#27: On grace, law, and the mission of Mockingbird with David Zahl.

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Perhaps the saddest ministerial reality today is that many youth pastors have been put in a cage when it comes to what they can teach their youth. To be sure, most of the negative colloquial knowledge of youth pastors is self-inflicted, with immature leaders making immature decisions. But by and large, a student pastor curtails their message to fit something other than what’s being preach in “big church” to keep the status quo. Namely, grace is an outlaw and obedience is emphasized. That’s actually a misnomer, because grace is in no way opposed to obedience. But the point remains that in most cases, parents aren’t really looking for the youth pastor to disciple their teenager in the gospel as much as they are looking for him to make sure their teenager doesn’t mess up. As David Zahl and I discuss in today’s show, as long as they don’t have sex, don’t try drugs, don’t become alcoholics, and they have fun along way, the youth pastor’s deemed fairly successful. And that’s tragic to me.

Actually, that’s really the reason why I wrote my book. Because, you see, youth ministry is at its worst when it’s regulated to being nothing more than a teenage daycare, instilling in them only do’s and don’ts. The youth group isn’t a church-appointed obedience school for teens who want to rebel. Rather, it is a vital extension of the church body in which its future dwells. Youth ministry is at its best when it’s “rightly dividing the Word truth” (2 Tm 2:15), when it’s describing to teens in a myriad of ways how the gospel frees them to be obedient; how Christ’s finished work for them on the cross liberates them from caring about their own interests to courageously investing their lives in others.

In this episode of the Ministry Minded Podcast, David Zahl and I seek to the church that its sole mission, regardless of age group or venue, is the proclamation of the free, unadulterated gospel of grace. We also talk about the story behind Mockingbird Ministries and its ongoing mission to help readers from all backgrounds distinguish between God’s law and God’s gospel, giving them the clarity to see those themes the in the world all around them. This was a thrilling conversation that encouraged me greatly, and I pray you find it just as encouraging.


Law and Gospel: A Theology for Sinners (and Saints), William McDavid,‎ Ethan Richardson,‎ & David Zahl

A Mess of Help: From the Crucified Soul of Rock N’ Roll, David Zahl

The Gospel According to Pixar, David Zahl

The Mockingbird Devotional: Good News for Today (and Every Day), Ethan Richardson and Sean Norris

Grace in Practice: A Theology of Everyday Life, Paul Zahl

Who Will Deliver Us?: The Present Power of the Death of Christ, Paul Zahl

The Crucifixion: Understanding the Death of Jesus Christ, Fleming Rutledge

More Theology & Less Heavy Cream: The Domestic Life of Pietro And Madeleine, Robert Capon

Grace: So Much More Than You Know and So Much Better Than You Think, Brad J. Gray


This episode is brought to you by the Christian Standard Bible. Find out more by going to CSBible.com.


David is a speaker, writer, and pastor in Charlottesville, Virginia, where he lives with his wife and three boys. There, he serves the congregation of Christ Church as its college and young adult minister. In addition to that, he’s the founder, curator, and director of Mockingbird Ministries, a site devoted to connecting the Christian faith with the realities of everyday life in down-to-earth ways. Since its inception in 2007, Mockingbird has become an incredible resource for Christian readers of all stripes of faith to enhance their knowledge of the gospel and discern between law and grace. David regularly writes at Mockingbird, as well as hosts conferences, podcasts, and publishes books. You can follow this ministry by connecting with them on Twitter, @mockingbirdmin.


Intro music: “West Coast” by Ryan Little, licensed under CC BY 4.0.