Friday, March 24, 2006

Statement of Purpose for Youth

I wrote this for my youth group in Ohio. I also submitted a slightly truncated form to Higher Things magazine, but they weren't interested. Anyway, here it is.


Statement of Purpose for Youth

My name is Alan Kornacki, Jr. I began working with youth when I was 16, long before I even thought about becoming a pastor. Now that I’m a pastor, working with youth has become even more important to me.

I am a Confessional Lutheran pastor. The Bible, the Lutheran Confessions (as found in the Book of Concord of 1580), and the Divine Service of Holy Communion are the center of my life and work. I believe the Bible is the Word of God, inspired by the Holy Spirit and without error. I believe the Book of Concord is a faithful and accurate exposition of God’s Word. And I believe that God uses the simple means of water and bread and wine to give us the forgiveness of sins, eternal life, and salvation—which God gives to us in the Divine Service through Baptism and the Lord’s Supper.

This is going to affect how I interact with you. The most important thing I can share with you is the message that, because we are sinners, Jesus suffered, died, and rose again so that we will live eternally with Him through faith. Because that is my most important task, I am constantly going to take you—kicking and screaming, if need be—back to the Divine Service, where that faith is fed and that message is preached with power. Game nights, servant events, and pizza parties are great; but they’re not the Gospel. These things pale in comparison to the message that Jesus died to redeem lost sinners. That will be my focus, and I will never apologize for that.

I want you to see Jesus. As you come to see and know Him in the Divine Service, I will do my best to help you see and know Him better. We will study the Bible together in meaningful ways. We will look at the life of Jesus and His saints to see what it means to live as forgiven children of God.

As we continue to grow in the Word, we will naturally continue to grow together in Christian fellowship. We will have fun! We’ll play games, watch movies, hold lock-ins, eat pizza, and take trips. We’ll serve as greeters. We’ll serve breakfast on Easter morning. We’ll chop wood. And we’ll do these things in thanksgiving to God for all His goodness to us.

As your pastor, I will make you these promises:

1. I will remain faithful to the Word of God. When I interact with you, I will speak the truth in love. I will not water it down. I will do my best to live in accordance with God’s Law in thanksgiving for God’s grace. When I fail—and I will fail—I will seek absolution from God, and I will also ask your forgiveness.

2. I will help you grow in the knowledge, fear, and love of the Lord. I will tell you the truth about yourself: that you are a sinner who has been forgiven by the God who loves you in spite of yourself.

3. I will be available to you. Did your significant other break up with you? Do you have a question about God? Did you have a fight with your parents? Is school not going well? Does all hope seem lost? Call me. Send me e-mail. Stop by the house. I can’t promise I will always agree with you. I can’t even promise the house will be clean! But I promise that I will listen, and I promise that I will stand by you, no matter what you say. I may or may not be someone you consider a friend, but I am your pastor, and it’s my duty and delight to care for you.

4. I will do my best for you. When I bring God’s Word to you, I will be as faithful as I can possibly be. When you come to me for guidance or help, I will do everything I can to help you move in the right direction. When I schedule and arrange events, I will try to accommodate as many of you as I can. When we work, it will be meaningful work. When we have fun, we’ll have a lot of fun.

5. I will be myself. You’re going to find out a lot about me just by being around me. Like you, I may be a saint, but I’m also a sinner. That means I will fail you. I am not always going to do things the way you want me to. Sometimes that will be because I’ve sinned against you; and if that’s the case, I will ask your forgiveness and try to fix things. Sometimes, however, it will be an honest disagreement. When that’s the case, know that I have your best interests at heart. You can count on me to be genuine. Even if I didn’t know that you can easily spot a fake, you deserve the real me. And you will get it.

I respect you so much that I expect things from you, too. You can tell me if you think I want too much. But I want you to grow, and that means I am going to push you from time to time. I have these expectations:

1. I expect you to be in the Word. If you never came to a single game night or never picked up a single piece of wood, if you came to the Divine Service to receive the forgiveness of sins and hear the Word of God, I would be satisfied. You know I’d miss you, but if you have to choose, I’d rather have you in church on Sunday morning than at the youth meeting on Sunday night. The Word of God and the forgiveness of sins you receive in the body and blood of Jesus are infinitely more important than who wins the Martin Luther Memorial Bobblehead Award for Excellence in Gaming.

2. I expect you to know that the youth group will not always be about having fun. Don’t get me wrong—we will have fun. But that’s not all we’re about. We are God’s children, and we have brothers and sister we can help. Helping them can be fun. But even when it’s not fun, we still have a responsibility to God and our neighbor.

3. I expect you to be honest with me. Have I offended you? Do you have a better way to do something? Do you have an idea? Tell me! I don’t want you to patronize me. I don’t want you to kiss up. Our success as a youth group depends not only on your participation; we need your feedback to be the best group we can be. And your feedback can help me to grow as a pastor and as a person.

4. I expect you to be honest with each other. The Eighth Commandment has two aspects: be honest, but don’t be brutal in your honesty. You are a Baptized child of God, and this group is for Baptized children of God. Treat each other the way you should treat family.

5. I expect you to be honest with yourself. Nobody knows you better than you know yourself. You can lie to yourself if you want to . . . but why bother? Lies come back to haunt you—truth always comes out. This is no less true when you lie to yourself. You won’t always like the truth, but truth can free you from fear and self-doubt.

We have a long way to go together. Everyone says that youth are the future of the Church. You are not the future; you are the present. The Church needs us to be faithful toward God and loving toward each other. May God bless you as you continue to grow in His grace, and may He continue to bless us as we continue to grow together!

Friday, March 17, 2006

Do unto others . . .

Matthew 18:15-17 states, "Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother. But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector."

This passage--and others like Mathhew 7:1-5 which deal with the same subject--confounds Christians. My misuse it. We misinterpret it. We deliberately ignore it when it suits us. But seldom do we live by it. We think a fellow Christian sins; so, instead of talking to that person, we decide to tell our twenty closest friends. We gossip about it before church services. We write anonymous letters to people in positions of authority. But we don’t talk to the fellow Christian we think has sinned. We don’t stop to get our facts straight. We skip right to the part where we treat the person "like a heathen and a tax collector".

As the liturgy--and indeed, our own experience--tells us, we are by nature sinful and unclean. No matter how hard we try to obey the Law of God, we cannot perfectly obey every mandate He sets before us. This includes the mandate contained in Matthew 18. We are all guilty. There is not one of us who can cast the first stone in this matter. Our sinful nature does not, however, excuse us from striving to treat each other as the Christian brothers and sisters we are. Notice that Jesus said right off, "If your brother sins against you . . ." We are not talking about dealing with strangers here; we are speaking of how we treat our brothers and sisters in Christ! In the Lord’s Prayer we say, "Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us." God forbid our Brother, Jesus, would treat us the way we treat each other! Our Lord does not write our sins on the clouds for all to see. He deals with us individually through those who, by His command, stand in His stead.

The Lord lays it out step-by-step. When your brother sins against you, go to him and speak to him privately about the matter. Show him how he has sinned. If he repents, wonderful! There is joy in heaven over one lost soul who has been found! If he does not repent, take one or two people who are wise and discerning with you and try again. If he doesn’t repent then, tell it to the church, that the whole congregation of brothers and sisters might restore the erring brother. This is not a matter of "ganging up on" your brother; it is a way for this brother to see that his whole family cares for him.

It is never the intention of the church to permanently remove a brother who sins. We are all sinners. We know what it is to sin. We also know what a joy and privilege it is to be forgiven, and it is also a privilege to share that forgiveness with others. If you have an issue with me--if I have sinned against you--I fervently hope you will speak to me, so we may settle the matter as brothers and sisters in Christ. And if your brother sins against you, speak to him as a brother, so that our family may continue to grow together. May our risen Lord strengthen and aid you as you seek to treat your brethren as our heavenly Brother has treated us!

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Tolerance . . .

I open my blog with a post on tolerance. As you get to know me, maybe you'll find out why.

If you go to, you will find their definitions of the word "tolerance". I've come to the conclusion that the world has become tolerant of just about everything but Christian values. Oh, people say that Washington is brainwashed by Christianity and that Christians are hateful and hypocritical and just mean-spirited; but that's not true Christianity, or maybe Christianity in the hands of people who use the name of "Christ" for their own selfish motives. People who would murder (car-bombing abortion clinics or mosques or physically attacking homosexuals or those of different faiths) in the name of Christ are not true Christians.

When you look at Christianity at its purest--that is, when you look at Christ Himself, who is the only perfect Christian--He loved people who were sinners in the eyes of the world. But this does't mean that He tolerated their sinfulness. He would by no means harm a sinner, but He would show the sinner his sin and bring about repentance, and then forgive the person of his sin.

Now I don't claim to be perfect by any stretch of the imagination, except maybe being a perfect sinner. No one is perfect. We are all sinful and fall short of the glory of God. That makes me a hypocrite in some ways, sure. I am not always consistent, though I try to be; and when I fail, I pray for God's forgiveness. But as one who stands "in the stead of Christ" in my vocation as a pastor, I have a duty to speak the truth, even when that truth is not popular. That means I'm not going to tolerate abortion or pre-marital sex or affairs or anything else the world says I should tolerate, because to do so would to be unfaithful to my Lord Jesus Christ. I will show the love of Christ to homosexuals and Muslims and even to those who mis-use the name of Christ; but I will not tolerate their sin, any more than I tolerate my own.