I'll buy that for a Dollar
Am I asking for too much? (this turned out to be rather lengthy, I appreciate you allowing me the time to express myself)
Had a great morning meeting with Ben Arment from History Church over a bagel and a mocha. Ben's passion for the 'true church' resonates with me. We share a similar optimism and expectation of what 'church' is and should be. We discussed several models and processes (all of which involve people so have the potential for enormous error). Ultimately though doesn't it get down to a person being wrapped up in God?
Isn't that His-story? Intimacy (true acceptance)- To fully know and be fully known without either party having fear of rejection. God has made himself known, reminded us that he fully knows us, died to demonstrate his willingness to accept us fully, now the only piece missing is for us to accept Him fully.
Really no need here getting into our discussions. My personal thoughts from our conversation left me thinking today about the rest of our society and church. I returned to the office to learn that someone had called today while I was gone. (we usually take Fridays and Saturdays as our days off but rarely get to... I'm actually in the office right now). When Steven shared that I wasn't here, there was noticable disdain for the fact that we view Sunday as a day of work for our staff.
Consumer Christian- Christian person who views the local church as a product or store. (Symptoms: complaining, gossip, 'whats in it for me' attitude)
I get to my desk and read a note to call a young man I've been talking to who doesn't currently attend our ministry. He's been in and out of juvenile programs since he was 13 (now 16). He has his GED but is too young for full-time labor at most companies that pay anything. He works 50+ hours a week at Pizza hut making $5.15 hr. His dad and mom are basically out of the picture with huge issues of there own and are divorced. His brother is in jail and facing 25+ years. He is on probation and will come off in August. Since December he's held this job and stayed away from much of his former self. I call him back and he shares that he's going to be left alone by his dad come around September/December. He'll then be 17 and stranded. He doesn't have transportation and will not have housing... I call a major Christian organization on his behalf asking if they'd take him into their program. They shared that they'd be glad to and he meets the perfect target audience. They go on to say that it will cost him $800/month just to attend.
From my previous blogs you may have seen that I'm not a big fan of teens selling everything they have to go to camp ($340). I believe it sends a very wrong message to the kids (sell anything purely for your own benefit). Read below if I don't make sense in this blog....
Anyway... So here we are... we have people IN the church fussing about me as a Youth Pastor being in my office or 'doing church' 6 days a week (this week and next it will be almost steady w/o break) and angry b/c their kids haven't earned their money for their camp, then we have a kid who's basically abandoned who wants help, wants to make wise choices, wants to get his life straight and he comes reaching out to me... I call around and am told that this program isn't really for him. It's geared toward the suburban family who can afford to send their sweet Johnny to this place to get 'fixed up' so that he can come back to his nice home and drive his nice car. The interesting thing is that they offer a basically free version of the program to adults. Figure that. Deny those who cant' afford it as youth but then when they turn 18 give the program away to them as adults. Why not fix them while they are young and they want it? I guess the system doesn't work that way.
As you may be able to see, I'm kinda confused today about Christianity as a whole. We allow issues such as carwashes and cookie-dough to eat away at us while people die and go to hell as they get turned away from Christian treatment. I don't' understand.
I also don't understand why we can't 'get-it' with regards to 'church'. I believe the 'church' is a group of Christians who long to know God intimately. Nothing more, nothing less. That's it. That's our focus. To build the church means to build the people. "To encourage and equip people to Know God through his son Jesus Christ." That's the main thing. That's what it's supposed to be about. I can't possibly tell you how much I'm distracted from that mission. It hasn't helped me as I've taken note of how much I'm actually able to do to further that mission.
Try it... Funnel everything you hear this Sunday through that statement. How many people in your church have that in mind when they complain? How often is what 'the church' spends time on really about that mission and how often is it really about something trivial in comparison?
So I ask. Am I expecting too much out of the local church?
Today is the day America has chosen to set aside to remember and pay tribute to fallen men and women who gave their lives for our country and freedoms. If you look at what we've done in America to this holiday it reminds us of what we've done with most everything else sacred. The day set aside for honor has turned into a day of hot-dogs.
On a Christian note, I couldn't help today but to think of the Christian Memorial we should have... The Voice of the Martyrs is a website dedicated to reminding we Christians about the millions around the world who give their lives literally for the sake of God's plan. They take God's word where most of us are afraid to travel. They preach to those who want to kill them...
Lord challenge my faith...
Reconciliation and Redneck Trucks
This morning was average... Beyond God speaking as he always does... nothing majorly exciting took place.
This afternoon I received a call from one of the testing parents I've had so far at Sonlight. After stern conversation the question was asked on her part "What IS your purpose... what do you do?" Although this question was asked in sarcasm and with contempt, I proceeded to answer. My purpose as a Pastor is to 'Encourage and Equip people to Know God'. I then shared that I do that throughout my week and my 'work-day' is continual. I don't ever punch out from that task. I didn't get into the small picture tasks.. (I could have awed her with how I make calendars, plan events, talk with complaining church-goers, filed papers, studied for messages, worry with sound equipment and games, meet with the SBCV, meet with the SBCV fellowship in Norfolk, Meet with our staff, meet with families who need help, meet with my students for meals, counsel students, grieve with families who've experienced loss, go to atheletic events, design our website, design forms, set up fundraisers, go to the store for food for trips, study for those trips, speak for those trips, meet with my leaders, pray (not often enough) and counsel with my leaders... on and on) but I refused. I simply stated that more important than any job description, what I describe as 'encourage and equip people to know God' is my life's mission. It's so much bigger than any camp, fundraiser, complaint, phone call... The sad thing is that I got the feeling that she was actually surprised that I am able to sum up and stick to a vision for my life. I think the perception is that I'm nothing more than a glorified and over-paid baby-sitter. (sorry... venting)
The reconciliation occured by the end of the call and I've committed to communicate more frequently when I feel there is a problem with their child and she apologized for the way she approached me the last time we talked. I honestly dont' have animosity for her as a person at all. I guess I have more of a bitter taste in my mouth for the over-all consumer driven Christianity that we've created. I can't imagine this lack of respect to Pastors was normal even 50 years ago. I'm tired of church being driven by the sheep in a one-person, one-vote mentality. Look in scripture. Aside from choosing the new apostle to fill-in after Judas... where is a democracy ever taking place among God's people? It doesn't exist. I'd even argue that the casting of lots we read about is not even as much democracy as it it was God's provision in the process. Men removed themselves and let the 'chips fall where they may'. I'm done on this topic...
I know you've read this far for the Redneck Trucks....
I thought I had left Texas. Today we went to the 'Strawberry Festival' in a town called Pungo. Yes, Pungo. No, I don't know where they got that name. Anyway... this is a 1 stop-light town with strawberry patches and horses galore! It was a county-festival type setting... the normal... smoke, food, music, smoke, food, games, smoke, food, salesman... etc.
I did have a moment as I strolled from the front of the 'Fun-House' over to the 'Bumper Cars' where my little sister was headed. I felt the Holy Spirit tugging on me to think about the souls of the people I walked around and brushed elbows with. I envisioned each one on the inside.... I saw emptiness, brokeness, lostness, hurt, anger, insecurity and every other type of dull trait. My heart ached. Among the Redneck trucks, smoke filled circles, and rusted-out games I saw Harvest.... the people God died for. I then asked myself... who's reaching out to them? We create our 'Saddleback Sam' complete with the check-book hanging out of the back pocket and then we throw on a tie or a seeker-sensitive outfit along with the smile and tell them how great our lives are. We build happy-town and invite people in... design logos including the 'family' complete with the mommy, daddy, 8 year old boy and 6 year old blonde-haired girl smiling in front of a oak tree with a perfectly manicured lawn. Then we say 'well, we sent out direct mail'... 'they must not want Jesus'.
I'm exagerating in case you havn't picked up... but I believe you get the point. Who's reaching them. Who is reaching your neighbor? How about the guy who'll be washing his car tomorrow across the street? How about your friend you'll have over for dinner tomorrow? We all must answer God's call. We all must be transparent to say 'I'm broken too. We're all in this Goodwill store together.'
Public Service Announcement
Fellow servant in the trenches of Youth Ministry and friend, Olivia Anton reminded me today that I havn't updated in a long time so what you see below is my effort to clean out the cobwebs :)
Also, toss up a prayer for Jay and Olivia as they are closing in on D-day (delivery) of their new baby boy 'James'. Hearing their story about God's provision in their lives will strenthen anyones faith!
As you may already know... my vision is to 'Encourage and Equip people to Know God and Make Him Known through His Son Jesus Christ'
Thursday I joined other pastors in SE Virginia for a meeting with Dr. Avery T. Willis, Jr. from the International Mission Board (SBC). He showed a visual that rocked my world. We boast so often how we in the 'Southern Baptist Convention support over 5,000 missionaries around the world'. Mr. Willis showed what that looks like when you diagram it compared to the amount of souls that need saved in the world (well over 5 billion). Then he showed the same graphic adding the 16 million Southern Baptists (largest denomination in USA)... still nearly nothing compared to the task. Then he added 'all baptists'... then 'all Bible-Believing Christians'... let's just say... God has called us to an enormous task....
Stop and think... 'What do I do my day that helps God in His Task?' We as Christians can often go days, weeks and even sometimes months without sharing our faith. Shouldn't that bother us? If He really is the ONLY God and we really trust him for our Salvation and even life itself... doesn't it make sense that we care about what he cares about. God's heartbeat is people. What are we doing about people's eternity? What risks are we taking, what sacrafices are we making?
It hurts sometimes to be honest with ourselves when we see who God is and who we are in comparrison... but it's one of the most healthy things we can do.
Pastors and Wives Retreat
The SBCV threw a shin-dig for Pastors and their wives (hence the name). I'm kinda always leary about meetings and gettaways thrown by State or National Conventions but I must say, this one was pretty good. Great accomidations at the Omni in Charlottesville, VA. The speakers were great and the time with my wife was excellent. Hershel (pastor) and Deena (wife) were with us during the event and we enjoyed a great time of prayer on Monday night.
The speaker for the men was Dr. Charles S. (Chuck) Kelley, Jr. from the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. One of his sessions in particular hit me. He took the verses discussing Husbands and Wives' roles in the home and epounded on them relating to Christ's description a few pages over in Phillipians. It was incredible. I heard the basics of this many times... but the depth of his message was incredible. If you look at Christ's humility in Phillippians and then relate it to 'Husbands love your wives as Christ loved the church' you will see that Christ-like humility in a marriage is servant-leadership at its fullest. Therefore we husbands aren't the 'leaders' because of our physical bodies... but rather we will be great leaders because our wives will see us putting ourselves down so they may rise up. What woman in this world wouldn't be 'submissive' to a man who lays his very being down before her for her benefit? I have the tape if anyone wants to hear it or I'm sure the SBCV.org site would have them.
Overall the time was well spent. My only thought is that we (baptists) could do well to realize that we're not the only ones going to heaven, we more than likely don't have God 'figured out', and therefore we probably should be much more humble about the denominational ties. I just hear it over and over at nearly every meeting... it gets old.
Sunday was a day of mixed emotions.
Our service went pretty well. We continued our walk through James and talked specifically about how:
1. We're the cause of our own Downfall.
2. God is the only source of anything great.
3. God allows us opportunity to re-connect.
I then transitioned the talk into salvation as I saw several visitors (and I usually include the gospel every week).
God was ready to reap the Harvest as 3 students committed their lives to Christ this week. It's humbling and exciting at the same time to see God move and realize that in an instant these students went from an eternity in hell to an eternity with God in Heaven. God is good.
Without much detail...
A parent called me out in front of the other parents accerting that I was the cause of their student not having enough funds for camp and asked rather harshly 'what are you going to do about it?, are you going to have another fundraiser?'
I then shared the fact that we've had students already paid up and that most students who have participated in fundraising have done rather well. The full answer included the statement 'no, we will not be doing anymore fundraising after the 31st (car wash)... I won't ask my youth staff to pull another Saturday or weeknight. We've done well beyond what's necessary and we have no reason to add more on the plate of our volunteers.'
This was a rather tense moment but I believe I handled it well as several different families who witnessed the exchange shared 'you did very well' and 'she shouldn't have tried to do that to you in this setting' etc.
Talking to my friend John this week, he reminded me of a mutual friend we have working as an engineer for a major oil company. John said "he told me that he's never had 1 day where a person hasn't come at him about a problem since becoming a leader". Leadership takes a little more I suppose. God has taught me so much so quickly about leadership.
Great evening with our Life Group of teens. We took the night and spent time encouraging and lifting up one another. It's refreshing for teens to have that opportunity. They're around so much negativity... it was a great evening
Key to Intimacy
K2I went pretty well. We took a dozen of our students down to Elizabeth City, NC where we looked at 3 areas of human intimacy:
1. Intimacy with God
2. Intimacy with Friendships
3. Intimacy with Dating Relationships/Sex
I believe we did a great job of teaching very relevant biblical truths in a modern-day vanacular so that our students could relate. When your teens are attentative for hour long sessions and they laugh, cry and talk all throughout the weekend, you know you're on to something. Steven (who led our worship music) asked me to consider putting this together into a larger-venue event. God worked a success last weekend.
Out to Lunch
It's been too long since I've posted online. If you're a frequent guest to 'No Cobwebs Here' then you know that I may (from time to time) neglect my postings in favor of keeping thoughts in. I'll attempt to give a rundown of the past 10 days.
I've always been somewhat introspective. (just deleted 2 paragraphs here) Have you ever had your heart begin to race at the thought of something? Have you ever gotten to the place where God's plan consumes you? Have you been to the point where you are willing to drop comfortable circumstance for only the CHANCE to see a great moving of God in a particular way?
If you havn't... ask, seek and knock until you do. It's a feeling that will move your relationship with God to a whole new altitude. Reliance on Him and a different understanding of His word comes when His Vision for your life becomes the contact lenses you use to see the world. All of a sudden, everything takes on different meaning. You read differently, observe differently, and your heart gets racing over things that before weren't really on the radar. Your commitment will be challenged, your patience tested, but your experience with God will not remain 'ordinary' for sure.
I don't know if I'm the only one in the world like this, (I'm certain that statistics tell me that I'm not...) but in the middle of watching Pay It Forward tonight with my wife it all hit me as if it were new information. I'm not sure if this information just caught me off guard or what...
I've always been focused on my role in the chain of history... I'm constantly thinking to Christ and then to myself about how I fit and what my purpose is on this earth. Tonight however it slapped me up side my head again... wow... This Christianity thing is HUGE. My understanding who my God is comes as a result of Jesus HIMSELF expressing who he ways (John 14:6). Then these dudes he was with 'payed it forward' and so on and so on until now... here am I. What will I do with my dot? The dot called Tally's life. What will it matter? It's not new revelation by any standard. It just hit me awkwardly tonight and made me say 'wow' again. God is a very cool God.
Today went well at the church building.
If you are a person living for the moment and a person who lives based on everyone's opinions (or if your blood pressure goes up and down based on every number, new idea, offer, opinion, etc...) you should never be in the ministry.
Today (as is probably always the case but not as often noted) I was reminded that one person thinks I'm unfit to be a Pastor because of a comment I made to them and another person literally 1 minute after I heard this complaint stopped me and said "I want to tell you that you are a terrific person and a great youth pastor... I've known you were a great person but today I talked to a student in your ministry and asked what he thought and this boy couldn't stop saying kind things about you and how you share God's word so thoughtfully"
Forget Bush v. Gore 2000 ... it's Pastors v. The World.
Full-Time ministry is by far the most amazing 'job' in the world.
If you want to accomplish something great for God... Don't build your nest with:
Negative people or people without vision. Reaching them is one thing... but to lead effectively you will need others to encourage you to rise.
Find those who are successful in other ways... share ideas... talk about life. Many times it's not the deepest thoughts that rock your world, it's coming to the realization that they are much more like you than you think. You begin to see their flaws but you ignore them because you also begin to truly see their strengths. Great people are influenced by other great people.
Also as I've heard from Dr. Falwell, "Pray like it all relies on God and work like it all relies on you."
A while back my friend John passed on this bit of wisdom he picked up along the way.
"There are 3 types of people in the world. Those who make the news, those who report the news, and those who watch the news." Which one will you be?
Came across The Cove Church, a Purpose-Driven church that places an emphasis on Knowing God. I must publish my thoughts before every phrase, rant and proposition all come out in other places. I'm certain that my ideas are either out there already somewhere or they will be shortly...
1James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ,
To the twelve tribes scattered among the nations: Greetings. Trials and Temptations 2Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. 4Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. 5If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.
Today was one of those days when God truly got a hold of me while I was communicating. I stopped my message today at the first two points (of 5) that I had outlined for James 1:1-12. This was definitely not some 'great plan for drama'. God leaned on me and asked 'do you really think more talking from you will help them connect with me?' So I asked everyone to put down their pens and I simply stopped the message and reviewed the first two points.
As their pastor, I view my job as being the one who leads them to 'connect' with their God. I encourage you to stop and read the first five verses of the book of James and see if God speaks through these writings to you. My only two points today were
(1) Trials get joy
(2) Wisdom gets requested.
How often do 'mature' Christians get frustrated or even angry when facing trials? How often do tails duck between legs at the sight of something out of place? If we only really trusted God's word we would find that he has so deeply prepared our lives for this brief time we're here. It's possible that many people do not 'get' point #1 because they've never actually 'got' point #2. Wisdom gets requested. It seems traditionally that Christian 'maturity' credits are given to those with age or 'time served' in the church. I've found that this is far from the truth. Wisdom is given by God upon our request. I realized this week how I've applied this truth without actually realizing it. I've been told that I've given advice and wisdom beyond my years at times. I recently pondered this thought and come to realize that I have pleaded with God for wisdom in areas beyond my experience level or education. I often will request wisdom from God and if I take James to heart, this means that He has given 'generously'.
What would 'the church' look like if we collectively sought out God to engrave on us these two principles from His word?
(1)To live understanding that God is sincerely working through our trials making us 'mature and complete' so we can honestly have joy
(2)Understand that our wisdom is in a great deal proportionate to our request for it
Had a great day today at the Sonlight Church Golf Tournament. Raising money for teens hasn't been this much fun (nor will the next month be). Not a lot to report today. Our team comprised of Steven, Joe, and myself came in at a respectable 77. We aren't golf 'players'. We just 'play' golf.
Looking forward to getting with our students tomorrow as we dig into the book of James for some wisdom. God's a pretty smart God.
I've created a monster!
Good friend and fellow staffer Steven Wales started a blog he calls "Just A Thought". He's off to a great start. Steven has also been infected with some of my theology about 'Knowing God'. It should be interesting.