Read an Excerpt
Dreams of Glory
When I was in seventh grade, my basketball coach used totake our team up to the high school to watch varsity games.There, in the excitement of the crowd, he made sure we soakedin the atmosphere. We got programs and ate hot dogs. Weclapped with the pep band and fell in love with the cheerleaders.Most of all, we watched our heroes battle for glory andcheered for them like crazy. And always, at some point, ourcoach would turn to us and ask, "Do you like it up here, boys?Of course you do! Well, now you know what you're shootingfor, and why we work so hard. We've got to get you ready,because one day that's going to be you out there in the bigtime!"
My coach was no fool. He knew that young people could bemotivated by dreams of glory. He knew that, given a truly excitingand very concrete vision for our near future, my teammatesand I would practice hard and play our hearts out to make ithappen. And so we did.
Frankly, after years of preaching radical discipleship toChristian young people, I am convinced that for the most partpreaching radical discipleship doesn't work. No matter howgood our message may be, the fact is that most kids simply cannotvisualize what we are talking about. The problem is not thatthey are unwilling to become true followers of Jesus. The problemis that they do not know what following Jesus really means.Those kids need dreams of glory. They need an exciting andvery concrete vision for the near future. They need to see a varsitygame, so to speak, to experience what the "big-time" ofradicaldiscipleship is all about.
In my own Christian life, that varsity game has been outreachministry and community development in some of this country'stoughest inner-city neighborhoods. Like many urban missionaries,I first came to the city as a freshly converted teenager, fullof enthusiasm but without a clue as to what it might mean forme to truly follow Jesus. I loved being part of my youth groupand was fanatically devoted to propagating the fundamentaltheology I learned there, but my own relationship with Godhad hardly begun to develop. In other words, I had the kind offaith that seldom survives college.
In the city, however, God became real to me. Perhapsbecause both good and evil were so much easier to identify, Igot caught up in the battle. I was just a day-camp counselor, butthat was enough. My kids were poor. Some were hungry, somewere abused. I met drug dealers, prostitutes, and homeless menwho were utterly lost, and I wanted to help them. I met pastorsand community leaders who were strong and courageous, andI wanted to be like them. Suddenly radical discipleship wasmore than a moral code and a new circle of friends. It was a totalcommitment to outreach, loving relationships, and social justice.And so, in a whole new way, Jesus became my hero.
He still is, of course. The longer I live and work among thepoor, the more I love Jesus. And the more I love Jesus, themore convinced I am that we must send our young people tolive and work among the poor. I am not talking about weeklongmission trips, either, good though they may be. I am talkingabout the kind of serious time and real sacrifice that makesroom for genuine relationships and changed neighborhoods. Iam talking about Mission Year.
Simply stated, Mission Year recruits Christian young peopleeighteen to twenty-nine years of age from all over NorthAmerica to join teams that live and work together in a poorurban neighborhood as "members" of a strong local church,reaching out to love their neighbors in a variety of practicalways. Besides church participation, these young people'sweekly routine is devoted to community service (in publicschools, hospitals, shelters, and other agencies) and neighborhoodoutreach, along with ongoing ministry training, teambuilding, and daily personal devotions. This is street-level stuff,with a real premium on learning how to build authentic relationshipsfor the sake of the kingdom of God.
The following stories and reflections have all either come outof or gone into my ongoing work with Mission Year. Though ithas gone by different names, that work has always been aboutmobilizing and equipping young people to help build the kingdomof God here in the inner city. As I hope you will see, oftenthose young people are the ones most changed by their efforts.
Indeed, as far as I am concerned, Mission Year is that varsitygame our kids need to see. Here is a cutting-edge nationwideprogram that asks for and gets an incredible amount of commitmentout of all kinds of Christian young people. Here is avital movement that effectively combines spiritual growth, relationalevangelism, and meaningful social action into the kind ofradical discipleship that preachers like me can never really putinto words. Here is something so real and powerful that ayouthworker can point to it and say, "You like that, youngpeople? Of course you do! Well, now you know what you'reshooting for, and why we work so hard. We've got to get youready, because one day that's going to be you out there in thebig-time!"
The Mormons figured out al] this stuff a long time ago. Wemay not like their theology, but we Christians must respect thecommitment of Mormon young people. They are out there,year in and year out, more than fifty thousand strong, knockingon doors all over the world. Every Mormon grows up expectingto serve for at least two years. I believe the time has comefor every Christian young person to grow upand to be trainedupexpecting to serve as well, in Mission Year or somethinglike it.
The job of the church is not just to get our young peoplethrough high school and college safe and sound, but to makethem into radical disciples of Jesus Christ, ready, willing, andable to transform this world into the kingdom of God. We willnot lose them because we ask too much. We will lose them if wekeep asking too little. Now is the time to give them exciting andconcrete visions of what they can do and who they can become!Now is the time to give them dreams of glory!
Excerpted from KINGDOM WORKS by BART CAMPOLO. Copyright © 2001 by Bart Campolo. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.