Sola Scriptura

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From the time I was saved in my early teens, God has instilled in me a curiosity of His Word, the Bible. Of all the subjects to be learned I believed biblical studies to be most important. This conviction led me not only to regular reading of the Bible, but also to higher education in biblical studies and my passion for preaching and teaching God’s Word.

Around five centuries ago the leaders of the Protestant Reformation quickly came to the similar conviction of Sola Scriptura (Latin for Scripture Alone), which was one of the foundational pillars of the Reformation. After more than a millennium at that time, the Bible had been mediated by many secondary authorities: popes, priests, church offices, councils, creeds, and traditions. There was tremendous spiritual darkness because the light of God’s Word was but a flicker. Most churches did indeed have a Bible on the premises, but it was the 1,000-year-old Latin version called the Vulgate. It was in a language the common people did not know and it was often chained to a table so that it could not be removed. But the driving conviction of Sola Scriptura was the primary catalyst for the Reformation: the driving view that the Bible is the sole infallible authority on matters of faith and practice concerning Christian theology and living.

Because of the primacy and importance of the doctrine of the Word of God, it has often come under attack. This is not surprising since the most devastating tactic of Satan is to sever people from God’s revelation, authority, and truth to lead them into sin (Gen 3:1-4). The 66 books in the Bible are God’s authoritative revealed truth to humanity. Revelation means “disclosure” or “unveiling,” which is where God discloses His character, plan, purposes, and promises that would otherwise not be known. Since the source of the biblical writings is God Himself, they are authoritative in such a way that to disbelieve or to disobey them is to disbelieve or to disobey God Himself (2 Tim 3:16; 2 Pet 1:20-21). The Bible is also truthful in that every word is dependable, accurate, and trustworthy, making propositions that correspond with reality (Ps 119:160; John 17:17). These truths about the Bible led theologian B. B. Warfield to say, “The Bible is the Word of God in such a way that when the Bible speaks, God speaks.”

Thankfully, conservative theologians have worked hard to refute skeptical and critical claims made against the trustworthiness of the Bible by developing clear doctrines on the Word of God. The doctrine of inspiration clarifies the process by which God’s written revelation was accurately received. Inspiration means the Holy Spirit superintended the writers so that they wrote according to their own styles and personalities with the result of God’s written Word that is free from error in the original autographs (2 Tim 3:16; 1 Pet 1:21). Inerrancy means that in these original autographs there is nothing untrue or contrary to fact regarding any topic (theology, history, science, geography, etc.; Ps 116:160; John 17:17).

Additional doctrines include the clarity of Scripture, which means the main teachings of the Bible are written in such a way that they are readily understood by those who read it and seek God’s help in believing and obeying it (Ps 119:130; 1 Cor 2:10-16). The sufficiency of Scripture means that the inspired writings contain everything God’s people need for salvation, faith, and practice (2 Tim 3:16-17; 2 Pet 1:3). The canon of Scripture means that God led His people to discern and recognize the inspired writings comprising the 66 books in the Bible (Deut 4:2; Rev 22:18-19). The transmission of the Bible means that God providentially oversaw the copying of the original manuscripts and preserved them so that they can be accurately reproduced in our time with certainty. God also blesses His people with illumination, which is the ministry of the Holy Spirit where the mind of the believer is enabled to understand the Word of God (1 Cor 2:10-16; 1 John 2:20, 27).

Another important point on understanding and interpreting the Word of God is the practice of letting Scripture interpret Scripture. I have always been amazed by cross references and different passages that state the same truth again, expand an idea, or develop a topic from a different angle. Scripture will interpret Scripture, and the more familiar we are with the entirety of God’s Word, the more connections we will make, and the more clarity we will have. God’s Word is a unified whole speaking with a unified voice because it was superintended by one divine mind, therefore it is never going to contradict itself. It is also helpful to let clearer passages interpret difficult or hard to understand passages and to be suspicious of teachings that lean heavily on one passage but fail to find support in any other passages in the Bible. It is with great confidence that I can say every main Christian doctrine (Bible, Trinity, Salvation, Church, Future) is supported and developed by numerous passages from Genesis to Revelation.

With the new year beginning, I am once again motivated to make a renewed commitment to reading and studying the Word of God. As a pastor, I want to encourage my family of faith here at Congregational Bible Church in the same practice. We should be excited to start off this new year looking forward to all the spiritual growth God wants to do in our lives when we let His Word dwell in our hearts richly (Col 3:16; 1 Tim 3:16-17).

Youth and the Family of God

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Since becoming a pastor, one area of theology God has put upon my heart is the nature and function of the church. The church is a great blessing from God. It is called the body of Christ, a God-ordained institution where individual Christians come together to form a Christ-centered Gospel community. The Christian church was established by Jesus upon the profession of Peter that affirmed Jesus as the Christ (the prophesied Anointed One), the divine Son of God, Savior, and Lord (Matt 16:15-18). The word “church” means the “called out” ones, those whom God calls unto salvation in Jesus Christ to be in the local assembly, congregation, or community of Christians. Those who are in the church of Jesus Christ make the same profession as Peter, and that is what binds them together. Christians are not called to live their life alone but are called to remain in constant fellowship with God and with one another (1 John 1:1-7).

The blueprint for the church is given in the New Testament where it is pictured as a community of the redeemed who come together primarily to exalt God (John 4:24; 1 Cor 15:3-4; Eph 1:3-14; Col 3:16), to edify believers (2 Cor 3:18; Eph 4:12-16; Col 1:28), and to evangelize the lost (Matt 28:18-20; 2 Cor 5:11-21). Our church has developed these same directives under the headings of celebrating God, cultivating believers, caring for one another, and communicating Christ. Acts 2:40-47 is a wonderful picture of what the very first Christian church did: they believed Jesus was Savior and Lord, repented of their sins, and were baptized; they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching (now the Word of God in the New Testament), they prayed, fellowshipped, and shared communion; they shared their possessions with those who had need; they opened up their homes and lives to each other; and they praised God, worshipping together, while having an impact on everyone in the community. This was the work of God as it says He was the one who added to their number those who were being saved.

One of the most endearing and profound pictures of the church is that it is the spiritual family of God (1 Tim 5:1-2). God is the Father who loves and who saves through His Son Jesus Christ (Matt 6:9; John 3:16; 1 Cor 8:6). Jesus said this bond of spiritual family unity is even stronger than that of biological families (Matt 12:50). Everyone is an adopted child into the Family of God, with the Holy Spirit working in us so that we cry out to our Father in heaven (Rom 8:15; Gal 4:4-7). Christians, whether older or younger, are united to form a spiritual family that is passionate about fulfilling the will of God and participating in the ministries of the church, again being the worship of God, the edification of brothers and sisters, and the discipleship of the lost.

With only a brief glimpse into our culture and society around us, we can tell that families are broken, hurting, fractured, and disintegrating. Families suffer from parents who are absent, abusive, or uncaring. These observations may be bleak, but I speak as someone who grew up as a teenager mostly with one parent who was constantly working to make ends meet. These are the realities of our time. So, speaking from personal experience and from a heart informed by the biblical picture of the family of God, our church has a tremendous opportunity to help struggling families and especially to reach out to and to invest in the youth.

Christian fellowship means adoption into the family of God. Therefore my ministry goal is not just to facilitate a separate small group with the youth one day a week, but to connect them with the wider body of the church. Sometimes it is easy to get sidetracked into thinking greater attendance or general moral improvement means success, while instead, success means the youth are engaged and maturing members of the corporate church family. It is a constant theme in my teaching that God’s love has not only saved people as individuals but has united them to Christ and to every other Christian in the bond of a loving family. Youth events, retreats, and activities are geared toward fostering this mindset with the involvement of older, more mature believers connecting with the younger generation (Titus 2:1-8).

Reflecting on the family of God in the church and how it can impact the youth warms my heart. The challenge to grow and to build this family means it takes prayer, initiative, and intentionality to act as an impassioned congregation of believers who want to draw in and draw closer to others and bond like a family. What spiritual parent or mentor or leader can we honor and thank today? What youth can we invest in as family? What brother can we reach out to? What sister can we serve? These questions are the ones we should be asking and acting on as they arise from the profound truth that the church is to be the close and loving family of God in Jesus Christ.

- Pastor Spencer Carpenter

Preaching God's Word in Youth Ministry

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Pastors called to shepherd God’s people will be marked with a passion to study and to share the Word of God with others. Pastoral ministry centers on the Word of God. The apostles, who were the church’s first pastors, summarized their ministry as one of prayer and preaching the Word (Acts 6:2, 4). Teaching the Word was so closely connected with being a pastor that these two roles are presented as one with pastor-teachers (Eph 4:11). Paul described preaching the Word of God as a charge to be undertaken before God Himself to be carried out at all times with patience and persistence (2 Tim 4:2). Preaching is presented as the leading responsibility of the pastor, who strives to be both a man of God and a man of the Word.

The main content of preaching is the Word of God: inspired, inerrant, infallible, authoritative, one hundred percent true and vital for spiritual growth and maturity. Biblical truth is the nourishment for starving souls: as important as food is for the body, so our spiritual lives are dependent on the regular intake of the Word (Deut 8:3). Constant meditation on God’s Word results in abundant joy and growth and even prosperity and success if God wills (Ps 1:1-3). God’s Word is described as perfect, certain, right, pure, clean, and true, giving the benefits of wisdom of the mind, joy of the heart, revival of the soul, practical righteousness in life, and enlightening of the eyes to understand more truth (Ps 19:7-9). The Bible is the means God uses to grow people in faith and holiness, as Jesus Himself said: “Sanctify them in the truth; your Word is truth” (John 17:17).

These verses help clarify my pastoral role in ministering to the youth and the best use of youth group time, events, and special meetings. The main ministry of the church as a whole and of youth group specifically is the diligent teaching and preaching of the Word of God. The expounding of the Bible provides the truth that edifies and matures young or new believers into Christian adulthood. Commitment to expositional teaching instructs on the authority of the Bible, theology, how the Bible is to be interpreted and applied, and the teachings of Christ which will cultivate devoted, committed, and mature Christ followers.

The method for expounding the Word of God to the youth is expository preaching and teaching. Expository preaching is the clear and accurate explanatory proclamation of the Word of God, in the power of the Holy Spirit, through the Christian man of God acting as His herald, with the aim of inducing understanding, obedience, salvation, sanctification, and true worship of God among hearers.

Expository preaching is expositional in that it strives to explain, make clear, make plain, and elucidate the meaning of the biblical text and set forth its main message and points organized following the content and structure found in the text in a highly understandable and memorable way. Preaching is the public proclamation, declaration, communication, and conveyance of God’s Word in a dynamic, engaging, and persuasive manner through the man of God who has first personally applied it and then is appointed to act as a mouthpiece for God’s message expressed in the biblical text. (See Neh 8:8; Acts 2:14-40; 6:4; 10:42; Rom 10:15; 1 Cor 2:1-5; Eph 4:11-16; Col 1:28; 1 Tim 3:16-17; 4:2)

What is the best way to convey God’s Word to the youth in the church? Preaching and teaching the Bible to the youth has its special challenges, and yet it also has is special opportunities. As youth pastor, I first and foremost want to teach and to preach the Bible with great clarity by having clear points to outline the passage and explanations for what each verse, phrase, or word means. I want students to be encouraged that the Bible is straightforward in its main message and teaching, and that there are plenty of resources for them to learn more.

The youth certainly have a great amount of energy and it takes teaching the Bible in a clear and engaging way to keep their focus. Asking practical questions from the passage and opening it up for brief discussion often draws out interest and curiosity. Prayer before and after the lesson based on the passage helps to focus their minds and to personally apply its practical points, even as God is petitioned to aid in these very areas. Ideally, there is time left after the main teaching for small groups where volunteer leaders go through questions on the lesson, which helps with further understanding and application.

Ministry of the Word to the youth is happening all the time when discipleship and fellowship take place outside of normal youth meetings and the Sunday service: special events, informal meetings to fellowship as friends, or even seeing each other at School or around town. The Word of God is preached and then practiced at all times. Adults and youth leaders should actively strive to proactively engage students for the purpose of edification in the truth while also being consistent Christian role models practicing the truth. All of these considerations work together so that the Word of Christ dwells richly in the heart of every student in youth ministry (Col 3:16-17).

My passion is to instill in our students the same conviction and curiosity in the Bible I had when I was a young believer in my teens. When I was growing up in my youth group, I was convinced that the Bible was God’s Word, so I desired to read and learn more about it constantly. It was my curiosity in knowing biblical truth that led me to discover the delight of learning more and growing in my faith. In the end, it is truly the sharing of this delight in God’s Word that will ground students firmly in truth and root them for ongoing life-long spiritual growth.

-Pastor Spencer Carpenter

DISCIPLES MAKING DISCIPLES

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Followers of Jesus Christ will be marked by their passionate priority to make and multiply Christian disciples. Jesus’ central command in the Great Commission was to make disciples, and the going, baptizing, and teaching the commandments of Christ explain how to fulfill this task (Matt 28:19-20). The term “disciple” means a pupil, a student, a learner, an apprentice, or an adherent. Being a disciple means one who is a close follower of a certain teacher, advocating the same teachings and striving to apply them to every area of life.

The Great Commission applied specifically to the youth means making disciples of Jesus Christ by shepherding the youth to mature into devoted, committed, and serving adult Christians. The foundation of discipleship is the formation of relationships between Christians with the intention of helping believers grow in maturity, learning and applying Christ’s commandments and the principles found in the Word of God to all of life. Discipleship relationships in the church, and specifically in youth ministry, need to be intentionally fostered between students and more mature believers.

The purpose of discipleship is to cultivate lifelong-learners who will follow and grow in their relationship with Jesus Christ. Christian mentors are to lead, teach, and model, but the most important need is to direct disciples to know and to grow in their personal relationship with Jesus Christ (Phil 3:8; 2 Pet 3:18). Information, teaching, organization, and programs are important, but their goal is to encourage students toward greater submission, obedience, and devotion.

The pattern for discipleship is the life and ministry of Jesus Christ. Jesus initiated the relationship with His first disciples by calling them to a radical commitment to follow Him (Matt 4:18-22; Mark 1:16-34; Luke 5:1-11). Calling others to follow is evangelism and then every step of growth and commitment starting at saving faith and repentance is discipleship. Disciple-makers therefore need to take the initiative: evangelizing for new disciples, following up on evangelism, asking and arranging meeting times, inviting to events or service opportunities where spiritually enriching conversation and fellowship take place.

Discipleship with the youth or otherwise has never been easy: it takes reaching out; it takes time and resources; it takes transparency investing spiritually in others; it takes persevering sometimes even when growth appears very slow or non-existent. But such is the mission of the church, and for every strong Christ-follower, you can guarantee that they had strong Christian mentors discipling them in their walk of faith along the way. Disciple-makers are not passive, but active in initiating, inviting, and investing regularly in the lives of those they have sought out and have committed themselves to mentoring.

The most powerful mentors and disciple-makers are those who can personally identify with those they are mentoring. It is wise for those who have gone through the same seasons of life and struggles of the Christian faith to reach out to those just beginning these same experiences. The Bible says that there should be discipleship relationships established between older men and women in the church with the younger generation concerning the practical realities of the Christian life (Titus 2:1-8). In fact, the Bible states the church is a family, and everyone should view others as fathers, mothers, sons, and daughters (1 Tim 5:1-2). Our church as a family needs to be purposeful in establishing these connections. Who in a different season of life, in the older or younger generation, are you pursuing for the sake of discipleship? I pray that these connections between the wiser and more mature generation and the youth flourishes here at Congregational Bible Church.

Identifying with others also means coming to the discipleship relationship knowing everyone has sin, immaturities, strengths, and weaknesses (Rom 3:23; 1 Cor 3:1-3; Eph 4:13-15). No one wants to open up about their temptations, sin struggles, or life difficulties to those they view as strangers who do not or cannot identify with them; on the contrary, the strongest and most endearing friendships are possible and should happen in discipleship. One can tell when a discipleship relationship has reached maturity when honest and transparent accountability begins to happen and admonition, correction, and confrontation takes place with the mutual understanding that it is based on love and concern (Gal 6:1-5; Eph 4:15; Col 3:16; James 5:16; 19-20). When the youth sense you love them, it is amazing how they will open up and seek biblical counsel.

Discipleship with a busy schedule will always be difficult, but it does not need to be complicated. Preplanning meetings together with the purpose of prayer, Bible study, devotionals, or asking and exploring questions on faith and practice should be straightforward. Three major points of focus are helpful for discipleship meetings: the love of Jesus, the love of others, and the love of mission. The first priority is the love of Christ: how much Jesus loves them, and in response one’s love toward Jesus shown in affection, submission, obedience, and service (John 13:1-20; 14:15; 15:9-17; Eph 5:1).

Loving others in general fellowship and service will serve to enhance and strengthen Christ-centered discipleship (John 13:34-35; Eph 4:2-3; 1 Pet 3:8; 1 John 4:12-13). The opportunities for the youth to serve are very important for their growth as they build connections with other church members who are serve alongside them. Love of mission means stirring up the passion to make more disciples who in turn go, baptize, and teach obedience to the commands of Christ (Matt 28:19-20). Mission does not only mean going on a mission trip, but instead encouraging fellow Christians, and especially the youth, to view their schools, athletic fields, workplaces, and homes as rich mission fields.

In the end, discipleship needs to be a priority, because it is the primary mission of the church and every ministry it undertakes. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the beginning, middle, and end of discipleship. Jesus’ call for radical commitment, obedience, service, sacrifice, and heartfelt worship has not changed (Matt 4:18-22; 5:10-12; Mark 10:45; 12:30-31; Luke 9:23; John 4:24; 14:15). As disciple makers we endeavor to follow in the footsteps of Christ and become examples to help others along the path with us (1 Cor 11:1). Are we making disciples?

- Pastor Spencer Carpenter

Gospel-Centered Youth Ministry

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How do I as a youth pastor work to make the youth ministry at Congregational Bible Church Gospel-centered? How is ministry conducted so that the youth come to saving faith in Jesus Christ, a faith that will then be cultivated to mature into committed faith for the rest of their lives? God’s working and power in salvation are sovereign, but every pastor and every ministry have a responsibility to be proclaiming the Gospel and calling people to fix their eyes upon Jesus, who is the author and perfecter of faith (Heb 12:2).    

Step one is understanding the sins and life difficulties that are prevalent among the youth. It is naïve to think that young people sin less or face lesser hardships than adults. God’s Word reveals the true nature of people young and old: “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom 3:23). Teenagers and younger experience every temptation, trial, and issue of adults. The youth are exposed to divorce, alcohol, drugs, materialism, profanity, pornography, promiscuity, sexual and physical abuse, suicide, violence, and death. The picture is bleak, and the Bible says sin enslaves, but such has been the case since the fall of Adam and Eve in the garden (Gen 3; Rom 5:12-6:23). 

Teenagers’ sins may be viewed as arising from three general issues: a wrong view of God, the Bible, and themselves. First, the youth are plagued with faulty and hazy views of who God is and His character. From not believing God exists all the way to viewing God as a cosmic Santa Clause, the loving, good, sovereign, and holy God must be presented as the one and only true God (Exod 20:3-7; 34:6-7; Deut 6:4; 1 Cor 8:4-6). The background and foundation of the Gospel is a good and loving God who sent His Son to die on behalf of sinners; essentially a heavenly Father desiring to be reconciled to His lost and wayward children (Luke 15:11-32; John 3:16; Rom 5:8-11).

Second, the youth fail to understand that the Bible is God’s authoritative truth that speaks into their lives and confronts their sins (Ps 119:9-11, 160; John 17:17). There is a battle raging over the hearts and minds of young people, but the issue is no different than what happened in the garden with Adam and Eve: truth versus lies and error (Gen 3:1-5). The Bible must be continually presented as the inerrant source of truth that comes directly from God (2 Tim 3:16-17; 2 Pet 1:20-21). It must also be taught in such a way that the youth realize it is sufficient for guidance spiritually and practically for the issues they face; this is the cultivation of Bible study that builds maturity with wisdom (Prov 1; 2 Pet 1:3).

Third, the youth fail to understand themselves in terms of their sin nature and who God made them to be. God made every person in His image with dignity, value, and personality (Gen 1:26-27). But then the fall of humanity into sin defaced this image. The forces of evil and depraved culture press hard to confuse the youth and to cause them to define themselves according to their sinful and false identities. Those who are young are intuitively asking the deepest question: Who am I? The Gospel message is rooted in the truth that God is the good Creator who made them fearfully and wonderfully with limitless value and dignity in His eyes, for He sacrificed His Son Jesus Christ for them out of love to pay for their sins (Gen 1; John 3:16).        

Step two is understanding how the power of God in the Gospel unto salvation directly saves and transforms the souls of lost sinners. The cross of Jesus Christ shows the depth of everyone’s sin problem: it cost God His precious and sinless Son Jesus Christ to save sinners (Isa 53:1-12; 1 Pet 1:18-19). Jesus Christ stood in the place of sinners bearing their sin, guilt, and punishment in order to satisfy the wrath of God (Mark 10:45; Rom 1:18; 3:21-26; 2 Cor 5:21). Jesus’ death was a sacrifice, and by the shedding of His precious blood, atonement was made unto forgiveness (Matt 26:28; Heb 9:22, 26). Redemption means the price for sins was paid on the cross, both the penalty of sin and its power, bringing about forgiveness and the Holy Spirit empowered ability to live righteously (Matt 20:28; Rom 6:18; 8:1-2; 1 Tim 2:6). Reconciliation is the greatest blessing, meaning that in the work of the atonement the enmity between a holy God and sinful people because of sin has been removed, resulting in peace and joy in restored fellowship (Rom 5:10-11; 2 Cor 5:18-19). 

The before mentioned problems and sin issues are overwhelming and unsolvable apart from the Gospel message and its transforming effects: sinners dead spiritually in sins are made alive, old creation becomes new, separation becomes reconciliation (Eph 2:1-10, 16; 2 Cor 5:17). The greatest need for youth leaders and students therefore is the Gospel, with leaders growing in their knowledge, depth, and clarity of this message, and proclaiming it as the only message God’s empowers to save souls and transform lives.       

What specific steps are taken to make the youth group Gospel-centered? First, the Gospel is proclaimed whenever the opportunity arises: during lessons, during special events, and in private conversations. It is my practice periodically to give a Gospel presentation that interrupts our regular study though a book, or to proclaim it at our special events. Second, continuously seek Gospel clarity and understanding among the youth. I find it helpful to ask the youth to explain the Gospel to me, and then I can tell what is clear or unclear in their minds. Third, minister the Gospel personally. Food, activities, and group lessons are great, but one on one time with pastors and volunteers connecting with students is going to be most effective in presenting and guiding the youth to believe the Gospel and to personally trust Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord.      

In the end, ministry of the Gospel remains straightforward: proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ dying to pay for sins and rising again on the third day in season and out of season (1 Cor 15:3-4; 2 Tim 4:2). This must be done at every opportunity, with razor sharp clarity, and personally. Gospel witness remains the same, but with a special awareness of the particular struggles affecting young people and a higher sensitivity to how clear or unclear the Gospel is in their minds. I pray to God that the youth ministry here at Congregational Bible Church maintains this Gospel focus and bears a rich harvest of souls being saved into the kingdom.      

-       Pastor Spencer

Shepherding the Youth with Purpose and Care

What does it take to shepherd the youth at Congregational Bible Church and in the community of Shafter with Bible based purpose and pastoral care? This important question is on the forefront of my mind as I begin this exciting season of my life as youth pastor here at Congregational Bible Church.

As it is with all the ministries in the church, youth ministry needs a clear purpose statement. Christian youth ministry exists to make disciples of Jesus Christ, shepherding the youth to mature into devoted, committed, and serving Christian adults. This purpose statement follows the charge of the Great Commission and of pastoral ministry (Matt 28:19-20; Eph 4:11; 1 Pet 5:2-4). 

The following are specific areas of youth ministry that will be pursued under the purpose statement:

Expositional Bible Teaching. The main ministry of the church as a whole, and of the youth group specifically, is the diligent teaching and preaching of the Word of God. Youth ministry centers on Bible teaching and preaching that is understandable to this age group, which creates a discipleship atmosphere where young men and women learn, are challenged to live in accordance with God’s Word, and are encouraged to grow into mature Christian adulthood (Ps 119:9; Prov 1-9; Matt 28:19-20). The expounding of the Bible provides the truth that edifies and matures young Christians into Christian adulthood. Commitment to expositional teaching instructs on the authority of the Bible, how the Bible is to be interpreted and applied, theology, and the teachings of Christ, which will cultivate devoted, committed, and mature Christ followers. Such a commitment to in-depth and comprehensive Bible preaching and teaching is my commitment and charge as youth pastor.    

Discipleship. Discipleship is the formation of relationships between Christians with the intention of helping believers grow in maturity as committed followers of Jesus Christ. Disciples are followers who desire to learn more about the teachings of Jesus Christ and want to obey and to skillfully apply His teachings to every area of life. Discipleship relationships will be intentionally fostered in youth ministry between students and more mature believers. Adult volunteers are always welcome, and student leaders are always being mentored, bearing the fruit of mature followers of Jesus Christ who continue in lifelong faithful Christian commitment and service (Matt 28:19-20).     

Peer Fellowship. Discipleship happens continually in the life of the church and during every meeting and activity of the youth group. It is vital for young Christians to have peers to fellowship within Christian community in similar stages of life. Peer fellowship helps the youth to mature in the Christian faith by offering the encouragement and edification of peers. Youth ministry serves to intentionally foster these relationships between students during youth group, special events, and Sunday service. As youth pastor, it is my special concern to facilitate meetings and events that balance enjoyable recreation and focused times of ministering the Word of God, but with peer fellowship in mind; every moment of both contribute to growing Christian community and relationships.   

Church Attendance and Service. Participation in youth group will always be presented as the first step in membership and service to the church as a whole. Students will be taught that being a Christian means being a part of the body of Christ, meaning they are vital members united to all those who proclaim Christ and are committed to assembling together as a local congregation. Students will be taught that God has established Congregational Bible Church as their family of faith in which they are to participate in and serve regularly. Those involved in service in youth ministry will be encouraged to help students to regularly attend church service and events in terms of offering rides. Youth ministry will strive to be integrated and not segregated when it comes to the connection, attendance, participation, and service the youth have in the church body (Heb 10:24-25).

Evangelism. Youth ministry is one of the most fertile fields for sowing the seed of the Gospel message and gathering in a harvest of saved souls and transformed lives. As youth pastor, I long to see young people trust in Jesus Christ personally so that they are born again, redeemed, and spiritually healed, and great joy comes when they then go on to live as witnesses to a dead, lost, and broken world. It is understood that many who may attend youth group do not have any background in understanding the Gospel message. Believing students are encouraged to bring their unbelieving friends to youth group or certain events for the purpose of evangelism. Proclamation of the Gospel will be central: leaders will be equipped to share the Gospel; students will become equipped to share the Gospel; and all those who attend are encouraged and welcomed to ask questions about the Gospel message (John 3:16; Rom 1:16-17; 1 Cor 15:3-4). 

In the end, shepherding the youth is fundamentally the same as ministering the Word of God to saints of Congregational Bible Church of all ages, but with special care for the specific needs, levels of understanding, and various stages of maturity of young people. My heart as a pastor is challenged to be engaged in the work of the ministry to such a precious group of people, shepherding them from first-faith to a firm and vibrant faith that brings glory to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.      

-    Pastor Spencer Carpenter