- Planning a lesson
- Writing a sermon
- Listening to a podcast
- Writing a blog post
- Publishing a book
- Reading a book
- Designing graphics
- Doing taxes
- Waiting on hold with the IRS
- Planning a worship time
- Taking kids to school/track/soccer…
- Picking up kids from school/track/soccer…
- Parent/Teacher conferences
- Helping a new friend find food or shelter
- Ordering curriculum
- Evaluating programs
- Watching Netflix
- Researching new ideas
- Fixing broken things (or ideas)
I bet your list is as full as mine. Should we keep going? Any of these things can threaten to quiet your conversation with God or to drown it out completely.
DON’T LET THAT HAPPEN!
Some of these are really good things – things that we should be giving ourselves to. But none of them should get our time and attention at the expense of staying connected with Christ. In fact, if we are so busy (even in good activity) that we lose our connection, we’ll find ourselves spinning our wheels and getting nowhere. Jesus put it like this,
Remain in me and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.
We have to stay connected with Jesus. Be careful to give God priority and keep the conversation of your life with Him going strong.
At the risk of turning this post into a sales pitch, I want to let you know (if you don’t already) that I’ve produced a resource that can help you do exactly that. It’s a guided journal called PRAY that walks you through the Bible to see what a life of conversation with God could look like for you. I’d love to have you check it out and let me know what God does. Your favorite bookstore can order you a copy, you can pick up a copy from me directly if you’re in the area, or you can get it via this handy, dandy portal to Amazon:
I consistently harp on the theme of investing in the next generation. If you’ve read this blog much before, you know this. If you’ve read this blog a lot, you may be tired of hearing it.
It’s coming again.
Last night, I got to sit back in the sound booth and watch as this guy led worship and delivered a heart felt, Biblical message to our Middle School and High School students here at WestWay. His name is Shane, and he grew up in this church, in this student ministry, in this room… I’m invested in Shane. He’s a student at Nebraska Christian College now, and he’s doing a residency with us this year. For about 50 minutes last night, he had control of the room and used it to help students think about not just “how” we worship, but “why”, and even more importantly WHO it is that we worship.
There have been all kinds of thoughts swirling through my heart and head since last night. Let me blast you with a few:
- Sunday School teachers used to need reinforcements when this kid came along… or extended breaks! It’s awesome to see what God has done with the raw talent and extreme amounts of energy that He bundled up in this package called Shane as he has committed to giving God back all of that talent and energy. Don’t ever quit on the kids that don’t conform to the compliant church mouse mold. They’re often the ones He uses to change the world!
- Students have LOTS of ideas. Some of those ideas are incredible and some of those ideas are just a step short of stupid. Help students filter through their ideas and try some out. Let students experiment to try to find out what God’s wired them for. How else will they find out? Full disclosure: I still have stupid ideas, too, and need partners to help me sort them all out. I hope you do, too because I have a suspicion that the only way forward is going to require stepping into the Sea of Stupid Ideas and watching God part the waters to get us to the other side.
- Many churches have an age problem. We don’t trust young people to deliver what we think God wants delivered so we just keep letting the Baby Boomers “protect the platform”. And so Gen X has not returned to church after their college hiatus and the Millennials are creating new platforms where their voice will be heard. We have to stop. We have to trust GOD enough to know that He can deliver through 15 year olds in tennis shoes every bit as effectively as He can through 50 year olds in penny loafers or 25 year olds in those really cool flip flops. If students have given themselves to Christ and have His Spirit living in them, they are the church NOW and they have a mandate to make disciples. I sure don’t want to be the one to hinder them from doing so, do you? We have to equip them for the work Christ has prepared for them to do and let them get to work doing it.
- Students don’t need busywork. Who does? If student leadership means only letting youth do the grunt work in your youth ministry, that is not going to cut it. Invest real energy in students and trust them with real responsibility. Because you’ve equipped them, they’ll be ready.
- Once upon a time, Shane was the kid bouncing in his seat and I was the cool guy at the front of the room. A little nervous, full of ideas, and experienced enough to be the expert, but young enough to be the cool big brother. Now, I’m just those one kids’ dad, right? Not cool. Not at all. But Shane is. You should see our younger boys hanging on everything he says and does. They want to be like him a lot more than they want to be like me. I’m ok with that. (Some days I’d rather be like Shane than like me, too!) My job is to have helped him when he wanted to be like me, to know that what really mattered is only being like Jesus. Don’t hog the spotlight. Be a mentor and a consistent example for them to emulate, but don’t be the only one.
- I’ve been here for 11 years as the youth pastor at WestWay. Some of them have been hard. All of them have had some difficulties. There have been moments when I felt like walking away and when open doors had a lot to offer. But God has kept us here and continued to work through our ministry here. Last night was a visible example of the results of that longevity. I can’t say that God wants every pastor to stay at every church for X number of years. But I can say, you will never see this kind of fruit firsthand if you move to a new ministry every 3 years. Youth ministry cycles make it tempting to feel like we’re done when a good class has graduated or when we’ve gone through our best ideas from the last place we worked. And maybe it is time to go… OR maybe it’s time to stop doing ministry off of last year’s calendar and good memories, and ask the Spirit to breathe new life into our imaginations to fuel the new thing He wants to do next.
- Discipleship is hard. But it’s fruitful. And it’s what we’ve been commanded to do. Last night, I got a great reminder of why it’s so important that that has been my focus. And why it should remain so. Can we just stop for a minute and admit that if we’re not making disciples, we’re not really the church. The younger generations that live among us and with us, are a great place to start. Go, make disciples.
Comment below to share how you’ve seen discipleship happening in the next generation. I don’t have all the answers… What’s working for you? What’s not?
Problems beg to be solved. They often lie there like a beached whale, begging for a solution.
Sometimes, the solution is obvious.
Other times… not so much.
So we start thinking… imagining… tinkering…
We get creative.
Unfortunately, there are days when creative solutions just flat out fail. Here are a few signs that your creative solution is probably going to fail (or already did).
- The gathering crowd seems to sense impending doom as they see you begin to implement your strategy.
- The solution involves half a ton of dynamite and a consensus of city officials & the highway department.
- Police are called in to cordon off a safe zone before you can act.
- The problem is still there when you’re done. Doh!
- The problem is worse when you’re done. Duh.
(HT to Sheldon Shires for bringing this stunning bit of creative thinking to my attention several years ago.)
If either of these phrases could possibly be uttered as a result of the implementation of your tactics:
“Bits of whale rain across the beach.”
“Over a quarter mile away, a massive chunk of blubber has flattened the roof of a brand new Cadillac…”
What problems are you seeing right now in need of creative solutions? Can I help? (I promise to leave the explosives out of the equation. Probably.)
Whoever let me forget how much better I feel when I’ve been running (semi)regularly… Please don’t let me forget again.
It’s not a lot, but I’ve run more miles this first 2 months of 2017 than I have in the past several years. That says a lot more about the last few years than about the last couple months. I didn’t have to choose to stop running. I just took a little time to recover from a particularly long run once… got busy… missed a few too many days because of bad weather… then found that I hadn’t run in way too long. But getting back into the practice of running has helped me get some physical things back in balance. I’ve trimmed a couple pounds, my lungs feel better, I’m sleeping less fitfully, and I generally just feel better. Running helps me clear the clutter in my head and is a time of prayer for me to refocus and remember Who my life is really about. Which brings me to this…
Our spiritual lives can get out of balance through unplanned inactivity, too.
An easy stretch of life lulls us into thinking that we’re doing well. We forget how dependent we really are on God as we get caught up in our own little day to day. We stop noticing God at work around us. Soon, we realize, we haven’t really noticed Him at all lately or given Him much thought… in way too long.
Maybe running isn’t your thing – and that’s fine. This isn’t really about running. It’s about paying attention to your spiritual life – your real life.
How are you doing?
Is it time to get back into the practices of life that help you grow?
Don’t let unplanned inactivity wreck your spiritual life.
Let me offer a few suggestions:
- Read Scripture. Often. Carve out time and listen to what He says in His Word.
- Get outside. For some of us, being in contact with creation helps us get in touch with our Creator.
- Make something. The Spirit He’s placed in us is His creative Spirit. Exercise it. Make something beautiful and new.
- Read. Check out something from the library. Head to a bookstore. Or start with something off the list below. Just find some good words to make you think…
Or maybe you just need some of these: