I once punched a student. Or rather, I dreamt that I punched a student. I would like to say this dream was completely random—one those dreams that comes out of left field and can’t be explained. Truthfully, there is part of me that kinda enjoyed it. This particular student had been on my nerves. He was a leader in our group and had been, in my estimation, neglecting our student ministry in favor of school sports. There was constant tension between this student and me, as I was regularly challenging him to prioritize our student ministry and he was constantly defending his commitment to his team. I don’t want to read too much into my dream but I am pretty confident it was the result of my sinful subconscious desire to get my point across to this student.
As student pastors and leaders, it is our job to identify the struggles and unique temptations our students are facing so that we might help them fight sin and pursue Christ. There is, however, a fine line between this and forcing your own agenda. If we are not careful, we will turn legitimate concerns into hobbyhorses—pet projects that distract us from our ultimate mission of making disciples. This most often plays out in our teaching and preaching. For example, if you have students in your ministry who you wish were not dating, you might decide to start a series on dating and purity. Around the same time that I had the dream about punching one of my students, I began a series on church membership, which I think I hoped would help this student see the importance of active participation in our church.
It’s a wonderful thing to study church membership or to study what the Bible says about relationships and purity. However, when our teaching is centered around the correcting specific missteps of individuals in our ministry, we are no longer preaching the Word, but passive-aggressively promoting our own agenda.
You may have never dreamed of punching a student to put him in his place, but if you are honest you probably have preached a hobbyhorse. All student leaders face this temptation. This is why Paul told Timothy:
I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. (2 Tim. 4:1-4).
One of the best ways to guard against hobbyhorse preaching is to simply teach God’s Word in context. When your focus each Sunday––even when working through particular––is to unpack what Scripture says about it in context, you will avoid pushing your own agenda. Timothy’s temptation, it seems was the opposite of the one I faced to speak out against what I felt were ill proportioned priorities. Timothy was being pressured to preach to please other people—to tell them what they want to hear. Whatever your temptation is, the answer is the same: preach the Word in season and out. Don’t force your own agenda—make every effort to patiently, week after week, help your students unpack the life changing truth of God’s Word (Heb. 4:13).
This post was written by Drew Dixon, Editor and Brand Owner of Explore the Bible Students. You can follow Drew on Twitter here – @drewdixon82