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Showing posts from 2010

The Listening Ear - Discipleship 117

Many of the posts that I have shared regarding discipleship may not be rocket science. Some of these topics, however, seem to have been forgotten, postponed or devalued in our well-intentioned pursuit to make disciples. Today's topic is one of these "no-brainer" concepts that I think we've forgotten.

I think one of the greatest parts of discipling others is that of listening to them. Jesus modelled this for us as He listened to countless questions and comments from not only His closest 12 comrades, but others as well (Nicodemus comes to mind).

What I am learning in youth ministry reminds me of this simple concept of listening to others. My wife and I were chatting today about the journey we've been on together for the last 6 years as a married couple. We both could point to times when we felt led by God in a certain direction, only to receive opposition from people regarding our pursuit. This whole idea got me thinking today about this concept of listening. Take …

A Little Too Much Salt - Discipleship 116

Have you ever had a meal that was too salty to eat? I know I have. One time in particular stands out in my mind. Invited over for dinner at someone else's home, the meal they had prepared looked amazing. Beef roast, potatoes, fresh peas and a garden salad. My mouth was salivating in anticipation of my first bite. I loaded up my plate with utter glee...and then came the first bite...TOO MUCH SALT!! The meat was so salty that I literally couldn't drink enough water to wash away the saline residue from my mouth. I shudder to think how much overage I had in terms of my daily sodium allotment!!

The last few weeks I have been blogging about the theme of discipleship as it is a particular passion of mine. Discipleship is a Christianese word that simply means devoted follower. The concept of a devoted follower or loyal fan is not a foreign paradigm for our society. Whether we routinely shop at the same set of stores for our wants or needs, or we religiously follow our favourite sports…

Giving to Gain - Discipleship 115

The Christmas season always bring with it a wealth of emotion and experience. There is anticipation for the opening of presents, the chilling with family & friends, and the eating of food. There is the solemness of another year having gone by so quickly. There is the thought of how fortunate one may be to not have to fight for your next meal. But what I am learning more about this Christmas than any other is the principle and discipline of giving to gain.

I am not referring to a health & wealth version of the gospel that is misleading to many who buy into this line of thinking. What I am focusing on is the idea of investment during the holiday season. There is much preparation that goes into Christmas. We plan food menus, gift purchasing, gift wrapping/unveiling, social activities and perhaps ways to give back to others through volunteering or serving the less fortunate. All of this effort and energy is an investment; we are giving of ourselves in order to gain something in re…

Loving Justice - Discipleship 114

Today I am playing the role of both nurse and nanny as my wife is recovering from oral surgery, and my two children have chosen to pick this day as limit testing day! The kicker for me in this all is that empathy is not one of my strong suits. Compassion is something that I learn more about each day. Two of the people (outside of Jesus) that have the most impact on me in this fashion are my wife and my daughter.

With Bonny out of commission in terms of the regular routine around the house today, I'm subbing in where I can. Part of my subbing routine has included nap time (which is currently happening for the 3 aforementioned family members). My daughter Saydie has chosen nap time to push limits today. But during one of our many special conversations, Saydie's compassion has yet again overwhelmed her father's heart. I laid her down for her nap, only to hear her open her bedroom door and call out to me a few moments later. I trudged back upstairs and got her back into her be…

Learning from the Next Generation - Discipleship 113

Every person on earth has something to offer the community at large. Being a dad has taught me a lot about what it means to be a human being and a follower of Jesus Christ. My own children teach me about things like grace, mercy and forgiveness each day. What if we would take the time to listen to others more intentionally? Imagine what it may be like in church or in other places as the next generation is involved at every level of the organization as a whole?

This video is a great conversation piece on how we can learn from the emerging generations.

Simplicity derived from Complexity - Discipleship 112

As human beings, we are wired to search for complexity. But, if stay rooted in the complexity of life, things tend to get complicated. What if we were able to see beyond the complexity and embrace simplicity instead? Often times simplicity is on the other side of complexity.

Consider the Old Testament law...complex in nature, but simple in its' purpose; relationship. Jesus took this complex system of rules and regulations and widdled it down to two simple, easy to say (but hard to follow) commands: Love God and Love Others (Matthew 22:37-39).

The issue of helping to create fully devoted followers of Jesus out of people who may, or may not believe in God is a complicated issue. I can't help but think, however, that on the other side of this complexity there lies the rhythm of simplicity.

Check out this video to learn more about how simplicity stems from complexity.

Show Me - Discipleship 111

Proclamation and demonstration; two words that are used to describe the gospel in Christian circles. I have yet to meet an individual who's take on evangelism doesn't lean towards one of these two emphases. Those of us who follow Christ with our lives will identify with one of these two expressions of the gospel more easily than the other. Some of us will be comfortable with using our words (written or verbal) to communicate the truth about Jesus Christ, while others will be more keen on exercising the principle of love through tangible means.

When you examine the life of Christ, you will see that Jesus emphasized both of these practices in a balanced manner. There were times when He used words to speak truth, and other times His actions were the key in his communication strategy (um...like the cross maybe??). In typical Christian fashion however, we seem to think that the answer to the question of evangelism is a one or the other approach rather than a both and.

The narrative…

Relationship Takes Time - Discipleship 110

In our fast-paced, instant gratification society, a relational approach to ministry and to life is a difficult concept to grasp. I blame the drive-thru for this cerebral war.

You sit in a line, in your car for the opportunity to order your food (breakfast, lunch, supper or snacks) and expect it to be ready at not only your beckon call, but also within your timeframe. Some restaurants have even begun to display stopwatch-type clocks that monitor the progress of your food delivery service. If your food is delivered outside of this random pre-determined number, you walk away with a free lunch!!

It's this type of instant living that reeks havoc on any sort of relational pursuit in ministry.

Can you imagine if making friends was as easy as selecting a combo number from a drive-thru menu? Yeah, I'd like to order combo number 3...the one with two guy friends, one gal pal, and a free glow-in-the-dark sticker collection for the bathroom. And can you up-sized my combo to include a rando…

Learning Revolution - Discipleship 109

The way youth learn in our digitized world needs to shape how we teach and how we help youth learn in church and in youth group. Consider what this learning revolution means for your youth ministry and your own children.

Too Much of a Good Thing - Discipleship 108

Over the last several weeks my appointment book has been more full than usual. As I've toured around a variety of different restaurants and coffee houses, I've been observing life in action and learning much about the state of the church and the challenges we face in youth ministry moving forward.

Roughly 3 weeks ago our staff reluctantly said good-bye to two great teammates. During one of our farewell lunches, our staff team enjoyed the spoils that the Cheesecake Cafe has to offer. One of my teammates, Grover, went to use the washroom, came back to the table and encouraged me to write a blog about our Cheesecake experience and the church of today. Well G...here is the rant you were waiting for!! Upon our arrival I noticed several things:

1. The place was nearly empty
2. The decor & ambiance was extremely outdated
3. There was an expectation from the restaurant staff that this place had a relevant voice in the food industry

It was quite obvious that the Cheesecake Cafe had…

Simplicity from an unlikely source - Discipleship 107

Kiva is a micro-financing website I stumbled upon a couple of years ago. Being a part of world change means learning to adapt and grow in one's perspective. Check out this inspiring story and video. May you step away from this learning experience with a broader understanding of simplicity.

The Story of Joseph - Discipleship 106

One story that has captivated my thought life over the last few weeks is that of Joseph. Many of you may be familiar with this story, but for those of you who are not, let me provide you with a short synopsis.

Joseph was the second youngest of 12 brothers. He was seen as his dad's favorite son, and his older brothers hated him for this reason. Sold into slavery by his own kin, Joseph wound up in Egypt (a foreign country) where he experienced more pain and suffering, while bearing witness to God's continued hand of providence in his life. Fortunate enough to be delivered twice from obscurity, Joseph ended up in a position of authority from which he could have enacted his revenge on his family. Instead, Joseph demonstrated compassion and mercy to his brothers, forgave them for all the treachery they had bestowed upon him, and released them from their burden of guilt. Uttering these famous words found in Genesis 50, "You intended to harm me, but God made it turn out for the …

Willing to be used? - Gianna Jessen - Discipleship 105

What is intended to harm us, God will use for good if we let God be God.

My wife stumbled upon this inspiring video of Gianna. Her birth-mom tried to abort her at 7 months...God used these catastrophic circumstances to do something amazing in her life and through her life. I believe God desires to use each of us to change the world. The question is do we see our circumstances as an obstacle or an opportunity for God to be God?

Lessons from an Election - Discipleship 104

Yesterday the city of Calgary held its' municipal elections. I made several observations about this experience that I believe are key for the Christian church to understand in terms of discipleship and spiritual transformation.

1. Diversity - Diversity is our friend, not our enemy. When you think about how to engage people in the pursuit and relationship with Jesus Christ, diversity is the key. As someone who seeks to communicate God's truth in a relevant and inspiring fashion, I must be willing to change up my methodology in order to reflect the emerging culture that I am seeking to engage. There are times when we can view diversity as a negative thing. My family is ethnically diverse. My son is adopted and is of African-American background. What we as a family have learned is that the diversity we enjoy as a family unit is more enriching and powerful when we focus on how we are similar more than how we are different. While it is important to celebrate our uniqueness, we must …

Empowering to Succeed - Discipleship 103

I stumbled upon this video from Ted.com and was instantly struck by some of the cross-over principles that one can apply to the church's pursuit of discipleship...and in particular, the discipleship of youth and their families by the youth ministry arm of the church.

The word empower has lost a lot of its' weight in our society today. Rarely do we see leaders given true autonomy in their leadership. We have checks and balances in place (good things) for our leaders, but sometimes its' these same systems that get in the way of true, innovative leadership. What if discipleship focused on resourcing people to succeed in living out the Great Commandment and Great Commission? How different would our "programming" elements within the church become? Would we have the courage to resource others to carry the vision forward, or will we fight for our system and allow structure to rule as king?

Two Key Questions - Discipleship 102

At Thanksgiving dinner I had the privilege of reconnecting with cousins and other family. During our dinner conversation, we began talking about this emerging generation of youth and how to interact with them as it relates to the gospel. Heavy subject matter considering it's Thanksgiving (in Canada), but because of the passion my family shares for following Christ and considering what I do for a living as a pastor, these tangents often happen.

We began sharing about a youth rally that took place in our city this past summer. We spoke about the grandeur and wonder of this event, and then allowed our conversation to continue towards the subject matter of discipleship. I shared a thought that I wanted to expand upon in this blog because of the interesting reaction that I received regarding my comments. Keep in mind that the context for our conversation was discipleship of youth. I simply mentioned that youth are interested in first answering the how question before the why question w…

The Four Elements - Discipleship 101

I've been drawn to studying the early church community as of late. We've recently launched into a new vision and philosophy of youth ministry that is much more relational focused, and less corporate larger group gathering oriented. There are always snags when launching a new vision and philosophy during the implementation process, but using a basic framework from Acts 2:42-47 has helped us paint a picture for families, youth and leaders regarding our direction. What I'm learning is that the process of casting vision is never finished. We must constantly communicate the vision, the direction and the philosophy so that we may recruit many more champions to this emerging cause.

I guess it's like the ultimate marketing strategy. Whenever you want to gain momentum, you draw in other's to your cause. Working with this emerging generation of young people, I am learning more and more that they are indeed a cause generation. If you can communicate the vision in such a way a…

Web Video is Changing the World

Have you ever watched any sort of video on the web? Sports highlights, how to make videos, and other instructional communications are available to us at the touch of a button. In ministry we often speak about the attractional and missional models. While some might suggest one model is better than the other, I would contest that both of these models are under constant renovation...they are moving targets of sorts. Whether we are drawn to one context or another, like it or not, we use both of these models in one shape or form in ministry.

Today I find myself asking the question if we can utilize technology for attractional purposes, allowing crowd accelerated innovation to be the marketing strategy that continues to change how we do ministry. Check out this video. I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Program or Relationship

I'm in a season of my life where my learning curve seems pretty darn steep. Everywhere I turn, I am bombarded with new insights regarding my own inadequate definitions of relationship, success and community. Perhaps that greatest thing that seems to be cleansing the palate as of late is this whole concept of relationship and program.

I'm knee-deep into my tenth year as a youth pastor, and I think I know less now that I did as an eager, young, fresh-faced college grad! I can remember thinking I had this whole ministry thing figured out before I had even began working with people in an "uncontrolled" environment (the church) instead of theorizing in class (the controlled environment). Everything I thought I knew about how to build and sustain a successful youth ministry has changed over the last 10 years, and I am so thankful for that!!

Early on, youth ministry was built upon the premise of program...the field of dreams mentality: "If you build it, they will come.…

Ideas that Change the World

The most inspiring observation that God has shown me about this emerging generation is that the capacity for caring, compassion and change they possess is incredible! This is the first real generation that is embracing this concept of a global village with renewed vigor and passion. If I were to try to assign a label to the youth of today (of which I still consider myself to be a part of even though I will turn 30 in a couple of months!!) it would be the term "Cause Generation."

If the youth of today have a mission, cause or crisis they can identify with...they mobilize their entire being to get behind it and the world around them changes as a result. You can see this dynamic play out in simple things like fashion trends or social cues, but even at a greater capacity when you find something that unlocks and engages their caring, compassion and appetite for change.

Today I stumbled upon another upstart organization that is bent on making a difference in our world...specifical…

Made for Relationship

What if I told you that the purpose of the church is rooted in one word, what would you say?

I've been thinking about this subject off and on over the last several years, and I am more convinced each passing day the the focal point of what the church should be about is relationship. I recognize by saying this I open myself up to criticism from all kinds of different sources. Yes I do agree that we need to teach sound doctrine and provide meaningful worship experiences while seeking to remain relevant in the emerging culture around us. But I believe we can thrive in these three areas (and more!) when we root ourselves in relationship.

About a year and a half ago my family and I stepped away from the church we had served at for 8+ years. Not knowing where we would be headed next, we were drawn to prayer unlike we had been before at this particular moment in our lives. After several months of uncertainty and impending financial crisis with loss of income headed our way, God illuminat…

I don't like being told what to do

During my hangout night with my kids we pulled out the guitar and were dancing around in the living room like clowns. I just started singing random lyrics and landed on a catchy phrase that I then sung over and over again in the presence of my children. It went a little something like this:

I don't want to be what you want me to be
But I do want to be what you don't want me to...yes I do

In these few simple words I found language to describe my own rebellious nature to a T!! As human beings we simply do not like being told what to do or how to do it. Unfortunately much of our society is based upon this very same premise that we have a love/hate flirtatious affection for. We like when someone is in charge, but we don't like when those in charge begin to dictate how or what we should do. We like safe things that don't push us too hard and don't demand too much from us. It's this very same portion of our human character that we bring with us into our relationships…

The New Wave of Education

Every day we use a vehicle to help us get from one place to the next. Sometimes these vehicles are tangible machines that we ride in, and other times they are figurative strategies and processes we use to help us achieve our defined success or goal.
The issue with any vehicle is that it needs maintenance and upgrading over time. Just like each of us will not drive the exact same vehicle for our entire lives, we will not use the same strategy, process or methodology all of our lives either. 
The education system we know is changing. The way we teach and instruct in church must change also. This video contains some creative thought and research behind this new wave of education, and I think the ramifications for discipleship in the Christian church are huge. The question is, will we catch the wave, or miss it?

The Multi-Generational Question

Today I had the opportunity to sit in on our Senior's luncheon at the church. I listened to stories, music and laughter and thought to myself how much value this age group has a part of our larger congregation. During a break between the program & lunch, I slipped into the washroom only to be stopped by an older-gentlemen, one of my senior friends. While exchanging pleasantries, our conversation quickly drifted towards a shared passion of ours...ministry. This man's grandson had grown up in the youth ministry I was a part of, and he was now in ministry role as a worship pastor in BC. We shared a little bit about how we were praying for his success and joy in ministry, and then my old friend shared a piece of insight with me that has really got me thinking today. He shared with me that his grandson was recently given some encouragement by his Sr. Pastor in which this pastor admitted to my friend's grandson that as a church they didn't realize that quality of charact…

Thoughts on Discipleship from a Cashier

Most Fridays my family and I head off to Superstore on our weekly quest to replenish our cupboards, fridge & freezer with nourishment. Today was no exception. We meandered our way to our local stop and shop, all the while planning what sort of creative fun we may find for ourselves on this long weekend.

After wandering through the aisles and selecting a variety of goods, we ventured into the chaos that can be checking out from any grocery store...the cashier. We, however, selected what we thought would be the most efficient lane, only to found out our cashier was in training. Normally I would be frustrated by this mental blunder, but today I saw this as an opportunity to observe a scenario that should impact the way I think about discipleship in church, particularly in youth ministry.

What struck me the most was how this cashier's supervisor would calmly and adeptly step in to guide her fellow employee in training when prompted to do so...and in that moment lies the key to my …

Character is What Counts

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, delivers a unique address at a graduation ceremony for Princeton University. Check it out!

Character is What Counts

Simplicity Re-visited

I've had several conversations about the subject of simplicity over the last few days, and I have drawn some conclusions from my observations that I wanted to share in this post.

Simplicity is counter-intuitive to our human nature. What I mean by saying this is that we are wired to pursue something that is more complex than something that is simple. Simplicity is defined as having a laser focus. This means that we know what our target is, and everything we do needs to reflect our pursuit of this target. But it is our love of complexity that prevents us from fully embracing the pursuit of our target.

Think about being in love. When I finally admitted to myself that I loved Bonny, my focus and target was laser clear. Now that I had my target in sight, I need to make sure that my actions reflected my pursuit of her. Every step I took was motivated by love and the courage to fight fear. My identity was shaped by my pursuit, or what I valued...and in this case it was a relationship wit…

Gaming, Behavior & Identity

This is a video of an interesting idea that is beginning to shape our culture in a new way. What do you think about how gaming or participating in games of any kind can help to influence the world in which we live? For me the larger question is about where our identity lies. If we are rooted in Christ, our Christ-like identity informs how we live. How can we use this cutting edge cultural shift to influence others in the ways of Jesus?

Relationally Handcuffed?

Has age specific ministry handcuffed the relational growth and development of youth and families?

I have been thinking about this question over the summer. Having been around the church in a vocational capacity for near 10 years, I've heard this oh so famous line from youth and young adults time and time again: "There is on one my age here." In fact, I believe there was a time or two that I uttered this same thing. It's interesting that one of our cultural norms has so drastically influenced our perceptions when it comes to friendship and relationships. Growing up in a small rural community, I didn't have the luxury of options; neither in the relational world, nor the task oriented world. I learned that in order to satisfy my longing for community, I must be willing to engage others relationally that I perhaps would have avoided had I had another option. At family gatherings, I would hang out with cousins younger and older than me (male & female) and spend co…

Changing the World Through Gaming

Sounds crazy right? What if we were able to engage the issues we face in our world with the same tenacity and commitment as we do with gaming? In church we wonder where all the men are...maybe we need to rethink how we invite them to participate in the mission and vision of Christianity using creative ideas and solutions such as those presented in this video. I don't personally endorse her take on the evolution of humankind, but nonetheless, her ideas provide us with an interesting challenge and perspective on how to engage the emerging (and so-called lost) generations of both men and women in the mission of God.

The Great White Buffalo

This morning I spent time at the youth booth at our church in between and after the Sunday morning services. As someone who enjoys observing people, this opportunity provided me with a great vantage point from which to observe my fellow humans. There where several things that caught my eye (no, not girls, actual things!!), but none more than the underlying need that perpetuates much of what we do as humans...relationship!

Relationship is at the core of who we are. We want to be known and to know others. When we come to any sort of social gathering (church or otherwise), those of us that have some sort of connection with others feel like we belong...but those of us who do not, seem to wander around searching for the elusive desire...our Great White Buffalo.

A mom and her two daughters popped by the youth booth to say hello to me. The oldest daughter is already in our youth ministry, but I had not met either her mom or sister beforehand. They introduced themselves to me and we exchanged…

Relational Influence

Each of us has the capacity to influence others for good or for bad. Consider this: how can you use your relational influence to create world-sized movements that grip the human heart to the very core? As Christians, the hope we have in Christ is the ultimate motivation for restoration, truth and life to the full. How is Jesus shaping the way you live? How is your life creating a world-wide movement in the name of Christ? Enjoy the video!!

Leadership Dynamics

As Christians, we are called to be people of influence in the world around us. Watch this video and consider how you can be a person that inspires others to grow relationally and spiritually through connection. Enjoy!!