Fuel for the Fire?

I’ve wondered at various times in my ministry if I was heading for burnout. There are times when it seems like I’m just churning away, getting nowhere, burning up all my fuel. I used to think that all I needed to do was just spend more time reading Scripture to solve that problem. More fuel = more fire, right?

Besides the obvious problem of thinking that simply cramming more Bible-time into an overworked life will automatically result in peace and tranquility, Bible knowledge just isn’t the fuel that I need. Don’t read that wrong. I didn’t say that the Bible is not needed or necessary. We can’t live without it. We can’t really minister without it.

But God Himself is the only power sufficient for ministry. If I’m doing ministry out of anything other than His Heart ~ I’ll cook myself. God wants me as a living sacrifice, not a charred carcass that only vaguely resembles the life that once dwelt within it. One of my favorite passages is Philippians 2, where Paul points to Jesus’ humility as the attitude that we should have… It’s God working in us… Do everything without complaining… hold out the word of life… As I read this passage this morning I couldn’t help but think of times of spiritual exhaustion when those words are clouded in my life.
Mark Driscoll has posted a number of videos about burnout and related issues called “Death by Ministry” on his Resurgence site. If you’ve ever just felt ‘run over’, take some time to check them out. I got a lot out of the first 7 sessions and will listen to the last 4 when I get back from this week’s student leadership retreat. (A couple days of camping, backpacking, & climbing will be rough on my out of shape body, but great for my tired soul!)

More Jr. High Camp thoughts

Jr. Highers are great. They’re fun. They’re always exploring. They offer up a never-ending variety of olfactory concoctions that always staves off boredom… But being in charge of a camp full of them caused me great stress. I still have hair, but I’m sure more of it is gray now!

I like camp to be pretty laid back. It’s church camp, not boot camp, so there’s a good amount of freedom in the schedule. As you and I would both expect, some Jr. Highers at our camp took advantage of that freedom in some pretty negative ways. When they came and explained what they’d done, they actually painted a far worse picture than what actually happened.

The knee jerk of most of the camp staff was send them packing. Call the parents and get them out of camp immediately. Since I was the dean, though, the call was mine to make. I’ve never been one to do things the easy way, so I didn’t kick them out. I’d given them the freedom to choose. They chose poorly. But the consequence (of which there were many) was not going to be that they go home. I didn’t feel like they’d learn anything that way. So I offered grace enough to keep them there.

It struck me that we’re all the same. God gives us way more freedom to choose than what I’d given the campers. And we all go around picking on the weaker kids and making messes for someone else to clean up (that’s a sanitized statement of what they did AND what we do). We take the freedom that God gives us and misuse it for our own benefit and positioning. And God gives us grace that allows us to stay in camp.

Jr. High Camp thoughts

So a couple weeks ago, I left for Jr. High camp. Came back for a weekend and went back to camp for Sr. High week. Our network of churches in our area of Nebraska, Wyoming, and South Dakota utilizes a great facility in the Black Hills of SD called Kamp Kinship for our summer camps. It’s a nice retreat center that is a far cry from the spartan cabins of my youth at camp in the mountains near Lander, but I was able to recapture a bit of my camping tradition that the students really got a lot out of…

At Lander, we always took a hike up to a peak called Candy Mountain (at least that’s what we all called it). I always loved that hike and looked forward to it every year. The Black Hills are nice, but there really wasn’t a summit close enough to the camp to be suitable for this type of event. The camp does have a tradition of making some kind of excursion off campus though each year… usually into town for putt-putt, a water park, go karts… stuff like that.

I kind of figure kids can do those things anytime, so this year I wanted to do something a little bit different. I was the dean for Jr. High week, so I had the ability to make that happen. (Why they put someone in charge who’s only been with the group for one camp season is beyond me, but they did!) The theme of the week was “Be still and know that I am God.” so something out in a peaceful natural setting seemed appropriate. We ended up taking a hike along a path that followed a creek up to a swimming hole. (Probably not appropriate for church camp, but the hole was called Devil’s Bathtub. I’m pretty sure some of the kids peed in it just for the symbolic spiritual significance!)

With 98 of us, that was no small deal. I had been assured, though, that it was a pretty easy trail… I passed that assurance on to our students. Note to self ~ don’t trust Ryan’s childhood memories! The trail crossed the creek (sans bridges) more times than our Jr. High boys’ voices cracked during the week!

Sidenote: a student with cerebral palsey didn’t really want to go on the hike, but I promised him he could do it. We’d help him as much as he needed. If the trail was too tough for him, we’d do whatever we needed to get him through… Nice, reassuring things. His response: “No it’s not that… I’m just LAZY!” He made it to the destination and had a blast in the process – just like everyone else!

I wasn’t sure how this choice of hiking over water slides or go karts was going to go over, but the kids loved it. (And it turned out there was a bit of a rock water slide anyway!)

A little musical diversion…

I was tagged by Knotter a friend in the blogging world.

If I were to list what I was listenning to intently right now, it would be Future of Forestry over and over. (A great band you may have never heard of.) But since that’s not really what the tag is all about, I’m hitting ‘random’ right now and here’s what’s coming out in the next ten slots…

1. – Sarah Kelly, Still Breathing
2. – Sarah Kelly, In Your Eyes (so much for random)
3. – Jadon Lavik, His Name Shall Be Called
4. – Audio Adrenaline, Rejoice (Whoah! That’s been a while!)
5. – Jars of Clay, Faith Enough
6. – Future of Forestry, Sunrising (I promise I didn’t cheat!)
7. – Tree 63, I Stand for You
8. – Jars of Clay, Only Alive
9. – Tree 63, I Will Never Be the Same
10. – Audio Adrenaline, You Still Amaze Me

Realized part way through that this is only pulling from ‘recently added’ (although not new) stuff – explains the ‘unrandomness’ of repeating bands! Oh well. That’s some of what I just heard. Maybe I’ll edit this post and do a more diverse 10.


Here’s a better random sampling (and a much better playlist I might add – that wouldn’t get me kicked off the radio show I’m on)

1. – The Fray, Fall Away
2. – Chris Tomlin, Uncreated One
3. – Disciple, Scars Remain
4. – Newsboys, I Am Free
5. – Falling Up, Escalates
6. – Sanctus Real, I’m Not Allright
7. – Fair, The Dumbfounded Game (another great band you may have never heard)
8. – Pillar, Awake
9. – Sarah Kelley, Still Breathing (The song that never goes away!)
10. – Trans-Siberian Orchestra, Christmas Jam (the epitome of randomness!)

I suppose I should tag someone, so how ’bout Gman, Kari, and Meghan

–Incidentally, the next 2 random songs that came up was Thinking of You from Future of Forestry (those guys are awesome) and Grace from U2 (another of my favorites).

Knowing God…

Getting the last few things put together this week for Jr. High camp next week. We’re focusing on Psalm 46, leaning toward verse 10’s “Be still and know that I am God.” So I’ve been thinking of what it really means to know God.

I’m tired of church stuff that leaves people unaffected. Tired of churches and youth ministries that simply make their way around the carousel of activity without changing lives. I’d hate for this camp to be simply another full week in busy schedules that are filled with apathetic activity. My prayer for the week is that students would come face to face with their Creator.

Because that will change a person. I think, if you enter into a real conversation with God, you only have two options: outright rejection of Him or living a life of worship. I just don’t think there’s room for authentic encounter with God to result in…. more of the same.

You Can’t Cancel Church.

Last year a bunch of people I know and interact with online were all upset about some churches “canceling church” in order for families to be home with their families on Christmas morning. Others have lamented how some congregations “cancel church” on the Sunday night of the Super Bowl. Well, the issue has come up again…

A church in KY has forgone its normal Sunday morning schedule in order for the whole congregation to go to a special screening of Evan Almighty. Now, I haven’t seen the movie yet, so my comments have a limited perspective on why or why not seeing this movie together could be a good idea.

But here is one thing I do know. There is nothing we can do to ‘cancel’ church (or ‘skip’ it for that matter). The church isn’t the place we meet on Sunday morning. It’s not the sitting around and the singing of songs and the hearing of sermons. The church is the Body of Christ, alive and serving in the world today. And that cannot be canceled.

I’m not saying that our weekly gathering to worship together is not important to the life of the Body. But if that one gathering (or two…) is the full extent of our worship, then we are only weakly gathering (and I’d hesitate to call that worship). If we can’t break from the routine for something a little out of the ordinary once in a while, then are we holding to tradition, or is tradition strangling us?