It only takes one

I travel with a youth ministry team that visits a broad range of churches. One week we can be in a 1000+ seat venue with standing room only and the next week we could be in a backwoods church of 100 people with 20 youth staring at us. I don’t say that to complain at all–I like variety. I only bring it up to say that we meet a lot of different types of youth ministers and “church folk.”

One seemingly common phrase among event-based ministries keeps popping up and I’m just not sure exactly how I feel about it. It’s a phrase that I remember hearing (and probably saying) back in my youth days. The words may not always be the same, but is always goes something like this:

If just one person gets saved tonight then all of our work was worth it.

Now, definitely don’t hear this as an attack on the church or on church people. It’s just that this particular phrase has raised so many questions for me that I refuse to use it until someone can help answer them.

  1. First off, would someone ever say that they worked “too hard” for only one salvation? What if we could have done something differently that would have resulted in more salvation decisions? Does our amount of work really directly correlate to the number of decisions made at events? How much of that is really in our hands?
  2. If an event coordinator’s goal is “at least one salvation” could that ever keep him from working harder and doing something to facilitate more decisions? Can this mentality be a crutch? Can it be justification?
  3. Is salvation always the goal of church events? Or, at least, is it the only goal? Let’s assume that sometimes God has plans for an event that do not involve someone “getting saved.” Let’s say that sometimes he is merely challenging the Church to grow in their faith. Can we ever really know God’s plans for an event or see all of the results? If not, then can we fairly judge the success or failure of an event on whether or not someone is saved?