Shift#2- from the sacred to the secular/spiritual in youth ministry


Do you remember when hats were not allowed in the Sanctuary?

For some, you only have to remember back a few days to that angry call you received from one of the elders or trustees.

At one point in my ministry, I actually had an elder comment one of the videos we made for youth Sunday exclaiming, “maybe that video is appropriate for what you guys do downstairs or on a youth retreat, but not up here in the Lord’s sanctuary.”


So, is our youth room not the Lord’s sanctuary as well?

Do we somehow walk away from the transcendent ant holy power of God’s spirit when we leave the doors of the sanctuary and descend down the dark stairs towards the fellowship hall and youth rooms?

I mean, is one room or place more special or holy then another?

Is one moment more special than the next?

Sometimes on retreats the “sacred” would happen and God’s spirit would descend and fall upon us in powerful ways.

Now, these moments are crucial to the faith development of students, but if we emphasis the sacredness of certain things, times, places, and events, what are we saying about the rest?

Is the sanctuary more holy or sacred than the youth room?

Is the church building more sacred then the classroom?

Is Sunday morning between 9am and noon mores special than the rest of the day….or Monday?

You see where I am going with this?

While it is vital to provide opportunities and spaces for students to connect with God on a deep level, we have to teach them that all of life is spiritual.  The secular is spiritual because God’s presence is there.  Or at least, the secular can be spiritual if we recognize and acknowledge God in those moments and places.  

Is there a place where God is not present?  Now, some may say that since God is holy he cannot be anywhere where sin is present.  Therefore, there are clearly evil places where the Lord’s spirit does not make an appearance. For some, God is apparently absent in rated R movies, popular radio music, the Internet, and New York Yankee baseball (which I happen to agree with).

Paul seems to indicate that nothing (including the demonic) can separate us from the love of God.  (Romans 8: 38-39)

Additionally, the psalmist writes in Psalm 139

 7 Where can I go from your Spirit? 
       Where can I flee from your presence?

 8 If I go up to the heavens, you are there; 
       if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.

 9 If I rise on the wings of the dawn, 
       if I settle on the far side of the sea,

 10 even there your hand will guide me, 
       your right hand will hold me fast.

 11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me 
       and the light become night around me,”

 12 even the darkness will not be dark to you; 
       the night will shine like the day, 
       for darkness is as light to you.

Even when we are trying to hide and flee from God, his presence still surrounds us.  Even when we intentionally let darkness engulf us, the Spirit of God permeates and prevails. 

Now, that does not mean that we should necessarily spend the majority of our time in those places.  I do believe in the power of corporate worship and fellowship.

Jesus told his followers, “For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.” (Matthew 18:20)

But I just don’t believe that also means, “If you are by yourself and not in church, I am not there.”

Every place we are standing is holy ground, because the Holy Spirit is present.

Especially for us who believe that the curtain of the temple was torn upon Christ’s crucifixion, thus allowing access to Gods’ Spirit unconditionally (no more special or sacred times or places)

We are now the temple of God’s Spirit and that should have significant implications in our lives and ministries. (1 Corinthians 3:16)

Through what was accomplished on the cross at Calvary, no longer is the Spirit of God confined to a certain section in the temple.

That curtain was torn ladies and gentlemen, and that same powerful, mysterious, and awe-inspiring Spirit now dwells within his people.

In some ways, we take the presence of God wherever we go..we no longer have to enter into his presence.  He is already there!

What we need to do, is prepare ourselves for the indwelling of his presence wherever we go and whatever we do.

Now, rather then take away from the holiness of God, this way of thinking should serve to increase our awareness of His presence and the sacredness of everything.

Remember that movie Austin Powers: Gold member?   Everything he touched became solid gold, including people’s….I suppose I should not go there.


Well, if we believe that we are the temple of God’s Spirit and the fullness of Christ dwells within, they we are truly the vessels (carriers) of God’s spirit to the world.

If I may continue this analogy….

As agents and ambassadors of Christ, what we touch should change as well.  We bring with us healing, restoration, and power unlike any other.  Of course, it is not a matter of only physically touching someone, but our words, actions, attitude, prayers, and love make a difference…because God is in us and with us. 

This perspective changes everything. 

Meals become more important, for as we break bread together we acknowledge and recognize the presence of our Lord

In everyday conversations we discover the holiness of God.

Even getting the mail and taking out trash become acts of service and obedience when done in the name of Jesus and for his glory.

“Corrupt” culture needs to be met, embraced, and transformed.  Don’t be afraid of “secular” society.  The difference is not in the actual object or activity, but rather in our perspective and mindset.  

(compliments of Biblegateway!)

1 Corinthians 10:31

So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.

Colossians 3:17
And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Yes, there are still those transcendent moments when Christians are gathered together and the Holy Spirit moves in a powerful way (pretty much the entire books of Acts). 

But when Jesus left the mountain top, he did not cease being Jesus.  The same Spirit still spoke to him, strengthened and empowered him

He takes the ordinary and makes it extra-ordinary and he can help us and our students do the same. 

Let’s help our students see that what they do and say in school is just as important as while in church…maybe more so.

God is just as present in the hallways as in our youth rooms, if we allow him to be.

We simply can no longer preach and practice (maybe subconsciously)  the dis-connectivity and dissociation of God from the world he has made and loves.  

In our approach, let’s shift from creating “sacred” moments to experiencing God in the secular and therefore discovering His presence and the spiritual in more of our life and ministry.


3 thoughts on “Shift#2- from the sacred to the secular/spiritual in youth ministry

  1. Amen, brother. I new we were on the same page…just few things to chew on.

    I love how you brought out the curtain temple being torn. In Mark the same word is used for tearing the temple curtain as when the heavens were torn at the baptism of Jesus (I may be reading too much into this, but it is interesting). Also, I think the importance of this is not just that God’s Spirit doesn’t just dwell at one place, but it also doesn’t just dwell with one people group. Jews use(d) the temple as a mark of their chosen(ness). But with the curtain torn, all people are welcomed to be a part of the covenant family.

    Second, you said “Now, some may say that since God is holy he cannot be anywhere where sin is present.” I am not one of those people, although I used to be. I forgot who brought it to my attention, but where does scripture say that God can not be in the presence of Sin. What did Jesus do coming to a sinful people. I think that it is more Sin can not be in the presence of God without needing to retreat or repent. Take Isaiah 6. Isaiah is sinful but God welcomes him into the vision and forgives his sin. It is not God who wants to turn away, but Isaiah who recognizes his sinfulness. If God couldn’t be in the presence of sin, we would all be up a creek without a paddle. That the glory of the Cross, Grace, Justification, Sanctification, etc. When we can’t stand in the presence of God he comes to us and we either repent or flee.
    Thanks Dan…I wish we were closer so we could hang out, I really do miss you.

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