The phrase "born-again Christian" is redundant.
One cannot be Christian unless born again, as Jesus explained and was quoted in the scripture of John.
The "born again" in His reference is rebirth of a man's natural spirit to rebel against God. That is, to disobey God, to rely on self, to think of self first. These are the basic elements of life collectively tagged "sin" -- Jesus says this human spirit, the spirit of sin -- must be "reborn" to submit to God's will and guidance. This is done, first, by recognizing and acknowledging the life of Christ as revealed in Scriptures, then by living according to His teachings. In its simplest expression, this is what it means to be born again. To renew a spirit to follow God's lead.
But what of those people who were born with such a spirit. The spirit to follow God and not sin that seems intrinsic from birth. Are there such people? Especially in our age?
We believe we have encountered such an individual, and she has been serving in our ministry seemingly half her life -- which is fascinating because only this year did she turn one score and four.
Although the KIT Ministries family knew of Marissa long before she could sing -- before she could talk and text, even -- it was evident that her presence, often silent, could demonstrate how God works in individual lives as a beacon in the madness of the world around.
Once she began speaking, and singing, Marissa was placed with KIT as a translator to speak to an age demographic in need of the gospel, but deemed unresponsive to traditional methods.
Back in the Day
Marissa graduates from Moody Bible Institute in December, completing a long journey that included "gap years" between high school and college. Those were not idle times. They involved raising funds for college in day jobs, and serving selflessly in church ministry. It could be said the latter is the natural extension of growing up in a church family -- she's not a PK (pastor's kid) -- but pretty close.
A church-family kid is one of those people who is always in church at countless activities at an early age, often winds up being asked to lead things on Sunday, dragged in to do things with parents (and/or grandparents) in the middle of the week, and is a last minute fill-in when another person (can you say, "adult?") fails to show up or volunteer for a church assignment. Such children, although numerous in formative years, often are the first to permanently exit a church once receiving a high school graduation gift from the congregation. Yes, Virginia, helping out in church ministry as a teen can push young people away from the building and away from God.
Or, draw them closer.
Yes, Virginia, there are Marissas -- who serve without complaining, and suggest without judgment.
That's how she began her journey to be a KIT intern.
Once a Teacher, Pass on the Gene
The oldest children are often doused with parental responsibilities early. In addition to becoming the parents' assistant with younger siblings in public, they also become the kids' discipler after-hours, giving the low-down to each new child the parents' rules of the house -- and the nuances on how to work the parental system. With each new sib' -- conveniently spaced roughly two years apart over the next 12 years, Marissa had ample opportunity to repeat and teach the rules of house decorum and public behavior. Even in managing conflict and the nuts-and-bolts of parental manipulation, Marissa was a natural educator: her mom and grandmother are/were teachers.
It was little surprise, then, that when the churches where she grew up needed nursery help, or, after youth ministry turnover, a teen counselor, Marissa was enlisted without a second thought. It was also not a surprise how she resonated with the teens she was thrust into leading once she settled in as a student at Moody Bible Institute and was in search of hours for her undergraduate practicum.
When hiring a ministry intern or student teacher, there are three dangers of misuse:
We can look down on them because they are young.
Yet, Marissa's natural gift of temperament and understanding new media enabled her to be both a good student of ministry and a good teacher of ministers. She spent two years serving as a student ministry aide, eventually given the responsibility of organizing the curriculum, introducing new music, reinterpreting older music, and filling in as a musical song leader with the, generally, older Sunday morning ensemble. She became solid in church ministry. Then the inevitable occurred: God moved her from the church where she was serving.
A burgeoning millennial bit the dust -- and was planted elsewhere.
A Teen Grows in Brookfield
Studying musical worship leading at college, including uses of theater in worship, Marissa sought a similar outlet after two years of midweek teaching. Part of the search enabled her to serve occasionally with Kingdom Impact Theater's musical and theater ensembles, but the regular opportunity was needed -- for college credit and self. It came when a multi-site church plant, New Life Community, took root in Brookfield, IL, a suburb of Chicago, and needed a part-time musical worship leader. After a few months, the part-time school credit role became a permanent position, a weekly expression merging the talents and gifts honed over a life that hasn't yet reached a quarter of a century.
Moreover, she's received opportunities to engage with other musicians in the New Life network of churches, and take those experiences into other church communities. Example: During her New Life time, Marissa has not only brought to Kingdom Impact Theater stronger methods of teaching and communicating across generations ("What he means is...," "The app works like this...," "Oh, you can just download this link..."), she's also introduced us to music for old school stories ("Can we try this song? It's on my playlist..."). More importantly, by her demeanor, Marissa has demonstrated trust, patience, peace, kindness and, especially self-control navigating the roads bellowing with Chicago traffic.
For some of us, driving in rush hour or city traffic is a true temptation to capitulate to sin. To Marissa, such travel is a confined opportunity to commune with God as the sins of road rage percolate around her. Even to other Believers, it may seem perplexing that such moments don't drive this lady gaga, until you realize that Marissa embraces that "the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus" -- because she was born this way.
The KIT 'n' Kaboodle Blog
The essays here are culled from our travels, conversations, worship experiences and discoveries.
Many are reprints from our newsletter, The KIT 'n' Kaboodle, or Facebook notes over time.
They're written by our ensemble, Garlan Garner, Michael Edgar Myers or Vikki J. Myers -- solo, or collectively.