helping people to imitate Christ through our own faith walk is imperative….

  3. Phil – great article. Thanks for sharing your insights and your challenge to all of us as Youth Leaders to step up and set the example. Keep the articles coming!

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