Archive for category Worship
Response to Marc5Solas on Top 10 Reasons Our Kids Leave Church—9. They Never Attended Church To Begin With
9. They Never Attended Church To Begin With
Again, I love this quote from the author,
From a Noah’s Ark themed nursery, to jumbotron summer-campish kids church, to pizza parties and rock concerts, many evangelical youth have been coddled in a not-quite-church, but not-quite-world hothouse. They’ve never sat on a pew between a set of new parents with a fussy baby and a senior citizen on an oxygen tank.
He’s right. When I hired our Senior High Director (J. Ryan Bowen) back in 2008, one of the things we knew needed to change, in light of the gospel and in light of the biblical teaching about the Church, was the experience of our young people in the larger local church life and worship.
We inherited a youth ministry that was not always mindful that the local church is an expression of one church body, young and old, infants and mature ones in the faith, worshiping, believing, and serving God together. Sure, there is a place for specialized discipleship, but there is a far superior place for corporate discipleship and worship. We have taken steps and maintained them in order to push our teens out into the larger local body at Scofield – several teens now participate in the worship service; many attend the Scofield Church Prayer Meeting; one of our seniors recently led an adult evangelism team during our Easter Evangelism Outreach. Youth are encouraged to take our local church’s membership class. We don’t meet separately when there are special church-wide activities – we do this on purpose. We gave up our Sunday morning time in the Amphitheater (i.e., one of our meeting rooms) so that El Buen Pastor (a Latino congregation that shares the building) could continue to worship in that space on Sunday mornings without too much disruption, and in order to help the whole church embrace the Scofield Church Prayer Meeting, we moved to a Sunday Night meeting – the embrace of temporary inconvenience for the sake and health of the whole body.
These purposeful decisions on behalf of our student ministry leadership are good. As I was assessing this particular area of the student ministry recently, our Senior Pastor, Jeff VanGoethem, said to me,
I think you have done a great job in not having a big separation, I think our kids feel part of the larger church, etc.
I sense that we are moving toward this – especially for the student who is a consistent attender or member of Scofield. However, we have more work to do as we prepare students for the adult life in the local church when they fully and finally leave youth group. For example, our student participation in the Prayer Meeting is lower than I would like. Prayer Meeting, I think, is sort of viewed as something for the adults to do. Not so. It is something for Scofield Christians to do – young and old praying together in worship and for one another. I believe a stronger embrace of this by our teens and their parents will immensely help the students when they go away to college or away for a career and find themselves as young adults in the church, who cannot go back into youth group, but who must move forward into fellowship, prayer, service, worship, and evangelism with adults.
10. The Church Is Relevant
I do like this statement by the author,
You didn’t misread that, I didn’t say irrelevant, I said RELEVANT. We’ve taken a historic, 2,000 year old faith, dressed it in plaid and skinny jeans and tried to sell it as “cool” to our kids. It’s not cool. It’s not modern. What we’re packaging is a cheap knockoff of the world we’re called to evangelize.
Maybe I am a little blinded because I am an insider at Scofield, but I don’t think we struggle much with being Relevant; that is, we don’t try very hard to be Relevant. I have heard out of the mouth of our Worship Pastor, Daniel Jordan, that the goal of our worship ministry at Scofield is not to become slaves to one particular generation’s preference or experience of worshiping God. Instead, we are part of a global, ancient, culturally diverse movement of worshipers, who have always worshiped the one, true God. Our worship should reflect our connection to the past, our experience of God in the present, and our hope for the future.
If our youth ministry was too worried about Relevance with regard to our meeting areas, the Garage would have been remodeled into a hipster coffee bar, with X Games activities throughout instead of foosball tables, air hockey, and a chalkboard. Now don’t get me wrong, the Garage (i.e., one of our meeting rooms at Scofield) is cool, but it’s like late 90’s early 2000’s cool if we are dating it on the “Trendy Calendar.” Now, there is nothing wrong with remodeling rooms or buildings for better aesthetics and accessibility, but there is something wrong if we obsess over such things. Our weekly meetings have historically and will continue to be (if I have anything to do with it) primarily focused on biblical teaching. Sometimes, we spend up to an hour teaching the Bible on Sunday evenings. The time spent in the Scriptures is one of the author’s criticisms about most youth ministries. One student, who moved away sometime ago, has struggled in his new youth ministry because of the minimal focused on in-depth biblical instruction.
I could also go into our events and other activities, but I won’t. Let me just say that I feel like even our larger events flow more out of “the family” and “the tradition” that we have here at Scofield more than out of some attempt to be Relevant to every young person. Now, let me say this. Just because the things that I mentioned above don’t necessarily reflect a “Quest for Relevance” does NOT mean that deep, deep down in our hearts as a community there isn’t a desire to be more Relevant, and perhaps even sometimes a jealousy of others who may have the finances or resources to give the appearance of heightened Relevance. Lord, test our hearts; keep us from the sins of jealousy and envy. Lastly, let’s be careful about ALWAYS throwing Relevancy under the bus. Everyone at some level seeks to be Relevant. Shoot, in our day, to say something like, “I’m fleeing Relevance!” automatically makes you Relevant! However, thankfully, there is a biblical model and approach to Relevance. Consider the sermons of the book of Acts. They are always contextualized for preaching the gospel to particular audiences. Just think of Paul in Athens in Acts 17. Consider when the Apostle Paul says, “To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some” (1 Cor. 9:22). So, may God help our ministry to seek the Holy Spirit and how he might have us proclaim the truth about Jesus to all people everywhere without forsaking who we are.
Assessing the Author’s Intro
I kind of hit on this in the previous post, but not entirely. First, I agree with and share the author’s “love for the church” and his desire . . .
. . . to see American evangelicalism return to the gospel of repentance and faith in Christ for the forgiveness of sins; not just as something on our “what we believe” page on our website, but as the core of what we preach from our pulpits to our children, our youth, and our adults.
However, I am always a bit skeptical of building a “what’s wrong with the Church” article based upon the rantings of those who have left the Church. I’d rather ask those who are faithful to the Church about our weaknesses. There is a wonderful little book that we read in our counseling curriculum at DTS called The Pastor As Minor Poet: Texts and Subtexts in the Ministerial Life. In brief, the author (also my professor) explains that oftentimes what people tell us in conversation or in a counseling setting is the “Text of Their Lives.” It’s the surface. But below the surface is the “Subtext of Their Lives.” It’s the real thing that’s actually causing the situations, feelings, thinking, and circumstances. The problem is that the Subtext is hidden, stuffed, locked away, forgotten, neglected, or perhaps even something about which we haven’t even considered. Tapping into the Subtext almost always reveals an issue with the individual’s relationship with the Triune God. Almost always. This isn’t to say that genuine pain, hurt, or neglect wasn’t experienced, but it is to say how have you worshiped through and interpreted your experiences in light of your relationship with God? He loves the Church; do you? So, I push back a little here.
The next series of posts here at LevelPaths will consist of responses to Marc5Solas recent blog post entitled “Top 10 Reasons Our Kids Leave Church, which you can read here: http://marc5solas.com/2013/02/08/top-10-reasons-our-kids-leave-church/. A fellow youth worker directed me to Marc’s blog in March. I sat on it for a little while before I began responding to its introduction and its 10 points in our Scofield Student Ministry Facebook group page. I thought it would be helpful to myself, and potentially to other youth leaders and parents, if I responded on my blog too. Let me offer a few qualifications. I have not read all of the nearly 1,000 comments in response to Marc’s blog post, but kudos to him for getting us talking. Secondly, I am speaking largely out of my personal experience as a pastor engaged in youth ministry at Scofield Memorial Church. At times, I’ll speak outside of my context, but I am largely speaking out of my own context and then making applications on a broader scale to youth ministries in conservative, evangelical local churches.
With that said, here is my introduction to the topic. The next post will examine Marc’s intro to his article.
I would say that these 10 things have definitely been weaknesses in the evangelical church’s ministry to young people. The other accompanying (and perhaps more severe) problem is the appetite of young people (and old people) themselves. There is very little hunger for God within. TBH, and this will be painful, if you were to ask me how many of our youth group members hunger for God, the list would be fearfully short. Now, there are many coming to our youth group meetings regularly and many coming on trips or to events, but how many hunger for God?
So what do we do? Well, our job as church leaders has to be to pray and to do the things that create a hunger for God—no matter the ministry changes required. This is painful in the group because it effects the appetites that our students have been used to satisfying. In other words, we have to change the menu of their consumption in the student ministry. It must seek to nurture hunger for God.
Students need to fast and pray. They need to occasionally give up the things that typically satisfy their appetites (food, socializing, media, phones, video games, etc.) and pray for their slavery to these things to be broken and replaced by a hunger for God.
These are my initial thoughts. I write this with a heavy heart as I think of some of my own students, some of them “stars of the youth group,” who are no longer walking with God. I could provide you with a list, a list that makes me weep. Young person, is your hunger for God going to carry you into faithfulness and endurance after high school? Maybe you need to test yourself by such passages as 2 Corinthians 13:5; Hebrews 12:15-17; Deuteronomy 29:18-19. At Scofield, the whole church is being called to a commitment to fasting with the hope of a hunger for God to be ignited. O how we need to hunger for God.
I reflected a lot on this last night and this morning. As I look at our last four senior classes, most of them are still walking with God. If I go back five years, that class is struggling. While many of these former students and many of our current students are “striving” to walk with God, my question in the previous post is who among you has a hunger for God? This is a different question. Obviously this is true for a non-Christian, but even the Christian can find himself or herself in a period of dryness in which his/her inner appetites are being satisfied by things – and very good things mind you – other than God. I’ll post more in this later.
I am using strong language to you students because this article and my comments are mostly of the nature of a warning. A warning comes from an observation of things that could be symptomatic of a deep pattern that could eventually lead to devastating spiritual consequences. The book of Hebrews is filled with warnings to Christians. It is the job of a pastor to warn the sheep of the dangers ahead. This is what I am doing. I hope you catch the spirit of my warnings.
So with that said, how may one assess whether or not he or she has a hunger for God? Let me back up even further, from where does a hunger for God come? This hunger is not something humanly manufactured, but rather it is divinely imparted. The Spirit of God in us creates a hunger for God. Now, there are many things that may nurture a hunger for God – local church life, fellowship with Christians, Bible reading, prayer, etc. However, those things that may nurture a hunger for God are NOT the things that CREATE a hunger for God. The Spirit of God alone is able to CREATE a hunger for God. For example, yesterday, I got in my car, put on my sunglasses, put in a Lecrae CD, and drove to my youth ministry office at Scofield. Not too far along my way, the Spirit of God said to me, “Rex you are not a Christian because you listen to Lecrae.” Then, he said, “Rex you are not a Christian because you are a youth pastor at Scofield, or because you have a degree from DTS.” Finally, he said, “Rex you are a Christian because I have set apart Christ in your heart as your Lord and Savior. Rex, you are a Christian because I made you one in Christ.” I promptly turned my music off, and turned my heart to the Lord Jesus and worshiped for awhile.
It is the Spirit of God who regenerates us and awakens us to eternal life in Jesus Christ. Further, we may assess our hunger for God by testing our alignment with the aims of the Spirit of God. If he is the source of a hunger for God – and I believe the Bible points us to him – then we may compare his hungers/aims/appetites with our own hungers/aims/appetites, and at least gain some idea of the work of the Spirit in our lives, which is the mark of a true Christian. There is much that could be said here about the aims of the Spirit, but I’ll limit it to three under which I think we may fit everything else we might say. Here they are: (1) The Spirit aims to teach the Christian the truth about Jesus Christ, his faithful life, his death that brings pardon and liberty, and the power of his resurrection (John 16:12-15; 1 Cor. 12:3). (2) The Spirit of God aims to conform the Christian to the image of the Son of God (Romans 8:9-11, 26-29). (3) The Spirit aims to build the Body of Christ into a holy place where God dwells and where God is present and where God is worshiped (Eph. 2:11-22; 1 Cor. 3:16-17; 1 Cor. 12; Eph. 4:11-16).
So, how do we know if we are hungry for God? One way to test our hunger may be to test our alignment with the hungers/aims of the Spirit of God. Because if he is indeed in us, then we should expect to find his hungers in us. What if we don’t have an appetite for the aims of the Spirit? Well then, it would seem that one of two things are true: (1) Maybe you never had the Spirit of God, which means that you are not a Christian. There is no such thing as a Spirit-less Christian. It is the Spirit that awakens you to Christ. So maybe you have been a part of the life of the church for years, but you never received the Holy Spirit who truly leads us to Christ. What do you do? Seek God for the Spirit of God and for the Spirit to reveal Christ to you and to create the above hungers in you. Just ask. God is good. He isn’t stingy. He’s not somehow dangling a bait our in front of you that you cannot reach. Listen to the word of God here: “The Lord is not slow concerning his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:12-13). Ask God for the Spirit and receive Jesus. (2) Maybe you have the Spirit of God, but at some point you turned away from the Lord, and you have replaced the Spirit’s aims with aims/hungers of your own. This is called grieving the Spirit (Eph. 4:30) or quenching the Spirit (1 Thess. 5:19). The danger of this is what we read about in Deuteronomy 29:18-19. One who was once a worshiper with a hunger for God, turns from God, and becomes an idolater. When we go down this road, we grieve the Spirit who’s aims are so very different for us. We put out the fire for Jesus that he is seeking to ignite in us. You are numbered among the people of God; you are a Christian, but you have subjected the Spirit of God to your flesh instead of subjecting your flesh to the Spirit of God. This ends my warning to students. Next post will critically examine our student ministry in light of Marc5Solas’ article. Feel free to comment, converse, question, etc. Love you all dearly.
Concept of “Burden” in the OT and NT Greek Scriptures with Some Insights into the Apostolic Fathers: Part 3
The λαμβάνω Word Group (including λῆμμα, λῆμψις, & λαμβάνω)
These terms when employed to communicate the concept of משא attach the nuance that a burden is something that is received.
For example, consider Jeremiah 23:33–36; Hab. 1:1; Mal. 1:1; Zech. 9:1; 12:1; and possibly Philippians 4:15.
The Term γόμος
This term always refers to physical cargo hauled by a beast of burden or vehicle of transport (i.e., a ship).
For example, consider Ex. 23:5; 2 Kings 5:17; Acts 21:3; Rev. 18:11.
Concept of “Burden” in the OT and NT Greek Scriptures with Some Insights into the Apostolic Fathers: Part 2
The Hebrew term משא can mean any of the following:
carrying (a load) as in 2 Chron. 20:25
a load or a burden for an animal to haul as in Ex. 23:5; Isa. 46:2 or for a person in charge of transport as in 1 Chron. 15:27
a metaphorical burden or load on someone or on someone’s soul as in Num. 11:11–17; Deut. 1:6–17, or a person who has become a burden (for various reasons) to another person as in 2 Sam. 15:33; 19:36; Job 7:20
a double meaning with the idea of “pronouncement” combined with the previous meaning as in Jer. 23:33–38
a pronouncement, or an oracle as in Mal. 1:1; Zech. 9:1; 2 Kings 9:25
In the following posts, we’ll begin to take a look at the Greek terms that were employed to translate this term massa.
Concept of “Burden” in the OT and NT Greek Scriptures with Some Insights into the Apostolic Fathers: Part 1
Consider with me in the next several posts a question and the development of an answer to this question: What is the “burden” of God throughout the biblical narrative?
- From the beginning, we learn that God desired to reveal his glory and goodness to and through the creation, especially to and through humans.
- Following the Fall of Humanity and Creation, God’s heart continues to be the revelation of his glory and goodness to and through creation as is exhibited in his redemptive plan that involves the restoration of a chosen people for himself and the restoration of the entire creation and in his judgment upon and victory over the enemies of creation—the devil, sin, and death—as well as any part of creation that aligns itself with these enemies.
- Therefore, God’s “burden” for the Christian is the consistent experience of a life redeemed, which is made possible by the power of the Holy Spirit who applies to us the faithfulness of the Lord Jesus who experienced the glory and goodness of God through suffering and on into resurrection.
- Thus, God’s “burden” upon Christians for the world is that we invite men, women, boys, and girls to experience the glory and goodness of God by participating in the redeemed life through faith in the gospel of Jesus Christ our Lord.
- This “burden” upon individual Christians as well as local church communities may be “received,” “carried,” “serviced” and “offered” in various ways according to God’s will, but will always maintain the essence of the previous statements.
- Life under this “burden” cannot be reactionary or “on the spot” performance, for one will always find the “burden” too heavy when crises arise. Rather, the life under the “burden” must be consistently shaped and prepared by the grace available to us in spiritual practices and disciplines of devotion and worship [this is a concept communicated by Dallas Willard in The Spirit of the Disciplines].