No, not that talk. I mean the talk that comes at the end of each Young Life club. In my 4+ years on YL staff, I’ve been in many conversations about the talk, or proclamation. What is the message we are sharing with kids? What is the method? Are there limits? If so, what are they? From what streams of Christian tradition can we draw?
Club talks are given by volunteer leaders who are regularly spending time with kids. The time invested
in forming relationships with teenagers help leaders “earn the right to be heard,” or create a platform from which they can share the Gospel (I’ll get back to that word shortly). In general, the leader shares a bit about his or her life and experiences, reads a related story from the Bible, and encourages kids to apply that message to his or her life.
Sounds simple, right?
Let’s look at the story of the lost son in Luke 15. The parable is about a son who wishes his father dead, takes his inheritance, runs away from home, squanders his wealth, and comes home to a father waiting with open arms. Or, could it be that the parable is actually about Jesus? The son of the gracious Father is Jesus – he leaves heaven, inserts himself into the filth that is this world, and then makes his way back to the Father. Or, could it be that this parable isn’t even about the son, but it’s about the Father. The prodigal Father who loves so deeply that he makes a fool out of himself in order to restore relationship with his son.
I’ve read all these interpretations, presented by different theologians and scholars. Is one right and the other wrong? Or, are they simply different readings of the same parable?
And then there is the world Gospel. Gospel literally means “good news.” Yes, it mainly refers to the first four books of the New Testament, but can “good news” come from other places in Scripture? I heard a speaker say once, “if you don’t talk about Jesus, you’re not speaking the Gospel.” I’ll be the first to tell you that for a kid living in La Zona 3, hearing about a creation that is beautiful and good is gospel. For girls who are used to being pushed around, abused, and forgotten, the story of Hosea is gospel. Can we limit Gospel simply to the words Jesus said, or can we take a step back and see that truth and good news are woven throughout the biblical narrative? That “all things were created by, for, and through Jesus;” therefore, all good news is his good news.
Now we can see why talks get tricky – there is truth, but there is also the speaker and his interpretation, plus what the speaker has learned from his church, plus what he’s learned from his family and culture, plus what a given organization or church says is acceptable.
Why are all these thoughts running through my mind? Because I heard the most beautiful club talk last week. The leader did not prepare. He didn’t make an outline or write out his talk word for word. He neither opened his Bible nor referred to Scripture.
What did he say?
In summary, “I was once a part of a really powerful gang. People followed me, looked up to me. My little brothers (who were both in the room) wanted to be like me. One day, I realized I wasn’t worth following. So, I decided to start following someone that was. That’s when I started to follow Jesus. I want to be like him. It’s not about money, fame, or power. It’s about following my Savior. I hope that you all will follow him to.”
Simple. Beautiful. Gospel. While this leader would have failed the Proclamation class, I am confident that our kids heard truth that night.
My hope is that every conversation we have is laced with truth – no matter how mundane or significant that conversation is.