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    Tuesday, December 22, 2009

    Christmas Ideas for Youth Ministry Pt. 2

    Previously, in my Christmas Ideas for Youth Ministry post, I shared the things God was speaking to me about this season and how in turn I was going to share it with my Middle Schoolers.

    We put together a funny story line to promote and brand the evening. Video one is on the post link above, as well as here:

    During Christmas, we can all be very self-serving or self-seeking, even myself. I remember when I was a senior in HIGH SCHOOL at the age of 18 and I made Christmas all about myself.

    I had gone out and purchased DVD's for my whole family. They had some great DVD choices on their lists, so I bought all of them DVD's that year. As I sat there contemplating wrapping them, a great idea struck me: I haven't seen these movies, and here they are, I can watch them all without renting them! Afterall, I just bought all of them!

    So, I did what camae to my mind: watch the DVD's, THEN wrap them.

    Christmas was akward when everyone opened up their DVD's and noticed that the security tape was gone as well as the plastic wrap that so lovingly covers the DVD cases so the puchaser (or reciever of the gift) can know beyond a doubt it's brand new.

    The jig was up. I tried to come up with a good lie like: "That plastic wrap and the security tape is just a pain, so I took the liberty of taking them off for you" but I had no such ability to lie. I confessed my sin and have been reminded of it often...

    That story of my life is how in a lot of ways each of us approaches Christmas. We take the power out of it and turn the lights off to our understanding.

    This year's theme is: "Turn on the Lights. Save Christmas, Save the World". Next week, I will share my talk here on the blog. For now, enjoy episode 2 of "Save Christmas, Save the World"!

    Wednesday, December 9, 2009

    Old Skool Jesus #7 & #8

    Old Skool Jesus week 7- Why Should I Worship Jesus

    We as humans are created to worship. It is in our very nature to worship something or someone. I shared with the Middle Schoolers that whether they like it or not, they are worshippers. I shared a quick little illustration where I asked them to think about countries where they worship idols made of wood, gold or whatever. I asked them, "If you walked into their world and saw them bowing down to a wood idol that had three weirdly carved faces, what would you think?" Most said they'd think it was funny, and weird that these people were worshipping a piece of wood. They said they'd feel a bit weirded out and want to laugh.

    I then asked them another question: "What would those people think, if they came to America and decided to go to a Pittsburgh Steelers game?"

    They instantly and collectively said: "AHH, they'd think we were worshipping the Steelers!"

    I was overjoyed at how they instantly connected the two. I shared with them that we worship or "give glory to" many things. We shout out praises to teams, we spend money on clothes, we love movies and such. One sign I recently read from Wendy's said: "Love the egg, Love the bicuit, worship the bacon". Because even Wendy's gets that we must worship something.

    Of all the things in life we could worhsip or give glory to, what makes Jesus worthy of our praise? Why should we worship Jesus?

    The answer is very lengthy, but also very short. Jesus is, was and will be God! Jesus came to this earth as a King but lived the life of a poor traveling preacher and for the first 30 years of hus life had the hands of a blue collared worker, even though he was worthy of never having to work a day in his life!

    We sacrifice so much of ourselves to things that aren't worth our worship! We bow down to sports teams, we bow down to money, we honro, scream out loud for video games, movie stars, we give over to sex, drugs and fame as things that will be worshipped by us.

    The truth is, they will all leave us dead and dry in the end. Jesus is the only thing in this world that will never leave us. Anything and anyone else will disaapoint us, because we'll always want more things and we'll always want a better friend, or something just more than what we have. With Jesus, He is enough, He is all we need! That's why we should worship Jesus!

    I showed a silly video from Bluefishtv about a "worship guy" who was "worshipping God" but in reality he was worshipping Chicks!

    Old Skool Jesus week 8- Jesus---The Right Way

    Don't all roads lead to God in the end anyways? I'm in church, but people say god is god and they all lead to the same place. What's the difference about Jesus? Some sections of the "New Skool" of Jesus followers in todays culture would tend to say that universilism is a good avenue, however the Old Skool Jesus clearly says that he is the ONLY way to Heaven. John 14:6 says: "Jesus answered 'I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me."

    Jesus made no bones about salvation. he said he is THE way, THE truth and THE life. It's only through Him! Other religions lead up mountains to be sure, but they are all different mountains, not the same! Dan Kimball in his book They Like Jesus But Not the Church on pages 180-181 has a great illustration of these two modes of thinking.

    Some religions lead to you being the god of your own planet (Morman), others say that only a certain number of people if they are just good enough will reach the Father, but its all in how you live (Jehovah's Witness), still others say there are many gods and goddesses and obeying them and doing good to them will make them happy enough to reincarnate you (Eastern religions). All are different means to completely different ends.

    Jesus is the Right way because 1. He claims to be the ONLY way; 2. He made a way FOR us and it isn't contigent upon us.

    All religions besides Christianity are about what YOU DO for the gods. Christianity is about what GOD DOES for you. He made the way, because we are not good enough to make our own. God loves us enough to make a way.

    Tuesday, December 8, 2009

    Christmas Ideas for Youth Ministry

    Christmas always seems like a tough time of year to get lessons and stuff off the ground. In a sense it's easy because you know the topics, you know the stories, but it consistently comes to the point that you feel like you say the same thing over and over again.

    We as youth pastors also have a tough time as to make this timeless truth timely and relevant to the lives of our students.

    I've been developing some cool things that I hope will help you along your journey this Holiday Season. I took a break from Old Skool Jesus posts (which will resume tomorrow, with a double portion!) so that I could share this stuff with you.

    As I sat down to think about this season, I asked myself what do these Middle Schoolers need to hear about the Christmas message? Some things came to mind: Jesus is "the reason for the season" type stuff, Drop materialism, seek God this Christmas...all of those ideas came. however one thought was pervasive: Christmas and the reality thereof is shrouded in darkness. The true heart of Christmas has been darkened by the evil one...we must turn on the light to our teens understanding about Christmas.

    It isn't just about telling nice pretty stories about Jesus and Mary or the Wise men and the Shepherds, it about Turning the Lights on to what Christmas foreshadowed, what it means to the heart of humanity...not what it means to the heart of consumerism.

    So, I thought about Rudolph and how when he turned on the Lights, he saved Christmas...why can't he do it again?

    Dale Harris (one of my Middle School Leaders), myself and a group of teens put together a video, which will foreshadow this whole theme for our BIG Christmas party on December 23, 2009. Below is episode 1...I will leak more as time goes on. This is my take on what God has for teens this year: Turn on the Lights ("Save Christmas, Save the World")

    Tuesday, November 24, 2009

    Old Skool Jesus #6

    Last week, we talked about one of my favorite subjects: The Resurrection of Jesus Christ!

    I opened the night with a great little video I'm sure most of you have seen called: "Jesus is my Friend" (below) and got them laughing to begin.

    Then I went back to a couple of my earlier talks about Jesus being God and a quick recap of the cross. I shared that the people who doubted (i.e. Jesus' family and disciples) that he was in fact God, no longer doubted after the resurrection!

    The Main text I went to was 1 Corinthians 15 and delved into the discussion with them about how Jesus showed up to more than 500 people at one time. I asked them if we took the whole room (about 62 of them) put them all in the same "dream center" when they woke if they'd all had the same dream.

    They said it would be impossible for all of them to have the same dream. I shared how some people have tried to say that all 500 people that Paul is referring to (some who are still alive at the point of the writing) were high and all tripping at the same time and somehow all had the same hallucination. It just can't happen!

    There were tons of other things sprinkled into prove that he really did rise, but I ended with the one that is most convincing to me...that of Paul seeing the resurrected Christ!

    Saul before he became Paul, hated Jesus. He despised his followers and felt that it was his mission to watch as many of them die for their stupid belief in Jesus. He would stand by and gladly watch Christian after Christian die, until Jesus came to him.

    Jesus stopped him on the road (a route he was taking to slaughter upwards of 150 Christians) in bodily form and declared his deity as well as resurrection to Saul. From that moment on, Saul believed and was renamed Paul.

    I told the teens; the only explanation for such a change in Saul is that Jesus really is alive. All of the nay-sayers who have their theories have weak explanations that are ignorant of the facts at best and plain idiocy at worst.

    JESUS IS ALIVE! It's the base of our faith, without it the cross, Jesus birth and Christianity would be worthless...but He indeed did rise and our faith is the one true faith because JESUS IS THE Way!

    Thursday, November 12, 2009

    Old Skool Jesus #5

    This week was pretty freakin' sweet! We went to the deep level of walking through the crucifixion, step by gory step.

    I started by telling the students that we don't remember or even know the true depth of pain, humiliation and torture that Jesus went through on the cross. In Jesus' day, the word "cross" was equivalent to a swear word, because it was so gory, so nasty that it wasn't even spoken in normal conversation.

    We have trivialized the cross to a common saying similar to: "Oh, Jesus died on the cross, yea, cool".

    It's not that easy to just flippantly say, because when we go to the cross with Jesus and discover the radical depth of what happened there, we should no longer be able to say "Jesus died on the cross" sans emotion.

    I started in the Garden in Matthew 26, talked about Jesus' apparent stress over his impending death. He was so stressed that he sweat blood. Then came the emotional stress of being betrayed by one of his closest friends, Judas.

    I next moved to his time with Pilate, then the walk from there to Herod's, then the walk back to Pilate's, all the while mentioning the beatings that he took at each place. Jesus by the second time he was in front of Pilate was a tired, emotionally spent and all together done physically.

    That's when the cat of 9-tails came out and the crown of thorns was beat into Jesus head. The whip which Jesus was beat with had 9 long leather straps, each laced with: bones, metal balls, glass shards, metal shards and metal hooks.

    He was tried By Pilate and the Sanhedrin, where everyone screamed for his death by crucifixion, except for Pilate who thought beating Jesus to the brink of death would satisfy the Jews. So, Pilate washed his hands of Jesus and allowed Him to be crucified.

    Then 9inch Spikes went deep into Jesus wrists and feet wrists, in which they struck 4 gigantic nerves that drove electric shock waves of pain all through the Body of Jesus. They then hung him on the rugged cross, where he eventually died of asphyxiation.

    This of course was a synopsis of the talk, but even in that tiny bit of it, we can see the cross was no easy task. In fact 99% of people who were recorded as having been whipped 40 times with the Roman cat of 9tails died. Jesus was whipped 39 times...

    I shared my favorite verse (Which is also tattooed to my arm) 1 Peter 2:24: "(A) He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we(B) might die to sin and(C) live to righteousness.(D) By his wounds you have been healed."

    I then jumped into the topic of what the cross does for us, in which I defined the Doctrine of Justification. I know you're thinking: You talked about a Doctrine to Middle Schoolers? Yes...I did.

    I broke it down in Middle School terms. I said imagine a Jelly Donut. Now, realize that that Jelly Donut is you and due to Romans 3:23, we know we have junk in our lives. So your jelly donut, instead of filled with good jelly (or custard, whichever your preference is) it is filled with a big, fat pile of steaming cat poop, that poop is the sin in your heart and life.

    When Jesus died on the cross, he was dying for the sin in that donut of your life. That's why 1 Peter 2:24 says: "He Himself BORE OUR SINS...". Jesus had us in mind when He was on the cross, saying: "I Love you, that is why I am enduring this pain".

    When we believe in this truth and accept Jesus as our God and Savior, He wipes all the poop out of our donuts, so we are now made right before God. However, he doesn't leave it an empty shell of a donut, he fills it with the best jelly/custard in the universe...The Righteousness of Jesus!

    Not only are you made right before God, but He now sees Jesus in you and He forgets and forgives the sins (cleaning out the donut) and sees only Jesus!!!

    After this last part of the talk, I broke them up into small groups to talk about the horrific death of Jesus and made it a bit more comfortable for them if they wanted to make a decision for Jesus. They really got it and understood not only the doctrine of Justification, but the truth and importance of the cross! It was a great night.

    The Discussion questions can be downloaded for the entire series here:

    Also, here is the video I showed this week to "lighten things up":

    Tuesday, November 3, 2009

    Old Skool Jesus #4

    This week, we came back to our theme: "Old Skool Jesus" with a talk on "Why Did Jesus Come?"
    One of the leaders in the Middle School Ministry (Pete) spoke to the teens on Tuesday night and I spoke to them Wednesday Night.
    Pete had a great opening (which I stole) where he placed around the room pictures of people who needed help. Some were hilarious pictures of people getting hurt and others were more serious in nature where people were fleeing from armies for their very lives.
    We had a piece of paper next to each picture and we asked the teens to go around the room and write out what they thought these people needed in this moment of crisis.
    Some kids of course wrote sill things, others were serious. The overall idea was that some people need help and "earthly" things just won't do.
    We asked the Big Question: "Why Did Jesus Come?" (Pete took a different tack than I did, so I will share what I did)
    Jesus in John 6:38-40 says this: "For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day."
    Jesus came to do the will of His Father and His Father's will is that people would look to Jesus for eternal Salvation.
    Jesus also said that he came to seek and save the lost(Luke 19:10: "For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.") and he came to be a doctor to the sick (Luke 5:31-32: "And Jesus answered them, "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.")
    Finally, I shared with the students that Jesus came to fulfill the Law, because He had to, we needed Him to. He fulfilled the roles of: Prophet, Priest and King. I gave some funny stories of Kings, like where David cuts Saul's robes while he's pooping (1 Samuel 24:1-4). I also gave some funny stories of Prophets, like Ezekiel cooking food over poop (Ezekiel 4:12-14), as well as making a "Lego version" of Jerusalem and destroying it (Ezekiel 4:1-3).
    Lastly I was very serious about Priests and described that Jesus came not only to offer sacrifice for our sins, but he was THE Sacrifice for our sins! I shared that in Hebrews it says that without the shedding of blood, there can be no forgiveness of sins (Hebrews 9:22), so Jesus had to come and he had to die. Jesus is our Prophet who came and preached the truth of God (just like the prophets of old), he is also our King, for He talked about His Kingdom (John 18:36-37) and claimed to be God (which He is!). He will one day come back with a sword in his hand and a tattoo on His leg and take down those who oppose Him (Revelation 19:11-21). Finally, He is our Priest who offered Himself as our sacrifice!
    Here is the video we showed as a "funny intro"

    Wednesday, October 28, 2009

    Atomic Blast---Gladiators!

    This w eek, we've taken a break from the "Old Skool Jesus" series and did a Big Event Outreach.

    We do these large events every 3 months and the focus is evangelism. Our hope is to see kids come to Christ not by forcing it down their throats, but by engaging in a conversation.

    We have HUGE games, great food, excellent music and a good speaker to bring a personal story about Jesus.

    I will be giving you all the games we did and descriptions of them below. I've uploaded a diagram of each game into one PDF file, here is the link:
    (first page is blank)

    My handwriting is horrible, so the text for each game and the description will be below. This game worked well with 65 people and we will do it again tonight with another 115 people (approx.). However, I think you could utilize all of these games with a group of about 10 or more (just make less teams and smaller numbers).

    Lastly about the diagrams, we set up the "paint ball obstacles" for the whole added a cool dynamic as well as added to the challenges of the other games.

    Game Descriptions:

    Game #1 Ball Brawl
    - 4 Teams, one at each corner of the gym
    - Each team chooses 4 people to stand in front of the stages for their perspective teams.
    - For each team of four, 2 will be bound together as will the other 2. So there will be 16 people in the front all together in 8 pairs
    - The rest of the team members will stand on their perspective stages
    - The students in front of the stages will then (when the whistle blows) go for the balls in the middle of the gym
    - They will then toss the balls back to their teammates on the stage so they (the ones on stage) can shoot the ball into the trash can across the gym diagonally
    - The team with the most points at the end of the allotted time wins

    Game #2 Realays
    - Every team and team meber must play
    - We will divide each team into sets of pairs
    - The pairs will run the relay and when they are done, smack hands to the next pair until the last pair goes.
    - The team that has all there team members complete the relay first wins
    -One of the pair members will sit on a wooden scooter to begin with, the other will pull them by their foot
    - When they get to the big tube, the sitter will crawl through, while the puller waits for them to get out on the other side.
    - The sitter will then sit again and be pulled to the baseball bat set in front of the stage diagonally across from theirs.
    - The sitter will then spin around the bat 5 times
    - The sitter will then be the puller
    - The puller will pull the new sitter to the big tube, let the new sitter crawl through while going to the other side waiting for them to come out.
    - The sitter will sit back on the scooter and the puller will pull them back to their stage, smack hands with the next pair and this will continue until over.

    Game #3 Bedlam Gauntlet
    - The leaders will all go to one side of the gym, while the students go to the other
    - The students will attempt to go from one side of the gym to the other in 3 minutes time
    - The leaders will be equipped with either a dodge ball or a Nerf gun to shoot at and try to hit the teens
    - The gym will have obstacles the kids can hide behind, but close objects leaders can sneak behind and fire!
    - If there are more than 4 that can make it across in the 3 minute time, we will continue until 4 remain

    Game #4 Jousting (the 4 winning people from the Gauntlet get to play)
    - Just like at JOLT-- Our District Retreat
    - We will have 2 pushers and 2 riders
    - the riders will attempt to knock off the tennis ball on top of the other riders head
    - They joust until the ball falls off.
    - If there is time, we will choose 4 more (leaders??)

    "Old Skool Jesus" will continue next week with the lesson "Why Did Jesus Come?"

    Tuesday, October 20, 2009

    Old Skool Jesus #3

    As part of our ongoing "Old Skool Jesus" series, I have been uploading information for you all to utilize and work with.

    If you haven't downloaded the "Old Skool Jesus" small group questions/teaching guide go here:

    This is for week 3 on the guide titled: "The REAL Jesus". This week we take a look at the humanity of Christ and answer the question: "Why does Jesus have to be human?" (Hebrews 4:15; Matthew 4:11) Also, the "How Human was Jesus?" question gets answered.

    I've uploaded a document called: "Biblical Proof for Christ's Humanity" which you can download here:

    As you can probably tell, I'm loving this series! Below is the video I'll be showing this week. It comes from and is just hilarious!

    Tuesday, October 13, 2009

    Old Skool Jesus #2

    Old Skool Jesus is now in full swing. We have 1 week down and 11 to go, starting tonight with week 2's talk entitled: "Who Is Jesus?".

    I said I would post the tools I used for my lessons and I am no liar :) Below is the intro video I showed to jumpstart the series. I will also post below the video and the handout for tonight. This way you can see where we were last week and see where we are this week. I hope you all can utilize this series, that's why I am putting the efforts into posting it all for you to check out! If you still need the Outline, the url is here:

    Last Weeks Video:

    Along with "Who Is Jesus" is a take home handout which outlines all of the 'I AM' statements thet Jesus made as well as where they are found in the Bible. Here is the url to snag this document:

    This Weeks Video:

    To answer a couple questions:

    1. When you teach, is this your whole talk or just and outline you have with you?
    Answer: Just an outline. I read the texts, and utilize the questions as items I try to address in the talk.

    2. Why are you doing a series on Jesus for 12 whole weeks?
    Answer: I think Middle School is where teens can start to "get it". Taking 12 weeks to talk about Jesus is in my mind almost too short of a time. Jesus should be the key/central focal point of we need to preach Him as much as we can.

    3. What books did you use to plan/study for this series?
    Answer: The main text I used was Vintage Jesus by Mark Driscoll, but I also leaned heavily on: Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis, Your Jesus is Too Safe by Jared Wilson, Surprised By Hope by N.T. Wright, The Reason For God by Timothy Keller. A took BITS from: Jesus Brand Spirituality by Ken Wilson and Jesus Among Other Gods by Ravi Zaccherius.

    Wednesday, September 30, 2009

    Old Skool Jesus

    As I promised, I have put together my 12 week series on "Old Skool Jesus" and I wanted to share the whole thing here!
    At the end of this post will be a link for you to download a PDF of all 12 weeks. It is set up in I.D.E.A format (Introduction, Description, Explanation and Application).
    I hope you all can use these either in total or as a spinrgboard for your own thoughts.
    The book I got most of my in-depth stuff (other than the Bible) was Mark Driscoll's book Vintage Jesus which gives incredible insight into the God-hood, personhood and life of Jesus!
    You'll notice that there are pieces of "give-aways" mentioned within the discussion guides. I will post those as I make them. Again, enjoy!!
    When you get there, look in the "view the book" box to the left and click "PDF" in order to download the document!

    Thursday, September 17, 2009

    Old Skool Jesus

    I've moved from Nyack, NY back to my hometown in Pittsburgh, PA. I am now one of 5 Youth Pastors on staff at Allegheny Center Alliance Church ( My main focus is the Middle School area of Student Ministries. I am loving my new job and have been doing a series called iBelong to kick off the school year. I've done it before, but it is still very good!

    As I sat back and prayed as to what God wanted me to teach on next, I couldn't stop thinking about Jesus. So, I'm going to do a risky thing and do a 12 week series on Jesus.

    Why is it risky? It's risky because it's a long time to talk about one man. It's risky because it's not a "super hip" series. It's risky because most people just don't do it.

    I've been convicted that Jesus is first and foremost. I am pumped about this new series and have been working away at producing some material the leaders can take with them, read ahead of time and come each week fully prepared. My hope is to have the 12 weeks of stuff done by next week. We won't kick off this series until October (either the first or second week).

    Old Skool Jesus will take the "New Skool Jesus" and kick his butt. He wasn't just a good man, nice teacher or a homeboy...He is fully God, fully Man and 100% He-Man! I will blog about each week when it kicks off, I will post my media productions, small group productions and talk sheets so anyone who wants to see where I've been going, or wants to do something similar, you have some material to look at!

    Thursday, July 16, 2009

    Oh How I love Poo Stories

    So here's the whole story. I was at a hotel and I wanted a soda...I mean I was feindin' me some Diet Mtn. Dew real bad.

    I grabbed a couple 1 dollar bills so I could get one in the hotel vending machine. I get to the machine and the machine takes no dollar bills "at this time" whatever that means.

    So, I take my dollar bills and stick them into a snack vending machine and hit the "coin return" button. The machine returns to me 10 dimes.

    No problem, I say, so I precede to stick the dimes in the soda vending machine. No dice. This obstinate machine doesn't take dimes...ever. SO, I decide that since I have a pocket full of dimes, I should walk over to the gas station/convenience store across the street from the hotel.

    I get to the store and lo and behold "The Sign" (see left for "The Sign").

    Naturally I was ticked off...I wanted a flippin' soda! Yet, when I read the sign, I HAD to laugh and then take a photo...

    Seriously, who takes a dump for 20 minutes?! Especially when you are on the job and are the only one.

    NOT only that...but who expects to have a 20 minute dump and makes a sign beforehand!?! I mean seriously, this person must've written this sign up on their home Dell PC (piece of crap), printed it out and brought it to work with them...

    AHHH! That's the story behind "The Sign" Do you have any stories like this?

    Wednesday, July 1, 2009

    Non-Religious Disciples

    I have an atheist in my youth group. We talk a lot about God, Jesus, religion and sin. He has provocative questions that spark my own brain, searching through the Word to help him see Jesus more clearly.

    His biggest issue is this: "Religion has ruined the world". I would have to agree.

    Don't burn me at the stake as a heretic, there is a point here. Just hear me out.

    I would say however, it's less "Religion" and more "Religious People" that have harmed the world more so than not. Religious people are the fanatics that "do the right thing". They are the ones who in an effort to become more holy add to the Bible (or Quran, Book of Mormon etc.).

    These Religious People are the groups that picket Homosexuals with signs that say: "God hates Fags".

    The main issue with this type of fanatic is that they miss they're own junk. They are so busy pointing fingers that they NEVER repent. They don't see what they do to others as hate crimes, but the would say it is: "Bringing the truth in love".

    A book which discusses this issue HEAVILY is The Prodigal God by Timothy Keller. He calls this "Religious Person" the Elder Brother.

    Keller rightly talks about how the story of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32) is about BOTH sons, not just the Lost and Returned son. Jesus was giving the story to both the RELIGIOUS (Pharisees) as well as the NON-RELIGIOUS. Both sons were sinners. Both sons needed the love of the Father to wash over them...only one son allowed that love to wash over him. It was the younger son or the "Prodigal". The elder son, self-righteously declined the Father's love because he "worked all his life" for the father.

    Yet, Keller points out: the elder son worked not because he loved the father, but because he loved himself. He was working for "His Reward" rather than for His Father. The younger son did the same thing with his leaving. It was for himself. Yet...the younger realized his sin or "came to his senses" and returned to the father and repented.

    The Elder son didn't even realize his folly! Jesus was in effect pleading with the Pharisees to see their sins and repent.

    Because it's not how good "you follow the rules" it's how well you know Him!

    This is why I say Religious People have caused more harm than good. Most lack the true intimate relationship with Jesus, all the while following the rules. This brings a Spiritual arrogance that most people (inside or outside of the church) find insufferable. It is also the main reason most teens hate church or are even afraid to go to church.

    Gandhi said it well, when he said: "...I do not like your Christians..they are so unlike your Christ."

    In essence, I believe he ran into way too many Religious People...who were NOT true Christ Followers.

    This whole blog came about as I was thinking how I disciple the Youth that God has entrusted to me. I feel we should beat the Elder brother out of them (with Jesus and not fists of course). Generating Religious rather than Jesus Disciples is in effect worse than not doing anything. This is so, because teens are turned off to Jesus because of the way the Religious People have portrayed Christianity.

    I was reading a book titled: The Big Idea in which the first chapter says: NO MORE CHRISTIANS. In which the author (Dave Ferguson) says how he is called to disciple Christ Followers, not Christians. This is because the title "Christian" has become derogatory and in effect not effective in bringing people to Jesus.

    In Youth Ministry (or any ministry) Christ asks his people to make disciples...not converts...not Pharisees (or Elder Brothers or Religious People) but DISCIPLES. People who seek what Christ seeks. People who desire what Christ desires...not people who try to "do the right thing all the time".

    Training people to hang with the people Christ hung with is hard within the Religious paradigm. This is because we're taught "Bad company corrupts good character". Many a religious person has said that this was God's Word telling us to stop hanging out with bad people, or sinners. YET, if we are to follow Jesus' example...we are to minister to the SICK (i.e. sinners).

    I could go on and on about issues that are pervasive within the religious paradigm. However, in today's culture as Pastors, we need to get back to the Bible and reach out to the World, making disciples... not religious ones, but Jesus one's.

    Thursday, June 18, 2009


    When I was in college, studying Youth Ministry, one of the lines our Prof. Len Kageler would say is: "In Youth Ministry, we need to steal ideas from one another, for the Glory of God". I fully agree! Some great ideas are produced by Youth Pastors all over the place, so why not "borrow" some of them! I post all my stuff in the hopes that any Youth Pastor reading it can indeed steal my ideas and mold them for his/her own group.

    Anyways, this idea of iBelong is kind of a hodge-podge thievery.

    First, the idea of belonging and the deep seated need for it has been a topic discussed (especially recently) by a ton of top notch Youth Guys (i.e. Marko from YS, Andrew Root and many others).

    Second, a Youth Pastor friend of mine (named Jimmy D) had all these great themes all tricked out with the letter "i" in front of it to make it kinda feel like iPod (further connecting to youth culture).

    As I prayed about what the Jr. Highers in Nyack needed to be hearing about, this theme of belonging screamed out at me. Jr. High was a rough three year spell in my life. I didn't feel like a belonged anywhere, really. I was picked on at school for being the "Bible Boy" or even once, I was called "Blow Fish" by a girl named Ashley (who then proceeded to make a blow fish face). Even at youth group I was picked on. In a LEADERSHIP TEAM meeting, someone put a huge tack on my chair which I sat on...of course. So, I too can relate to this innate need to belong to something bigger than myself.

    I asked God to lead me to Bible Characters whom have all dealt with this issue of Belonging, seeking God's answers for people, but teen especially about the need and desire for belonging.

    Week 1 was the Prodigal Son. He thought he belonged with all the "rich kids" and drunks he hung out with. He blew his inheritance trying to gain their acceptance and love. He spent "mad amounts of money" (teen lingo for a ton of money) on clothes, food and wine. Eventually he ran out of money...and was abandoned by his "friends". He sat there wondering where he belonged...knew that the place where he was, was NOT it and decided to go work for Pops.

    What the son didn't realize is that His father was waiting for him. He didn't understand until his Daddy was kissing and hugging him that he belonged with his Daddy. He belonged in the love and care of his Father's arms!

    Week 2 was the Woman caught in Adultery. This woman was hated by her people. She was looked down upon, ridiculed and dragged into the middle of the street so the people could expose her and her sin to Jesus. What would he do? They wondered. In short, this woman belonged nowhere and to no one. She was the woman with the "Scarlet Letter" (most 8th graders have this in their curriculum, so you can use it as a illustration and they'd get it). She was scorned. Jesus however, gives her belonging...with Himself. He saves her from death by stoning and calls out the stone throwers. He then says: "Go and sin no more". He gives her safety and salvation first, then asks her to change her life!

    Many scholars would say that this very woman was Mary Magdalene. If that is so, we see her life radically different from that day forth. She is a devout follower of Christ and is even among the first to see his resurrected body! Talk about belonging!

    Week 3 was the Ethiopian Eunuch. This guy was a bag of not belonging. He had no balls, he was African and he wanted to meet God. I'm still not sure how, but people knew he was a Eunuch. Thus, being so he would not be allowed to enter certain places within the temple in Jerusalem. The text infers that he was there seeking God...and was on his way back to his own country, still trying to figure it out. He is in the midst of reading Isaiah and is supremely confused by the text. (He obviously wasn't helped much at all by the people in Jerusalem). In walks Philip and explains the text. The text is talking about Jesus! Philip explains from that text on through the life, death and resurrection of Christ what Isaiah was talking about.

    The Eunuch catches the idea that he too can belong to Christ, accepts the truth about Jesus and then gets baptized!

    *If you're not catching it, all these stories tie into Belonging to Christ, Belonging with Christ...explaining that the meta-narrative of the Bible is that we Belong in the family of Christ! Not all will accept, or believe this, but God desires all to know Him*

    Week 4 was the Samaritan Woman. Samaritans in general were despised by the world. The Jews called them "abominations" and people outside of Jewish or Samaritan decent just thought they were the scum of the earth. This woman would've been the scum of the scum. She had 5 husbands and was living with a man who was not her husband! Even in Samaria, this was looked down upon. She didn't belong, even with the scum of the earth!

    She was so despised by the world and her own people, that she went to draw water at a time she knew no one else would be there...too bad for her (or so good?) Jesus was there. A Jewish Rabbi. Jesus shocks her. He begins a conversation (something totally taboo...especially for a Rabbi). He shares with her about himself, about herself and gives her belonging. It's a beautiful story, one that is finished by Samaritans coming to Jesus through one, despised woman who received the Gift from God!

    Next week, we are finishing off the series with: "The Reason We Can Belong" which will entail the message of the Gospel and will show the Cross to the Jr. Highers in detail.

    In Christ, because of His death, we too can Belong to His family! Hallelujah!

    Tuesday, June 2, 2009

    Q #3: 3 Practical Questions

    *This is Part 3 of a 3 part series. Part 1&2 are here: Q #1: 3 Practical Questions; Q #2: 3 Practical Questions*

    Q #3: What's In My Hand?

    Dave Gibbons in his book: The Monkey and the Fish asks this question of himself, his church leadership and his ministry third. He illustrates this idea of "what's in my hand?" with the story of Moses in Exodus 4:1-5. This is where Moses shares with God that he is not good enough to lead God's people to freedom, nor does he think they will believe Him. He states: “But behold, they will not believe me or listen to my voice, for they will say, ‘The Lord did not appear to you.’”

    The Lord said to him, “What is that in your hand?”

    He [Moses] said,“A staff.” And he [God] said, “Throw it on the ground.” So he threw it on the ground, and it became a serpent...

    Moses was making excuses, God gave answers. Moses didn't think he had anything of value to offer. God showed him that he did.

    Dave goes on to discuss how we get hung up within ministry on the things WE DON'T have, rather than the things we DO have.

    If I'm honest, I do this and I use the things I don't have as excuses for my ministry. Here are a few I've said in Youth Ministry:

    "My budget is way to small to do much of anything"

    "My leader core is too small for us to grow"

    "I'm over-worked, I can't do ANYTHING else"

    "My church is too small to do real deal BIG time ministry, so why try"

    "The teens I work with would never like it"

    "I'm not a worship leader, so I just won't have worship" those sound familiar? I bet they do. We as Youth Pastors forget what's in our hands. We forget that God has gifted us with great leaders who are willing to do what it takes. We forget that God has gifted us with the ability to teach/preach or innovate.

    We forget the time we played Super-hero on a low budget when we were kids...the time when we allowed our imagination...not the COST lead and direct what we did.

    Ministry is tough. However, we need to focus on what we already have in our hands...not what we're lacking. God has placed us where we are for a reason...maybe that imagination will come in handy (even if you do eventually have a HUGE Youth budget).

    Here's a HUGE thing we have in our hands...something Moses forgot and something we forget too:

    We Have GOD!

    In ministry, sadly I have forgotten this. I'm complaining, whining or just not paying attention, so I miss the fact that God is with me. I have HIS Holy Spirit within me. I have His Word in Front of me...yet I neglect to seek His counsel. I say, as Moses did: “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?” (Exodus 3:11). I question what he has called me to, I question my ability, I complain about my circumstances and God says to me (as he did Moses: “But I will be with you..." (Exodus 3:12)

    God is with us. He is the gift giver who has given us what is already in our hands. Sometimes we need to sit, rest in the Lord and open our eyes yet again to what he has already given to us. This is the reality of ministry: we will forget. However, when we read His Word and feel, hear and experience His Spirit, may we continue to see His great gifts...and USE them!

    Wednesday, May 27, 2009

    Q #2: 3 Practical Questions

    *This is Part 2 of a 3 part series. Part 1 is here: Q #1: 3 Practical Questions*

    Q #2: What Is My Pain?

    Dave Gibbons in his book: The Monkey and the Fish asks this question of himself, his church leadership and his ministry second. He illustrates that the world has turmoil, hard times and the "prosperity gospel" isn't where it's at. He asks himself the question "what is my pain" so he can use the pain from within his own life as a tool to connecting across cultural, racial and gender lines.

    It is no secret that teens today have pain. The world we live in is fallen and depraved. Teens question (especially in their upper grade level years) how there can be so much pain and a Good God all at the same time. On more than one occasion I have been stopped with this very question as well as others similar to it all pointing to the same idea: "why is there pain?"








    All pieces to a painful puzzle that teenagers deal with on a daily basis.

    How do we as Youth Pastors respond? Do we give pat answers to real struggles? Sadly, I know I have. Do we brush off pain as something that happens "in a fallen world" and leave a teenager who doesn't even understand theologically what that means with just that to bank on? Again, I know I have.

    This idea of where is my pain is a GREAT one for Youth Pastors to grab onto. It opens the doors of authentic ministry. It shows the teens that we too struggle with pain, have struggled with pain and will continue to do so. It shows a life that has been transformed through pain rather than simple words that explain away pain. It is living, incarnate ministry rather than "preachy, teachy" ministry.

    It causes us to preach our failures, our hurts and our struggles rather than our successes, feel good moments and triumphs. Teenagers today don't want to hear all about how good we are. They want to hear how we failed and if there is hope for them when they fail. They want to see and hear what our struggles are, where we fall short so they can know they are not alone.

    Looking at myself for a second, I realize I have a lot of pain I've had to deal with. My life has not been a "walk in the park" as they say.

    My parents were divorced. My dad tried to commit suicide right in front of me and my family. My sister walked away from God. My mom married a drunk who wet himself on our couch each night. My mom chose another drunk, this time a Jehovah's Witness over her own son. I was a loser in Jr. High and the list goes on. This is MY pain and it is universal. There are people of all sorts of backgrounds that have similar pain. It is cross-cultural when we connect to our pain and teach from it. We have a connection through our pain with people we'd otherwise be tempted to write off. We have a connection to teenagers whom otherwise wouldn't listen t a thing we said through our pain.

    God can use our pain to TEACH His Truth.

    Let me state something here, now that we are on the same page with our pain. Dave in his book, missed this point, but I think it is vital.

    In order to teach from our pain, we have to be healed of it's sting.

    What I mean by this is, the pain we teach from MUST have already been healed in our lives. If we teach about pain that is still residing within us AS PAIN which God has not yet touched, we will teach the pain through bitterness, rather than salvation. Pain taught and preached through bitterness will not produce salvation in our will reap a harvest of bitterness.

    This doesn't mean the pain is no longer felt, but it does mean that the sting is gone. One can still mourn their parents divorce and be healed from the sting of the divorce.

    In order to teach authentically, we must not be numb to the pain, but we must be inoculated with Christs' healing so it can no longer produce the evil Satan meant it to.

    In this way, we connect out pain to the teens we teach, but we can also bring them through healing from that pain. If we haven't been healed yet, how can we help those who are also not yet healed?

    We must connect with our pain in order to teach authentically to today's teen.

    Tuesday, May 26, 2009

    Q #1: 3 Practical Questions

    Over the past couple of years, I've really transitioned into being an avid reader. I love learning new things, and learning new ways to think about the way I do ministry. I try not to read simply for "expounding my head knowledge" but I try to read for transformation, asking: "What can I take away from this for where I am".

    While reading The Monkey and the Fish I put on these lenses and came out with some really amazing stuff that I can add to my ministry...and I hope you can benefit as well.

    The author Dave Gibbons has a ton to say on why we should live differently as Christians in this world. He also gives the how. He is very insightful on how it is necessary for Christians (especially us Westerners) to be globally focused on the mission of Christ, thinking how we can stop being homogeneous and start being what he calls "Third culture". He calls for a radical racial reconciliation that looks at each people group (as well as the individual person) as an integral piece of the Body of Christ, rather than simply "flowing with the comfortable" he admonishes us to "get messy" and reach out.

    All of these ideas have incredible implications to Emerging Youth Ministry. Doing ministry within a homogeneous context is (and will continue to be) impossible with this generation. It goes along with an idea Dan, a friend of mine has been talking about when he says we NEED to be inclusive as opposed to exclusive (to read his amazing thoughts, go here: EMERGING YOUTH). However, I want to focus in on 3 questions Dave Gibbons asks himself (as well as the leadership of his church).

    The Three questions are:

    1. Where Is Nazareth? (Page 114) 2. What Is My Pain? (Page 116) 3. What Is In My Hand? (Page 119)

    Dave unpacks these in light of the Church's mission as well as his place within the calling of said church. I am going to internalize them and unpack them in light of today's Youth Ministry.

    Q #1: Where Is Nazareth?

    Dave shares how Jesus grew up as a carpenter's son in Nazareth. It's the place people considered the slums, the dump or the ghetto. It's no place for a respected Rabbi to grow up...much less God! "Can anything good come from Nazareth?" someone questioned of Jesus and of His legitimacy.

    Now picture the Nazareth of your town, or city. Picture the place where adults say things like: "no teen who lives there could ever succeed". Picture your ghetto...where is it? Who lives there? What type of teenager comes out of there? What's the rate of single moms there? What's the crime rate from your Nazareth? What's the average household income there? Lastly...are there any teens within your Youth Ministry from that Nazareth?

    We all have a Nazareth. We all can label it. We all can name it. However, do we claim it as a place where God can move? Are we too timid to reach out and reach in to the hurting and the broken there?

    Christ not only lived in Nazareth, but he transformed people's perception of it. He even visited an even worse neighborhood and talked with a woman who could've made him look bad. She was a Samaritan Woman who had several adulterous affairs. She had too many husbands and was currently sleeping and living with a man who was not her husband! Yet, he reached out to her and reached into her life! (John 4:1-26). It is a beautiful picture of Christ asking "Where is Nazareth", going there and then bringing the Truth to that place.

    As Youth Ministers are we actively seeking the Nazareth's in our midst? Or, are we simply staying comfortable hanging with the church kids while creating a homogeneous churchy country club?

    I am deeply challenged with this and many more questions. Q #2 coming soon...

    Wednesday, May 6, 2009

    Teens and Sex

    I am currently reading a book called: Hero: Becoming the Man She Desires by Fred and Jasen Stoeker. It is about men (geared toward teens and college age men) being pure until marriage.

    Of course, I agree with the basic premise and a ton of what the author's say is true about sexuality and purity...

    However, it is a book that will ultimately FAIL at reaching teenage/college age boys with the message of purity. It is a legalistic, almost Amish view of life, that will NOT resonate with today's teen, nor college age person.

    The authors are constantly saying: you need to be a man and choose purity. Stop being a sex pervert and choose to be you can be a Hero for God.

    The author Fred hails his son Jasen as the example for all men to be pure. He lifts him up to demi-god status describing how his son is a victor over sex and it's strongholds.

    The main problem with this book (so far at least) is that it is all "works based" as well as "shame based". Saying you need to work on it, or else you won't be a Hero. All in an effort to get young men to choose purity. So far (50 pages in) the book has not ONCE said that you need God in order to do this. In fact it has said that a real man of God can do it just by dedicating oneself to being pure. The authors have said that it's all you, being a hero for God. YOU choose, YOU walk away from and YOU are a Hero...

    I don't know about you, but I can't live the Christian life without the Spirit of God living inside me, making me Holy. If it were left to my own choosing, I would not choose God...yet His Spirit residing inside me has changed me and it is His power that I choose what's right...not my own.

    Teens need a different message about sex. Purity, YES, but not shame based, nor works based teaching! That will drive them further into sex...not closer to purity.

    Imagine a book written to smokers. Imagine the author says this: "Don't you oh smoker know that smoking can harm you, even kill you? It's bad for you! You can choose NOT to smoke. Just stop already! Oh and if your looking for an example, my son has never smoked. He always walked away from smoking and cigarettes. He's a Hero for God because he's chosen not to smoke. You should choose not to smoke, or stop smoking now so you too (like my son) can become a hero for God."

    I know this is NOT the author's intent. However, if they were students of the culture they were writing to...they'd know that this book would sound like this to a typical teenage guy (Christian or not).

    I'm not saying I know the right way to teach purity...because I don't. I simply know that this is not the way. Teen sexuality is a HUGE issue for us as Youth Pastors today, I agree. We need to collaborate together on how to teach this message with the power of the Gospel...not the power of self-reliance.

    What do you think Pastors? How can we teach purity in today's Youth Culture?

    Thursday, April 23, 2009

    Sticky Youth Group

    I just got done reading Larry Osborne's Sticky Church and I was truly impressed. The main premise of the book is that Sermon-based small groups are an amazing way to make people stay at your church. It allows for authentic relationships to be formed, made and then maintained. All groups are on the very same page (even if they don't do the exact same thing). They all heard the sermon and are all dedicated to going deeper.

    What does this have to do with Emerging Youth Ministry? I think it has a lot to do with it!

    I hate to say this, but most of us Youth Pastors don't read outside of our own paradigm of Youth Ministry. We count (alot of times) the "Church" books as irrelevant to our situation and unusable because the concepts therein are set up for "older people" and not teens. This may or may not be the case...BUT there is always some great stuff to be learned within books that are zeroed in on the church, rather than simply youth ministry (eww, stepping on Doug Field's toes there...). To many times, we disregard GREAT ideas because they are for the older peeps in the pews.

    This book is NOT like that. In fact Larry Osborne was a Youth one time, so he knows a bit about how we function as well. The practicality of this book will indeed assist with the paradigm shift that many Youth Ministry authors/speakers are calling for, namely Mark Oestreicher.

    When I was reading this book, I was thinking to myself: "We could do that with Youth Group to produce a deeper sense of belonging".

    Larry also answers some questions that were brought up in Youth Ministry 3.0, such as "how do we get a "think small" attitude for Youth Ministry?" The formatting of the sermon based small group does that and works from large to small group sizes.

    Don't get me wrong, it's not a canned small group idea that will "explode your youth ministry"...because it definitely NEEDS to be adapted to your particular group. However, the ideas, strategies and QUESTIONS Larry asks will perk up your mind and make you think about how small groups can be a vital part of your Ministry.

    Teens need belonging. Teens need a place where they can be authentic, real and open. A smaller setting does this for teens. This book has some great wisdom and I believe we as youth pastors can harness these great ideas and implement them into our paradigm.

    Reading Youth Ministry books is GREAT...but we need to read outside of that as well. We can't be blind to the church movement. In fact, we are called to lead the next church movement, then the next one because we are continually raising up the next church generation...may we never lose sight of that. God is using us to not only bring new people into His flock, but to guide them on how to do church.

    I am a huge advocate for small groups and doing "Lesson based" small groups. In fact it's how I've done it for a long time...this book helped me to question why I do it. It also gave me tools to make my small groups better and more efficient.

    It gave me a fresh perspective on "Who am I trying to reach?" and "How am I going to do this".

    I Small Groups in Youth Ministry and Church Ministry will get larger, hopefully better too. The reason is because small groups create an environment where authentic faith can happen.

    I know some of you are thinking: "This is old hat...small groups? C'mon" I would agree...small groups is an old concept. Sometimes it bombs and sometimes it succeeds, this book gives answers as to why.

    To conclude: Emerging Youth Ministry will continue to utilize small groups. With that said, we have to learn to do them right, have the right mindset, have the right leaders and have the right mode for our specific place of ministry. This book gives some great insight into all those things.

    Wednesday, April 15, 2009

    Not that Type of Christian

    I work part-time at Chili's. Everyone there knows I am a pastor. I've prayed with people, I've given hard truth to some of my Christian co-workers and I've had great chances to share my faith.

    The other day, I received one of the BEST comments from a non-Christian I've ever received. He said: "You're not the normal type of Christian, that's why I like you and listen to you". Those words came from my General Manager (GM).

    We were talking about faith, swearing, sex and the like. He asked my opinions on all of it. He openly refuted what I was saying and I simply said: "This is what's true. I know it to be true because I've experienced it, lived it and learned it. I'm not going to make you believe what I believe by cramming it down your throat. I'm not out to win an argument, but I want to win your heart". This is what caused him to say: "You're not the normal type of Christian, that's why I like you and listen to you"

    Normally I don't put a post that seemingly pats myself on the back and I don't mean to do that with this post. I simply want to make a point.

    He then described to me all the Nyack College and ATS (Alliance Theological Seminarians) whom he had discussed theology with in the past. He said they all wanted to argue until they won. He said he would refute them until he was blue in the face and eventually, they all walked away angry and upset that he wasn't listening to them or being won over by there amazing apologetic.

    I told my GM that God convicted me of such Faith proclamations and asked me to seek out the persons heart rather than seeking a notch on my belt for winning yet another argument. I told him I desire to live my faith, not just argue for it. God has asked me to be a person who openly lives his faith and loves those around him (even if they refute what I say).

    My GM then said: "You do that. That's why I like talking with you. I know I can't get a rise out of you. I hope we can continue to talk about this stuff."

    Earlier, I said I want to make a point. Here it is: this is the type of evangelism/apologetic that must be adopted to meet the hunger for God that is there within this generation. Not being "that type of Christian" but being different. A group of people that seek to live their faith, not just argue for it.

    Again, I am not saying I am the "poster boy" for this. In fact, this was ONE good story among plenty of HORRIBLE ones where I totally killed the gospel for people because I argued and bickered with them about how I was right and they were wrong. In those moments I didn't care to even HEAR them.

    How can we teach our teens about the importance of living our their faith? How can we share with them that it is only through the Holy Spirit that this type of living is possible? How can we disciple our teens into surrendering their lives to Christ? These are all tough questions that we as Youth Pastors wrestle with EVERY day! I hope we can all encourage one-another to seek out these answers so we can see God use this generation to ignite a passion for His name!

    Thursday, April 9, 2009

    Powerful Experience

    When I was a teenager, I participated in a Youth Experience a bit ahead of it's time.

    I am sad to say that I have never done this event since I've been a Youth Pastor, but will plan on doing so next year. I wanted to, this year, but with the economic downturn and my going part-time, it was not feasible.

    Anyways...this experience I speak of was called: "A Walk With Christ to the Cross". We started this experience by going to our churches Good Friday service, but stayed the entire evening to literally walk with Christ to the Cross.

    We followed the week of Christ's passion through video, stations and story. We read and watched the events of The Passion week unfold in sequential order. I was 11 years old when I went through this experience and now as a 24 year old still remember the power it held for my walk with Jesus.

    To experience the Passion Week in such detail, with such care taken to catch every aspect of Christ's death was incredible for me.

    This is the type of "Emerging" event that gets people connected to the narrative of Christ, and allows them to be placed within the story...for we all are.

    The Passion was for all of us. He bled and died so that we may live.

    I hope to Walk With Christ to the Cross this Passion/Easter season.

    Friday, April 3, 2009

    The Apologetics Code...

    I recently blogged on this topic of "Apologetics belonging in Emerging Youth Ministry" and I said I would continue the discussion.

    This is that continuation.

    Since my last blog, I actually heard a sermon on the verses used last time which was pretty enlightening upon this subject. The sermon was titled: "Suffering to Bless" by Mark Driscoll. He took 1 Peter 3:8-17 and unpacked it for about an hour. I won't give you the whole sermon laid out, but I will give you the last point.

    Mark throughout the sermon was discussing how we will suffer for the Gospel, or in general. Suffering is a part of life. He stated that this Scripture gives us 4 counter-weights in which to outweigh our suffering so that we may bless in the midst of it.

    Weight #4 was Evangelism. (1 Peter 3:15-16). Below are his notes on this point:

    Weight #4: Suffering Makes Evangelism Possible (1 Pet. 3:15–16)

    • Suffer in such a way that you learn about Jesus and that other people may learn about Jesus too.
    • Many Christians are good at winning arguments but could care less about winning people. Build respect and trust with people, and answer their questions with humility and honesty.
    • People want to see if Christianity works, as demonstrated in relationships and community.
    • Suffering allows us to be a humble, loving, considerate, respectful, gentle people that embody the gospel.

    Community Group Question #5: Who can you evangelize? How?

    I have to be honest...I love listening to Mark Driscoll preach and when he got to the bolded sub-points, I was shouting: "YES! Preach!"

    Our teens need to hear this message. They need to know that evangelizing was never meant to be like a Jehovah's Witness, or a Mormon who goes door to door. Those types bug people in today's society. The reason? The people they are trying to talk to don't know them!

    Say for example you go up to someone on the street and say: "I have something amazing to tell you about your life..." What would that persons response be? Probably something like this: "How can you tell me about my life, when I don't know you?"

    Then how can we tell them about their future life?

    This 1 Peter passage is clear-cut on how and when we should have an answer ready, when people know us. When people see us suffering, yet for some reason able to take the blows. Always be ready to give a answer.

    I know I've hit this piece pretty well. I am going to continue to unpack this, because it is vital that we GET THIS RIGHT. We can't shove Jesus down peoples throats, we have to live Jesus, show Jesus and then be questioned about Jesus!

    *If you want to read the notes on the whole sermon as well as listen to the sermon, go here: "Suffering to Bless"*

    Tuesday, March 31, 2009

    Authentic Youth Ministry

    I was perusing some blogs today on Authenticity. I said in an earlier post that I would continue to discuss this important issue as it pertains to Youth Ministry and a blog caught my eye.

    The little portion I will share with you comes from Tim Schraeder who is the communications director at Park Community Church. Here is the beginning of his blog:

    "I just read a great article in Fast Company about the appeal and risks of authenticity and it really got me thinking.

    Authenticity is derived from the Greek word authentikos, which literally means “real.”

    Check this out: “Consumers are gravitating toward brands that they sense are true and genuine. Hunger for the authentic is all around us. You can see it in the way that millions are drawn to mission-driven products…”

    Ok, note some keywords here: True. Genuine. Authentic. Mission-driven"

    Reading Tim's blog confirmed in my mind that I am not the only one thinking about the importance of authenticity. I know I shared plenty of others who are thinking about it in my last post as well, however this need, desire and awareness seems to be growing.

    In the book UnChristian,the authors share that a big turn off to people who don't know Jesus was the in-authenticity of Christians and the Church as a whole.

    This study was made up mostly of younger people. It is extremely important that we take notice of this trend and try to bring back the authenticity that so defined the early church. They were real with each other. The had true fellowship. They confessed sins together. They received healing together. They prayed with one another. They opened their homes to each other.

    Teens desire this type of community. A place of belonging. A place of intimacy. A place of honesty in a dishonest world. A place where they can be real, warts and all. A place where they can truly "work out their faith with fear and trembling".

    Honestly, I feel it starts with us, the Youth Pastor and out team of leaders. We need to set the stage for this type of authenticity. We need to make it a vision for our Youth Group.

    What are your thoughts?

    I am going to give some ways in which God used my team and I [to begin] to create this type of group. We are by no means "there" but we've been implementing this type of community into our Sr. High ministry and have seen a TON of fruit. I desire to share my journey, so that we can learn together. Please come alongside me on this journey. Tell me what's right, what's wrong or what could work.

    It's time for [Youth] Pastors to collaborate together!

    Thursday, March 26, 2009

    A Place for Apologetics in Emerging Culture?

    I've been thinking a ton about the place of apologetics within the context of the Emerging Youth Culture. There is much debate about this topic in certain circles. Many who argue against apologetics say that the Emerging culture wants to hear about and encounter experiences, not scientific reasons for faith. This camp would also argue that the Emerging Culture doesn't hold to science as factual, so giving "scientific evidence" or even "factual arguments" won't help.

    On the other hand, the crew for apologetics states that people are still asking questions. People still want to have "answers" to questions that aren't necessarily always experiential. Although there is less bank on the "factual" there is still hope and desire for the "actual".

    When it comes to my personal Emerging-ness, I fall in the category of socially liberal, theologically conservative. This category for me, then would mean I fall into the "This culture needs apologetics" faction. However, I think it is more than a "black and white" issue.

    We can most definitely should NOT frame apologetics today as we did 30, 20, 10 or even 5 years ago. It must be changed, re-thought, re-taught and all together RENEWED, if today's Emerging Gen. is going to embrace, understand or even use it.

    What really sparked my thoughts/interest on this idea is a new book titled: Apologetics for a New Generation. If you are an Emerging [Youth] Pastor, this book is highly recommended.

    Most of us, when we hear "apologetics" think of the crazy guy we met at summer camp, or a missions trip who had a WWJD bracelet, Christian T-shirt and a HUGE Bible in his hands who told us to "go out on the streets and convert people for Jeeeesus using this here Bible".

    That is NOT what I'm talking about. This is the apologetic I'm talking about:

    1 Peter 3:15-16 (New International Version)

    But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.

    Dan Kimball a GREAT Emerging thinker contributed to the book I mentioned: Apologetics For A New Generation. His chapter, which is chapter 1 frames the point and premise of the whole book. First off is within this passage (which is the apologists main text), Dan asks a good question right off the bat. It is basically this: "Who would ask you to give a reason for the hope you have?". Would people randomly off the street? NOPE. Would close friends, who've noticed your life is different and want to know why? YEP. He unpacks it from the get-go as a relational normalcy. If we are in close relationships with (dare I say it?) non-Christians...this questioning will be NATURAL.

    How often did you learn that one? People asking about God, natural? Here, Dan I think hits a soft-spot of apologetic should be living a life that gets people to ask you questions...not forcing random people to dialogue about faith who have no relationship with you.

    He's saying that the Bible says that these people will know you enough, see your life enough that they have to ask you questions.

    Then, it admonishes us to have an answer.

    I will continue with this train of thought. Please chew on it, mull it over and write a comment or two wrestling with these implications. Does apologetics have a place in Emerging Culture? If so, where, how, why?

    Tuesday, March 24, 2009

    Conquer the Devil...Like I Did!

    Something I've read a lot about, but more importantly have experienced is the need for Authenticity.

    If you read my past post on Authenticity (HERE) you'll see how important this issue is to me as a person and as a Youth Pastor.

    The old way of doing "preaching" ministry was to not be open, not be real and not be transparent because (it was believed) your people wouldn't listen to you anymore because you were also a sinner... like them.

    Most [Youth] Pastors were (and are) trained to look perfect, act perfect and to share stories of TRIUMPH when sharing anything personal (which was in and of itself not encouraged). This way, the people listening to your sermons could have hope that they too can "Conquer The Devil like YOU did".

    This train of thought leads people to see a perfect man in you their preacher. It also leads us [the preachers] to think we've got it all together. It takes us down a road of spiritual superiority, spiritual arrogance and in the end spiritual death.

    Teens today DON'T WANT TO HEAR how you conquered your sins. They want to hear how you failed, like they do and how GOD helped you out. Teens today are sick of the Spiritual Snobbery that comes with Christianity. Teens today need to learn from hearing about experience...NOT book learned ideals. They want the real, raw, authentic YOU!

    A friend of mine, Dan Haugh gets it. He recently wrote a blog post entitled: The Real You? Battling Phone Booth Identities where he deals with this in a deep, thought provoking way.

    I've been talking about this for about 2 years as well, right along side of Dan. Other people like Dan Kimball, Mark Driscoll, Mark Oestreicher and David Kinnaman have gone to great lengths to discuss the importance of AUTHENTICITY within this new generations context.

    In fact, it was David Kinnaman's extensive research within his book UnChristian that opened my mind to the absolute necessity of authenticity for Youth Ministry today. That book challenged every thing I ever did with a lens of authenticity and caused me to re-arrange how I did Ministry altogether.

    This is a key piece to connecting to the coming generations. No longer can we hope they will listen to what we have to say because of our "title". That right needs to be earned and can only be earned through being transparent.

    I'm not talking here about "full disclosure". No one would do that, even for the sake of authenticity. I am however admonishing all of us as Youth Pastors to live authentically, minister authentically and share failures of self.

    Anyone who works with Youth knows that a teen can smell a fake person from miles away. It smells to them an aromatic STENCH, that they desire to steer clear from.

    And, as my friend Dan has accurately stated, it's not just about how you preach, but how you live your life as well. If we are calling our teens to live a resurrected life, being one with Jesus in his resurrection, should we not be leading by example? Albeit a stumbling, bumbling example, for we are all stumbling, bumbling fools when it comes to this life. Should we not be seeking to live the deeper life?

    Dan definitely asks some good questions whilst referring to how we then live. He gets introspective and very open about who he is, what he struggles with and how he believes God is leading him.

    This is HEALTHY and definitely needed.

    A similar type of idea surfaced to me, while thinking and writing this blog post. It comes from uber-blogger Carlos Whittaker. HERE he asks about relevance. Wandering if what we should be seeking after as ministers is relevance. He answers back:

    "Do you’re community a favor and don’t ask how you can make your next series or concept relevant. Instead ask how you can make your members and staff relational and real."

    Authenticity is relational. It is being real. It is making a conversation rather than teaching a lesson. It is creating a "second space", a place of belonging that teens so desperately need now-a-days! Teens don't want to be taught another lesson on what they shouldn't do, or should do they are tired of being "shoulded" on (thanks Brennan Manning). They are deeply desiring conversation. They want to work out their faith in authentic community.

    This will be an ongoing post. Look out for more...

    Why a new Blog?

    This new and 2nd blog of mine will deal specifically with Youth Ministry as I see, wrestle and deal with it within my Theology as an Emerging Youth Pastor.

    Many things need to change within Youth Ministry and I for one hope to be a voice to help the change, rather than a voice of stagnant complacency.

    We are few, but strong as Emerging Youth Pastors. We are also a growing breed as new manifestos are written. New conferences spoken about and new classes taught at Universities and Colleges alike. People are realizing that the way Youth Ministry has "always been done" is no longer a working model.

    We must adapt, shift and move with this change and here (Emerging Youth Pastor) is where I desire to display how I am shifting and moving within it.

    I will hit many bumps, receive many bruises, but I hope to authentically display how I am dealing with this new dichotomy of movement. I have another blog, which is my personal blog. Some ideas and post will definitely overlap, but this blog is only about Youth Ministry from here on out. I have imported my other blog posts, because some are very relevant to this blog, others not so much...However, I didn't want to start out with another "blank" slated blog.

    Please stay tuned with me as I transparently share my journey as an Emerging Youth Pastor!

    Monday, March 23, 2009

    Heart Novacaine

    I'm thinking a lot about Novocaine today because I just recently got a root canal. This was my fourth root canal...I know stupid for a 24 year old. "It is what it is" a friend of mine is now known as quoting and that's what I have to say about my 4 root canals.

    I know most of us know what Novocaine is and does, but just to refresh your memory, Novocaine is a a shot that is used to numb a specific spot within the mouth. The place where the dentist will do surgery is where he puts the Novocaine. Simple math. Let me say that I praise God for that little drug today because having someone drill into your teeth and pluck out a nerve without it would be completely unbearable!

    Thinking about Novocaine, oddly enough has caused me to think of the deeper things in life. Mainly the things of the heart. Along this vain of thinking, I came to a very interesting question that I had to blog about. I asked myself this question: Do we sometimes use Novocaine by injecting it into our hearts to numb the pains of life?

    Do we try to use things in life to numb spots of severe pain? I think we definitely do. Different folks use different types of Novocaine, but we all use it to numb our hearts from life.

    Some people use drugs, some people use alcohol, others use their jobs, their relationships, books, TV or movies. We attempt to numb ourselves from the pains, hurts and aches of the heart by simply inoculating ourselves with Novocaine. We numb the spot of pain and move on.

    The end result of only using Novocaine to numb the pain is a heart full of decay, that only gets worse. Just like as in a tooth, if you don't allow the Dentist to clear out the decay and give you a new tooth (or a crown), it will rot. So too your heart will rot if you don't allow the Great Physician to clear out the decay in it.

    I will not downplay how much our hearts can hurt. For in life, our hearts will take tons of abuse, see tons of horrific things and be wounded over and over again. The problem is, if we continue to simply numb out hearts, those pains will end up effecting the rest of the body, life and future.

    Sadly, this rotting idea came at a BIG price for me. I ignored my tooth for a long time, numbing the pain with Ibuprofen for so long that it became infected. It was so infected my dentist said that before he can put a crown on, I needed to take 2,000 mg a of anti-biotics a DAY for a whole week!

    I allowed my pain to be covered over and over again that it caused a HUGE infection. Also, funny as it may be, I had a fever of 101.2 because of the infection in my tooth! It effected my entire body, caused me to feel sicker than I could remember feeling in a long time. I was so sick, in interfered with my job. I couldn't teach Sunday School, I couldn't go to church because of a what started out as a simple tooth ache.

    This same thing happens when we use Novocaine to simply cover the pain in our hearts.

    This tooth problem I got myself into has given me tons to think about, tons to put into perspective and a lot to change. I don't want to simply cover up my aches and pains with inoculation after inoculation of Novocaine...I want to allow God to eliminate the pain. Heal the heart, remove the decay in my heart, clean my heart and make it new and whole.

    It's funny how deep thoughts can come through dentist visits. Take a moment and inspect your own heart...have you been using Novocaine?

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