Monday, April 21, 2008

For Rent: Cheap

Could this advertisement be posted about you and your mind?

"Head for rent, now vacant and unfurnished"

I hope not! Fill your head with the good stuff!

"Finally brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things." Philippians 4:8

"But as for you, speak the things which are fitting for sound doctrine." Titus 2:1


Tuesday, April 15, 2008

What Makes a Great Youth Group

The secret ingredients of "a great youth group" may not be what you expected. It really has nothing to do with a great band, pyrotechnic displays, fun games/icebreakers, excellent pizza, lots of teens, couches, cappucino machines, or a separate dedicated youth building. In fact, according to pollster George Barna,

"Two out of three teens are interested in a meaningful relationship with God, yet one-third fewer are geared to be active in church. This is indeed reflective of the youth population's impressions of the local church: It sometimes has something to offer, but what it adds is neither consistent or important enough to justify a significant commitment to such an entity. If they are going to find God, they believe they can find Him elsewhere."
Real Teens, p. 86

So if we want to stem the tide of teens dropping out of church and looking elsewhere for help with dealing with the great issues of life, we had better find out what really attracts people, especially young people. What are they looking for in a youth group?

"What makes being a Christian cool[?] -- [T]he essence of coolness is living as a sold-out, loving, compassionate follower of Christ. Teens possess a sensitive hypocrisy meter that is triggered by counterfeitfaith. Truly living the life of Christ earns the respect of modern teens; talking about faith but failing to live it is anathema to them."
Real Teens, pp.87-88

That is why on two consecutive weeks, when we didn't have youth group at our church, teens from Wyoming Baptist wanted to go visit the youth group meetings of another Baptist church about 45 minutes away. They knew that this group had some on-fire believers who had ministered together with us at summer camp. And we weren't disappointed. We found teens that loved the Lord and loved each other enought to be vulnerable and honest with each other. We found that our teen friends at the other church held us accountable to where we were in our spiritual walk with God. We found that they led in meaningful worship songs that spoke to a deepening love of the God who gave Himself for us! Not just happy-clappy-motions songs! Then we were challenged from God's Word to use the Word and prayer as the last of a string of protective elements in the Christian's armor for spiritual warfare.

Wow! That's the kind of youth group that I want to keep coming back to, time and time again. That's the kind of youth group that we want to have here at Wyoming. That kind of youth group doesn't have to have a huge budget or a flashy, charismatic full-time paid youth pastor. That kind of spiritual genuineness will attract the right kind of flies -- thirsty, hungry teens!

Building a youth group filled with teens who make a difference,

Monday, April 07, 2008

Putting the Cart Behind the Horse

I preached yesterday afternoon using an analogy. It was an imperfect analogy at best (so stated by me). I really wanted to help these dear people (who endured the message) to see that character and doctrine were extremely important to the selection/success of leaders for church ministry.

I suggested in that message that character was kind of like the horse of the "horse and cart" illustration. It provided the "go" power and was the result of training for the task. The best kind of GO looks like this:

GO for God, the trainer/driver, not for self
GO every-day-all-day, not in spurts when the mood strikes us
GO through hard times
GO like God showed you in training

The cart portion of the tandem is like doctrine. I realize that we often use this word in a slightly different way (=dogmatic statements of truth), but I tried to broaden the definition to: the understanding and application of God's Word to everyday life. That definition is probably closer to the definition of wisdom.

I wanted to discuss with people the importance of looking beyond the doctrinal statements of leaders to determine whether this man (or woman in some cases) is a good appointee for the role of ministry leader. Doctrine, as a I defined it, must meet certain criteria of it will be a great cart, or vehicle for ministry:

  • CONNECTION to the power source

  • CONTAINMENT of the load

  • CONVEYANCE of the load from point A to point B

  • CONTROL of direction, speed, etc to reach point B

The stuff of theology (applied doctrine) had better be connected to God's Word, it's ultimate power source and had better accurately reflect the cahracter of God. The horse (me--the leader) has to have character -- the character of God, i.e. godliness, in order to have any strength at all.

By being built according to God's standards for "carts", the vehicle of leadership (ie ministry) is God pleasing and glorifying to Him. A disconnect from God, His Word, His design for ministry, etc. will spell disaster for the ministry vehicle. In Titus, one of the roles of the leaders was "cart inspection". There were some leaders afoot that were not building quality carts -- they were overturning houses!

The load must be moved along by the cart. In order for the cart to have usefulness, it has to take the load to the marketplace. It has to move the load for point A to point B. I suggested that those two points might be the church and the community. We must get the load out there!

The load in this analogy is the good news of the gospel and the Word of God and the relationship offered with God. The world around us needs to hear that message! The load is critically urgent and precious -- we had better build great carts for delivery of such to the marketplace. the design of our carts (ministries) must then be such that the gospel comes through clearly and nothing is lost along the way. We must think about how the carts can convey the gospel to those desperate to receive it. If we spill out the load along the path or if we have nothing to carry the cargo, then those who need to hear it will be without!! To leave the cargo on the loading dock or to leave the cart in the carriage house is unacceptable!

The design of our ministries ought to have a series of controls in place -- a brake, a steering wheel/reins, a throttle, etc. These controls are safely in the hands of God. As we prayerfully listen to the instructions given to us through the Spirit and Scripture, we know best how we ought to pull the load. To chase after the enemy's carrots is a mistake we all too often make! We must find our sustenance and satisfaction in following the lead of the Divine Driver (God). He is too powerful to lose control, too wise to make a wrong turn and too loving to drive us beyond what we are able to handle! Praise to Him!

Analogies all break down at some point. This one is indeed flawed -- as is the teacher. But I pray that it might communicate a little of my heartbeat for the advance of the kingdom through the careful delivery of the goods to the lost and dying!

Would you care to interact with the analogy some more? Jot a thought in the comments section! I would love to work through the idea with you. It's what I enjoy most! :)

Puling for the Kingdom,

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

From Disgrace to Grace

I found another great grace text yesterday as I was reading Luke 1:24-25!

"After these days Elizabeth became pregnant, and she kept herself in seclusion for five months, saying, 'This is the way that the Lord dealt with me in the days when He looked with favor upon me, to take away my disgrace among men.'"

God's grace has a way of doing exactly that -- removing disgrace. The favorable look of God (grace) erases the disgrace of men -- or at least its lowered esteem. Elizabeth was excited to see the Lord reach out to her when she thought taht she was done. God had not forgotten her even though she was "damaged goods" in the eyes of the world.

What an amazing grace,

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Cultural Sensitivity Training

The topic of "sensitivity training" raises the littel hairs on my neck. But maybe there is a Godly kind of sensitivity training that I do need!

Stott writes:

"... there is no such a thing as 'contemporary Christianity'. It is not a new version of Christianity which we are busy inventing, but original, historic, orthodox, biblical Christianity sensitively related to the modern world."


And so here we are -- bringing the timeless truths of the faithful word to bear on the ever-changing culture around us. Maybe this should be our mission statement for any relevant ministry -- youth ministry, men's Bible study, Sunday School/ABF/OAG/small groups, worship services, VBS, etc.

Seeking contemporary ministry without compromise,
(that sounds missional!!!??? :) )