Be A Neighbor, Be Jesus

29 Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’31 The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:29-31

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I have been gone a lot recently. I put together and facilitated a retreat for our students at the church, I traveled to and from Texas for a conference, then I facilitated some different aspects of another retreat for a different group of students out at Webster Conference Center. If you were to walk into my office, you would see that my desk is piled up with stuff; much more so than normal if you’ve been in my office before. Needless to say, partially because of being gone, I have a long list of stuff to do; stuff that continues to just piled up.

When I came into the office today, the plan was to close the door, hit the DND (do not disturb) button on the phone, and write an article so Eva, our secretary, could get the bulletin printed, and then get on with my long list of “to do’s” that seemed so important. Per usual, things didn’t go as planned. When I walked into my office, I forgot to shut the door and I remembered I needed to call dig safe, a call I knew would take forever. As I was on the phone with dig safe I heard Eva talking with Joe about someone coming in needing assistance. The first thought that ran through my head was “I DON’T HAVE TIME FOR THIS!” As I sat on the phone I could hear Joe talking with someone in the MAC. I cringed when I heard him say “The person you need to talk with is on the phone, but he can help you when he is off the phone.” Again, I thought: “I DON’T HAVE TIME FOR THIS!” Remember, I have a list, I have a plan, talking with and helping someone doesn’t fit into that plan. The call continued and Joe continued to talk with the lady. I was hopeful he would take care of it and I wouldn’t have to deal with it.

As the call ended, I came to terms with the fact that I was going to have to spend some of my precious time helping someone out. I determined I would make it quick. I wouldn’t pry into their life. I would just get the general story, give them what they wanted and move on. In my mind I was sure they were a scammer anyway.

After they had filled out the proper paperwork, I returned to my office to read through it and move on as quickly as possible. Yet, as I was reading the answers to the questions about church background and relationship with God, I had to stop. My heart broke and my “to do’s” no longer seemed important. If I were to make an analogy, scammer or not, they were hemorrhaging from an artery while everyone was just standing around watching, no one was helping.

The immediate need was physical, something I could easily fulfill. But the greater need was to be loved, valued, listened to, and cared for. That was going to take time, something I didn’t have in surplus. But God got my attention. He reminded me why I was at the church in the first place. He reminded me of what I was called to, not only as a pastor, but more specifically as a follower of Christ, and it had nothing, absolutely nothing, to do with my “to do” list.

I took the time, I listened, and I prayed over them. The thing that once appeared as another task on an endless list I didn’t have time for, was the thing I needed to come back to the reality of who I am in Christ. People matter. They are Christ’s treasure. We are called to love them where they are, for who they are. There is no distinction in the eyes of Christ between you and me, regardless of how I look, where I came from, my net worth, or how I smell. He loves each of us, and we are called to do the same.

It has been my prayer for some time that I would see people as He sees them, and consequently, love them as He loves them. Anyone can be a good neighbor. Being Jesus to someone is a calling we all, as Christians, must embrace. It may take time, it may even cost monetarily, but how we treat others is a reflection on our relationship with Christ and who He is to the community around us.

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Are You Ready to Fight?

2017-3-5 Fight series

Did you know that if you place a frog in boiling water, it will immediately jump out. But if you place a frog in a pot of water at room temperature and slowly turn up the heat, you will eventually cook it to death. Sin does the same thing to us: one temptation at a time.

Take King David as an example in 2 Samuel 11, where we see  just how easily one sin can lead to another and hinder our walk with the Lord.  Verse 1: “Then it happened in the spring, at the time when kings go out to battle, that David sent Joab and his servants with him and all Israel, and they destroyed the sons of Ammon and besieged Rabbah. But David stayed at Jerusalem.”  Let’s stop there.  What has David done wrong?  Although it may be very minor, this is David’s first mistake of many.  He didn’t go to battle as he should have, he thought it would be nice to stay home, he was not where he should have been. Looking back at verse 2Now when evening came David arose from his bed and walked around on the roof of the king’s house.”  Mistake #2, he lay around all day, his laziness got the best of him.  Continuing, “and from the roof he saw a woman bathing; and the woman was very beautiful in appearance. So David sent and inquired about the woman.”  Mistake # 3, he let his curiosity get the best of Him.  At this point, I can’t speak for David, but I highly doubt that he ever even envisioned kissing Bathsheba much less sleeping with her and getting her pregnant. Going on to verse 3 “So David sent and inquired about the woman. And one said, ‘Is this not Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite?’  And David sent messengers and took her, and when she came to him, he lay with her; and when she had purified herself from her uncleanness, she returned to her house. And the woman conceived; and she sent and told David, and said, ‘I am pregnant.’”  Wow…one temptation after another, it started so small and continued to grow to be so significant.  Had he just gone to war like he was supposed to, none of this would ever have occurred. It’s like dominoes falling down.  One can knock over two, which can knock over four and on down the line.

In this passage he demonstrates the frog metaphor perfectly. I’m making a few assumptions here, but if David would have known what was going to happen to him with Bathsheba, I would venture to guess he never would have stayed home from war – like a frog jumping from a boiling pot of water.  But remember if you place a frog in a pan of water at room temperature and continuously turn up the heat it will eventually be cooked to death.  We see the same with David’s situation. One compromise after another, oh I’ll just stay home from the war this one time…as the water gets a little warmer. Oh I’ll lie in bed just a few more hours and the heat becomes a little more intense. Oh I’ll just find out who she is, there is no harm in that, and the burner is getting redder by the minute. But it doesn’t stop there. You know the rest of the story, Bathsheba gets pregnant, David calls her husband home from war and attempts to convince him to have relations with her. When he refuses, David has him killed and marries Bathsheba for himself. In an attempt to make the situation right he sins further.  One compromise after another, the heat rose until David was in over his head and could see no way out.

Are you ready to fight before you find yourself with no way out? Temptation will eat you alive. Don’t let it overtake you. Stand up and fight the sin that so easily entangles you. Living a for Christ isn’t for sissies.

 

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What if…?

what-ifWhat if…the phrase itself usually makes me cringe, especially when I hear it coming out of the mouth of one of my children. This is due to the face that the statement to follow the “what if” will be highly unlikely. It’s usually something like “What if the sun were to fall into the earth?” Me: “We all would die, the end.” But then they respond with “well, what if…” and change up the scenario. I can’t ever satisfy them with an answer and that be enough. It drives me batty. Needless to say, I don’t care for the phrase.

Even so, this past Sunday night, as I sat at Winter Jam, surrounded by potentially more than 19,000 people, I found myself wondering, “What if…” What if all these people, proclaiming to be Christ followers, really truly acted like just that, genuine Christ followers? What if they proclaimed the gospel over proclaiming their own pursuits and agendas? How would Kansas City alone be different? What if…?

I began to ask myself these same questions. I began to scrutinize different aspects of my life. What if I used social media differently? How would my world change? How would it change those around me? Do all my FaceBook “friends” and twitter followers know I’m a believer? Do I project a Christ-like witness on Social Media? Do I proclaim the Gospel? If Jesus were to be sitting beside me as I scrolled through my posts and comments, would I be proud of what I had said? Would my comments and posts bring Glory to God or just to myself or my cause? Would I be embarrassed about how wrapped up and intertwined I had become in the ways and things of the world? I mean, how many people have ever come to Christ by what I have posted or by how I have commented? On the flip side, how many people have a turned away because of what I said or the nature in which I said it. My social media page may be the only Jesus someone ever sees. Will they really see Jesus? Or will they see me “standing for a cause?”*

It was a real heart check. What a difference so many people could make, without ever even getting out of the seat they were sitting in. As I scrutinized my own life, more and more “what if” questions came to mind. It was good for me. I thought it would be good for others too. A simple question to check your heart. So, I made a list. I even read the list to a very trusted advisor the next day because I wanted to make sure that MY heart was right and I didn’t want to cause a ruckus. I just wanted people to stop and think, to evaluate what they could be doing for the cause of Christ. That is my heart.

Consequently, I went on Twitter and posted “What if you were as passionate about your faith as you are about the political climate of our nation? #whatif #thinkaboutit” To date, I haven’t gotten one retweet, response, comment, nothing. But I have been told that I did cause quite a stir on FaceBook once it posted there via Twitter. (FYI, I usually stay away from FaceBook) If you felt compelled to comment, you either 1. missed the point of the post, or 2. You’re just attempting to justify your own actions and make yourself feel better.

But alas, maybe, just maybe, someone actually thought about what was being asked, played out the scenario in their head, and commented based on their own conviction, because this had NOTHING to do with any Republican, Democrat, Independent, Conservative, Liberal, Green Party, etc. There was no hidden message, there was no alternate agenda. This had everything to do with Jesus and the proclamation of the Gospel and the GOSPEL alone. Anything else was a misinterpretation of the post.

I won’t be reading any of the comments made on the previous post, nor the future posts. As I already stated, I don’t really get on FaceBook except to post things on the FSBC Student page. Someone else does that through my account a lot of the time anyway. I have found that my friend Alden is right, it steals your joy. As Amit Chowdhry writes “Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine recently conducted a study about the effects of social media habits on the moods of users. The research determined that the more time young adults use social media, the more likely they are to be depressed.” Therefore, I stay away and life is good.

So, over the next few days I will continue to post my “What if…” series. Not all of them are What if questions. But they’re personal. They’re intended for you to examine YOUR heart. It is not my intent to begin an argument. I’m astounded that I even have to take the time to give this explanation. But I guess it just proves the point that we all need a heart check. It is my intent and prayer that people will really take stock of their lives, how they interact with others, and how they use social media.

 

*Side note: Don’t hear me say there is in anyway a separation between your RELATIONSHIP and the rest of your life. Your faith should shape your political views. You can’t compartmentalize it. A true relationship with Christ permeates all aspects of your life, otherwise it’s not a relationship at all, it’s simply a religion. A few years back I heard a politician say (paraphrase) “I won’t allow my religion to influence my decision making process…” If that’s the case, then that’s simply what it really is, religion. This is the perfect example of the difference between a RELATIONSHIP and a religion. You can go to church as much as you want but it won’t make you a Christian any more than walking into your garage makes you a car. It is all about the RELATIONSHIP. But you can’t blast people and expect them to see Jesus, even if you’re blasting them “in Jesus name.” Never do we see Him do this anywhere in Scripture. When you “stand for a cause,” the way in which most people are “standing” today, you’re telling someone that they’re wrong. When you tell them they’re wrong and they have to change, are they going to change? Maybe 1 out of 10. Maybe. If they’re reasonable. Most of the time you’ll just make them angry. BUT, if you show them Jesus and allow Him to work in them, are they going to change? No stat necessary. Jesus loved people first, and then pointed out their sin. Take the woman at the well as an example. Or the woman that was about to be stoned for adultery. The examples are innumerable.

Are your posts and comments pointing them to Him by loving them FIRST? YOU and I can’t change people, only Jesus can.

 

 

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Fad vs. Movement

Big hair, parachute pants, baggy shirts, boom boxes, denim jackets, chuck taylor’s (Converse), and hyper color shirts. They were all fads from my earlier years. Although some were good, I, as well as many others, were glad to see a lot of them go – who wants all that hair anyway. But back to the point, fads don’t last, ever. They come and go. A lot of the time faster than I can keep up with them. In fact, a friend told me the other day “When you know what’s in, it’s already out.”

If you catch it right, it can be fun to be a part of a fad for a time, but as the fads fade, so does the investment…all that money wasted on beanie babies…Wouldn’t you rather invest your life in something that’s going to make a change? Something that’s going to make a difference? Take the Civil Rights Movement or Women’s Suffrage as an example. These were movements – something that sticks around and changes lives – not only did they change lives, they changed the face of our nation. And it only happened because people were invested in it.

2000 years ago a different movement started. One in which many have given their life for. In John 6 Jesus explains that He alone is the bread of life and there is no other way to the Father. “After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with Him. So Jesus said to the Twelve, ‘Do you want to go away as well?’” They turned and walked away. Maybe the cost was too high. Maybe the wider road appeared so much simpler. Nevertheless, it’s a choice we have to make as well. Will you invest yourself in the movement, or will you walk away?

As we sit in our cushioned chairs on Sunday morning, it has to be asked, is church, or better yet, your faith – your relationship, a movement you’re invested it, or is it just a fad? Is it going to fade away? Is this building someplace you come to gather with others, fellowship, and punch a time clock, leaving Jesus as a sidebar? Will you go all in and follow Jesus, or when it’s no longer cool, will you just walk away as well. It’s a choice we all make. Is it a fad, or is it a movement.

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Informal Mentoring By Alvin Reid

The following is an article written by Alvin Reid entitled “Informal Mentoring.” The original post of this article can be seen here

“Odysseus has some of the most famous adventures in the annals of Greek mythology.

Before going away to fight the Trojan War, Odysseus sought a man who would care for his son, Telemachus. Odysseus knew he would be gone for years, so he needed a man to raise his son just as he would if he were there. Odysseus found a man who did just that.

Mentor.

That is where we get the term “mentor,” which refers to someone who pours into a younger person to help him or her become what they could be. A Christian mentor is someone who helps another to become more like Christ by modeling and teaching what a Christ-follower looks like.

Students in your ministry will doubtless be helped by your events, Bible studies and other ministry opportunities that you offer. But students, today more than ever, want and need a mentor. Authors Jess and Thom Rainer note in their book “The Millennials” that three out of four Millennials want a mentor — someone to show them how to live and not just tell them what to do.

But how?

Most of us think of mentoring as a weekly time of meeting with an individual or a few people to focus on specific areas of growth. A man named Chuck did that for me in college and it literally changed my life. I have emulated him for years. I think a mark of a healthy student ministry includes not only the numbers of students involved, but also the number being actively mentored. Those I teach in student ministry hear my nonstop challenge to be constantly mentoring a few even while leading the many.

This might sound like another thing to add to your long to-do list, but my preferred approach to mentoring is actually informal. In fact, I wrote a whole ebook on it called “With” (available for free at alvinreid.com/ebooks). Informal mentoring refers to doing life together regularly. Take a young person or two with you to run errands, to help you do yard work, to serve others or just join you at the coffee shop to talk about life. You interact more in the course of daily life, which allows you to see better how to shape the student.

What are some things you do regularly that could involve a student? You do not have to be a Bible scholar to be a mentor. You don’t have to know Ke$ha is a singer, not a new brand of cereal. You do need to love Jesus and love students.

Remember, Jesus taught the multitudes.

He fed thousands.

He sent out 70.

But He changed the world with 12. And of those 12, He specifically invested in Peter, James and John.

Is there a student right now in your life who sees you as a mentor? Is there someone you should be mentoring?

If so, here are some resources:
“Mentoring Millennials” by Daniel Egeler (NavPress)
“The Be-With Factor” by Bo Boshers and Judson Poling (Zondervan)
“The Master Plan of Evangelism” by Robert Coleman (Revell)

Alvin L. Reid, PhD is professor of evangelism and student ministry/Bailey Smith chair of evangelism at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and young professionals director at Richland Creek Community Church.

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God Has Greater Plans: Part 2

How do we know God’s plan for our life?

Jeremiah 29:11 states “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” It was established previously that God has a greater plan for our own lives than we have for ourselves. But we still love to take this verse and quote it without end about God’s plan for us. It is almost like a security blanket to some as they take comfort in knowing He is ultimately in control.

The problem comes when we don’t take time to understand the context and we neglect to continue reading. Here Jeremiah the prophet is speaking on behalf of God to the exiles that have been carried to Babylon from Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar. In verses 12 and 13 he states “Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” Seek Me. Jeremiah said, “God says seek Me.” No where in the passage does it say “seek after what God wants you to do.” It says “Seek God.”  How many times are we guilty of saying “God, just tell me what you want me to do! Show me where I’m supposed to be and I’ll do it”? That’s not what God asks of us. God wants us to seek Him and Him alone, not the plan.

God does have a plan, but He doesn’t reveal it all to us because, as I know in my own life, I would just want to jump to the end messing up the entire learning process in-between. Or we would run in terror because we aren’t ready for the harsh reality we will have to face in His name. God’s plan is for you to seek Him. It is only when you seek Him that you will find Him. And when you find Him, He will be a light unto your path, day by day.

But, even at that, He never said it would be easy…

The previous comic can originally be found here on adam4d.com

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God Has Greater Plans: Part 1

God’s ideas for your life are always greater than your own. There is no question. Isaiah 55:8 states “‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the Lord. ‘As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.’” But most of the time we make plans and go about our lives as if God doesn’t exist. We do what we want to do or think is right. More often than not we make the plans and ask God to bless them instead of asking Him what we should do to begin with. In this, we miss out on a great deal of what He has in store for our lives when we only live out our own dreams.

Take Mary, the mother of Jesus, for example. A young girl in her mid teens, betrothed to a young man not much older than herself. An angel appears explaining that she’s going to have a baby, the Son of the Most High God. How crazy would that be? Not only would she have to explain to her family and friends, but to her future husband as well. And for her to be pregnant out of wedlock would have been greater than merely a social stigma. There could have been major repercussions, including death. And yet she walked the path laid before her.

Imagine the faith she had in God! He didn’t give her every piece of the puzzle so that she could see the whole picture, in fact He didn’t tell her much about what was going to happen with her. God’s plan for Mary was bigger than she could have ever imagined. The circumstances were beyond explainable. The situation was life changing. She had to walk in faith allowing God to guide. Are you willing to do the same? Do you want God to accomplish more in your life than you ever thought was possible? But what’s the plan? How is it possible to know His plan for your life?

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Top Ten Mistakes Christian Parents Make

Top Ten Mistakes Christian Parents Make, by Jeff Strong, was originally posted here

It might be difficult for some parents to read through, but here’s a top ten list that I’ve been wanting to write for a while. Over the next several days I’ll be expanding on each of these in succession, but for now, here is my top ten mistakes Christian parents of teens make:

10. Not spending time with your teen.
A lot of parents make the mistake of not spending time with their teens because they assume their teens don’t want to spend time with them! While that’s true in some contexts, teens still want and need “chunks” of one-on-one time with parents. Despite the fact that teens are transitioning into more independence and often carry a “I don’t need/want you around” attitude, they are longing for the securing and grounding that comes from consistent quality time.

Going for walks together, grabbing a coffee in order to “catch up,” going to the movies together, etc., all all simple investments that teens secretly want and look forward to. When you don’t carve out time to spend with your teen, you’re communicating that you’re not interested in them, and they internalize that message, consciously or unconsciously.

9. Letting your teen’s activities take top priority for your family.
The number of parents who wrap their lives/schedules around their teen’s activities is mind-boggling to me. I honestly just don’t get it. I know many parents want to provide their children with experiences and opportunities they never had growing up, but something’s gone wrong with our understanding of family and parenting when our teen’s wants/”needs” are allowed to overwhelm the family’s day-to-day routines.

Parents need to prioritize investing in their relationship with God (individually and as a couple), themselves and each other, but sadly all of these are often neglected in the name of “helping the kids get ahead.” “Don’t let the youth sports cartel run your life,” says Jen singer, author of You’re A Good Mom (and Your Kids Aren’t So Bad Either). I can’t think of many good reasons why families can’t limit teens to one major sport/extra-curricular activity per season. Not only will a frenetic schedule slowly grind down your entire family of time, you’ll be teaching your teen that “the good life” is a hyper-active one. That doesn’t align itself to Jesus’ teaching as it relates to the healthy rhythms of prayer, Sabbath, and down-time, all of which are critical to the larger Christian task of “seeking first the kingdom of God and His righteousness” (Matthew 6:33).

8. Spoiling your teen.
We are all tempted to think that loving our kids means doing all we can to ensure they have all the opportunities and things we didn’t have growing up. This is a terrible assumption to make. It leads to an enormous amount of self-important, petty, and ungrateful kids. A lot of the time parents are well-intentioned in our spoiling, but our continual stream of money and stuff causes teens to never be satisfied and always wanting more. Your teen doesn’t need another piece of crap, what he needs is time and attention from you (that’s one expression of spoiling that actually benefits your teen!).
There are two things that can really set you back in life if we get them too early:
a. Access to too much money.
b. Access to too many opportunities.
Parents need to recognize they’re doing their teens a disservice by spoiling them in either of these ways. Save the spoiling for the grandkids.

7. Permissive parenting.
“Whatever” — It’s not just for teens anymore! The devil-may-care ambivalence that once defined the teenage subculture has now taken root as parents shrug their shoulders, ask, “What can you do?” and let their teens “figure things out for themselves.” I think permissive parenting (i.e., providing little direction, limits, and consequences) is on the rise because many parents don’t know how to dialogue with and discipline their children. Maybe parents don’t have any limits of boundaries within their own life, so they don’t know how to communicate the value of these to their teen. Maybe it’s because they don’t want to, because their own self-esteem is too tied up in their child’s perception of them, and they couldn’t handle having their teen get angry at them for actually trying to parent. Maybe it’s because many parents feel so overwhelmed with their own issues, they can hardly think of pouring more energy into a (potentially) taxing struggle or point of contention.

Whatever the reason, permissive parenting is completely irreconcilable with a Christian worldview. I certainly do not advocate authoritarian parenting styles, but if we practice a permission parenting style we’re abdicating our God-given responsibility to provide guidance, nurture, limits, discipline and consequences to our teen (all of which actually help our teen flourish long-term).

6. Trying to be your teen’s best friend.
Your teen doesn’t need another friend (they have plenty); they need a parent. Even through their teens, your child needs a dependable, confident, godly authority figure in their life. As parents we are called to provide a relational context characterized by wisdom, protection, love, support, and empowerment. As Christian parents we’re called to bring God’s flourishing rule into our family’s life. That can’t happen if we’re busy trying to befriend our teen. Trying to be your teen’s friend actually cheats them out of having these things in their lives.

Sometimes parents think that a strong relationship with their teen means having a strong friendship—but there’s a fine line that shouldn’t be crossed. You should be friendly to your teen but you shouldn’t be your teen’s friend. They have lots of friends, they only have one or two parents—so be the parent your teen needs you to be.

5. Holding low expectations for your teen.
Johann Goethe once wrote, “Treat a man as he is and he will remain as he is. Treat as man as he can and should be, and he become as he can and should be.” All of us rise to the unconcious level of expectation we set for ourselves and perceive from others. During the teenage years, it’s especially important to slowly put to death the perception that your teen is still “a kid.” They are emerging leaders, and if you engage them as such, you will find that over time, they unconsciously take on this mantle for themselves. Yes, your teen can be moody, self-absorbed, irresponsible, etc., but your teen can also be brilliant, creative, selfless, and mature. Treating them like “kids” will reinforce the former; treating them as emerging leaders will reinforce the latter.

For an example of how the this difference in perspective plays out, I’ve written an article entitled “The Future of an Illusion” which is available as a free download from http://www.meredisciple.com (in the Free Downloads section). It specifically looks at my commitment to be involved in “emerging church ministry” as opposed to “youth ministry,” and it you may find some principles within it helpful.

4. Not prioritizing youth group/church involvement.
This one is one of my personal pet peeves (but not just because this is my professional gig). I simply do not understand parents who expect and want their kids to have a dynamic, flourishing faith, and yet don’t move heaven and earth to get them connected to both a youth group and local church.

I’m going to let everyone in on a little secret: no teenager can thrive in their faith without these two support mechanisms. I’m not saying a strong youth group and church community is all they need, but what I am saying that you can have everything else you think your teen needs, but without these two things, don’t expect to have a spiritually healthy and mature teen. Maybe there are teens out there who defy this claim, but honestly, I can’t think of one out of my own experience. As a parent, youth group and church involvement should be a non-negotiable part of your teen’s life, and that means they take priority over homework (do it the night before), sports, or any other extra-curricular commitments.

Don’t be the parent who is soft on these two commitments, but pushes their kid in schooling, sports, etc. In general, what you sow into determines what you reap; if you want to reap a teenager who has a genuine, flourishing faith, don’t expect that to happen if you’re ok with their commitment to youth group/church to be casual and half-hearted.

3. Outsourcing your teen’s spiritual formation.
While youth group and church is very important, another mistake I see Christian parents make is assuming them can completely outsource the spiritual development of their child to these two things. I see the same pattern when it comes to Christian education: parents sometimes choose to send their children/teens to Christian schools, because by doing so they think they’ve done their parental duty to raise their child in a godly way.

As a parent–and especially if you are a Christian yourself–YOU are THE key spiritual role model and mentor for your teen. And that isn’t “if you want to be” either–that’s the way it is. Ultimately, you are charged with teaching and modelling to your teen what follow Jesus means, and while church, youth groups, Christian schools can be a support to that end, they are only that: support mechanisms.

Read Deuteronomy 6 for an overview of what God expects from parents as it relates to the spiritual nurture and development of their children. (Hint: it’s doesn’t say, “Hand them off to the youth pastor and bring them to church on Sunday.”)

2. Not expressing genuine love and like to your teen.
It’s sad that I have to write this one at all, but I’m convinced very few Christian parents actually express genuine love and “like” to their teen. It can become easy for parents to only see how their teen is irresponsible, failing, immature, etc., and become a harping voice instead of an encouraging, empowering one.

Do you intentially set aside time to tell your teen how much you love and admire them? Do you write letters of encouragement to them? Do you have “date nights” where you spend time together and share with them the things you see in them that you are proud of?
Your teen won’t ask you for it, so don’t wait for an invitation. Everyday say something encouraging to your teen that builds them up (they get enough criticism as it is!). Pray everyday for them and ask God to help you become one of the core people in your teen’s life that He uses to affirm them.

1. Expecting your teen to have a devotion to God that you are not cultivating within yourself.
When I talk to Christian parents, it’s obvious that they want their teen to have a thriving, dynamic, genuine, life-giving faith. What isn’t so clear, however, is whether that parent has one themselves. When it comes to the Christian faith, most of the time what we learn is caught and not taught. This means that even if you have the “right answers” as a parent, if you’re own spiritual walk with God is pathetic and stilted, your teen will unconsciously follow suit. Every day you are teaching your teach (explicitly and implicitly) what discipleship to Jesus looks like “in the flesh.”

What are they catching from you? Are you cultivating a deep and mature relationship with God personally, or is your Christian parenting style a Christianized version of “do as I say, not as I do”?

While having a healthy and maturing discipleship walk as a parent does not garauntee your teen will follow in your footsteps, expecting your teen to have a maturing faith while you follow Jesus “from a distance” is an enormous mistake.

You are a Christian before you are a Christian parent (or any other role). Get real with God, share your own struggles and hypocrisy with your entire family, and maybe then God will begin to use your example in a positive and powerful way.

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Thriving? Or Merely Surviving?

thrive_logo_for_webHow would you describe your relationship with Christ? Is it one of growth, or just getting by? Is it exciting, fresh, and developing? Or is it old, stale, and dying? Seriously take inventory of your relationship with Him. Are you thriving? Or simply surviving? You’re either moving forward with Christ or you’re moving away from Him. Whether that means you’re deliberately walking away or you’re just standing stagnate, dead in the water, not growing in Him.

All too often we get into the routine of church, of punching the time clock on Sunday morning solely so we can say we did our part, spent a few hours in a building, and then we can get on with our life. And despite great efforts we never seem to make the connection that Jesus doesn’t just belong in a building on Sunday morning. We’re supposed to take Him with us where He is a part of our everyday lives. There’s so much more to a relationship with Christ that simply gathering for Church on Sunday morning and listening to someone speak about Him. That’s merely religion, and a far cry from any kind of relationship.

As Americans we’ve grown comfortable. Too comfortable in many regards. So much so, we don’t truly understand that gravity of our sin situation and our debt to God. Consequently, we operate out of survival mode, only calling on Christ when we think we need Him. Jesus isn’t a genie in a bottle at your beckon call. We can’t just pull Him out of our pocket when it’s convenient. A relationship with Christ is supposed to permeate every aspect of our existence. If He doesn’t, you’re just surviving and He has called us to so much more than merely survival. Abundant life in Christ comes from thriving in your relationship with Him.

Are you thriving in Christ, or merely surviving?

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Why Are Our Kids Leaving The Church?

Ostrich-man-head-in-sand-1Facing the facts –

This has been a long time coming. I have mulled over for months now. Typed and retyped. Several others have read it in order to give me guidance and direction. It wasn’t easy. Namely because I am calling out myself first and foremost with every tap of the keyboard. Know that I don’t take the subject, nor written content lightly. If you feel like I’m pointing a finger at you, know that I’m pointing 3 back at me.

We might as well face it. It’s no secret that the church’s retention rate of graduating High school seniors is plummeting. It’s a well documented fact. Josh Evans contends in his article How to Keep Students in Church After Graduation, that somewhere around 80% or more of students who grow up in the church leave within two years of graduating high school. The stats vary up or down depending on who put them together, but it’s fairly plain to see it’s simply a mass exodus.

There are any number of articles (Why Millennials Are Leaving the Church; The Church Failed Millennials, Just Not In the Way You Think It Did; Ten Reasons Kids Leave the Church; Top 10 Reasons Our Kids Leave Church; Why Millennials Are Leaving the Church: A Response to Rachel Held Evans; 3 Common Traits of Youth Who Don’t Leave the Church; and the list could go on – just google it…everyone’s got an opinion) giving any number of reasons as to why students are leaving, or in some cases staying, and their antidote on how we have or should go about keeping them. Everyone has the answer.

Over the past year I have spent countless hours reading the articles and the statistics, contemplating what I have done in the past and what I’m doing in the future, talking with peers and mentors, praying, studying, planning, lying awake at night, etcetera, simply looking for an answer. What I do impacts the lives of students, obviously, for better or for worse.

Unfortunately, a lot of what I have read is just a band-aid on a hemorrhage. All in all, I can confidently say that no one has a nicely packaged, quaint, concise answer to the dilemma – But that’s what happens when you work with people. It’s not easy, nor simple. There are just too many variables, too many things to distract teenagers attention away from their purpose and drag them down the road of self-love and fulfillment; only to leave them empty in the end. Sometimes I wonder if the Amish are on to something. Maybe we should just join them.

What I do know is that it’s a lifestyle and it begins at home. I can’t expect my son to know and act a certain way if I don’t model that behavior for him. I can’t expect Him to read his Bible every day if at some point he doesn’t see me doing it. If he sees me skip church to go to a basketball game, sleep in, or just chat with someone while I send him on to Bible study, what’s he going to do when he can make his own decisions? My actions just spoke louder than anything I could ever tell him. By skipping worship or Bible study I’m saying “church” is something I do when I don’t have anything better to do. Kids model the behaviors they see. My son mimics my behaviors, good or bad – words, actions, vice’s, etc. Your child is a mini-you and they will act like you. (As a side note, that said, you, as a parent, can only do so much. At some point you no longer make their decisions for them. They make their own choices and they have to live with the consequences of those decisions.) 

As for my job…Ephesians 4:12 states “…equip the saints for the work of the ministry…” It’s not my job to raise students spiritually. Biblically speaking, that’s the job of the parents. My job is to equip them to do ministry. It is meant to be in addition to the teaching that happens at home. How crazy/arrogant would it be for me to think that I could meet the spiritual needs of each and every student in a large group setting in only a couple hours, at max, a week? Let’s get real, I have trouble enough keeping up with my four.

And while we’re being honest, how are you preparing your child spiritually? What are you doing to help them grow in their relationship with Christ? Are you equipping your kids for success in the world? What about their relationship with the Savior? Are you equipping them for success by Raising Kids the World Will Hate? It’s a tough job. There are so many thing vying for their time as well as yours. But I can only do so much in the allotted, minimal amount of time I have with them each week.

No matter how you cut it, parenting isn’t easy; it has its ups and downs, and some kids are easier than others. At the same time – although contrary to the popular belief that I shoot free throws, plan trips, and take naps on my couch all day, my job isn’t a walk in the park. We need each other. Somebody smart once said “Doing student ministry without parents is like driving a car without an engine.” The family was designed to be the foundational spiritual unit. Together we can teach the what it means to be like Christ.

So, what’s the answer to helping kids grow in relationship with the Father and ultimately keeping them involved in that relationship and church in college and beyond? Invest in them at home. Redeem the time you do have. Don’t squander it away. Invest in them now.

 

Posted in Facing The Facts, Parenting | 2 Comments