I fear that far too much ministry operates from an "at," rather than a "with," mentality. Christians, in our desire to communicate biblical truth, talk at people. We spend our time crafting arguments and learning the Bible so we can give people all of the information they need to choose Jesus. There seems to be an assumption that if I just communicate the right information in the right way, then everyone will turn to Christ.
And indeed, proclamation is essential, but we mustn't stop there. We must purpose ourselves to roll up our sleeves and join people, not simply instruct them. In other words, we must be with people.
I fear that too much ministry is unbalanced in favor of imparting information and I wonder if that is especially true of youth ministry, though perhaps it is not exclusive to the young. We operate from a mindset that says, "if I can just get them to be quiet and listen, I can get these Bible facts in their heads!" When real life issues disrupt our teaching, we can get irritated.
But what if treated the disruptions, digressions, and distractions as the heart of ministry? What would it look like to follow the questions and conversations where they lead? What sort of transformation would we observe if we entered the mess and confusion of people's lives with the love of Christ, not just teaching them, but actually apprenticing them? How many more teenagers would stick around the church when they not only heard about, but actually experienced, the love of Christ? What would be the effect upon people to hear and experience that they matter and that they are valuable? What would our churches look like if we recognized that the Bible is ultimately relational, rather than merely informational?
Proclamation of the good news is a must, but without love we are just clanging symbols. Let's become "with" Christians.