Everyday Thoughts

Life, Heroes, and Summer Camp

It is that time of year when you will barely hear a peep from most youth ministers. They are head down, plugging away at the meat of the busiest part of their year. I personally am working my 39th day in row and looking forward to this coming Friday when I get my first day off of the summer.

This past week we took our students off to summer camp. Summer camp is a weird time for me it brings about feelings of great stress and anxiety but also feelings of great joy. On the other hand, summer camp brings about feelings of sadness and regret. I know that sounds weird but stay with me.

Getting almost 30 people up and on the road and to a destination that is 6 hours away and then keeping them focused and peaceful for 5 days is really quite the challenge but always worth it especially when 7 of those people give their lives to the Lord. And while those things consume most of my thoughts, my never off brain is always finding ways to slip in negative thoughts. You see as a young man I LOVED camp. It was simply the greatest time of my life and for many many years I believed I would work at and one day run and speak at my very own camp. Those dreams never came to fruition. And so now as life has played out I take my own group to camp. And every year I am reminded of those dreams that faded slowly and I wonder what might have been if only I had been willing to take a risk and go all in on that dream so many years ago.

It is no secret that we all have heroes. No matter what our dreams are their is someone who is living out those dreams that we aspire to be. One of mine is the man who founded the camp that we have taken our students to for the last 8 years his name is Clayton King. I greatly admire this man for his passion and fire for reaching the lost,both young and old, I aspire to be able to communicate and teach the word of God as effectively and boldly as he does and I love his down to earth attitude and willingness to talk to anyone who approaches him.

Clayton’s reach has grown immensely over the years and especially over the last year since taking the position of Interim Senior Pastor at Newspring Church in South Carolina so it is easy to see why many people might make him their hero but over the years I have found myself secretly hero worshiping some other people. Specifically, my secret heroes were the camp staffers. Admittedly, I was embarrassed over the fact that I found myself in awe of these people and mostly college aged kids that are now at least 12 years younger than me. In my mind it was ridiculous that I would be so star struck by a bunch of kids who had so little life experience and so much to learn. But this year it hit me, unexpectedly and in a way I never would have thought, God showed me exactly why the camp staffers were my heroes and he did so through a former camp staffer who was at camp for the first time as a youth pastor.

We were getting our room assignments when I saw him. Right across the hall in the room across from mine, he was sitting on the bed I called out his name and he came out and as our students scurried off to their rooms we stopped and caught up. I could tell he was processing and adjusting to the fact that he was now on the other side of the camp experience and it was just a little overwhelming. We talked for a few minutes and as we parted I prayed for him and that is when God spoke to me. For the first time in my life I understood why all these young kids were my heroes and it all boiled down to a single word. RISK

When looking up to someone the one thing that must be present is a characteristic that they possess that you wish that you possessed but don’t. These college kids, every last one of them, took the risk that it was worth leaving their normal lives to spend their summer to serve a bunch of teenagers in the name of Jesus.  At first glance that may not seem like a big deal to many of us but I promise you that at 18, 19 or 20 that is a BIG deal.  The faith that it takes is a faith that I didn’t have at that age. When I finally had the chance, after years of dreaming, to go interview and possibly take a position as a camp staffer fear won out and I didn’t even go to the interview and I never had the chance again.

While I admire Clayton King now I think I admire the 22 yr old Clayton that I never met much more because at 22 he started Crossroads Summer Camp and built the ministry that I once dreamed of building but was afraid to step out in faith and make it happen.

So the question is : What risk are you afraid to take? And more importantly, will you ever reach your dreams if you don’t?

 

 

 

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On Your Way

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The Power of Summer Camp

As a youth pastor summer camp is a must. It provides the greatest opportunity for relationship building and spiritual development and serves as a launching pad for he rest of the year. I have literally seen a youth group go from blah to BAM over the course of a single week of camp.

Summer camps are a dime a dozen. They are everywhere. There are a lot of theories and methods behind how to do summer camp. Some choose to do their own some go to camps that have a lot of structure, some little structure.

But the key thing is summer camp done right is a big deal.

Two years ago today I arrived at summer camp. Specifically at Crossroads Summer Camp a ministry of Clayton King Ministries. it would be the third year I had brought a group to Crossroads but it would prove to be a defining year in the philosophy of how I do ministry and how I choose camps and conferences.

As we arrived at camp, I was a wreck. My grandmother had just been murdered a few short weeks before, there were struggles at our church that had become unsettling and overwhelming, we had just had VBS which meant two solid weeks of 70 hrs of work for me. So I was toast.

BUT

I. COULDN’T. WAIT.

FOR.

CAMP.

You see, I knew that when I got to camp my students were going to be ministered to, they would fall in love with Jesus all over again and they would fall to their knees and worship Jesus in sweet and beautiful tears.

I also knew that I would too.

Many times camps for youth are filled with good quality stuff but, if you have been in church for any considerable amount of time in church, it can seem superficial or elementary.

But, and this is where I have defined my philosophy, Crossroads doesn’t settle for superficial. They dig deep, they challenge students and adults to reflect on the truth of God’s Word.

I will never forget falling to my knees on the second day not able to sing a word sobbing into the shoulders of one of my students as we were led in the chorus of “You Hold Me Now”. As God ministered to my broken heart and I began to heal I realized that camp was as much for me as the students.

And now I know that a camp, conference or service that is going to be great will be great for both your students AND your leaders. And year after year I have experienced that with Clayton King and Crossroads Summer Camp.

And that is why for the first camp with my new church we are in Anderson SC for #CRSC15.

God is good and I already have so much to say. More on that later.

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Why Interpretation is so Important.

I see it all the time.

I get on social media and one person is calling a public figure a godly person while someone else is calling the same person ungodly.

Sometimes it is a prominent pastor, or political figure or actor etc

And then it gets ugly.

People start back and forth defending their position and someone else who shares the views jumps in and adds fuel to the fire and at the end everyone walks away mad.

Why? How can people be that sure one way or the other?

Well it starts with how we read Scripture and how we interpret the Scriptures

Now most Christians agree that their are issues that are negotiable and non-negotiable when it comes to certain doctrines or beliefs and can overlook differences over what we call non essential beliefs (If you want to know more about those you could start HERE) but what most people don’t realize is that those “nonessential” doctrines really change how people approach life in this world.

Then it happens

Down the long trail of extrapolation two individuals find their positions in conflict with each other, ready to tear each other to pieces and they don’t even know why.

A great example is the interpretation of the end times and the Millennial reign. Read over this CHART comparing the four major Millennium positions.

Anything stand out?

What do you think would happen if person A, a good church going individual, with a faith built on a Pre-Mil foundation became a politician and started debating person B, also a good church going individual but with a Post Mil foundation, about how much support to give to Israel?

Uh-oh

Suddenly, what we claimed was “non-essential” to us is very very essential.Now do not get me wrong please I am not saying that we cannot fellowship with people who don’t share the same views of non-essential doctrine as we do. What I am saying is that we must all be careful when throwing out accusations against the spiritual condition of someone based on their positions on things that we don’t agree with them on.

Interpretation is THAT important. And I wager that most of us don’t truly understand our own beliefs and couldn’t defend them if we tried.

Maybe instead of starting with arguing over issues that are born from the foundation of our beliefs we should engage in conversations that help us to understand where the conclusions are coming from.

We can argue politics all day, and honestly we can argue Biblical interpretation even longer, but politics will never change someone’s heart nor will it determine someone’s eternity.

But the Bible?

The Bible changes everything

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NEW JOB

ItsAprilFools

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A Father Like None Other

As I was driving around the other day I began to think about fatherhood. My two oldest children will turn 12 in a couple of days and it has me in a reflective state of mind.

Here are these two pre-teens that I have nurtured and disciplined, loved and cherished for the last twelve years and I the question  that comes to my mind is “Am I doing a good enough job?”

Of course only time will answer that question but it is one worth thinking about (and one that more parents should consider) because if we don’t take pause to evaluate what we are doing we can never improve.

So I began considering our Heavenly Father.

And I came to a very quick conclusion

I do NOT want to raise my children the same as God raises His!

I know that is shocking but hear me out.

I have a few goals as a parent. These goals are modest and are by no means revolutionary and most parents would probably agree that they are sensible. In addition, there are traits I want my children to develop but these traits are not the goal they are a means to an end. A few of these traits are

1. I want my children to grow in their faith

2. I want my children to learn to think for themselves

3. I  want my children to become responsible

I nurture my children and discipline them in order to teach these traits. Eventually, the application of these traits will lead to the accomplishment of the goals I have.

1. My children will become self sufficient, independent adults

2. My children will establish their own lives

3. My children will have their own families

My goal is to raise my children and send them out.

Our Heavenly Father does not have the same goals

Yes He disciplines us

Yes He nurtures us

Yes He teaches us to be strong minded

Yes He teaches us to be responsible

But His GOALS? They are NOTHING like mine.

God does not raise His children to be independent nor does He raise them to establish themselves apart from Him. No, quite the opposite, everything our Father does is to make His children MORE dependent on HIM and to bring ALL of His children BACK to HIS home.

Earthly fathers raise their children to send out. Our Heavenly Father raises His children to be drawn back in

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The day I came up with a funny hashtag #UnemployedPreacherProbz

These post got pretty popular on Facebook so in case you missed it.

*My family wants me to find a church soon….or a hobby. I don’t know what their problem is I think it is perfectly normal to gather your kids and dogs together once a week for “small group”

*I told my fam “Hey if Josh Devinney can baptize dogs so can I!”

*My wife \wasn’t real happy with my idea to put a pulpit in the living room or replacing the windows with stained glass

*I might not be able to have my living room/ sanctuary but I bet I could convert the garage to a youth room……Wait. What? Oh. Nevermind

*My kids aren’t homeschooled but they are homechurched

*I made my 11yr old son a deacon. He promptly called a business meeting and made a motion to have me fired #TrueBaptistKid

*My son’s twin sister is head of personnel she seconded the motion #TrueBaptistKid #IJustCantWin

*I have been passing the plate all night…The kids still won’t give me any of their allowance #AGuysGottaEat

*I wouldn’t mind having my sermon critiqued by the music minister but she’s my daughter….and she’s 7…..

*I think I created a monster…The Hostess Committee voted to eat ice cream for dinner and the Building and Grounds Committee just voted to change the locks…..and not give me a key

Hope you enjoyed!!

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The Greatest Tribute I Have Ever Received

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Divorce, Marriage, The Church and Fairy Tales

I saw an interesting article on a friend’s Facebook today from The Huffington Post concerning divorce and marriage statistics in Red states vs Blue states. You can read the article here http://www.huffpost.com/us/entry/4639430  . Obviously the conclusion that they reach seems biased against the church and I don’t agree with them. What I can’t argue is that there is problem with divorce amongst Christians.  Church leaders have been concerned with this for a considerable amount of time. What many have realized is that while in the secular culture marriage and relationships have become self centered and disposal at the same time they have made “falling in love” into an unrealistic fairy tale. Christians have bought into the fairy tale. At the same time the church has an epidemic running through it of pastors teaching that Jesus magically fixes everything. So when Christians get married and find out that the love fairy tale isn’t true they turn to Jesus the “fixer”. The problem is that Jesus isn’t a love genie who grants your wishes just because you tried the methods you learned at the latest greatest Christian marriage conference. Jesus gives us strength and understanding, yes, but his command is to love our spouse as he loves the world and, just in case you haven’t heard, the world rejected and crucified Jesus and he still refuses to abandon us. If we want to see successful marriages then we need to preach grace, mercy, sacrifice and long suffering and most of all work. Marriage is work, hard work. I know it isn’t the fairytale you have heard but it is much better than what Hollywood and romance novels have to offer.

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Starting a New Chapter

One of the hardest things I have found in ministry is the knowing of when you have finished a  chapter and it is time to move on to the next. There was a point and time this year that I felt like I may be at that point but I could not bring myself to simply walk away with no other ministry to go to.  My wife and I talked at great length and I decided to steal a page from Gideon and ask for a sign. In my prayers I was very specific and asked God to show me exactly what He wanted and He has graciously answered my prayer.  It wasn’t necessarily pleasant or an exciting moment when I got that answer but it was undeniable. And so last week I submitted my letter of resignation to Reedy Fork Baptist Church where I have served the last 5 almost 6 years. It has been a wild ride along with plenty of ups and downs but I can conclusively say that this chapter is over.

So what is next?

I don’t know.

As of right now I have no job to go to , no church to attend, no house to live in. I have some time to figure all that out and have some options available to me. What I do have is peace and clarity. There is something very exciting about knowing that God gave you the exact thing you asked for even if it was the last thing you really wanted and knowing that this is exactly what He wanted.

It hurts.

It hurts to say goodbye. It hurts to walk away from something I built up from near nothing. It hurts to know that so many that counted on me for things in the community will have to find someone else.

But I have no worries for myself. No worries for my family. And I look forward to the day when God reveals more about the next chapter of this thing I refer to as my calling.

Oh and if you happen to know of a church looking for a really great guy to be their youth minister….

Tell them I am available anyway

Categories: Everyday Thoughts, Life, Ministry, Religion | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

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