Philosophy

Please Don’t Ask What I DO

I’m just putting this out there…..

 

I HATE when people ask what I do.

It might be at a coffee shop, or the hair cut place, or a salesperson, or a parent at my kids school.

 

They always ask!

 

And I HATE answering.

 

It isn’t because I am ashamed of what I do (I’m not proud of it either but that is for another post) because I’m not. It is because of the inevitability of the reaction on the part of the person who asked the question when I answer “I’m a Youth Pastor”.

 

It is always “Oh”

 

Sometimes “Oh” is followed by a smile and a polite gesture of a compliment about my life’s calling and sometime the “Oh” is followed by a subtle (or not so subtle) groan. Sometimes it is the last word that person ever speaks to me….

 

But worse than the verbal reaction is the non verbal reaction and that is why I hate answering the question. In the micro second it takes for the person to process the word pastor (and usually the youth part isn’t even acknowledged) everything about the interaction I am having with that person changes. They become defensive, illusive, private and standoffish.  There is something very unnerving about quietly having my motives for EVERYTHING questioned. Suddenly I am the enemy. Either I am trying to corral them into a gospel presentation or I just want their money or I am looking to condemn them for their sins.

You know what I hate about it most?

 

I lose the chance to know them. Who they really are, what they are really like and what they struggle with. They hide it all.

 

It’s not their fault though….

 

It’s ours….and by ours I mean the Church.

 

Jesus loved people and desired to KNOW people and to lead people to His Father.

 

Sometimes the church treats people like a herd of cattle. We just want to tag them and let the world know they belong to God and move along to the next herd.

 

So please, let’s change this

 

Or at least just stop asking me what I do!

 

 

Categories: Humor, Life, Ministry, Philosophy, Religion | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

3 HUGE Mistakes I Made in Ministry

I have been serving in ministry in some role since I was 17. I have served as an intern, part-time staff member and full time pastoral staff. As I look back on some of my experiences I have thought about all the struggles I have faced and while it would be easy to point the finger and place the blame I believe it is more important to identify my failures. As I am in a transition period I have had a chance to reflect on my most recent ministry experience and I have identified 3 HUGE mistakes that I want to share (NOTE I’m not sayin I only made three mistakes just that I want to talk about these three)

 

#1 Failed to have a realistic understanding of the identity of the church.

When i first started at my previous church I walked in taking everything at face value. If I asked a question I just accepted the answer as truth. What I realized shortly after starting is that sometimes the truth is hard to explain and even harder to admit and that  people don’t always paint a clear picture for you. This was a HUGE mistake because when I walked in I walked in with a truckload of expectations and excitement that could never be met because it was based on a false understaning of the identity of the church. And it wasn’t the church’s fault, it was my job to understand what I was walking into and to form my expectations based on that not vice versa. I wound up being frustrated very quickly because of my expectations not being met and what was worse is I didn’t realize until much later that it was my fault to begin with!

#2 I set the bar too HIGH.

I am sure you think this is ridiculous we are supposed to set the bar high shoot for the stars and never accept anything les. Right? Well, ok, sure go for that but watch yourself. Like I said before about identity expectations need to formed on truth not fantasy and so do goals. The problem with aiming for lofty goals is that you may be ready to aim for those goals yourself but those around you may find those goals (and the path to those goals) overwhelming and will start to jump ship very quickly if you are not careful. And if you start losing your crew you will soon have a sinking ship. Make goals that aren’t easy to achieve but not so aggresive that people can’t handle the idea of tackling those goals

#3 I started believing the negativity and criticism.

There are always whispers and rumors floating around and, if you are in the position of leadership,  alot of it is going to be about you. After a while I started believing that all the negativity I was hearing was truth and I reacted to it and in the process I recoiled away from those I was entrusted to lead, not because I didn’t want to lead, because I was fearful that I might perpetuate the negativity that I was accused of. When faced with negativity we should seek the counsel of people we trust and then rely on our convictions to guide us. In other words I stopped trusting my gut and in the end it was proved that my gut was right all along.

 

I made many many mistakes in the last fifteen years and will make many more. Hopefully we all can grow and learn from the ones that are already passed.

Categories: Ministry, Philosophy, Religion | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

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.

Categories: Everyday Thoughts, Life, Ministry, Philosophy, Religion | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

One Car Crash and Nothing is Ever the Same Again

A little over a week ago I wrote a post about getting beat up everywhere you turn. Today’s death of Paul Walker in a one car auto accident brought again to mind the fragility of life and how quickly it can be snuffed out

One of my safe havens is my alone time in the car.

There I am safe from all the noise of the world…… until..a  couple of weeks ago

I had left home and wasn’t 2 miles from my house. It was one of those moments we have all had. We are driving along when someone shoots past us hot-dogging the accelerator, their exhaust bellowing as they move past you at a rate of speed that not only exceeds the speed limit but also the limits of common sense and safety.

It frustrates, annoys and enrages you….and you say to yourself or out loud “That idiot is going to get himself killed”

And you believe that…..maybe even hope that they have a close call so they learn a lesson

But you never desire that they actually lose their life

And you never expect it to happen….

Not while you are watching.

There I was, in my car, as the words were dropping off my tongue, watching the little two door car speed down the road leaving us further and further behind and then…

It happened

In an instant the back end of the car shifted left then right then left again. Obviously out of control the driver most likely tried to correct but only manage to make things far worse for in the next instant the car was rocking side to side on two wheels. Before I knew it the back end off the car lifted itself into the air, dragging the nose of the vehicle diagonally across the road from the oncoming lane back into the proper lane and towards the shoulder of the pavement. The suddenly the rear end dropped back to earth as if it had been slammed down my an invisible hand and the car shot off the shoulder and into the ditch on the side of the road. As I watched this final movement I held my breath and gave a gasp of relief when the car avoided hitting three small trees head on managing to only make a glancing blow on the passenger’s side of the vehicle.

My heart raced

I couldn’t breathe

I had no phone (left it at home that morning)

I stopped and got out of my car. The truck in front of me pulled over as well the other car behind me kept driving. When the guy in the truck saw me they too left the scene and so it was just me alone. I wish I could say my first reaction was to run and help or even to pray……. No my reaction was far more rooted in the flesh

I cursed….

And then I ran….

As I ran to the car another vehicle was stopping I motioned to the gentleman as to indicate the need for him to call 911. He was already making the call. I walked to the door and looked in…..and shuddered

The driver wasn’t in his seat

He was on the other side of the car…

No seatbelt.

I backed up, took a breath and looked in the back seat through the rear hatch window, at this point praying there wasn’t a child inside.

There wasn’t

I went blank…. I couldn’t open the door…. I didn’t want to see

The gentleman on the phone ran up and opened the door and went in he tried to make contact but couldn’t get a response. We knew he wasn’t moving and that we could not under any circumstance move him. We couldn’t even tell if he was breathing. It was very cold that morning and the driver was wearing several layers including a hood that was covering his face.

I haven’t decided if I am thankful for that or not….

The paramedics were there very quickly. Their station was right around the corner. They hooked up monitors, we helped break back brush, and in the matter of just a few minutes it was over…..

They stopped….

No resuscitation….

No defibrillator……

The guy with the phone said he had overheard those two words no one wants to here in a situation like this…

Brain Matter….

He was gone. Nothing to do but call in the coroner…..

I never did see his face and only learned his name and age from the obituary in the local news. An African American man who was the same age as myself who was probably just late for work and in a hurry.

That image will haunt me. Not because of the trauma or the death but because of how quickly it passed.

10 seconds? 20?

Poof…

We are told in the book of  James that life is nothing but a vapor.  Again we see this today another one car accident and two people dead in an instant. But of course this one we see on the news and we are grieved because this was a celebrity and I am sure much will be made of what and how this happened because of Paul Walker’s popularity. Which I will be glad to hear about because it will remind everyone how tomorrow is promised to no one.   And that living recklessly even for a brief moment of indulgence can result in tragedy.

For me, though, Paul Walker’s death, as special as he was, will never impact me the way the death of a man whose name I never knew and whose face I never saw impacted me.

I learned that day that all it takes is……

A one car crash and nothing is ever the same again

Categories: Everyday Thoughts, Ministry, Philosophy | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Lumberjack Handicap Match

I am not an avid watcher of pro wrestling but in years past I have followed closely enough to know the jargon and definitions used in the sport.

There are two types of matches that I came to mind today while I was thinking about life and the struggles we face: The Lumberjack Match and The Handicap Match

For those of you less versed in the lingo allow me to explain

A Lumberjack match is a basic match with one exception outside of the ring is filled with other wrestlers in a single line side by side,  shoulder to shoulder whose primary purpose is to inflict pain on either any wrestler involved in the match in the ring should they have the misfortune or poor judgement to find themselves on the outside of the ring

Handicap Match is a match where a wrestler or a team of wrestlers is pitted against another team of wrestlers of greater number such as 1 on 2 or 2 on 3 or 1 on 3 etc

But what if we had a Lumber Jack Handicap Match? Can you imagine what that would be like? Outnumbered in the ring getting knocked around with the odds completely stacked against you and no where to run to catch your breath because the moment you slipped out of the ring you were assaulted by a flurry of wrestlers taking any opportunity to inflict whatever pain they can.

Life can be like that. I have experienced it. In one area of life, home, work, social whatever, you are taking a beating. One challenge after another after another after another relentlessly beating you down. And then when you run to what you think will be a safe place, one of the other areas of your life, you are met with a seemingly equal or greater number of challenges. It is enough to make you question yourself or give up entirely because all you want to do is catch your breath. 

Am I describing you?

I can say that this year has been one of the toughest of my life. Heartbreak, sadness, questioning myself,  and sometimes wondering if there will ever be an end to the storms. But I know something

I think we all know pro wrestling is rigged. It isn’t fake. You can’t fake falling through the air and landing on your back sometimes from heights of 10 15 feet. Wrestling is rigged the winner is predetermined and the match is somewhat rehearsed.

Guess what. Your life. It’s RIGGED.

It almost never fails in these type matches that I have described one of the “hero” characters is getting beat up by a group of the “bad guys” and when all looks lost and the bad guys are cheating and torturing the hero another hero or group of heroes arrives to even the odds and drives the bad guys away much to the delight of the crowd.

I have a hero. You do to.

He’s the best.

Not only does He make the save He is the one that rigged the match.

Take great hope in the fact that God has already one. Your struggles. Your pain. Your desperation. Everything is a part of bringing the crowd to it’s feet as the only true Hero rushes in and makes the save.

And at the end of it all

The Hero will pick you up. He will grab your hand. And He will raise it along with His in victory.

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Love , Grace, Mercy, Hunter Hayes and One Direction.

My twins, Kelsey and Isaac,  just turned ten a couple of weeks ago. For about a year now Kelsey has slowly been falling more and more in love with the hit Brit pop group, One Direction. This means , of course, that daddy is also listening to a lot of One Direction. I personally believe that any parent should have the decency to be listening to what their kids are listening to so that they know the messages that their kids are being indoctrinated with.  This morning as we pulled into the school One Direction’s latest hit “Little Things” came on the radio and as usual Kelsey got that blushed look she usually gets when they come on the radio. I have heard the song before but I have never been one to really understand the lyrics of a song for the first few times I listen to it. Today though was the day that I caught on to what the song was really about.

If you haven’t heard the song youtube it. The essentials of the song are that all the girl’s insecurities and imperfections or “little things” add up to who that girl is and those insecurities and imperfections are accepted because the boy is in love with the girl. It is a beautiful concept and if I was a teenage girl I would probably swoon at the words of the song. But as I listened I was saddened, not because of the song but because of who the song was delivered by and who it was directed to and no I am not demonizing One Direction.

My point is that a group of boys is telling girls that they are loved just the way they are and girls are falling over themselves for that love.

Another song came on during my drive back home, “Wanted” by Hunter Hayes. Same point different artist.

You know who SHOULD be sending out this message?

1. The Church

2. Dads

You know who is NOT doing a good job sending out this message?

1. The Church

2. Dads

We are so good at saying we are concerned about the next generation but we are horrible at actually doing anything about it. Dads ignore their children and churches practice legalism. While church members are fighting about when committees should meet and color the new curtains should be the world is getting better at preaching love, grace and mercy than the church itself!

Maybe it is time that we realize little things really are important we just have to realize which ones.

Categories: Ministry, music, parenting, Philosophy, Religion | Leave a comment

Hey I may be crazy

So many people have  a problem with my having an “imaginary friend” . If you are one of them please understand that I have this group of people I hang out with that have the same “imaginary friend” and we have been inspired by that “imaginary friend” to do some pretty awesome things. We have made sure that 100 children in our community have food to take home for the weekend when they leave school every Friday. We support a food bank that reaches 40 families a week. We fed 80 high school marching band members lunch for 10 days straight. We cleared a 90 yr old woman’s grossly overgrown yard, replaced a floor in a house that was rotten so a 3 yr old would have a bedroom and wouldn’t have to sleep on a couch, we raised hundreds of dollars for a young man who had no money for clothes,  are providing 50 teachers with funds to buy supplies for their classrooms donate almost 1000 dollars worth of candy and cash to the local elementary school so they could have a successful fundraising event. Raised school supplies for over 100 underprivileged children.  Sent over 100 gift boxes overseas for Operation Christmas Child. Sent bags full of toiletries to countless soldiers and prisoners and have served hundreds upon hundreds of meals to homeless people. And so much more I can’t even remember all in LESS THAN A YEAR. But I am sure that this “imaginary friend” isn’t worth keeping and I am sure that I must be an awful person for believing in this “imaginary friend”.    Oh, and yes I call Him God and I don’t think he is imaginary at all in fact he is very real to me.

Categories: Everyday Thoughts, Humor, Life, Ministry, Philosophy | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

HELP!! I WANT MY KIDS IN CHURCH!!

I get asked this a lot and was telling someone just today what my standard answer to that question would be. So I thought it would make a good blog post. So here it is

How does a parent get their child involved in church?

First and foremost the parent has to model the behavior that they want their child to adopt. If you want her in church consistently then you have to be in church consistently. This will show them that it is serious to the parent and that it is more than an extra activity but a part of the way of life.

 

Secondly, you must be find a church that is supportive of the values and goals that you want for your child to absorb and commit yourself to that church and that church alone for a substantial duration of time, in your specific case I would say the remainder of her High School career. Children of all ages need consistency and in this world it seems that everything in their life changes so fast they can’t count on anything. When the church becomes a constant they are more likely to latch to it.

 

Thirdly a teen is going to be drawn where their friends are. If the youth group does not have anyone in it that the teen can or will connect with then they will feel isolated and alone and not want to go.

 

Fourth, it is important for any parent to realize that the principle influence in a child’s life will always be the parent. In turn that means that the one who must be discipling the child in Christ is the parent as well and that the youth minister and youth group are only there to support and enhance what the parent is already doing, which is why number one is so important.

 

Finally there as to be some lines drawn. If the previous four statements are applied first then this is an easier task. Not to say that it is at all easy but if placed first in the list it is almost impossible. The parent is the parent and makes the decisions if the parent decides that the family is going to start attending and participating in church then that is the rule and is enforced. Many times parents will tell me they don’t want to force their kids to come to church because they are afraid it will turn them off to religion. But the fact is that we force our children to do many other things and yet never consider to apply that principle. They go to school, eat their supper, go to the doctor, go to bed, have a curfew, etc etc etc. Again when the previous four are applied this becomes easier.

 

Categories: Everyday Thoughts, family, Life, Ministry, parenting, Philosophy, Religion | Tags: , , , , , , | 3 Comments

The Southern Baptist Convention and Me

I am a generational Southern Baptist. My grandfather was a Southern Baptist preacher in a rural community my father was a chaplain for NAMB. My mom served in several SBC churches as I was growing up and still does now. I even was awarded a scholarship to a state camp when i wrote an essay on the Cooperative Program. As I have grown older, however, I have fallen more in love with the theology of the SBC and out of love with the organization of it. There are great aspects to it don’t get me wrong and I don’t understand nor am I involved nearly enough to be a true critic of it but I feel the same way about it as I do about the US government. It is big complicated and wasteful in many areas. again this is purely from an outsiders perspective but I have seen how some things work and realize that a lot of time, energy and money go into pointless meetings and discussions and administrative red tape rather than real ministry.

I write this today because of the recent announcement and ensuing controversy that the was caused when SBC president Bryant Wright  commissioned a task force to research a  possible name change. And another blog post from SBCVoices .com found here about doing  away with state conventions.

The point is not to scrap things altogether but I find it interesting that the outcry is so loud against just the exploration of ways to make things simpler and more effective. Simpler and more effective means more people reached with greater ease. I see churches giving loads of money away in their budget to programs that are meant to spread the gospel but are really just propping up a growing corporation that is getting fatter and fatter in a world that is growing further and further from God.

I don’t want to deny the SBC does some great things just want to suggest that there is always room for improvement and there is always fat that can be cut.

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There is a Hunger

I have been in my church for going on four years now and since the day I got here one of my goals has been how to grow attendance and involvement. Now there have been programs and gimmicks and silly ideas and serious ideas.  And we have had some great successes and some failures. Wednesday night Youth worship has been a great success and we have had on and off success with our Friday night “Unleashed”  outreach and both these things are good. We have come to a point with our Sunday School after experimenting for a few years where we are now solid.  There is still room to grow in all these areas but the progress is there.

There has been one area, however, that has always escaped us and that is the area of Sunday evenings. We have tried a variety of different lesson plans group divisions and activities but could never get more than a few students involved.  Then this past spring a student saw a book in my office that hand been on my shelf for almost ten years. The book was entitled “Why So Many Gods”. You may have heard of it or you may not have. It is a book written for teens in a reference type format. It details the distinctions of various world religions and cults and contrasts them to Christianity. When the student saw the book they expressed a desire to be taught about what other people believe and how to talk to them about Jesus.  Upon hearing this I gave a half-hearted agreement and promise to teach it on Sunday evenings. We advertised for about a month and after a couple of delays in our start date began the series 4 weeks ago. Now while for weeks is not long enough to give an accurate assessment of the class it is worth noting what has happened.

The day I began the series I had several youth show up that NEVER came to anything else we were doing beyond Sunday School and Wednesday nights if we were lucky to see them then. Still class size was below ten in attendance and so I expected that it would be the typical response to everything else I had done on Sunday nights.  I was wrong.  Each week we have seen more and more students attending to the point where we have had to add chairs in the room we were meeting in. I have been both amazed and thrilled.

If attendance was the only marker I would only put moderate weight on the growth. Knowing that as school starts we would see a cycle of kids dropping off and out to handle homework and get ready for the school week. But there is something else going on.  The interaction of the students is remarkable.  I have fielded questions from everything from Church History and the formation of our Bible to angelology and demonology.  Our students have shown week in and week 0ut that they are hungry to know more than just the Bible stories but to know the inner workings and deep reasonings of our faith.  This hasn’t surprised me but has caught me off guard and I have felt ill prepared to handle the questions.

What does all this mean?

Evidence is mounting that gives us concrete proof that it is time to take off the kid’s gloves with the people of God within the church and teach them and lead them in the study of doctrine. Many church leaders skirt teaching Church History or Systematic Theology for fear that people will find it boring or worthless. Seemingly the sentiment is that it is only important that pastors know and understand this information. But the truth is that if we teach it and prepare it in a way that is interesting and speaks to the curiosity of our people that we will find that they consume it in the way a starving beggar consumes a small scrap of food.

It has been said, and I do not know by whom, that if a teenager can understand  and be taught Algebra , Geometry and Physics then the can handle the teaching of Theology within the church context. It is our responsibility as their church leaders to feed them and when they wander away starving the blame will and should fall on our heads.

Categories: Everyday Thoughts, Literature, Ministry, Philosophy, Reading, Religion | Tags: | Leave a comment

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