Students and student ministers should be desperate for the guidance of God’s Spirit as they attempt to build their ministries, David Platt, pastor of The Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, Ala., said during the 41st year of Southwestern Seminary’s Youth Ministry Lab, March 6-7.

“I am a part of a religious system that has created a whole host of means and methods for doing church and ministry that, in the end, require little if any help at all from the Holy Spirit of God,” Platt said. “We have made a deadly mistake in our day, mistaking the presence of physical bodies for the existence of spiritual life. You can draw a crowd with anything.”

Platt drew this application from an exposition of Exodus 33:12-18, a passage where God, at first, tells Moses that he and the Israelites may go up to the Promised Land but not with His presence guiding them. “Moses sees the depth of the call that God has given him to do, and he sees his own resources, and he sees that he doesn’t have what it takes to accomplish this call,” Platt said. Christians, he added, are in danger of becoming self-sufficient if they ignore God’s call or overestimate their resources.

“Maybe we’ve lost sight of realities: Over a billion people have not even heard the name of Jesus, and 30,000 children have died today of either starvation or preventable disease,” he said. “When you realize your call is to impact the nations for the glory of Christ, then you realize how desperate you must be for the Spirit.”

During breakout sessions, Kevin DeYoung, co-author of Why We’re Not Emergent (By Two Guys Who Should Be), told student ministers to challenge their youth with the images presented by Paul in 2 Timothy 2:1-7: that is, by Paul’s portrayal of a believer as “a good soldier of Jesus Christ,” as an athlete, and as a “hard-working farmer” (NKJV).

“We are giving our students spiritual milk. We are not making them read. We are not giving them an appetite for rich Bible teaching, and I think they are really, really hungry for it. I think they are starving for it,” said DeYoung. He added that students even attend his sermons on Leviticus, and that he has heard of successful youth groups that are studying systematic theology. “Do not be afraid to challenge your students with truth.”

The 2009 Youth Ministry Lab also included a ministers’ wives track, featuring Sandi Black, LaJuana Ross and Ivette Derouen, wives to Southwestern’s student ministry professors, Wes Black, Richard Ross and Johnny Derouen.

According to Black, acting dean for the School of Educational Ministries, Southwestern’s Youth Ministry Lab saw its highest attendance in 41 years, despite the economic downturn that has affected many families and churches. Participants traveled to Fort Worth from across the nation, from states as distant as Washington, Wyoming, Michigan, Maryland and Illinois.