Brandon Christian Sullivan- Live Deeply

I’m CSPC member Brandon Christian Sullivan, and this is how I’m living deeply.

I was only 21, but I felt like I had never been fed so much. The year was 2009, and I’d just started
attending CSPC, but I knew it was my new church home. There was such grace in John Wood’s
preaching- and getting to experience the Lord’s table almost every Sunday, I just loved it. After a few
weeks of being there, John said something to the effect of, ‘If you are being fed here, then your Christian
duty and responsibility is to serve.’ So I was like, ‘Alright, I’m going to do it.’ He said there was an
opportunity in children’s ministry, and I had worked in kids’ ministry at my previous church. So I decided
to see what they needed, got involved in the kids’ ministry, and started off as a first grade boys small
group leader. I got to teach lessons, talk about the Bible with them, even sometimes bring my guitar and
lead worship. Then the next year I moved up with that same group. Then I went with them from second
grade to third, and it just kind of happened that I went up with those guys all the way through. They just
graduated high school this past spring- a core group of about a dozen or so guys. Scottie Hill and Peter
Kroslowski joined in around the middle school years, and together the three of us walked through the
middle school and high school years with those guys. Growing up brings with it a lot of questions. If the
kids aren’t having their sincere questions of faith answered well, that can be a big reason we lose them
from the Church. With that in mind, one thing Scottie, Peter, and I really wanted to do with these guys
was prepare them, as best we know how, to have a stalwart faith- that way they’re going into the world,
but not without the truth of the Scriptures and not without answers to some really deep questions. No
one has all the answers, of course. But we wanted to give them a place where they could bring hard
questions up and have them addressed honestly and deeply.

Exploring tough questions is a passion of mine because when I was their age, in high school, I
went through a big crisis of faith and doubts myself. And I realized if you don’t have a solid foundation,
the world can just rock your faith. I and my co-leaders wanted those guys to have faith that goes deep
and is real; that stands the test of time. My doubts were existential, wondering whether Christianity was
even true. It was a very grueling few years where I just didn’t know and had to dig into the truth, always
asking, ‘What are the facts?’ I pulled all the brush away to look at the key reality, which was the firm and
settled understanding that Jesus rose from the dead. That changed everything. I said, ‘Okay, Jesus rose
from the dead’ and built everything else in terms of my faith around that. These guys had questions
about everything- the reliability of the Scriptures, the problem of pain and suffering, election. We
worked through these with them rather than saying, ‘Just believe, just believe.’ Going through the
questions and pressing deeper into the faith with them strengthened my own faith. Wrestling with
doubts was an adolescent struggle we all shared, but growing up is quite different in some ways for
these young men, too. They’re confronted by far more technological pitfalls than I was. What’s really
challenging on a spiritual level is that anything that’s bad and dangerous can come at you in a much
more direct way than it could with me. I got my first phone when I was 17- it was a flip phone, pretty
harmless. Today, if there’s even a little crack in a guy’s spiritual armor, that’s the way The Enemy is
going to try to get in. And smart phones are such powerful tools that they also very easily take guys’
attention away from other important things. The guys would all say ‘We want to spend less time on our
phones, less time on our phones, less time on our phones’, but the phones kept drawing them in.

Unearthing the shame of pornography, which is so often fueled by phones, was a big theme we
worked through. We let guys who were struggling know we’re all sinners and we’re all broken. And we
encouraged them- letting them know it was good they were bringing these struggles to light so they
could receive healing. Plus we advised them to find someone to be accountable to- to not live the Christian life alone, because it’s impossible to do. There was also a lot of talking through the reality of having a new identity in Christ but still grappling with the flesh warring against that, and pointing them to the Scriptures, which discuss the Spirit being at enmity with the flesh. That’s an important thing to de-stigmatize- you don’t want to act like battling sinful desire is no big deal, but also don’t want to make it such an earth-shattering thing that they feel what they’re experiencing is brand new. After all, they’ll be in this battle their whole lives. It helped that we were all going through this together. There was a sense among these guys of really wanting community, which isn’t as readily accessible for this generation. In one sense they’re completely connected with their friends- there are pings and alerts, so they know what’s happening. But that closeness of community -in person, face to face- can be lacking. I think that’s one of the reasons the guys stayed together for so long and kept coming back. They found a community of people who loved them and wanted the best for them. We who led wanted to have the faith tradition passed on to them so they could grow and then follow Christ in their lives. And community’s such a big part of following Him! Scottie and Peter really poured in and told our small group, ‘This is essential. This is your life. When you go off to college, find a Christian community.’ And I think all the guys do value that. They’ve lived among a Christian community throughout their entire upbringing. They learned what it’s like to be the Church from talking about the Scriptures, reading, and praying with one another. It’s been like watching fruit ripen on a tree- you see the buds develop and steadily grow into something more.

I got married just last year. I’d wanted to be married for years and these guys had seen me
through several relationships. During one of our meetings, all the guys in the group actually prayed for
me and for my marriage. They just poured into me in that special way. It was such a sweet time. A huge
portion of them came to my wedding. They were sitting in the back- one row of all these long-haired
guys in the back. You can see them in my wedding pictures. That’s just one example of the bond God’s
allowed us to build. As much as Scottie, Peter, and I wanted to encourage them, they were eager as they
got older to vocalize their gratitude to us. When we had their graduation ceremony at the church, so
many of the guys -and some of their parents- came up and said ‘Thank you.’ I’ve received letters from
them over the years saying they wouldn’t be who they are today if it weren’t for the work Scottie and
Peter and I had done in their lives. It’s been the most meaningful ministry of my entire life. It’s blessed
me in ways I can’t quite put into words. I’ve felt the joy of the Lord a lot through this, and I’m not the
sort of person who has a lot of emotional, mountaintop moments. I’ve loved it so much I’m jumping
right back in this fall, leading a new group of fourth and fifth grade boys. So if you feel God may be laying
it on your heart to serve with the youth, I can assure you that you will not regret doing this. You’re going
to widen your family. You’re going to widen the circle of people that you love, the cares and worries you
have, and the people you’re praying for. You’re going to live deeply with people, and they’re going to
end up changing you as well. And remember- you’re not always just pouring in; they’re pouring into you
as well. This is how God sanctifies us- we serve, but then He ends up changing us through the ministries
in which we’re involved.

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