Our theme for 2019 is “The Body.” This is explored in our studies, our podcasts, and weekly in our blog. Today’s blog is titled….
The Body of Christ is Sacrificial
Zeke Stephenson is the Minister of Youth and Missions at Heritage Baptist Church in Cartersville, Georgia. He as served at Heritage since August of 2016. Zeke received his Masters of Divinity from the McAfee School of Theology at Mercer University in Atlanta, Georgia where his concentration was in Community Development. Zeke is married to Anna Kate, a fellow minister, and they have a cat named Louie and a dog named Scout.
My congregation is in a rural community in North Georgia, about 35 miles outside of the city of Atlanta. We are a growing community, however, we still have that small town vibe. Just like many small towns, there is a church on nearly every corner. With that being said, we as a congregation participate in a community outreach program called “Backpack Buddies.” Many communities have programs like this, so it is common that churches participate in such a program. If you are unaware of what this program does, it aims to make sure that school aged children living in low-income families, have enough food to get them through the weekend, because for many children, the meals that they get at school are the only meals that they get in a day.
We have volunteers that help make sure that our responsibilities are taken care of for backpack buddies week after week. Most of them are older, retired individuals, but we do have an occasional teenager, looking for community service hours who will volunteer their time to come help pack food bags, or sort food donations.
One Sunday evening, I was getting ready for our weekly snack supper before Bible study, and one of my middle school youth and her little brother comes into the church and asks if I can help them get some backpack buddy items out of their mom’s car. When I got out there, I was overwhelmed by what I saw. Their large, family SUV was packed to the brim with non-perishable food items. When I asked them where they got all of the items, they both looked at me and told me that they had decided to have a joint birthday party, and instead of asking for gifts from their friends and their families, they asked for Backpack Buddies items that they could then donate to the church that would stock our shelves for weeks to come. I was completely blown away by the thoughtfulness of this teenager and her younger brother.
In youth ministry, I often get frustrated by teenagers and their focus that is often on themselves, not because of anything that they are doing, but because of the nature of being a teenager. This drive to be the most popular, the drive to have the best shoes or clothing item, and the drive to have the newest iPhone to be able to take the best selfie. But I am finding that time after time, teenagers are some of the most giving and thoughtful people that I know. It is moments like these, that make me realize that youth get what it means to live a sacrificial life. The life of Jesus has taught us that being a part of the body of Christ is to live a life that is sacrificial, making sure that the needs of others are placed above ourselves. It is moments like this that make me proud to be a youth minister because I believe that congregations have much to learn about what it means to be the body of Christ from the teenagers that are among them.