#OC16 Recap: The Power of the Local Church

church, single in ministry

Image by the Sketch Effect.

My Orange Conference experience was a little strange this year–from the time I stepped onto the plane from the time I got back home to shower with no hot water…it was an odd year. :)

Usually when I go to any conference, I feel overwhelmed with all that I want to do in ministry. But this year, Orange was a time for me to reevaluate who am in ministry.

The honest thing is that I’m in a season wrestling with God. I’m just really pissed at him right now. On the first day of the conference I journaled about it–lamenting that I’ve given up everything to follow my call to ministry, but that the things I desire most in the world (outside of my dream career) I do not have. And although I know that God is working in my ministry, it’s been hard to see him elsewhere. In short, everything that I have right now is wrapped up in the local church and I feel like I don’t have much to show for outside of it.

Of course, I am grateful for the local church and thankful for the work that I get to do.  My prayers to God the past few months have been this simple: “God, you have given me all that I have. You have saved my life in every sense. I’d be nothing without the local church’s influence on my life. I’m frustrated and doubting you. But how can I not serve you back?”

I haven’t had much more else to say to God–just the verbal acknowledgement that I’m pushing through, even though I’m angry that I’m not getting my way when I feel like I’ve given all to give God his way.

Andy Stanley saved the day, per usual. He talked about how the local church saved his life.  Andy said that the church has done and does all of this for us:

  • informs our conscience
  • instills a sense of purpose
  • provides the context for lifelong relationships
  • serves as a window into God’s activity all over the world
  • shows us how to be generous
  • will make your life better and make you better at life
  • provides the strongest argument for human rights
  • inspires us to embrace the one mandate that could change everything: Love your neighbor as yourself

Andy argues that when you really dig into this, you realize that the church is the place that should set the tone for everything good in the world.

This is something I was processing before Orange–how good exists outside of the Church, but the Church, if properly following God’s love and Jesus’ example, should be the hub for all that is glorious and good in the world.

  • Who else can better show what it means to be open and inclusive to all than followers of Jesus Christ, who invited everyone willing to come feast at his table?
  • Who else can better take care of the earth right here and now than those who understand that they are created in God’s image for the purpose of taking care of the earth and everything on it?
  • Who else can better show grace and forgiveness to others than those who understand that they were forgiven while they were still sinners?
  • Who else can better advocate for people who experience discrimination based on race, age, disabilities, mental health disorders, socioeconomic status, gender identity, sexual orientation, and more than people who understand that each and every one of us was made in God’s precious image?
  • Who else can better demonstrate what it means to give respect before it is earned, when we believe in a God who loves us without condition?
  • Who else can better do any of this than people who believe they are instrumental in uniting the Kingdom of God with earth?

Reggie Joiner, the man behind Orange, said that when Jesus died on the cross, it validated everything he ever said about loving others. And that is why the church should be the best at this.

This is why I give everything I have for the Church. And why I’m getting over this self-absorbed lament that everything I have is wrapped up in the local church–when the truth is that the local church loves me incredibly and has taught me everything I know about loving others. To be wrapped up in the local church is kind of the goal. I missed that.



What are You Fishing For?

christianity, church, Culture, Evangelicalism, lessons, lgbtq, politics, Theology

When Jesus first called his disciples, they were fishing. Jesus performed the miracle of filling their nets, proving that he was able to provide for their physical (and even financial) needs. Then Jesus said, “Follow me, and I’ll make you a fisher of men.”

These men followed Jesus on a three-year long journey. During this journey, Jesus performed many more miracles and even equipped the disciples to perform miracles of their own. They fed crowds, healed the sick, partied with the poor, and ate with sinners. Slowly, they discovered that Jesus was the Son of God, and Jesus equipped them to truly be “fishers of men.”

But when Jesus died, what happened?

In John chapter 21, Peter says to the disciples, “I’m going fishing.” And the rest of the disciples go with him. Even though Jesus has appeared to them twice thus far after his resurrection, they go back to life as if the last three years didn’t happen. They go fishing. For fish.

And so Jesus does his classic “Jesus thing,” paralleling that first time he calls them. 100 yards from shore, the fog-hidden Jesus tells them to cast their nets out on the other side. The disciples miraculously fill their nets and are unable to haul it to shore.

And Peter does his classic “Peter thing,” and jumps into the sea because he knows that Jesus is alive indeed. Jesus makes Peter go grab the net (because of course Peter left the disciples to do it), and there are 153 fish inside this net. A net that didn’t break.

Scholars say that at the time, there were only 153 species of fish known in the world.

Biblical scholars say that this net–the net that didn’t break–is representative of the Church. The 153 fish represent the different types of people in the world. When the disciples were trying to go back to just “fishing for fish,” Jesus had bigger plans to show them why they are to continue “fishing for men.”

The net is big enough for everybody. No longer is the net confined to one type of person. Everybody is allowed.

What does this mean for the Church today?

Who are the fish that we are excluding from the net, that perhaps need the safety and comfort of the net? Why are we creating an “insiders vs outsiders” mentality in the church, when all of us were made in the precious image of God? We all deserve the net equally, and the fisherman shouldn’t discriminate from who he allows to be a part of the Church.

What is the baggage that we think will exclude us from the net? You see, the net can hold it all without breaking. It can hold all of your doubts, insecurities, sins, shortcomings, failures, successes, and anything else. Being a certain type of fish doesn’t get you tossed back into the sea.

Why are we not united like the net? One net, 153 fish. This is the Kingdom of God. This is the one net that can hold it all and won’t break. This is the one net that can hold you, me, your crazy uncle, and the person in the office next to you, the rude lady who flipped you off in traffic, your ex-boothang, that person on Facebook who has political views that make you want to hurl, your neighbor whose family looks different from yours, your landlord, and Taco Bell employees at 3am.

I’m so thankful to be a part of a congregation that acknowledges that we are all so incredibly different, but it’s one Kingdom that holds us all.

What are you fishing for? Are you freely fishing for men, all men? Or are you acting as if the resurrection never happened, and you’re back to exclusively fishing for fish?

What SBC Life Taught Me

christianity, church, Evangelicalism, millennials

Now that I’m in a mainline church, whenever I talk about growing up in the Southern Baptist Convention (and earning my degree from an SBC school), it’s not rare to get side looks or the occasional “you poor thing…”

As I reflect over the 18 years of life in the SBC, and how that shaped me as a person, I’m quite thankful for growing up in the tradition. Sure, religion is messy in general, and that particular faith tradition carries the stigma of exclusive theology. Yet, it shaped so many beautiful things about myself and how I see the world.

It taught me to value God’s Word

Conservative church tradition holds the Bible as God’s word and puts it above all else. This means that no man is the ultimate authority, but the Bible is. Of course, it takes a lot of faith to believe in a written document as the last authority on earth; yet because of the weight it holds, it’s learned that every answer to life can be found in there. This enriches life, because it brings a sense of simplicity that life never has.

Plus, I can quite scripture like mad-crazy, and Jesus juke any situation.

It taught me to center everything on Christ

Many conservative churches teach the art of self-reflection through altar calls that ask you to examine how you’re living your life.  Every week, you are reevaluating your relationship with God, keeping it centered, and staying focused on the process of sanctification. Done right, this means you become incredibly self-aware and humble. Philippians 2, a beautiful passage on how Christ lived on earth, becomes a ruler for life.

It showed me how to live in an authentic church community

In SBC life, everything revolves around the church. It can be obnoxious at times to be at church so much, but it forces close community with those you’re around. I loved having ten grandmas at church, potluck dinner every Sunday, and being a part of “life group.”  Many times, Millennials with more mainline theology will ride it out in a conservative church, primarily because of the community that is there.

It taught me to follow the rules

I can’t lie: I’m a severe rule-follower.  Many people in my life tell me that I need to loosen up, and I’m getting there!  But you have to understand something: Fundamentalism saved my life.  I don’t mean that to sound melodramatic, for I truly believe that.  The world we live in is very grey, and I learned to put up boundaries.  Because I value God and His Word, I try to follow both as closely as possible.

It demonstrated a missional life of inclusivity

Southern Baptists are the best at sending missionaries in the world, and my SBC university sent out more missions teams than any other college.  With that comes the gift of sharing your faith with anyone and everyone. The best gift that comes with a missional life is the gift of inclusivity towards the poor and disenfranchised. Sure, conservative church culture has much to learn in terms of inclusivity in general, but because missions is often part of its DNA, so is taking in the orphans and widows.  That was me: a child who was thirsty, and they took me in and met my physical needs as well as my social and spiritual ones. 

With all of these, I can pick out the negatives that went along with them.  I learned to be close-minded and think that my way was the way.  Something I’m noticing, however, is the increased humility among many conservative church leaders.  There are some beautiful things about how I grew up, and I seek to bring these things into my Mainline church community.  Why wouldn’t I want my students to learn to put God and the Bible first, to live in genuine community with one another, to follow God’s commandments to love Him, and therefore, love one another with a missional and inclusive life? 

So now, when I tell people my background, I don’t have to duck my head and hide from it: Where I came from had beauty. And I can bring that beauty everywhere.

Willow Creek Leadership Summit, Day 1!

christianity, church, Conference, WCLS

I’m very excited to join the Willow Creek Leadership Summit at the Grace Community Church satellite site in Indianapolis for the first time!  My church brings almost 100 people to this summit, and I love being able to do this with almost our entire staff team, as well as many of our dedicated volunteers.

Here are some of the highlights of the day that will stick with me:

One theme that was talked about was the idea of “visions” as part of being a “legacy leader.” If you want to leave your mark on an organization and leave a legacy, then Bill Hybels said:

  • What God treasures most are people…even more than visions.
  • Nobody drifts into being a legacy leader
  • The grander the vision, greater the price tag.
  • Legacy leaders will ride out the rough patches because they are working for the grandeur vision.

Another thing I loved is that the conference on our campus was full of young people.  Older leaders were inspired to give younger emerging leaders a chance, and by increasing the realms of responsibility, we can entrust emerging leaders with more.  One of our volunteers, who is active throughout the church and is an empty nester, pulled me aside and said, “The whole time I was thinking of you.” Mmm. So powerful.

None of us are “born” leaders, but have a passion and a vision and put it into action.  Carly Fiorina said, ” The highest calling of leadership is to unlock the potential in others.” This means that one of the greatest parts of being a leader is being able to groom new leaders. Leadership doesn’t happen top-down, but bottom-up–you can’t change an organization by changing the heads, but by getting the “grunts” on board. She said, “Jesus didn’t go to the poor because they needed help. He went to the poor because he knew the potential they had.” Yes yes yes.

Susan Cain’s talk on introverts was very inspiring. I’m a pretty middle-of-the-line kind of gal, who is extremely outgoing, but gets drained and needs pajamas and her cat. I loved that she was willing to challenge the status quo of organizations run by extroverts, and explain that we need to give space so that every person can work within the stimulation they’re capable of handling. We live in a world where everything is so loud, that we forget the beauty of quiet; therefore we forget the beauty of introverts.  She also pointed out that we need to think of “networking in terms of service.” Instead of sweet-talking, I could prove myself through my actions (a model I’m way better at).

The idea of self-sacrifice as a leader was important to Patrick Lencioni; “I’m tired of hearing about servant leadership because I don’t think there’s any other kind of leadership. . .A true leader sacrifices themselves for the well-being of others without a guarantee of a return on investment.”

There’s much more than I can write here, but day one was inspiring!

I’m going to stock my bookshelf tomorrow…

(PS–I LOVE conferences, but I cannot sit still to save my life…Millennial problems.)

“Jesus Feminist” and the Why We Need Women Theologians

church, Evangelicalism, theology, women

Although John Piper and I would disagree on how this plays out, a quote of his has stood out to me:

Wimpy theology makes wimpy women. Wimpy theology simply does not give a woman a God that is big enough, strong enough, wise enough, and good enough to handle the realities of life in a way that magnifies the infinite worth of Jesus Christ.”

A few months back I read the book “Jesus Feminist” by Sarah Bessey. The book is simply marvelous. A lot of female theologians tend to bullhorn their theology in a way that is counteractive.  Bessey writes in a way that is empathetic and has a way of saying, “You may disagree, but we both love the Lord the same. Neither of us is more right than the other.”

Her book reminds me why we need female theologians:   We need people to express God’s Word in ways that are sensitive, nurturing, and that narrate the stories of our lives. Bessey’s book does that.

Here are some of my favorite quotes:

So may there be grace and kindness, gentleness and love in our hearts, especially for the ones who we believe are profoundly wrong. The Good News is proclaimed when we love each other. I pray for unity beyond conformity, because loving-kindness preaches the gospel more beautifully and truthfully than any satirical blog post or point-by-point dismantling of another disciple’s reputation and teaching. (p5)

Years ago, I practiced anger and cynicism, like a pianist practices scales, over and over. I practiced being defensive —about my choices and my mothering, my theology and my politics. And then I went on the offense. I repeated outrage and anger. I jumped, Pavlovian, to right every wrong and defend every truth, refute every inflammatory blog post, pontificate about every question. Any sniff of disagreement was a dinner bell clanging to my anger: Come and get it! Rally the troops! Like many of us, I called it critical thinking to hide my bitter and critical heart, and I wondered why I had no real joy in this ongoing search for truth. . . I won’t desecrate beauty with cynicism anymore. I won’t confuse critical thinking with a critical spirit, and I will practice, painfully, over and over, patience and peace until my gentle answers turn away even my own wrath (pp. 5-6).

We can choose to move with God, further into justice and wholeness, or we can choose to prop up the world’s dead systems, baptizing injustice and power in sacred language.  (p. 14).

I’m pretty sure my purpose here on earth isn’t to win arguments or perform hermeneutical gymnastics to impress the wealthiest 2 percent of the world. (p. 16).

Throughout the records of the Gospels, I saw how Jesus didn’t treat women any differently than men, and I liked that. We weren’t too precious for words, dainty like fine china . We received no free pass or delicate worries about our ability to understand or contribute or work. Women were not too sweet or weak for the conviction of the Holy Spirit, or too manipulative and prone to jealousy, insecurity, and deception to push back the kingdom of darkness. Jesus did not patronize, and he did not condescend. (pp. 17-18).

“God bless your mother— the womb from which you came, and the breasts that nursed you!” Yet Jesus replied to this common blessing with “But even more blessed are all who hear the word of God and put it into practice.”  Women aren’t simply or only blessed by giving birth to greatness; no, we are all blessed when we hear the Word of God—Jesus— and put it into practice. We don’t rely on secondhand blessings in Jesus.  (pp. 20-21).

I stopped expecting everyone to experience God or church or life like I thought it should be done. In fact , I stopped using the word should about God altogether, I sought God, and he was faithful to answer me. I came to know him as “Abba”— a Daddy. He set me free from crippling approval addiction, from my Evangelical Hero Complex, from the fear of man. He bathed my feet, bound my wounds, gave rest to my soul, restored the joy of church and community to our lives. I learned the difference between critical thinking and being just plain critical. And I found out that he is more than enough, always will be more than enough— yesterday, today, forever. (pp. 49-50).

Stay there in the questions, in the doubts, in the wonderings and loneliness, the tension of living in the Now and the Not Yet of the Kingdom of God, your wounds and hurts and aches, until you are satisfied that Abba is there too. You will not find your answers by ignoring the cry of your heart or by living a life of intellectual and spiritual dishonesty. (p. 52).

People want black-and-white answers, but Scripture is rainbow arch across a stormy sky. Our sacred book is not an indexed answer book or life manual; it is also a grand story, mystery, invitation, truth and wisdom, and a passionate love letter. (pp. 56-57).

It’s dangerous to cherry-pick a few stand-alone verses, particularly when they are used as a weapon to silence and intimidate, effectively benching half the church in the midst of holy harvest season when the harvest is plentiful and the workers are few. But it is equally dangerous to simply get on with doing what we “feel” is right. We cannot ignore any portions of Scripture simply because they make our (post) modern selves uncomfortable. We can’t simply dismiss the parts of the Bible we don’t like— not if we call ourselves followers of The (whole) Way. Nor should we weigh the desires or practices of our own culture and personal experiences to the exclusion of Scripture or tradition  or reason. Theologian N. T. Wright believes that to affirm the “authority of Scripture” is precisely “not to say, ‘We know what scripture means and don’t need to raise anymore questions.’ It is always a way of saying that the church in each generation must make fresh and rejuvenated efforts to understand scripture more fully and live by it more thoroughly, even if that means cutting across cherished traditions.” (pp. 58-59)

But then who is the spiritual head of your home? Only Jesus. Only ever our Jesus. (p. 74).

No, I am a biblical woman because I live and move and have my being in the daily reality of being a follower of Jesus, living in the reality of being loved, in full trust of my Abba. I am a biblical woman because I follow in the footsteps of all the biblical women who came before me.  (pp. 97-98).

Stop waiting for someone else to say that you count, that you matter, that you have worth, that you have a voice, a place, that you are called. Didn’t you know, darling? The One who knit you together in your mother’s womb is the one singing these words over you, you are chosen. Stop waiting for someone else to validate your created self: that is done. Stop holding your breath, working to earn through your apologetics and memorized arguments, through your quietness, your submission, your home, your children, and your “correct” doctrine that God has already freely given to you. Because, darling , you are valuable. You have worth, not because of your gender or your vocation or your marital status. Not because of your labels or your underlined approved-by-the-gatekeepers books or your accomplishments or your checked-off tick boxes next to the celebration you’ve mistaken as a job description in Proverbs 31. (pp. 192-193).

Why Being a Christian Young Adult is Lonely

church, millennials, updates

I think I’ve hit the loneliest point of my life. I don’t mean this in a “woe is me, take pity on me” kind of way…I just mean that bring a young a adult and trying to live your life for Jesus is hard.

First of all, this is the first time in our lives that we we aren’t surrounded by people our own age. We’re no longer in an academic setting of peers, but in a job of intergenerational people. That means that we have to figure out new ways to make friends. That’s weird.

Add in singleness for those of us who didn’t get our MRS or MR degrees, and now we’re doing this alone.

Add in the whole “Bible College” factor, and you’ve got a bigger dilemma: culture shock. What’s funny is, I didn’t think that would happen to me.  I grew up in an urban environment and didn’t think that would apply to me. But alas, I came to the real world and was shocked at how much I didn’t relate to it.

Let’s add moving to a new city or state for our first “big girl” job. Not only am I alone, not only do I not know how to make friends, not only have I lived in a bubble, but now I don’t know anybody. And I can’t find a Target.

So let’s throw in Church. Churches ignore young adults. I have some speculation as to why. Perhaps because they can’t tithe to make an impact, they aren’t given programming. The Church sees no return from it (monetarily at least. We forget spiritual returns in the Church a lot). And since many of us don’t have children, people aren’t forced to give us programming… but this is just speculation. ;)

And how about those of us who take it a step further and work in the Church? That can be a lonely job in itself. Add in all those other factors, and you have a mess.

Let’s not even talk about moving to a new denomination, or how we’re all wrestling with our faith to begin with, or the mass amounts of media advertisement tempting and swaying us to abandon our moral compass.

All I’m saying is, this is a huge struggle.

And I’m not alone. As I confide in peers, I know that we all are experiencing this to a degree.

And Church, we need you. We need community and if you don’t give it to us, we’ll make it for ourselves.

What Millennials Want

america, christianity, church, millennials, unchurched

I hear so much talk about “how to reach Millennials” in the Church. In case you need a refresher or a definition on what a MIllennial is, it is the group of people born from early 1980s to early 2000s. Seeing as I was born in 1990, I am smack dab in the middle, so you could say with all confidence that I embody a Millennial.

Here’s the thing: I hear all this talk about how to reach my age group, a group of people who have fallen in the cracks and who the church have lost.  I see committees get together on how to reach me, I hear people talk about how to savvy up their technology to reach me, how to hire people in positions specifically to reach me, and how to make these fun parties or events to reach me.  But guess the average age on these groups of people making decisions for me? Mid-40s-early 50s.

No one is asking me what want for my generation.

Some people argue that it’s because Millennials don’t know what they want. Oh, the contrary. Millennials are the most educated generation yet, and even our criticized love of entitlement says something bold: We have a dream, a specific dream, and we won’t stop until we get it. We will kick, scream, and even leave the Church if we don’t get what we want.

And let me stop to say a disclaimer and something that may shock you: If I wasn’t in youth ministry, I would probably not be in the Church, too. My vocation has committed me to the Church, and it is difficult most days.  It is difficult serving in an environment where everyone is old enough to be my parents and, in most cases, my grandparents. I find it embarrassing when a new young person comes and the only person that can connect to them is me.  Because I have a huge desire for my lost generation, I do it and I don’t complain, because I am passionate about it and love it.  Yet, it gives a huge message from the Church to that person coming in: We have nothing for you except for this one person. Now, multiply and build us a young adult ministry.

Doesn’t work like that. Church, if you want to grow younger, which you need to if you don’t want to die, then you need to get involved. Here is proof that Christianity is dying, and it is up to you:

So here are a few things us Millennials want:

We are tired of the gimmicks.

Most churches think that to reach a younger generation, they have to change themselves to look younger. So, they spend a lot of money updating their sound system, their building space, and their music to reach young people.

But, let’s be honest: If I wanted those things, I could get that just about anywhere. But I’m not anywhere. I’m lost in the cracks.

If you want to reach me, then you need to be real with me. You need to show me what it is like to authentically walk in faith. Quit deceiving me with gimmicks. I view hundreds of advertisements a day that are selling me something, I don’t need to be “sold Church” with those same gimmicks. Give me something real. Give me something authentic. And don’t try to “sell me authenticity” too, just prove it.

We want to get back to the fundamentals.

You may not have noticed this, but there is actually a resurgence within Christianity among young people that is calling for a more conservative Christianity in terms of theology.  We are reevaluating classic debates in early Christendom and getting a little more classical and traditional.   Even reformed theology is even getting trendy, something that I grew up thinking was “evil” but somehow find myself in camp with.

Not only is our theology getting more fundamental, but so are our ethics and traditions. There is the call for men to get back to becoming men, and start leading again. I have friends who grew up in congregationalist churches running to liturgical churches, because the tradition is beautiful to them. Even I, who grew up very congregationalist, am finding comfort in a church that is famous for its traditionalism.  There is something refreshing here, probably because it’s authentic and it’s not being pushed on me, but I chose it for myself (back to that first point!).

We want you to care about what we care about.

Millennials are passionate about social justice, and that is rooted not only in our culture but in our spiritual and religious beliefs. We believe in a radical Jesus who helped the hurting and gave a political message of love for everyone. This translates into everything that we do: This is why we’re all over “green initiatives,” human trafficking, racial equality, healthy  and ethical eating, and even gay marriage. We believe in equality, regardless of background of a person. And we believe that comes from Jesus. And since we believe that came from Jesus, we need you to see that, too.

We want the destruction of dichotomies.

You may have noticed that some of this contradicts itself: How are Millennials getting more conservative theologically, yet at the same time fighting for gay marriage? Ha, great question!

That’s because we are sick and tired of being put into a box.

We see you guys fighting in the White House, and think there is a third option to being a Republican or a Democrat. I don’t need to be labeled as Evangelical or Mainline. I am not Conservative or Liberal. I can vote for gay marriage and think it’s incompatible with my religious beliefs, because I can believe that there is a separation between church and state.

You cannot put Millennials in a box.

And the beautiful part of this article? This is the way one Millennial feels. Although I feel like this article sums Millennial Christians up, there will still be some variance, and that’s what makes Millennials: Millennials. We are unique and have unique voices.

And church, that’s why you need to pay better attention: Because we are ever-changing, ever-growing. And, the next generation is up to bat, which means it’s our turn to shape them.  And how can we do that if the generation above us hasn’t shaped us?

We want YOU.

We cannot do this alone. As a generation that values learning and knowledge, we need to get this from somewhere.

We need you. Sometimes we scare you, and perhaps rightly so; but quit running away from your responsibility to train us and equip us with wisdom.  We are an abandoned generation by the Church, and we need to get back on track. However, we cannot do it without you.

As a disclaimer: When I say “Church” I mean the Church as a whole, and not one specific church. I appreciate some of the efforts the church I am blessed to serve in is doing, and I look forward to being a part of the visioning of how to reach younger people.

Distinguishing Youth Group from Other Groups

church, Contributions, youth ministry, youthmin.org

what makes the church the church


This post originally appeared here: http://youthmin.org/distinguishing-youth-group-from-other-groups/

A recent profile was done by The Associated Press on the rise of “Atheist Mega Churches” in the United States.

These churches look exactly like most church services do–there is singing, community, and an inspirational message. The only thing that makes them different is that the message doesn’t contain God.

I must admit; as I read this article, I couldn’t help but shake my head.  The thing is, I can think of a lot of church experiences that I have had that look exactly like these Atheist churches.  There are a lot of churches with sermons that only throw God in there when it is convenient and comfortable.  They focus on music and messages and meetings that affirm you, which admittedly can have some positive impact; however, they miss the most important component–Christ.

Now, I’m not going to get into this too deeply, for I feel that God hasn’t given me the specific place to call these experiences out.

What I do feel compelled to talk about is this:

What makes your student ministry meetings different?

What makes a Sunday/Wednesday/______ different for your teenagers compared to any other place that they step into in their week?  How is it different from school? Work? Practice? Rehearsal? Clubs?

You see, there should be a difference. I should be able to tell the difference between the Body meeting versus non-Christians, just as I should be able to tell the difference between a Christian church and an Atheist church.

… but sometimes I can’t tell.

In the comments, I would like you to :
1. Tell me WHY it is important that our experiences with the Body should be different.
2. Tell me how YOU strive to make YOUR youth group a place that is different from any other place for your teenagers.

Called…even in transition

church, Contributions, leadership, youth ministry, youthmin.org

am I called to ministry

This post originally appeared on : http://youthmin.org/called-even-in-transition/

I resigned from my church a little over a year ago, on a conviction to move back to St. Louis and take care of some family matters.  It was tough.  I assumed that because God was calling me to do this, He would open up a church position for me in no time.  But after 100s of resumes and 3 months unemployed, I accepted a different position at a ministry group home to teenagers.  And a year later, I’m still there and still looking for a church job.

At first, I questioned God often: “Why, if you’ve called me to youth ministry, am I not in a church?”  I didn’t understand.

A year later, I’m finally getting it:

Calling isn’t a career, but a lifestyle.

Take life by the horns.

Quit being so miserable.  Spending my days obsessing over how I wasn’t in a church and nobody liked me and blahblahblah was a waste of time.  And you, if you are “in transition” like myself, should not waste your time being miserable because you aren’t “fulfilling your calling.”

Find contentment.  That is not, “Well, this is the best it’s going to get, so I’m just going to deal…”  Truly find a way to enjoy life and love it.

Another thing: are you making your family and friends miserable with your misery?  Take it from somebody that got told to “shut up” … just be content and learn to love life where you are.

Quit putting your calling in a box.

I thought that because I was called to youth ministry, that meant that I was only fulfilling that calling by working in a church.  I think my friends and family would laugh at me saying that I’m not fulfilling my calling right now: I work with teenagers 250 hours a month at my job.  I volunteer in a local church.  I work for a youth ministry website.  I honestly think that I just really enjoyed feeling sorry for myself, and I needed to find contentment.

We are all called to minister…and sometimes God calls us to do specific ministries to specific peoples.  You may not be in a church, but there are plenty of other ways to minister to teenagers.  There are group homes, youth organizations, or churches in need of the best volunteers they could ever ask for.

Put your calling in current context.

So maybe you aren’t able to work with churched teenagers… there are still others out there who need the Gospel; in fact, they need to hear it more.  Use this time to use your calling to reach those who are unusually unreached.

You are called to minister to people, not to a building.

PS… if you are reading this and want to hire me, I’m game.

Balancing Liberal VS Conservative Worldviews

Blogs about Heather, christianity, church, theology, unchurched

Trying to find the balance between the “uber-religious-Bible-thumping-conservative” and “uber-worldy-Bible-ignorant-liberal” worldviews can be TOUGH.

First-off, it is a false dichotomy; but just like with American political parties, there is a pressure to align with one or the other.

So I do what I’ve always tried to do–read a variety of sources that are conservative, liberal, and all in between–to challenge my existing and developing worldview.

But some days, like today, I just want to hit my head against the wall.

God has gifted me with the spiritual gift of empathy and exhortation. This gift means that I understand where people are coming from, for the most part. So I can read one side and go “wow, I totally see where you are coming from. not sure if I agree, but I get it” then read the rebuttal and go “ditto.” Or, sometimes, I read something (from both sides of any issue), and can go “What kind of crock is this?”  How is it not one or the other? How can it be both?  How could it be neither?  I grew up with the worldview that it was one or the other…and that’s a worldview that we all kind of get stuck with.

Some of my recent posts on teaching sex to teenagers raised some eyebrows from my conservative friends, who thought I was pushing a little heretical. Which made me laugh, because…uh…  I’m still fairly conservative, just a little provocative in thinking. At least, in my opinion.  I was even told by a friend I was bold for posting these, as she wouldn’t if she was looking for a position in a church like I am.  But then this morning, I was told in a comment to an article on Facebook that I was teaching sexism to my girls.  So what am I? Am I a liberal feminist? Or a conservative sexist? Surely I’m not both.

These are the woes of a young evangelical trying to own her faith. And do you think I’m the only one experiencing this? How about all people in their twenties are going through the same thing…yet we don’t have a place in our church to help them out. That’s another soapbox for another day.

Here’s the take-a-ways from this random rant:

  1. Own YOUR faith. Don’t just follow along with whatever you were taught as a child, or what your pastor teaches you, or what your parents tell you, or what popular media tells you. Don’t take things at face value.
  2. Read/watch/immerse yourself in varying materials, materials that challenge your existing worldview. Yes, you will want to hit your head against the wall like me. But you will be able to identify (1) what you believe (2) why you believe it (3) rebuttals to your view (4) why others believe what they believe. You won’t have to claim ignorance.
  3. Don’t feel pressured to be “one” or “the other.”  Christ, Paul, and the early church made Pharisees and sinners alike cringe at times.  You’re not going to fit into some pretty, packaged box.
  4. It is okay to feel confused when it comes to faith. Just look to Christ. Strive to live like Him, and all that other stuff will fall in line or fade away, depending on how important it truly was.

Check out this photo by Andy Mineo http://instagram.com/p/dmfkNJRtvI/ I saw it and went BINGOOO.

Love God, serve others, seek the Kingdom, be like Christ.