Live Blog by Chipper Flaniken

Welcome to “Scripture as the Base for Ministry” with Dr. Ajith Fernando

Dr. Fernando is the National Director of Youth for Christ in Sri Lanka.

A live video stream of this event is available here.

The event will begin at 1:00PM CST.


This lecture describes the story of how one ministry (Youth for Christ/Sri Lanka) attempted to have all its ministry spring from the Bible. It will demonstrate how Scripture can guide in the developing of strategy, in the choosing of methods in ministry, at team meetings, when deciding what to speak or teach on, when developing the priorities of a ministry, and in the developing of the principles to govern community life and leadership.

Introduction by Hans Madueme

Dr. Fernando:

– Carl Henry had a huge influence on ministry in our parts of the world
– Churches at the time were drowning in liberalism, but Carl Henry had a “brilliant” way of speaking that showed those churches that evangelicals can believe in the Bible and not commit intellectual suicide
– Carl Henry regularly wrote letters to Dr. Fernando even after Dr. Henry left the area

Topic of the lecture: Using the Bible in Ministry
Dr. Fernando will explain how they learned to use the Bible at Youth for Christ

  • 2 Timothy 3:16 – this passage is more about the practicability of Scripture than its inspiration
  • we will be talking about an organization fashioned by Scripture
  • Dr. Fernando thinks that Scripture has descended into a sourcebook rather than a textbook for ministry
  • The challenge is to see people modified by the Scriptures – whose lives are “fashioned” by the Scriptures.
  • Ministries must teach people how to rightly handle the Word of Truth

Threefold challenge for ministry:

  1. To teach all the truths of the Bible using whatever methods necessary (including creative methods)
  2. To do it in such a way that it is assimilated and behavior changes
  3. Help them to become Bible Christians – skill in handling the Word.

Youth For Christ is often accused of being to much about “fun” – but Dr. Fernando thinks that kids must be encouraged to have “fun.” Our approach to fun must come from a theology of treasure. So Youth for Christ is “serous about fun”

The dream of how people handle the Word found in Deuteronomy 6:5-9 – we (YFC) want to see people develop this approach to Scripture!

Dr. Fernando and his approach to ministry when he first began leading Youth for Christ in Sri Lanka:

  • Dr. Fernando scanned the Scriptures to see how all of the aspects of his new job (e.g. evangelism, how to survive in the secular world, etc.) are dealt with in Scripture.
  • The whole idea is to take a team and study the Scriptures to see how it influences your ministry

How Youth for Christ started in Sri Lanka

  • Had rallies through Youth for Christ in the 1960s and many people came to Christ
  • But follow up and discipleship wasn’t really happening
  • So in Sri Lanka, discipleship became the focus (under the influence of media from authors such as Robert Coleman)
  • Leaders began to spend more time in just a few places in order to spend more time on discipleship
  • Now Youth for Christ in Sri Lanka has 75 staff

1976 – Dr. Fernando arrived and began to see some dangers in discipleship

Danger #1 – If insecure leaders are discipling others – they could grab too much authority and Youth for Christ could become cultish

  • so the job of the leader is to help others live according to the Word
  • 2 Tim 2:2 – “What you have learned from me…commit to faithful men”

Danger #2 – Not enough emphasis on involvement in local churches

  • YFC instituted a new requirement that “disciplers” and small group leaders had to be involved in a local church

Body of Christ Theology

  • How can we build a body of Christ where the rich and the poor feel equal?
  • One particular challenge – once the poor became Christians, they became increasingly angry with class distinctions
  • So how does YFC deal with this challenge?
  1. Transparency in spending money and organizing finances

    • Elevated the poor to the point where they had a voice in YFC in helping to organize the finances.
  2. Emphasis on doing away with the sin of lieing

    • Even though mistakes are made in every minisitry (such as YFC), lieing was not tolerated
    • As people stopped lieing, they began to change
    • In Acts there is this emphasis on pushing people to be of one mind. YFC tries to mimic this model.

Special challenges in Sri Lanka:

  1. Right and wrong are determined on a communal basis. If it brings shame to the community – then it is wrong. If it honors the community, it is right.
  • Horrible crimes are tolerated sometimes because people do not want to speak badly of the leaders
  • So Dr. Fernando scanned the Scriptures for content about “shame” in order to preset the gospel to a “shame” culture that is biblical
  • Realized that the Bible talks a lot about honoring parents, etc. So this became a normal part of the basic Christian message in Sri Lanka. When you become a Christian, you have to honor your parents more, become a better son, etc.
  • As this message was preached, the staff began to meet the parents of many of these children and YFC staff became spiritual advisers to many families in Sri Lanka
  • Another observation: Paul wanted to give Christians new community values – such as holiness.

Behind all of this is the belief that the Bible is a comprehensive book! Principles for every doctrine and behavior is found in the Bible.

  • – In light of this view of the Bible:

1. YFC informed its new ministry to non-Christians

  • Acts 17 became a very important passage to the YFC mission to non-Christians
  • YFC learned drama and music that was similar to the style of music in the places that Sri Lanka was trying to reach
  • At the same time – with the English speaking youth – it is becoming harder and harder to reach them. This is still the hardest work in Sri Lanka
  • The thing that attract poor youth do not attract the westernized youth
  • So the YFC staff had to learn things that could attract the rich (basketball, etc.)
  • This follows the principle that, when Paul was in the land of Socrates (Athens), he used the method of Socrates

2. YFC learned the importance of ongoing dialogue

  • Even when YFC staff preached gospel messages, Buddhists still managed to translate those messages as being the same as their own
  • So YFC had to dialogue back and forth with Buddhists in order to make distinctions

3. YFC focused its gospel messages on God before talking about Jesus

  • Views of God in Sri Lanka are not the same – and YFC had to address this

4. Biblical content needs to be presented in a variety of ways

  • The truth doesn’t change, but sometimes methods must change
  • For example – how to you train illiterate people who have come to Christ
  • * Bible saturated worship was key
    * Doctrine was presented using hymnody
    * Music is a powerful means of communication – a ways of “slipping in a worldview” outside of the sermon or preached message
    * This can be very useful when talking about difficult doctrines – such as judgment
    * Jesus “slipped in” the doctrine of judgment and hell all of the time
    * People get used to seeing how doctrine influences everything that YFC does

At the end of the day, it is enormously important to look at people through biblical eyes. no matter what your ministry does, the fact remains that people are doing to die with or without Jesus

  • We must look at people through biblical eyes. The most loving thing you can do with a person is to share the gospel!
  • People are lost and need a savior!


  • The whole Bible speaks to us
  • Don’t let one truth in Scripture eclipse another

How Scripture influences YFC team meetings:

  • YFC always begins leadership meetings with Scripture – the goal is to study a passage of Scripture that relates to the agenda of the meeting
  • Each person studies this passage of Scripture before the meeting starts
  • The question is then asked – how does this Scripture passage impact our ministry?

The event has now concluded. Thanks for joining us!