Norfolk’s Clean & Green Campaign: An Opportunity to Serve

We are taking part in Norfolk’s “Clean & Green Campaign” by working to clean up along the roads in town.  Our location is still TBD, I’ll update this post as soon as I know, but this is a great opportunity to give back to our community.

We’ll meet up together at EBC at 9:00 and will work until Noon.

Here’s what you need to bring with you:

  • Heavy Work Gloves (so the glass/thorns/other prickly stuff doesn’t get you!)
  • Trash bags
  • Emergency Contact info, any allergy medicine you might need
  • Norfolk service day permission forms (download them here and bring it filled out.  If you want to DECLINE permission for the Town of Norfolk to use any pictures with your son/daughter then you’ll need to fill out the Declination form which is also a part of this packet.  If you don’t fill out the delincation form, then you’re giving permission for your son/daughter’s image to be used in future promotion).

Why should you participate?

  • Jesus said we are the light of the world… what kind of light are we shining in our community? 
  • You can’t grow an “others first” mindset if you’re always sitting down!  Get up, and get dirty in order to serve!
  • If you need service hours for school, this will count.
  • Last, but not least – We’ll be working together… it’ll be fun!

 

My Name is Peter: Calling & calling

LWAYGWhat Happened? (Read: John 1:35-42 & Luke 5:1-11)

In we read about the first time Peter meets Jesus.  At this point, “Peter” is still known by his real name (aka: the name his mother gave him!)… Simon.  In this story, we read how John the Baptist recognizes Jesus as the Messiah (they were also cousins) and some of John’s disciples begin to pursue Jesus.  One of those disciples is Andrew, who goes to find his brother Simon, saying, “We have found the messiah!”  When he meets Jesus, he’s given a new name – Peter, which means “Rock.”

Later on (days?  weeks?  we don’t really know…) Jesus is teaching along the shore of the Sea of Galillee when he sees some Peter, Andrew, and their fishing partners James & John fixing their nets and he asks them to take him out on the water (so he doesn’t get crushed by the crowd and so his voice can project better over the water and people can hear him).  After speaking, Jesus (who is probably hungry) tells them to catch him some fish.  You would think asking fishermen to catch you some fish wouldn’t be a big deal.  But these “professionals” had been out all night without catching anything.  They talk back to Jesus, telling them he’s just going to waste their time, but they obey and cast their nets where he tells them.  Suddenly, despite fishing all night without catching anything, their nets are so full they’re about to break and they need to call for reinforcement.  Amazed by what just happened, Peter kneels before Jesus in recognition of who He is.

Jesus tells Peter, “Don’t be afraid!  From now on you’ll be fishing for people!”  Immediately, Peter and the other fishermen left everything behind and followed Jesus.

Why is This Important?

  • If it wasn’t for Andrew bringing Peter, can you just imagine how different things would be?
  • Simon is renamed “The Rock” immediately… even before he became one of Jesus’ disciples!  He hadn’t said anything to Jesus and hadn’t even made any commitment to follow Jesus!  But Jesus knew Peter, He had a plan for Peter… Simon/Peter just didn’t realize it yet.
  • Jesus used the fishermen’s work/vocation to call them into ministry.  He didn’t use a construction analogy or a farming analogy – he spoke their language by telling them he would make them fishers of people.
  • It’s important to remember this wasn’t the first time they met Jesus.  Jesus was familiar to them.  They knew him and trusted him.  When Jesus told them to leave everything (family, safety, work, etc.) they did it immediately… amazing.

What Can I Learn From This?
The biggest thing here is to distinguish Calling and calling (hence, the title of this lesson/post).

  • Calling is what God calls every Christian to: worship, obedience, humility, evangelism, servanthood, etc.    If I want to know if God wants me to cheat on my wife, I can rest assured (and she can too!) that this is definitely NOT God’s calling for me.  Instead, God wants me to love her deeply and sacrificially (even when I don’t feel like it) as a reminder and a reflection of how Christ has loved the Church.  
  • calling is what God is calling me in particular to do and to be.  This type of “calling” comes in where I want to know how God wants me to spend my time, what he wants me to do with my life, and who he wants me to marry.
  • For Peter, his Calling was to follow Jesus as a disciple and his calling was to leave his boats in order to be “the Rock.”
  • Remember, your new identity is found in Christ and his Calling… but it is worked out through your calling.  Follow Jesus, and remember that following Jesus loks different for you than it does for me.  Work out your Calling wherever God has called you: at the lunch table, on the sports team, on the stage, behind a computer, with your friends, doing your homework (yikes!), and with your family.

Discussion Questions:

  • Who was/is your “Andrew,” who brought you to meet Jesus?  (Bonus: Make sure you thank him or her… and honor that example by “being an Andrew” to others.)
  • How does thinking about Calling and calling help you know who God made you to be and what He wants you to do?  What questions do you have about the difference between the two?
  • Make a list of what you believe God is calling you to… and begin to reach the Bible to list what God has Called all of us to.  This could be a great exercise (especially for parents to do with their HS Juniors who are starting to think about life-after-college!).

My Name is Peter: Series Introduction

LWAYG

Did you realize that we know more about Peter’s life than we know about anyone else’s in the New Testament?  Yes, that’s a hasty statement, and you could easily reply, “Umm, what about Jesus!?”  The Gospels tell in detail the story of Jesus’ life, but they mostly focus on the three years of his public ministry with the occasional glimpse of his birth and early childhood.

I Am Peter

Peter’s story throughout the NT spans decades, and we can see great maturity in him from when he first meets Jesus to when he writes 2 Peter just before his death.  We can learn from his failures and his triumphs: calling, doubt, temptation, faithfulness, witness to the miraculous, and endurance are all wonderful lessons we see Peter experiencing and learning.

Over the next few weeks we’ll be looking at just six stories from Peter’s life, but we’ve produced a very helpful booklet where all the NT’s stories involving Peter have been included by chronological order.  This can give a very helpful biography of Peter’s life.  We did not rewrite anything or add any commentary, we simply cut-and-pasted the very words of Scripture to make it a seamless story.  Parents, your teen has received a copy of this booklet, entitled “My Name is Peter,” and we’ve encouraged each student to take extra time outside of Youth Group to read more about Peter’s life and faith.  Take this opportunity to read the booklet with them and discuss Peter’s life and what we can learn from him.

As you read through the booklet, I want to encourage you to be asking these three questions (they’re good questions to always ask whenever you read the Bible!):

  1. What Happened?  Simply pay attention to the story.  Who is involved, what happened, why did it happen, and why do you think the author told the story that way?  What happened before and after this particular story, and how might that influence this story you’re looking at?  What details are given and why do you think they’re included?
  2. Why is This Important?  Why do you think the author included this story – there are lots of stories that remain untold, why did the author think this one was worth sharing?  What is the “big idea” the author wants us to “get” from this story?
  3. What Can I Learn From This?  How does this “big idea” affirm or challenge what you would’ve done or said if you were in that story?  How do you need to change or think differently to be in line with what Scripture is teaching here?

Reflecting on Jesus’ Ministry & What I Teach

Have you ever seen something that you’ve seen a bunch of times before, but it’s almost as if it’s the first time you’ve seen it?  Whether or not it’s your wife’s beauty or your favorite song or something else – it just seemed even more amazing and clear than ever before.

That happened to me yesterday in our staff meeting while reading through Colossians 1:19-23.  As I read, the overtones for ministry jumped off the page:

  • What did Jesus do?  Reconciled all things to himself.  He took everything (including the godless and sinful!) and has reconciled it to himself.  That doesn’t mean universalism, it means that all things find their fulfillment in Christ and ought to be judged accordingly. 
  • How did he do it?  Through his shed blood.  He didn’t do it by launching a bloody revolution whereby he judged the oppressors and vindicated the godly.  He did it by enduring the shame that rightfully belonged to the very people who killed him – you and me.
  • Why did he do it?  To present us holy and blameless and above reproach.  Jesus sees us not for who we are right now, but for who we are IN HIM.  He sees us for who He’s making us to be – holy and blameless children of God.

I’ve been wrestling with how faithfully this describes the goal of my ministry.  Is this a good description of what I consistently teach?

I think it’s a healthy and biblical question to ask: Does my ministry reflect Jesus’ ministry?  On one hand, we need to theological qualify that question, because no… your ministry will never reflect Jesus’ ministry… his ministry was done once and for all.  Jesus’ ministry is finished (John 19:28-30), it is now carried on through the Holy Spirit through the Church.  YET, this is still a good and biblical question to ask: Because your ministry ought to reflect Christ.  If you are faithfully proclaiming Christ, then doesn’t it make sense that your ministry would consistently point to WHAT he did followed by HOW and WHY he did it?

The message of my ministry must reflect Christ’s ministry.  I myself cannot repeat what He did, but I must make what He did the bedrock foundation of what I teach and do.

So here are the questions I’m asking:

  • In what ways can my ministry reflect Christ’s ministry? 
  • If what ways am I myself trying to be Christ to students – when instead, I should be pointing them to Christ instead of me?!  I must decrease, he must increase…
  • Has the message of WHAT, HOW, & WHY (above) so penetrated my heart and soul that they saturate everything I teach?
  • Would my students hear this message and think, “Yeah, this sounds like something P.Mike would say,” or would they think, “No, this doesn’t sound familiar at all.”

Youth Ministry + Jesus – Fun = Biblical?

Josh Cousineau published a post on the Gospel Coalition website this morning entitled “The Only Foundation for Youth Ministry” that’s getting some traction.  That’s a good thing.  I thought it was a pretty strong article.  BUT, reading the comments on these type of posts can be frustrating.  I even linked it up on my Facebook and had a good back-and-forth with one of my biggest youth ministry mentors over whether or not it was actually a good article or not.

So if you haven’t read it, use the link above and read it first, then continue reading…

Be Consistent in Critiques
I usually can’t stand these types of articles because I believe they take cheap shots against Youth Ministry that they don’t take against other areas of church-ministry.  What pitfall within the field of YM is not found elsewhere in the church: an over-reliance on “relevance”, replacing biblical teaching/preaching with good moralistic advice, or an unhealthy desire to draw a large crowd through fun/events/flashiness?  Isn’t that something that every church wrestles through?  If your pastor/church doesn’t wrestle with those things, then maybe they aren’t passionate about seeing God’s Word transform real people’s lives?  (yes, I really mean that… but that’s a subject for another post)

Maybe it’s just because I am a youth pastor, but it seems that whenever Youth Ministry is brought up on sites like The Gospel Coalition or Desiring God or other similar sites (both of which I read very regularly and highly respect, which is probably why it’s so frustrating to me) it seems there’s very little recognition that maybe… just maybe… Youth Ministry isn’t all about fun.  Youth Ministry is just as diverse as church-ministry, yet it often gets a very unfair stereotype.  If there’s a pizza party, Maybe there’s a reason for it that is good and healthy and redemptive?  It seems to me that Youth Ministry gets graded with a different scorecard than other ministries in the church, and I’m tired of it.  Honestly, I wrestle over whether or not I should even read the posts about Youth Ministry on those sites anymore because I find them so cartoonish and unfair.

Who Intentionally Builds on Fun?!
So here’s the thing – Again, I liked the article mentioned above, and I agree that this critique of fun-centered youth ministry greatly distorts biblical ministry.  At the same time, my youth leaders and I hosted an event for the teens in my church last week that we called “The Night of Awesomeness, part deux.”  It was fun (awesome, even… though obviously in the non-theological sense).  Teenagers came whom we haven’t seen in quite a while, and a number of students brought friends for the first time.  One of the friends sought me out at the end to shake my hand to thank me for letting him come.  Is that a terrible, unbiblical thing?  Do you really think he expect to come to youth group next week and have it be the same as something we’re obviously tongue-in-cheek calling “The Night of Awesomeness?”  I could imagine someone reading this article and thinking about the “Night of Awesomeness” and thinking, “Wow, I wish Pastor Mike would read this article, his ministry is all about the fun and needs more Jesus!”

Yes, there are youth ministries who seem to build what they do on a foundation of fun – but I absolutely guarantee you they don’t see it that way.  I bet they would have well thought out biblical and theological reasons for doing things that way.  I have never met another youth worker who isn’t passionate about seeing teenagers develop into spiritually mature young men and women.

We’re Always Contextualizing
Tim Keller insightfully writes, “to over-contextualize to a new generation means you can make an idol out of their culture, but to under-contextualize to a new generation means you can make an idol out of the culture you come from. So there’s no avoiding it.”

We’re always contextualizing (presenting our message in a way that is both understandable and meaningful to our audience).  If we aren’t contextualizing, then we’re reading straight from the Greek/Hebrew/Aramaic original languages of the Bible… if you’re using the King James Version, you’re still contextualizing.  We are always contextualizing.

We Don’t Live in Foundations, We Live in Homes Build on Solid Foundations
The gold in Cousineau’s article is this – We need constant reminders that our foundation is Jesus Christ.  The problem with foundations is that they crack when they’re weak and unmaintained.  If your ministry isn’t firmly built on the Gospel and if your commitment to the Gospel begins to be underemphasized as you contextualize, then that foundation is in danger of being replaced by something else.  THAT’S why I posted it on Facebook for my other Youth Ministry friends to read – as a reminder to maintain our foundations.

Jesus Christ is your foundation, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t build walls and a roof, paint the walls, buy some furniture (perhaps even some couches and a pool table!).  We don’t live in foundations, we live in homes build on solid foundations.  The foundation shapes what the home looks like and imposes limits and boundaries on what kind of house can be safely built on it.  But foundations also allow great freedom for the home-owners to paint and decorate and entertain.

Fellow Youth Ministers – be encouraged!  We are doing an important work, let us not grow weary or discouraged.  Keep your hand on the plow, investing in students for the sake of the Gospel.  Be faithful to the foundation of Jesus Christ, being careful to neither over-contextualize nor under-contextualize.

Concerned Church Members – pray for youth youth pastor and the team of youth workers in your church.  Bless them, encourage them, invest in them.  Buy your youth pastor breakfast and ask questions in order to understand (not in order to rebut and convince them that they’re unbiblical and shallow).  Finally, remember that you’re called to youth ministry too, even if you’re not a parent – learn the names of a few students in your church and begin praying faithfully for them.

Thankful for Teams

Let me admit it: I can’t do it all.  And you know what… you can’t either!

This morning as I was making my second cup of coffee I was thinking about this weekend’s youth group event we’ve dubbed “The Night of Awesomeness, part deux” (part one was two years ago).  The goal for the night is simply to have a game night where all the students and leaders can reconnect with each other a few weeks after winter camp and to help catch any visitors who came to camp but haven’t plugged into Youth Group yet.

Here’s the problem: I’m really not that much fun.  Ask anyone who knows me well to think of five adjectives to describe me, and I doubt the word “fun” would come up too often.  My point in all this isn’t to bash myself or to look for any pity (for the record, I’m perfectly fine with not being “fun,” I like my other traits just fine) – my point is that for me to plan something like the “Night of Awesomeness” I need a strong team to help me out.

Left up to myself, a “Night of Awesomeness” would probably be better describe as “Night of I-Didn’t-Have-Anything-Else-To-Do-So-This-Was-Fun-Enough.”  Instead, as I consider what we have planned for Saturday night, I’m legitimately excited… and very thankful for the team of youth workers whom God has brought to our youth ministry.  Everyone has something they’re passionate about, something they’re good at, something to contribute to your team.  If you’re like me, you might feel a little guilty standing back from the planning of different events because someone else is taking the lead – but trust me, sometimes the best thing we can do is to trust our team to use their strengths while we fade into the background.

So Keith, Alyson, Kevin… thanks for your work on the NOA2, it’s going to live up to it’s name because of all your work (and if it doesn’t live up to it’s name, then it’s on me!).  To the rest of the team, Trisha, Michele, Josh, Cait… I love everything you contribute to our ministry.  This really isn’t about the NOA2 at all, it’s just what spurred on my thankfulness for you.  We’re better together…

“Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ.” (1 Corinthians 12:12)