An explosion is a large-scale, rapid, or spectacular expansion or bursting out. Whether it is chemical, astronomical, nuclear or natural, there have to be the right ingredients for an explosion to happen. It is not very often that I get to witness an explosion first hand. But this past year, I got to see what kind of “explosion” can happen when one follows the plan Jesus gave to win the world.
After Brad graduated college, he started doing one-on-one ministry with college athletes. He poured himself into ministry with these few athletes in order to make disciples. A pastor noticed Brad’s passion for discipleship and sharing God’s word. Brad had not been to seminary, licensed to preach, or ordained for ministry. But discipleship is not about credentials. It is about true authentic love for Jesus and growing His kingdom.
So when this pastor came and asked him about going into youth ministry at his local church, Brad focused on how he could make disciples and thought about the kingdom impact that could make. The church already had a core group of 200 senior high teens meeting in a warehouse. Brad began his ministry by making disciples. He started pouring himself into the lives of these teens. He and his leaders “lived” at the school cafeterias and ball fields where all the youth were. They totally invested in these students and their friends. They were not just a youth group. Brad was preparing those 200 teens to be a true youth ministry.
Today, Brad has possibly the largest church youth ministry program in the United States. After beginning less than 5 years ago, Brad consistently has just under 2,000 teenagers coming to his ministry every week. They also have campus satellite youth ministry programs around their state. It is a discipleship explosion! There are so many people coming to Brad’s ministry, it is mind blowing. They had over 5,000 first-time visitors just this year.
Brad’s youth ministry now has a cool building and all the flashy things one might want to attract teenagers. Their worship band, technical resources, sound, lights, and media are all world class. Brad has become a well-known speaker. He is asked to speak around the globe at some “big time” conferences. If fact, hundreds of youth ministers come to Brad’s youth ministry every year to learn what he is doing to bring in so many teens. Many of these youth pastors come in to look at the building, the sound, the cool gear, the flash, and the great preaching. Some people probably even look at the clothes and hairstyle that Brad wears.
But if you ask Brad why thousands of teenagers are sold out to this ministry, he quickly tells you that there is only one reason. “We have relationship equity with them.” Translation: they are doing ministry the way Jesus did. It all started with Brad making disciples with the ones that he had. He developed relationship equity with the few and watched that multiply. Now of course, Brad cannot make disciples with thousands of teenagers by himself. So he continues to model this relational ministry to his staff, leaders, and youth. He now sees his job as growing up disciple makers to carry on what he started in this ministry.
Interestingly, Brad’s church does not have a “college group.” This realization blew me away, because they are in a big college area! But Brad shared with me that their philosophy is that if you have been discipled, there comes a point when God expects disciples to no longer be a taker, and start being a maker. In fact, when teenagers graduate from high school and they have been discipled in the small group ministry at Brad’s program, they immediately begin to help in the student ministry or in another area of the church. Usually, one of the hardest things most youth ministers deal with is getting volunteers to help. But at Brad’s church, people know that they are not just volunteers; they are all ministers who are making disciples. Brad has no shortage of leaders to invest in the thousands of teens, because he started out, and continues in, faithfully making disciples.
Ingredients: Passion for Jesus, Sharing the Word, Disciple Making= Boom!
Invest in the few, change the world