Hesitations 19:16

28 04 2011

I was reading through Genesis 19 today and came across the story about Lot and his family. The city they lived in was about to be destroyed and when the angels (or “the men”) told him to leave, we read:

16 When he hesitated, the men grasped his hand and the hands of his wife and of his two daughters and led them safely out of the city, for the LORD was merciful to them.

This makes me wonder. When God asks us to move, why do we hesitate? What makes us wait? I think there were a few things causing Lot to hesitate when God told him to move on. Whether it’s a new opportunity, a new direction, or a new vision, when God asks us to move I think we struggle with some of the same things…

Risk- Lot had to leave in the midst of turmoil and move towards something new and unknown. People are comfortable with the familiar. Change isn’t always easy. Especially if it means packing up your bags and leaving everything you know. There are even times where God is calling us to something and we literally have no clue how we are going to get there and that risk can be scary.

Relationships-Lot had future son-in-laws in Sodom. Not that I’m saying we should leave people behind to die. It’s never easy to leave community. We are designed to be connected to other people and when God tells us it’s time to move on from those relationships, we hesitate. We are also very aware of how many people are dependent on us within those relationships. We are also nervous about burning anyone through the process. Maybe what God has called us to do is differs from what someone else expected. Definitely a potential problem.

Responsibilities- Lot was a good man. I’m sure he wanted to save the people of Sodom. A lot of us have that same hero mentality. We think we are the ones who are going to take care of it all. “I will save the people, I will make them change.” We don’t like leaving things unfinished and we think there are still responsibilities we HAVE to control/lead/take care of. I’m sure if God is asking us to move on or work towards something new, He’s got the rest of it covered.

Risk means movement, relationships and community can be formed elsewhere, and we can’t save or change anyone. That’s God’s area of expertise. I don’t want to minimize these reasons (they will undoubtedly be a struggle), but so much of our hesitations are rooted in fear, which is probably why we constantly read “Fear Not” in the Scriptures. When there is clarity in what God asks of us LET’S GO!! I hope we don’t hesitate and I pray we are not afraid. Salvation is real, obedience is key, and as we live out of the abundance of God’s grace and provision let’s always remember that He can do immeasurably more than we could ever imagine!!

I’ve FAILED as a youth pastor…

22 04 2011

… if I put the ministry ahead of my relationship with God.

… if I put the ministry ahead of my relationship with my wife and family.

… if don’t invest in meaningful friendships outside of youth ministry and/or the church.

… if I don’t continually work to grow closer to my Creator.

… if I allow my identity to be found in my work.

… if I allow the numbers to discourage me OR make me feel good about myself.

… if I become jaded towards the church because of envy or pride.

… if I allow people’s view of me get in the way of God’s view of me.

… if I allow how the church/leadership values me to define my worth.

… if I am not a disciple AND a disciple maker.

… if I constantly look beyond student ministry towards “the next big thing.”

… if students feel like a number and not an individual.

… if the work I’m doing “for” God doesn’t align with God’s desire for me or the ministry.

I’m sure there are others we need to be aware of as pastors/leaders/volunteers. Any others that come to mind?

Talking Pet Rocks

14 04 2011

When I was five or six years old my grandfather gave me a Birthday present I will never forget.  Grandpa always gave great gifts while we were kids. We may not have recognized them as “great” at the time, but they were. Trust me.

My grandpa is a very skilled craftsman. He was a mechanic for something like 50 years before he retired and has never really stopped working on cars. He’s good with his hands (which always happen to be dirty and infused with grease somehow). There is another side to my grandpa that I didn’t always know about though. He’s extremely creative. I mean you would never think a retired mechanic would be someone who would create floral stained glass windows and lamp shades.  But like I said, he is creative and really good with his hands. He also has a great sense of humor.

These characteristics and abilities  shaped one of the most unforgettable presents I have ever received. You see, I had been asking for a pet that year. I wanted a dog, or a cat, or snake, or lizard or something I could call my own. Everyone knew I wanted a pet but no one came through. Somehow I knew my grandpa wouldn’t let me down. I just thought it was weird that he wrapped my pet up as tightly as he did. As I ripped through the paper, in a manner that would have undoubtedly killed any living creature within it, I realized I didn’t get what I expected. I definitely got a pet but not the kind I wanted.

“Pet Rocks” have now been an active part of my family for around 20 years. Maybe active is the wrong word, but they’re definitely still there somewhere. Inside of a handmade cage was a family of four. Four rocks, 8 eyes, and a label on the outside describing my new pets. I laughed and wasn’t disappointed at all. The gift meant something and I loved it.

Well, this Sunday is Palm Sunday. It’s one of those weekends where the church remembers an event or occurrence in the Bible. This particular Sunday remembers the day Jesus went down the road on the Mount of Olives. It is talked about in all four of the gospels but I want to focus on the passage in Luke a little bit. At one point the text says,

Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!” “I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.”

Whenever I read this verse I think of my Pet Rocks. I don’t ever remember them crying out. I didn’t think they could. As we read through the story of Jesus’ triumphant entry we see a King who is worthy of worship. A king who has all the authority and doesn’t need us to proclaim his kingship for it to be true or real. Consequently, if we don’t acknowledge or proclaim his authority the stones will. That’s how big of a king he is. Inanimate objects will cry out His name.

I don’t know about you but I don’t want to give rocks a voice. I don’t want to be woken up one night by my pet rocks worshiping my Savior because I fail to do so. Jesus is another gift that meant something. Actually, it was a gift that means everything. He’s king and he deserves my worship. Pray for us as we try and communicate that message this weekend.

3 questions I ask myself when preparing to teach…

1 04 2011

We have two apprentices in HSM. They are dedicated to the ministry, passionate about students, eager to learn, and working towards becoming incredible youth pastors. For the next two weeks they are running our weekend services and teaching our High School students.

The apprentice that is teaching this week is working his tail off. I actually just heard he was up until 5:45am the other night/morning writing and editing the message he is preparing. As he has worked through the message this week I’ve had the opportunity to share insight and direction. He’s actually the same age I was when I taught for the first time. —I remember that really well. My dad got upset at me for saying “pissed off” three times during the message. I think he has come to appreciate the way I communicate since then.— Through my apprentice’s process I’ve realized how much the way I write and prepare has changed over the last seven to eight years. However, there are still a few key elements when preparing a message that I’ve held on to over the years and I thought I’d share…

1) Am I allowing God to speak through me? A no brainer, right?. Unfortunately, I think a lot of pastors and teachers base their messages off of what they have always done or already know and leave little to no room for God to speak through the preparation and delivery of the message. (Side note- God works in me in ways I can’t even describe during the preparation of a message. I love the time I get to spend preparing because I know God will teach me so much during through it. If there is ever a time I don’t feel like that is happening, it usually means I need to take a step back for a while and seek God.)

2) How are people getting to know me through the message? When you have the stage for 25-30 minutes you actually get a chance to let people in to your life as you speak into theirs. If they know you they trust you, and if they trust you they might actually listen to what you have to say. Transparency, authenticity, an honesty are desired from the people listening to God’s story and hopefully God’s story has a lot to do with your story.

3) What will they leave with? I’ve always asked this question but the process behind answering it is always changing. I really want students to remember what is said, but how do I know they are going to leave with something. Andy Stanley suggests “Picking a Point”. I don’t remember too many three to five point messages I hear so why do I expect High School students to remember all three of my points. Pick a point and find creative ways to share it.  If people only remember 10% of what we share, hopefully we are finding more than one way to share it. Made to Stick by Chip Heath and Dan Heath has been a great resource for me as I try to make THE “point” of the message stick.

I have not even come close to “arriving” as a communicator. I love to teach and I hope I can continue to grow in this area. Communicating for Change by Andy Stanley has been the best book I have read so far. I highly recommended it.