Monday, January 31, 2011

Auditory Overload

This past Saturday saw a first for the Andrews family; the boys had their first wrestling tournament. It was crazy. It was fun. It was LOUD. (It was several hours before I stopped shouting at everyone.) There were 6 mats going in a sardine can full of parents, wrestlers and disinterested siblings and the Fire Marshall was nowhere to be found - I have a theory that involves a lot of duct tape and a dark closet...

A few quick observations:
  • People really do say 'rasslin. I heard it a lot - in moments outside the gym where the noise level made hearing possible.
  • Chaos breeds panic, which provides a great opportunity for a calm person to prevail. Kota won one of his matches simply because he was in the right place when the match started and the other kid was not. This was our first meet and we really had no idea what to expect. But our calm in the storm paid off.
  • The proximity of a wrestling singlet to porcelain causes an apparent (and severe) dysfunction in the aiming capability of the singlet wearer.
  • 2 years of experience makes a huge difference, even if size is relatively equal. Kota was mis-placed into the 10 and under bracket (instead of 8 and under, where he should have been). By the time we discovered that, it was too late to fix it. This resulted in two matches full of a "what the heck just happened" look on his face while being twisted around by kids who knew what they were doing. (By virtue of the forfeit win, Kota finished 3rd in his bracket.)
  • Josiah is amazingly difficult to pin. I watched a kid in his bracket pin every other kid he wrestled knowing he would be Siah's final match. Josiah spent the whole match in the kid's grasp and giving up a ton of points, but made it through all three rounds without getting pinned. In fact, he went full time in each of his matches (which made for one tired fourth place medal winner).
Meet #2 is this weekend in Gering if you feel like your ears haven't been assaulted enough lately. I'd suggest earplugs...

Friday, January 28, 2011

Where You Go, I'll Go

Do you ever think about where the church is going? Where are we taking the message of the Kingdom of God? What dark corners are we getting into for the purpose of making disciples? Are we really going anywhere at all?

I know that's a heavy load of questions to wrestle with, but I just wonder if we're really going where Jesus is going today. He left the comfort of majesty and humbled Himself to live as one of us. Are there comforts we need to leave behind in order to incarnate His presence for the world today? He ate with hookers and tax collectors (and religious people despised Him for it). When was the last time you (or I) spent any real time with "the least of these"? Are we really going where Jesus is going?

Or are we just going to church?

That phrase makes my fingernails quiver like someone's scraping their teeth across a chalkboard. Yes, I know that's backwards... that's how much I hate that phrase. We attend church, go to church, skip church, leave church, pick a church... but Jesus doesn't play that game. He says we ARE the church - and where the Head goes, the Body follows. I once had someone tell me to choose a church by asking myself if Jesus would attend there. "If He came into town, is this the church He'd come to?" Excuse me? WHEN Jesus comes to town, His church will come to Him!

By all means, Church, keep gathering together to worship our Maker. But stop showing up on Sunday morning feeling like you're doing God a favor. Keep on meeting together to encourage each other and love each other and learn and grow together. But stop "going to church". Instead, "Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation." Follow the Spirit He's placed within you instead of the spirit of fear that whispers "Be good and stay away from sinners."

"He guides me in paths of righteousness for His name's sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me..."   -David, in Psalm 23

There is a path of righteousness through dangerous places. Jesus is going there, leading His church on a rescue mission to bar the gates of Hell... are you with Him?

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Who You Serve I'll Serve

Famine had forced Naomi and her husband to leave their home and live as foreigners in Moab. When her husband died, Naomi was left with her two sons and their new wives. When they'd been there about 10 years, her sons died as well - leaving her nearly alone in a foreign land. It's easy to see why she wanted to change her name to a word that meant bitter. She'd lost just about everything important to her and was forced to head home to Israel, to live out the rest of her life as a begging, bitter widow.

But there was one friend she'd gained in all the suffering. Her daughter in law, Ruth.

As Naomi left for Israel, her sons' widows went with her, as part of her household. But they were young and Naomi had no hope of being able to provide for them, so she sent them home to their own families. Ruth wouldn't go. Despite the difficulty she knew she'd face in aligning herself with Naomi this way, her words reveal a commitment to a relationship that ran deeper than any desire for self-preservation.

"Don't urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay.  Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if anything but death separates you and me."

There's a Chris Tomlin song (I Will Follow) that I've been singing with my students lately that echoes this same thought and reflects our commitment to Jesus. May our desire to go with Jesus, wherever He's going, reflect Ruth's love and devotion to Naomi. I pray that we will truly love those who He so deeply loves and that we'd humbly serve those He desires to serve. He draws a pretty wide circle... find someone you can serve today.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Sticks & Chisels 1.3

Last weekend, I got to take a group from our student ministry to a gathering of about 300 students and youth leaders for a great time of worship, challenge, and skiing. I know, I know... the proverbial youth group ski trip sounds like a bunch of fun (and it was), but I can honestly say that the skiing was not the highlight of the weekend.

Delusions of PlutoDelusions of Pluto led worship for the weekend and did a great job drawing us into a musical celebration of God's presence. Both my students and adults were inspired to worship God and enjoyed being led by these guys.

Terry Davis of Greeley's Journey Christian Church  challenged us in what it means to be Salt and Light in the world today. Terry's a great guy and it was awesome to see our students responding to his call to live out the word of God.

On the way home, right after lunch, I was thinking I may be able to keep the noise level down in the van if I could get the students engaged in something all together. I pulled out my iPad, plugged it into the van's tape deck, and asked if they wanted music or a podcast. We ended up listening to Francis Chan speak to a group of leaders at last year's Unleash at Newspring Church (you can see video of the whole conference here). This wasn't a fluffy, stand up act of a podcast - it was Francis Chan poring over Scripture and pouring out his heart for Jesus and leaning into the courage it takes to believe like the people in the Bible did.

After a whole weekend of listening intently to God's Word, they wanted more! So for most of the rest of the ride, we listened to Mark Driscoll speak (from the same conference) about the idea that we won't be used greatly by God until we've suffered deeply for God. (Did I mention I was driving the van full of high school kids?) These students are going to change the world - even if it's one diaper at a time.

A Bluetooth Single

Since I have so many other, much more important things to procrastinate, I finally linked my phone (which is not an i anything) to my iMac via the bluetooth capabilities they both share. I think I can link it to my iPad as well, but that will have to wait for another day with even more urgent responsibilities. I don't really know anything about bluetooth aside from it being the condition that occurs after eating smurfs or blueberries. I don't get what that has to do with helping electronic devices communicate with each other, but whatever... I know that bluetooth will connect one device to another, I know that it will allow files to move between connected devices - but I don't really know why or how. 

I loaded some pictures and videos that I've taken on my phone and remembered how fun it was to watch this one:
That boy has wheels! I hope he learns to set his eyes on where he's going instead of where the ball went when he hit it, but man those legs move fast.

There's no lesson here, no moral imperative (unless you feel like digging one out)... just a gratuitous dad moment. The boys have their first wrestling tournament this weekend, so avert your eyes if you can't handle more...

Monday, January 24, 2011

Momentum Starts When You Take Action

I came across this video by Geoff Schultz that was made for Elevation Church. The graphics are fun, but the message has been recurring for me lately - take action... do something... move... go... take the next step... put ideas into motion...

I get it.

I lost momentum. Over the past year or so, I've gained some new momentum back, but there is much that still feels stalled. Pray I make the right steps next, that I incarnate the right ideas.

Momentum from Geoff Schultz on Vimeo.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Sticks & Chisels 1.2

There are 168 hours in every week. The highest proportion of church members will spend about 2 of those hours "at church" on Sunday morning. Add in a couple hours with a small group and an hour or so in a Sunday School class or Bible Study and you get 5, maybe 6 hours for the people who seem to be at church "all the time".

What does three and a half percent look like?
Most people would consider someone who goes to Sunday School, worship, Bible study, and a small group to be pretty heavily involved in church. But this heavily involved person, in reality, has spent about 3% of his time in those congregational activities. (Doesn't sound so heavy when you look at it that way...)

It's obvious that 3% of a person's time is not enough to be truly connected with the body and engaged in Jesus' mission for the church. If we really are the Body of Christ, we need to be connecting with each other outside of a congregation's weekly-held, regular programming. We can do that through meals, sports, hanging out, working out, working for the good of someone else together... Projects like Habitat for Humanity and the soup kitchen are some great opportunities we have locally to connect with each other AND engage in His mission. One of the greatest assets of the trips we take in our youth ministry is the time we spend together, getting to know each other and growing relational connections to each other.

It's easy to see how these things help us to be a continuous church - one that is always open. But I wonder, too if we can effectively leverage technology to help people in the church stay connected outside of Sunday mornings? What could a great web site coupled with solid social media training do for our level of engagement? What if every message and lesson were echoed by dozens of tweets, blogs, and status updates?
In a related post for leaders, Ron Edmondson lists these 7 Reasons You Need Social Media as a Christian Leader: (though he does qualify that "need"may be too strong a word)

  • Networking with people who are making a difference.
  • Go where people are. 
  • You’ll meet great friends. 
  • Keep updated on breaking news
  • Wise use of time. 
  • Breaks down barriers between people. 
  • Stay current with culture. 

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Let's Talk Tuesday

I'm going to make LTT a regular feature here on the blog. I'll throw out a quick thought and a couple questions, then we'll discuss the topic in the comments section.
Young people have been making news quite a bit over the last couple weeks:

Is this a generation in peril, or a generation of tremendous capacity? Or both?
How do we help those on both ends of the spectrum see how much they matter to God and what they have to offer Him?

Monday, January 17, 2011

Quite a Buzz

There's been a lot of excitement around here the past couple days. The buzz is pretty constant. Conversations seem to be drifting the same direction; "Miss America is one of our own". Not just from our state, but from our town. Not only from our town, but from our own church. Not only a Christmas-Easter member, but from a vitally involved family... small groups, missions, soup kitchens...

I've never been a huge fan of pageants, but when Teresa won Miss Nebraska several months ago, her response to that and all that has come with it began to change my mind. (Posts like this one are a big part of the reason.) Now that she's won Miss America, with all the doors that will now open for her, I'm excited to see how she continues to allow God to use her to bring hope to the world He loves. Her sense of purpose at such a young age is coming as a shock to a lot of people, but those who know her aren't that surprised.

If you're a pageant doubter, as I've been most of my life, watch Teresa over the next year. Don't make an idol out of her (that's the last thing she'd want), but hear her heart as she fields the variety of questions she'll face. I don't know that we'll get to see Teresa much at home this year, but I hope you'll join me in praying for her and her family. Their world has just had a huge twist thrown in - pray that they'll make the most of every opportunity. And never let the fact that you don't stand on a huge platform keep you from making the most of yours...

Friday, January 14, 2011

Sticks & Chisels 1.1

"Sticks & Chisels" will be an ongoing, weekly post reflecting on a class I'm taking this semester at Summit Christian College. This is the first of the series.
What if we ignored technology's development?
Technology is with us. It always has been. Creative use of sticks and chisels, the wheel, the fulcrum & lever, pulley systems, weapons, wagons, the battery, lightbulbs... the discovery and ability to manipulate these technologies and others have shaped our world for ages. Ancient cultures often advanced or fell (at least in part) due to their mastery of new technologies. Some sociologists & anthropologists have even made careers of exploring the relationship of cultures and their technologies. I won't dig too deep into that hole here, but if effective use of technology has shaped the history of humanity, then I think our use of technology in the church is vital to our current and future progress.

Part of why I started to blog in the first place several years ago was to take advantage of social media technology's capacity for sharing a message. This was a technology at that time, of which most of the people I knew were afraid or at least skeptical. Today, the skepticism has subsided, but not completely. There is still a lot of fear toward social media and skepticism that most new technology is nothing more than fad.

So I was excited to enroll in a class called Creative Uses of the Computer in Ministry. We started Tuesday night, and I'm anticipating some very productive Tuesday nights this semester! I knew ahead of time who was going to be in the class for the most part, but it was awesome to get to know the 1 guy that I didn't already know. He's a 70 year old retired pharmacist from Gering who just wants to get a better handle on how he can use computers to serve Christ.

It was awesome to watch as he set up a blog for the first time. He was unsure of this new territory, but excited to jump in and try something new. I have no idea what technologies will exist when I'm 70 years old, but I hope that I'll have that same attitude. I hope to always be willing to learn something new that will help me to reveal God to people who don't notice Him.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Lets Talk Tuesday...

What's the church here for?

Who is the church here for?

Have you ever thought about how many church people there were when Jesus started it?
What do you think?

Monday, January 10, 2011

An Idea Happening

Last week, a couple of my students were hanging out at their homes, playing xbox360 like they often do, and talking about youth ministry with each other. (My students are the good kind of strange... they share faith with each other on the way to digital dominance!) Get this picture: Some variation of Bond on the screen (you guys do realize all your games are variations of Goldeneye, right?), dodging explosions or zombies, with a live chat box open for discussion, unbound by the reality of not being in the same place at the same time.

An idea hit them so hard, they put down their controls and headed for my office. "We had this idea for a youth ministry on Tuesday nights, where..." For the next 20 minutes or so, I listened as 3 high school guys excitedly told me about an idea they had to bring their peers together to share and help each other know Jesus a little bit better.

There are a few obstacles to work through and a some clarity that is still needed, but I am excited to see what happens when these guys are unleashed and well-tooled to reach outside the familiar and do something new. I'm a little torn, because I can't be there on Tuesday nights this semester, but I love that this is an instant response by these students. They haven't been goaded or guilted into anything, they're just responding to the circumstances of their lives with action that will show their peers what God's Kingdom is like.

The last series I taught was called "What are you waiting for?" and I ended with the thought that the birth of Jesus is our green light to make disciples. He's telling us to GO. Something tells me they were listening... Praying for you guys - wish I could be there.

This makes me wonder, what action/initiative do I need to be taking? What about you? What keeps us from acting on impulse? When does the anchor of wisdom become more of a shackle of uncertainty?

Youth Ministry friends... tell me about the last time you let your students run with an idea, even though you didn't know exactly where it was going?

Friday, January 07, 2011

Have You Seen Anything?

In the church, evangelism is a big deal. Well... at least the idea of evangelism. It's one of those big church words we like to throw around about sharing our great message with the world, but we don't always do a great job actually doing what we're talking about. So we've come up with classes and sermons and books to teach us how to evangelize. I get invitations and ads from conferences promising to make my students better evangelists by giving them the best techniques for sharing Christ and teaching them to make the most of every opportunity to tell someone about Jesus.

But all this makes me wonder... I'll grant that there's sometimes a deficiency in our outreach. But I'm not sure the problem is a 'how to' kind of problem. I don't know that the issue is understanding better methods and procedures for telling people what Jesus has done. Maybe the issue is actually seeing Jesus do something.

If you had to testify in court about events to which you were an eyewitness, would you need to go to a witnessing seminar? If you ask me about my children, I don't have to consult a parenting manual to be able to talk about them. If you ask me about a recent trip I took or my roofing project, I don't go to a seminar to learn how to tell you what happened. I don't need to because I was there, in the middle of what was going on.

May we learn to see with eyes that recognize Jesus on the move. May we see the Wind blowing and recognize its origin so definitively that we'll set set our sails to be moved ourselves. May we find ourselves living His story, full of experiences worth sharing. May we experience Jesus so compellingly that we recognize that we know someone worth talking about...

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Planning Ahead

"Meeting with our creative team today to lay out all the sermons thru early 2013."

Is this a quote from the future?
A text from some preacher with way too much time on his hands?

No. It's actually a tweet from @PastorMark (Mark Driscoll of Mars Hill Church in Seattle). In addition to leading a young family and teaching at this multi-campus church, he is heavily involved in Acts 29 Network church planting, Churches Helping Churches, and Resurgence. He also does an incredible amount of writing and leadership training with church leaders all over the map. I'm not listing that stuff to put him on a pedestal or anything, but to point to the fact that here's a guy who has a busy schedule. Growing kids, growing church, thriving ministry... and yet, he's prioritized time to plot a course for the next 2 years of his preaching.

I know a lot of preachers, teachers, and youth ministers who don't even know what they're teaching next week, let alone the next 100 weeks' worth of messages. How many Sunday school teachers will pick up their curriculum magazine this Saturday night and wonder why more people don't come to class Sunday morning? We think we can fly by the seat of our pants and call it being led by the Spirit or being responsive to circumstances.  But we know the reality, I think, is that we just haven't used our time for planning. Why?

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Galatian Deception

Last year, I started reading through my Bible with a highlighter, which was kind of a big deal for me because I'm weird and have an issue with writing in books. (My therapist says I may be growing out of it, but all his textbooks are those MadLibs, fill-in-the-blank things, so I'm not too sure.) I've just been highlighting phrases or sections that seem to stand out to me, or that seem to have a little extra significance to share right here and now.

As I was reading through Galatians yesterday, I was surprised at how much I was highlighting! It's like the yellow pages of my Bible now, without the phone numbers and a restaurant section. But more than the amount of highlighting I did, I was reminded of the scope of that letter. Paul needed to remind the church of just what made them the church anyway:

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