Thursday, April 18, 2013

A New Home for the Rooted Ministry

Rooted is pleased to invite you to our new home at There you will find all of the resources, blog articles, and information about our mission to see student ministry anchored in the incredible message of the Cross and of God's unconditional grace. Please visit us at

Monday, April 08, 2013

Re-Thinking Your Sunday Best: Why Student Ministry Needs to Reclaim the Centrality of Imputed Righteousness

Growing up, my parents made sure I wore my “Sunday best” to church—coat, tie, slacks, and on special occasions, suspenders!  After all, we were going to meet with the living God. A whole generation (or two) regularly used this phrase to communicate the reverence and awe of worship and to make sure our outward appearance reflected something of the cleaned-up heart we all embraced. Ironically, I didn’t spend a lick preparing my heart for worship.

Most of the time—during my early years—I only heard one side of the gospel. I heard that Jesus died on the cross as a payment for my sin, but I never heard that he lived for me. While I heard that Jesus died the death I should have died, I never heard that he lived the life I should have lived.

The point: Jesus has accomplished for us what God has required of us. He lived a perfect, sinless life, obeying all of God’s commands. That we are declared “righteous” by God (the doctrine of justification) is a declaration made on the basis that our sin has been credited to Christ and his righteousness has been credited to us.  We, therefore, stand accepted by God because of an alien righteousness, received by faith alone.

In reality, Jesus is our Sunday best. He is our righteousness. God is pleased, not with the fancy tie I received for Christmas, but with the righteous robes of his own Son, which I have received by faith alone—a “righteousness from God that depends on faith” (Phil. 3:9).

Why does this matter for student ministry?  Because the imputed righteousness of Christ stands as the foundation for the good news of our being justified by God.  In other words, without justification sola fide we don’t have the gospel. If you, like many who have loved the recent “gospel movement”—The Gospel Coalition, T4G, the GospelProject, among others—want to lead a gospel-driven student ministry, the imputed righteousness of Christ must take a central place in your teaching and ministry to students.

Nothing will free your students from the cyclical shame of sin like knowing and believing that all of our sin—past, present, and future—has been cast as far as the east is from the west (Ps. 103:12). Similarly, nothing will spur them on to holiness and sanctification like knowing and believing that they are simply living out what they have already been declared: “righteous.” They are not striving to earn God’s favor; rather, they are striving to please the One who earned God’s favor for them.  The law of God, then, comes alongside, not to condemn, but as a friend, showing him or her how he or she can please God.

Nothing will give your students joy like knowing and believing that their righteousness isn’t found in being a good student, a good son or daughter, or a good soccer player.  Their righteousness is found in Christ alone.  Indeed, their hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.  Or, in the words of the hymn “Before the Throne of God Above”

Behold him there the risen Lamb
My perfect spotless righteousness
The great unchangeable I AM
The King of glory and of grace
One with himself I cannot die
My soul is purchased by his blood
My life is hid with Christ on high
With Christ my Savior and my God
With Christ my Savior and my God

May student ministries across our land embrace and love the doctrine of the imputation of Christ’s righteousness and may it free youth pastors and parents from the success-oriented, entertainment-driven models of ministry that undercut the very message they are seeking to communicate.

If you are involved in the discipleship of students, reclaim the centrality of the imputed righteousness of Christ as you teach and equip them.  May that, not self-help sola-boot-strapia, provide the true “gospel” focus of your ministry to students.

Brian H. Cosby is pastor of Wayside Presbyterian Church in Signal Mountain, TN and author of Giving Up Gimmicks: Reclaiming Youth Ministry from an Entertainment Culture (P&R, 2012) and Rebels Rescued: A Student’s Guide to Reformed Theology (Christian Focus, 2012).

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Apologetics for Teens: You Asked: Your Questions. God's Answers.

Answering students’ questions about God, life, Scripture and Christianity is like walking a tight rope. On one hand, students deserve clear, thoughtful, and simple but not simplistic answers. On the other hand, the questions often reveal deeper, unspoken, concerns present in their own heart. The challenge is to provide answers for the spoken questions while also recognizing and addressing the unspoken questions.
For that reason I am delighted that William Edgar’s You Asked: Your Questions, God’ s Answers is now available. The book may rightly be described as “apologetics for teenagers” and its format is straightforward: each chapter begins with a common question middle and high school students ask, and then provides clear guidance and instruction enabling students to discover answers from the Bible and a Christian worldview. It is a work Edgar is uniquely qualified to write, having expertise in apologetics, a deep grasp of culture, and experience as a high school teacher. Furthermore, as an apologist in the tradition of Cornelius Van Til, Edgar skillfully answers the spoken questions while gently exposing and addressing underlying heart issues.
The direct audience for this book is students themselves. Edgar has provided a reliable guide for them in language they will find accessible. However, it would be a mistake to assume that this book is only for students. Youth pastors and parents will also find it a useful resource guiding their own interactions with their teenagers.
I am thankful this book is available and would encourage youth pastors, parents, and teens alike to make use of it. As Michael Keller wrote in his endorsement, the book will help students navigate the “minefield known as adolescence.” I agree with Mike, and commend You Asked to teens wrestling with tough questions, and to youth pastors and parents helping teens along the way. 

Bijan Mirtolooi is part of the youth ministry staff at Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City.

Monday, April 01, 2013

The World’s Half-Truths for Teens Pt.6: The Power for Change Comes from Within


When I first began working with youth, the first Percy Jackson series was all the rage.  Greek gods, adventure, and awkward teen drama had captured the imaginations of youth all over the country - and some at my church.

Being totally unfamiliar with the books, I was curious to read them to find out why these books had become so popular.  So I picked up the first book in the series and began to read.

It didn’t take long to figure out what kids found so alluring about Percy Jackson’s story.  As the story begins, Percy appears to be relatively insignificant, marginally outcast, and and uncomfortable-in-his-own-skin pubescent youth.

Before long, we discover that -despite appearances - Percy Jackson is anything but normal.  Much to Percy’s own astonishment, he’s really a demigod - the son of a human mother and a Greek god for a father.  And Percy doesn’t have just any Greek god for a father, his dad is Poseidon, one of the “big three” in the Greek Pantheon.

Along with the revelation of his lineage, Percy also discovers that as Poseidon’s son, he inherits some of Poseidon’s power.  Percy discovers he can breath under water.  Water gives him strength. And most importantly, Percy can control water, bending it to do his will.

How awesome would it be to discover that a god-king was your father and that your father-god shared his power with you...?

Yeah, pretty much that’s the gospel - isn’t it?  Pretty amazing.

In Christ, haven’t we become children of the One True God, king and ruler over all things? (cf. Galatians 3:29, 1 John 3:1-2)  And what’s more, because we are his children, hasn’t God shared his power with us, filling us with the Holy Spirit as a downpayment of our inheritance? (cf. Galatians 4:6, Ephesians 1:13-14)  Isn’t this the source of our joy and delight? (cf. Ephesians5:18-20, Colossians 3:15-17)

Familiarity with these truths sometime blinds us (and the youth) to their sheer awesomeness.  Sometimes it takes something like Percy Jackson to wake us up to the sheer wonder of the story in which we find ourselves.

Obviously there are some difference between Percy and the Christian.  First, and most importantly, Percy Jackson and the Olympians is fiction whereas our adoption and inheritance are reality.

Secondly, there is a fundamental difference between the power of Poseidon at work in Percy and the power of Yahweh at work in us: Percy seeks to control Poseidon’s power to wield the god’s strength for his own ends, while we seek to be controlled by the Spirit to be wielded by Yahweh for his ends.

It’s here that we begin to see the lie that underscores Percy Jackson’s interaction with the world.

In the end, any difference that Percy makes in the world or change that happens in himself emanates from his own willpower and ability to control the power of his father god, Poseidon.  Ultimately, and change is of his own doing (the gods are rather disinterested in the affairs of their children and the human world).

For the Christian, however, meaningful change cannot begin with our own efforts but with the grace of a God who cares deeply about us and this world. 

Biblically speaking, the power to redeem doesn’t come from us learning to control the Spirit of God, but the other way around.  The Holy Spirit is not a weapon or tool that we wield, but that wields us even as the Spirit works to renew us into the image of our creator, Jesus (Colossians 3:10).

Certainly we are called to participate in the Spirit’s work as we seek to put off the old self and put on the new self - but even this is done by faith as we learn to rest in Jesus’ finished work and receive from him the inheritance he secured for us in the Spirit as the Lord bless our time in Scripture, prayer, Christian fellowship, and the sacraments.

So concerning the world’s half-truth of the power to change coming from within, I say, Amen! Let us find the power for change within...but not within us as ourselves, but within us as children and temples of the One True God who is generous with his grace.  And let us cling to his grace by faith - not as a reward for our personal effort, but as a gift of the Spirit works within us to conform us to the very likeness of Jesus.

Mark Howard is the Youth Director and Assistant to Pastor at Trinity Presbyterian Church in Covington, GA. Mark has a Masters in Theology from Wheaton College Graduate School