“When you don’t want me to move, but you tell me to go, what do you mean?”

Why, yes, I did just quote a line from a Justin Bieber song. I know what you’re thinking, “how could I attempt to gleam anything useful for a cheesy pop song…especially from Justin Bieber?”

First, let me say that in any attempt to bond with kids and be relevant in youth ministry, you have to step outside of your comfort zone and admit that anyone in their 30’s and older is, in fact, “old” and by proxy, no longer cool. It hurts at first to admit you are no longer cool, but eventually the sting subsides and you learn to deal with it.

Regardless of how I feel about Justin Bieber and his music, one member of my youth group is a “belieber” and it helps me interact with and relate to her by knowing a little bit of his music. And if I were honest, that song in particular is pretty catchy.

The logical move, for me as a youth minister, is to go from knowing about my teenagers preference in music to knowing what is going on in popular culture. The things that are important to my teenagers may not be important to me, but it is to them. For me, a married man who has graduated from college with his Master’s, high school problems and concerns are simple and irrelevant to the big picture, but for my youth group, those problems are everything. I cannot be an effective minister there for them on any level if I do not know what their world looks like, and that includes but is not limited to movies, music, and pop culture.

One of the first rules of war is to know your enemy. One of the first rules of public speaking is to know your audience. One of the first rules to relationship is to know the person you are interacting with. One of the first rules of ministry is incredibly similar; know where your friends, relatives, family, acquaintances, neighbors, or community is hurting and struggling and go to that need to help, pray, and struggle with them. This is how you show them the love of God.

It is this idea of showing people the love, justice, and life of God that I want to talk about.

Recently, I came across a quote from Rick Warren, a pastor and author, that I found incredibly helpful.

“Our culture has accepted two huge lies. The first is that if you disagree with someone’s lifestyle, you must fear or hate them. The second is that to love someone means you agree with everything they believe or do. Both are nonsense. You don’t have to compromise convictions to be compassionate.”

It is this tension and seeming contradiction that comes to mind when I think of the lyrics of Mr. Bieber’s song. “When you don’t want me to move, but you tell me to go, what do you mean?” People often accuse the Church of bigotry, hate, and fear for holding to the long-held beliefs of Christianity concerning any number of topics. Abortion, Homosexuality, Casual Sex, Corporate Greed, etc.

“How can a people who believe in God’s love and equality for all people tell people that what they are doing is wrong? How can you say that my relationship with this person is sinful? Who do you think you are telling me that I have enough? What do you mean?” (**See what I did there?)

All jokes aside, to many the faith seems contradictory; we preach love but show no tolerance for certain subjects. To love someone is to tolerate what they do without question or comment; this is a lie.

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