June 06, 2006

666

USA Today weighs in on today 06-06-06.

666d

June 05, 2006

Blind leading the blind...

Ymec_2006_007

Recently I found myself in Washington, DC with a free afternoon.  I took advantage of this unexpected opportunity by visiting the Holocaust Museum, then on to the Mall where I visited the Lincoln Memorial, Vietnam War Memorial and the World War II Memorial.  Not a light afternoon, to say the least.  About half-way through the sobering Holocaust Museum I became aware that the majority of people at the Museum were groups of teenagers from schools and churches. 

   

I soon became saddened by the poor ratio of adults to teenagers in these groups.  Unfortunately most of these youth were left alone with their group of peers to process something as difficult as the Holocaust.  I noticed some groups of teenagers who resorted to goofiness, obviously trying to compensate for the discomfort they were dealing with as they stared into the face of atrocity.  How different the experience of the teenagers who were accompanied by a caring adult who helped these young adults process what they were seeing.

       

Ymec_2006_009The rest of the day, as I visited the Lincoln Memorial, The Vietnam War Memorial and the World War II Memorial I carefully observed groups of teenagers.  Between the somber nature of the Memorials and watching the teenager’s reactions I was overwhelmed with emotion several times throughout the afternoon.  I listened to teenagers trying to help each other understand, sometimes they were on track at other times it was painfully clear – they needed adults to help them understand what they were encountering. 

      

My biggest unleash of emotion occurred each time I witnessed a small group of teenagers huddled around a teacher or a youth pastor who was explaining the significance of what they were experiencing. What a beautiful sight this was to me.

   

All afternoon I thought about youth ministry.  Too many young people are left on their Ymec_2006_017_1 own to figure out the condition of their spiritual lives.  Often, the only spiritual guide they have is a peer who is equally uninformed - the blind leading the blind!  Scripture makes it very clear that it is the responsibility of the older generations to pass the faith on to the younger generations.

    

O my people, hear my teaching; listen to the words of my mouth…what we have heard and known, what our fathers have told us. We will not hide them from their children; we will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord, his power, and the wonders he has done. God commanded our forefathers to teach their children, so the next generation would know them, even the children yet to be born, and they in turn would tell their children. Then they would put their trust in God and would not forget his deeds but would keep his commands. Psalms 78:1-7Ymec_2006_019

         

We, The Church of Jesus Christ, must take seriously the spiritual condition of our youth.  The command of the Lord is for all those who call upon the name of the Lord to share in the Spiritual Formation of our next generation.  Together, we must mobilize our time, energy and resources to fulfill this calling that will result in our emerging youth generation following in the ways of our great God.

                  

Hear this, you elders; listen, all who live in the land. Has anything like this ever happened in your days or in the days of your forefathers? Tell it to your children, and let your children tell it to their children, and their children to the next generation.  Joel 1:2, 3

Ymec_2006_023

June 03, 2006

Bring this on...

Check this out...

June 02, 2006

What God is speaking to me about today...

Recently, I've been focusing a lot of my scripture reading, both devotionally and exegetically on Luke's Gospel.  The radical nature of Jesus' message and actions blow me away.  Jesus comes to declare that the way of thinking about scripture, about God , about who God's people are, and about how God's people should think and live has been co-opted by human agenda's.  Jesus is preaching that the in-breaking Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.  A new wine will not be contained by old wine skins... 

I am particularly fascinated with the table fellowship motif that runs through Luke/Acts.  There are a dozen and a half meals in Luke alone. In the ancient world of the Middle East, eating with someone, sharing table fellowship with another was an intimate act, an expression of trust and a desire to share life together.  Jesus shakes Judism to the core by sharing table fellowship with the marginalize, oppressed, despised, poor and lost.  The criticism - "The Son of Man came eating and drinking and you say, 'Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and 'sinners.'" Luke 7:34 

BanquetIt is amazing how many well intentioned Christians are so convinced that they are serving God by being "defenders of the faith" and have fallen into the role of modern day Pharisees, the kind that gave Jesus so much hassle.  Lord Jesus, have mercy on us when we fall into this trap...  God have mercy.  And yet we see that Jesus even sought table fellowship with the very Pharisees who were working against God's agenda.  Jesus is amazing.

My prayer is that I will be attuned to the ministry of the Holy Spirit and the Lordship of Jesus.  Only through obediance to God can we demonstrate the graciousness of Jesus and the willingness to stand up to those who knowingly or unknowingly try to hijack the work of God in the world.

I came across this thought in my reading today...

"Sometime ago, I received an article by William Easum entitled, "On Not Being Nice for the Sake of the Gospel." He begins by writing:

Throughout my consulting ministry, I have seen a disturbing pattern: Most established churches are held hostage by bullies. Some individual or small group of individuals usually opposes the church's making any radical change, even if it means the change would give the church a chance to thrive again.

Later on he makes this statement with boldface:

I'm convinced that one of the main sins of the Church is that we have taught ourselves to be nice instead of Christian. In spite of aspiring to be Jesus' disciples, we teach that the essence of Christianity is to be nice.

Near the end he states:

One of the basic lessons I'm learning as a consultant: Before renewal begins in a church or denomination, normally someone has to leave or be denied. Almost every time a dying church attempts to thrive once again, someone tries to bully the leaders out of the attempt. And almost every time a turn-around takes place, such persons are lost along the way because they are no longer allowed to get their way. When they can't get their way, they leave. Not even Jesus got through the journey with all of the Disciples. Why should we expect to?"  Brian P. Stoffregen

Jesus guide us, protect us from ourselves, from our personal agendas, have mercy on us and grant they we may co-operated fully with your work in the world, have your way O God, may your will be done on earth as it is in heaven...

June 01, 2006

Jessica in the Hospital

Today we spent a good part of the day in the hospital with Jessica.  During her training week for YouthFront Camp she became sick.  She went to the Emergency Room and they scheduled her in for an endoscopy of her esophagus.  They discovered an ulcer in her esophagus that is probably the result of some kind of viral infection.  We are waiting to get the results so they can start treating it.  She is pretty bummed because it takes her away from camp for the next several days.  It's always something...

Funerals and Dodgeball - it's life and ministry...

Tuesday night and Wednesday afternoon I officiated the funeral services of my cousin Rita.  Rita has battled cancer for some time.  A couple of months ago at my aunts funeral, Rita asked me to lead her funeral services.  I wrote about it here.  Rita's life reads like the book of JOB.  However, it was a deep experience of faith for me to see the Holy Spirit bring beauty into the midst of this tragedy.  What could have been a crash and burn become an amazing display of grace and a deep celebration of life.  As I predicted in my earlier post it was the most difficult funeral I have conducted.

After the services, Vicki and I made a dash to YouthFront Camp South to join in the party involving the staffs from both of our summer camps.  Are full-time staff along with the summer college staff gathered to eat, worship and play together.  I shared a short message from John the Baptist proclamation concerning Jesus in Luke 3.  John was the voice of one crying in the wilderness and declared that through the life, message and work of Jesus every Valley would be filled, every Mountain and hill would be made low, the crooked would be made straight, and the rough places would be made smooth... through these unusual things all flesh would see the Salvation of the Lord.  I spoke briefly of all the unexpected things about Jesus... He was not an enlightened human the Jews expected would show them how to be more like God... Jesus was God enfleshed, the God/Man who came to show us how to be fully human.  Jesus' message upset status quo and turned upside down the prevailing ideas of who was an insider and who was an outsider.  Jesus didn't come as a conquering Messiah but a suffering Messiah.  Jesus came to inaugurate the in-breaking Kingdom that would turn the world right side up again... resulting ultimately in the restoration of all things (Matt 19) and a return to Shalom.  The Amazing thing is that we are invited to co-operate with God in community with Father, Son and Holy Spirit in the perichoresis (circle dance) of God's will being done on earth as it is in heaven.  I told our 100 plus staff that our calling this summer is to invite the nearly 5000 adolescents that spend a week with us to join in this dance of the Trinity by saying yes to Jesus' call to "FOLLOW ME."  We are going to invite youth to call on the name of the Lord, be saved and follow this surprising Jesus who is at work filling in Valley's, leveling Mountains, making the crooked straight and smoothing out rough places.

After I spoke we gathered in a big huddle, prayed and sang Be Thou My Vision followed by CELEBRATION.

For the next hour, against common sense I played Dodgeball until I had a variety of pulled muscles, rug burns and sweat soaked clothes.  Today I am not moving very well but I am convinced that I can still do this youth ministry thing.

May 25, 2006

Go Jessi

Jessi_ramsey_1Jessi Ramsey is a friend and fellow youth worker.  Jessi graduated from Lee's Summit High School and now coaches the Club121 on the campus of her Alma mater and was asked to speak at Lee's Summit's Baccalaureate Service.  That's cool...  Go Jessi.

May 21, 2006

Advice for the Pastor

Mike Atkinson sent me a link to this voice mail to a pastor from a visitor.  Very funny.  Make sure you keep listening after the voice mail because they put it in a music mix.

Here it is.

May 16, 2006

Heartbeat

I just heard our Grandchild's heartbeat for the first time over the telephone.  It was pretty overwhelming.

May 11, 2006

Observant Visitors

Easter_weekend_2006_009 Dr. Keith Schwanz is Assistant Dean and Lecturer in Church Music at Nazarene Theological Seminary.  I will be working with Keith and several others on a book this summer on missional leadership in the church.  Anyway, Keith and his wife Dr. Judith Schwanz visited Jacob's Well last Sunday and posted their experience here and here.

May 10, 2006

OK, the Really cool thing that happened at Coffee Girls

Continued from previous post...

So there we were (the Roundtable) in Coffee Girls involved in an intense discussion about where we are as a youth ministry and how we feel about changes we have made in programs, are we on the right track, etc. when Rachel walks in.  Rachel is a young lady that has been involved in YouthFront.  She has just finished college and has spent a year working among the homeless people in Amsterdam.  Rachel saw us and came over to say hello.  We asked her to sit down and share her experiences and feelings about YouthFront and what she sees now.  We asked her to be honest and speak from the heart. Roundtable_planning_day_007  Rachel started sharing her history with YouthFront, what YouthFront means to her and what she thinks about where we were and where we are going.  Five minutes into her story and I am crying like a baby, in fact our whole leadership team was very moved.  Rachel answered our questions and entered into our discussions for forty-five minutes.  About ten minutes in to Rachel’s story Ray said, “Rachel, did Mike ask you to ‘coincidentally drop by the Coffee Girls?’”  Mostly we listened to Rachel and received encouragement, affirmation and insight.  Rachel came at a “God appointed time.”  This was a moment.  Before Rachel left I asked her to put a few of her thoughts into an e-mail.  Here is what she wrote.

"The thing that attracted me to YouthFront was camp.  At camp I noticed that there may be something more to all this Christian stuff.  At YouthFront Camp Christianity seemed to be about more than the rules and fancy clothes.  People with different styles and different tastes, from different backgrounds were all accepted.  The staff at YouthFront created a desire in me to search for something more in my relationship with Jesus.  I became more and more involved with YouthFront, working as Teen Staff for years, going on mission trips, helping out at Impact, getting Club121 started at my high school and basically doing anything else that came along.  I met people who truly loved God and wanted to seek and serve God.

Roundtable_planning_day_003 After high school I went to college near Chicago and didn't really hear much of YouthFront until the summer after graduation.  I met up with Nick Pickrell the night his band played a show in Chicago.  He told me he was considering leaving the band and working for YouthFront.  I remember being blown away by the new things that YouthFront was focusing on.  Because I had matured significantly in my walk with Jesus I was so encouraged about the new emphasis of YouthFront to focus on Scripture, the radical way of Jesus, and prayer. It sounded a bit…quieter and deeper than the YouthFront I knew. In a society with so many distractions, noises and voices telling you what to do, what to buy or who to be, the change seemed so necessary.  Now that I have gotten back involved I see that YouthFront has made a move away from youth ministry that gives youth a packaged glossy deal with all the answers, towards youth ministry that calls for and relies on prayer with contemplation and meditation, and really wrestles with issues of faith and justice and what God's love and salvation and redemption through Christ means in all of that, both individually and as a community.   

Now that I am in my twenties I have discovered that beauty is something that impacts me deeply.  I have really fallen in love with and grown to appreciate the richness of the liturgy.  I feel like American Christian culture is lost in its individualism trying to be so palatable and easily digestible that there is little to no sense of community, at least in terms of our responsibility to be held accountable as a culture, as community, as the Church.  Being a believer and a part of the Church isn't about palatability; it’s about radically loving Jesus Christ, a task which is never easy, and certainly not without questions and tensions. With the shift towards the more meditative, contemplative youth ministry at YouthFront, it seemed to me that YouthFront is wrestling with these things and helping kids wrestle with issues of faith and life.

Being apart of the Altar was a great way to experience that first hand. To see camp as it is now compared to how it was when I was a camper and on teen staff is so interesting. The focus now is on really wrestling with what it means to love Christ and serve others, not just in our own surroundings but around the world, and wrestling with justice, and our responsibility in that.  The Altar was a time of amazing worship and powerful speakers who challenged us to step out of our comfort zones.  Time and space is created to meditate, contemplate and connect with God.  Loving others and seeking justice is something we must wrestle with if we want to take the Gospel seriously.  I am so excited about what is happening at YouthFront."

A cool thing happened at Coffee Girls

The YouthFront leadership team is called the Roundtable.  Several days ago we had an all day Roundtable retreat to think about where YouthFront is today and where we are Roundtable_planning_day_002 going.  We were sitting in discussing our mission and core focus in the context of Jim Collin’s book Good to Great and the Social Sector.  It would be so easy to pick a program or strategy to be our “main thing.”  In the For Profit world the Hedgehog Principle is often more simple to identify than it is in the social sector, Non-Profit or ministry organization.  The problem with picking a “Primary Program” as your main thing, the thing that makes you distinct – that makes a great organization – is that the program cannot sustain itself over a long time and you have to start over again, reinvent yourself.  At the same time identifying a value or concept as the “Main Thing” is so much more difficult to communicate and explain.  Therein lies the dilemma.  Will an organization do the hard work to stay with something that will sustain over a long period of time even though it is the more difficult path?  What makes it even more challenging is when your commitment to the core focus is misaligned because it is not “simplistic” enough or is “not the way we have always done it.”  Defenders of the old way have their success stories but they are usually something out of the distant past.  The real question is what is God doing today? 

Our Roundtable concluded that what makes YouthFront unique is YouthFront’s engagement in thoughtful, passionate and spiritual conversation about the genuine Christian formation of youth and our courage to adapt and contextualize the Good News of Jesus.  This is what most effectively enables us to fulfill our mission to bring youth into a growing relationship with Jesus Christ.  Programs will come and go and that is a really good and healthy thing but our passion to engage in the ongoing development of meaningful and fruitful youth ministry – evangelism and discipleship – and our love for Jesus is at the heart of who we are.

OK, my introduction to the really cool thing that happened at Coffee Girls went much longer that I had planned so the really cool thing that happened at Coffee Girls will come in the next post… to be continued.

Coffee Girls

May 09, 2006

The DaVinci Code

Davinci I am reading The DaVinci Code.  I have ignored it up to now probably because of my required theological reading load at seminary.  In anticipation of the movie coming out I am reading it so that I can speak intelligently about it in public conversations.  As a fictional novel this book is fascinating and hard to put down.  As a historical commentary on church history and the life of Jesus it is so laughable that I am embarrassed for every Christian, especially pastor who has reacted to it so negatively.  For those who are doing special series like Exposing the DaVinci Code Myth or Debunking the Lies of Dan Brown and his DaVinci Code how about doing a series called I'm Sorry that I have not taught the basics of orthodoxy and church history because I have been too busy teaching politics so it is no wonder you are bothered by something silly like the DaVinci Code.  OK, I know that is too long for a media savvy sermon series, but even if the title was shorter it wouldn't happen.  Why?  Because the sensationalism works.  It enables unhealthy people to expose this evil plan to end Christianity and save the day.  In the end it incites non-thinking Christians to go on a Crusade over the next several months to scorn anyone who happens to mention that they read the book or went to the movie.  Seriously, we (the church) need to take this opportunity to teach about the early church and the theological development of our faith.  There is nothing that defends better against the counterfeit than a knowledge of the genuine.  Remember this is a fictional novel, it is found in the fiction section of your book store.  Sure there are kooky people out there with an agenda like Henry Lincoln who wrote Holy Blood, Holy Grail.  But you've got to hand it to Dan Brown to turn some of those ideas into this highly successful mystery novel.  I think Dan Brown has handed us an excellent opportunity to engage in positive conversations with people about church history, Jesus and theology.  OK, enough of this rambling rant...

May 08, 2006

Klint Andrews Memorial Golf Tournament

Today the weather wonderfully cooperated for our Sixth Annual Klint Andrew's Memorial Golf Tournament to benefit YouthFront.  Klint was involved in our ministry and was tragically killed in a car accident at the age of 17.  This was a great event headed up by Ronnie Metsker.  The Andrew's Family are amazing people.  Here are some pictures.

The Core

Around 250 youth workers gathered at YouthFront on Saturday for Core Youth Ministry Training.  I was excited about the content which was developed using Kenda Creasy Dean's book Practicing Passion: Youth and the Quest for a Passionate Church.  I loved the deeper scriptural and theological tone of the training. 

Kirgiss The presenter was Crystal Kirgiss.  I think she is probably the best presenter we have had, other than Mike Yaconelli, and we have been doing this for a lot of years.  Crystal has worked with teenagers for more than 20 years. She writes a monthly column for YouthWalk magazine and is the author of What's Up With Boys?, Creative Bible Lessons: Prophets, the co-author of Guys, Girls, Sex Has a Pricetag, and other books. She lives in Lafayette, Indiana with her husband and three teenage sons.  She teaches at Purdue University where she is also a graduate student.

It was a very good day.

May 07, 2006

Youth Ministry Executive Council

The Youth Ministry Executive Council is made up of youth ministry leaders representing denominations and youth ministry organizations with national ministries.  There were forty of us who gathered at the Bolger Center outside of Washington DC.

This years experience was a huge improvement over last year.  Last year was so negative.  I posted about it here and here.  This year there seemed to be a huge shift to a sense of hope that adolescents are ready and willing to put their whole selves into following Jesus and want to make a difference in the world.  I heard several themes that centered on the importance of exposing kids to Scripture and teaching them how to really pray instead of indoctrinating them with our cultural lists of do's and don'ts. 

I hope this represents a continuing trend in youth ministry overall.

Ymec_2006_002_1

Trent Lott

Later in the day I met Trent Lott the Senator from the great state of Mississippi. Ymec_2006_027

National Day of Prayer

I almost classified this post in the category of "politics" because that would have been a more accurate description of the National Day of Prayer stuff I attended at the Capital in Washington, DC last Thursday.  I spent 53 minutes in the Caucus Room observing all the National Day of Prayer festivities led by Dr. James Dobson.  This is the second time I have attended the National Day of Prayer events on Capital Hill.  It is pretty bizarre to be sitting there and have Tom Delay walk in and sit down a couple seats from you (happened this year).   Fifty minutes after I entered the room we finally prayed.  The prayer last 46 seconds.  I left.  I walked around the Capital Building and Washington, DC praying on my own. 

May 06, 2006

Ordination

Last Sunday we celebrated a first at Jacob's Well, after six and a half years of existence we held our first Ordination.  Mike Crawford and Shayne Wessel have gone through a Ordination_sunday_2006_004 Ordination_sunday_2006_018 process that resulted in Sunday's Ordination Ceremony.  Mike, who is our Worship/Arts Pastor led our congregation in music worship using all songs that he has written and  Shayne preached.  After the morning service we held a special time of dedication, prayer and laying on of hands of these two awesome men of God.  We thought this time might last for 45 minutes but went on for two hours.  It seemed like 45 minutes Ordination_sunday_2006_017 because it was such a sweet time of affirmation for these two from so many they have impacted.  We presented them with really cool Ordination Certificates designed by some of our creative people Ordination_sunday_2006_014along with an iPod for each with their names laser written on the back.  Along with the pastors and Elders laying hands on them and praying we gave the whole congregation the opportunity to come, lay hands on them and share a verse, short prayer or word of encouragement.  What an awesome day.  I am so thankful to have these two set-apart to minister and serve our community at Jacob's Well.  I was honored to work with Tim Keel and our Elders in developing the Ordination process for Jacob's Well, along with working with Mike and Shayne as they worked through the process..

Ordination_sunday_2006_019

May 02, 2006

Mr. King goes to Washington

I will be in Washington, DC the next couple of days at the Bolger Center for the Youth Ministry Executive Council.  This is sponsored by The National Network of Youth Ministries.  There are approximately 40 national youth ministry leaders from various denominations and organizations gathered for dialogue about youth ministry.  We also participate in events surrounding the National Day of Prayer at the Capital.  More later...