Does the name of your ministry really matter? Is it just the garnish on the side of the real meat and potatoes of what you are doing? The whip cream on top of the cake?
Probably, I think. But it is also the first thing that people will hear when they are invited, and it is what will get batted around most when people refer to it. We want people to get a general sense of what we are all about when they hear the name of our church, or non-profit, or whatever it is.
If you are unaware, I have the privilege of serving as the student ministries director at North Platte Berean Church. When I arrived back in September, I realized that the current youth group didn’t have a name, and was simply referred to as “youth group”. That didn’t really bother me too much – I’ve never been the one to put a whole lot of stock into a cool name. But I could see how it might seem a little patronizing to teenagers who are so eager to not be merely referred to as “youth”, and it didn’t necessarily convey any kind of meaning as to what our mission was with the students.
So after much deliberating, we decided that we would call our youth group “Sola”.
“Sola” is a Latin word for “alone”, and is often tied to what has been termed as “The Five Solas”. In the Sixteenth century, a monk named Martin Luther pinned his 95 Theses on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences to the door of All Saints’ Church, in Wittenberg, Saxony. With the swing of Luther’s hammer, he ignited the powder keg that is now known as the Protestant Reformation. The Five Solas have become short-hand for the essential pillars of the Christian faith that the Protestants saw the church at the time wandering from. They are…
- Sola Scriptura (By Scripture Alone)
- Sola Fide (By Faith Alone)
- Sola Gratia (By Grace Alone)
- Solo Christo (Through Christ Alone)
- Soli Deo Gloria (To The Glory of God Alone)
When we say that we rely on just one thing alone, it reveals the capability and power of that one thing to sustain us. The Five Solas are an anthem that lifts up God and His means to save alone as supremely capable and powerful. I can’t think of anything else I desire to point students to more than that truth. Far and above any other goal we have at Sola, we desire to help lead students into a growing relationship with that God, Jesus Christ.
What We Desire For Students
- Bible. We desire to root students in the living and active Word of God (Heb. 4:12). If we merely entertain our students once a week, we are helping them the way a band-aid helps a gunshot wound. If we inspire them and encourage them to live good lives and go out and change the world, but do not ground them in the unchanging, thousand-mile-deep bedrock of God’s Word, they will flare with passion for a season, but will burn-out (Isa. 40:8). God’s Word alone leads us to faith (Rom. 10:17) and eternal life (John 6:68).
“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.” – 2 Tim. 3:16
- Faith. The Christian life is a life of faith (Rom. 14:23). We do not enter into, or continue to walk into the Christian life by any other means than faith alone (Gal. 3:2-5). Because sin is self-centered at its core, we are prone to rely more on ourselves than on God (before and after we are saved); we desire to continually remind students to lift the empty hands of faith, looking to the full God alone for the strength and means for all of life. Christianity is not merely a shifting of morals or habits; it is a complete restructuring of our lives, and faith is the only means possible that can support it.
“We live by faith, not by sight.” – 2 Cor. 5:7
- Grace. We put our faith in God because He sends grace (Eph. 2:8-9). Grace is two-fold: it is an ocean of forgiveness that removes the crimson stains of our sin (Isa. 1:18), but it is also a power that works inside of us to live a new life (1 Cor. 15:10). Grace does not depend on us achieving a certain level of commitment or goodness, but ruthlessly pursues us and seeks us out, even when we are not searching for it (John 6:44, Rom. 5:8, 11:6). This active grace is so free from being dependent on anything in us that it was planned before the ages began, and given to you when you were spiritually dead to it (Eph. 1:4-6, 2:1-5, 2 Tim. 1:9).
“[God], who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began.” – 2 Tim. 1:9
- Jesus. And this grace is guaranteed to come God’s people through the second member of the triune God, Jesus Christ. Jesus, took on flesh and lived the perfect, law-fulfilling life that God’s holiness had been demanding for all people to live (even though no one did) (Rom. 3:23, 1 Pet. 2:22, Matt. 3:17). But, instead of receiving the reward for living a perfect life, Jesus was cursed by being crucified (Gal. 3:13) and judged by God the Father for the sins of the world (1 John 2:2, Matt. 27:46). This, however, was no mix-up, this was God’s plan from eternity past (Rev. 13:8): the one righteous man, would subject himself to the physical and spiritual sufferings that all God’s children deserved, so that all God’s children would experience the blessings and joy that Jesus Christ deserved (2 Cor. 5:21, 1 Pet. 2:24). This is why salvation is found in Christ alone (John 14:6, Acts 4:12).
“Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities.” – Isa, 53:11
- Glory. And all of this: Christ’s work that guarantees grace received by faith, according to the Scriptures, is all happening for one purpose: the glory of God. The Bible explains that all peoples were created for the express purpose of bringing glory to God in all things (1 Cor. 10:31, Isa. 43:7). Sin is actually defined of robbing God of His glory (Rom. 3:23), and Jesus says that a failure to pursue God’s glory hinders our faith (John 5:44).This means that all of God’s actions in history lead to this end (Isa. 48:9-11, and much, much more). If seeking the display of God as supremely valuable in all things is the very purpose for our existence, then the deepest, most satisfying joy any single person can have is a life fully committed to that end. And when our joy is most full in who God is, he receives the most glory. Christianity is a religion of joy (Psalms 16:11, Phil. 4:4).
“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.” – Matt. 13:44
There are many other things in Sola and at NPBC that we cherish and treasure and desire to teach. But these are five key pillars that we deeply desire to instill in all brothers and sisters in Christ. Without these five truths, we will not be able to achieve our one true goal: Helping lead students into a growing relationship with Jesus Christ.