not gonna lie... we've been in a little bit if a funk at bvsa the last couple weeks. issue after issue. it has led us to a place where we feel like there is a disposition of entitlement and/or selfishness hanging over the rhinos.
maybe we have been guilty by creating an environment where "receiving" heavily outweighs giving. we talk a lot about giving, but perhaps don't implement enough tangible ways for the boys to practice it.
so we've had some tough talks lately. in fact last week at tuesday night discipleship class, i told the 12 boys who were there that my tank is running on empty and i have nothing left to give them. i compared myself to a pastor who shows up every sunday to teach, only to see the same faces in the same chairs - year after year - of people who aren't doing anything.
like the crowd in john 6, they just show up, and say "feed me." of course, jesus recognized the false motives right away and called it out. for me, it has taken a while to figure out, but i think we finally got it.
for the boys who have been here 4, 5, going on 6 years, its definitely time to get off momma's milk. time to start taking steps toward spiritual independence. steps toward real growth, and hopefully even leadership.
i am amazed at how jesus spent 3 years with the disciples, and from that point on they just exploded. the power of the holy spirit inside of them was unstoppable. they were human, so they certainly continued to make mistakes, but at least they didn't need their hands held anymore. they didn't seem to need "fed" every day - or even once a week. "attending" church was not an option for them... they became the church.
it was as if they made a specific decision that their days of being spectators were over. with the power of the holy spirit that jesus promised, they could now do the teaching, preaching, healing, baptizing, and discipling!
that, of course, is our desire for this place. that bvsa be a discipling ground for future men, who will become the husbands, dads, and spiritual leaders in the village. men who, like the disciples, don't need to be spoon-fed the gospel anymore! men who walk with jesus, love God's word, and realize the power of the holy spirit inside of them.
we talked about dialing down all of the constant giving from the academy to the rhinos. we talked about how we can create a culture of contribution, where everyone is giving and participating. we talked about a lot of things.
3 of the boys have quit since then. one literally saying "if you are saying you have nothing left to give me, then why would i even come?"
for a while, i was an emotional wreck. over the years, when a boy has quit, i typically find myself down at their house trying to talk them into returning. i usually feel an enormous pressure that their being in the academy is how they are going to meet Jesus... and so at all cost i need to get them back.
but this time, something in my spirit was saying "don't do it."
through much prayer, God led me to some scripture that helped calm me down and give peace. i read through the times that Jesus gave "tough teachings". when there were large crowds, he almost always took advantage of the moment by giving the most difficult teachings. he talked about dying to yourself, giving up your own desires, and being willing to give up everything to follow him. he talked about how you'll be persecuted, possibly even killed, for following him. he talked about how your own family will likely turn on you.
after these hard teachings, the people often bailed. i imagine they said things similar to what our rhino who quit said... "if there's nothing in this for me, i'm outta here."
but jesus didn't run after them, attempting to soften the message so that they might stay. he never tried to "convince" people to follow him. he shared God's unconditional love with people, while telling them the truth about the cost of following him... and he let the chips fall.
one time, after jesus gave a tough message, many of his followers turned away and no longer followed him. he turned to the disciples and said "do you not want to go away as well?" when i read the story in context, i kind of hear that comment in a sarcastic tone. almost like, "there's the door boys if you want to leave too."
but peter responds, "to whom shall we go? you have the words of eternal life..."
as we work toward correcting this issue of selfishness and entitlement that has crept into our ministry, please pray with us that our boys respond the same way.
that they realize that this academy, for many of them, is the only place they hear the truth. its where they learn about life, love, family, and sacrifice. as peter said, it's where they hear words of eternal life.
maybe in their first year, they come to the academy every day for the soccer, or for the delicious lunch! but i pray that as they begin to experience the love of jesus, and the words of eternal life, their hearts will change. they will become boys - young men - who will desire to give more than receive.
young men who will love giving so much, that they might even give up everything to follow jesus.