Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Ministry to The Little Children

One of the favorite texts for a Children's Day message or youth related devotional is Matthew 9:13-15.

"Then little children were brought to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and pray for them. But the disciples rebuked those who brought them. Jesus said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these." When he had placed his hands on them, he went on from there."

What was Jesus trying to teach these professional disciples about ministry -- specifically youth ministry?

1. Physical touch is important to their learning.
Now before you go and report me to the abuse hotline, let me clarify what I am talking about. Kids need to be hugged and wrestled with. It's part of what makes them kids. There is nothing inappropriate about showing kids that we care about them. Our culture has gone crazy on one hand to protect against sexual abuse but has not gone crazy on the elimination of pornography or its dispersement over the i'net.
This week in Jr. Church, I was teaching about the Upper Room and the washing of the disciples' feet. I wanted to demonstrate what that may have been like for the kids so I brought in a basin and a pitcher of water. As I washed each child's hands (not feet), I told them "I care about you", "You are important", "You have value", "I appreciate ________ about you." What an impact! Those rowdy little children were quiet and attentive!

2. Children are a viable congregation for any minister.
Lots of times I get asked, "Do you hope to get a church of your own someday"? I am never quite sure what people mean when they ask! Sometimes I think that mean, "Teens aren't important enough a flock to care for" or "you are still in the minor leagues". Jeus' disciples tried this speech on Jesus, and he said "NO! Let them come!"
Again, in Jr. Church I have discovered again the joy of teaching God's truth to young people. This is not a chore -- it is a privilege. I only hope that no one tries to force me to stop playing with the kids and get a real job! I love seeing their minds wrap around a simple concept and work it out in their own miniature, yet real, worlds.

3. Children have something to offer to adults.
Jesus used the children as examples and teachable moments for the disciples. Without those children, Jesus couldn't have spoken these now-famous words. I wonder how the disciples responded? Did they see this as a great chance to grasp the beauty and simplicity of ministry? Or did they get frustrated because they thought they were doing the right thing before? Now they had been publicly rebuked and refused. And so Youth Ministry was born. Do I take enough time to weigh the value that the teens and younger people that I minister to have for me? Who is being ministered to more?

Thanks for thinking about these things with me this morning. May God bless your ministry to young people, and may God bless you through them.

For Christ, to youth,

Monday, November 21, 2005

Washing the Feet of Youth

Have you ever considered the immensity of Jesus' act of total selflessness when he washe dthe feet of his disciples? I think about some times this past summer (I love wearing sandals!) when upon removing my sandals, I had to put the shoes outside on the porch! There is nothing especially high or mighty about my feet! To get down on my hands and knees to wash the feet of anyone, even my friends, seems counterproductive to building relationships. After all conversation and time spent with the person face-to-face are the great communication aspects of growing together right?

Yet Jesus demonstrated that the disciples were important to him when he got down and washed feet at the dinner table. How strange! What did this act signify to the disciples? May I suggest some things?

1. He was not grasping at a position of superiority or dominance over others.
2. He was interested in meeting needs and modeling servanthood to the next generation of church leaders.
3. He ministered out of personal interest and affection for these men.
4. He modeled his prescription for correction and cut through their objections precisely.

What great patience as a teacher! What dedication to his students! Doug Stringer has nailed this thought when he writes:

"While men reach for thrones to build their own kingdoms, Jesus reached for a towel to wash men's feet. We must have a servant's heart toward each other and toward this generation. Only with this sacrificial attitude will we see the needed breakthroughs in the Church and in our cities, and souls added to God's kingdom."
Somebody Cares, p.93

I need to focus on being that kind of leader and example for these teens. I expect so much out of them, because I see their great potential for God. Yet do I regularly wash their feet? I need to follow Christ's example more closely. I need to have my attitude and interaction with teens stretched. Lord, increase my faith and build my ministry muscles!

Longing to be like the Master,
Pastor Mike

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Is prayer enough?

Maybe your church's prayer list is different. But ours has a portion on the bottom for the names of unsaved people. We pray often for the lost and put the names of loved ones in this category. But is prayer enough? Should we just continue to pray hoping that God will intervene in their lives in a miraculous way? I submit to you that there is another part of this equation taht we have left out -- sharing in their lives!

We must have both prayer and personal appearance in our evangelistic efforts. We must pray before we go, while we go, as we are there, and after we have left; but we must go! After all that is the great commission is it not? "Go and make disciples" (Matthew 28:19-20)

Stringer puts it very succinctly in this statement: "How will our communities be reached? By our intercession and then our intervention for the multitudes hanging in the balance of eternity." p. 51

Well said. Will we hear "well done" as well? Prayer is vital to evangelism. Let us not make it our only evangelistic effort!

As I go today, would you alert me to the need of others around me so that I might invest your glory into their lives. Help me to reconcile others to you through the grace that I show today. May these prayers and thoughts be the start, not the end of evangelism today. Help me to be intentional in my witness for you by intercessiona dn intervention. May my face shine, reflecting your glory to a dark and dying world, because I have been in your presence today.

I am praying for you as you pray for others, and I am going too!

Your fellow journeyman,
Pastor Mike

The Value of Relationship on Evangelism

I have been studying the book of 1 John again (in order to complete a writing assignment). The central tennets of the books are exactly where Stringer has placed his emphasis in Somebody Cares. He writes:

"There are so many still to be reached! Together, with each of us doing our part, we can make a difference. If we walk in a right relationship with the lord and with each other, His light will shine through us and draw people to Him." p. 51

1 John is all about bringing others to know for sure that they are forgiven and part of God's eternal family. In fact, the stated purpose of the book is found in 1 John 5:13 (NIV)

"I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life."

John's book is both evangelistic and discipling. He begins his book describing how to have this fellowship and partnership with God and with others.

"That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched--this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. We write this to make our joy complete."
1 John 1:1-4, NIV

That 1-2 punch of fellowshipping with God and with others is the strength of the Christian faith. Without a relationship with God, our relationships with others are left to be controlled by our own special interests. This basis for relationships is doomed and destined for ruin! Without a relationship with others, our faith in God is hidden and unusable! We must have both. We must love horizontally and vertically if we are to love in either direction.

My relationship with God allows me to share that relationship with others and model that relationship in the relationships that I have with others. Wouldn't it be great if I handled allof my friendships like God deals with me? That is the goal exactly! I need divine enablement to overcome my natural self-protecting, self-promoting, self-fulfilling motivations. A perfect marriage, a perfect working relationship with my co-workers, a perfect friendship comes only through a growing relationship with God!

Here are some thought questions for us all in this area:
  1. Do I have a personal relationship with God through his son Jesus Christ? (1 Jn. 5:12)
  2. Do I spend a sufficient amount of time developing that relationship through the spiritual disciplines of Scripture memory, Bible reading, and prayer?
  3. Have I neglected my relationship with God in order to pursue a relationship with others? Or perhaps vice versa?
  4. Is my love for God and others in the category of sacrificial? (Jn. 15:13)
  5. Have I asked for God's help to use my relationships to draw others to him?
  6. Have I accepted my responsibility as a reconciler of relationships and thereby demonstrated God's reconciliation to those around me? (2 Cor. 5:18-20)

Thanks for thinking about the importance of relationship to evangelism (1 John 4:7-12). My desire is that I will live the goodness and mercy of God before others, forgiving those that offend me in the same way that God did that for me (Matthew 6:12, 14; Ephesians 4:32). There is no greater love than a man giving his life for his friends (John 15:13).

There is no greater force for evangelism in our postmodern world than that of friendship. Will you be a friend (of God and of others) for the sake of Christ and his kingdom?

Your friend,

Pastor Mike

Friday, November 11, 2005

Why I need to be a farmer

I think I have posted this before. I hate waiting! I am so success-driven that I want to see it all happen -- goal set, action taken, results recorded -- and quickly! But, as I see over and over again, it is not the rapid response that is best. It is the "established" response that is so much better. Scripture says it this way:

"So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness."
Colosssians 2:6-7, NIV

Paul knew that spiritual growth takes time and that like a farmer he had to be patient with that process. Faith (or at least the faithful believer) it seems is like a plant -- requiring foundation in the soil, proper roots and lots of T-I-M-E to continue to grow.

Doug Stringer wrote about that frustration of watching some of those we invest in die out anyway. He gave some great words of advice that are like a well-timed drink of water to quench the thirst. He writes:

"We may work with an individual off and on for many years before the breakthrough comes in his or her life. Sometimes we never see it. Yet no labor for the Lord is in vain. God is faithful to watch over every seed sown into a soul."
Somebody Cares, p.39

Jesus told a parable that echoes this sentiment.

"This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. All by itself the soil produces grain--first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head. As soon as the grain is ripe, he puts the sickle to it, because the harvest has come."
Mark 4:26-29, NIV

I am so looking forward to harvest, especialy in the lives of the young people that I minister to. But I am in all probability reaping the benefits of someone else's planting, watering and weeding right now. So, I must just be content to do my work knowing that some of it falls on rocky soil, some on weedy soil, some on good soil. (see Mark 4:1-20)

I must say with Paul, "[I am] confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus." (Philippians 1:6, NIV)

Thanks for planting, watering and weeding,
with patience in the lives of young [and old] people,

Pastor Mike

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

A mission statement for Turning Point Ministries

As I mentioned before, Doug Stringer has written a book that describes his passion for ministry to young people on the streets of Houston, TX. He has included the Turning Point Ministries mission statement:

"Preparing a people for the coming of the Lord through a message of consecration, commitment, and action." p.45

He further defines each part of that mission statement this way:

"Consecration: being separated unto God, recognizing His holiness, our own unrighteousness and His grace;

Commitment: not just "romancing" God and His work but acknowledging our responsibility to obey Him and letting that knowledge provoke us to action;

Action: turning our responsibility into concrete obedience" p.45

What a great way to describe what he is trying to do and what he is encouraging others to join him in doing! Doug describes this statement as a trumpet blast, used to call others to action -- to the front. Again, while I cannot agree with all of Doug's ecumenical activity, I can agree with his premise.

In fact, I could have just as easily written these words instead of Doug. IWe are striving to the very same things with the Sr. Hi. Youth Group at Wyoming. I might say it a little differently. The goals that we are aiming at, here at WyBC, are:
  1. A personal, vibrant relationship with God through Jesus Christ
  2. A growing understanding of the Word of God, its relevance to our culture, and its direction for every area of life
  3. A passion that motivates me to tell others about the purpose, peace and promise of this relationship with God

It also fits well with my own personal mission statement: Being conformed to the image of the Son, through the power of the Spirit, to the glory of the Father.

I would love to hear/read your mission statement. How do you define what it is that God has called you to do?

Pursuing the purposes of God,

Pastor Mike

Monday, October 31, 2005

Bibliographic Note

To those of you who may be interested in reading about Doug Stringer's ministry from Houston TX, his book information is posted below:

Stringer, Doug. Somebody Cares: A Guide to Living Out Your Faith. Regal Books: Ventura, CA, (c) 2001.


Send me your thoughts after you've read the book! :)
Pastor Mike

Somebody Cares

I just finished reading Doug Stringer's book, "Somebody Cares". What a stirring challenge to me about reaching out to those who have no hope in my community. I would like to post and reflect on a number of quotes form that book that I hope will stir you as well. As with any book that I read, there are portions of Doug's theology that just do not fit with my personal understanding and/or practice. However, as I was recently reminded, I must not criticize and do nothing to improve it. I may not do it the way that Doug does, but I must do something else!

Here's quote one:

"The Creator of the universe intends for your life and mine to shape the destiny of this world. ... My life [is] not my own. ... Our Father has a job for us to accomplish." p. 31

Wow! Talk about enlarged borders! I had a professor at seminary that used to talk like that. Lee Wise just soaked that challenging motivational speech right up and oozed it back out to us as young men. I love that kind of speech! But it must go beyond that "speech" level to "shoe leather" level.

I hope to add posts in the next few months that will point back to this one and will testify of God using my life, no HIS life, to move others toward heaven.

Thanks for listening,
Motivated to shape the destiny of this world from Wyoming, NY
Pastor Mike

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Fear of Parents

We are headed off for a training conference next weekend with our teens. The theme is "Faith Factor: No place for fear". The workshops will be addressing the fears that teens face in their lives. Our teens have signed up for three workshops apiece. I was surprised that 5 out of 8 teens attending the seminar are choosing a workshop about the fear of parents.

I am not sure what the speaker will address in this arena. I am hoping that he will be remarking on the Biblical pattern for parenting and the place for a rightful fear of parents as the delgated authority in the teens' lives. But I wonder if our teens have really become afraid of their parents. What would cause that kind of reaction?

Here are some of my thoughts:
1. Fear is generated through a lack of love (1 John 4:18). The fear of parents may be generated through a longing for love. Teens not being sure that they were loved would create a fear factor. Thoughts of "what will my parent do to me next? They are always out to ruin my life!" would be consistent with this view.

2. Fear is often grown in the absence of faith (see Mark 4:40). The fear of parents may be created by a failure to have faith in God or in the parenting of the adults. How often do we crush the faith of our teens by not leading them well. They are not really reacting to God but to us -- their representatives of God in their life. Or maybe our teens do not have any faith. they are panicked about the ir parents because they do not understand the proper place that they have in the teen's life.

3. Fear is uncertainty about the future. Teens face a host of issues with their parents today. With the Christian family unit being as likely to break apart as the unsaved family, teens are scared about the future of their family. They have a tough time thinking "this won't happen to us" when it just might! The family is no longer a place of assured rest and safety.

4. Fear may be generated by the teen hiding something from their parents. This too is anticipated by the Scriptures (cp. the reaction of Adam and Eve when they had their eyes opened; Gen. 3:8-10). Teens need to come clean with their parents. They need to rely on their parents to help them work through their sin issues, Biblically. But as parents we need to give them that confidence by not giving them a tonguelashing, but by graoning with them over their sins and working and walking with them through their consequences. (Gal. 6:1-2)

What do you think? Why would teens be scared of parents? I would love to know.

As a parent and a youth worker,
Pastor Mike