25 When they found him back across the sea, they said, "Rabbi, when did you get here?" 26Jesus answered, "You've come looking for me not because you saw God in my actions but because I fed you, filled your stomachs--and for free. (John 6:25-26 Msg)

I took a much needed trip with my wife this past week. We left the kids with family and headed to Chicago for a few days alone. It was very refreshing, but you know what it is like to come back from vacation.  Thursday morning was a chore! My tendency when things are really piled up is to get to the office and get to work. I can get so busy with doing ministry that I actually fail to nurture the number one relationship in my life.

During my quiet time yesterday I was struck by the response Jesus gave to the crowd who followed him across the sea to Capernum. As I thought about His words to them, I wondered about my quest to follow Christ and found myself asking this question:  Do I chase the bread bowl, or do I follow the food? Let's really think about it.

Chasing the Bread Bowl
As we minister to students, we find ourselves striving and straining on many days. Now, while it is important to work hard (Proverbs 12:27) in all we do, there is an order we must follow. Christ must come first. Our ministry is second to our relationship with Him. (If that is such common sense, then why do we mess it up so much?)

After Jesus fed the five thousand and filled the baskets with leftovers, he snuck away. The next morning the people woke and were hungry again, so they chased the bread bowl to Capernum. Not because of the teachings of Jesus. Not because they recognized God in His words. They came for the results; they came for a free lunch.

I'm afraid we can do the same thing, if we do not guard ourselves. We must be sure that we are not simply chasing the results of youth ministry. Sometimes these come in the form of paychecks, programs, or just positive feedback. For some these are funding opportunities--we chase the money instead of letting it follow the ministry.

Following the Food
Jesus Christ is the very source of our youth ministry calling. He is the bread of God come down from heaven. The Bread of Life. Fullness comes from following the Food. Time spent nurturing our relationship with the Son of God accomplishes more than rowing ever will.

We can row, row, row our boats all day long chasing ministry aspirations and find ourselves no further than we were when we started the day. That's what happens when we concentrate on the results more than on the source. It's a dangerous trap many youth leaders fall into.

Take the time to consider your life in Christ and your youth ministry in light of these thoughts today. Be on guard, friend, and slow down!

Remember that youth ministry is all about relationships.

Timothy Eldred
is the President of One Passion Worldwide (OPW) in Branson, MO. He serves as the Teaching Pastor for New Beginnings Christian Family Fellowship and resides in Edmore, MI with his wife, Cindy, and their two sons.


Copyright 2004. All rights reserved. Permission to reprint may be obtained at request@onepassion.com.