Pastor PreachersNSneakers Should Concern You.

If you aren’t up on the latest Christian buzz there is a new site called PreachersnSneakers . It is a site calling out preachers for having expensive shoes and clothing items. It started off as a “funny” site and has clearly hit a cultural nerve gaining 60k followers on Instagram in four days.

As funny and as crass as some of the comments are, I think the content of the posts and the content of the comments are very telling and are deserving of more than a cheap laugh. I think the problem we have to ask ourselves as those who are a part of the evangelical world is – In our desire to relate to the world and connect with lost people has our message has been lost? When you are so immeshed in the images and artifacts of culture that you are inseparable from culture your message will always either be dismissed as hypocrisy or changed into another gospel.

Sites like this should make all Christians and especially Christian leaders look at their lives and ask themselves is there anything I am doing that is a hindrance to the gospel of Christ? What we as leaders must guard against is the pride of own hearts that says I would never dress like that or spend that kind of money on shoes. We must also be aware of who we are portraying ourselves to be online. Are we as leaders pointing people to Christ or drawing them to ourselves? Are we unintentionally stirring up in those who follow us the sin of envy?

A famous preacher once said that the dress and style of a pastor should be forgettable so that what you remember is his message, not his clothing. Any Christian minister that upstages the gospel in their methods or lifestyle needs to repent. I think a good guideline for every preacher is to avoid poverty and opulence so that what you say matters more than what you look like.

Why does some Celebraty pastor wearing 5,500.00 sneakers concern me? Because even if you do not wear such things you can be guilty of pride or envy. Pride because you feel that you are better than the person who is wearing expensive things and you do not. The other half of the population wishes they had these items for themselves, the sin of envy. So even if you were gifted items that are very expensive by people who hope you wear them so other people can see and desire them, should you? I don’t think you should. Not because the gospel is opposed to nice things, it isn’t, it views everything we have as a gracious gift. The gospel should make you more aware of inflaming the passions in others tha can not be fulfilled without sin.

One of the greatest problem with expensive and even good things flaunted on Instagram is what it does to the hearts of those who are weaker and are prone to the sin of envy (which is all of us by the way). In The Rule of Love J.V. Fesko says this about the tenth commandment.

The tenth commandment has much to say about motives. In this regard, it is a unique commandment, for few cultures have laws that govern motives. Recognizing that the tenth commandment targets heart motives helps us to see that Christ was not raising the demands of the law in His Sermon on the Mount. Rather, by connecting the demands of the tenth commandment to the rest of the Law, Christ revealed that merely dealing with external behavior was not enough; the Law also dealt with motives of the heart. That is because violating the tenth commandment is often the gateway to violating the rest of the Law.

 J. V. Fesko, The Rule of Love: Broken, Fulfilled, and Applied (Grand Rapids, MI: Reformation Heritage Books, 2009), 125.

Can you have nice things without nice things having you? I think you can. There are those who with pride say Christians shouldn’t have nice things I don’t think that’s true at all. The problem comes when you are defined by your things more than who you are in Christ. When you have to have certain things because of the crowd you run with. When you think that things and stuff, rather than the fruit of repentance, define your acceptance before God. As Piper famously said, “No one says Jesus is all satisfying because you drive a BMW” or wear Gucci. They say “Did Jesus give you that? I’ll take Jesus.” When we confuse giver and gift we proclaim to a watching world another gospel. Jesus plus nice things equal God’s acceptance. When we properly understand every good and perfect gift I have comes from God and I am a steward of the things he gives me for the glory of God. Stewards are aware of their master’s desire and design, owners are only concerned with their own desires. Servants want to please their master, owners feel they deserve what they have worked hard for. Stewards view what they have as gracious gifts, owners view what they have as entitlements they have earned. The gospel is not opposed to effort it is however opposed to earning.

Let us strive to guard our hearts from the sin of pride in our right judgments of fellow Christians. Let us also protect others as much as we are able from the sin of envy.

Rabbit Starvation and Missional Youth Ministry

Here is a post I wrote for Youth Worker Journal. They have an incredibly resource-rich website as well as a magazine filled with excellent articles to grow your faith and capacity as a youth worker. If you work with youth or lead family ministry the Youth Worker Journal needs to be on your radar.

It took me ten years to discover the reality that lasting change in the lives of the youth God has called us to lead does not happen best in programs or events. I had this idea that our mission was accomplished by kids coming through the turnstiles of our church. The more kids that came the more often they came the more we were on mission and fulfilling the great commission. Looking back over 20 years of ministry in the same community to the same families I can see where God by his grace moved in the lives of kids and as I look back it was in ways I didn’t expect. 

The relevance myth – 
Keep them coming and hope something sticks. This is the biggest mistake most youth workers make in the first five years of ministry. You relate to them and with them and become friends but friendship is not discipleship. You preach to them messages that are memorable but not ultimately transformative. The path of relevance makes you feel like you are accomplishing your mission but the reality is your kids find no difference between the God you preach and the gods this world proclaims. True relevance is not what people say they want but proclaiming to them what their hearts always wanted to hear. 
 
The pragmatic myth –
If it works then do it. If I had a quarter for every time I heard someone say “Healthy things grow” I would have a lot of quarters. It’s one of those idiomatic sayings you hear when you are around church long enough. The problem with pragmatism is sometimes unhealthy things grow. Weeds grow, cancer grows, the Bible tells us sin grows (James1:15). The American church and youth ministry, in particular, is filled with pragmatic ideologies. If you can get 200 kids in the room do it. Whatever it takes to get kids to bring a friend do it. The end result of this myth is you have to outdo yourself every week. You end up preaching your message upside down in a tank full of piranhas because 250 Jr. Higher came out not to hear your message but to see if the piranhas would win. 
 
The mission that the church proclaims through pragmatism and relevance through events and programs are touted as transformative and life changing but they are actually a form of rabbit starvation. Am I saying we shouldn’t be relevant? No. Should we have programs? Yes. What I am saying is when our mission is all protein and no fat the church suffers. Rabbit starvation is a rare form of malnutrition that is caused by the abundance of protein but the absence of fat. The Arctic explorer Vilhjalmur Stefansson wrote “Forest Indians who depend at times on rabbits, the leanest animal in the North…who if they have no fat from another source, will develop diarrhea in about a week, with a headache, lassitude and vague discomfort. If there are enough rabbits, the people eat till their stomachs are distended; but no matter how much they eat they feel unsatisfied.” Overconsumption of relevance and pragmatism has left many churches distended and unsatisfied. 
 
What is the church missing in its diet? 

Why a Successful VBS Has to be a Church Wide Event

In an earlier blog post, one of a the points that I got the most questions about was why a VBS has to be a church-wide event. My reasoning behind this statement was because I have done VBS as a departmental event and a church-wide event. VBS is such a large event that it either adds to the life of the church or it drains life from the children’s ministry department within the church. Here are a few of the differences I have found between a departmental VBS and a church-wide VBS.

A department VBS is lost in the sea of summer promotions. A church-wide VBS every department feels the pressure so they each push its importance. We canceled our worship team practice because we needed the space but it said to worship team that we are in this together. It served as a reminder that they should register their kids and invite others to come. We canceled our regular programming for youth ministry the week of VBS because of space and because so many of our youth are involved in making VBS a reality.

Top 50 Family Ministry Blogs

top_50_Family Ministry Blog

Family ministry has been a priority for churches since the 80’s but in the past 15 years there has been a new push for youth and kids ministries to be working together in sync with each other in a way that produces a cohesive strategy to equip and empower families like never before. When I started blogging 6 years ago there were only a handful of children’s pastors blogging. There were also a few youth pastor blogs as well. The desire I had for my blog at the beginning was to be to someone else what I wish I had when I started.

In the past 5 years there has been a huge shift toward staffing family ministry positions. That title means something different for each person using it for us here it refers to a single staff member responsible for all programing from birth through college. While there are not a ton of family ministry specific blogs out there yet, I thought it would be helpful to highlight some of the best of both the youth and children’s ministry blogosphere.

Orange week: Is your church co-dependent?

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Over the past 10 years that has been a gathering storm of energy behind the idea of family ministry. Reggie Joiner was first and has put powerful imagery behind the idea of ministry to families in the context of the local church and beyond. Reggie helped paint a picture for so many of us through the imagery of Orange. The combination of the influence of family “Red” with the light of the church “Yellow” creating “Orange“.

Orange is more than a curriculum Orange is an idea that needs to take root in our churches. Does every church need to use Orange curriculum? No. (It is great we used it for years) Every church needs however to have a comprehensive  practical out working of the idea that getting kids to church is not enough.

Over the course of the past few decades there has been an unhealthy co-dependent relationship that has been created between youth pastors/kids pastors and parents. Kids and Youth pastors ask parents to bring their kids to church so we can “straighten them out” “fix them” “Bring your kids to us we are the professionals”. Parents gladly comply because they want their kids to love Jesus and they either don’t know where to start or they don’t mind having one less thing to do.

Do kids need church? Yes. Will church “save kids“? No. The role of a pastor is not the salvation of children but the equipping of saints to do the work of the ministry. The role of the pastor is to preach to teach in such a way the wonder of the gospel flourishes in our churches. The desire to know God and be satisfied in Him alone becomes a reality.

The most damaging thing we can do in the postmodern culture we find ourselves in, is to build programs and create our own kingdom that both point to God’s kingdom. In doing this we make our churches primarily about us. We CAN NOT AFFORD TO DO THIS. We MUST make our ministries to build the Church through the accurate preaching of gospel. Our kids need pastors who make Jesus beautiful and who equip their parents to be the priests of their own home. Our preaching should drive them to the feet of Jesus and into the community that God has placed them in.

I strongly believe in the idea that what happens at home is more important than what happens at church. We must dig deep and not just agree in principle but seek God talk to our leaders to find out what this looks like in the congregation God has placed you. There is no set formula but there must come a passionate desire that drives us to do more than agree it’s important but to do what we must to make sure that our churches are not co-dependent.