SERMON: No Regrets – Generosity
BIO: Pastor Kevin Beers serves as the Lead Student Ministry and College Age Pastor at the Hamburg Wesleyan Church in Western New York State. He has served at this church for 6 years and his primary preaching target are between ages 11-30. Kevin suggests “every preacher should model the teachings of Jesus; exegete the Scriptures as well as the culture to connect with people and point them to the truth of God’s word.”
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Lenny: You preached on the topic of money and generosity to middle school and high school students in your youth ministry. Why did you feel compelled to speak on finances with youth who, in most cases, don’t have much money? Also, tell us a little about the socio-economic levels represented in your youth group.
Kevin: Too many students and young adults are pursuing money as their primary goal in life, and coincidentally putting their trust in that desire to be wealthy (that is what our world teaches us to do). However, if I can begin to help students have a proper perspective now, while they are young, on what it means to be truly rich, it could save them a lot of frustration in the future and help them find the “richness” and fullness of life God promises. Practically, I also aim to help them avoid a life a debt and an inability to be generous to those who really need it. To answer your second question, the majority of our youth group kids come from middle to upper class suburban families.
Lenny: I love that you highlighted how most of us Americans are rich when compared with the rest of the world. Give us a bit of a glimpse into how so much of youth culture counters the concept of generosity.
Kevin: In our culture, specifically the youth culture, it is so easy for us to be so focused on the latest greatest possession that we can buy. We live in a very wealthy country and it is not uncommon for students to have better phones, cars and homes than what some adults possess. The tension for all of us is deciphering between needs and wants in this over saturated world of advertisements that are created to make one feel left out, or behind, if he or she doesn’t own whatever item is being sold. This self-centered way of thinking is in direct contrast with the idea of generosity, the denial of one’s desires in order to help someone else.
Lenny: Many preachers have an overarching hope, goal, purpose or function for the message, the one thing we hope the sermon will, by God’s grace, “do” in the lives of the listeners. What was the function or purpose of this message?
Kevin: The purpose was to point students to the truth of what it means to be rich in God’s eyes. To steal an old expression, “not all that glitters is gold.” I want my students to have the eyes to see past the shimmering surface of what the world proffers as valuable, and know that it’s temporal and soon to be destroyed by moths and rust as Jesus asserted. Part of having a fulfilling existence on this earth is using our resources, however great or small, to change and better others’ lives.
Lenny: I was a youth pastor for a few years until my senior pastor realized I couldn’t cut it in youth ministry and demoted me to assistant pastor . In fact, during my second year of full time ministry I was serving as the solo pastor of a church full of saintly seniors and as the youth pastor at a large church. I discovered I couldn’t preach the same message the same way in both of those contexts. You preach in the main service at times as well as to the youth. How do you adjust your preaching when the context is people ages 13-18?
Kevin: I exegete the culture just as much as I exegete the scripture. I ask, “What is the world saying about this issue?” and “What does God have to say about it?” Then I use what I can from the popular culture that students already know to point to the truth of what God says. If I can have them hear the message, touch it, feel it, connect with what is being said, then they will understand it, remember it and be more likely to live out what God says about it.
Lenny: You used the phrase from 1 Timothy “life that is truly life” often in this message as a sort of mantra to keep your message clear and focused. I have always been drawn to that phrase, and I was drawn to the strategically repetitive way in which you used it. How does that phrase from the Apostle Paul integrate with the main focus, or big idea of your message? What was the main focus of your sermon, the one thing you were trying to say most clearly and compellingly?
Kevin: This phrase, “life that is truly life,” is what all people are seeking, but few really know what that means. People listen to and do what the world and others tell them in order to get that life because in a lot of ways it’s easier and gratifies the self. My goal in this message was to have students understand that a part of gaining that “life that is truly life,” is to have the proper view and definition of what it means to be rich in God’s eyes, which involves denial of self. The assertion that denying self leads to true life is a paradoxical philosophy. But this is the example and teaching of Jesus; his promises are backed by faithfulness and truth.