For those who have followed me and my ministry for a while, you already know that one of the things I love is connecting with other youth workers and ministries. It’s one of the main reasons I started the Student Ministry Podcast earlier this year. I think it all started when I was in youth […]
“Why, O Lord, is it so hard for me to keep my heart directed toward you? Why do the many little things I want to do, and the many people I know, keep crowding my mind, even during the hours that I am totally free to be with you and you alone? Why does my mind wander off in so many directions, and why does my heart desire the things that lead me astray? Are you not enough for me? Do I keep doubting your love and care, your mercy and grace? Do I keep wondering, in the center of my being, whether you will give me all I need if I just keep my eyes on you?
Please accept my distractions, my fatigue, my irritations and my faithless wanderings. You know me more deeply and fully than I know myself. You love me with a greater love than I can love myself. You even offer me more than I can desire. Look at me, see me in all my misery and inner confusion, and let me sense your presence in the midst of my turmoil. All I can do is show myself to you. Yet, I am afraid to do so. I am afraid that you will reject me. But I know – with the knowledge of faith – that you desire to give me your love. The only thing you ask of me is not to hide from you, not to run away in despair, not to act as if you were a relentless despot.
Take my tired body, my confused mind, and my restless soul into your arms and give me rest, simple quiet rest. Do I ask too much too soon? I should not worry about that. You will let me know. Come, Lord Jesus, come. Amen.”
– Henri Nouwen – A Cry for Mercy: Prayers for the Genessee
I just read this quote in “The Reason for God” by Tim Keller
“When we build our lives on anything but God, that thing – though a good thing – becomes and enslaving addiction, something we have to have to be happy.”
This is so very true!
I’ve been reading a fascinating book called “An Unstoppable Force: Daring to Become the Church God Had in Mind” by Erwin McManus. The below quote really caught my attention.
In everything that is about style and preference, the church must be willing to change for the sake of those who are lost. It is difficult enough for a sinful person to deal with the realities of repentance and humility without the church establishing unnecessary boundaries between humanity and God. We must remove every nonessential barrier facing those who seek God but have not yet found him.
I wonder how many of our churches get too caught up in our own personal style and Prefernce. I know i sure do sometimes. When McManus wrote these words he was reflecting on Peter challenging his fellow Jews not to put unnecessary burdons on the Gentiles who were coming to faith in Acts chapter 15:10-11
“Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of the disciples a yoke that neither we nor our fathers have been able to bear? No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.”
Quite a challenge to all of who call ourselves followers of Jesus. What should our church services look like? Is it about me and my personal taste or is it about glorifying God and bringing others to him?
About a month ago, I was driving back from a ski trip and having a fantastic conversation with 2 friends. We were reflecting on the times we’ve had together and the things we’ve done in my 6 years of ministry here at WPC. I was asking a bunch of questions about the future, the past and the present and this question came to my mind. “If you could re-live any day from the last 6 years, what would it be?” This was a question not about regret, but just days that were great. We talked about our trip to Haiti, random adventures and deep discussions. Soon my own questions were turned on me, what day would I re-live? I thought of similar things they mentioned but then out of left field something unexpected hit me.
My first day on the job. Day 1 at WPC, it was August, I was terrified, I didn’t get much done other than set up my office and meet people. I was terrified, overwhelmed and felt completely incompetent for the job. It was terrifying, but the anticipation was incredible, it was new and it was exciting and I knew it was right where God wanted me.
On a very similar note, our church is starting a Saturday Night service in a few weeks. This is going to be a unique service, geared towards people who wouldn’t’ normally come to church or can’t make Sunday mornings. This is new, exciting and terrifying because I will be doing the preaching at this service. Similar to my first day on the job I am excited, terrified and feeling completely incompetent. The anticipation is incredible, but once again I am confident this is right where God wants me at this time .
That’s all from me for now. But what about you, what day from the last 6 years would you want to re-live the experience of?
What is success in Student Ministry? Excellent programs, life changing mission trips, large numbers of students attending, commitments to Christ, students going deeper in their faith? These are all fantastic things, but are they how we define success? Ministry is a tricky thing, we live in a world where things need to be quantified (this isn’t necessarily a bad thing). To define something in that way is essentially a way of saying this is successful or it isn’t. The problem though is effectively quantifying this can be a very elusive because its about the heart. It is and always will be impossible to measure the heart of another.
In the book Feeding Your Forgotten Soul by Paul Borthwick he tells of a seminar that he was leading for other youth pastors and he posed the question, “In 20 years, what would you need to be true for you to look back and say, ‘I have been a success’?” A response from one in the crowd implied that if the students he was currently working with currently are still walking with the Lord in 20 years. In my opinion that would be a huge success but it it really reality and is it really something we can control?
As of 2 days ago I am now 36 years old (though I absolutely do not feel that way) I am in a season of life that I am recognizing that no matter how much I work, how many hours I put in there are things I simply have no control of.– I can’t control who shows up, – I can’t control who reads their bible – I can’t control who prays – I can’t control a student who continually pursues things they know hurt them
So many things are way beyond my control, so defining success as students who are still walking with Christ in 20 years is very much beyond my control. Theres another level here though too: if that is a defining point of my success as a youth pastor I am making an assumption that I am changing lives. Ultimately we (I) get off track sometimes because it becomes about us (me), I am doing God’s work, I am changing lives, I am running this ministry. The truth of the matter is it is God who changes lives! I can assist, I can help be a catalyst, but I don’t change lives God does. A couple years ago at a conference one of the most impactful statements I heard was from veteran youth worker Doug Fields:
God is the one who bears fruit, we are supposed to abide
I am adopting a new philosophy when it comes to ministry. For years I have not identified a clear vision, but reading this book this morning and remembering that quote I just shared, something came with me that I really like, it’s not fancy, but that is probably best
Bring students to the feet of Jesus
That’s what I can do, I can’t force a decision, I can’t control spiritual growth. But I can bring them to his feet. Then I can bring them back again, and again and again and again. Just like I need.
Ok, so I haven’t written anything in a while and quite frankly I had no intention to do so today either. I’ve got plenty of other stuff I probably should be doing, but I just got an email about a book which has me all wound up. I’m not one to critique a book I haven’t read, and in fact this has more to do with the title of the email than the book itself. The title of this email was:
“Is Christianity Dying? Will Christianity Have a Funeral or a Future?”
There is so many things wrong with these 2 questions from a Theological perspective. Let’s start with one simple statement from Jesus, from Matthew 16:18. Peter had just made an astounding proclamation of who Jesus is, Peter the screw up, finally got it right. Jesus then declares in this verse.
‘And I tell you that you are Peter and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hades will not overcome it”
If Christianity is really dying that would make Jesus out to be a liar. Perhaps the question for the email should be: is the American version of Christianity dying? Maybe it is, maybe much of what we do has missed the point. I mean lets think about what the majority of our time and effort is spent on in churches in this country. In many churches every week is a huge production, with light shows and huge flat screens all over the place. I’ve been in churches with huge waterfalls and also ones with a weird obsession with shiny purple curtains and lights and lazer shows. The amount of time and money put into things like this are a huge distraction in my opinion. Do we really think multi-million dollar buildings are going to help us reach out to the people Jesus refers to as “the least of these” the people Jesus refers to as greatest in the kingdom of heaven. You know, the people we wouldn’t want in our multi-million dollar buildings cause they might get it dirty, or leave cigarette butts in the trash? Do you seriously think that doesn’t happen? All across the country church buildings are held in higher importance than the people attending them. Don’t believe me, try getting mud on the carpet in your sanctuary, or breaking a window at your church. (Ok, probably shouldn’t do that, this is purely theoretical)
If we quit the hype and could figure out how to ACTUALLY love people like Jesus tells us to, our churches would be filled to capacity. If we figured out what “washing feet” means in our contexts people would be overwhelmed at our love for them and have to find out what drives us. A few weeks ago, the church a friend of mine is the youth pastor at cancelled their Sunday morning service to go out and serve their community! That is living out the Christian faith, which I guarantee had 4x more impact on their community than most of the worship services throughout the year combined. What if we really put people first? The first shall be last and the last shall be first.
The other problem I have with the thinking behind the title of the email that set me off in the first place is the small view of God that it appears to have. Do we really think that the God who created the heavens and the earth and holds it all together in his hands (according to scripture) is hiding in a corner somewhere wringing his hands? Do you really think he’s cowering saying, oh no, what ever shall I do? The alpha and the omega the one who exists, knows and controls, do we really think he’s at a loss?
If we believe the scriptures in that Jesus is God in the flesh and Christianity is about his forgiveness and following him, I don’t think we need to be worried weather or not it will die. Perhaps we should take a look at ourselves and say, is my faith living or dying and what can be done to fix it. I’ll be the first in line to admit that needs to start with me?
Is Christianity dying? Absolutely not, Christ is on the throne, he will build his church and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. The question is: are we onboard with his plan or are we trying to work our own.
This concludes my rant, now back to my regularly scheduled day…
I once heard it said,
“Its not the parts of the bible that I don’t understand that bother me. It’s the ones that I understand but don’t do anything about”
Now had I paid more attention to detail I could tell you who said it and when. Likely it was a pastor of some sort and I was listening to a sermon somewhere… hope that helps. Anyway that quote rings oh so true for me. I’m taking seminary classes now, when I completed college 11 years ago, I did so with a biblical and theological studies major. There is a lot of the bible I don’t understand. Also, like most things I’m realizing the more I learn, the more I learn that there is more to learn than i’ll ever learn. It’s ok to go back and read that sentence a couple times, I had to and i’m the one writing it. Anyway, as I get deeper into understanding of the scriptures, their origins and how it all works in our lives I find myself overwhelmed. There is an ocean of information, more to know than I ever could and quite frankly than I really care to. If you know me, you know I’m not a fact guy (hence not remembering who my quote was by or even bothering to look it up). I love to learn if I can see how it applies to my life or how it can be useful, I hate to learn just for the purpose of learning. This also directly correlates why I was a horrible student in high school and college. The point is, I get overwhelmed easy when it comes to learning, particularly as I study the scriptures and all the complexities that go with it. But not always, there is quite a lot that I actually do get. There is quite a lot that is very simple and straight forward.
A little over a week ago, I was having coffee with a friend of whom I have an immense amount of respect for. We shared some great conversation of a whole array of topics. At one point in the conversation she said,
“When I grow up, I want to be just like ______. She never complains about anything, she always has something positive to say.”
Now first I must say, I could in this instance quote exactly who said it and in what context, but I’m just not going to. I shall protect the innocent. I quite enjoy the fact that this is a blog not a thesis, so i’m going to stick with my non-citing and punctual, grammmatic and spelling errors like it or not.
This statement, of admiration struck me! I continued to think about it for the rest of the day, even most of the week that followed. That day a verse popped into my head,
“Do everything without complaining or arguing.”
That comes from Philippians 2:14 NIV, finally a proper citation. There is so much context which further helps us understand the big picture of how that applies to our lives and why we should do it in the surrounding verses. The whole of Philippians is loaded with great stuff and it is meant to be understood as a whole letter. However, if I simply take that verse, by itself, it is perfectly clear and to the point. What is equally as clear is: that verse does not describe me. That is what bothers me, I understand it, but don’t do it. In the context of the conversation we were having, I believe I was currently complaining about something or had just complained. Perhaps she was doing this to challenge me, or perhaps it was just a coincidence. Either way God used what she said to get stuck in my head, I can’t shake that verse.
This is a challenge for me, complaining about dumb things is part of my humor, sarcasm is a gift. I once told our pastor: sarcasm and bitterness are my two spiritual gifts. As I reflect on what I say, I find that I often complain because I feel that is how I raise awareness of a problem. If I don’t say something, how else will people know it needs to be fixed? I am sure there are ways to get that across other than just complaining. I’ve got quite a challenge ahead of me if this is something I’m going to be serious about. If you are reading this and thought, wow, he sure is a complainer… you’re right.
Sometimes in our rigorous pursuit of the scriptures we spending a lot of time trying to understand some of the more complex thoughts. Perhaps we need to step back and spend some time on the simple. The things we know we are supposed to work on, the things we understand clearly but just don’t do. That’s me, that’s my task.
And finally to my friend who brought this up, if you read this, thank you. Weather you were intending to get a message across to me or not by that statement you did and I appreciate it. It was definitely something I needed to hear.
Yesterday in church we sang this hymn. When you stop and actually listen to the lyrics they are incredible! This is a very powerful song about giving to God what is already his: our lives:
At this point in time I would consider myself sort of a veteran of these mission/work trips. With each one, I always come away excited, refreshed and renewed. I feel like I’ve said this 100 times, but when you can get away on a trip with a spiritual focus, outside your normal routine God seems to always do something. Our team (which got back safe and sound yesterday afternoon by the way) was very diverse. Our ages ranged from 12 – Mid 60’s, we come from various backgrounds, experiences and personalities. But we were able to work very well together as a team and we accomplished a lot during the week.
This marks my 4th trip with Craig Snow with each trip he emphasizes that it’s about the people more than the work. And as I reflect on this trip I wholeheartedly agree. When he talks about this, he is usually talking about the homeowner that we are serving while we are work. I think this principle applies to the group we are going with as well. It’s about the people we’re serving, but it’s also about the people in our group who are doing life together.
In our church we talk a lot about the 5 purposes of the church and with that the word fellowship get’s used a lot. Fellowship is one of those words that can confuse a lot of us and might even sound a little churchy. Fellowship maybe could be described something like: not just believing but belonging. It its the idea or actually even emphasized by scripture that you if you are a follower of Christ are supposed to belong as part of a community. This is doing life with other people around you, walking through the joys and the struggles of life together.
This is not an easy task in every day life because of our hectic schedules. But these trips, that is what is so incredible about them, we get to experience a glimpse of true fellowship. And even more out of these trips true fellowships happens in the future. You get to know people you didn’t before, and those you did know you know even deeper.
So here’s the takeaway: find an opportunity and simply do it. Yes it might be an inconvenience to re-arrange your schedule but in the end you will be incredibly grateful you did.
- 58 Movie
- Amazing Race
- Family Vacation
- Global Poverty
- John Denver
- Mission Trip
- pop culture
- Student Ministry
- Summer Fun
- Third World
- World Vision