P.Mike’s Sabbatical Plans

At EBC’s Annual Meeting last week I was approved to go on Sabbatical from Mid-June through August 2013 in order to work on my doctoral thesis.  My classwork is complete, but the big task of writing the thesis usually takes people significant time, so I’m very excited to have this gracious opportunity to focus on writing during the Summer of 2013.

What will happen to the Youth Ministry while I’m gone?

I’m blessed to have an amazing group of volunteers who form the Youth Leadership Team (YLT).  The YLT and I meet every month in order to plan and lead the youth ministry, and we will continue to plan the Summer’s ministry calendar together.  There will still be weekly youth group, a missions trip, and other activities… I just won’t be there.  The YLT will be coordinating the different ministry needs as they arise and will be looking for more parental support than usual, so please reach out to any of the youth leaders to let them know how you would like to serve.

 What is a Sabbatical?

A Sabbatical is a period of time granted to a pastor in order to focus on personal rest, spiritual renewal, and some form of sharpening of ministry skills (sabbaticals are frequently granted to college and grad school professors as well).  EBC recently adopted a Sabbatical Policy where pastors are considered eligible for a 2-3 month sabbatical after completing seven years of full-time service.  Just as God ordained the Sabbath to fall on the seventh day in order to bring rest and renewal, many churches adopt a sabbatical policy in order to bless their pastors with a similar season of rest and renewal in order to prevent burn-out and reenergize their pastors in their ministry.

If your curious about more, you can read EBC Sabbatical Policy or read a helpful post on Wheat Ridge Ministries’ website HERE.

What Will I be Doing?

During my Sabbatical, I’ll be focusing on resting (“Sabbath” is at the core of the word “Sabbatical,” afterall) and writing the Thesis for my D.Min.  Tracy and I hope to take a week away with the kids towards the beginning and again towards the end of the Summer.  For most of the Summer, I plan on getting to know the Norton Public Library and surrounding coffee shops very very well while typing away on my computer with a bag full of books.  I’m also making plans to spend a week at Gordon-Conwell Seminary for their “Writer’s Workshop” where I’ll work with an editor to help make my Thesis as strong as possible.

What is my Thesis About?

My Thesis is focused on “Youth Ministry as Bridge Between Church & Home.”  I hope to explore how youth ministry can function as the bridge that connects the local church with what happens in the home.  Traditionally, youth ministry has often been the arm of the church which has reached out to teenagers to ground them in the Gospel and equip them for life-long discipleship. Most youth ministers understand their role is to “coming alongside” parents, and yet this is a great oversight in most youth ministries.  Youth ministries must be seen as the bridge between the local church and the home.  Teenagers ought to be seen as young men and women whom Christ loves and has adopted into his family.  When teens are committed more to the youth ministry than to the church it should not be a surprise when many of those teens eventually walk away from their faith after their teen years.

We must remember that the Church is eternal and the family is a mirror of Christ and the Church.  The Church is the Bride of Christ, not the family.  Whenever someone “becomes” a Christian, they become a member in the Church.  Christian parents deeply yearn for their children to not only grow into healthy and fully-functioning adults, they prayerfully raise their children in order that they would be adopted as sons and daughters of God through Jesus Christ.  I believe there is a pattern of youth ministry throughout Church History that is very relevant and helpful to the Church today in reaching the next generation for Christ.  With this in mind, I will explore how the practice of catechesis can provide a helpful framework for re-envisioning youth ministry as the bridge between the local church and the home.

My Thesis will explore the various facets of how the local church has built these bridges in previous generations and what this bridge-building can look like today.  As the Pastor of Youth and Families at EBC I have begun to work through a transition towards this philosophy of youth ministry.  This transition has begun through opportunities for parents to be equipped to lead in discipleship and will continue through intentional partnerships between the church, the youth ministry, and the home.  These efforts will be evaluated through ongoing long-term relationships, conversations, and online surveys. My Thesis will explore the Biblical & Theological foundations which support this approach to youth ministry while also evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of other resources which address this same issue.  I will outline how I have applied this to EBC and evaluate how those efforts were received.  Ultimately, I think I could write this Thesis forever, since I doubt I’ll ever “figure it out,” but I hope to propose my conclusions about how this approach to youth ministry might be applied fruitfully in the local church.

2013 Deep Freeze at Camp Berea

Don't Miss the Bus!

It’s almost that time!  We’re off to Camp Berea in a few weeks and you have a few questions about the details.  Well, here they are:

Meet at EBC: 4:30pm on Fri, Feb. 15th 
Pickup at EBC: 4:00pm on Sun, Feb 17th 

IMPORTANT: Please remember to bring a bagged lunch to eat on the bus on Friday.  We will only be stopping once on our way up to Berea, so you need to have dinner on the bus (and you’re responsible for cleaning up after yourself, so don’t bring anything too messy).  Everything else for the weekend is taken care of for you, but you might want to bring some money for vending machines, the snack bar, the gift shop or a CD from the worship band.   

Please make sure you’re on time on Friday with all your stuff, because you don’t want to miss the bus!  We’re renting a school bus and a U-Haul for the bags.  Parents, if you need to get in touch with your teen over the weekend, please either call Pastor Mike’s cell phone (you can call the EBC office for his number or ask him for it ahead of time) or contact Camp Berea’s office.

Please download and fill out the completed Camper Permission Form sooner rather than later.

Our speaker this year is Jeffrey Dean.  Jeffrey seeks to engage, empower and equip youth to follow Jesus and pursue a relationship with Him. He focuses on youth culture to communicate Christ’s love in a captivating, convicting way and works with ministries and organizations all over the country such as Josh McDowell Ministries and local Boys and Girls clubs.

Our worship band is the Andy Needham Band.  Andy was the youth pastor at Chapel of the Cross for a few years before launching full-time into worship leading and producing the band’s first full-length studio album.  He’s a great guy with a heart for worshipping Jesus Christ and serving the Church.  I can’t wait to be led in worship by his team.

Want to play paintball?  

  • $10 per hour (includes the ‘marker’ and 200 rounds of paint)
  • Each 100 rounds of paint costs $5.
  • You CANNOT play paintball without having the Paintball Form filled out by a parent and turned in ahead of time.  (If you’re on the fence about playing, then just fill out the form just in case, otherwise your decision will be made for you)

What to bring this weekend:

  • Bible (if you don’t have one, let us know and we’ll give you one!)
  • Sleeping bag, Pillow & Towels
  • Bathroom stuff (Toothbrush, toothpaste, soap, deodorant etc.)
  • Gym clothes (They have an indoor gym)
  • Snow pants or extra clothes in case you get wet from tubing.
  • Boots, Warm clothes, Winter Jacket, Winter Hat, and Gloves.
  • Prescription medicine (please inform at least one of the adult youth leaders in your cabin about your medicine just so we’re aware).
  • (You don’t need to over-pack… remember you’re only packing for TWO DAYS!)

What NOT to bring this weekend:

  • Cell Phone
  • iPod or other music player
  • Weapons of any kind
  • Any kind of drug, alcohol, or other ‘questionable’ substance (if you’re not sure, please contact Pastor Mike or just don’t bring it)

Cell phones and ipods isolate you from others, we want you to “get away” for the weekend to
make new friends and meet Jesus. Students usually complain about this, but find themselves really
enjoying being “unplugged” for the weekend.  Any of the above will be confiscated and returned when you arrive back to EBC on Sunday

2012: A Year Longing for Peace

The following is a summary of a sermon I preached at Emmanuel Baptist Church on December 30, 2012.

As we spend time looking back at 2012, one of the clearest themes that stands out is a longing for peace.  In some cases this peace is present, acting as a foreshadowing to a more lasting and richer peace that is longed for.  In other stories, there is a clear longing for the peace that it is painfully absent.

Without understanding from where our peace comes, we will always search but never find, long for it but never be filled.  Too often, we find ourselves searching for peace from false peace-givers: money, power, fame, recognition, pleasure, success, good grades, and even family.  These can be good things, but when we look to them for what only God can give then we turn them into idols and false peace-givers.

In John 14:1-3 Jesus tells his disiples, “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.”

First, Jesus tells them to not let their hearts be troubled.  The word translated as “troubled” also caries the idea of “being shaken.”  As Jesus spoke these words, they had just finished the Last Supper in the upper room in Jerusalem and Jesus knew he was about to be betrayed, arrested, and crucified.  He had just told the disciples he was going to be killed, and then he tells them to not be shaken, to not let their hearts be troubled.

Next, Jesus affirms their faith in God and tells them to trust in him.  He’s transferring their faith in the Father to faith in Him, the Son, and then later (in v.18) promises to send them the Holy Spirit.  God is utterly and completely trustworthy.  They do not need to be shaken or troubled even though they’re walking down a very troublesome road (remember, these men were most likely teenagers and young men who had left everything to follow Jesus).

In order to give them peace and keep them from being shaken, Jesus points their attention heavenward, he reminds them of the big picture.  Throughout the Bible we see that God’s peace is God’s presence.  Whenever people long for peace, they receive the promise of God’s presence.  Peace doesn’t mean an absence of suffering or adversity; it means that God is with us (2 Cor. 4:8-9, 14).

Jesus says that he is going to his Father’s house to prepare a room for his disciples.  In fact, there are many rooms, not just a few rooms for a few very special guests.  He’s going to prepare a place for us and will come to bring us to our forever home with God.

Jesus is our access to the Father.  Jesus is the fulfillment of the Psalmist’s longing to see God’s face (Psalm 27:8-9, 51:11, 69:17, 80:7).  Jesus is the preacher of peace because he brings us into God’s presence (Eph. 2:17-18).  And what’s most incredible is that God himself came to us because we could not come to him (John 3:16-17) – this is the meaning of Christmas!  Jesus Christ is the Messiah, Immanuel, God-with-us.

Don’t give up on peace, but make sure you’re looking for peace from the only One who can really give it.  If saying “Jesus is my peace” sounds trite and simple to you, then maybe you need to reconsider from where you’re pursuing peace.  Maybe you’re looking for peace from false peace-givers.  Or maybe you’re looking for peace from God’s gifts, but not from God Himself – remember that peace is a fruit of the Spirit, which means it’s a byproduct of a loving and faith-filled heart towards God.

God’s presence is our peace.  That’s not something we can look for through good health, happy families, a strong economy, or a godly president.  2012 had its mountaintops and its valleys, so will 2013.  The secret of having peace is searching for it in the right place.  Jesus Christ brings peace, because he brings us to the Father.  The Holy Spirit is our advance payment, rely on Him to strengthen you for the remainder of the journey until your peace is paid-in-full.