What’s Working?

 —  September 23, 2014 — 17 Comments

Go-crSo… what’s working?

Jesus gave us the Great Commision. We’ve been stumbling over ourselves since He did, trying to figure out how to be a movement when it’s a whole lot easier to build an organization.

On one hand, we know what isn’t working. There’s the penetrating content from “Why Nobody Wants to Go to Church Anymore”  as well as articles on why millennials are leaving the church. On the other hand, there are innovative proposals like the approach of Lifetree Cafe or the “orange” approach to some kind of sticky faith. Willow Creek Community Church is trying “A Holy Experiment.”

I think I’ve had my fill of the deconstruction. I’d like to start reconstructing.

helping_hands300What’s actually working?

What are you experiencing?

What are you seeing?

What is the “What if…?” you have started to that you hope will pan out?

What’s the next big idea in front of you that isn’t just a big idea, but potentially the right idea?

What is your church and/or youth ministry doing to create new inlets for lost people to find Jesus and become a part of the Church versus just expecting people to walk through the church building doors on their own?

Please share your best outreach ideas/concepts/dreams.

child2I’d love your perspective…

How young do you think a child can be to legitimately become a Christian?

We can certainly have some fun with this, and definitely get off on some tangents…

but I’m genuinely asking.

Please share your thoughts.

As you do, here’s something to complement our conversation from the late Rich Mullins.

Cute-Kid-PrayingHow young can a kid become a Christian?

What’s been your experience?

What’s your thought?

0e621383_headerevangelismresources13I believe that sharing Christ is our number one responsibility as a believer. When we give our lives to Christ we are commanded to share the good news with others. Now, I know that there are a lot of tools and resources out there on how to share your faith. That’s a good thing because I don’t believe that there is a set way to do it. So whatever you’re doing or using, keep it up.

When I was younger I was taught the Romans Road which was great. However, I was to scared to share in fear that if I ever got off the road, I wouldn’t be able to find my way back. Two thoughts would run through my mind as I shared the gospel:

  1. “Please don’t ask me something I don’t know.”
  2. “Please don’t know more about the Bible than I do.”

Needless to say, I did whatever I could not to share my faith with others.

I know that I have students in my ministry who probably think the same way that I did. However, it’s an invalid excuse not share your faith, because there are no valid excuses when it comes to sharing your faith. We’ve all been mandated as believers to share the good news of Christ. So I decided to help them by teaching them to share their faith through their own experience versus just head knowledge.

Also, there are some things that I’ve learned that really hinders us from sharing our faith effectively. I thought I’d share them with the youth ministry nation. So here they are:

  • We share more than we should –  I think sometimes we can share too much. We want them to accept Christ and stop smoking right there on the spot. Sometimes we trip ourselves up by taking the conversation down roads that lead away from the gospel. You don’t have to prove that you know more than you actually do. Also, you don’t have to explain the flood or Jesus turning water into wine. Just keep it simple and to the point.
  • We use spiritual language – Beware of the words and phrases you use that might be super meaningful to you, but to them are silly talk. Example: “Just run into the arms of the Lord”, “allow God to be your anchor in the midst of the storm” or “let the Holy Spirit move in you”. Make sure the words you use are understandable. Sometimes we get caught up in the spirituality of words and phrases because they sound good, but they don’t explain anything. Just use common language.
  • We get baited into a debate/argument – There are certain people who may want to ask you about your faith, for the sole purpose of debating or arguing about something. These people aren’t looking to dialogue. They are looking for a fight, so don’t entertain them. No one has ever came to Christ after losing an argument about religion. God told us that if there are people who don’t receive the good news, we need to do what He says in Luke 9:5 – “If people do not welcome you, leave their town and shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them.”  We weren’t commanded to defend our faith. We were commanded to share it. 
  • We have to know it all – This is where I struggled the most. I thought I had to know everything in order to share. I felt like a failure if I didn’t know everything. It’s ok if you don’t know all the answers to their questions. You can say ” I don’t know. Let me get back to you.” Those who are genuinely seeking truth will understand. I will also point out that there are some questions you won’t find the answers to until you get to heaven. So know that it’s ok to get back to them with the answer and be ok with saying, “Because we can trust God concerning what we do know, we believe by faith the things we don’t know yet.”

Sharing our faith should come natural and should be a huge part of what we do. We have the cure to sin, which is a disease with eternal implications. We need to share it with an urgency and not let anything hinder us. What other tips would you add to the list?

Hope it helps,


Unpacking Noah

 —  March 31, 2014 — 9 Comments


****Warning: Spoiler Alert****  If you haven’t seen it,  or don’t want to know details, avoid reading on.

There has been a lot of controversy in the Christian community as whether or not to see the “Noah” movie. I thought we were prepped and prepared for what we would see and feel. The articles suggested that this movie account of Noah, deviated from the Biblical account a little. So many “details” are missing in the Scriptural account that we expected there to be some “poetic” license, but we felt like after seeing the trailer, the movie would do the story justice.

The movie is extremely well-made and acted. The cinematography is stunning. My fourteen-year-old put it this way,  “It’s like when they make a movie of your favorite book, and they get all the details wrong. It’s a shame that it got so off course, because by itself the actors were amazing and it was fun to watch.”

On the one hand we see the depth of human wickedness. Genesis 6:5 tells us, “The Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time.”  It is obvious in the portrayal of violence, hurt, and the strange post-apocalyptic wasteland everyone lives in. I can only imagine how horrific it must have been to hear the cries of the dying as the flood waters over took the earth, and then to be cooped up inside while it rained and rained and rained.noah 2

On the other hand, I spent 2 1/2 hours in confusion. It began when the rock-like “Watchmen” appeared with a story that totally deviates from who they are in Genesis 6, and ran through most of what I saw. (Tubal- Cain is in Genesis 4, but did not kill Lamech, Noah’s father.) I could pick apart the details, however, there is a great article I found answering questions around the Noah “controversies”  HERE.

It wasn’t the misrepresented facts that troubled me though. Does anyone remember the Noah television mini-series that also held Sodom and Gomorrah from years ago?  What hurt my heart was the representation of “The Creator” (as God is called).

The God of Noah and the people of the earth is silent, confusing, and distant. It misses that in Genesis 4, Seth and his son Enosh began to worship the Lord by name. Yes, it depicts Noah as a “righteous man” but it misses a key part to Genesis 6:9, “This is the account of Noah and his family. Noah was a righteous man, the only blameless person living on earth at the time, and he walked in close fellowship with God.”

Noah had a deep relationship with the Lord. God spoke with him clearly in the details of what he was doing, why he was doing it, and how to carry it out.  On at least two occasions in the account the phrase, “Noah did everything as God COMMANDED him,” is used. God closed the door to the ark, and GOD TOLD Noah when it was time to leave. He was close to Noah and clear about His desires.

Instead, in this account God is described over and again as being almost cruel. The Watchmen want to know why God stopped talking to them. Tubal-Cain screams at Him to say anything. Noah is left to his own devices to interpret God’s words and actions. It troubled me deeply though that Noah thinks he and his wife can override God’s will, and when they get it “wrong” it will nearly torment them to death.

My 13-year-old son summed it up this way, “If I was a teen who was struggling with my faith with God and I saw this movie,  I might give up on Him.  I would walk away thinking God is heartless, distant and down right cold. It missed the faith of Noah that held him because he knew God.”

So should you see it?  Some say a resounding, “YES!” so you can talk about it. Although, I had already re-read Genesis 5-9 by myself, with my children, and in my youth group to get ready,  I went back to my Bible again after seeing it. This is good. It forces you to really know what God’s Word does and does not say.  (Read it for yourself HERE.)

I would say this, be very careful about bringing the “unchurched” to see the film. The reality is when we see a movie “based on real events,” we take what we see to heart. There is a lot off in the film, and honestly the “themes” I expected to stand out did not.  Noah is supposed to be righteous, but allows a young woman to be trampled to death, almost kills his granddaughters, and lives in shame for a period of time? In addition, the graphic nature of the film can be difficult to watch. My 6th grader struggled with a lot of it, she spent more time with her eyes covered than watching it.

So what to say?  Weigh the facts before you go.  If you have a friend who desperately can’t wait to see it, then go and discuss it with them. If you are thinking this is the perfect evangelical opportunity, it’s not. The director is a self-proclaimed atheist, and it shines through in the back drop of the telling. In the end, I was struck with the realization that the best tool in telling people about Jesus is in relationship with them. For that matter then it’s time spent,  and really almost any movie can be a catalyst to a deeper conversation about God.

If I had to choose again I might skip Noah and see something else.

Have you seen it?  What are your thoughts?

Leneita / @leneitafix

Be reminded… following Jesus will never, ever make sense in a broken world.

Say AMEN to that, even if you want it the other way around.

As you do, listen to these insights from Frederick Buechner:

“God is the comic shepherd who gets more of a kick out of that one lost sheep once he finds it again than out of the ninety and nine who had the good sense not to get lost in the first place.

jesus with sinnersGod is the eccentric host who, when the country-club crowd all turned out to have other things more important to do that come live it up with him, goes out into the skid rows and soup kitchens and charity wards and brings home a freak show. The man with no legs who sells shoelaces at the corner. The old woman in the moth-eaten fur coat who makes her daily rounds of the garbage cans. The old wino with his pint in a brown paper bag. The pusher, the whore, the village idiot who stands at the blinker light waving his hand as the cars go by.

They are seated at the damask-laid table in the great hall. The candles are all lit and the champagne glasses filled. At a sign from the host, the musicians in their gallery strike up ‘Amazing Grace.'”

― Telling the Truth: The Gospel as Tragedy, Comedy, and Fairy Tale

I am so proud of Tyler, a freshman in high school. He and his family have been coming to our church for about a year and a half.  It’s fun to see a high schooler rallying his friends at school to do something for the gospel.

The news station didn’t mention our church in this video (probably for obvious reasons, we were lumped in under the phrase “other non-profit organizations”), but it’s things like this that our church is seeking to give more and more money towards.  We are coming behind more things like this that those in our church are doing.  Helping our people do things in our community for the furthering of the gospel.  I love this and am very encouraged.

A local news station recently aired this recap on what Tyler is doing. Click the image below:



Proud of these students wanting to bring hope to others,



Everyone has an opinion on Halloween… and its alternatives.

candycornOn one hand, I completely appreciate opportunities to remember that Halloween is really a degradation of “All Saint’s Day.” Everything belongs to God, including whatever has been corrupted or changed over the years to reflect something else. It’s why my family is a huge fan of how this season can be a time to sip apple cider and eat pumpkin pie while the leaves change. We don’t do the ghoul/ghost thing, but we do let our kids get dressed up in a fun costume and make the rounds for candy while we bond with our neighbors. That seems kind of important to God,doesn’t it?

On the other hand, I also appreciate the efforts of Christians who believe we should “have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them.” That word “nothing” is rather powerful, isn’t it?

Churches have tried to come up with alternatives that try to ride the tension between those two thoughts. Sometimes we forget how this comes across, though. Here’s a great one-liner from “Angry Youth Pastor

Harvest Festivals are like substitute cuss words…God and everyone else still knows what you mean. #holyghostweanieroast


Meanwhile, Greg Stier offers 13 ways not to share your faith this Halloween. Here’s a slice:

  • Insert Testamints into marshmallows covered in chocolate and blessed by a priest.
  • Tell the kids who come to your door that Halloween is the Devil’s birthday party (Like my son used to believe.)
  • Give away apples with John 3:16 carved into them. John 3:16 is great but apples? Seriously? Don’t be that house.
  • Go as a zombie with a sign around your neck that reads, “Dead in my sins

Jesus PumpkinPerhaps a more comprehensive summary is what Darren Sutton hits on regarding how Halloween outreach efforts often fall flat.

Somewhere, we decided that Halloween was bad – and we were going to offer an ‘alternative’ (that strangely looks just like Halloween huddled up on our parking lot.) And then we heartily pat ourselves on the back because 700 people show up for free candy and a dunking booth. We don’t get their names, We don’t REALLY meet them, because this time they’re actually wearing real ‘masks’. And somehow we think we have accomplished ministry. And we’ll do the same thing for our Christmas program, Easter pageant, and July 4th celebration.

So… what’s your perspective on all of this?

Youth workers, for the most part, are creatures of habit. We have a hard time admitting that, though, because we see ourselves as innovators, creatives and the ones leading the charge for change in the church. Those things may be true…but we are still, for the most part, creatures of habit. When we find something that “works”, we have a hard time letting go.

One case in point for our junior high and high school ministries: Outreach Events.

Our primary tool for evangelism and outreach has never been events; it’s been students being salt and light and eventually inviting their friends to church. But to assist that process we have always hosted one or two big outreach events each year, on Friday night. And we’ve done it this way for a long, long time because it has worked. Of course, “worked” depends on your definition. The big Friday night events worked in so much as they attracted tons of students, but very few of those students ever came back to church the following weekend (we have our primary youth meetings on Saturday nights and Sunday mornings). And by very few, I mean VERY few!

So this year we are trying something different (I wish I could say it was my idea): We are attaching all of our big outreach events to the Saturday night service instead of putting them on a separate night. The idea is that our students will invite a friend to church, then they will stick around for the activity. Pretty basic stuff, folks!

We’ve done this once or twice now, and here is what we’ve already discovered:
* Less first-time students show up to the event.
* But WAY more first-time students attend church as a result (actually, they attend church as a PREsult because church happens first).
* Families and students appreciate that it’s not another night out.
* The event can be “smaller” because it’s not a stand alone thing….expectations are less.
* We can do a few more of them a year because they are smaller and less elaborate.
* It makes for a really easy church invite. “Wanna come to church with me? And afterwards there’s gonna be a massive dodge-ball tournament!”

Revolutionary? no. Cutting Edge? Not even close. Worthy of a blog post? Barely. Effective for us? Totally!

So here’s a question that I’d love the readers to share with the rest of us: What is an “Easy Button” moment you’ve recently had…a simple change in some aspect of your ministry that yielded significant results?