Call Me a Boom Baptist.

christianity, millennials, theology, unchurched

Evangelicalism is getting radical.

In my last post on what Millennials want, I hit on this, but not completely: Evangelical Christians are not fitting into a mold anymore.  Millennials are desiring to live a faith that is not dichotomized into liberal/conservative, Democrat/Republican, evangelical/mainline categories. Millennials just want to live like Jesus, and that’s not in some pretty boxed-up category.

I’ve been taught my whole life that being anything but Southern Baptist was just not “the way.”

Then I went to a SBC college, took theology and doctrine classes, and learned that it was possible that I would spend eternity with other denominations, as long as they were evangelical or didn’t baptize babies.

Then I graduated college and spent some time in an Evangelical Presbyterian church, a church that taught me that baptizing babies wouldn’t send you to hell.

And now I work in a Mainline church, so I hope that isn’t true.

I share my background to let you know that I have grown a lot. I’m constantly being shaped.

So are a lot of Evangelicals that I HIGHLY respect.  The best example is Lecrae, a Christian Hip-Hop artist whose initial songs were so explicitly Jesus, that they were cheesy. His next round of albums, although amazing, had such deep theology in its lyrics that you had to be a pretty mature Christian to even really understand what was going on.  Now, his music has turned up (Turnt up?) in production quality, but isn’t so explicitly Jesus anymore.  Some conservative Christians think he’s turning back on his faith. But as Lecrae points out countless times, especially in this Huffington Post article, he’s trying a new approach to reaching people for Christ: loving on them. Walking with them. And stopping the shoving of Jesus down their throats. I could lie and say that nothing about Lecrae has really changed, but au contraire: Lecrae is trying to imitate Jesus instead of just preaching him.

I feel like I relate to that so incredibly much, and I often struggle with how I’m perceived because of it. Andy Mineo, another Christian Hip-Hop artist, says in the song at the end of this post, “I talk about Jesus, all the Christians love me. I walk like Jesus, now they wanna judge me; ain’t it funny?”  I’m in a stage of life where I’m questioning and incredibly empathetic towards others, and it’s the most beautiful and the most frustrating thing about me. But I finally feel like I’m beginning to understand the state of humanity as well as individuals.

Another Evangelical that I wasn’t expecting, but who blew my mind (and impressed me) was Bart Milliard of MercyMe. I’ve probably been to more MercyMe concerts than any other artist. I connected with their music as a young Evangelical, and they helped shape some of my faith as a teenager.  It would be safe to assume, since our culture is assuming this about all Evangelicals, that the members are probably close-minded and uber-conservative. Like Lecrae, their music was very “Jesus Jesus Jesus” all the time; and that’s not bad! But I think Evangelicals are beginning to realize that they were only reaching other Evangelicals.

And I read this article by Bart that made me weep like a baby.

And again, as Andy Mineo put it, “I’m on a different tactic, call me a Boom Baptist.”

I am unashamedly rooted in an Evangelical foundation. Now I’m going to take the “Evangelize” out of “Evangelical” and put it to work–by walking with the lost where they’re at. Loving on them. Finding and giving them hope (as my church puts it).

I’m on a new path.

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.

Creating A Culture of Acceptance in Student Ministry

Contributions, leadership, unchurched, youth ministry

I got the privilege of guest-posting on Timbo’s blog on how to best create a culture of acceptance in student ministry.  This topic is important to think about as we plan our programming out for the year, train volunteers, and pray over our students!

Check it:  http://studentministrycentral.com/guest-post-heather-lea-campbell-creating-a-culture-of-acceptance-in-student-ministry/

This article isn’t about Miley (It’s about you, jerk!)

Contributions, girls ministry, unchurched, youth ministry, youthmin.org

Okay, that was the name I came up with AFTER this was already published. I’m semi-glad I went with the first one ;)

miley cyrus rock bottom

This article originally appeared at: http://youthmin.org/another-article-about-miley-cyrus/

In an interview with Sunday People, Miley Cyrus said, “I have so many f**king issues.  I am so f**ked up -– everyone does dumb stuff when they are messed up.”

If you keep up with the news in any sort of fashion, you know–at least, on the surface–what is going on with Miley. Some say that she’s a mess and that we can’t let our children around her.  Others say that her behavior is nothing new, that she’s just being your average 20-year old; so why are we all tripping over it?

Here is what I have to say:

Miley is broken.  So are we.

Miley has been in scandal after scandal over the years, as all stars have.  And frankly, it’s easy to sit here and judge her; she’s in the spotlight for all the world to see.  But I have to ask myself: If I were in her position, and people saw my baggage and what was going through, how would I feel about their reactions, if they reacted the same way that we are reacting to her?

Miley came out with a new video on Monday from her new single “Wrecking Ball.”  Unlike “We Can’t Stop,” this is raw.  The lyrics show a glimpse of what is going on.  Here are some of the lyrics:

I put you high up in the sky
And now, you’re not coming down
It slowly turned, you let me burn
And now, we’re ashes on the ground

Don’t you ever say I just walked away
I will always want you
I can’t live a lie, running for my life
I will always want you

I came in like a wrecking ball
I never hit so hard in love
All I wanted was to break your walls
All you ever did was wreck me

Obviously, Miley is going through something. From her disconnected relationship with her father, to her on-again, off-again relationship with her fiancee, to just growing up (she’s 20 years old!); she’s dealing with things.

Let me ask you something–are these issues all that different from any other 20 year old?  Not really.  But because she is in the limelight, she is being judged.  Being 20 years old is hard enough; you are trying to discover your identity and define your place in this world.  Now imagine being a girl who spent her childhood as a star?  Imagine your family business being aired for all to see?  Imagine trying to be 20, but everyone judges every move you make because it isn’t “Disney-esque?”

Another issue I see–and I’m going to be blunt:  For us to sit here and judge Miley, who to our knowledge does not have a redeeming relationship with God, is wrong.  Also, what good is it going to do?  Is condemning her honestly going to lead her to Christ?  What if, instead, there were Christians in her life who supported her, provided her guidance, and maintained a “safe zone” should she slip?  By demonstrating Christ through our actions, we are building a bridge that can show Miley Truth.  How would you have liked it, if in your rock bottom, a bunch of people just started putting your business on blast, talking about how much you have changed, how despicable you are, and how they don’t want you in their homes or around their families?

(And to be even more frank: talking about Miley in a way that does not edify her is gossip.)

That is NOT CHRIST, guys. He met sinners where they were and lived life with them; yes,  He gave them truth, yet he lived life with them regardless.  Paul says in Romans that while we were still sinners Christ died for us!  Not when we had our act together, but when were still in our messed up rock-bottom.

I’ve been reading through Romans lately and meditating on the passages.  The first chapter of Romans sets up the story of Creation and The Fall. Then Paul lays it thick in the first verse of chapter 2 (emphasis added):

Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things.

Paul continues in chapter three:

None is righteous, no not one…For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.

If I had people judge me at my rock-bottom the way Miley is being judged, I would probably have been turned off from God.  I wasn’t perfect; I shook my toosh too (in fact, twerking is not a new term).  I wasn’t wise about my relationships with boys, I cursed like a sailor, and I was teaching Sunday School on Sundays hungover.  I wasn’t where I needed to be.  Even now, I don’t make the wisest decisions sometimes.  But I have people who have honest conversations with me, who don’t judge me, yet still give me Truth.  They don’t condemn me, they don’t act self-righteous.  They invite me to live a raw life with them, helping me through my sin and being patient with me when I don’t get it right away.

Here  is my idea–I think we should be talking about Miley and other pop culture icons with our students. But instead of focusing on what Miley is doing wrong, what if we were to ask: “If you saw one of your friends going through this, what would you do?”  “If you were in this situation, what would you want people to do for you?”  Instead of alienating Miley’s situation, let’s try to identify, empathize, and exhort her.

Humble yourself.  Think about your rock-bottom.  What got you out of it?  How can you translate that to working with your students in their rock-bottoms?

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.

Apathy is not the Problem

christianity, church, leadership, unchurched, youth ministry

Teenagers do well if they want to.  This is a “fact;” there have been many resources trying to help parents, leaders, and youth workers get their teenagers to be less apathetic.  I’ve read some of these, and agree that apathy is certainly a problem.  So, we spend week after week at the pulpits trying to inspire teenagers to commit to change.  We pour into their lives with discipleship, trying to get them to see that someone cares about them, and therefore they should care too.  Yet at the end of the day, we leaders can feel extremely empty and dry.  I know personally that I can pour out everything that I have into students and often times it dries me up emotionally, physically, spiritually.  I read articles that tell me how to motivate, but I feel like I’m doing my best job!  I’m sure everyone who reads this relates to this frustration.

So what if apathy isn’t the problem?

It’s certainly a problem; I mean, if it’s not our teenagers’ lack of motivation, what is stopping them from growing in faith?  Instead of simply trying to inspire them, what if we looked at what they’re apathetic about and encourage change in action and not in behavior?  The mentality is no longer “Teens do well if they want to,” but “Teens do well if the’re able to.”

This model was first described in the book The Explosive Child by Dr. Ross Greene.  Watch him explain more about this idea in this video.  I attended a training session on this idea this last month, and wanted to share what I learned with the youth ministry community.

Under the mentality of “Teenagers do well if they’re able to,” it’s no longer about if they want to or not.  Some teenagers want to advance the gospel but still can’t because all they’re being told is “do it” but they don’t know how.  Some teenagers want to quit a particular sin, but don’t have the tools to stop.  They want to, but can’t.  If you give them the tools, they’ll be able to.  And for those teenagers who don’t want to, even Martin Luther King couldn’t inspire that teen; but if you teach them the tools, they might change without even wanting to.  It’s like a teenager who doesn’t want to go to school–the underlying problem is they think they are stupid.  If you educate them, they can succeed anyway, even if they never wanted to. Ha! Tricksy!

This changes our roles as youth leaders drastically:  We are no longer a motivator, but an equipper.  Greene says that with the old model, our job greatly narrows what the teenager can do in their life–making them want  to do something and nothing more.  Under this new model, pastoring is not as much about transferring our desire for the gospel, but our knowledge of the gospel.  Pastoring isn’t about motivating teenagers with the best fluff and feel-good stuff you got, but about giving them the tools.  Sure, apathy is a problem.  Yes, we should definitely try to inspire and motivate our students to share the same passion as us.  Of course, there will be some teens that don’t change; this model is not the answer to all of your youth ministry problems.  If you give them the tools and they still aren’t changing, then you shouldn’t feel dry as you may have before; you’ve done your best job as a youth pastor.

What do you guys think about this model?  How do you think this may impact the way that you do ministry? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Why working in a group home makes me more legit for when I begin working in a church again (AKA THE LONGEST BLOG TITLE EVER)

unchurched, youth ministry

I felt insecure that working in a group home would somehow convince churches that I wasn’t a good fit there. And then I realized:

I know what it’s like to live with teenagers.

Most parents think “Oh, honey, you’re young. You don’t know what it’s like to raise children or have a teenager.”  I live in a house with 6 teenagers and their children.  And not just normal teens, but at-risk urban teens.  Teens with mouths on them and punches to match.  I not only am a mom to them, but a grandmom to their children too, as teach them how to parent.  Of course, it’s different when you raise a child from the womb and then they start lipping back.  The point is, I am not completely ignorant to parenting.

I’m great in crises.

I hate that that is something I can even “brag” about.  The old Heather would have freaked out, punched somebody in the jaw, or ran away and hid somewhere had she encountered some of the things I have.  I know what to do in a medical emergency, a case of self-harm/attempted suicide, when a teen runs away, and when teenagers are beating the snot out of each other.  And I am not only trained to deal with these situations, but I m actually fairly clear-headed in them.  I know how to make quick decisions that are also good decisions.  God has listened to my begging and has given me a great ability to discern.

I don’t sweat the small stuff.

Never again will I complain about a diplomatic deacon, a micromanaging pastor, or hovering parent.  When budget meeting goes too long, I won’t cry my eyes out about how my budget was ripped apart (well I hope…).  I have learned not to focus on the small things, but to look at the big picture.  This also crosses over to disciplinary measures–I am less about immediate consequences for the sake of consequences and more about “natural” consequences.

I rejoice in small accomplishments.

Nope, that doesn’t contradict my last point :).  When a teen apologizes or says “yes ma’am” or offers to summarize a lesson, I’m fist-pumping. So they’re not perfect? I shouldn’t expect perfection or a rockstar prayer life. They’re learning. Let’s party.

I am incredibly secure with myself.

We don’t give teenagers enough credit: they are incredibly intuitive.  They can spot out every insecure thing about yourself, and call you out on it.  After two years of being called out of my name, called out on my inconsistencies, assaulted, and cursed at nose-to-nose…I know who I am.  Of course, I’m not perfect, and I am actively working on myself in a few areas; I just don’t get torn down when I’m rejected nor am I offended easily.

I’ve learned some lessons about integrity.

In my opinion, the hardest thing about working in a group home as a live-in is maintaining integrity.  When a teenager has a funky attitude and is repeatedly disrespectful, it seems like I’m going to lose my mind some days.  But I have to remain consistent in love, faithful in giving my time, and maintain a straight face even when I’m broken on the inside.

In what ways has God prepared you for ministry in some of your other jobs?

Don’t just "understand" the other side, EMPATHIZE.

america, Blogs about Heather, christianity, church, faith, freedom, leadership, lgbtq, love, sin, social activism, theology, unchurched
I have half a dozen or so documents in my laptop right now of “potential blogposts” of different rants and ramblings about politics; from Chick-Fil-A to the ability for a Christian to vote different political parties to my stance on gay marriage, I have been wanting to speak out for a while now.  But I have held back.  Why?  Because there are others who can say it better.  Because I’m no expert.  Because I’m still learning.

That is what I want to emphasize today in my all-encompassing post on politics, ethics, and anything else that seems to matter these days.  I am extremely irritated with the election, as both “sides” of the United States are exposing their dirty ignorance and disregard for people who do not agree with them.  It is this mentality of, “If a person does not agree with my political stance, which is the only way, then their entire character must be attacked publicly.”  One day I posted on Facebook, “I think it says a lot about President Obama’s character for him to visit Joplin a year after the tornado came through.”  I wasn’t making a political statement, just a statement of appreciation for the remembrance of a small town near me that had been devastated by a storm.  One parent of one of my youth wrote, “I think we should all worry about Heather’s character.”  Then a full-fledged debate began on my status about gay marriage, Obama being a dirty Muslim from Kenya, etc.  One of my friends wrote, “Shame on all of you.  This status wasn’t about any of that.”  And it wasn’t, but to many Christian brothers and sisters that I respect, a politician that they don’t agree with can’t have any redeeming qualities.

I think it’s extremely dangerous to claim to hold absolute knowledge of any subject.  I’m sure some of you are shocked, as I am a Christian and you probably are too; how can I say that I don’t know undoubtedly that God exists?  Simply, if I knew it wouldn’t be called faith.  I know it in my heart, but empirically I do not know that.  I’m not a skeptic, and I’m not saying that if I don’t know things, that I can’t express my opinions on them; in fact my faith in God precedes all other faiths I have and consequentially demands me to express that faith.  The point I’m trying to make is:  It is extremely important to be empathetic to opinions that differ from your own, for you do not know your opinions to be fact.  In fact, it becomes dangerous when you claim to know it all and aren’t empathetic.

Why?  Because once you claim to hold the key to knowledge on a particular subject, you get arrogant.  You push people away from you with your words and your attitude.  For example:  Those Christians who are outspoken about gay marriage push people who agree with it away; it scars the LGBTQQ community and its allies and pushes people away from the Christ who ate meals with prostitutes, tax collectors, and the self-righteous.  Christians (and everyone else) definitely have the right to discuss their opinions and alleged knowledge on a subject; but if we aren’t empathetic of the other side, we can and will push them away.  I took some time trying to understand the LGBTQQ community a few years ago when a group came to my conservative Christian university to speak out against our allegedly persecuting contract that we had to sign in order to be a student there.  Instead of pushing my doctrine, I took the time to listen; a time of learning and growth.  Once I heard the stories of how they’ve been treated by people inside the Church, I began to understand that it’s not necessarily my place to indoctrinate a homosexual upon meeting them (and that’s just the beginning of that journey).  It went without being said what I believed.  I spent time trying to be empathetic, not with the sole goal of strengthening my argument, but because there were things on the other side of the debate that I never even considered.  And my opinion, although not perfected today, has come a long way.

I think this is also apparent in the Neo-Calvinist movement within the SBC, trying to take it back to its supposed Calvinistic roots and forcing churches to adhere to them and teach them as if it’s an essential truth in order to believe in God.  Every time I found out someone that I knew was a Calvinist, I would judge them.  I am currently very sympathetic to Calvinism, but took a long time telling anybody; I was fearful that I would be labeled as an arrogant, close-minded reformer like many of the Neo-Calvinist leaders are looked at. Also, I’m not 100% sure on any of it.  I once thought I was when I was anti-Calvinist, and then I read scriptures and listened to people and changed my mind.  I might change my mind again.  But more importantly, why is it necessary to be sure on this topic?  It cheapens God’s sovereignty in my claim that I am all-knowing on any subject.  When we become face-to-face before God, we’re going to learn that a lot of our political, ethical, and even religious beliefs were wrong (I honestly can’t wait for God to go, “Heather, remember how you were so arrogant about __? Well, you were wrong, and there’s grace for you because I was more important to you than even that.”).

This goes beyond politics and quarrels within the Church.  This comes to our everyday life.  It is well-heard, “Before you judge someone, walk in their shoes.”  I think it’s dangerous to form an opinion, and especially to claim knowledge of a subject, without hearing all sides.  More than hearing them, but understanding them (taking their place and walking in their shoes).  Understanding a side different than yours takes more than reading a few books or listening to a few podcasts.  It takes learning from people, talking with people.  This should be especially true within the church.  We are to be in community with one another, and it strongly discredits Christ’s love for the Church when we break off communion with one another on topics that we haven’t taken the time to understand.  Maybe that person is a Calvinist because they don’t believe they could have found God without Him choosing them.  Maybe that woman hates hymns because she didn’t make it past 8th grade and has a small vocabulary.  Maybe that man isn’t a fan of small groups because his last one gossiped the entire time.  Maybe that man doesn’t come to church on Sundays because the only job he can find works those days.  Maybe that woman is pro-choice because her sister could have died in a pregnancy.  Maybe that Christian man is a Democrat because the fight against social injustice overrides the need to ban gay marriage.  Maybe that lady is for gay marriage because she separates legal marriage from covenant relationships.  Instead of judging people, understand them.  You don’t have to agree, but you don’t even need to tell them that either (with proper discourse, that will naturally come in a non-pushy way).  You just need to see people the way Jesus sees them: broken, fallen, and beautiful.  Christ sees you that way too.  You are just as much His bride as the rest of the Church; in fact, you are His bride together and that entails the need for empathy.  And at the end of the day, if you still disagree with them, that doesn’t mean their entire character should be shattered, especially if they are a follower of Christ; if you agree on the essential truths of salvation, then you are still a part of the Church and should edify one another.

Occasionally, you are going to run into a person who says while debating with you, “I’m listening to you, but I’ve heard this all before.  I’ve thought through this topic and have my opinion.”  This translates, “I’m listening to your comments, but I already know all there is to know on the subject and there is no new information you can give me.  There is no point in debating me, because I won’t change my mind but will debunk all your arguments in the most mocking way I can.”  THIS. IS. DANGEROUS.  I can’t tell you how much I have thought through, prayed through, and talked through different topics.  I may have strong opinions on subjects, but the day I claim to have it all together: please take me out of the local church before I infect people with my arrogant ignorance. Can you tell I am hurting right now?  Yes.  Because I used to be the person who was arrogant to think that they knew it all and only struck up debates to be the smart conqueror of them.  Because right now, people are discrediting me for being provocative in thinking and trying to be the “Devil’s Advocate” and understand both sides of issues.  But primarily because in a world where we have tragedies such as mass murders, children starving, public shootings, and great moments of glory like the young people beast-moding the Olympics; we are more concerned about our disagreement with a single politician or company that supports an ethic stance that differs from ours than for understanding our brothers and sisters.

ps, as I finish this post, I’m like “what do I even name this?!” hah.

Green Lantern, Thi’sl, Fear, my new job, youth ministry…they all connect, I promise.

media, unchurched, youth ministry

If you have been reading my Twitter feed or my Facebook statuses, you probably know that now on top of being a full-time student and part-time youth minister, I also now put in 32 hours at a girls’ shelter every week.  This shelter is a transitional living setting for teenage girls who have a range of issues, with most being mildly mentally retarded (“low functioning”) and having anger/aggression issues.  They have either been taken away from their families, or their families have given them up to the foster system.   Most have assault charges, many from the shelter workers, and many from their family (siblings, parents, grandparents, you name it).  This is a tough job.  I’ve been having nightmares about these girls.  They are for the most part as sweet as can be, but they get mad from the smallest (and seemingly strangest) triggers.  And when they get mad, they are likely to get physical.  It’s a difficult job.

I’m passionate about teenagers and youth ministry, that is no secret.  I am working in a church, and I love it.  The problem I have had in church work is that I’m not dealing with “real” issues it seems sometimes.  When I left St. Louis, I knew eventually I wanted to do inner-city ministry.  I want to work with people whose lives have been traumatized by drugs, alcohol, promiscuity, and abandonment.  These are issues that I know about.  I was needing something more than these “perfect kids” (which I am thankful for at times–makes my job easy! ;)).  This job gives me girls that, although aren’t in the “inner-city” area, have the same kinds of issues.

But they kind of scare me, something that I didn’t really think would happen.  I suppose it’s because if a girl with anger/aggression issues gave me a dirty look, the old me in STL could intimidate her back.  She cursed at me, she could get it back.  She fought me, I could fight her back.  But that’s the old Heather, a Heather who wasn’t concerned about how to help these girls, but how to not get my butt kicked.  So I’m fearful–how do I communicate with these girls, get them not to fight me, and spread the love of Jesus Christ to them all at the same time?

We saw the movie “Green Lantern” together last week, and the movie had a great message that I didn’t realize until now–we are to operate from will, not fear.  Will should be the guiding fuel for everything we do, not fear.  Fear is the tool of the enemy; the enemy uses fear to attack us.  We should be using our innermost desires to guide our actions.  For these girls, they want to be loved.  They’re fearful that they can’t so they operate from that fear.  If they operated from their will, they wouldn’t really use harsh words.  They would do everything they can to help others, to be kind, to be fair, and to be everything that Christ was and is.

Another thing that really spoke to me is the song “I Signed up to Die” by Christian rapper Thi’sl.  This song is about missionaries–whether local or abroad.  I was reminded that I am a missionary to these girls.  My responsibility is to be Christ to them, because they have never seen him and have no clue what Jesus was about. And what if they attack me?  What if they hurt me?  I signed up for this.  They need someone who is fearless of them, someone who is there out of love.  Love that can ONLY come from the Father.

Live such good lives so that when they speak against you as doing wrong, they’ll see your good deeds and glorify God. 1 Peter 2:12 (Heather Standard Version)

This is what I need right now.  They think I’m wronging them every time I discipline them or restrict them from doing things that they want.  But when they speak against me as hating them, they’ll realize that everything I do for them is for their own good, and out of Love.  Reminds me of how we cry out to God, “God, why do you hate me?  What did I do wrong?”  Yet God has never left our side, never forsaken us; always had our best interest at heart, an interest that desires for us to be like Him.  That’s my responsibility with these girls.