Author Wednesday: Ru dela Torre on Discipling the Future of the Nation

Posted: January 12, 2011 in Author Wednesday
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*originally published in Evangelicals Today Volume XXXVI No 5. For subscription inquiries, please call 913.1655 to 57

We have heard it said so many times that the youth are the future of the nation. But the reality is that they are also the hardest to reach on a spiritual and even emotional level, with the advent of a post-modern and increasingly hedonistic society. Most churches have continuously struggled with losing young members and with getting young people to actually come into the church, much less, be discipled.

We sat down with youth pastor and OMF Literature author Pastor Ru dela Torre to pick his brains on his thoughts about youth ministry and the challenges it presents.

What made you decide to go into discipling the youth in your church? You could have chosen kids, or yuppies, or the middle aged group, but your heart led you to the youth.

I’ve always had a burden for young people. It’s mainly because of the fact that I believe in them. Every time I see a young person, I see potential. To me, a young person’s face is always a glimpse of the future. Surely, the youth are worth investing in. I am an advocate of the truth that they are the hope of every nation.

Even before I came to know the Lord, there’s always been this unexplainable passion in my heart to equip and empower them.  When I became a Christian, our Senior Pastor asked me to handle the youth ministry in our church, I gave it a “yes” even if I knew that I had a lot of things to learn about doing ministry. I considered it a story of God’s favor causing me to be at the right place at the right time.

What are the biggest challenges that you’ve faced in dealing with the youth of today? And how has your personal experience allowed you to overcome these challenges?

One thing I admire about the youth today is their passion. If there’s one dominant characteristic about this “up and coming” generation, it is their fire. When they set their minds onto something, they just go all-out for it. The challenge, though, is how to get them from being apathetic to being involved.

There’s no middle-ground as far as their drive is concerned. It’s either they’re in or they’re out. It’s hero or zero; all the way or no-way. It’s either they love you or hate you. They are never “somewhere in between.”

It takes a lot of grace to ignite and convince them to doing something, especially with matters concerning God. Convincing power is a plus, but the ability to “walk the talk” is the major requirement. I have found that they are won not just by what we tell them (e.g.sermons); the message they love reading are our lives.

Once they are convinced that a leader is for real, that’s the only time they’ll open up and allow themselves to be discipled.

Which do you believe in more, drawing the youth to the church, or bringing the church to where the youth are?

To us who have a burden for the youth, we are actually living in very exciting times. That’s because the population is getting younger and younger, and a huge percentage is un-saved. That is why we need to pounce on the moment. We can’t afford to waste time waiting behind the walls of our church buildings for them to come. We have to be aggressive and bring the church to them.

I believe that it is our task to bring the church where the youth are. I have discovered that young people (in general) are not really excited about “churching.” That’s probably because they have a not-so-good pre-conceived notion about what a church is. One word: boring.

And even if we try our best efforts to adjust “how we do things”—alter our music, be energetic in preaching, or come up with “out-of this-world” gimmicks in church to be extra appealing, the initial challenge is always how to bring them in.

The paradigm shift happens when the young people experience a foretaste of church through campus ministries and cell groups. These are like small mobile churches that somehow allow them to know that following Jesus is not so “uncool” after all.

We bring the gospel packaged in a way that spells “F.U.N.” but never compromising. We do this to sell the idea that there is so much life happening in the church, and that the youth will be missing out on a lot of things if they opt not to go.

The message of grace

A lot of young people actually dread going to church because they feel that they’ll be condemned in church. This is why we need to make an effort to bring to them the gospel of the second chance and the message of God’s great love.

Be the second home

Most of the young people today come from broken families. A lot of the kids today are looking for a safe place where they will feel accepted and loved. When the home fails, the church has got to be that place. We have to let them know that there is a refuge available.  The cell group is always a good venue to promote authenticity and genuine concern.

Aside from the Bible, what are other tools that youth ministers can/should use to disciple their churches/cell groups?

There are a lot of helpful tools that can be found in OMFLit. There are books, audio cds, and even dvds there that can certainly boost a church’s youth ministry.

Here’s a list of books you might want to check out:

Do Hard Things by Alex & Brett Harris

Stories for a Teen’s Heart Compiled by Alice Gray

Bible Study Guides Vol. 1-3 by Bertram Lim

Practical Discipleship for Young People by Bertram Lim

Practical Discipleship: Leader’s Guide by Bertram Lim

Dug Down Deep: Unearthing What I Believe and Why It Matters by Joshua Harris

Hot Illusrations for Youth Talks by Rice Wayne

If Jesus were alive in these days, what do you think He would be doing to reach the youth?

I think if Jesus were here, He’d be wearing jeans, sporting the coolest hairdo, and “chilling out.” I think He’s going to be super cool. He will rebel against our generation’s wrong concept of fun, and present Himself as the ultimate alternative.

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Pastor Ru dela Torres serves as the director of Wildfire, the youth ministry of His Life City Church in San Fernando, Pampanga. He founded the Manifesto Movement, a finalist in the 2007 nationwide search for the Ten Accomplished Youth Organizations. He is currently taking up Theology at the Asian Theological Seminary.

He’s the author of the hugely successful Road Trip and the new OMF Lit title Back on Track.

These books are published and distributed by OMF Literature. OMF Literature books are available at OMF Lit Bookshops as well as National Bookstore, PowerBooks, and Christian bookstores nationwide. OMF Lit books are also available for online purchase at the OMFLit.com eStore.

For more information, call OMF Literature at 531.6635 or visit OMFLit.com.

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