A couple of years ago, I attended a British youth work conference called the Youthwork Summit. One of the speakers made a passionate appeal to do more schoolwork in the UK. He showed statistics that prove very few teens go to church in the UK, but of course almost all of them go to school. It may therefore be the one place where they can encounter God. This gives British youth workers a unique opportunity, which in many countries doesn’t exist because in a lot of countries Christian youth workers aren’t allowed access to schools.
But that’s not what struck me about what he said. What struck me was this: many youth workers, or Christians doing any of ministry outside of the church, feel that ‘they bring God into the schools’ or that ‘they bring God into dark places’.
But God is already there, He is already everywhere.
I’ve been studying Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology and this is how he defined God’s omnipresence:
“God does not have size or spatial dimensions and is present at every point of space with His whole being, yet God acts differently in different places.”
God is present everywhere, there is no place on earth He isn’t present. David already knew that:
“Whither shall I go from thy spirit? Or whither shall I flee from thy presence? If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me.” (Psalm 139:7-10 KJV)
Wayne Grudem then goes on to show that most of the time, God is present to bless. Where the Bible speaks of God’s presence, it’s almost always referring to His presence to bless. God wants to bless, to show His love where ever He is present.
Lat Blaylock, the speaker at the YouthWork Summit, used a quote from Meister Eckhart to illustrate how God is present: “God is like a person who clears his throat while hiding and so gives himself away.”
God is already everywhere and you can be sure He’s at work, willing to bless people. When we go out into schools, into the streets, or into any place where God isn’t clearly visible, our job, then, is to make His presence known. We don’t bring God anywhere, but we can make sure people recognize His presence. We can make sure that the clearing of His throat is being heard (or as Lat Blaylock said: “Woe to you who make too much noise, God’s throat clearing is fairly quiet”)
A few years ago I read a book that really impacted my view on discovering God’s will in situations. It’s called Experiencing God: Knowing and Doing the Will of God and it’s written by Henry Blackaby and Claude King. In it, they showed that discovering what God wants you to do often comes down to this: Watch to see where God is at work and join Him.
They use the example of Zaccheus to show that that’s what Jesus did too, Jesus looked for where His Father was at work. When He saw Zaccheus in that tree, He knew that nobody could seek after Him with that much devotion unless the Father was at work in Him. That’s why He chose to go with Zaccheus.
If then God is already present everywhere,
If He is present to bless,
If He’s already at work…
All we need to do is watch to see where He is at work and then join Him.
So the question is: how do you recognize where God is at work? I’m convinced that discernment only comes from spending a lot of time with God, from getting to know His will and His works. God Himself then will guide you through His Holy Spirit and show you where He’s already at work.
“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10 KJV)
Where do you see God at work in your youth ministry? How could you join Him?