I was challenged by a sermon given this past weekend by a retired Methodist bishop, based on the biblical story of the Ethiopian eunuch. And it got me thinking about the message and the message our youth ministries should embrace and project.
You probably know the story: the Ethiopian eunuch was rich, powerful and elite (traveling by chariot was the equivalent of today’s private-jet-and-limo set). He was, after all, in charge of the Ethiopian queen’s treasury. Clearly, he was also a very smart man—as we first encounter him as he’s reading Isaiah (not his native language!) in the back of a chariot.
Philip, after hearing from an angel that he’s supposed to head down to Gaza from Jerusalem, camps out alongside a road. And there he encounters the eunuch who is heading home from Jerusalem (the direction is important—and it’s fascinating that the angel didn’t direct Philip to the eunuch when they were both in Jerusalem).
Deuteronomy 23:1 says, “No one who has been emasculated by crushing or cutting may enter the assembly of the Lord.” (The junior high boy in me likes the old KVJ version, though—“He that is wounded in the stones, or hath his privy member cut off, shall not enter into the congregation of the Lord.”)
The eunuch went to Jerusalem to worship; but would have been prevented from doing so.
After Philip explains the prophetic passage the eunuch is reading, about Jesus, the eunuch asks an important question: “Here’s some water—what would prevent me from being baptized?” Of course, Phil baptizes him, and we have one of the most important conversion stories of the New Testament.
There are (and have been) a hundred ways this passage can be projected to our current day. But I’m a youth worker, and I began thinking about how PREVENTED teenagers are today—maybe more than at any time in human history. They’re:
• In massive, culturally-endorsed isolation
• Kept from the world of adults
• Viewed as incapable and broken
• Infantilized: treated as children
To those who are prevented, the gospel says, “NOTHING PREVENTS YOU.” You are welcome as an equal.
Our youth ministries should not exist as well-meaning holding tanks, waiting for maturity and adulthood.
Our youth ministries should not isolate teenagers from the world of adults.
Our youth ministries should not treat teenagers as children, incapable and broken.
Our ministries, instead, should be loudspeakers and labs of a “Nothing Prevents You” reality.