ministry minutes...

In youth ministry today there are a lot of blogs, books, DVD series, curriculum and t-shirts that explain the next great thing. As a youth minister myself, I often find myself clinging to a lot of the ideas of the big wigs of youth ministry to help form my own opinion about youth ministry. A friend of mine told me a quote by John Welsey today that says, "Every seven years I am burning my old sermons. I should not be doing what I am doing if I can not continually change and be creative."

I look at a lot of different types of curriculum to find an idea or to really just outline for myself. How many of us have really even claimed some of the things that Doug Fields or other youth pastors have written, and said that we actually thought of it first? Youth ministers have sort of become lazy. I am just as guilty as the next person.

When trying to be creative or write your own curriculum, here are some ideas I have about helping the creative process:
1. Ask for help! We should not be too proud to ask for ideas of subjects the students want to talk about. If you have great relationships with your students, they will be pretty honest with you about subject matter they would like to hear about and discuss.
2. Try to be creative. We do not have to reinvent the wheel to keep students attention. We can dive right into the Bible and really grow our students. However, heed the warning that we don't want groups that can be a mile wide and an inch deep or vice-versa. We need to have enough disciplining to help our students want to crave more of the word.
3. Try to be original. It is great to use curriculum that has already been made and really mold it into our own to fit the group we have, but we should try to be a little more original than that. We can try to fit our own style into the students lives and into our youth groups.

Before I ever give a talk I ask myself these questions and I am thinking maybe they can help those who read this blog as well.
1. Is this REALLY what God has put on my heart to lead this week?
2. Have I gotten lazy with my work?
3. Is this going to mean more to me than the students?
4. Have I prepared enough for this lesson to answer questions after or during?

I hope this helps those who are serving in youth ministry. Whether it is volunteer or paid, keep doing a work that can often be underrated and unappreciated. However, remember we are there to help students grow closer with Christ and help equipping them to be disciples in the world outside the youth room walls.

circling the bandwagon...

Here are some obvious facts about my life:
1. I love sports. Mostly football, but if there is a sport on that I am even remotely interested in, it's on my TV screen or even my phone checking the score.
2. I can be a fair-weather fan. I cheer when teams do well and I don't when they lose.
3. I used to be a bandwagon fan, before I really understood a lot more about players and coaches and what it takes to put a team together. Also, what it takes to be a pro athlete.

When I encompass my passion for sports, it seems to make the other passions of my life seem very minuscule. I can tell you a lot about the stats of players, the condition of injuries for players on my favorite teams, even HISTORY about my favorite sports teams. However, I don't know if I can honestly say these things about my spiritual life.

It's funny to me, to look at my life and I can give you a quick ESPN update of my life in about 3 minutes but I have to make way for the more passionate things that I care about during this season of my life. It just so happens that this season of my life coincides with football season. Funny how that happens.

Why do we get so passionate about the things we love and hate at the same time? Last night is a prime example. Many of my friends are UGA football fans. Now that their team is losing, it is time to fire everyone in the front office and start over. The bandwagon has left the building.
Alabama, Boise State, Ohio State. These are teams people love when they win, however won't even wear a hat and t-shirt that supports them when they are losing.

Why are we so passionate about football? Why can't we be as passionate about God in our lives and how real He is today? I know why, everyone has jumped off the bandwagon of the spiritual lifestyle.

People today, I am as guilty as the next, jump from book to book and mega-church pastor blog to mega-church pastor believing in the gospel of the pastor or author. However, I can tell you my fan base is the author of life. How rude can I be to shove God out of my life for 4 quarters while I scream cheers for my team and hate for the other. What has the UGA football team ever done to me, an Auburn fan? They beat my team a couple of times? Ouch.

It is my simple observation, that I have A LOT of reorganizing to go on in my life. People are constantly jumping from one bandwagon to another until that ride is over. Then they find another one to jump onto, because it is the popular choice. People jump off the Jesus bandwagon when life sucks, but if it is good we give all the praise. Didn't Ludacris thank God for the Grammy he won?

I went through a HUGE rough spot in my life recently. It has been the worst year of my life. That is because I was jumping on my own bandwagon and trying to get others to join me. The problem, there were no horses leading it. I was pulling my own bandwagon and had FEW if ANY followers. Then, after pulling all that weight, I questioned where God was! I screamed and yelled at Him, telling Him He is the worst thing.

I do the same to UGA football, Alabama football, and anyone who opposes my team; which in my eyes is the GREATEST FOOTBALL TEAM EVER ASSEMBLED! (Yeah right!) I am now circling my bandwagon and making camp. I am setting up for the long haul because during the cold winters of my life and the nice cool summers days of my life, Jesus will still be there and will still be on the throne. That is something I can cheer for.

MY challenge to myself and those that read this blog is to try to change the seasons of your life right now. Don't make them in sync with sport seasons, try to find the rhythm and the heart beat of God. Make camp and jump on the bandwagon that is the most consistent bandwagon ever assembled. Today I choose God.


These days there can be so many distractions around us. While I type this blog post, I am trying to watch TV. I am not a multi-tasker. This makes it hard for me to do more than one thing at one time. I type a few words or a whole sentence and then I look up at the TV screen to see what I am missing. I am easily distracted by things. There is an old bumper sticker that says, "I have ADD and....look a squirrel!" Story of my life.

However, I talked with a close friend of mine. He has been beaten down by people, and it is distractions that bring us down. It always seems that when we are down, people keep coming in and knocking the wind out of our sails.

I want to encourage those who are currently being beaten or just feel stagnant in the world today.

Psalm 34:19 A righteous man may have many troubles, but the LORD delivers him from them all;

Proverbs 2:7 He holds victory in store for the upright, he is a shield to those whose walk is blameless

Psalm 5:12 For surely, O LORD, you bless the righteous; you surround them with your favor as with a shield.

Psalm 9:9 The LORD is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble.

When we are in our ministry places, whether we work in a church or in our work place, or even those we encounter every day; we have a lot of interruptions that can distract us from our work. When we have some good things going, the Devil is going to try to fight against more and more.

While I was talking with my friend today, he was telling me of his frustrations. People who are distracting the ministry from being at it's fullest potential. While I was in my last ministry position, I was trying to please so many people to keep from making them mad, it hindered my ministry to being to its fullest potential. While I was sitting there being Peter People Pleaser, I was NOT pleasing the God who loved me.

So many times we get these interruptions by the evil one that we can only focus on these things. We constantly strain our vision to the vision of others. WHY CAN'T WE FOCUS ON WHAT CHRIST WANTS? Has it ever occurred to people that disrupt the flow of a good ministry that they do not always know what is best?

As a person who works in a church and does ministry for a living, I can understand the interruption to try to find the corrective lens to fix the focus of our ministry to fit those who are upset. We must keep our eyes on Jesus. Only then can we disrupt the interruptions and continue the flow of a ministry as it should be.

As I finish this blog post I am going to st......funny commercials are great!

picking up the crumbs...

Yesterday was the first time since April that I updated my blog. It felt really good to be posting my thoughts and feelings on an issue that has been around for a while. Today, I have another issue that is on my mind and heart.

Pursuing Christ is the longest and hardest journey we will take until our lives here on earth are over. My life, over the past year, has taken such a long and curved path I felt lost, afraid, alone, and scared. Due to all of these emotions, I lashed out. How many times in ministry do we feel so backed up against the wall that we just lash out because our emotions get in the way of how God is going to be moved?

That is what happened to me. However, it was not people puting their problems on me, it was purely my fault. I let the world get the best of me, I tried to defend my castle and I lost the battle in a huge way. It cost me my job, my realtionships I had built, the reputation I once had and my credibility within certain circles of people. I let myself get a strong hold on the world that I live in and not to the world where moths and rust cannot destroy.

I lost a lot of my focus. After all of the foundation under me came out from under me, I no longer felt alone. When I was stripped of all my pride and the house that I built on the sand, God rushed through my life like water bursting through a dam.

I have since started to pick up the crumbs of my life. I had to start over. I had a major reality check before I could realize where God was leading me. I am now on the incline, with Christ by my side daily. Let me share a few things of where I went wrong:
1. Daily Reading- I tried to read daily. Did you catch that? I tried to read daily, but it wasn't my Bible I was reading. I was reading the latest blog post by the current cool pastor. I was reading the newest book to shape and form my own theology around.
2.Prayer- I was praying, but only before meals or after a talk. I didn't have the best prayer life. I was only praying when I needed something. God was my grocery store and I took only what I needed.
3. Supplication- I was feeding myself from the Gospel from books and other people rather than the Father Himself.
4. Application- I was not applying anything I was teaching or learning to my life. My pride got in the way and clouded my vision and judgement of everything around me and caused my ultimate demise.

These are the things I feel a lot of youth pastors may go through. We learn the new hip topics, keep up with the culture, try to fit in, and lose our focus of the things that really matter. As I pick up the crumbs from where I was and try to start fresh, learning from my past mistakes, I pray for those who may be going through these motions in the first place.

infomercial evangelism...

Steven Furtick is preaching for 24 straight hours today. Steven Furtick is also "pimping" his new book, Sun Stand Still. This is a new and innovative way to be "audacious" in ministry. To be an "audacious" Christian, we must read his book to ask God to do big things. Is this really the way ministry has turned out to be today? Let me first off be clear, this is not a bash at Pastor Steven Furtick or Elevation Church. This is simply a vocal opinion about how the church has constantly evolved into a mold that is going in a very dangerous direction.

There is a term that is trending in the Christian Evangelical world today called "mega churches". These are churches that average over 5,000 people on a single day or weekend for their services. More and more, people aspire to be the top dog in ministry to get noticed, write books, have cool tweets, awesome blogs that transform lives, and now ministers are taking the road to reach people via facebook, twitter, foursquare and any other media outlet to reach "those who are not in churches".

Through all of this, it seems to me that pastors of these larger churches that are currently on the rise, are trying to sell Christ to people who are looking for the missing link in their lives. I can compare people like Perry Noble, Steven Furtick, Ed Young Jr. and more to Billy Mays. Yelling at people and trying to sell a product to people in order to get them to believe or buy into the idea of being a Christian.

The sad fact is, pastors that are walking down this dangerous road are constantly transforming their own image to appear more of a "real person" to the normal, common folk. Today it is skinny jeans, flannel shirts from Buckle, and converse allstar shoes to complete the image of the younger generation.

When I read the same Gospel that the pastors are reading, I see a Jesus that never changed His image to fit the common folk around Him. He constantly preached and built relationships with everyone whom He encountered. I love the story of the Woman at the well. Jesus speaks to a woman who has a lot of problems, but still loves her.

Mega Church senior pastors know some of their congregation. Those who have given them money since the beginning. Where is the relationship building? Where are the changed lives? People are growing in faith, but if Furtick, Noble, Stanley, Giglio, Young and all the others retired from ministry tomorrow, what would happen? Would the church crumble before our very eyes? Would people be seeking Christ in a different way? Or would the church as a whole follow Christ beyond the point that we can ever fathom?

I am not saying that there aren't things right with these churches. The great part is, these pastors can convey the message of Christ in ways that are so creative and innovative, we can take from that and tweak it to our own style of ministry. Each one of us that are believers are in ministry from the day we start believing.

I respect all of the pastors I have mentioned in this blog post. I am trying to call out a new way of ministry that is nothing new. We need to have an unfiltered relationships with all we encounter. We need to love with a love that surpasses everything people can imagine. We need to act and speak the word and actions of Christ to everyone. We must pray continually. We must be joyful in Christ. We must talk with Christ and listen to Him everyday. Our lives must be built on the foundation that Christ changed this world and our lives and through that we can HELP transform others lives.

If we are too focused on trying to sell the product, but don't believe in the product we are selling, are we really that effective of a salesman anyway? Why do we have to try to change something that has been constant for more the 2,000 years? I am no Billy Mays. I can not sell a ketchup Popsicle to a woman in white gloves. What I can do is love those around me and those I encounter. I can speak to them in love and I can my hardest to tell them about the Jesus that saved me from the train wreck my life was headed towards and now I am on the right path. I do not build my life around me. It is not MY legacy I am trying to leave. I am trying to leave a legacy of Christ that fits only His ultimate design for my life. I will never make the Sun Stand Still. Then again, I am not trying to. I am not a disciple of the next infomercial evangelical to come along and have a huge church. I am a disciple of the God Most High. Love God first. Love others as God loves us.
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