Lets Talk Tuesday…

What’s the church here for?

Who is the church here for?

Have you ever thought about how many church people there were when Jesus started it?
What do you think?

An Idea Happening

Last week, a couple of my students were hanging out at their homes, playing xbox360 like they often do, and talking about youth ministry with each other. (My students are the good kind of strange… they share faith with each other on the way to digital dominance!) Get this picture: Some variation of Bond on the screen (you guys do realize all your games are variations of Goldeneye, right?), dodging explosions or zombies, with a live chat box open for discussion, unbound by the reality of not being in the same place at the same time.

An idea hit them so hard, they put down their controls and headed for my office. “We had this idea for a youth ministry on Tuesday nights, where…” For the next 20 minutes or so, I listened as 3 high school guys excitedly told me about an idea they had to bring their peers together to share and help each other know Jesus a little bit better.

There are a few obstacles to work through and a some clarity that is still needed, but I am excited to see what happens when these guys are unleashed and well-tooled to reach outside the familiar and do something new. I’m a little torn, because I can’t be there on Tuesday nights this semester, but I love that this is an instant response by these students. They haven’t been goaded or guilted into anything, they’re just responding to the circumstances of their lives with action that will show their peers what God’s Kingdom is like.

The last series I taught was called “What are you waiting for?” and I ended with the thought that the birth of Jesus is our green light to make disciples. He’s telling us to GO. Something tells me they were listening… Praying for you guys – wish I could be there.

This makes me wonder, what action/initiative do I need to be taking? What about you? What keeps us from acting on impulse? When does the anchor of wisdom become more of a shackle of uncertainty?

Youth Ministry friends… tell me about the last time you let your students run with an idea, even though you didn’t know exactly where it was going?

Have You Seen Anything?

In the church, evangelism is a big deal. Well… at least the idea of evangelism. It’s one of those big church words we like to throw around about sharing our great message with the world, but we don’t always do a great job actually doing what we’re talking about. So we’ve come up with classes and sermons and books to teach us how to evangelize. I get invitations and ads from conferences promising to make my students better evangelists by giving them the best techniques for sharing Christ and teaching them to make the most of every opportunity to tell someone about Jesus.

But all this makes me wonder… I’ll grant that there’s sometimes a deficiency in our outreach. But I’m not sure the problem is a ‘how to’ kind of problem. I don’t know that the issue is understanding better methods and procedures for telling people what Jesus has done. Maybe the issue is actually seeing Jesus do something.

If you had to testify in court about events to which you were an eyewitness, would you need to go to a witnessing seminar? If you ask me about my children, I don’t have to consult a parenting manual to be able to talk about them. If you ask me about a recent trip I took or my roofing project, I don’t go to a seminar to learn how to tell you what happened. I don’t need to because I was there, in the middle of what was going on.

May we learn to see with eyes that recognize Jesus on the move. May we see the Wind blowing and recognize its origin so definitively that we’ll set set our sails to be moved ourselves. May we find ourselves living His story, full of experiences worth sharing. May we experience Jesus so compellingly that we recognize that we know someone worth talking about…

Planning Ahead

Meeting with our creative team today to lay out all the sermons thru early 2013.

Is this a quote from the future?
A text from some preacher with way too much time on his hands?

No. It’s actually a tweet from @PastorMark (Mark Driscoll of Mars Hill Church in Seattle). In addition to leading a young family and teaching at this multi-campus church, he is heavily involved in Acts 29 Network church planting, Churches Helping Churches, and Resurgence. He also does an incredible amount of writing and leadership training with church leaders all over the map. I’m not listing that stuff to put him on a pedestal or anything, but to point to the fact that here’s a guy who has a busy schedule. Growing kids, growing church, thriving ministry… and yet, he’s prioritized time to plot a course for the next 2 years of his preaching.

I know a lot of preachers, teachers, and youth ministers who don’t even know what they’re teaching next week, let alone the next 100 weeks’ worth of messages. How many Sunday school teachers will pick up their curriculum magazine this Saturday night and wonder why more people don’t come to class Sunday morning? We think we can fly by the seat of our pants and call it being led by the Spirit or being responsive to circumstances.  But we know the reality, I think, is that we just haven’t used our time for planning. Why?

  • Because we’re stuck in routines that rob us of any long range vision for our teaching.
    • Sundays & Wednesdays (our traditional teaching days) come with amazing regularity. If we’re not careful, their regularity can lull us into some kind of daze in which we do more filling in of templates than crafting of cohesive messages. It would be good for us and those we teach if we would break out of those routines and follow God to some fresh water to share.
  • Because we’re alone (and we kind of like it that way).
    • Many of us who teach are alone in our lesson planning, implementation, and follow-up. We choose our topics alone, we study alone, & we deliver alone. It’s a heavy burden, but it also allows us to feel the thrill of control. Maybe the time is way past for us to give up on that illusion and learn to collaborate. It won’t be easy, but I think it’s necessary.
  • Because we’re being lazy.
    • It’s hard work to sit down and plan a whole series of teaching. It requires intense and even agonizing levels of prayer and study. It forces us to open ourselves to input that may not be easy to hear. It’s tough to dig into the new and unfamiliar territory we may be asked to enter. Isn’t it a lot easier to lean back on the sermon notes we found online or plug a couple new stories into those messages we’ve socked away from previous years? It is easier… but not very vibrant & not very effective. We need to be willing to pay the price of preparation.

Please don’t think I’m pointing fingers here… my fingers are too busy yanking at this really annoying plank in my eye to be pointing at anyone else. Now that I’ve got a hold of it though, I think it’s coming out. I’m not anticipating a hundred new messages to flow from my mind all at once, but I think I see some fresh water ahead… I’ll meet you there.
If you’re not a person who regularly teaches or preaches, please pray for those people who are in your life doing that. We need it. Pray that we’ll effectively follow the Spirit AND plan our delivery of His message.

Galatian Deception

Last year, I started reading through my Bible with a highlighter, which was kind of a big deal for me because I’m weird and have an issue with writing in books. (My therapist says I may be growing out of it, but all his textbooks are those MadLibs, fill-in-the-blank things, so I’m not too sure.) I’ve just been highlighting phrases or sections that seem to stand out to me, or that seem to have a little extra significance to share right here and now.

As I was reading through Galatians yesterday, I was surprised at how much I was highlighting! It’s like the yellow pages of my Bible now, without the phone numbers and a restaurant section. But more than the amount of highlighting I did, I was reminded of the scope of that letter. Paul needed to remind the church of just what made them the church anyway:
the calling of God to believe the Son of God and live by the Spirit of God.
They were trying to even the score with God by following the Law, as the Jews had known it for centuries. Their traditions and customs and peculiar practices were being forced onto people who didn’t share them, as a condition for being made right with God. Someone had misled them into thinking this was ok, even that it was the way it was supposed to be, but Paul wanted desperately to correct that error.
They were buying a lie that told them that people needed to work their way in to God’s family. But Paul said those ‘rites of passage’ or customs didn’t matter. (And included a pretty sharp rebuke for ‘those troublemakers’ in 5:12.) What mattered, according to Paul was “whether we really have been changed into new and different people.” What was important was “faith expressing itself in love.”
I don’t think I’ve ever been pressured to conform to the Jewish Law that the Galatians were promoting. But I wonder if we have New Laws that we make people adhere to before we’ll accept them as family? Do we give people the impression that they have to be ‘good enough’ to earn a seat at God’s table? What do you think? Have we repeated the Galatian deception with a modern twist? What are some of the New Laws you’ve seen urged on people in order to get right with God?