Archives For June 2009

Youth Ministry 3.0 Quotes

Mike —  June 30, 2009 — Leave a comment

I came across a couple great quotes in Youth Ministry 3.0 last night that I wanted to share here:

“One of the most dangerous cul-de-sacs that any human organization can drive into is the belief that our current assumptions will continue to be correct, are evergreen, and never need to change.” -Mark Oestreicher
Marko is writing about the historical shifts in youth culture and adolescence and the church’s need to respond. (But the thinking applies well outside of the youth ministry realm as well.) Just because something was the right approach at one time, doesn’t mean it will be today.
But the church isn’t just a “human organization”. We certainly are an organization of humans, but we are not only that. It’s even more imperative then, as a spiritual body whose head is Jesus that we are allowing our minds to be renewed, our assumptions changed when necessary.
“A church that pitches its tents without constantly looking out for new horizons, which does not continually strike camp, is being untrue to its calling… We must play down our longing for certainty, accept what is risky, live by improvisation and experiment.” -Hans Kueng
Just because something is the way it is, doesn’t mean it should stay that way. We should be consistently studying humanity, the heart of God, and how He’s responding to (and dare I say even driving) the cultural shifts we see happening. As we see the world changing all around us, will we have the courage to step from the safety of our tents and venture out into the wildness of God’s love. Don’t forget that He so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son… Since He’s already given so much, will we give our assumptions – will we give our comfort?

No Excuses

Mike —  June 30, 2009 — Leave a comment

“‘Not called!’ did you say?

‘Not heard the call,’ I think you should say.
Put your ear down to the Bible, and hear Him bid you go and pull sinners out of the fire of sin. Put your ear down to the burdened, agonized heart of humanity, and listen to its pitiful wail for help. Go stand by the gates of hell, and hear the damned entreat you to go to their father’s house and bid their brothers and sisters and servants and masters not to come there.
Then look Christ in the face – whose mercy you have professed to obey – and tell Him whether you will join heart and soul and body and circumstances in the march to publish His mercy to the world.'”
Just came across that quote from William Booth (who founded the Salvation Army) in Dino Rizzo’s book Servolution. It’s easy to say that we’re not gifted in outreach, or we’re just not called to evangelism like that, or that’s just not my personality type… But the truth is that we are each responsible for sharing with others the mercy and grace that Jesus has shared with us. No excuses. You and I ARE CALLED to reveal God to people who haven’t seen Him – in the way we live, in the way we serve, in the way we love.
What are you doing to “publish His mercy” to the people around you?

Annoyed with the Asinine

Mike —  June 29, 2009 — 3 Comments

I try not to rant about pet peeves here too often, but I’ve been noticing something over and over that just irritates the heck out of me. It’s been a long time since a day has gone by without being accosted by this deceptive dispenser of annoyance. I could easily avoid the stupid thing, but I hate seeing so many of my friends giving themselves away to…

the facebook quiz.
I know, I know – it’s all just in fun, sort of a game. But is it really? Is it a healthy game to play? I wish people didn’t care what kind of kiss they were, or what flavor of ice cream best represents their sex life. Why do grown adults want to know which Twilight character is their soul mate and what body part they should pierce.
Guess what, people? Your life is not an 80’s movie, you are not a Michael Jackson song, and a facebook quiz is never going to help you find out who you truly are. You are not a Transformers character and facebook has no idea when you’ll get married or what the first letter of the middle name of your true love is.
Maybe I’m just bitter because the ministry quiz said I was made to be a groundskeeper. Or maybe I just hate seeing so many young people (and not so young) looking for their identity in meaningless places. Don’t settle for a facebook quiz to tell you who you are – it’s a poor substitute for the dreams of God. Seek His heart and live the life He dreams…

Thinking Without Thinking

Mike —  June 23, 2009 — Leave a comment

I just finished reading Malcolm Gladwell’s blink – The Power of Thinking Without Thinking. The book weaves together a whole lot of anecdotal episodes and scientific studies to look at the process of making decisions, not just quickly but instantly. Gladwell presents the notion that our unconscious mind can (and does) make snap decisions through a process he calls ‘thin-slicing’ (which is essentially eliminating all but the most critical bits of information). If you’re interested in how people think, process information, and make decisions this will be an interesting book. (If it doesn’t make you think differently, it’ll at least make you think about how you think – differently!)

One of the factors of thin slicing that is most interesting to me is the idea that our reactions are ‘primed’ by a number of factors. He cited a couple studies that were done in which test takers’ behaviors were modified simply by the subtle insertion of certain words within the test. Words like Florida, gray, bingo, etc. inserted into the test cause the test takers to walk more slowly after the test. Other test takers became more polite or more intrusively rude when primed with other sets of words.
One implication of all of this is seen in how we process information and shift our behaviors and attitudes without even realizing it. Another study Gladwell mentions was a tool that’s been developed called the Implicit Association Test that measures the associations we make between ideas. Many of these associations are not intentional, but we tend to carry them anyway, even if we don’t realize it. (You can visit the link above to take some of the tests to see how this works.) These are unconscious attitudes toward other races, classes, situations, etc.

Gladwell states, “The disturbing thing about the test is that it shows that our unconscious attitudes may be utterly incompatible with our stated conscious values.” In other words, the test reveals a gap between what we say we think/feel/believe and what we truly think/feel believe. So where did these attitudes come from? How did they form in our thinking? Our environment (all our prior experiences, family, friends, media, etc.) has primed us to certain dispositions.
This got me thinking about the impact of of God’s Word as it relates to cognitive development. Right now on my desk, I have within my reach hundreds of books (yes, youth ministers can read), an Internet full of information, videos, music, messages on discs, (and a stapler and a rhino)… There’s a phone on my desk with 3 lines and another in my pocket with which I can call anywhere in the world with a question… At my home, all these same conduits of information are there with a couple TVs promising to help me learn to live better, thinner, wiser…
But there is nothing more important to soak my mind in than the Bible. After reading Blink, I’m noticing my first inclinations and thinking about where they’re coming from. I’m seeing how I make snap judgments and understanding why my gut instinct is what it is. I’ve been primed for 33 years to think and react a certain way. If I really want to think and act like Jesus, then I need to make sure that the environment in which my mind is developed is full of Him.
I know that wasn’t necessarily Gladwell’s intention for “blink” – but I’m thankful for the reminder.

Find Some Suffering

Mike —  June 19, 2009 — Leave a comment

We typically want to avoid suffering don’t we? I mean, on a personal level, most of us don’t want to suffer. We often even take that another step and avoid others who are suffering. Jesus was definitely counter to this part of our culture.

He expected to suffer. He even promised his disciples that they would suffer. (Which begs the question: If disciples suffer, and we avoid suffering at all costs – are we really disciples?) But not only that, Jesus sought out those who were suffering. He left his Father’s side (where He was not suffering) to enter a world full of suffering. He noticed the suffering in the crowds that gathered around him.
In our nation, today, do we seek out the suffering? Or do we avoid those parts of town? Do we drive around the “bad neighborhoods” where we know we’ll see someone “less fortunate” than ourselves? Compassion recently partnered with Nooma to make a short film called Corner that hits on this issue. In the video, there is a line that suggests that we “find some suffering and do something about it.”
I want to suggest the same. I need to give up my American dreams of comfort and ease and “seek first the kingdom of God”. Maybe you do to. Maybe we need to recognize that as some of the most wealthy people in the world (yes, even in this economy that is supposedly in the tank, the lower middle class of America is more wealthy than about 95% of the rest of the world), we can do something about much of the suffering we see (if we will indeed see it).
———————–
Like many people I can tend to point out problems much more quickly than offer solutions. But here are a few links and ideas to help us “find some suffering and do something about it”:
The coldwater mission later this summer is all about revealing the Kingdom by serving people that have needs our group can meet. Join us…
Compassion – sponsor a child
Kiva – micro loans you give to help someone escape poverty
Help with a soup kitchen
Donate some clothes
TOMS shoes – for every pair of shoes bought, a pair are given free to someone who needs them
Get a couple friends and clean up someone else’s yard
Visit people in the hospital and nursing homes – give them the gift of being there
Use your imagination – share some more ideas in the comments section – how could you find some suffering and do something about it?

Different

Mike —  June 19, 2009 — Leave a comment

This morning Emily was playing with a rollie-pollie, which she informed me later she liked to call a pill bug. She liked how it climbed around on her hand and through her fingers like a little piece of mobile jewelry. As she showed Liz and Siah her new little friend, Josiah got all excited.

“A rollie-pollie! Me and Dakota like to throw those!”
Don’t tell me girls and boys are the same.
Only anecdotal, I know, but still…

Self-destructive Tragedy

Mike —  June 18, 2009 — Leave a comment

Forcing the somber beyond the macabre,

the mob beyond the insanity,
is an imp whose name is Poe.
—–
I owe what could be called a mild fascination with Edgar Allen Poe to a red haired raven known as Mrs. Washenfelder. My first introduction to the man was through her voice, as she read and recited The Bells and The Raven and led our sophomore American lit class in discussions of Amontillado and Usher. The Poe unit with Mrs. Washenfelder was legendary in our school.
Despite the spark of interest, I haven’t really dug into Poe’s life in the many years since my high school days. But recently, I came across Ackroyd’s biography Poe: A Life Cut Short at the library. Having read the biography, I really want to read more of Edgar Allen Poe’s writings.
It seems like Poe always felt that he was alone in this world. His literary vision bordered on insanity. He seemed to some a decent enough man, but to others he was ever under the control of his inherited demons – his mother’s early death, alcohol, and at least an occasionally loose grasp on reality. His writing wasn’t always welcomed with other writers and editors of the day, but that seems to have been as much a result of a caustic and self destructive personality than of literary merit. He felt himself rejected, orphaned, abandoned, and alone most of his life.
Ackroyd’s final paragraph details a few accolades and tips of hats from literary giants like Tennyson, Yeats, Arthur Conan Doyle, James Joyce, and even Nietzsche and Kafka. “The orphan, in the end, found his true family.”
Shouldn’t there be something better for today’s orphans than the recognition of tomorrow’s voices – voices they’ll never know?
There is…

More Locals…

Mike —  June 16, 2009 — Leave a comment

A couple more friends have recently jumped into the blogwaters. Here are their links.

Matt is blogging at Snyder’s Space as he’s working as a youth ministry intern in Cheyenne.

Michele has started One of the Remnant with some great thoughts regarding one of my recent favorite verses.

I remember my first post. It was about hope – and was very short. It seemed weird to be putting my thoughts out where everyone could see them. Seemed strange to say “I blog” or should it be “I have a blog”? “I’m a blogger…”? Will it matter? Who will see it? Do I really want people to see it?

Like Michele says in her post, I found I had something to say. Sometimes, I’ve said it well. Other times, not so much. But blogging has been an interesting exercise (though if I’m going to call it that, I should probably do it much more regularly) that has stretched my thinking and connected me with people I’d never contact otherwise.

I hope my blogging friends will find their own online ventures as fruitful.

After posting yesterday about the ineffictiveness of cold-call evangelism – this morning at a garage sale I was given a tract by a nice elderly gentleman asking “where will you go if you die tonight” and quoting Joseph Stalin to tell me why I should honor my country. (Though I suspect something’s been lost in translation because some of the language was very un-Stalin-esque.)

Later this morning, some a kind group of ladies from the Jehovah’s Witnesses knocked on my door and gave me a sheet of paper telling me how I can be ready for the end of the world – and to invite me to a JW conference in Loveland. It’s held at the Budweiser Arena… umm… yeah.

Heading out now for the Gering Arts Festival. Lots of crowds, so I’m hoping for the stranger danger trifecta!.

Outreaching Discipleship

Mike —  June 12, 2009 — 2 Comments

Yesterday, I read an article by Greg Stier of Dare to Share (“Does Street Evangelism Work?”). I have never been a proponent of striking up a conversation with random strangers by smacking them around with the fact that they’re heading to hell if they don’t change their ways. This kind of drive-by evangelism seems to have very little lasting impact, except to often leave a bad taste in the mouth of the “target” (who really wants to be a target?) and a sense of rejection and perceived slight (which may be pridefully seen as a badge of honor) for the “witness”.

D2S always seemed to be driven by this kind of approach to outreach – so I’ve never taken a group to their conferences. What I’m seeing in this article, however, makes me think that either my perception was wrong or their approach is shifting. Here is what Stier is saying about evangelism in the article (I’ll put his statements in bold, with my comments mixed in):
“Street evangelism can be effective in making converts, but is rarely effective in making disciples.”
This has been my criticism of unrelational evangelism. What good have I done if I get someone to convert, then leave him with no relational support? There has been too much of a distinction between evangelism and discipleship in the church. We have been called to make disciples (which is a lifelong endeavor) not to go out trying to get another notch in our Bible. A conversion can be manipulated or coerced (or even faked) – but there’s no shortcut to discipleship. Can we see evangelism and discipleship as 2 parts of one relationship?
“Evangelism should start with our immediate circle of influence, our friends, family, co-workers and neighbors.”
This is an echo of Jesus’ own words. He told the disciples to start in Jerusalem (where they were) and then move out from there, making disciples.
“As God allows, we should share the gospel with the strangers we encounter and do our best to disciple them if they accept Christ.”
God works in ways that we don’t always understand. While I don’t make it a normal practice to go door to door and ask people if they are saved or not, I also need to make sure that I’m paying attention to the Holy Spirit when He’s wanting me to engage a stranger. They may be unknown to me, but He knows them intimately and on occasion He gives me the words to say exactly what they need to hear.
“Our evangelistic efforts should be done relationally and relentlessly.”
This is the center of this issue. It’s not a matter of whether or not we should boldly tell people about God and His love for humanity and how His Son is our only hope. We should. There’s no question that we should enter into life-giving relationships which draw people deeper into the heart of God. We must. But we can’t afford to do one or the other. Discipleship requires both, and it’s going to take some work to learn how to fuse the two into words and action that are led and fueled by the Spirit to build His kingdom.
Let’s roll up our sleeves…