Family Worship

27 04 2010

A point that we are working on driving home with parents in our youth ministry is the necessity of establishing biblical discipleship in the home.  One thing essential to discipleship in the home is family worship! Now, family worship is not the only thing necessary for well-rounded discipleship in the home but it is vital for cultivating the work of Christ in the hearts of your children.

When children are taught to worship in the home, they can be taught to worship in the church.  When children are discipled in the home they can learn so much more from the preaching and teaching that goes on in the local church.  The importance of the local church cannot be overemphasized! Family worship should never take the place of corporate worship. Nonetheless, 3 hours a week at church must not be all the biblical teaching your students are receiving…

I’ve already wrote one blog about this subject (How we do family worship) but I wanted to share some more insight on this subject… Below is some information you can use to begin family worship in your home:

Three Main Steps to Starting Family Worship 

(found at http://thegospelcoalition.org/)

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Parenting and Pornography

27 04 2010

Unfortunately pornography is an issue that many people face at all ages of life.  Although men are more prone to look at pornography, recent studies have shown that women fall prey as well.  Pornography is dangerous for several reasons.  Not only is it a sin against God, but it warps students’ views of manhood/womanhood and can form unreasonable expectations for future spouses. 

Below is a great post on helping students with this issue… Parents, please remember this is not a minor issue, and something that should just be written off as a normal part of being a teenager.  Pornography can be a dangerous trap for a lot of people. I hope you find the article below useful…

http://whyonline.org/parenting-and-pornography/





The Heart of Youth Ministry

23 04 2010

In contemporary youth ministry there are tons of resources and ideas (good, bad, and everywhere in between) for how to effectively reach and minister to students.  Networking with other youth pastors is great, getting ideas from books and websites is awesome, staying up to date with all the latest trends and technology is a must…

But today, I just want to ask you what is the core of your ministry? What is making your youth ministry’s heart beat? I hope that it is the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.  There are tons ideas out there to incorporate into your youth ministry by pastors and ministers who may or may not understand the Gospel. Sometimes people who don’t properly understand the Gospel do have good ideas that you can adapt for an outreach, program, or event.  Sometimes people who do properly understand the Gospel have bad ideas that you should run from! So this post isn’t about how to properly find and evaluate good and bad resources based on the Gospel, rather it’s about whether or not the Gospel is at the heart of your ministry.  Is everything you do centered around Jesus Christ and Him crucified?

What is the Gospel? I hope that you understand the Gospel clearly enough that you can articulate it in 60 seconds or less.  Obviously there are parts of the Gospel we could go into very deeply, studying tons of verses, that might take a long time to discuss.  However, the Gospel is simple enough for children to understand.  Here’s an outline of the Gospel: (the headings are used from Greg Gilbert’s book What is the Gospel?)

God the Righteous Creator: Genesis 1 tells us this story.  God created the heavens and the earth and everything in the universe, including mankind. He is Holy, Righteous, Loving, Just, etc….

Man the Sinner: God gave Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden the command to not eat of the tree of knowledge of Good and Evil… They disobeyed.  Since Adam was our representative his curse is our curse.  It’s not that we are born perfect and then mess up, we are born as sinners! (cf. Romans 5).  Romans 3 tells us that “None is Righteous…” and that on our own, none of us seek God.  The Bible is clear that mankind, left to itself, is in a hopeless condition.  Everything we do is sin, and unable to please God.  We overlook our own sin and make ourselves into our own idols.  We worship everything that is not God: money, sex, T.V., power, fame, etc… We are totally depraved, meaning that we are not always as sinful as we could be, but that every single fiber of our being is tainted by sin.

Jesus Christ the Savior:  God is a Holy God, unable to fellowship with Sin.  There did not HAVE to be a Way made for salvation. God, justly so, could have left us in our sin to punish us for all eternity.  Because of our Sin we deserve an eternity of judgement.  However, in His compassion and grace and mercy He decided to make a way by sending His Son to die on the Cross IN OUR PLACE.  Jesus is God the Son and was conceived by the Holy Spirit.  Jesus lived the perfect life and then died our death.  He was our substitute! He took the beating, lashes, and crucifixion that we deserved.  He died on the Cross in our place  (Is. 53:5-6).  Because of our Sin there had to be a perfect sacrifice to make atonement.  Jesus was that sacrifice.  Then, to exemplify His power over death, Hell, and the grave Jesus rose from the dead.  After 40 days He ascended to heaven to be with the Father and He is coming again soon in power and glory… (Romans 5 contrasts the first Adam and the second Adam- Christ). 

Our Response Faith and Repentance:  All this being said, what’s left? When God opens our eyes to the Gospel and the wonders of His infinite love, mercy and grace, it is our responsibility to respond with faith and repentance.  Jesus says “repent and believe” (Mark 1:15), and in the book of Acts the Apostles say “repent and believe”. So what must we do? Repent and Believe! (respond in faith and repentance). Faith means that you trust Christ alone for your salvation. It means that you acknowledge you are totally dependant upon Him for your salvation and the final righteous verdict.  It is by His righteousness that you can stand before God completely justified.  Let us not forget that faith is also trusting Christ not only as the King of the Universe, but also King of our lives (Lordship Salvation).  Repentance is where you acknowledge your sin and turn from it!  Repentance is not just acknowledging your “sins”, i.e. “I lie”, “I think bad thoughts”, etc., but acknowledging your Sin! That to the very core you are a sinner in need of a Savior.  “Turning” from our sin implies asking God to forgive our Sin. When God saves the Bible tells us that we are a new creation (cf. 2 Cor. 5:17) and that we will be known by our fruits (cf. Matt. 7:16).  The good fruit that flows out of our Salvation is not what saves us, but what Christ Himself produces in us. Now, as Christians we live for the King, awaiting His triumphant return.

So, there’s the Good News! I know some of that would make a presentation a little longer than 60 seconds, but I felt there were a few things that you might have needed clarified.  For some of you reading this blog you might not be a Christian.  For the first time, God has opened your eyes to His truth.  If that’s you, what you’re left with, is the responsibility to respond to Him in repentance in faith.  It’s not some “magical” prayer or long process of using the right words and rituals.  Trust Christ.  Put your faith in Him as the King of kings (the God-man) who paid for your sin and died in your place.  Turn from your sin and your self in repentance by asking Him for forgiveness (cf. Rom. 10:9). God is merciful and mighty to save by His great Grace, but remember too, that God is just and will punish all sin.  For those who’ve been redeemed our price was paid on the Cross.  But for those with hard hearts who refuse to turn to Christ, God promises an eternity in Hell (the place He will carry out His righteous judgement), a place prepared for the Devil and his angels.

If you work in the ministry I hope that the Gospel is central to all that you do.  Does this mean we can’t ever have “fun” in youth ministry? NO WAY!  As Christians we experience life on this earth as no one else can (cf. John 10:9-10).  My point today, and challenge/encouragement is to make the Gospel central to everything you do.  It is the foundation upon which we build our ministries.  And anything “we build” is not really our doing anyway, but the work of Christ in and through us.

Hope you have some feedback…





Stop Dating the Church

14 04 2010

Just finished the book, Stop Dating the Church by Joshua Harris last night and thought I would share a brief review.

Harris, Senior Pastor at Covenant Life Church in Gaithersburg, MD, begins with a story that we’ve all heard about, seen, or been a part of in our own life.  He tells a story of how a boy named Jack fell in love with a girl named Grace.  At first Grace was everything in the world to Jack.  She was “the one”. But after a few years of dating the “spark” is gone.  Jack is dating Grace more for the familiarity of the relationship.  There is no passion and he has no intentions of marrying this girl. “One night, when [Grace] asks if they can define the nature of their relationship, Jack blows up ‘We’re together, aren’t we?’ he asks angrily. ‘Why isnt that enough for you?’ Obviously, Jack isn’t ready for commitment. And it’s unclear if he ever will be…” (pg. 12).

Harris enlightens his readers that there are “millions of Jacks walking around today. And Grace isn’t a girl. Grace is a church.”

In our culture today commitment has become less important.  My generation will change careers several times in their life and some will go through several marriages.  We are so busy with so many things that it is difficult for us to commit to one single thing… Unfortunately, for Christians, this mentality has carried over to the local church.

Harris emphasizes a high view of the local church.  Now, this is not a “high view” of the church as seen in the Roman Catholic tradition, but a high view in the sense that Harris sees the local church from a biblical perspective.  It is the bride of Christ! Harris does spend some time talking about the Church universal (all Christians united by the Holy Spirit) but his main focus in the book is the local church.  He even says that our involvement in a local church should be enough to keep us from moving to a different location, even for a job change! He also emphasizes his life-long commitment as a pastor to his church.  Obviously God can and does (at times) move pastors around, but if more pastors had a higher view of their involvement within the local church, perhaps churches would be in better shape…

What are you committed to? We give so much of our life to other “priorities” that we forget the place church must have in our lives. Here is the profile Harris gives for a church-dater:

1. They are me-centered: In this attitude we ask “what can the church do for me?”
2. They tend to be independent: They go to church because they are “supposed to” but avoid any real commitment.
3. They are critical: Yes, we are fallen and every church will have its flaws. But, should we treat the church with a “consumer mentality- looking for the best product for the price of our Sunday morning”? (pp. 16-17)

The local church is the vehicle by which God has chosen to carry out His great plan.  Don’t you want to be a part of that? Don’t you want your life to be about so much more?

“God has not only saved us; He has invited us to participate in His master plan…The church community is where we learn to love God and others; where we are strengthened and transformed  by truth from the Word; where we’re taught to pray, to worship and to serve; where we can be most certain that we’re investing our time and abilities for eternity; where we can grow in our roles as friends, sons and daughters, husbands and wives, fathers and mothers…” (pp. 20-21).

Harris goes on to discuss the purpose of the local church and the reason that it is vital to our walk with Christ that we be involved members. Charles Spurgeon says the church is “the dearest place on earth” (p. 129).  When we understand our responsibility and joy within the church we will understand Spurgeon’s quote to be an understatement!

Personally, my favorite part of the book is Harris’s “high view” of Sundays! No, he’s not saying that Sunday is the new Sabbath, but he is saying Sunday is the Lord’s day (this is the Biblical view by the way).  He is even so bold as to say that we should schedule our weeks around Sunday (instead of visa versa as so many of us do).  He says that we must be careful about our scheduling on Saturday night, so that we can give our best Sunday morning.  He encourages singles and families to read the Bible and pray on Saturday nights and Sunday mornings before church anticipating all that God will do during the service.  It breaks my heart that Sundays have become unimportant to Christians.  They go to the lake, or ballgames, or fishing, or just stay home, instead of being with God’s people! I’m not saying we can’t ever take a vacation with our family, but you know your own heart and motivations….

This book is only 129 pages long.  With just a few minutes each night you’ll have this book read in a week! I promise you it’s well worth it… You’ll come away with a better understanding of what our relationship is to be with the local church.  This will challenge and encourage you in your own walk with the Lord!

Are you a church-dater?





Can we please everyone? Understanding and dealing with complaints…

13 04 2010

You’ve heard it said, many times I’m sure, that you just can’t please everybody.  This statement is certainly true and I think especially relevant in the lives of those called to ministry.  Sometimes there are decisions we have to make that we know one group of people will be upset with.  Sometimes we wrestle over the right decision, diligently seeking the Lord’s direction, knowing that someone is going to be upset.

Sometimes, however, we do what we know God has called us to do, not even realizing there is potential for someone being offended, and then come to find out a person, or group of people gets upset about our actions.

I want to illustrate with a story from the Old Testament.

Judges 8:1  “Then the men of Ephraim said to [Gideon], “What is this that you have done to us, not to call us when you went to fight against Midian?” And they accused him fiercely.”

Here’s the story: In chapters 6-7 God began to deal with Gideon in a mighty way, preparing him for the overthrow of the Midianites who had been oppressing the people of Israel.  In chapter 7 as we see Gideon preparing for battle, we see God preparing a work for His own glory.  God takes the army of Gideon from 32,000 men and reduces it to a mere 300.  Gideon is then reassured by God that the Midianites will be delivered into his hand and in the middle of the night the Israelites win a great battle without even a sword being drawn! (see Judges 7:19-23).

Gideon just completed a great act of God, and then when he meets the men of Ephraim he receives some “high fives” and “well dones”  right? Wrong! Instead of rejoicing in the great victory, the men of Ephraim complain! Instead of seeing the victory as God’s alone, the men of Ephraim suspect Gideon of going after the Midianites for his own glory.  This is after these same men of Ephraim had been invited by Gideon to chase down Oreb and Zeeb (two leaders of the Midianites).  The bible doesn’t say this, but I’m sure word of Gideon’s great victory with only 300 men had traveled around the countryside.  The men of Ephraim were simply jealous that they did not get to claim a hand in that victory.

The point is, sometimes, there’s just nothing we can do differently.  God is the one who told Gideon to reduce his forces.  What military commander in his right mind would reduce his own forces?  Many times in ministry God calls us to do things that might not make sense to us, or those who are close to us.  If we desire to be faithful to our call we must be faithful to be obedient to God’s will.

And the truth is people will be offended.  Sometimes it doesn’t matter what decision you make, you are setting yourself up for being attacked.  The thing we must remember in ministry is that our call is to obey God not man (cf. Acts 5:29)!

So what do we do?

It is vital to see Gideon’s response to the accusations made against him.

Judges 8:2-4

And he said to them, “What have I done now in comparison with you? Is not the gleaning of the grapes of Ephraim better than the grape harvest of Abiezer? God has given into your hands the princes of Midian, Oreb and Zeeb. What have I been able to do in comparison with you?” Then their anger against him subsided when he said this.

Gideon responds in humility to these complaints and “their anger against him subsided.” Now, we live in a fallen world and it doesn’t mean that just because we respond in humility that others’ complaining will automatically subside…But, we must remember that just because someone complains against us, doesn’t mean we should respond in pride.  Gideon had defeated the Midianites with only 300 men but instead of gloating over that feat, he reminded the men of Ephraim how God had given them the princes of Midian- Oreb and Zeeb.

So here are two things to remember…

1. Humility- as we’ve discussed, it is so natural for us to respond in pride when someone accuses us.  Gideon knew he was in the right and that what he did was a God thing.  However, if he would have responded in pride he would have lost valuable support.  Christ is a perfect example of humility.  Remember this truth in your life and ministry.

2. Priorities- Gideon’s priority was God over men.  That must be our priority in all things. Christ must have preeminence (actually He does already in all things, we’ve just got to make sure He has the right place in our hearts).  Also, in our lives as church members and ministers we must remember the order of other priorities as well.

Think of it in this way:

1. God- we’ve discussed this. God is to be #1. Your relationship with Christ is more important than any other relationship you have. Remember Galatians 2:20!

2. Family- this may seem strange to some, but our families must our 2nd priority.  We are instructed by God to be faithful to our spouse’s needs (1 Cor. 7:3-5, Eph. 5:22-33) and to bring our children up in a godly manner (Deut. 6:5-7).  This doesn’t mean our family has to conflict with church, but it does mean that the needs of our family members must met. Sometimes you will have to choose between church members and family members.  Remember family must be the priority.  If you lose your family, you lose your ministry.

3. Church- the church and the needs of our church family must be a high priority in our lives when making decisions.  The church may seem low, but notice that I’m putting the church above everything else.  Only God and family hold a higher place.  That means you must remember Philippians 2:3-4!

Again, none of these priorities should be conflicting with the others on a regular basis.  Sometimes however, they will.  And when we make decisions that others are going to complain about we must know that we are being faithful to our call.  In other words, when we make decisions that confuse and restructure these priorities we are making the wrong decisions.  When we make the wrong decisions (and we will sometimes, we’re not perfect) it’s much harder to deal with the complaints (whether right or wrong).

So all this to say that people are going to complain. Don’t set out to please everybody because you can’t! What you do have control over is how you go about making decisions, and how you respond to complaints…

I would like to make a final note to all of us (me included) who tend to complain! Don’t do it! (Phil. 2:14-15).  There is a difference between complaining and standing for the truth.  Sometimes people are going to make decisions in the church and life that you do not agree with.  If it’s not unbiblical, at least give it a shot.  Look for the positive.  And of course if you do feel it’s unbiblical deal with it as Jesus instructs us in Matthew 18. Go directly to the source of the issue instead of complaining about it to others.

Hope this is helpful and encouraging…God bless!





Partnering with Parents in Youth Ministry… Ideas for Fall 2010

6 04 2010

I just want to blog about some ideas about how we plan to involve parents more in our youth ministry this Fall. I’ve got a couple other blogs about the importance of parents in youth ministry categorized under ‘youth ministry’ if you’d like to read those…

I know these ideas aren’t new but they are new to our ministry. Maybe they’ll give you some ideas. I’d love some feedback on what others may be doing to help involve parents.

Ok, here we go…

1. Family Night: This is actually something we did last year. We plan to do this 8/25 to kick off our new semester. This is primarily geared for youth and parents but we like to invite the whole family so they can all be together. We do it on a Wednesday night and basically just eat, share stories, play games, and then I’ll share a devotion and a calendar of the events we’ve got coming up. This helps me communicate my vision to parents and helps new families in the youth ministry get to know one another.

2.SuperTraining: This is something new this Fall. Early in the semester we are going to meet for about 4 weeks on Wednesday night an hour before service. I’m going to teach students how to ‘write’ their salvation testimony. I’m inviting parents to just be there with us during this time. Hopefully I can both teach and learn from them during this process.

3. Parent Night: Later in the semester (probably November) we plan to invite parents to the Youth Service. We want them to experience our ‘style’ of ministry. That night we’ll have some great games that parents can play and the lesson will be geared toward parents and youth.

4. PRT: Parent Round Table. I’m really excited about this idea and I may still tweak it a bit before this Fall. What I’m planning on doing is setting aside 1 hour on Monday nights to meet with families. I’ve got 14 different Monday
Nights set aside. I’m going to ask parents to sign up for a night. Then, I’ll go to their home from 6-7 and personally share with them what we’ve
been doing and what we plan to do (lesson wise) in the ministry AND give them some handouts and ideas on how they can build more on what we’ve been teaching, in their own home. Long range I plan on training a volunteer to help me with this so i don’t have to be gone every Wednesday night.

5. Parent Breakfast: We did this once this Spring and it worked out pretty well. We had some volunteers cook breakfast on a Sunday morning and met at 8:45 (30 min befor Sunday School). We invited the whole family. Parents, children, and volunteers all ate together. At 9:15 I dismissed the students and children to their Sunday School and then the parents and me just did a lesson together in place of their Sunday School. I was also able to share more about events we had coming up.  We’ve got this set for 10/3 and plan on doing it once in the Fall and once in the Spring.

6. Parent newsletter and Parent helps: We already do these two things but I thought I’d include them. We send out the ParentLink (group publishing) once a month. This is a newsletter already put together by Group. I just add 1 page about things coming up in our ministry. The other thing I’m still adding to is our Parents Help page on our website. Here I’ve just given parents about 20 different links that they can go to and get help and ideas about parenting teenagers. Feel free to use our links from www.fbcdewitt.com

7. Parent Leadership Team: This idea will probably not be implemented this Fall but I still love it and hope to get it worked in ASAP. This idea is drawn from Steve Wright in his book reThink. Basically the team is just parents (the youth pastor is not on it!). The parents would be committed to meeting periodically throughout the year and discussing the ministry. They would offer insight, encouragement, and ideas from their perspective to the Youth Pastor ever few months or so. This would help me understand better how to minister to our families…

Hope those ideas help. I’d love to know what you’re doing to minister to families or how I can make these ideas better!





The Priority in Christian Parenting

1 04 2010

We recently took a survey of 31 students in our youth ministry asking them how much time they spend with their parents reading the bible (we got the survey from Providence Baptist Church in Raleigh, NC, you can find the survey by CLICKING HERE). Here are the results:

20/31 (65%) Said they NEVER/ALMOST NEVER read the bible with their parents
10/31 (32%) Said they SOMETIMES read the bible with their parents
1/31 (3%)       Said they OFTEN read the bible with their parents

Now what if I asked questions like “How much time do you spend with your parents practicing/talking about sports?” or “How much time do you spend with your parents discussing/doing homework?” Or what if I would have asked “How much time do your parents spend helping you have proper hygiene/clothing etc. for school so you fit in with everyone else?”

Parents find/make the time with their children to do homework/sports/vacations/social events/etc.  I’m not saying that these things are “wrong”, but when they take the place of cultivating a relationship with Christ they become an idol!  How many parents would allow their children to skip a baseball/basketball/football game or tournament? Yet, those same parents let their children skip church and church events all the time! How many parents go out of their way to make sure their children are keeping up with their school reading but don’t care to make sure that their children are reading their bibles?

I don’t think I’m being an idealist here.  Discipling our children is a biblical mandate (cf. Deut. 6:5-7). It is possible to make time to read the bible with our children and intentionally cultivate godly character (godly Christian character is more than “morality”).  Parents must think about the message they are sending their children when church and the things of God are not a priority. 

How do you know when things in the home are out-of-order? When parents are ensuring their children are committed to sports, school, and friends but not to church.

You see, the second part of our survey told us that 74% of students wished they read the bible with their parents MORE OFTEN! This means an overwhelming majority of our students desire to be discipled by their parents.  Why do they desire this? It’s God-given!

Parents, this post is not to drag you down, but to lift you up! Your children want you to tell them about this God that you serve.  This should encourage and motivate you to learn more about and grow closer to Him yourself!  As a youth pastor, I want to apologize for our current trends in youth ministry. We have said for so long “drop your kids off parents, and stay out-of-the-way, and let us disciple them.”  You know what that has resulted in? The largest group of college freshman leaving the church in history! I know that youth pastors can make a difference.  I had a few that made lasting Christ-like impressions on my life. BUT, we must realize that God has appointed parents to be the primary disciple makers…

Parents, remember your privilege and responsiblity of being a Christian mom or dad.  I’d like to end with my own modern paraphrase of Matt. 6:25-33… God bless!

Don’t worry about the clothes your kids wear or their ballgames, grades, or what college they will go to.  For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

If you’d like more ideas/help/info. on this topic, I enourage you to visit our Parent Helps page at www.fbcdewitt.com.