This one is pretty big. While the previous hesitancy is something that hindered me at first, this is still a huge concern for me, one that I’m sure will be around for a while.
You see, I don’t know a whole lot about theology. My own theology, first of all, is still in the making. My core faith is in Jesus: in His saving love, His unending grace, His beautiful joy, and His promise of peace. A large part of what I believe also comes from my assertion that I need to see Christ in EVERY person and to treat them as such. This involves how I relate to people, how I serve the broken and rejected, and how I treat every person with whom I come into contact. I also believe that we have a God who comforts the disturbed and disturbs the comfortable (thank you, Shane Claiborne).
Other than that, I’m not necessarily the most theologically developed individual in the world. Let’s face it, I find Thomas Aquinas, Erasmus, and Voltaire a bit over my head. I’m only mildly interested in John Wesley, Paul Tillich, and Thomas Merton. I really have no idea what systematic theology, exegesis, hypostatic union, or eschatology mean. Alright, I admit that most high school students won’t be concerned with these things, but that’s not the point.
Probably my biggest fear in youth ministry is that I won’t be able to make a difference in the lives of the youth. So what do I do when the big issues come up? When they ask how an all-knowing, all-powerful, all-loving God lets stuff like wars and natural disasters and genocide happen? When they bring up God killing people in the Old Testament? When they ask me about my stance on hell, divorce, drinking, homosexuality, and more? How do I adequately discuss consubstantiation VS transubstantiation, infant VS adult baptism, women in ministry, or the role of church in state? Some of those can be make or break for a high school youth on the edge of finding his or her faith in God. What happens when I don’t have the answer?
Of course I know that I don’t always have to have the answer, that there are tons of resources, that I could talk to my pastor or a mentor if I were questioned, that I could investigate it with the youth by my side. But there are definitely things that I should know that I just don’t. Which is why seminary would be helpful.
As I thought about my calling for those first few days, I had this image of myself in front of a group of fifteen youth, asking if they had any questions about a lesson I had just given. One of them lays out this really relevant and eloquent question, and I don’t know the answer. I’m standing in front of them, and I really have no idea, not even an educated guess. This picture is enough to scare me a little, to make me rethink youth ministry.
There’s not a hard and fast way to get rid of this obstacle. It will take time, energy, and faith to move to the point where I’m not terrified by this image. And I am sure that something like this will happen at some point. For now, I will try to read some of those theologians, if only abbreviated versions. I will try to find the strength to ask myself those deep, difficult questions so that I will not only be ready for the challenge of some curios youth, I will also be ready for my own testing, for my own strengthening of faith.
From "Peanuts" by Charles Schultz
Today I turn around
Stop running away from Him.
Today I listen
And run toward.