Aspirations (Ben)

Last week I attended a conference of sorts called “The Elephant Room.” An engaging and worthwhile experience, the day consisted of watching several prominent leaders from excellent churches discussing 8 issues debate style. The men that made up the group were: James MacDonald (host), Mark Driscoll (co-host), Matt Chandler, David Platt, Perry Noble, Steven Furtick, and Greg Laurie. This group is diverse in their ministry style, no doubt, but very much unified in their beliefs.

The conference was awesome. End of story.

What really challenged my heart, however, was the aspirations that it subconsciously stirred. With the exceptions of MacDonald and Laurie, this group of guys are very young (relative, perhaps). For these gents to be in their early 30s and lead teams of people in the numbers they do… this is nothing short of spectacular. In fact, many of these guys were in their mid-twenties when they were experiencing the growth that launched their ministries into the spotlight. It should also be noted: Furtick looks like he’s 19. Just sayin.

So as I watched these men of God discuss the methods behind church life with ease and authority, I marveled; and dreamed. These are the type of men that I want to be. God blesses their ministries like I want to be blessed.

I certainly have a case of idealistic envy. As a young guy I begin to wonder how I might become like them. I think of the character I need to grow, the knowledge I must gain, the passages I have to be able to handle and memorize, the discernment I need. I see these traits in today’s upcoming leaders and I wonder: do I have those?

I guess at this stage of life this is called dreaming; vision. In 20 years, these same exact feelings are called a “mid-life crisis.” Add 20 more years after that and you have a classic case of “elderly depression.” You see, most people don’t become hugely successful in the world’s eyes. It’s not an excuse: men like Driscoll, Chandler, MacDonald… these guys are enormously gifted.

Is it wrong for a guy like me at 23 to want that gifting as well?

I wonder: how do I balance wanting to do great things for God with simultaneously being humbly content with how I have been made/gifted?

 

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How to Make Your Kids Hate Church (Ben)

Since all I do evidently is harangue parents…

This short article is a lovely complement to a few earlier posts I’ve made.

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Love Wins (Ben)

Since everyone out there is trying to get as much information and debate published as they possibly can… I have spent some time lately skimming some, enjoying others, and learning from the process.

Here are some links to the content that I most valued:

  1. Short TV interview spot. (humorous)
  2. Rob Bell interview about the Book. (over an hour long)
  3. Consise review of Love Wins by Tim Challies.
  4. Extended review of Love Wins by Kevin DeYoung (pdf)

Over the last several weeks, I have seen many different emotions expressed. The reaction that I have most appreciated was voiced not by a theologian (granted, I don’t converse with many theologians on a daily basis) but rather by a fast-food restaurant worker. As he learned of the content in Love Wins, he was visibly moved to sorrow. His only words: “I’m just sad, man. Rob is an influencial man… and thinking about the people he will mislead through this…”

There it is. Truth… but expressed by a heart that truly loves God and His mission. I respect a love for truth more than a the fight for it alone.

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Kimyal Reaction (Ben)

I saw this clip originally on my pastor’s blog at my internship (Rick Duncan of Cuyahoga Valley Church). It is so incredible to see.

It begs a few questions also.

How many Bible’s do you have laying around your house? How do you think the Kimyal people act when they open their Bible’s to read? How does that compare to your reaction to the same process (or maybe your lack of that process!)

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Brainpower (Ben)

T.S. Eliot in The Rock wrote

Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge?

Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?

While I may not be as intellectual (nor as seemingly hopeless) as Eliot was, I can certainly relate to these lines. As I’ve spent the last few years in an increasing fervency to learn and become mentally and spiritually prepared to do battle in ministry, I have often felt betrayed by my own mental in-abilities. While I can organize the folders on my C Drive, and force myself to comprehend complex arguments, it always seems that the more I learn, the less I am able to access that knowledge. It is as if my mind becomes a sinkhole instead of a database.

Typically, I am simply disappointed in my cognitive powers and move on in life. Shrugging off the fact that the valuable lessons I am learning seem to be doomed to inapplicable absorption, I move on. How can I help the way my brain works? Right?

Recently, I listened to a podcast from Desiring God 2010: “Thinking Purposefully for the Glory of God” taught by Rick Warren. Rick really drove home the concept that it is not always the fact that my brain is incapable, but more likely: sinful and lazy.

So I looked into it. Depending on which English version you use, the Bible has upwards of 60 to 130 uses of the specific word “think.” Many times, this word is used as a command by God either positively (think of this) or negatively (do not think…). Further, in that all famous passage, Philippians 4:8 details “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” Supporting the same idea but the in opposite, the New Testament alone uses the word “deceive” 33 times; the vast majority a command to “not be deceived.”

Evidently God expected us to not think very well. So much so, that He made the call for thinking an important part of His revelation to man. Somehow this has escaped my attention until recently. So whenever my time alone with God, meditation on Scripture, or conversation in prayer gets interrupted by my wandering head… I can’t just blame it on my inability. Whenever I learn something new, something that I believe God wants me to apply in my ministry or life… it is not acceptable to simply hope it transfers into reality. Just like how I use my actions is fair game in spiritual development, controlling and harnessing my brainpower (no matter its size) is an expectation.

What about you? Do you let your head lead the way (even though it is likely deceived?) or do you take captive every thought to the obedience of Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5)?

Think about it. (yes, pun intended)

 

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Diary of a Loving Parent (Ben)

I came across this video while reading Neil Powell’s blog. This video acts excellently as a contrasting part II to my previous post. Even more than the song, I am moved by Andrew Peterson’s story that motivated the writing.

A special thanks certainly goes out to the parents across time and distance who have prayed and worked so that their children may love God. A special challenge goes out to those who are someday going to be in their shoes.

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Diary of some Wimpy Parents (Ben)

Working in the Youth Ministry environment, my job gives me a perspective into the choices of parents that is almost as clear as sneaking a peak at their diary… and I don’t always like what I see. Often, when asking how their children are (because they haven’t been seen in a while) pastors are given the following type of answer:

“well, my teen really hasn’t been able to connect. They just haven’t made any friends here and they think the time together is awkward and don’t enjoy it. I keep asking them if they want to come but they just can’t seem to fit in.”

It is surprising how many parents think that their teen’s feelings of uncomfortably or inability to remain interested is reason enough to give them the all-clear to jettison church (or at least involvement within church) all-together.

Discussing this topic the other day, I expressed my frustration with this type of back-boneless parent. To my surprise, everyone else seemed astonished at my feelings. I was quickly reminded that “the teens may become bitter at church or their parents if they are forced to stay active” and that “Parents can’t force their teens to do these things.”

Hogwash, they can’t.

Now before I get going, I’d like to point out that I am simply exploring the topic, and actually welcome any type of discussion contrary to my points. All the input I can get on this matter will better serve me in my future. I don’t pretend that my ideas on the issue are universally correct, nor do I think they are anything novel. I am sure there is a whole book on the issue out there somewhere and hope that someone points it out to me (and possibly send me as free copy). Also, I realize that, not having any children myself, my perspective may seem to be ignorantly assumed. But I am quite sure that, having just finished being a teen myself, I am equally qualified to speak on the issue. Indeed, I might be more qualified this way. Engage with me and we’ll both learn.

Here’s the deal from where I can see it. Many, many born again teens are allowed to withdraw from action within the church body after expressing frustration, uncomfortably, boredom, or disinterest to their parents. Their parents sometimes feel helpless to do anything about the situation: their teens just can’t be controlled. Some parents back-up their child’s decision: they just can’t connect; who can blame them.

Here’s my beef. Jesus didn’t leave room for a bum bride. The Holy Spirit made it so very clear to and through the Apostles that each and every member of the Body of Christ has a role to play and the requirement to play it. Further, Jesus didn’t seem to say that this activity was conditioned on the effectiveness and health of the local gathering of believers. I doubt Jesus cares if your church is the worst local assembly that ever existed, I bet He’d expect any believer there to step up and perform their role (which would probably include some fiery words of reproach in that case, followed by a expelling of spiritual siblings who refused to repent… which might put the church back on track… even if it consisted of just the one member!). My point is, God didn’t put the “effective, interesting and exciting” condition on a believer’s involvement. So I wonder why so many parents do?

I suspect the reason stems from one of two directions. First, it may be that parents do not understand the way Jesus wants us to be his Bride. Second, it may be that parents simply do not know how to be good parents.

I’ll go with number one first because, I actually hope, this is the real reason (if parents don’t know how to parent… we’re in trouble). In addition to all of the “not forsaking the assembling together-ness,” Christians are to contribute to the Body of Christ as if their own maturity depends on it (funny, it actually does.) Ephesians 4 climaxes with this thought about the whole body of believers “Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.” Evidently God thinks every part is an important piece. Maybe we should listen.

Now I want to be clear: involved and participating means so much more than attends all the events. Do not think I mean to say that if a teen does not attend all the services at church, does not stay involved with the youth group, etc, that they are not living up to the Bible’s expectation. God wants so much more than that. God’s plan for church is that every believer is a participating member… supplying vital services and filling important needs. So any believer (not just teens) who nominally attends (walks in, doesn’t sleep, walks out) is actually failing. So I don’t think that you have to get your teen to attend youth group to get your job done. Attendance at Word delivering, service achieving, impact making, God praising, fellowship having functions is probably a very good sign… but not ultimate proof. Your teen can be functioning in the Body as God wants and not come to youth group (though I find that is the exception).

Reason number two that parents might allow their children to become uninvolved in church (for any variety of reasons) is that they don’t know how to parent. I’m sure that most parents today are obsessed with being their child’s friend. They don’t want the fight, they want their kids to like them, they hope they can be hip… and many other humorous similarities. The problem here is that it is not a parent’s job to do any of these things. It is a parents job to be a parent. To teach their child (teen) who otherwise would make foolish choices. It is the unfortunate truth that most parents become a jellyfish as soon as their child turns 13 and starts arguing back with (logical) force. Unsure what to do, many parents find it best to sit back and hope for the best. After all, you wouldn’t want them to become “bitter” would you? True. Your teen may hate you, hate church, hate God and hate the world, but it is your job to point them (with the force God gave you positionally) to the things which you know are best. It should be your highest priority to get them sitting under the teaching of the Word, fellowship of believers, and in the service of God’s cause (whether they want to, or not).

There are many things which can make this process much simpler. First of all, you as a parent should be doing the same things yourself. If your child (teen) knows that you take every chance you have to hear God’s Word, serve God’s people, and participate in the Body of Christ (and take the whole family with you) then your child (teen) will learn that this is an unquestionable value. For the most part, it is families who “choose” every week whether or not they will 1) go to church 2) volunteer to serve with such and such and 3)do things that I don’t feel like doing, that produce children who “rebel” and choose to stop doing any of them at all! Secondly, you could structure your family’s life. When you eat a meal, everyone eats (together), when you discuss a problem, everyone discusses with you (with the TV off) and so forth. This builds up a disciplined habit that silently teaches your children that “what our family does, we do together.”

I know, I don’t have any kids of my own. But I speak of these things as that rebellious child who was shaped by them. I hated so many of the things my parents made me do; especially in service to the church. In my early teen years, I have memories of fighting, screaming, and crying about what my parents would make me do in regards to church meetings, service, and involvement. They were awkward, uncomfortable, required work, required me to stop doing what I wanted, and forced me to do things I didn’t want to do. I hated my parents in those moments. But I am so eternally grateful that they had a backbone; that they didn’t care if I hated them. They knew that their job was to parent the childishness out of me- not enforce it by allowing my feelings to nullify my God required roles.

Some have said that my parents were “lucky.” That most kids would have rebelled even more, that most kids would have run away, gotten bitter, or never come back to the church. Its funny how we are such pansies in regards to spiritual matters. I never hear folks talking about how “we shouldn’t force our kids to go to school when they don’t want to… they might start hating education! They might refuse to read anymore!” The same parents who won’t force their believing child’s involvement in church, DO force their child to follow through with sports commitments, school attendance, homework completion, and so much more. What we have, are teens who are sinners and childish (all of us/them) and parents are either a) uninformed of the Biblical mandate for ministering or b) scared into striving for their child’s friendship instead of God-centered maturity.

I’m not going to lie. Most churches have environments/activities/roles that are awkward, lame, dull, uncomfortable, and even scary. I believe two things. One: that God has called believers to be ministers that work for the maturity of the group as a whole and that each part is equally important. Two: that the body of Christ is dynamic and diverse; if the local assembly of believers where you are serving is that bad that God is calling you to move with your family so that you CAN serve… then its ok to move!

One way of another… prayerfully make it happen. Your kids depend on you… they just don’t know it yet!

What are your thoughts?

 

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