Dug Down Deep – What Will You Build Your Life On?

This past week we kicked off a new DVD series called “Dug Down Deep: Building your Life on Truths that Last.”  The series is named after a book written by Joshua Harris (which I’ve read, and it was great… I highly recommend it for anyone in High School or older!).

You can check out the trailer HERE

The key question for this series is this: WHAT ARE YOU BUILDING YOUR LIFE ON?

In Luke 6:46-49 Jesus tells this parable:

6 “Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?47 As for everyone who comes to me and hears my words and puts them into practice, I will show you what they are like. 48 They are like a man building a house, who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock. When a flood came, the torrent struck that house but could not shake it, because it was well built. 49 But the one who hears my words and does not put them into practice is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. The moment the torrent struck that house, it collapsed and its destruction was complete.”

Two things immediately stand out and were highlighted by Josh Harris in the video we watched:

  1. Jesus comparing disobedient pseudo-Christians with faithful Christians.  Most of us who were familiar with this parable thought it was comparing “Christians” with “non-Christians.”  Josh Harris pointed out that’s not actually true.  Jesus is comparing those who claim to be Christians but don’t actually obey Jesus’ words with those who both claim to be Christians and obey Christ.
  2. Both “type” of person gets hit by the storm.  Being faithful to Christ doesn’t mean that life won’t be full of tragedies.  What building your life on the Rock of Christ does mean is that instead of being crushed by the storm you will weather the storm and hold together through it.
So what are you actually building your life on?  Take some time to think through the different areas of your life and rank what’s most important to you:
  • THINKING: School, Family, Jesus, Love & Sex, Sports, Celebrities, Clothes, Acne, Bling, Other…
  • RELATIONSHIPS: Family, Best Friends, Girlfriend/Boyfriend, Facebook/Social Media, Christian Friends, Friends Who Respect My Faith, Friends Who Tear My Faith Down, People Who Give Me What I Want, God, Other…
  • AMBITION: Fame, Success, Money, Marriage, Pleasure, Beauty, Popularity, Ministry, License/Independance, Other…
  • TIME (WAKING HOURS): Shopping, Texting, Gaming, Skating, Studying, Practicing, Sports, Worshipping, Kissing, Chatting, Other…






Sharing Too Much?

I posted this video in a post a while back, but as I read about the upcoming changes in Facebook I think it’s worth another look.

Stop and really think about why you would want to share so much information with so many people on Facebook.  The reality is, most of us have way more “Friends” on Facebook than we actually would share any personal information with.  Why does my friend from high school whom I haven’t spoken with since graduation care about pictures from my vacation or what my big plans for the weekend are?

What is driving your desire to share online:

  • A desire to connect with your friends?
  • A desire to feel important?
  • A desire to change how people look at you?
  • A desire for affirmation that you’re not experiencing in your “real” relationships?
Facebook is changing its format to make it easier for us to share more of our lives.  I was shocked by what I read here: “Facebook’s Ticker Broadcasts Everything You Do.”  Another article I read about the new Timeline Format makes some statements that really concern me:
“Rather than just displaying your most recent activities, your profile will become a scrapbook documenting your entire life, all the way back to your birth. Facebook will become a record of your existence: All your memories, your victories and your defeats, your loves, your losses and everything in between. …And you’ll realize, as I did, that Facebook knows you better than you know yourself.”  (Pete Cashmore in “You’ll Freak When You See the New Facebook“)
When on Facebook, be careful what apps you give permission to… because you only need to “Allow” them once for them to start recording all sorts of information about you.  Be careful how much personal information you put up online, I am quickly losing my trust in the security and privacy of Facebook.My wife refuses to get Facebook, and for a while she was after me on a regular basis to cancel my account.  Don’t tell her, but I just might be taking her advice when this new Timeline gets rolled out…

Whatever you decide, consider these moves:
  1. Clean out your Friend list to people you really know and trust with personal information.
  2. Seriously ask yourself why you share as much as you do on Facebook.
  3. Set and Maintain privacy settings to be a little more private than you think is necessary.  It’s better to default to share too little online than too much, right?  Go through your “Permissions” settings and clean out apps that you really don’t use (if you don’t remember what it is, delete it).
  4. Parents – Protect your kids… even if your “kids” are teenagers.  Teenagers, recognize that your parents aren’t being dictators, they’re trying to look after you (and you’re called to submit to them)
There is only One who knows us perfectly… even the things we would never want posted on Facebook.  The amazing thing: He still loves us and gave His all so that we could have life and hope.  Live for Him.
  • “And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.” (Hebrews 4:13)
  • “For he looks to the ends of the earth, and sees everything under the heavens.” (Job 28:24

What SYATP Teaches Us About Our Hearts

See You At The Pole was this morning.  I love this day.

It’s a day to see my students take a stand for Christ in their schools, and their faith is strengthened because they took the risk and went.  It’s also a day where some of them chose not to go.  It’s also a day where some of them legitimately forgot about it and will be reminded when they get to school and are asked, “Hey, where were you?”

All three of those scenarios are exciting to me, because it reveals their heart.  Don’t misunderstand me: I’m not saying “It reveals their heart to me because I’m stalking them and taking careful notes about who does what.”  It reveals their heart to THEMSELVES.  And I trust that they think about that.  I trust that they ask themselves questions like:

  • “Why was I so scared about this today?”
  • “Why did those people mock me for praying?  How should I respond?”
  • “Why did I choose not to go?”
  • “What reasons will I give for not going?”
  • “Am I treasuring Christ or other people’s opinions?”

Students, please don’t take this post as a judgmental accusation (besides, I wasn’t driving around to your schools with an attendance list looking to write down who showed up and who didn’t.)… that’s honestly the farthest thing from my mind.

I want to encourage you to ask yourself WHY you responded to SYATP the way you did.  I want to encourage you to talk about it with you parents, with a friend or with myself or one of the other youth leaders.  Take this opportunity to dig deeper into your own heart and be willing to ask yourself some honest, hard questions.

Even if you chose to “accidentally sleep in” this morning, I will be so proud of you for honestly asking yourself these questions.

If you attended SYATP: Awesome!  Thank God for giving you the courage and the faith to take that stand and to take a risk for Him.  Reflect on what He might want to teach you through SYATP… and keep on praying!

If you DIDN’t attend SYATP:  It’s ok, really.  Your relationship with God isn’t dependent upon this one morning.  But honestly ask yourself why you didn’t go.  Ask God to stir up more love for Him in your heart (really, isn’t that what we all need!).

May we all grow more confident in taking risks (great and small) for Christ.

A New Adventure (no, not that!)

No, I’m not announcing my resignation!

I started a new blog, Gospel-Centered Youth Ministry!  Here are a few reasons why:

  1. I love to write.  I have always thought best with my fingers on a keyboard.  Some people are verbal processers, I guess I’m a “write-it-out” processor.  Writing clarifies my thoughts, focuses my convictions, and helps me effectively speak about something I’ve already thought through.
  2. I love youth ministry.  No, I don’t think I’ll be a youth pastor “forever”… but I absolutely love ministering to teenagers and their families.  Because I love it so much, there are times when I want to share thoughts, insights, and questions about the philosophy and practice of youth ministry with others who are also engaged in youth ministry.  This new blog will be a place where I can do that more freely.
This doesn’t mean that I’m going to be neglecting this site in order to try to build a name or reputation for myself!  My ministry to the students and families at Emmanuel Baptist Church is absolutely and unequivocally my first priority (well, other than loving God and loving my family, but you know what I mean).
Instead of periodically posting articles about ministry philosophy or practice on this website (which is supposed to be primarily for the students and families of EBC), those ministry and theology-based posts will be put to Gospel-Centered Youth Ministry.  This shift will give Crosswalking more definition and consistency as a website while still giving me the space to work through various ministry-related topics that I believe are worthwhile and helpful to share with others.
Check out my first post on the new blog if you’re interested in hearing more: Why Gospel-Centered Youth Ministry?

Why I Try to Resist Ministry Bandwagons

I’m not the stereotypical trendy youth pastor (honestly, I don’t know many who fit the stereotype).  I don’t live on the cutting edge of innovation.  But I do have an iPhone, a Macbook, I blog, and I just recently got black-rimmed glasses.  I generally tend to adopt things that are new once they aren’t really “new” anymore and have proven their worth, otherwise I fear that I’d be wasting my time in order to be a pioneer of something that’s gone and over before you know it.

My point in telling you this is simply to say that I don’t fear change and adopting something once I’m confident that it’s actually helpful and productive for more than a fleeting moment.  For example, I still haven’t gotten on Twitter since I don’t see many teenagers tweeting.  It might take a few months or it might take me a few years to be convinced of something’s worth.  It doesn’t take too long to be in ministry to realize that there are a number of “Ministry Bandwagons” that you could hop on: Purpose-Driven Youth Ministry, Postmodern Youth Ministry, Contemplative Youth Ministry, Emergent Youth Ministry, Family-Based Youth Ministry, Traditional Youth Ministry, etc. etc. etc.

A lot of these different ministry paradigms have something to offer (some more than others), but you can’t possibly do them all.  So which is it?  How many times have we known someone who’s gone to a conference, come back, and then worked to completely overhaul his/her entire ministry?

A few years back I attended a seminar where Alistair Begg was asked about how he addresses cultural “hotspots.”  I loved his response.  He basically said, “There’s always some circus going through town, but it’ll go away soon enough and then another one will come.  I simply preach the Gospel, so when the circus has left town the Gospel is still present.”  I loved that response, and I agree with him.  That doesn’t mean that we ignore that there’s a circus, but it means that our ministry remained centered upon the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

His example was that he never preached directly against the DaVinci Code while it was everywhere.  He simply kept on preaching the Gospel and when Scripture addressed something to do with the DaVinci Code then he’d point it out so people were aware of it, and then he’d move on.  And then the DaVinci Code moved on.  He didn’t have a church-wide initiative to have all the Small Groups study all the faults and heresies in the DaVinci Code, he kept them focused on studying Scripture.

In Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s lectures on preaching he taught that preachers must not try to make the Gospel relevant, but instead, they must work to testify to its relevance.  The Word of God makes itself relevant to our world when it is rightly understood and proclaimed.  This has made all the difference for me in my ministry.

None of us who are in ministry want to live on the bandwagon, hopping from one thing to the next to the next.  We want to be culturally relevant, but we must strive to do so because the Gospel is the power of God unto salvation… even today in the midst of whatever cultural hotspots may flare up.

There are lots of great youth ministry books and resources available, and we should learn as much as we can from them.  But please, don’t hop on ministry bandwagons.  Don’t try to be someone else and copy someone else’s ministry.  Be the pastor or youth pastor that God has called you to be.   

In order to keep myself from being misunderstood, let me give a few examples of what I DON’T mean:

  • DON’T ignore application.  The Gospel changes lives.  It isn’t simply an idea or concept to be learned.  It is the power of God for salvation.  God changes lives.
  • DON’T ignore culture.  Media has enormous power over people today and it’s constantly speaking into their lives.  If we are not teaching people to discern the truth from lies then we’re simply neglecting our spiritual responsibility.  We must be in the business of helping people see the power of the Gospel to redeem culture.
  • DON’T ignore the needs of your people in particular.  Don’t ignore people’s heart-cries.  If someone’s mourning, comfort them.  If someone’s sick, give them hope.

Teenagers, Think About 9/11

Like most people, I remember exactly where I was when I heard about the events of 9/11.  I was a Senior at Gordon College and chapel had just let out.  I was on my way to class, just about to enter the side door on the left of the Jenks Library at Gordon College.  My Senior Seminar class was going to start in a while and I thought I’d check my email before going to class (that was when you actually needed a computer with an ethernet chord to connect to the internet).  A friend of mine said something about a plane flying into one of the the Twin Towers in NYC, but we still didn’t really know what was happening since it was all unfolding.

When the second tower was hit and we heard the Pentagon was also hit none of us knew what to think or feel.  One of my good friends in class was from New York City.  He was a mess.  Most of us were.  We sat together in class with the professor with the radio on, listening.

The message soon came that classes were canceled for the rest of the day and an impromptu chapel session would begin soon.  I don’t remember the chapel ever being more full… or so many people ever praying so fervently for the same thing.

Teenagers, you lived through this tragedy, but I’m not sure what you remember.  Talk to your parents, to older siblings, to whoever… Read blog posts, newspaper articles… watch the news this weekend.  The following blog post literally brought me to tears as I read it, because it made me remember and re-feel (I know, that’s not a real word) what I felt and experienced that day, here’s his concluding paragraph:

What They Taught Us, by Marshall Allen
“Sept. 11, 2001, we realized the depths of evil and learned the value of life. Thousands of people died when the walls of the Pentagon and World Trade Center came down. Hopefully those of us left to reflect on the loss will learn to love one another as we were created by God to do — through the inner transformation that’s the product of our relationship with our Creator. We’re not going to eradicate evil from the earth, or create a humanistic utopia, but we’ll be fulfilled through living as we were intended to live. We only live once, so let’s be sure our ‘I love you’ messages at the end of our lives are consistent with how we’ve lived.”

Greg Stier also wrote a great post entitled, “How Should Christians Respond to 9-11?”  His is a shorter blog that all Christians would benefit from considering.  Check it out.

It’s so easy for us to get caught up in complaining about this or that and to lose sight of what matters most.  May we all remember the lessons that 9/11 taught us:

  • Every day is a gift from God, treat it accordingly.  Don’t waste your days, live them joyfully.
  • Tell loved ones how much you love them.  Don’t just assume they know already… tell them!
  • Forgive those who hurt you.  As the article linked to above reminds us, none of the people who made phone calls on 9/11 held a grudge… they wanted to tell their wife, children, moms and dads that they loved them.
  • Live for Christ, don’t just think about him.  If you’re a Christian, Jesus says the world will know you by the way you love one another.  Creeds and doctrinal statements are essential and needed, but it we live our lives and build our culture in a way that is contradictory to what we claim we believe then people will find us hypocritical and repulsive.
  • Don’t put off living for Christ for when you’re older.  You don’t know what tomorrow will bring, and the more you build your life apart from Christ the further away from Him you’re drifting.
  • Finally, 9/11 taught us that national unity really is possible.  Unfortunately, however, it seems only possible in times of great tragedy when all secondary agendas are able to fade into the background for the moment.
This weekend, take some time to remember these lessons (or learn them for the first time).  Please, don’t just go through the weekend wondering why everyone seems so melancholy and serious.

Movie Remakes and Changing the Church

I was listening to a podcast yesterday where the speaker mentioned the Karate Kid, and for some reason it made me think about what a shame it is to remake such a classic like they recently did.  Confession: I haven’t seen the remake with Jackie Chan (who is amazing) and Jaden Smith.  I thought about what I know of the remake: Chan is Mr. Miyagi and Smith (who’s maybe 10 years old?) plays “Daniel Son” and it takes place in Hong Kong.  It’s a total remake but keeps the same plot and story-line.  By and large, I think most people in their twenties and older thought the idea of remaking such an amazing and iconic movie was ridiculous and unnecessary.

Then, since I had this thought while listening to a podcast about leadership in the Church, I jumped ahead and made the connection to how movie remakes are in some ways like changes we make in the Church.  Keep the same message, but communicate it in a different way (change the sermon’s presentation style, change the music style, change the church’s architecture, change the pulpit/sanctuary to be more laid back, change the “dress code,” or whatever other changes we can make).

Maybe some of us from the “younger generation” who are more accepting of some of these changes can learn to identify with our older (and more mature!) brothers and sisters in the faith and can learn to give them some grace when they are resistant to changes we would like to see happen.  Paul encouraged in Ephesians 5:21, “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.”

You don’t want people messing with your movies… and let’s be honest, it’s just a movie.  Let’s be careful that we aren’t changing too much in our churches so that we’re cutting out what’s “classic” and “iconic” about our Christian Faith.