I wasn’t sure at first about agreeing to take little Jay, as I’ll call him, and his brothers to where their father had been fatally stabbed, but it seemed really important to them. As I stood at the spot in South Los Angeles, holding Jay’s hands, he told me, “I miss him.”
Knowing his father had been a Christian, I told Jay that his daddy was in heaven, waiting for him. I was able to explain the gospel in a very natural, everyday kind of way.
That’s so often how opportunities for marketplace ministry to young people come about through my work with Red Eye’s Watts Empowerment Center in Watts, Calif., a nonprofit connecting people in the entertainment industry—from A-listers (the Kardashians were recent visitors/donors) to hopefuls—with mentoring needs in the tough Watts neighborhood. Indirectly, after time.
When you’re not doing ministry under the banner of a church, you don’t always get to talk overtly about Jesus; you just get to be Jesus. But at times it can be so much harder to do that than to preach—because, honestly, when you’re driving in L.A. every day, you don’t always want to be like Jesus!
Living out the gospel among these young people means we get to disciple them before we evangelize them. That may sound backwards, but we are able to mentor them in godly ways—from an etiquette course for young guys to culinary classes—before we speak about God.
It all boils down to relationships. That old saying is still true: People don’t care what you know until they know that you care. But once they see your concern for, and commitment to, them is genuine, they are open to hearing more. Several Red Eye volunteers who weren’t believers drove 90 minutes to hear me when I was asked to speak at the church plant I am involved with because they had gotten to know me as a person.
Living out the gospel among these young people means we get to disciple them before we evangelize them. We are able to mentor them in godly ways before we speak about God.
Consistency and commitment are key; you can’t just come in to somewhere like Watts once a week and pray for people and leave. You must be willing to get into the nitty gritty of young people’s lives with them. Jesus talked about sorrowing with people who sorrow; well, you have to know them and what they are going through to be able to do that. You have to be prepared to invest yourself.
So, we spend a lot of time just hanging out with, and loving on, the kids of Watts. Through that time and the practical programs we offer through the Watts Empowerment Center (we run with a small team of staff and more than 100 volunteers), we hope we can help them reject the lie that their current situation limits their future, and discover that they can become all God intends.
This article was written with Andy Butcher, a freelance writer in Santa Rosa Beach, Fla.