Friday, April 25, 2008

That Kid Can Preach! Or Can He (or She)?

Hey All,

Recently, I was asked to be a short sermon at our Statewide Fine Arts Festival. This was my first time judging this category so I had only a vague idea of what to look forward to. Fifty-two sermons later I could barely think. I think it is awesome we had so many want to undertake the task of many of us take for granted every week.

I sat through 3 hours of short sermons. I heard passionate young people one after another share a 5-7 minute sermon on our year long theme: Everywhere. I either don't have to go to church for the next year or got my 52 messages for the next year. These teens were sharp looking, sharp acting and are a credit to their respective youth ministries.

I heard teens take the theme in various directions.

10% of the sermons I heard were focused on subjects like abortion or missions.
20% preached on various parables and on David and Joshua, 50% were on revival and our need to share Jesus everywhere.
20% I'm not quite sure where they were coming from and
0% made love or grace the central theme of their message.

Now, the point: Of all the messages I heard; I did not hear about the love of God as a central message. God's love was mentioned but was not the central focus. In fact, not only was love not the central theme of any message but neither was God's grace. Aren't those attributes of God that are everywhere or should be? Many of the messages left me feeling discouraged. Many of the messages hammered at the fact that we are not good enough or do enough. Is it possibel that is what we have been communicating to our teens and they are just mimicking us? That being said, I understand that I am not good enough and never do enough. I need to hear a message like this once and a while but 52 times (exaggerated) in a row?

I did hear compassion in a few voices. They were not the fiery one's. They were soft and calculating. They were thinking as they spoke. They looked me in the eye as if they cared for my soul. Isn't that what we're shooting for?

Let me preface this section by saying this:

1. These are teens, I get it. But these teens are the same teens we want to go to foreign countries and share the gospel.

2. This is a competition. Each teen brought their A game. I get it.

3. These teens are gifted, sincere and passionate. I do not want to dampen their enthusiasm I want to help focus it. The scriptures says zeal without knowledge is not good (Romans 10:1-3)

This begs us to ask our selves, "what are our students learning from our preaching and how we are preaching it?" I guess I am proposing the larger question as a denomination. As spirit-filled group of believers, what kind of preachers are we raising up? Are they going to preach a revival birthed out of love an grace? Or a generation that's all smoke and no fire? Or all fire but no love and grace to balance it? I don't know but the scriptures tell me:

"Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person." Colossians 4:6

Let's mentor these young preachers as Paul mentored Timothy. They have a message, a story. Let's help them declare God's story and share their own story seasoned with grace and love for a hurting world.

Let the sparks fly,

Paul Turner

These views are that of the poster and does not represent the views of our District, other FA judges or The Assemblies of God.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

An Open Wound Is Not Vulgar

I know this sounds strange but it sure was funny when I heard it come out of my 15 yr old daughters mouth.

What were we talking about? Prom Night. No, not the event that happens for seniors but the re-make of the 80' slasher movie. My daughter wanted to go to the movie. Correction, she did not want to go to the movie. She wanted to be with her friends who were going to the movie. Our discussion about slasher movies became funny when my daughter said, "This is not a movie like Saw or Hostel, an open wound is not vulgar." She was trying to make the point that not all movies that have blood in it are vulgar. My inner Pharisee wanted to shut it all down and make her look up all the Bible verses on blood, vulgar, etc.

Thirty minutes before the movie began we gave her the option to see the movie if she wanted. She felt we wasted too much time talking about it and she felt like we guilted her out of seeing it. That was not our intention. My gift to my daughter is the ability to reason, think and discern. I have decided to trust her more. I believe if she saw anything vulgar in the movie or anything that disagreed with her convictions she'd walk out.

She is my daughter but she is also a believer in Jesus. I have to trust Jesus and and my daughter. I have to trust the Jesus in my daughter.

How about you. Do you trust your students to make right choices? Do you trust the Jesus you have been preaching? Do you trust the Jesus in your students?

Let the sparks fly.

Paul Turner

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Throwing The Red Flag

I always have fun with my youngest son Jon. He is a bundle of fun and creativity. Last night, with all the enthusiasm he could muster told me how this guy on tv focused his Chi and slammed chopsticks into a piece of wood. I said, "Did you just say Chi Jon?" He said, "Yep." and then talked about how a guy could stand on a bunch of eggs with breaking any of them."

I threw the spiritual version of a football coaches red flag. It was time for a review. The play did not look right and I wanted a closer look. I did not want the opposing team to get something they had not earned. Now, I am not a New Age-ologist, understanding all things crystal or mystical but I am familiar with Chi. Chi is "the life giving energy that unites body, mind and spirit. Everyone has Chi. When you die, your Chi is no longer there."

My point is not to describe Chi but to ask and wonder how many parents would have missed that part of their kids story and said, "That's nice dear."

How many things do we hear everyday that go unchallenged. I am not saying we should die on every hill but I am not going to let my son start believing he has Chi and try to walk on our eggs. Although that would be a sight to behold. I am saying, as youth workers and parents we have to throw the red flag and call for a review especially among our believing students.

Statements that require the red flag

-Religions are all the same.
-As long as it makes you happy.
-It's ok if you really love them.
-God's doesn't care about....(my music, my hobbies, etc.)
-swearing (Yeah, I think it matters)
-Lewdness (speech is a big deal but we don't have to make a BIG deal about it)
-rudeness (manners and kindness matter)

As youth worker we have to keep our ears open to pluralistic and inclusive theology that invites a loving challenge. Challenging statements will sharpen a kids faith if we ask them to show us from the Bible why they think the way we do.

To ignore statements because we don't want to offend or come off as a religious bigots will only further a students biblical ignorance and could eventually undermine their faith. How did I tackle my 8 year olds sudden fascination with Chi?

I told him that for believers in Jesus we cannot fault Chi for our behavior. Life maybe out of balance but it is because our relationship with God is out of balance. It could be because we are not obeying God's word or not walking in the Spirit of Christ, the Holy Spirit.

My son understood, to a point but I am just glad I threw the red flag rather than let the game play on. First down, dad!