PLEASE, I WOULD LIKE TO BE REFERRED TO AS AJITH FERNANDO IN THIS BOOK AND NOT AS DR AJITH FERNANDO. PLEASE!
“Geared to the Times; Anchored to the Rock.” This slogan, introduced by Youth for Christ President Dr. Bob Cook in 1948, has stood the test of time and continues to describe what Youth for Christ is about. When YFC Sri Lanka started in 1965 there was a great need for youth ministry among Christians, and YFC set about trying to meet that need. Geared to the times meant trying to bring vital faith to youth from Christian backgrounds.
Soon we realised that the youth ministry in churches was gaining momentum and the time had come for us to make unchurched youth our main focus. We had to relearn a lot of things. Music styles, drama styles and ministry strategy… all these things had to be changed. Our once famous large rallies did not attract unchurched youth, and we gave those up. Our Christians friends began to ask, “What has happened to YFC; we don’t see any ministry anymore?” The reason was that we were working among the unchurched and the churched people did not see us working.
As youth culture kept changing and as cultures vary widely in different parts of the country we had to keep constantly changing our methods. Things that worked in one part of Colombo didn’t seem to work in another part even with the same language group. Substantial differences were seen between the ministries in the Colombo area and in other parts of the nation. But always we tried to build on the solid foundation and approach to ministry that was established during the leadership of our founder Sam Sherrard with evangelism and discipling as the main focus.
I can think of three main factors which have helped us remain anchored to the rock. Firstly, we have tried to do all we do in keeping with the scriptures. Our priorities, our strategy, our preaching, our training and our follow-up of new believers are all hopefully derived from the Bible. We have sometimes fallen short here, and always the result of that has been a shallow work that produced little lasting fruit.
Secondly, we have tried to do everything as a fellowship in Christ. That has not been an easy approach to maintain. We are still learning how to do this properly. Keeping the community united was one of my biggest and hardest responsibilities when I led the work. In the community there are daring souls who are not afraid to try new and difficult ways of doing ministry. They help keep us at the cutting edge. But there are also some more conservative folk whose cautions help the growth to take place responsibly. The debates that take place between those backing the different sides on an issue have I think helped keep us from going to unhealthy extremes.
Thirdly, we have tried to keep reminding ourselves that people are lost without Christ. The tragedy of lostness helps bring focus to our ministry. Whatever we do must contribute to the saving of lost youth. Our creative advances in arts and the media are never ends in themselves. They must serve the task of bringing salvation to young people. We will try new and uncomfortable things, endure hardships, face fierce opposition and criticism, and pay whatever price needs to be paid in order that we may win the lost. People need the Lord more than anything else in life!