Teenagers have gifts, talents, and abilities. I realise that there are theological distinctions between those words – gifts often refer to those acuities which we use to “build up the Body of Christ”, to advance the Kingdom. The interesting thing about Exodus 35:30-35 is that Bezalel and Oholiab have skill sets which are classically seen as talents or abilities, but here are obviously being used to honour God by building the Tabernacle. These men were artists! And, when gifts are coupled with wisdom, understanding and knowledge – WOW! They knew about engineering, gemmology and metallurgy, they knew about leading a team of artisans, they knew how to follow a clearly laid out, God-given plan.
What does this have to do with Youth for Christ? Way back in the Winona Lake days in the ’50s, Youth for Christ served as a starting block for many callings and careers into ministry. And still today, many of our nations have phenomenal talent search events. I was at one recent event where a 15 year-old girl found selling herself on the streets was rescued by Youth for Christ, redeemed in Christ and now stood in front of all of us singing with the power of a Whitney Houston!
Our role is to help teenagers “Fan into the flame the gift of God that is within you” (2 Timothy 1:6) and the second part of that verse says, “By the laying on of my hands.” What an amazing, participatory and communal process. When was the last time you placed a hand on a teenager’s shoulder, looked them in the eye and said, “You have a gift!” Every single teenager is gifted, and growing up is the gift-discovery-process! Youth for Christ is there on the maturity voyage with them. When I was 17, a Youth for Christ staffer empowered me for preaching and teaching. When my wife Marilyn was 15, she was empowered to lead a youth choir! My eldest son Jordan has a gift in theatre. My son Joshua can handle a soccer ball, and even more especially, a soccer team, in ways that are truly extraordinary. My daughters Jolyn and Joy can sing and dance like angels. And I’ve told each of them, repeatedly, that they are gifted!
There are Bezalels and Oholiabs all around you. Are you a good observer? Are your affirming words giving them a confidence platform from which to launch into their service for God?