Monday, December 04, 2006

Inside My Head

Hey All,

It's been a while since my last message. Discipleship is a long and tedious process. I have to let time pass and see what God is doing. I can't just jump on here and publish every do-dad my students or myself are doing otherwise it tuns into the equivalence of The Truman show. I read an article in Christianity Today with Dallas Willard. He says, and I paraphrase, "not many today are intersted in discipleship". This is coming from a pretty smart guy who has his hand on the pulse of American brand Christianity. I guess it's not an awefully new revelation considering that churches are indecline. We're quick to say, "oh, theirs revival over their" or "oooh look God is really doing something there!".

It is a shame they we do not celebrate the steady, the consistent and the perservering. No one says "look they have a small group of married couples who are trying to make their marriages stronger!" or "look, they just started a pantry ministry for those who are hungry!" I am Pentecostal to the core but I don't chase movements.

In fact it makes me consider the Scripture,

Matthew 24:24-27

For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect--if that were possible. 25 See, I have told you ahead of time. 26 "So if anyone tells you, 'There he is, out in the desert,' do not go out; or, 'Here he is, in the inner rooms,' do not believe it. 27 For as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.

Now, I am not saying that every Pastor or leader who is drawing a crowd is a cult leader or false prophet. I am saying that we are too quick to put the stamp of God's approval on sporatic, spiritual encounters that are here today and gone tomorrow. The Scipture also says,

I John 4:1-3

Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. 2 This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, 3 but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world.

We need to be to the Church what Consumer Reports is for flat screens and ipods. We must test those movements and and see the fruit it is bearing. I would also include that when supernatual power and filthy natural man collide you have a mess. The condition of the vessel should not discount the aroma of the wine. If so, we would always negate ourselves from sharing the gospel or doing any good work.

So, that's what is inside my head today. Have a great day!

Let the sparks fly!

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Staff Meeting or 25 Things I Don't Care About

Not to long ago I shared how God uses staff meetings to disciple us. Often times it literally becomes the 25 things I don't care about. If this is true for us then it must be true for our students. To tell the truth I am sick of meetings. Meetings, for too long, became the measuring stick of our success in youth ministry. Who came to the meeting? How many were there at the meeting? How did the meetng go? Why do I rant? I recently had a terrible/wonderful youth staff meeting. It was terrible because only 3 others beside myself showed up. It gave us pause, after I complained, to discover the wonderful: Maybe we don't need planning/youth staff meetings at least in the sense that we knew them. Now if you are a bi-vocational youth pastor with 0 help; consider that not to be a bad thing. The large groups staff, which I was always envious of, is not the standard of measurement. I would become green with envy when I saw a team of 20 somethings laughng and marching through the hallways with their leader always wishing that was me. I'm over it. Meetings are too often about egos and control.

When it comes to discipleship and the impartation of Christ to others the meeting is the least effective way to do that. I don't care if it's your youth staff meeting, your student leadership team or your small group bible study. I have, like you, a wide range of kids I minister to. Some do not come to our church. If we make discipleship about the meeting we become legalistic. I understand that we have things to do and tasks to perform in the uber youth group of business. Ministry , drama group, etc. are all important and avenues of discipleship. I guess I question the whole deal. In the beginning of my ministry I wanted to create the super-Chrsitians. The Bible toting, scripture quoting, always there, never fails student. Consider that about 40 years ago another man with a tiny mustache tried and partially succeeded in doing just that. Not my role model.

Back to the students. I have two guys in my group who are not leadership or leash-ership quality. They don't want to be on the leash or in the stall of traditional leaders as we have seen them. They want to love God and serve God in their own way. "But, if they don't come to the meeting, how will you do that?" simple, not have a meeting. Not create walls, barriers or standards that keep them in a dated model of discipleship. I have lunch with them, they love me, they joke with me, they invite me out after service to eat. It's different and refreshing. They do come to small group Bible study and to service and they do want to serve. They recently started playing in a band. At first not a very good one. They play at their schools campus Bible study. Idea! I'll get them to play Halloween at our youth center, play Halloween Family fued, and just let them go. Give them parameters, but just let them go. I'll tell you how it goes. Anyway, that is just one example of many that shows me that the traditional once a month meeting of blah, blah, blah is out and I must continually change how I disciple students. I loved meetings, the energy, and one day God may change my mind or bring back the need for the meeting; but for now, I am enjoying the meeting free dscipleship freedom God has offered me.

Let the sparks fly!


Tuesday, August 15, 2006

And Now, For The Letting Go Part

Letting go of a student is a hard thing. Letting go is a partnership. Plenting of kids leave our groups or quit coming under bad or awkward circumstances. Letting go is more of a mutual agreement. I have felt disheartened when a student, especially a talented one leaves for various reasons. Sometimes it a church change, sometimes just busyness leads them away.

If you have the opportunity to let go it's a good thing. I recently had a student tell me that they felt led to another church/youth group. They had recently moved farther away from the church but I was still crushed. We had history, trips, camps, etc. After we spoke (to make sure there were no personal issues) my wife and I prayed with them and then allowed them to share the reasons why they were leaving. I did this for several reasons:

1. It's the right way to do things.

I can't count the number of times I've seen students or families just drop out of church without any reason later to find out they are going somewhere else. Or worse, they leave and you never notice they are gone. Partnering with the student whose leaving makes sure that things are done the right way.

2. It squelches rumors.

It doesn't matter what really happens truth becomes what is spread around. If you and the student partner to make a good exit it will set the record straight.

3. It give a chance to celebrate and mourn.

Closure is big with me. Maybe it's because so many Houdini pastors made me disappear with out warning. This is especially important if the student has been in the church along time. The Bible says we should rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn. The church is all about relationships. It's our job to keep them as healthy as possible and closure facilitates that. Students get to say goodbye and we get to say thank you to those students for their years of service.

Jesus had to let go. He even gave Judas the out, "Go and do what you must do quickly". Jesus let him go. No argument, no complaining, no "please come, back we need you". Later on Judas' spot had been filled by Justus. We must be willing to let them go and let God take them to where they believe they are suppose to go. We cannot stand in their way to protect the youth group or the program, that would be selfish. Thank God for the blessing of letting go. You can sow a seed or you can squash the growth you had tried to hard to cultivate. The choice is yours.

Let the sparks fly!


Thursday, August 10, 2006

Eating Dirt and Letting Go

Eating Dirt and and letting go. Both are hard to swallow but is a necessary step in our spiritual growth and the growth of those we disciple. Recently a long time family of the church bought a house across town about 40 minutes from the church. If you've been around the church any you know that no matter what they tell you, they're gone.

They had bought the house and we had a youth night pm service that we were doing. Two of their girls were involved. I had just flew in from a funeral and had let one of their daughters and two other leaders coordinate the evening. Well, upon my arrival things seemed disorganized. It was a little and as leaders do we have to give "the talk". My talks are a bit more motivational and can come across as intense or that I am displeased. After the talk I had talked with the leaders and told them not to mistake my intensity for displeasure.

After "the talk" about a week later I heard that the young lady was mad at me because she had felt singled out. Well, as soon as I heard it my wife and I sat down with her and asked her to share her feelings. This is where the big, heaping, helping of dirt is served an appetizer. Upon hearing this I immediately had a fleshly reaction. I was mad, I had a so what attitude, I was wrong. I had to look deeper. My callousness hurt someone's feelings even though it was not directed to her. We talked for about 15 minutes and I just laid it out there. I apologized and could here the hammer hitting the nail with ever word I spoke. Following that she said that she would not be attending youth anymore but would be looking for somewhere else to go. She said it was not because of this and I believer her to some degree. It was not a "leave the church" offense. Her parents closed on the house and this was a natural step for her and I agreed. Who am I to argue when God is leading someone.

I offered her the opportunity to stand before our group and share what was going on. I don't believe you should sweep things under the rug. I had told her that I believe closure was important on both ends. She came that Wednesday and at the end of the service shared about two minutes of why she was leaving. It gave students a chance to say good bye and for her to say goodbye to them. It leaves a leadership void but I am not worried God will fill in the gaps.

Some things we can take away:

1. Don't have a diet of eating dirt. Keep it cool and think before you speak.

2. If you have to eat dirt eat it cooked the way you like it. Handle problems straight on with grace before they come looking for you.

3. Dirt tastes nasty at first but the after-taste isn't so bad. You are left with the knowing that you have done the right thing for the right reasons. Humility is a characteristic that should always challenge us and change us more into Jesus Christ. I think of the verse where Christ stood before Pilate "he opened not his mouth". Humility.

In my next session I want to talk about letting go of those you lead. See you next time.