Do you do Lent?

 —  February 28, 2014 — 4 Comments

lent3Lent is an odd thing.

For some, it’s their chance to be noticeably religious for 40 days.

For others, it’s a dare to do something zany for that time. How many people have heard another person say, “I’m giving up Mountain Dew for Lent!”

Others write it off as something only a certain group of people do. “Isn’t that a Catholic thing?”

What if Lent could be a season of reinvesting into something genuine with God?

I wrote an article a couple of years ago on it. Here it is: http://www.ehow.com/how_8049745_celebrate-lent-new-ways.html

lent2The ideas I propose include ways to approach it through the “Greatest Commandment” (heart, soul, mind, strength, relationships), or even a day of the week. For example:

  • “Money-free Mondays”: Go through your entire day without spending money on anything.
  • “No-TV Tuesdays”: Turn the TV off, including any screen that involves entertainment or video games, and invest into something else that nurtures friendships.
  • “Weird Wednesdays”: Try new foods individually or as a household that you normally wouldn’t.
  • “Thumbs-Free Thursdays”: Give up all cell phone activity, including text messaging.
  • “Friendship Fridays”: Become attentive to others who are often overlooked.
  • “Something-New Saturdays”: Try something productive that you haven’t ever done before, such as take a class or conquer a fear.
  • “Sacrificial Sundays”: Make an intentional sacrifice to grow with God.

(Read the full article)

Any thoughts or observations on this?

  • What’s been the weirdest or coolest way you’ve seen someone experience Lent?
  • Any thoughts on how we can reclaim this out of it’s traditional, religious stereotype and let the Life of Christ take it over again somehow?

Maybe the goal isn’t to do Lent… maybe the goal is to let Lent undo you?

 

Screen shot 2013-11-11 at 5.11.09 PMWell, it’s always a little uncomfortable for me to announce things like this, but my book Losing Your Religion releases today! I’m very excited about it, because I think it really meets a need.  I wrote this book because I’m becoming increasingly concerned that many people are slitting the wrists of their faith, without knowing it.  We so easily fall into religious ruts that we think are normal, but the truth is, many of them are not. And I hope to be a part of bringing freedom in these types of areas!

Here is the description on the back cover:

We’ve all heard that Christianity isn’t a religion—it’s a relationship. But a lot of us practice a Christianity that’s really a behavior management system . . . in other words, a religion—one that nobody longs to be part of! How can we stop confusing behavior management with the life-giving faith into which Jesus invites us? How do we move past having behavioral standards and habits as our only measures of maturity?  Losing Your Religion will help you identify where beliefs meant to give you freedom have become a new set of religious chains. More importantly, you’ll find out how to let your relationship with Christ break those chains and lead you and others to true freedom. You’re not called to be a “better Christian.” (What a relief!) You’re called to let Christ’s very presence transform you into a person who loves God and others wholeheartedly and with deep joy. But to get there, you must lose your religion. The good news is you’ll never miss it.

If you, or someone you know, could use a book that gets to the core of religious issues that hinder us from truly experiencing the life Jesus invites us into, this book could be a tool God uses to bring that freedom.  Well, that’s at least what I’ve been praying would happen.

To check out the inside, read some endorsements or the review done by Publishers Weekly, click here.

I hope you find it helpful!

Chuck

@chuckbomar

 



LYR coverThere are some massive distinctions we need to make in ministry.  For instance, we need to make sure we recognize and live out the difference between:

  1. Teaching people about the ways of Jesus versus simply teaching them proper behaviors for Christians.
  2. Personal conviction versus religious legalism.  Those could not be more different, but they are easily confused.

These are the types of fine-lines I try and make clear in my forthcoming book, Losing Your Religion. My goal in writing this was to help readers realize just how much we personally blur lines such as these so that we can move toward freedom from the chains of religious behaviors.  The book is a journey of recognizing how we get off the path Jesus paved and recalibrating our ideas of Christianity so that we can get back on that path.  I wrote it because I’m growing in concern that many people (like me at one point) have embraced a behavior management system much more than they have the life Jesus has invited us into, but they have mistaken the one for the other.  And I think deep down we know something is off.  If we are honest, we tend to be driven by guilt and shame and often by a fear of man.  These are not Christian motivations, they are religious.  But unraveling this in our minds is difficult to do in a way that doesn’t bash the Church, but instead humbly honors God.  So it’s the latter I try to do in the book.

Well, the book doesn’t come out until November, but I thought I would list out a few distinctions that I unpack in the book between negative religion and Christianity.  There are obviously a ton more, but maybe these can be a help to you today in some fashion or form:

  1. Religion is lived for God whereas Christianity is lived because of God.  Religious ideas focus us on our actions, but the gospel is about our reactions to God’s actions. 
  2. Religion is expressed in/through what we do.  Christianity is expressed in/through why we do what we do.
  3. Religion emphasizes what we do whereas Christianity emphasizes what God has done and is doing through Jesus.

It’s one thing to list out these types of distinctions and agree with them.  It’s another to actually sift through it in our own lives on practical and often intimate levels.  This is the process that I hope the book brings people through.

- Chuck

A video that’s getting a lot of play in these parts – called Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus.

JG



Last week I discovered Stephen Colbert’s 2007 book I Am America (And So Can You!) at our local $2 book fair. I’ve been wanting to pick it up for a while now and it didn’t dissapoint. As usual and as you might suspect, the conservative Colbert rips every one and their mother in his book including conservatives and Christians. Colbert leaves no group excluded from his barrage of verbal beatdowns. With chapters like media, race, immigrants, old people and religion you know he’s looking for a fight. Filled with puns, humor, offensiveness, truth, hilarity and opinion. They will make you laugh out loud, cry, or be completely offended. Really varied and clever humor throughout. Laughed most all of the way through. Gasped a couple times. Frowned a few times. Wondered what it would say about me if you knew I read this book. Decided it didn’t matter. Super funny book.

JG

I’ve been thinking about the big question of “what does it mean to have a healthy youth ministry?” I recently finished reading a book by Kenda Creasy Dean entitledAlmost Christian: What The Faith Of Our Teenagers Is Telling The American Church“. In it Kenda describes the growing trend within the american teenage culture of being “spiritual” but not Christian. Teenagers today are focusing less on who God is and more on how connecting to a higher power makes them feel. Christian sociologists have used the phrase “Therapeutic Moral Deism” to define exactly how this paradigm plays out. I don’t have time to get into everything about Therapeutic Moral Deism, but you can learn more by reading this article by Christian Smith who wrote the book “Soul Searching”.

So how can we build a healthy youth ministry in the midst of our current teenage culture? What do we focus on as we build our youth programs? As I am sitting here in a cafe writing this, I’ve drawn two different strategies on some napkins concerning where we as youth workers can put our focus. The first is what I am calling a “God-Centered Youth Ministry”. Here’s the concept:

In a God-centered youth ministry all of our teaching/small groups/etc. focus in on “theology” which is the study of who God is. We focus on what the Bible says about God (what He is like, His characteristics, His plan, Salvation,etc.). From there we then move on to “anthropology” which is the study of human beings. Simply put, it means this:

1) FOCUS ON JESUS & WHO HE IS

2) IN LIGHT OF WHO JESUS IS…WHAT IS A TEENAGERS RESPONSE?

So what is the other option? What is the opposite of a God-Centered youth ministry? Below is my doodle concept of a “People-Centered Youth Ministry”:

With a “People-Centered Youth Ministry” the focus in not on Jesus, but on the students. This kind of youth ministry will focus on particular types of teenage behaviors and how those students attempt to navigate the ideas of spirituality. Simply put, a “People-Centered Youth Ministry” looks like this:

1) FOCUS ON THE STUDENTS AND HOW THEY FEEL

2) STUDENTS BECOME RELIGIOUS.

The problem with the second model of youth ministry is that religion will never save anybody. In our world today there are tons of religions and I hear students (and adults) say all the time time that “as long as your are sincere about your faith it doesn’t matter what you believe.” However, no matter how sincere you are, you can still be sincerely wrong. Check out this event from the book of Exodus:

“When Joshua heard the boisterous noise of the people shouting below them, he exclaimed to Moses, “It sounds like war in the camp!” But Moses replied, “No, it’s not a shout of victory nor the wailing of defeat. I hear the sound of a celebration.” (Exodus 32:17-18 NLT)

Moses has just come down from Mount Sinai where He received the Ten Commandments from God. Suddenly he and Joshua hear the sound of the entire people of Israel celebrating together. They here a united people shouting and singing and worshiping. However, just a few verses before we here what God has to say about their worship:

“The Lord told Moses, “Quick! Go down the mountain! Your people whom you brought from the land of Egypt have corrupted themselves. How quickly they have turned away from the way I commanded them to live! They have melted down gold and made a calf, and they have bowed down and sacrificed to it. They are saying, ‘These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you out of the land of Egypt.’” Then the Lord said, “I have seen how stubborn and rebellious these people are. Now leave me alone so my fierce anger can blaze against them, and I will destroy them. Then I will make you, Moses, into a great nation.” (Exodus 32:7-10 NLT)

Even though the people of Israel were being sincere, God told them that they were sincerely wrong! We have to be diligent in our effort to point the students in our ministry to Jesus and not to the world. We need to place our focus back on to the study of God and not on the study of ourselves. If we don’t, we can fall into the same trap that the Apostle Paul spoke of in the book of Romans:

“Yes, they knew God, but they wouldn’t worship him as God or even give him thanks. And they began to think up foolish ideas of what God was like. As a result, their minds became dark and confused. Claiming to be wise, they instead became utter fools. And instead of worshiping the glorious, ever-living God, they worshiped idols made to look like mere people and birds and animals and reptiles.” (Romans 1:21-23 NLT)

Which model above can be seen in your own youth ministry? Which aspects of your current programs would you have to change in order to bring Jesus back to the center?

Rob Ham works on the WILDSIDE Jr. High Team @ Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, CA and blogs at I (Heart) Youth Ministry.