No time to disciple our kids?

26 08 2010

I’ve been reading a lot about family-equipping ministry lately and I would like to quote a paragraph written by David Prince in a book coming out soon entitled: Trained in the Fear of God edited by Randy Stinson and Timothy Paul Jones.

In this chapter Prince says this about families that don’t have time for “family worship and daily conversations about God”…

“What if you think you are too busy for such things? Then perhaps you should ask yourself: do you eat? do you provide meals for your family? If so, you have just admitted that physical food is more important to you than spiritual food.  Do you watch television? If so, then you have declared entertainment a higher priority than worship.  Do you partake in extracurricular activities? If so, you are saying that recreation is more important than your  children’s spiritual well-being.  Do you sleep? If so, you are telling your children that comfort has a higher priority than godliness.  These are dangerous messages to communicate to children.”

I really don’t have anything worthy to add to that.  Wow.  May we as parents reexamine our priorities and really think about the message we are sending our kids by what we say and do…

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Connecting Church and Home

23 08 2010

I plan on writing a more descriptive summary within the next week or so, but for now I just wanted to jot a few thoughts I had about the Connecting Church and Home conference held at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary on August, 20-21 2010.

“There’s something of a tragedy in having to have a conference about connecting church and home…”  – Al Mohler

To me, this quote really helped to sum up the conference.  American evangelicalism has lost something in its current paradigms of youth and children’s ministry.  In the process of trying to gain more kids for the cause of Christ we have actually out thought ourselves!  We are in a desperate situation as it seems we are losing younger generations.

As a side note, I want to say, that even if we weren’t losing younger generations, we still must evaluate our current ministry models to make sure that they align with Scripture.

To have a conference about the need for connecting church and home is telling about where we are as churches.  We’ve spent so much time in children’s and youth ministries focusing on “what can attract students” that we have forgotten about “what can build lasting faith.”  And I know there are some solid children and youth ministers out there that are thinking “wait, I am trying to build lasting faith” or “I am discipling my students” etc.  Sorry, that just doesn’t cut it. 1 hr, 2 hrs, 8 hrs, a week is not enough for any youth pastor to make a difference in enough students’ lives to really make a difference!

Where are we missing it? HOME!  God’s design for discipleship of children (and teens) begins in the home.  (cf. Deut. 6, Eph. 6).  We’ve worked ourselves to death trying to come up with new methods and models for doing things when it’s already outlined in God’s Word!

I will write more about this later, but until that time, here are a couple of links that you can go to read notes from the Connecting Church and Home conference or watch video of the plenary sessions…

Video of the 4 Sessions
(the quote from above is in Dr. Mohler’s session at about 40 seconds)

Notes from the Conference





Leaders Who Last

11 05 2010

 

Just finished Leaders Who Last by Dave Kraft, leadership development pastor at Mars Hill in Seattle.

This is a short book definitely worth the time reading for anyone in ministry leadership. (Pastors, Youth pastors, etc.)

What I like most about the book is Kraft’s idea that Christ is our foundation for leadership! Obviously this is a biblical concept but many books either seem to assume this idea or just leave it out altogether.  Early on Kraft stresses the importance of maintaining the Spiritual Disciplines, not as a means of earning Grace, but in response to it.

I don’t want to spoil too much of the book for you, but my personal take away was the evaluations listed after each section.  This is a book that I will put on my shelf in an accessible place so that I can reference it periodically in my own walk.  As a leader I must constantly reevaluate my purpose and vision to make sure that I have not strayed away from the path God has set for me and His people.

Hope you’ll read this book and learn well from it…

Click here to see an interview with Dave Kraft about the book





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/)





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…





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!