Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

The end of the Reformation?

Here's a link to an article about the Anglican chruch considering reuniting under the pope. This, contrary to what many may initially think, is a wonderful progression. The potential in all of this is overwhelming. Click the title link to see -

Len Sweet's Advice

I am regularly listening to Len Sweet's podcast now - and hope to do doctorate work at George Fox before he is too old to be working...

Here's some of what he has recently said, as reported in the Associated Baptist Press...

Deal with it, get over it or get help. That's Leonard Sweet's mantra when it comes to understanding Christianity's fluid role in the postmodern world.

The Christian church is in the midst of a "perfect storm," Sweet told a crowd of 150 at Baylor University's George W. Truett Theological Seminary Feb. 5. Such stormy weather is manifested in, among other things, postmodernism -- the worldview that questions modern assumptions about certainty and progress. Modernism gave Christians a preferred status as "chaplain" to the culture. But Christians in the West can no longer expect to have that "home-court advantage," he said.

What's more, he said, the church can't change the fact that culture has rejected traditional institutions. So it must change from the inside out.

And, he added, it does no good to complain about it.

"I think God is defragging and rebooting the church," Sweet said, alluding to computer terminology for reconfiguring and restarting a system. "I think what he is doing is he is getting us back to the original operating system of Christianity."

Sweet's address came as part of the Waco, Texas, seminary's fifth annual conference for pastors and laymen. He is a professor of evangelism in the theological school at Drew University in Madison, N.J., and is a visiting professor at George Fox University in Portland, Ore. His latest book, The Gospel According to Starbucks, uses the coffee giant to illustrate postmodern people's shift toward an experiential, image-laden and communal way of viewing the world.

The old model of church is "killing the West," Sweet said at the conference. The out-dated model is "attractional, propositional and colonial." It must become missional, relational and incarnational, he said.

"This culture understands that everybody knows they've been created for a mission," Sweet said. "It's not a mission project. Do you hear the difference? [Throughout] your whole life, you're in it. It's a pilgrimage. It's a journey."

According to Sweet, the Roman governor Pilate was the first postmodernist because he asked Jesus a "fundamental postmodernist" question: "What is truth?"

All of Christianity hinges on the answer, he suggested.

"Truth is Jesus," Sweet said. "This is the uniqueness of Christianity in all of the religions of the world. Every other religion defines truth in propositional terms."

All other prophets and spiritual leaders told adherents to follow their teachings to find the way to enlightenment, Sweet said, but Jesus was the "only one who had the chutzpah to announce to the whole world 'I am the way.' Truth is a relationship."

The ability to help people recognize the difference between propositional teachings and relational truth will come from a different mindset for teaching, preaching and living, Sweet said.

When he attended seminary, he said he learned that "preaching is making the Scriptures come alive." Now, Sweet said, he has come to believe the complete opposite -- Christians must come alive to the Scriptures.

"I'm not 360 degrees from there [his time at seminary], I'm at 180 degrees. The complete opposite," he said. "The problem is not with the Word; the problem is with us."

Monday, February 19, 2007

Oswalt, Called to be Holy

I had to read this book for my holiness class. It is pretty thourough and has a stellar beginning and ending. Sadly, it also has a middle that doesn't move too fast as it repeatedly brings forth the same points using different viewpoints of Scripture. He lives a lot in the Old Testament, that is where his primary studies have been - and it has a lot of material that is of much value because of the historical context he puts it in.

Our denominational superintendent told us that this is his favorite book on holiness so I am going to have to go back to it and read it again someday a little slower - maybe as a devotional kind of thing like Scot McKnight does.

I find myself wondering if the calvinists have books that are this tedious...

Here's some fodder in the early a.m.:

>p.27 "If the giving of the covenant is primarily an expression of the grace of God, its content demonstrates the ethical character of God. That is, he treats persons in ways that are first of all consistent with their needs, and only secondarily with his."

Now, looking over the book , there are chunks that I like, not really quotes; there is no chance that I am going to put whole pages of this book up on this blog. You can visit my office and take it if you are that needy for holiness theology.

books are difficult

I am going to be reading a book every 2.5 days for the next two weeks and writing 22 pages of amazing papers. Thus, you likely won't see the regular posts here. The benedictine one for sure, but the rest, not too likely. I'll post on the books too...when I can. So - as a good-bye for now present, laugh your head off at this:

Friday, February 16, 2007

Riddle's List

Sorry for the lack of posting - it's going to be like this for three weeks because of sickness, other pastors leaving and papers due for my masters.

I do think everyone who has anything to do with youth ministry should read this list from Mark Riddle and spend some time with it. If you think these through without crying, well....

you're not me...

pour vous...

To put it simply, it's no longer acceptable that these things happen in most churches in North America. Things We Have Come to Accept in Youth Ministry:

1. Youth pastor turnover- That a youth pastor will only stay for a short time.

2. That the success or failure of the spiritual nurture of our kids is based primarily on the giftedness or lack thereof, of a person filling the youth position.

3. That the assumption by church leadership is that best youth pastors are young.

4. That a youth pastor can/will/should disciple themselves without the guidance of a senior pastor.

5. That a healthy gauge to tell when youth ministry is going well is when there are no complaints.

6. That Senior Pastors should not be involved in youth ministry.

7. That parents should not be involved in youth ministry.

8. That we give lip service to parents being the primary spiritual nurturers of their children, but do absolutely nothing to actually support parents in our church.

9. That so many youth pastors who feel called to ministry, leave vocational ministry before they turn 30.

10. That youth ministry is church for teens.

11. That youth have different basic needs than adults.

12. That youth have been systematically abandoned by adults within the culture and the church has done the same.

13. That having a youth pastor means the youth ministry is taken care of.

14. That the best youth ministries keep kids busy.

15. That it's a sin to bore a kid.

16. That kids don't think about theology or they aren't ready for it.

17. That we do very little theological reflection when it comes to why we have a youth ministry.

18. The assumption that kids just want fun and games rather than relationships and theological engagement.

19. That Christian Education is an answer to all our problems.

20. That parental involvement in the spiritual development of their children is optional.

21. That the systematic estrangement of adolescents in our church is best for the kids and their “age level appropriate” activities and living out the gospel.

22. That kids only receive the benefits of a youth ministry/youth pastor and do not need to contribute to make this ministry happen.

23. That youth ministry is something only some of us in the church do.

24. That youth ministry is something that happens in a program at the church.

25. That all problems can be fixed with a program.

26. The perception that once I’ve grown my kids into college that I no longer need to work with youth.

27. That the youth pastor is actually just a director of activities.

28. That we no longer remember what a pastor is in many local churches.

29. That youth pastors have forgotten the reason they got into youth ministry in the first place because they are burdened with responsibilities they are miserable at accomplishing.

30. That the Jesus himself could not live up to the wildly inappropriate expectations a church has for a youth pastor.

31. That there is no healthy way to manage the expectations of the church.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Surrat, Ligon, Bird, The Multi-site Church Revolution

I'm not so sure that'd I'd call it a revolution. The idea in this book is to help churches consider, assess and develop a church that can operate as a multi-site operation. this model makes the most out of developed leadership and creates many new avenues for young leadership to develop. Of course, the book is evangelical in its use of statistices (inflated and skewed), but the material is real and raw which makes the experiences of others help to encourage the concept of multi-site.

This book was put in all our staff's hands by our senior - we are starting a new congregation the week after easter and doing a multi-site for oru easter sunday services. Building a new and bigger building doesn't seem to be the way that God is blessing us, so we are trying to see if this is a direction God can lead us.

I'm not going to put a bunch of quotes, instead you can check out the book's blog and get all the info you want!

Monday, February 12, 2007

Holy Rule Chapter 4 - the instruments of good works

The fourth chapter of the holy rule is entirely different from the previous three. This one is a list of 73 instruments that make the monks do good works. They are 73 rules that each monk follows, which produces good works within the "workshop" of the monastary.

A couple surprising rules are:

#47 - to keep death before one's eyes daily - I wonder why they thought of this, and how they would have hoped it would have helped...

#54 - not to speak useless words and such as provoke laughter & #55 - not to love much or boisterous laughter - Doesn't laughter help people? Maybe they just didn't want the monks to be too happy...

#62 - not to desire to be called holy before one is; but to be holy first, that one may be truly so called - this one is really special to me right now because of my studies in holiness theology. Holiness is not the desire - Christ is!

Thursday, February 08, 2007

James needs...

Instead of a youtube this week, I am doing a fun thing - you go onto google and search for what you need. It's kinda like prayer, but this one took 0.19 seconds to get 39,200 answers. Here's what google thinks I need:

James Needs...
  1. ...your help
  2. ...playoff winds to be a star
  3. be a counselor
  4. explicitly be given DNS servers
  5. get out more!
  6. ...some love
  7. ...a Hat
  8. ...posters, filmography, news, and forum
  9. learn to follow instructions consistently
  10. be introduced to the concept of time

ohhh how true...

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

The Failure of Youth Ministry part two

alas, all is not lost. As much as people want to talk about the failure of youth ministry as a prolonged experiemnt - there are ample success stories. There are many students who can attribute their current spiritual condition to a quality youth ministry - or even a crappy one.

Marko has put up a top ten list about youth ministries and consumerism that I am going to interact with here - as a means of considering the DrIVEN group only. In no way would I say DrIVEN has been anywhere near a failure; we have had failings...but who wants to be perfect anyways? Here's his stuff with my responses in italics...

Top 10 signs your youth ministry might be built on consumeristic assumptions:

(Warning: some of these are intentionally overstated, and reveal why a friend in Northern Ireland called me “a sarky git”.)

10. You talk about “my group” (that’s ownership language – the language of consumers). Unfortunately I catch myself doing this more than I'd like and every time it makes me correct myself. I don't own the youth ministry - I want God to own it. And that's nto a cop-out either. I sincerely hope that any success that we have is simply seen as God working. I just happen to be blessed enough to serve amazing students who are straight nuts for the gospel. I wonder how I can teach students not to call it 'their' youth group either...

9. Your mission statement: More teenagers, more often.
This is simply not true for us. We totally believe that God increases our numbers as a sign of health of the group - but this is not the only sign. Love, prayer, caring, openness are also used as measuring sticks of growth in DrIVEN. At the same time, I'd be lying if I didn't say that the devil constantly (CONSTANTLY) tempts me in this area...I have to consciously not compare us to others - it just makes no sense.

8. You constantly pressure your teenagers to bring friends. Those teenagers whose natural outgoing personality makes this easy are considered the most spiritual. I actually think the opposite has been true in our group. The kids who bring the most friends have been the kids that aren't "good church kids" - this has been really interesting to observe. But in reality - I don't care if they don't bring friends - I hope we are teaching them to GO to their friends - then when their friends see there is a difference - unbelivers will want the peace that our students seem to have. I have posted about a great testimony by a teacher concerning this in the past - you can google my site.

7. Guilt and manipulation are seen as necessary evils, and reframed as “speaking the truth” or as “the gospel”. Sometimes I get cranked up and speak frankly of heaven and hell and speak in absolutes for things that I become passionate about (cranked is DrIVEN for passionate). We don't guilt though - and it's funny because some of the kids actually expect it. I find myself telling them they don't have to apologize for not being at an event - when I contact them it's because I genuinely missed having them around for them - not for the stupid statistical report. (So, if you are a Driven-er, plese feel loved no matter what your attendance looks like - this isn't school).

6. The biggest buzz you ever had in ministry was the time you were able to report ten “decisions for Christ” – whether those teenagers were ever seen again or not. I hate this. I really do. Conversion is so easy compared to holy living - and sometimes we leave them hanging out there - I am guilty of this for sure...but I believe much improvement has been made.

5. You’ve pondered how to make Christianity as simple as possible for teenagers. I find this really interesting... because we make Christianity harder by making it simpler. This means we tell them that a Christian simply loves everyone that God does. That's easy to learn - and soooo hard to practice. So we reduce Christianity (the life) down to being driven by love and by Christ - thereby making everything harder...

4. The result of your youth work is nice teenagers who are willing to attend church. The vast, vast majority of DrIVEN teens do not attend church. Some have never, ever attended the sunday morning worship gathering. I think this means something, but thta's a big, big topic. So, DrIVEN teens are not nice teenagers who are willing to attend church.

3. The ministry “tools” you’re sure will really get things moving: a great sound system, a hip youth room, and truly awe-inspiring PowerPoint slides. We do have a hip-youth room - but if you compared it to yours, you may laugh at it and call it a cave. And we have powerpoint on TV's and a powerful sound system. Dang. Thisi s one area where we may have a problem. It's good to not be perfect. but what are we to do - the reason that we have and do what we do is that we have students who love to do it and are glorifying God through all does that make it ok?

2. You daydream about the things you’ll never have: laser lights and a fog machine. We actually have laser lights - we inherited them all from a DJ in our church. Unfortunately we keep forgetting to put the dang things on during the worship - they end up just sitting there - it's kinda funny I guess. And we can't get a fog machine - we wouldn't be able to breath - any one remember the burning incense incident where no one could breathe in the youth room? lol...

And the #1 sign your youth ministry might be built on consumeristic assumptions…

1. When you talk about “growth”, you’re only referring to numbers. One of the hardest insults I ever got was that all I cared about was the numbers. It sucked. Especially because it wasn't true. May God grow us - however the heck He wants!

your thoughts?

Theology of Failure

I am trying to develop a project for myself for summer. Right now I think it's going to be on developing a theology of failure. I'll right a book about how if you never fail then you are either Jesus or a liar. And since you don't have a blue sash and a glowing halo...!

Topics will have to include the fall, tower of babel, noah's drunkeness, exile, the disciples and the demon who wouldn't leave, the cross, Peter's hypocrasy...

any other ideas?

Monday, February 05, 2007

Taylor, Exploring Christian Holiness: The Theological Formulation

Taylor passed away last year on the 19th of June, and heaven's gain is surely our loss. This book is so outstanding. It carries the wieght of this series and brings much of the doctrine of holiness into a choerent and understandable whole. The major frustration I am currently experiencing is the way that holiness theologians talk a lot and then say that you just can't understand holiness, you have to experience it. As a system of thought, that is parallel to shooting yourself in the head. So, Taylor's book is the better of the two - at least for reading. The other is better at it what it does...

I also think that Taylor's logic falls apart in many places. Whatever though.

Holy Rule Chapter 3 - of calling the brethren for counsel

This week's chapter of rules deals with the making of decisions for the monastary. The concept is that little decisions are to be made with just the counsel of the Seniors and larger decisions should be made with the counsel of all the monks. The reason given for this is "because the Lord often reveals to the younger what is best."

I think this is true - from experience. Most of the best ideas come from those in the trenches. To quote Mike Yaconelli,
"...does it bother anyone else that Christian music has an army full of pubescent, immature, dysfunctional little kids giving concerts and telling this generation of young people what Christianity is about? Isn't it a bit weird to have a fourteen-year-old spiked-hair misfit telling other fourteen-year-olds how to live life when they live it in a tour bus?"

This chapter, more than any other so far, implicates church leadership structures in the church. Are young people being listened to in the biggest decisions? Some churches say this is the case and then run meetings that are only attractive to fossils. How can we reach the coming culture, when we don't listen to those who live in it?

Male Restroom Etiquette

This educational video helped me teach LJ some basic rules of using a public restroom. Not only does youtube entertain me - it helps me raise my children!

Sunday, February 04, 2007

The Failure of Youth Ministry

Many youth ministry observers and practicioners have agreed that past models of youth ministry have, by and large, been a failed experiment. Youth ministry as a separate entity of the church is reletively young, in fact the concept of a teenager is reletively young...and western. Recently, Marko has even mea culpa'd for YS on this very subject. The main reason for this admission has been the mass exodus form the church, even Christianity, that comes shortly after graduation. The main goal of youth ministry has, seemingly, been promoting youth ministry instead of...gospel, kingdom, discipleship, sanctification, the church, etc. I really believe in youth ministry - but I don't believe in youth ministry that ends up being a stupid waste of time. Honestly, what kind of a theology helps people be Christians for 6-7 years and then drops them into the abyss (you can be creative with what you think I mean by the abyss...).

While in the car the other day, I wondered if there may be some other very important as well. Here's what I thought of, please add your own thoughts...

1. Perhaps sin is more terrible than many of us think. Maybe is hardens hearts to such a calloused pussbag that it just cannot be broken any longer. If there's one thing I enjoy most about serving teenagers is there incredible capacity to love - whether it's a member of the opposite sex, their family, a sport, or God - they love with total abandon.

2. Perhaps the devil's temptations are harder to resist after high school, when a student losses the support of community. Maybe this is part of the reason that small groups are so important for spiritual development throughout life.

3. Perhaps youth ministry has grown up with sucky theology; we've been so conversion focused that we've forgotten that many teenagers still have a long way to live after salvation. Moreover, perhaps western theology of sucess (as opposed to faithfulness) is absolutely killing our kids. At what point are we going to stop and consider the eternal implications of over-scheduling a generation of teenagers? At what point are we going to start teaching parents of 8 year olds how to raise a teenager that follows Jesus all the way./

4. Perhaps the larger church abandoned teenagers. The best youth ministries I have ever seen have students who know that their church loves them - more than the carpet, more than orderliness, more than sterilized worship, more than themselves.

5. ?what do you think?