We humans have a long-standing history of being discontent. From Adam and Eve to modern day humanity, the struggle of wanting more or, at least, wanting something different has warred within each of us. But is discontentment always wrong? Should we, like the apostle Paul, learn to be content in all circumstances?
The answer isn’t as cut and dried as we would like. There are, in fact, moments in life when being discontent is a good thing, for example, the discontentment that comes when witnessing injustice or from seeing people lost in their sin.
Establishing a bold vision for your ministry is in some ways a statement of discontentment, because bold visions are built on the premise that God’s kingdom needs to advance. Yet, there is a tension that exists between contentment and discontentment that can be difficult to navigate. That is, we are supposed to remain content in the circumstances that we are in, but discontent with the present state of the world. There is a holy discontent that God wants us to have as we build our Gospel Advancing Ministries. But the lines can sometimes get blurred. Here are three healthy techniques to live in the tension between contentment and discontentment.
Try This! ❯
During your next youth group gathering, take the time to celebrate one Gospel Advancing victory.
1. Celebrate victories, but continuing to strive for more.
A youth group leader from Illinois named Kyle attended Lead THE Cause, a week-long Dare 2 Share training event, with his youth group. With the help of the Dare 2 Share staff, he developed a bold vision for his youth to engage in 100 gospel conversations. He began taking his students through the Life in 6 Words curriculum, which trains students to be fluent in sharing the gospel message. The results were better than he expected. One young girl in his ministry began sharing each letter of the GOSPEL acrostic with her neighbor who had been sent to a correctional facility for a drug-related offense. Motivated to do more, she began sharing the gospel with more people. Kyle believes that she will be able to reach the 100 gospel conversations goal on her own.
Take the time to celebrate such victories, as it strengthens the morale of the entire youth group, as well as inspires students to join the Gospel Advancing efforts. However, celebrating a victory does not mean the job is over. Kyle, for instance, is no longer content with 100 gospel conversations and recognizes the need to broaden his bold vision. Celebrate the victories while also striving for further gospel advancement.
2. Learning to be content
Maybe your budget got cut, you lost a key volunteer or several students moved and, try as you might, you are unable to accomplish your bold vision. Don’t beat yourself up. Continue to move forward by evaluating what went wrong, as well as praying for the Holy Spirit’s guidance. Consider adjusting your bold vision to better meet the climate of your ministry.
Failed expectations can make it hard to be content, but some things in life are out of our control, which is why learning how to be content in our circumstances is vital. This was the kind of contentment that Paul learned when he wrote:
“I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little” (Philippians 4:11-12).
3. It takes time, so leave it in God’s hands
Americans have an independent spirit that can make it difficult to ask for help. Many of us want to be able to accomplish our goals on our own. But this attitude doesn’t work in ministry. Every success a ministry has is dependent upon God. “Apart from me you can do nothing,” Jesus told His followers in John 15:5. He is the founder and perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12:2). Our responsibility as youth leaders is to offer tools and opportunities for students to thrive and live out Gospel Advancement. Use this as a motivator to keep prayer as the top priority for your ministry. Ask God to be the fuel that motivates your students to action.
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Holy discontent is a good quality, if it drives your ministry toward healthy gospel advancement. As you work on reaching your own bold vision, make sure you are taking the time to celebrate God’s victories as you prayerfully strive for greater kingdom impact.