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Navigating being “in the world” and not “of it,” is one of the most complicated mine fields of our life with Jesus. Wouldn’t it be awesome if we had it written in black and white in the Bible that we should avoid Snapchat and Grand Theft Auto V while we CAN post on Twitter and Instagram as long as we are never wearing a bikini. It’s all well and good that Leviticus tells me clearly how to deal with a dead cow I find in a field while I am out for a stroll. This has not been an issue for me as of late. Instead the list of actual “rules” seems much shorter than that of guidelines to living for Jesus.

Recently we navigated the Grammy Awards. There was the usual shock & awe that accompanied the show. Katy Perry’s performance was called, “demonic glorification.” The mass wedding during Macklemore’s “Same Love,” caused gasps across the nation. Then of course we love to just poke fun at poor Taylor Swift, this year with her head banging piano playing.

Christian artist, Natalie Grant was nominated for two awards.  Her actions have become viral as she posted on her FaceBook wall that she left the show early:

“We left the Grammy’s early. I’ve many thoughts about the show tonight, most of which are probably better left inside my head. But I’ll say this: I’ve never been more honored to sing about Jesus and for Jesus. And I’ve never been more sure of the path I’ve chosen.”

It was such a vague statement that a variety of people began to basically say, “See she was offended by what we were!”  Instead, she graciously pointed out that it was conviction that caused her to leave, not any one performance.  (You can read more about that HERE)

My reaction to the Grammy Awards? The world acts like the world.

It may sound flippant. I am not saying there weren’t things that I learned about that didn’t offend me, they just didn’t surprise me. It’s sort of why I was indifferent to the awards show in the first place.

The better question for us as Christians is how are we navigating what will feed our soul?  For Natalie Grant she realized that singing for Jesus to people who want to sing to Jesus is her conviction and calling. What I don’t know is if Natalie Grant knew the words to any of the songs she heard live. Some of us will never listen to anything on the Pop radio station, some will and enjoy it while feeling guilty about it, others will proudly sing at the top of their lungs, some of us might even, “ROAR,” during “The Best Day Of Our Lives.”

When students ask me what they should do when it comes to navigating culture choices, I ask this question: “Does it bring you closer to God, or farther away from Him?  Sometimes it truly may do neither. Speaking of Taylor Swift, I don’t feel closer to God when I listen to her, but I may learn how to navigate heartache. Some things are indeed inert.

Where the “shame” lies is when we point fingers at others (namely our students) while screaming, “AHHH! Plank in my eye. Plank in my eye.” We indulge in “guilty pleasures” with a shrug and nervous giggle.

What I respect about Ms. Grant is, she has never once judged anyone in this process, but for whatever reason staying would have caused her to “stumble” as we say, so she left.

This begs the question.  Are we so busy creating a list of “Do’s and Don’ts” that we forget it’s about the state of our soul? I think the reason there are so many guiding verses about watching our heart, tongue and soul, is so we will ask the Lord what He thinks is best for us. Are we willing to delve into Scripture and ask Jesus before we turn the radio up, go to see a movie or turn on the television? None of these are “evil” however, some of them may not be beneficial for me?  If we are going to spur our students on to more, will we do the same in pressing in to be closer to Jesus?

So I wonder, “Would you have left the Grammy Awards?”  Not because of an “agenda,” but simply because the Holy Spirit nudged this is not where He wants you right now?

Some of us would stay and enjoy the show. Some of us would turn to our neighbor and ask them if they know Christ. Others would get up and walk out and let the world know about it.

Tell me how are you dealing with your convictions, and how are you sharing these with your students?

Now excuse me while I chart a path around this dead cow I just happened to find at the Super Bowl Halftime show….

-Leneita

@leneitafix

Movies may require you to be silent when you’re watching them in a theater, but they can often create more conversation than we’re prepared for afterward.

Have you seen the trailer for the movie “Heaven Is For Real” yet? Here’s a glimpse:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hn_bRrxIGY8

Greg KinnearThere is even a free movie screening for ministry/education peeps: http://heavenisforreal.themoviescreener.com/

Just in case you don’t know, the book was written by a pastor who shared about conversations he had with his son. Here’s a YouTube video that summarizes it: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hhT36Dizo2s

I mentioned in a previous post about the forthcoming movie “Noah” that we have to be prepared to talk about these topics, whether or not we’d go see the movie ourselves. There’s a reason why Hollywood is spending a lot of money on hiring solid actors to present these themes. They know that culture-at-large will swoop in and take it in.

So… how do we prepare for that?

For example, how can this conversation be less about what we “think” heaven is like (which everyone has an opinion about) and more about what it actually is?

  • What questions should we be asking ahead of time?
  • Is it worth doing a sermon series on heaven and hell prior to this?
  • Do you believe in the content of the movie yourself?
  • Will you take your students to see this



joejonasJoe Jonas recently opened up about his experience as a “Disney” kid.

Maybe there’s nothing surprising here… but read on.

“Being a part of a company like [Disney] comes with certain expectations. Not overtly, but there was a subtle vibe. We were working with Disney in 2007 when the Vanessa Hudgens nude-photo scandal happened. We heard that she had to be in the Disney offices for a whole day because they were trying to figure out how to keep her on lockdown. We’d hear execs talking about it, and they would tell us that they were so proud of us for not making the same mistakes, which made us feel like we couldn’t ever mess up. We didn’t want to disappoint anyone—our parents, our fans, our employers—so we put incredible pressure on ourselves, the kind of pressure that no teenager should be under. We were just kids. That’s the reality. We were frightened little kids. So you got all this responsibility that’s foisted upon you and you’re expected to be perfect. … [But] being a part of the Disney thing for so long will make you not want to be this perfect little puppet forever. Eventually, I hit a limit and thought, Screw all this, I’m just going to show people who I am. I think that happened to a lot of us. Disney kids are spunky in some way, and I think that’s why Disney hires them. ‘Look, he jumped up on the table!’ Five, six, 10 years later, they’re like, “Oh! What do we do?” Come on, guys. You did this to yourselves. The first time I smoked weed was with Demi [Lovato] and Miley [Cyrus]. I must have been 17 or 18. They kept saying, ‘Try it! Try it!’ so I gave it a shot, and it was all right. … I was caught drinking when I was 16 or 17, and I thought the world was going to collapse.”
—24-year-old Joe Jonas, in an extensive interview published at vulture.com about his and his brothers’ rise to fame as the Jonas Brothers [vulture.com, 12/1/13]

Jonas also added that much of this began because he was “used to growing up in public. I was a pastor’s kid, so eyes were always on me, even then. I sat in the first pew of the church, and I had to wear a suit every Sunday, because my parents wanted me to be this role model that I didn’t always want to be.”

So… let’s sidestep the time we can spend deconstructing the Disney machine here. (In fact, it may be worth noting that not every Disney star feels the same way he does/did). I will add that you should Jonas’ other personal reflections about church, religion, purity rings and more. It’s an eye opener, especially if you plan on promoting someone as an “example” to your students to look up to.

Let’s also pause chatter on how senior pastors aren’t parenting their kids like they should, “blah blah blah.”

Instead, I’d offer you a question as a youth worker…

What are the high-end expectations that we might unknowingly put on youth group kids that cause them to shine today but explode later?

And… if you have the courage and raw honesty to answer this..

What are the high-end expectations that YOU might unknowingly put on youth group kids that cause them to shine today but explode later?

I’ll answer, too.

How about you get the conversation started?

Coming Soon?

Tony Myles —  November 16, 2013 — 16 Comments

There’s an unconscious irony for pastors and youth workers after watching a preview of the movie Noah.

If you haven’t seen it yet, here it is:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FRTlT3DEydU

noah_smMuch like God spoke to Noah and told him what was to come, we have the opportunity to prepare for what’s ahead. Whether or not this movie is “100% accurate,” we will have the opportunity to talk about God and the Bible when our culture tunes in for a moment.

Think about some of the things we should brush up on now:

  • Who was Noah?
  • How old was Noah… really?
  • Will God punish people? If so, why? If not, why? And, for that matter, should He?
  • Theories of evolution vs creation vs flood theory
  • How big was the ark?
  • How many animals were on it?
  • What about the dinosaurs?

This is only scratching the surface.

  1. What does this mean for you?
  2. Will you take your students to see this?
  3. What else should we be brushing up on?

And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone. (Colossians 4:3-6)



times square

It all started with a recent visit to Times Square in NYC with my family. We didn’t notice the billboards until the sun went down and the light’s went on. There she was, several stories high towering over us, a naked woman barely covering her chest and selling men’s underwear of course.

Last weekend I was traveling for a speaking engagement. Turning on the television, the first “station” was one of those where you can, “Pay for the latest movie in the comfort of your room.”  Absent-mindedly, I left it there for a second.  That’s when an attractive woman, dressed pretty modestly began to speak. Her words caught me off guard. She said, “For just a small fee you can watch adult entertainment. No spyware. No malware. You can pay in a way that no one has to know.”  In other words,  “Go ahead an watch porn. No one is paying attention.”

This sexually charged culture is in our face all of the time. Media portrays sex as something to be used, discarded and played with. There is no talk of intimacy, or the soul’s involvement in this “physical act.”.  A ChristianNet Poll, Focus on the Family Poll, and research conducted by Christian Counseling today discovered these stats for THE CHURCH:

  • 5 out of every 10 men in the church are struggling with some issue concerning pornography
  • 34% of churchgoing women said they have intentionally visited porn websites online.
  • 54% of pastors admitted to viewing Internet porn in the last year and 30% admitted viewing within the past month.
  • 50% of all Christian men are addicted to pornography.
  • 20% of all Christian women are addicted to pornography.
  • 60% of women admit to having significant struggles with lust.
  • 47% of families said pornography is a problem in their home.
  • 42% of surveyed adults indicated that their partner’s use of pornography made them feel insecure.
  • 41% of surveyed adults admitted they felt less attractive due to their partner’s pornography use.
  • 30% of surveyed adults said their partner’s use of pornography made them feel more like a sexual object.

It’s not just a set of statistics. I know people in full-time, paid ministry whose lives and marriages have been destroyed by porn. We have been told that we must be “perfect” so we close our hotel rooms, and turn on the television.

How do we deal?  If this is what is going on with adults then what do we say to youth?

  • It starts with an honest assessment of our own heart, mind and soul.  We need to be totally aware of the danger of falling into a sexual trap, at any moment.  What are we doing to protect our hearts, eyes and mind against the world that tells us, “If it feels good in the moment, go for it.”

 

  • The discussion in youth group goes FAR beyond purity.  It is talking about the way Satan is always seeking “who he will devour, “ and he will use whatever he can to accomplish this goal-  media, people, insecurity, everything. We have to be supporting the family.

 

  • We need to keep exposing the lies.  I was previewing a CW show about princesses for my teen daughter, because I had heard some things. Sure enough, the first 20 minutes included both a graphic sex and a masturbation scene. Yep, it took place in the 1800’s, and yep, my husband and I felt like we had just watched porn. Just because tradition or the culture says it’s alright, doesn’t make it God’s plan.

It’s time we all remembered that God wants more for us than this excuse for “Sex” that the world portrays. He wants us to be in wonder of the miracle he calls, “Becoming one flesh,” and the promises attached to that.

What are you doing to actively combat this sexually charged world? 

Leneita

@leneitafix

lets talkKurt and I discuss culture and that is exactly what it was a discussion. So hopefully a few learnings pop out as we discuss culture. Our conversation ranged from Miley Cyrus to Darryl Strawberry. We talk about it all. Now, right up front you will learn two things:

  1. How Kurt dances his way through youth ministry.
  2. How the word twerking made it’s way into the “Let’s Talk Youth Ministry bit archive.

If you have a topic you would like us to talk about send us an email to talkaboutym@gmail.com.

 

hope it helps

ac and kurt



Justin (time)

Tony Myles —  August 28, 2013 — 1 Comment

vmas

Upon further review, something just occurred to me…

just in time, I believe.

“I can’t believe what those two people did on stage! Kids were watching!”

(2004, Justin Timberlake and Janet Jackson)
(2013, Miley Cyrus and Robin Thicke)

“What an amazing performance! What a talent!”

(2013, Justin Timberlake)
(2022, Miley Cyrus and Robin Thicke?)

Say it ain’t so.

I’m all for forgiveness, but wouldn’t you agree it’s odd how quickly we become selective in our outrage (and forgetful, too)?

What do you think… is that a commentary more on pop culture or the culture that consumes it?

Of them the proverbs are true: “A dog returns to its vomit,” and, “A sow that is washed goes back to her wallowing in the mud.” (2 Peter 2:22)

Discovery ChannelOkay, first off – how did I not know the show “Amish Mafia” existed?

I ask because I stumbled onto it through a random web link. I later did some research and learned that the show  isn’t as accurate as it presents itself to be. A great article from Lancaster Online gives testimony to how the main personas and storylines of the show are more “between 1 and 10 percent truth.”

Still, after watching these clips, I found something “familiar” about it.

Maybe you can help me out here. I’m not Dutch, I don’t live in Pennsylvania and I’m a big fan of electricity.

So from this preview alone, what am I identifying with?

Are there any implications or comparisons for what does and doesn’t happen in youth group circles… and the role some youth workers take on?

For example, I feel there is this subculture within youth groups where some kids want to go wild but create the sense they’re staying true to their faith. Then within that subculture there’s another subculture who encourages it (i.e. the Amish mafia), and yet another subculture (i.e. parents/church legalists) who are quick to pounce.

I’d love to hear your thoughts. Thanks!