Tag Archives: gospel

Can a Five-Year-Old Become a Christian?

Last week I led my  five-year-old through a prayer to become a Christian.

The prayer was simple.  I explained to him that it was an “ABC” prayer.

  • Admit that he is a sinner who needs God’s forgiveness and grace.
  • Believe (trust) that Jesus died for his sins, and was raised from the dead to overcome sin’s power.
  • Commit to live for Jesus, serve his kingdom, and grow as a Christian every day.

This moment of prayer/decision hadn’t arisen from out of the blue.  For several months Brayden had been asking questions about Jesus/God/faith/Bible, and what it means to be a Christian.  Our talks usually occurred in his bed at night while we reflected on our day.

A few Fridays ago, among talk about Star Wars and Christmas, Brayden asked me if he was a Christian.

I told him that he was not.

“But you and mommy are Christians,” he replied, puzzled.

I explained that no one is automatically a Christian, because a Christian is someone who has personally decided to devote their life to Jesus.

He seemed confused.

“But I go to church” he said.

“Yes, you do, but you can go to church and not be devoted to Jesus.  Becoming a Christian only happens when we make Jesus our King and decide to live for him instead of ourselves.”

“I want to become a Christian.  When can I become a Christian?”

That was/is a good question!  Personally and pastorally, I hold the conviction that becoming a Christian is a serious, life-altering decision.  Like marriage, it should not be entered into “lightly or hastily.”  That’s why, regardless of what age one is considering embracing Christ as King and Saviour, I think it’s appropriate to provide some resistance so that we prevent people from making a rash or impulsive decision.  Jesus said “follow me” (Matthew 4:19), but we should do what we can to help people think through what that commitment will mean for them, both now and into the future.  As Brayden’s father, I felt it was important for him to wrestle for a while with the potential consequences of becoming a Christian before saying the prayer that could change his life forever.  That’s why, for several months I’d consistently pushed the decision (but not the conversation!) off to an undetermined point in the future.

It wasn’t just for Brayden’s sake that I was providing some push-back to his request: had a lot of questions that I felt needed to be answered before I could be confident that his decision to embrace Christ was legitimate:

  • Why did Brayden want to become a Christian?
  • Did Brayden know “enough” about what his commitment to Christ would cost him?
  • Did his age invariably mean that the decision was born out of complete naiveté?  He’s watched his older sisters talk about their Christian faith and grow in it; is it just “monkey see; monkey do” mimicry?
  • Is there any depth to his motivation?  Does he show a desire for discipleship?  When his definition of discipleship is “making good decisions,” does that show a sufficient or insufficient understanding of the foundation of a Christian worldview?
  • How much theology does he need to know before he’s ready to make a commitment of this nature?  If he can (barely) articulate the Gospel (Manger, Cross, Crown), can he legitimately embrace it?

These were some of the questions I was mulling over during the months I was pushing Brayden to think about becoming a Christian until a later time, when I could better determine if he was ready.

But a few weeks ago, Brayden wouldn’t let it go.  I went into my usual, “that’s great, let’s keep talking about it…” mode, but he kept pressing me.

“Why can’t I become a Christian now?”

A Scripture that God had used to rebuke me in the past came to mind once again:

“Who was I to think that I could stand in God’s way?” Acts 11:17

Indeed.

Brayden had shown a persistent desire to become a Christian for almost half a year.  We had talked about Jesus, God, the Bible, salvation, love, grace, and sin, all while snuggling in the warm blue glow of the nightlight beside his bed.  For months I had put a (necessary) speed bump in front of him, wanting to make sure any conversion would be from the heart, and not mere mimicry.

And here he was, resolute in the conviction that he was ready to give his life to Jesus.

Was I going to stand in God’s way?

Nope.  In that exchange what became very clear was that my little boy genuinely desired to give his life to Jesus.

Did he know “enough”?  Well, he knew the gospel.  That’s enough, isn’t it?

Did he understand what he was getting into?  Did I when I said my own unpolished and imperfect prayer at age 14?

Were his motivations and intentions pure?  Can I point to even one decision I’ve made that has been made with pure and right motives—even my decision to embrace Christ?

When God’s grace-filled invitation to new life intersects with a person’s humble and heartfelt response, we may find ourselves harboring lots of questions regarding what is “actually” happening.  That’s ok.  We’re entitled to our questions.  Those questions and hesitations are important and often valid and should be identified and addressed.

But, we must be careful to never allow our questions and hesitations to stand in God’s way.  None of us (however well intended) have the right to delay another’s response to the gospel until we’ve figured things out and are sure they “get it.”

Besides, you can never really “get” grace anyways.  That’s kind of why it’s grace.  It can’t be grasped.  It can only be received.

That night, Brayden didn’t fully understand God’s grace, but he “got” it.  Or more precisely, God’s grace “got” him.  He may not have grasped it in its totality, but it grasped him.

Can a five year old become a Christian?  Yes, a five year old can.

And that night, my five year old did. By God’s grace and for His glory.

 

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Bible Overview Series: John

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John by Joseph Novak

John: Because we could not find the way to God, he used a spear to open a door in his side, and said, “Look, I am the way!”

(Ben Myers’ #CanonFodder Summary)


Jeffrey Kranz’s Overview of John

John is the story of Jesus: God who came down to save the world. This book was written by a disciple whom Jesus loved—the Church traditionally attributes it to John.

John is the fourth and last Gospel (an account of Jesus’ life and ministry) in the new Testament. John focuses on the deity of Christ more so than the other four: we see Jesus as the Word of God, the Son of God, and God Himself. Jesus is a great miracle worker, an omniscient teacher, a compassionate provider, and a faithful friend.

John may be the final Gospel, but this narrative begins far, far earlier than the other three. While Mark begins with Jesus’ adult ministry, and Matthew and Luke begin with His physical birth, John opens with the beginning of all creation: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”

Jesus presents Himself as God incarnate throughout the Gospel of John, often using the phrase “I am” (the memorial name of God revealed in Exodus). John records several “I am” statements from Jesus throughout this book:

  • “I am the bread of life” (Jn 6:35, 41, 48, 51)
  • “I am from [God], and He sent Me” (Jn 7:29)
  • “I am the Light of the world” (Jn 8:12; 9:5)
  • “I am [God]” (Jn 8:58)
  • “I am the door” (Jn 10:7, 9)
  • “I am the good shepherd” (Jn 10:11, 14)
  • “I am the Son of God” (Jn 10:36)
  • “I am the resurrection and the life” (Jn 11:25)
  • “I am the way and the truth and the life” (Jn 14:6)
  • “I am the vine” (Jn 15:1, 5)

The Gospel of John makes a strong argument for Jesus as the exclusive savior, and the only way to know God (Jn 1:18; 14:6). Jesus is greater than the Jewish heroes Moses and Abraham (Jn 1:17; 8:58); Jesus Christ is God in the flesh, and John challenges us to believe in Him.

Theme verse of John

“Therefore many other signs Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.” (Jn 20:30–31)

John’s role in the Bible

In addition to this Gospel, John wrote three New Testament letters and possibly the prophetic book of Revelation. He was a leader in the early church, and he probably wrote his documents after most of the other New Testament books were already written.

The miracles recorded in John’s gospel are written that the reader would believe in Jesus and find life in His name (Jn 20:30–31). Therefore, much of John’s material directly states who Jesus is, not just what He does or says.

Unlike Luke, John does not aim to chronicle the whole life of Christ—in fact, John doesn’t think the world could contain such a document (Jn 21:25). Instead, John presents a few signs and teachings that should compel us to believe in Jesus.

Quick outline of John

  1. Beginnings (Jn 1)
  2. Signs that Jesus is the Christ and Son of God (Jn 2:1–11:46)
    • Turning water to wine (Jn 2)
    • Healing the nobleman’s son (Jn 4:46–54)
    • Healing the sick man at the pool of Bethesda (Jn 5)
    • Feeding 5,000 (Jn 6:1–14)
    • Walking on water (Jn 6:15–21)
    • Healing the blind man (Jn 9)
    • Raising Lazarus from the dead (Jn 11)
  3. Jesus’ final week and teachings (Jn 11:47–17:26)
  4. Jesus’ betrayal, trial, and death (Jn 18–19)
  5. Jesus’ resurrection and encouragement to the disciples (Jn 20–21)

 

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“Does the Work I Do Matter?”

Labour day is the perfect time to be reminded that our work–be it accounting, construction, writing, housekeeping, farming, customer service, banking–can have eternal significance.

In his book Every Good Endeavor, pastor Timothy Keller makes the following claim:

“Everyone will be forgotten, nothing we do will make any difference, and all good endeavours, even the best, will come to naught…unless there is God. If the God of the Bible exists, and there is a True Reality beneath and behind this one, and this life is not the only life, then every good endeavour, even the simplest ones, pursued in response to God’s calling, can matter forever.”

When I first became a Christian, my understanding of the gospel was little more than,  “Jesus died so you could be forgiven and go to heaven.”  Inside of that definition there’s hardly a compelling vision for our work beyond perhaps a (re)commit to basic ethics such as “don’t steal.”  But when we allow the full gospel to inform our understanding of life here and now; a gospel that holds together the key truths that God came to rescue us (incarnation), through a sacrificial death (atonement) and by his resurrection offers to empower us into a new kind of life, our everyday lives become massively interesting and unimaginably purposeful.   We’ve been ask to join God’s mission to bring his redeeming, restoring love to bear on every sphere of life.  This will mean seeing our jobs as arenas of influence through which we have the privilege to creatively, thoughtfully, prayerfully, purposefully seek to honor God and bless our neighbours through our work.

When the gospel transforms our understanding of work,  we are no longer held hostage by the two great temptations we face regarding our approach to work.

1. Work as the foundation of identity and meaning. Many people in the modern world look to their jobs for supreme self-worth and significance.  Work, functionally speaking, is their god; an idol that promises salvation from insignificance (as long as we can keep producing and achieving).

But the gospel gives us an entirely new foundation for our self-worth and significance. We are treasured by God,  and immensely valuable to Him.  Our worth and significance is revealed most strikingly at the cross: God self-sacrifices himself on our behalf in order to save us from the power and penalty of sin.  This good news allows us to put our work into a larger perspective, one that liberates us from the need to wed our identity and value to what we do and how successfully we do it.  Inside of God’s redeeming love, work can become a noble good without becoming a destructive idol.

2. Work as burdensome, pointless drudgery.  For as many people who idolize their work, just as many fall into the opposite temptation: to see work simply a (burdensome) means to an (self-serving) end.  This view sees work as something that must simply be endured.  Our jobs are necessary evils, and the goal becomes to work as little as possible in order to get on with the life we want.  Of course, for many people this means simply doing work in order to access more money in order to fulfill self-serving ends (more recreation, more stuff, etc.).

But the gospel compels us into a vision for our work that explodes the “working for the weekend” paradigm.   In the resurrection God has revealed his intention to “reconcile to himself all things” (Colossians 1:20).  Christianity boldly declares that part of the mission of the church is to equip people to go into their workplaces confident that God will use their efforts within his broader conspiracy to overthrow the world’s brokenness with his restorative grace and goodness.  Yes, every job remains difficult at times.  But no job is insufferably purposeless and burdensome when we go into it knowing God has placed us there in order to express love, grace, care, integrity, and excellence.

Labour Day marks a time of transition.  Some of us are preparing to head back to school tomorrow.  Many of us are preparing to go back to work (at least in earnest after a summer lull).  As we move back into our workplaces, what posture will characterize our efforts?

Anxious striving?  Apathy and resignation?

Another way is possible.  But only through the hope and power found in Christianity.

 

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How To Invite Someone To Church

Even as our culture moves a  post-Christian direction, it’s not uncommon for Christmas and Easter church services to be the largest of the year.  These services continue to draw seekers and skeptics who are haunted by the suspicion that modern secularism is not the end-all and be-all; that there must be a deeper reality and truer story that holds the promise to change our lives and world for the better.

That deeper reality and story, of course, is the gospel of Jesus.

However, for many people (myself included), helping people connect to that message is no easy task.  Where do we start?

With Easter Sunday around the corner, may I make a humble suggestion?  Invite them to church this Sunday.

Granted, this idea is neither flashy nor innovative, but this Sunday may be the best and easiest Sunday to invite friends, family, and neighbours to.  Many people are still open to attending a church service, especially around the Christmas and Easter holidays.  And unless your church really pulls an epic Easter fail, the truth and power of Jesus’ resurrection will take centre stage!

Some people hesitate when it comes to inviting their friends to church.  Me too.  I find that questions and doubts can shut  down the invite before it has a chance to even be considered.

  • How will they react to the invitation?  Will they be weirded out? Will it affect our relationship going forward?
  • What will they think of our church?   Will they “get it”?
  • Will the service fall flat?  Will the music and/or message sucks? (and I ask this as the message-giver!)

While well-intended in their sensitivity, these questions often plant doubts that keep us from ever extending an invite.  By focusing on the what if’s, we actually remove faith in God’s leading and power. Instead, we localize our faith and trust in our ability to “deliver the goods.”  Our confidence gets rooted in whether we can extend the perfect invite to the perfect service with the perfect music and perfect message at the perfect church.

I hope the issue with this line of thinking is obvious: there are no perfect any of those things. And that’s OK.  Our imperfect invites, imperfect services, imperfect music, imperfect messages–our imperfect churches–are not an obstacle for God.  The hope we offer people is not our perfection, but Jesus‘!  Not only that, but God delights in using our weakness as a conduit of His power and glory (cf. 1 Corinthians 12:9).

So this year I’m challenging myself (and you!) to invite one friend, family member, or neighbour to church this Sunday.  Your invite will be an act of faith (who knows how they will respond?…), but when it’s done relying on God’s resources and not our own, great things can happen.

How To Invite Your Friend To Church

Ready to take the plunge and invite someone?  Here are a few simple ways to invite them to church:

1. Email or Text.  Today I invited two people to our Sunday service via a short text message:

Hi _________, I’m not sure if you’d be interested, but I wanted to extend an invite to our church’s Easter morning service this Sunday. It starts at 10am at Nelson Covenant Church.  No pressure, just wanted you to know that there was an open invite.  If you have any questions about the service or our church, let me know. 🙂

2. Phone call.  This is more personal than an email or text, but may put people on the spot depending on what they are doing at the time of the call.  You’ll have to judge based on the nature of the relationship.

3. Face-to-Face.  This is the most personal approach, but like a phone call, picking a context that doesn’t feel like you’re cornering someone is probably important.  If an opportunity arises, however, this is ideal.  It allows you to fully express yourself (i.e. tone, body language, etc.) to the person which helps people feel your care and warmth.

You’ve got four days until Easter Sunday.  Take the initiative and invite someone to join you at church this Sunday.  Worst case scenario: they say “no thanks.”  Best case scenario: they say “Yes!”, not just to joining you on Sunday, but ultimately to Jesus and his gospel.

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Supremacy

Colossians 1:15–20
15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. 19 For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.

“[Jesus] is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy.” 

As a Christian, loving Jesus heart, soul, mind and strength is your highest priority.  In every dimension of your life, he is to have supremacy.  That means he is to be the Lord and Master over your life.  You are not your own, you were bought with a price (1 Cor. 6:19-20).  You now live for Jesus.

This command to give Jesus supreme authority in one’s life sounds incredibly threatening at first.  However, one soon discovers subjugation to Jesus’ kingship is neither confining nor oppressive. Our lives cohere and gain clarity of purpose only when obedience to Jesus’ graceful, loving authority become one’s highest value, desire, and pursuit.

“All things were created by him and for him…and in him all things hold together. ”

When supremacy is given to ourselves and our empires, confinement and oppression inevitably set in, because we are living against the grain of reality as contructed by Jesus himself.  However, when Christ and his kingdom are given supremacy in our lives, we experience a counter-intuitive liberation; a propulsion into a rich and empowered life with God that is experienced as exciting, enlivening, and spacious.

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The Painful Lessons of Mars Hill: 10 Quotes

Leadership Journal recently posted an article exploring some of the factors that led to Mars Hill’s rapid implosion over the last few months.  The article can be found here, and should be read by every church leader.  It’s a heartbreaking and harrowing piece that highlights how easily anti-gospel, toxic motivations can take root in the hearts of churches and their leaders.

Below are 10 quotations from the article that stood out to me.

1. “As the structure became more refined, the driving motive became efficiency and growth, and those two factors began dictating church policy.”

2. “This all began as a work of the Spirit, but we quickly started to push harder and harder, trying to accomplish it with human efforts—bigger, better, faster, stronger.”

3. “We started going for high-profile, high-ROI stuff that brings in more money,”

4. “The only way to create scalable multiplication is to somehow dumb down that position [site pastor] so that a dog with a note in its mouth can do it.”

5. “It got to the point where I’d get a weekly printout that would tell me I had one minute and 40 seconds to make an announcement.  I’d get a memo telling me to quit standing up in front and praying with people after the service because those hurting people are already regular attenders. The visitors are out in the lobby, so you need to be out in the lobby to get Velcro on the visitor to get them to stick so they come back.”

6. “‘How do we get more money coming into Central?’ became the main question.”

7. “For campus pastors on start-up church sites, everything hovered around congregation benchmarks. For 500 attendees, you got an executive pastor. 800? You could add a worship pastor. And if you boosted it up to 3,000 loyal listeners, the “award” was a youth pastor.”

8. “The whole corporate model for managing a church has infiltrated and affected the church more than anybody realizes.”

9. “When [a church] is dependent upon one charismatic leader, it is not dependent on Jesus.”

10. “This is going to be a great lesson for church leadership during the next 20 to 30 years.”

I sincerely hope that last quote is prophetic.

 

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Sermon Notes: The Spiritual Journey of the 20’s

Here are Matt Pamplin’s abridged sermon notes from his sermon “Understanding the Spiritual Journey of the 20’s”:

A Snapshot of Life in the 20’s

  • Paula Darcy says – 20’s are about saving the world.
  • This is a decade there is a lot happening –  lots of big decisions – marriage, job, where live, buying a house etc, start having a family.
  • A decade of diversity among our friends. In this decade we can have friends who are single, dating, engaged, married, have a family all within our friendship group.
  • Claudia Hammond in a book about nostalgia says that we reminisce most about the 20’s because it’s a decade of first time (major decisions)
  • 20’s is about feeling invincible. I am healthy, I am now educated, watch out world here I come.
  • Decade of opportunities – there is so much choice of what to do and not a lot holding me back. Travel opportunites mean I can go anywhere.
  • Maybe the word that best describes this decade is adventure

The Major Spiritual Challenges of the 20’s

  • Transitioning into owning my own faith. It’s no longer my parent’s faith. Lots of different world views and philosophies that collide at this time.
  • You start to realise that some of the things that were important to you about your faith are no longer that important. In fact you don’t know if you even believe them anymore! You are asking lots of questions.
  • Learning to follow Jesus even when life seems ordinary – how do I follow Jesus radically now that I have a family, house etc?
  • Practically following Jesus – now that there is no-one to keep me accountable to go to church, read the scripture, serve etc.
  • The transition of not just believing in Jesus but trusting him.

Big Picture  – what’s happening?

  • What am I doing? How do I make the big decisions that are in front of me?
  • For the very first time – life might not be turning out as I expect. Not married, not in the job that I expected.
  • Time for making big decisions – career, spouse, where to live etc. But a pressure to make the “right decision”


The Bible and the 20’s

Matthew 7:24-29 / Luke 6

First thing Jesus says is – “anyone who hears these (my) words” (personal). Are we listening to the voice of Jesus? Jesus says that everyone is building towards something. Earlier in Matthew 7 he has said there are 2 roads that we can take. So Jesus says our life is heading towards something. When we look to build a foundation for our life who are we going to listen to?

Second thing (Jesus goes onto say) There are 2 guys building 2 houses. He seems to imply that the house look the same from the outside. There doesn’t seem to be a difference when you look at them but it’s what the houses are built on. Jesus says you will know how well the house is built when the storms come. Are you willing to take the time to build well? How you build now will have implications for the rest of your life. It takes time to build a strong foundation, Its not instantaneous.

The Third thing Jesus says is – “the wise man is the one who puts my words into practise”. So Jesus says “practise my words” but what has Jesus said in the sermon on the mount. It’s really important to notice what IS in there and what is NOT. Jesus never mentions – Safety, comfort, financial wealth, instant gratification, security or success.

But Jesus does say – Love your enemies, fast, pray lots, give to the poor, don’t worry about material things and what true blessing looks like.

The North American lifestyle is not the gospel of Jesus. I am not saying all parts of it are bad but we have got caught up in thinking this is the goal of your life when Jesus says following him and his kingdom are the goal of your life. In Matthew 6 Jesus has said “if you seek my Kingdom first then don’t worry about the rest”.

So when making decisions what filter do you use?


Advice for 20-somethings

  • Seek God and his kingdom, may your big decisions be based on this.
  • When you make a decision (this is coles notes) Pray (surrender to God, check your motives). Read the scripture, Seek wise counsel (people who will challenge, not just people who will tell you what you want to hear). Then actually step out and do something.
  • Prioritize being part of a church. Commit to being involved even if you don’t get something out of it. Being in a community of people who are not like you will help shape and form you.
  • Disciplines not feelings that shape us. Be formed by the disicplines you are practising (prayer, reading scripture, fasting, giving, serving). Don’t be formed / make decsions just by your feelings “if it feels good do it”.
  • Sabbath rest not busy noisiness – Learn to practise Sabbath. Its hard to claw it back later. Sabbath is about playing and praying. But Sabbath primarily reminds us that we are not God….God is.

How can the church support those in their 20’s?

1. Celebrate – We need to celebrate we have some great 20 something’s at Grindstone. As a church we are fortunate to have so many wonderful 20’s. I often hear from different churches that 20 something’s are great but they don’t contribute as much financially. They do contribute financially but why not look at their passion and how they stretch us to grow. Let’s look at how blesse we are to have so many vibrant, passionate 20 something’s.

2. Listen / ask – Often we see groups of 20 something’s but take the time to ask them their name, listen to their story. People who are older need to come alongside and support and help (mentor them). We need to learn from each other.

3. Pray  – It seem obvious but take time to uphold them in prayer. This is a significant decade.

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Sermon Notes: The Spiritual Journey of Teens

As part of Grindstone’s “Understanding the Spiritual Journey” series, I’ve decided to post our sermon notes on my blog so that people can review the decades of interest to them.

Here are the notes from yesterday’s message which I co-taught with Derek Hisson.

 

1. A snapshot of life in the teens

A time of ENORMOUS transitions. 

Teens more than just ‘high school’ (jr. high to 3rd year university).

-“a living hell”
-Bullying
-Social and academic pressures
-Lack of support systems
-Family dysfunction/breakdown
-Others trying to strike you down so they can rise up
-Time of searching/questioning/rebellion
-Spiritual interest is often high during teen years
-Individuation from family of origin
-“A foot in two worlds” (adult and child)
-Mixed messages: “Don’t do drugs, but try new things”
-Fluctuations (on top of the world vs. bottom of the it)


2. What are the major spiritual challenges?

What is happening? (Big Picture: Identity Formation).  Teens are looking for answers to the major worldview questions:

  • Who am I?
  • Where am I?
  • What’s the problem?
  • What’s the solution?

What is happening? (Ground Level)

  • Grindstone Guys Top 3 issues you deal with Porn, Drugs, Friends
  • Grindstone Girls Top 3 issues you deal with Body Image, Self-esteem/worth, Sexual pressures
  • Teens are challenging their beliefs, trying to figure out what they believe and why, instead of passively accepting what they’ve been taught.  They’re looking for places that allow them to question and offer a patient, safe space to work through their struggles.

3. The Bible and Teens

Scripture addresses the questions teens are asking!

  • Who am I?
  • What really matters in life?
  • How do I get the most out of life?
  • Am I important?
  • Am I loved?
  • Does my life have a larger purpose?

When teens ignore the Scriptures, they’re ignoring the most powerful resource for addressing those questions!  No other resource tackles those questions head-on in such an affirming and powerful way for teenagers.

Jesus’ disciples were teenagers, which is so important to highlight because it shows us that Jesus was very eager to invite and involve teens to front-line kingdom work–then and today!

1 Timothy 4:12 : “12 Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.”  The passage is saying is that as teens it is completely reasonable to want to be an important and active part of the church, so long as you are setting a Godly example in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity.  Teens are being called to act in ways that are Godly, not just to be examples and not let people put them down.

4. Our Advice to Teens: Enter the Jesus Dojo

A dojo is literally “a place where one learns the way,” usually of some kind of martial art. In this case, this dojo teaches the way of Jesus. And, similar to a martial arts dojo, this community teaches not just by lecturing, etc. but by actually practicing together the way of Jesus.

We enter the dojo through new experiences and by moving from ideas to action.

A Dojo is where you train, not simply try.

40 A student is not above his teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like his teacher. (Luke 6:40)

7 train yourself to be godly. 8 For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come. (1 Timothy 4:7-8)

16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16)

25 Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. (1 Corinthians 9:25)

“Spiritual training” is a core aspect of true discipleship.

NOTE: This is not a matter of being “good enough” or earning favor with God. There is nothing that we can do that will cause God to love us more than He already does. Training is not a matter of earning extra credit with God. It is about discipleship to Jesus and becoming more like Him.  We are not trying to earn God’s salvation or earn God’s love, we’re training because now that we are living for Jesus and his kingdom agenda, we need to reshape our lives accordingly.


How to train: Heart, Soul, Mind, Strength

Every teen in this church should have a weekly HSMS traning plan.  It should address the four dimensions Jesus included as part of the great commandment.

Heart: relationships, compassion, joy, love, forgiveness.  What is one thing I can do this week that will help me grow in this area?

Soul: prayer, self-awareness, spiritual disciplines.  What is one thing I can do this week that will help me grow in this area?

Mind: Biblical knowledge, Christian worldview.  What is one thing I can do this week that will help me grow in this area?

Strength: sacrifice, serving, giving, other-centredness, delayed gratification.  What is one thing I can do this week that will help me grow in this area?

Do you have a HSMS training program?  If not, why not?  Spiritual growth and vibrancy never “just happens” anymore than becoming a fit and competition-ready runner “just happens.”

  • 11 No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. (Hebrews 12:11)


5. How can our church support teens in their spiritual journey?

Heart:  Encourage teens and take time to listen.

Soul:  Pray for the teens in your life and in our church.

Mind:  help create environments where they can work through their questions and doubts, while being guided deeper into God’s Word.

Strength:  Look for ways to tangibly bless teens you know.

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One-Minute Review: “Free” by Mark Scandrette

This week my pal Dallas Friesen gave me a copy of Free: Spending Your Time and Money On What Matters Most by Mark Scandrette.  My goal was the read it in a week.

I read it in a little over 5 days.

#boom

Here’s my one-minute review:

free3dbook

“What’s ‘Free’ all about?”
Free is a no-nonsense, how-to guide on living with greater presence and purpose.  Free offers a steady stream of ideas, experiments, stories, and worksheets (lots of worksheets!) that are all focused on one thing: getting you to take practical, simple steps to live into a life that is free from anxiety, fear, meaninglessness, debt, and self-centredness.

“Should I read it?”
Absolutely.  I’ve read a lot of books on the subjects of stewarding one’s time and money, and Free would contend for the top spot.  At worst, it will provide you with quite a few Kingdom “gut-checks” as you explore whether or not your use of time and money is actually aligned to what matters most.  At best, this book could launch you into an entirely new way of living out your faith with integrity, joy, and purpose.  I think Free is particularly helpful for those of us who are seeking to exchange the self-serving, materialistic scripts we’ve inherited from our culture for Jesus’ counter-cultural path of simplicity, generosity, and self-sacrifice.

 

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A Cautionary Tale: Tony Jones’ Demand for a Schism

On November 22nd Emergent Christianity leader Tony Jones boldly declared that it’s time for a schism within the Protestant church.  If you don’t know who Tony Jones is, he’s a prominent figure within the Emergent Christian tribe.  He’s very smart and thoughtful and always provides an interesting perspective to the mix.  Don’t know what a “schism” is?  It’s when you willfully and intentionally break off (i.e. divorce) from a group on the grounds that you hold beliefs that are so radically opposed to each other that fellowship is simply not possible.

In his post he wrote the following:

The time has come for a schism regarding the issue of women in the church. Those of us who know that women should be accorded full participation in every aspect of church life need to visibly and forcefully separate ourselves from those who do not. Their subjugation of women is anti-Christian, and it should be tolerated no longer.

That means:

  • If you attend a church that does not let women preach or hold positions of ecclesial authority, you need to leave that church.
  • If you work for a ministry that does not affirm women in ecclesial leadership, you need to leave that ministry.
  • If you write for a publishing house that also prints books by “complementarians,” you need to take your books to another publishing house.
  • If you speak at conferences, you need to withdraw from all events that do not affirm women as speakers, teachers, and leaders.

That is, we who believe in the full equality of women need to break fellowship with those who do not.

**deep breath***

Ok, I need to be honest and say that the following thoughts are neither carefully thought out or overly prepared/edited.  I don’t have time to carefully address everything I’d like to within Tony’s post (or the Emergent church more broadly speaking).  So I’m going to throw down some visceral reactions and hope they are helpful as a word (or two) of caution.

Big Picture: I get that Tony Jones is passionate about the issue of women and church leadership.  It’s a very important issue.  It’s so important, I can’t imagine anyone (regardless of where they fall on the egalitarian/complementarian spectrum) being dispassionate about it.  However, it’s genuinely sad to see someone’s passion override common sense and basic Christian charity towards their brothers and sisters in Christ.

Here are some scattered thoughts and reactions:

1.  I’ve done my homework on the egalitarian/complementarian debate, and while I hold to strong egalitarian convictions, issuing a clarion call for schism (i.e. an intentional act of division) from churches and other Christians who don’t not hold the same conviction is shamefully short-sighted, self-serving, and ungracious.  Doubly so when you throw around terms like “misogyny” and “subjugation” which are words that do nothing but build upon a caricature of the complementarian position.

2.  If you’re going to call for a schism from a large section of the church, you better know what and who you’re dividing from.

“Having grown up in a church that ordained women, allowed women to lead, and had women preachers, it is honestly shocking to me to continue to run into so-called “complementarians.” I don’t meet them in real life — I just see them in the blogosphere, on Facebook and Twitter. And friends of mine like Rachel Held Evans and Sarah Bessey assure me that they exist.”

Let’s divide from a group of people who I have little to no contact with relationally, simply because their views strike me as “obviously” dumb and anchored in hate and ignorance.  Talk about an unwise and totally uncharitable posture towards other Christians who hold differing convictions to you.

3. Be very wary of anyone who upholds a core value of Jesus, only to immediately sidestep its radical and difficult implication.

“I very much take Jesus’ prayer for unity in the Fourth Gospel seriously…But…”  

Many people reading  Tony’s post would have been justified in closing the tab on their browser after that second sentence.  Especially after the rest of the post shows no willingness to work towards unity with complementarians.

4.  Think (deeply) before you declare.

“I don’t know what a schism looks like in the 21st century.”

Don’t call for a schism when you haven’t thought through what–exactly–you’re inviting people into.  If you don’t have a handle on the shape a schism would/should take, then don’t call for one, because you evidently haven’t thought through any systemic ramifications.  That’s immature and reactionary, not mature and visionary.  Throughout Tony’s post I was haunted by the wisdom of Richard Rohr: ” It’s so much easier to be over and against something than to be in love with something.”

5.  When you disagree with the convictions of another Christian, don’t resort to caricatures of their position that demean, dismiss, or ridicule.  Tony Jones’s post is laced with language (e.g. “subjugation,” “mysogony,” “archaic”) that is designed to frame the entire complementarian camp as anti-women and hate-fueled.  It’s profoundly disappointing to see a thoughtful leader like Tony Jones resort to that kind of tactic.  Then again, if he would have actually listened to the best arguments from complementarians (and maybe spent more time in dialogue with them–see point #2!), he’d realize most complementarians are neither anti-woman nor driven by hate.

**deep breathe**

Let me reiterate: I do not agree with the biblical convictions complementarians reach.  I am, like Tony Jones, passionate about my convictions.  However, I do believe that I can hold to my convictions passionately while extending respect and grace to those Christians–male and female–who hold to the complementarian position due to their desire to love and honour God.  I don’t think that is too much to expect from other Christian leaders.  It’s certain what I would have expected from Tony Jones.

For more thoughtful and robust reactions to Tony’s call for schism (and his subsequent back track), check out the following:

“Are your really calling for schism Tony Jones?” by Billy Kangas

“Tony Jones’ curious call for schism” by David Hayward

“This schism was cancelled” by John Mark Reynolds

 

 

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