Teaching Hard Topics (and why my wife is a better communicator than me)

The past few days in the Jacobsen family have been fun. Sunday evening at Harvest Naperville's HSM we finished up a series called #nowtrending, where students had the opportunity to ask any question about faith, God, or the Bible and we'd do our best to answer it. The overwhelming question students asked was this: "What does the Bible REALLY say about Same-Sex Attraction?" So that was fun.

And then on Wednesday, Kristin had the privilege of teaching high school girls about lust at Aurora Christian School, and following her message, I gave a message to the middle school students on the same topic.

The messages were good. They were deeply biblical, full of compassion, conviction, and hope. Jesus was the hero. But the response was very mixed. And so it caused me to reflect on the issues surrounding teaching hard topics in student ministry and I've been challenged by this one thought:

You can attack the dragon of culture all you want, but until you win a heart, you can't win at all.

I received this e-mail from one of our small group leaders after our discussion on Sunday night. She wrote,

This was an interesting meeting to say the least. We had half of the girls who were very vocal about being pro-homosexuality. The other half felt like it should just be accepted because it is so prevalent today. Unfortunately it did not seem like their opinions changed much after the lesson. I believe they pretty much shut down and were not receptive to hearing another point of view.

This should solidify in pastors the need to address tough topics, for sure. Culture is big, it is pervasive, and it is collective. Our students default to the societal norm if we don't put before them God's wisdom.

Yet, our aim isn't to overthrow culture, it's to win hearts.

This is what my wife has taught me so well, and is why she's naturally a better communicator than me. Watching Kristin prepare for her message to these girls was a bit like watching a friend train for a marathon - there was a lot of questioning, a lot of discipline, and a lot of anticipation. But what I love about what I saw in her is this - when she takes an issue, she wraps her heart around it so she can connect God's Word to the heart of her listeners. And it's warm, personal, true, honest, and convicting.

It's easy to get sidetracked on the logic, clarity, and urgency of the message. But when I can let God use my heart in preaching, communication results in change. This was a super timely reminder for me... "out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks."