Friday, December 23, 2011

Pace, Tone & Rest - Discipleship 157

As I get older I'm learning more and more about what it means to find rest. I've been on vacation for the week leading up to Christmas, and I've begun to notice that it takes me more time to finally hit a space of rest and renewal the longer I go in between taking vacation time. I'm not sure what the correlation is with this all, but as I get older, it seems like it gets more difficult to rest on a regular basis. There is always something that needs to get done, some place I need to be, and somebody that needs something from me. But in all the hustle and bustle of life, am I actually doing myself more harm than good by running myself ragged?

The ironic thing is that in the fast pace of life, I don't even recognize that I'm flirting with an unhealthy space in my life. It's only when I intentionally unplug with regularity that I discover the symptoms of over-exertion. The added dynamic to this conversation is that as a husband and father, I set the pace and tone for life for my entire family. My wife and kids take their cue from me as to what is and what is not a healthy rhythm for life.

So this is the problem...but what might be the solution? I'm still working on that. What I do know for certain is that regular scheduled moments of rest are absolutely vital for the long-term health of my family and myself. Resting does NOT mean running away from responsibility, it means intentionally prioritizing one's responsibilities. There will always be more stuff that needs to get done, there will always be someone else that needs something from you, and there will always be another reason why choosing to rest doesn't seem like the best option. But, if you truly desire to have the most significant impact on others that you can, you must be willing to demonstrate a healthy pace and tone for life that others are willing to learn from and even mimic for their own lives.

Consider this as we head into a busy holiday season. What is does that pace and tone of your life say about what's important to you? Can others discover what true life and true love is by observing the rhythm, pace and tone of your life? My hope is that the answer to both of these questions is yes for my life so that I may inspire others towards life and not confusion. I think I've still got a lot to learn...

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

A heart is the symbol of love - Discipleship 156

Christmas is nearly here. My house is full of anticipation with my three little kids excited to various degrees about this season and what it brings. My wife, of course, is the most excited of us all! She can hardly wait for our kids to experience presents, family time and lots of caroling...

I've been thinking about the symbol of the heart as of late. Partially because of my own fascination with its' function in the human body, and partially because of what the heart often symbolizes.

Our younger son, Deklon, was scheduled to be born a week prior to his actual birth. Because my wife was overdue, we were sent for an additional ultrasound to make sure the baby was okay. During the appointment we got a sneak peak into our son's anatomy, which included the view of the heart. I was amazed at the level of intricate detail I witnessed on the screen as the ultrasound technician passed over his heart where we were able to see a fully functioning and healthy muscle...all four chambers working together in great symmetry and harmony.

Did you know that if our body experiences heart failure it begins to die? Probably not an out of the box concept for anyone to comprehend. But it remains true...without a heart we will die.

The heart seems to be the universal symbol of love (if you don't believe me just wait till February when consumer culture goes rampant with the pursuit of the dollar and capitalizes this symbol of love!!). In the same way that we can't live without a heart, I'm not certain that we can live without love. If you think about it, I think you may agree with me. If we are not loved, or do not experience love the quality of our lives in greatly impeded.

Consider this during the Christmas season...if the heart is the symbol of love, and we truly cannot live without love, what sort of symbol could be used to describe your own life? Those who claim to be followers of Jesus must represent people say they can't live without you because of who you are or because of who God is and how God is using you to show them love?

What do you think about love?

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Consistency or Perfection - Discipleship 155

Hollywood has totally messed us up.

In our quest to be entertained, we've allowed ourselves to be deceived by our entertainment. Most movies (even over-emphasized multi-movie sagas...ahem...TWILIGHT...BARF!!) pursue a happy ending to the story. Sure, the ending might have a sinister twist, but in some way shape or form, there is resolution to the protagonists quarrel with the antagonist.

Romance movies have been particularly harmful to our perception of reality. For some crazy reason, the girl and guy always seem to find each some sort of perfect, and most of the time unrealistic, fashion.

This quest for perfection also rears its' unrelenting, thirst-driven head in the realm of discipleship. For some reason we simply buy into the misconception that we need to be perfect to be a friend of God, and continue to be perfect once we've committed to this friendship. The problem is that we as human beings are incapable of perfection. If we could attain this illustrious status on our own, why would we ever want  or need to be friends with God?

I'm not advocating for a pursuit of life utilizing an abused grace type of mentality...meaning that if you are God's friend it's ok to do whatever you want. But what I am suggesting is that we need to replace the word perfection with the word consistency in our pursuit of discipleship, friendship and relationship with both God and people.

My children don't expect me to be perfect...and thank goodness for that! Thursday nights are normally date night in our home. There are weeks when I'm "on" and we have a super fun time together. But then there are weeks when I don't feel well, or I'm distracted by other things and my ability to invest heavily in our time together isn't what I think it should be. I wrestle with the notion that I must pursue a perfect date night with my kids week in and week out...believing the lie that my kids desire a perfect experience from me, rather than my consistent presence in their lives.

Discipleship is not about perfection, it's about consistency. Are you someone who consistently chooses to invest in the lives of others, or are you stuck waiting for the perfect opportunity to do so? Remember, we as humans are incapable of perfection, so if you're waiting for the perfect are going to be waiting a REAL LONG TIME my friend!! Get in the game. Be consistent and leave the perfection piece up to the only one that is...God.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Timing - Discipleship 154

My apologies for not posting last week...sometimes as thoughts are simmering they take time before they are ready to be served up and shared with others.

This past weekend I had the privilege of spending time connecting with youth while on retreat. One of the concepts we explored together was the thought of timing as it pertains to faith in Jesus Christ.

Timing is a key concept in our world today. Whether you are looking at sports, business, the arts, relationships or consumer culture...timing is evident in all of these venues. If a communications company releases its product behind that of its competitors and the product is inferior in some way, shape or form, the consumer reaction is one that leaves the company on the brink of irrelevance. If the athlete commits a false start, runs the incorrect route, jumps offside or mis-times a particular athletic feat...the results can determine the final outcome of the competition. If one presses an individual into a relationship pre or post maturely, the result could be devastating on an emotional level.

In the same way, a friendship with Jesus is all about timing. Galatians 5:25 records this concept in simple form.  Followers of Jesus are called to "walk in step" with the Spirit of God. Walking in step with someone is all about timing. You must match the pace of your partner; you need to ensure that you have a level of understanding in terms of direction, purpose and goals; and you must possess the endurance necessary to keep going.

In the pursuit of discipleship, timing is critical. The best coaches know when to push, and when to leave things alone. The best disciplemakers and those who possess this very same talent; they know when to challenge and when to back off. Disciplemakers inspire, convict, convince and demonstrate what it means to walk in step with the Spirit of God. Simply put, someone who makes disciples understands and appreciates the value of timing.

What does it mean for you to walk in step with God's Spirit? How can you make sure you are in time or in tune with what God desires to do in and through your life? These questions are all about timing. Perhaps it's time that you consider how you might answer them.

Monday, October 24, 2011

What Have You Done for Me Lately? - Discipleship 153

In the fast-paced disposable society we live in today, there is a deep craving and longing for consistency. We may not be aware of it at times, but this yearning is a large part of what motivates us to consume.

Think about it for a minute. If you cell phone service provider isn't consistent in the support that they give to you, there is a high probability you will simply check out a new provider that promises what you crave. We may only shop at particular stores, or look for certain brands of clothing, or order the same dish at a restaurant not because we despise variety, but because we are looking for consistent quality.

The same can and should be said of our relationships. Now I know that relationships have their ups and downs, but I believe that any relationship can be measured by the component of consistency. In the case of relationships consistency simply means availability. Are we available to be there for the people we claim to love?

I look to Jesus as the perfect example of consistency. He had 12 close friends. For His friends, Jesus was always available. Jesus took the time to connect with them, to be with them...He was a consistent presence in the life of His friends.

I heard a story today of a father who expressed his desire to be finished with parenting once his youngest child entered high school. Needless to say, his relationship with his youngest child is strained. This is an example of what happens when we remove the quotient of consistency or availability from the equation of relationship. This same principle applies to all structures of leadership. If the supervisor or overseer is unavailable or inconsistent with his or her employees, the employees begin to feel devalued, unappreciated and can become bitter towards the leader over time.

There is a lot being said about carbon foot printing in our world today. Think of your life as a relational form of carbon foot printing. What sort of impression are you leaving on the lives of other people? Does your life, your friendship taste good to others? Or are you leaving people with the question of 'what have you done for me lately' far too often?

Work on being consistently available to those who love...and watch your relationship with them begin to grow!

Monday, October 17, 2011

A Case of the Mondays - Discipleship 152

There is a classic line in the movie Officespace that I'm sure most of you have heard before, "Looks like someone has a case of the Mondays."

I don't know about you, but this is often the case when Monday rolls around. Motivation and inspiration seem to be distant memories, and all that is left is a pile of work to get done and the question of where to begin.

The crazy notion is that these blah moments happen in relationships as well. It's in these seasonal blah moments that many people choose to give up, give in and/or walk away. A good friend of mine once told me, "Never make a major decision on a Monday." I thought he was crazy...but now I understand what he meant.

My Oma (means Grandmother in German) was famous in our family for encouraging us not to give up when the going gets tough, but to dig in until you have a clear understanding of where you are. In our modern, convenient, disposable society, pushing through adversity is almost a lost practice. The fact of the matter is that life does happen, and life is not always beautiful, or easy, or even fun. The choice that each of us faces when we are in a "Case of the Mondays" moment is this: Will we allow this circumstance to define who we are, or will we be defined by something greater than a difficult circumstance?

It's Monday...and I will not be defined by something less than who God has created me to be. What about you?

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Where No Man Has Gone Before - Discipleship 151

I have a confession to make (and an online journal seems like the appropriate place to do so...GASP!!). I may have at one point in my life been a closet Trekkie...there I said it. For some unknown reason I was captivated by the character of Captain Jean-Luc Picard of the starship enterprise. And alas, I subjected to myself to hundreds of hours of television in pursuit of fascination.

One famous line that has always stuck with me is the "Where no man has gone before" that is utilized in the opening portion of the TV show. As I now devote thousands of hours to my other predominant pursuit, discipleship, I've come to the conclusion that there is a lot to be said about the polarized connection of these two subjects.

Discipleship is about becoming like someone else. In the case of Christianity, it's about becoming more like Jesus...not about becoming more like the other person who may be mentoring you or the community that may be walking life alongside of you. In the manner of parenting, there is an element of beginning to reflect the nature of your parents (values/passions) as younger children and then discovering your own uniqueness as you mature into adulthood.

Going where no man has gone before, on the other hand, is all about perceived adventure and challenge.

The issue with combining the adventurous portion of life alongside of discipleship is when the mentor or disciple-maker is unwilling to journey with the disciple, or when the disciple-maker asks the disciple to go somewhere where he or she hasn't been. As Timothy Keller writes, "one cannot traffic an un-felt truth." When we are focused on making disciples (followers of others) we must be willing to answer the question of whether or not we are willing to walk the journey together with others.

Sometimes I wonder if our pursuit of program dominates the Christian mandate to make disciples. Are we focused on getting the best experience, or are we focused on building relationships and establishing community?

As you continue thinking about how your life is going to impact the world, I hope you consider what sort of inspirational wake your life is leaving behind for others. Are you inviting people to walk with you, or are you simply pointing them down a road that you yourself are unwilling to travel?

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Champion - Discipleship 150

A champion is someone that is the top of their field.

In discipleship, a champion is someone that not only talks the talk, but is also able to walk the walk. Warren Bennis says, "Leadership is the ability to translate vision into reality." This is the perfect definition of a champion.

As a leader (a dad, a mom, a friend, a sibling, etc.), how can you be known as a champion? Do people see love in action by the way you choose to live? Do others know that you believe in them and are willing to walk alongside of them?

Our world is in need of an emerging wave of champions...people who are passionate about tangibly demonstrating love for God and for people. What other qualities should a champion possess and strive to develop?

Friday, September 23, 2011

Living an Inspired Life

I'm fascinated with the concept of motivation. What drives us to pursue success in the way we choose to live? What provides us with perspective when we face times of hopelessness and distress? What inspires us to hold on when everything and everyone else seems to be letting go?

Inspiration, at its' core, is the purest form of motivation. This week I lost my grandfather due to a tragic accident. I'm left pondering these theme of motivation and inspiration more intently as a result. Looking back at who my grandfather was, I see traces of inspired living in his life story. He was known for his compassion for people, his willingness to aid his family and his desire to show love to others. A man of few words, my grandpa made up for his lack of verbal pontification through an active demonstration of inspiration.

You and I are living stories. Stories of hope; stories of joy; stories of fear and failure...but also stories of triumph. What makes a great story is a great author and a willingness to share the story with others. Our lives speak volumes to those around us. What does your life say about who you are? Live an inspired that is rooted in truth and patterned after the life of Jesus. Jesus is the purest form of inspired living that has ever existed in the realm of humanity. May your inspired life be one that is 'God-breathed'...rooted in hope, love, faith and joy.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Leading Through Change - Discipleship 148

Change is constant.

Internally or externally, change is a constant in our society. No matter how hard we may try to resist or avoid change, it still happens. I can color my hair when I notice it beginning to going white, but it won't change the fact that its' natural pigment is fading. I can try to fit into emerging fashion styles, but it won't change the fact that there are simply some trends I should not be a part of (ahem...skinny jeans...ahem).

If change is a constant, how can we lead through it and how can we manage it? Years ago my dad asked me if I see problems as obstacles or opportunities. As leaders leading in a culture of change requires us to refine our perspective. We must see problems as opportunities, and not obstacles. In doing so, how we communicate will begin to change, and momentum will be the end result.

Leading through change means learning to embrace emerging realities and preferred futures. Many people fail in their dieting attempts because they either do not take ownership of their current state of reality, or they do not possess the ability to imagine a different future ahead of them. A leading through change type of leader is able to accept what currently is, but also cast vision towards a preferred future.

If change is constant, our ability to lead must match its' amplitude and consistency. Imagine a different future and beginning implementing a strategy to bring it to life!

Monday, August 29, 2011

Learning to Wait

Waiting is one of the most difficult things for me to do. I like to control things, as much as possible, and in waiting my pursuit of control is irrelevant. I'm learning more about what it means to wait and to rest. As a father, a husband and a youth pastor, my passion is to see life change take place. The thing about life change is that it takes time, and it is often out of our control. My role of authority in the process of pastoring, child-rearing and being a husband is more about providing opportunities for life change or spiritual transformation to happen and less about trying to control how it actually occurs.

My wife and I have been anxiously awaiting the arrival of our third child. It's in this season of growth that I am learning more about what it means to wait. For those of you who are learning to wait in your life in some way, may you find encouragement and inspiration through the words of a fellow sojourner in the waiting game.

In anticipation of the birth of our third child, I penned these lyrics for a song:

Here we are waiting
Hoping to meet you very soon
the anticipation keeps us full of knowing what to do

We're celebrating the purpose of life
in the spaces between courage and darkness, knowing you will meet us here

Love is waiting, holding tight, not letting go
No hesitating, we are here and we want you to know

It takes patience to rest in the moments of unknown
freedom and mercy are with you here, you won't travel alone

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Gratuity Based Faith - Discipleship 147

I've been pondering the theme of gratuity based faith for some time. Having enjoyed my fair share of meals served in a restaurant, I've begun to draw comparisons from the service world to the church.

There are a segment of people that expect their experience of church or community to be steeped in gratuity. The cardinal rule for those in the service industry is to earn the faith of the customer; in doing so, you will be rewarded by their gratuity (a bigger tip). Waiters and waitresses have experimented with impressive feats such as memorizing orders, names and even making sure they are one step ahead of you when it comes to service...all to try and earn a handsome reward.

I sometimes wonder if the church has adopted this similar mentality. The pursuit of success has lead communities of faith to be more focused on meeting expectations rather than leading out of conviction or vision for ministry. When the questions leaders ask themselves are focused on developing loyalty and commitment out of their congregation rather than questions that are aimed at the spiritual transformation of people, I think we've missed the mark of what discipleship is.

Proverbs 27:17 says, "As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another." The sharpening experience occurs from a number of successive collisions...lives intersecting for the purpose of mutual growth and development. I've never experienced a collision that didn't cause me some sort of pain and/or residual damage (some of which was for the better). I think we need to anticipate that living in the world of gratuity based faith isn't reality. In reality there will be conflict and challenge; the question is how will we choose to benefit from these growth opportunities.

The next time you are in a restaurant and leaving a tip, think about how you can inspire those around you to pursue authentic faith through the experience of discipleship.

Monday, August 8, 2011

I Hear Many Voices - Discipleship 146

It's been awhile since I've had the chance to share what has been rattling around in my brain. I've been thinking a lot about teaching and discipleship as it pertains to voices. Let me explain.

The modern education system was built upon the school house idea. There was one teacher for all of the students in and around the local community. The classroom was often filled with students from a wide variety of grades, and the teacher was not only expected to teach to students of different levels, but was also required to teach on every subject matter...and quite frankly to be an expert in every field.

This system had its advantages and disadvantages. My own grandmother experienced education in this setting and benefited from it. What is a tad bit frightening is that this concept for education is still in primary use today in the church realm. The secular educational system moved away from the one teacher knows all model due to external factors like urbanization and increasing class sizes; and although still utilized during the formative years of education in grade school, as people grow and develop they are exposed to different authoritative teaching voices to enhance their learning experience.

So what does this mean for us with regards to discipleship? we allow a multiplicity of authoritative voices to speak into the process of spiritual transformation? If the answer is no, perhaps we need to evaluate our motivation for this type of restriction. I know personally I'm often afraid that if I share the leadership responsibility with others I may become expendable. But the bottom line is that the learning experience is enriched as we allow collaboration to be the foundation for growth. I'm not an expert on every subject, but I have something to contribute to the conversation. Will we have the courage to invite other voices into the discipleship process?

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Trust - Discipleship 145

I've been writing thoughts about discipleship for the last few months. I'm passionate about this subject matter because I simply believe it is the key to parenting, leading, mentoring and befriending others. Discipleship is all about building relationships with others. We either push or pull others in their journey of life. My hope and prayer is that my life will push others to be who they were created to be.

This week I'm learning about the role of trust in discipleship. My daughter recently got a sliver in her hand. She was complaining about it hurting, so being a good dad I was trying to help her out by removing the sliver. As we were collaborating about how to best approach its' removal I asked Saydie if she trusted me...she said no, she was nervous that it was going to hurt. Normally a statement like that would have shattered me emotionally, but this time it didn't. In that moment I caught a glimpse of my personal response to God. Sometimes I simply don't trust Him with what is happening in my life.

The thing about trust is that its' built upon the principle of 'what have you done for me lately?' Don't believe me? Ask a child who's dad missed catching him after tossing him into the air. It doesn't matter that this child's father caught him a thousand times before dropping him...the fact is that he dropped him and he got trust needs to be rebuilt.

Discipling people comes with great joy but also great pain. If those you love don't trust you, they won't allow you to help shape who they are becoming. My suggestion and reminder to us all is to work on building trust each and every day. It's going to take a lot of time and a lot of effort. It's not about proving yourself, it's about building, establishing and maintaining trust...and trust can only be earned by demonstrating love for others.

Think about that the next time you are advocating for change...are you a leader, a parent or a friend that can be trusted?

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Inspiration - Discipleship 144

I'm working on a project with a good friend of mine entitle Prayer Inspired Parenting. Over the last number of years I've been captivated by the word inspiration. As I've built (with the help of my wife & kids) family values and crafted a family mission statement, I've been drawn to consider how my life will serve as a source of inspiration for my children and those around me.

There is a particular story from scripture that has consumed my imagination lately. In Genesis we read through the story of Abraham's intercession on behalf of the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. In this story Abraham pleads with God to relent from pouring out His judgement upon these two cities. Through his intercession, Abraham barters with God asking Him to refrain from sending calamity based upon a dwindling number of righteous people found within the confines of these two great cities. In the end, even the small agreed upon number wasn't sufficient to save Sodom and Gomorrah from being destroyed.

What has made me think differently about this somewhat familiar portion of scripture is the theme of inspiration. In these particular cities, the community inspired each other in a negative fashion. How often have we heard that a bad apple spoils the lot? As Christians, leaders, parents and plain old people we need to think differently about how we choose to live. Through each of our choices we are making statements of inspiration; some of these statements are inspiring others in a positive way, while others are inspiring others in a more negative way. While I'm not suggesting we have the power to control how others choose to live, we do have the ability to inspire people. Think through your favorite movie, book or short-story. Why are you so captivated by these tales? It's simple...they inspire you in some way.

Imagine if a generation of people would rise up to inspire their communities towards positive, God-honoring action? How would our world change and be different?

In my role as a youth pastor I just so happen to work with these kinds of people...the emerging generation of world changers who's lives inspire communities to become advocates for change and agents of love. The revolution has begun: are you being inspired?

Consider how you can inspire others each day.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Manager or Mentor - Discipleship 143

Leadership provides a person with the opportunity to both manage people and mentor people. If you're like me, you might get a little squeamish when you hear the manager label tossed around. Many of us have endured seasons in life where we have felt micro-managed, leading us to perhaps reject the idea of managing altogether. Mentoring, on the other hand, may seem more appealing to those who wish to pursue a relational connection with their leaders.

When we look at the life of Jesus, and specifically the interaction He had with His team of disciples, we can see Jesus utilizing both a manager and mentor strategy for the growth and development of His team.

Jesus was a manager when He asked His disciples to complete tasks, give reports and grow in their personal understanding of who He is and what He was sent to do. Jesus was a mentor when He allowed His team to ask questions, make suggestions, try things and learn from failures.

In terms of discipleship, the manager/mentor dichotomy is a critical understanding. There are times when we need to challenge and hold one another accountable. There are also times when we need to empower and release others to grow in the process of discipleship. The mark of a great disciple-maker is someone who is able to identify and adjust his or her style of leadership based upon the unique needs of the ministry context, scenario or individual disciple. This doesn't mean selling out to the demands of your surroundings. It does mean being willing to serve and lead in the process of discipleship by both managing and mentoring when the season calls for it.

To be a manager or a leader, you need to be a mentor. To be a mentor, you need to understand how to lead.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Day 8 - Jr Hi MTO Update continued

We made it.

We rolled into West Campus just before 4:00pm today with vans full of people, memories, laughter and community.

It was incredible to see families welcome us home with open arms. It was even more incredible to see community amongst our youth continue to grow as we celebrated our week together in a parking lot.

My hope for this group is that they would continue to place Jesus at the center of all they do. In doing so, they will achieve the individual and collective potential they possess. God is on the move. Our challenge is to Rise Up and partner with what He is doing in and through us. I hope to witness an ongoing resurgence of passion and faith in action in this generation.

The wave is coming...the question is will we Rise Up to catch it?

Day 8 - Jr. Hi MTO Update

Today marks the final leg of this portion of our adventure. Last night during our community debrief time we asked each other two questions:

1. How did you experience Jesus in a fresh way this week?
2. What are you bringing home with you?

For you as parents, friends and loved ones, using these questions to help these students and adults share their experience with you will provide both parties with an insight into how God is at work in the lives of His people. We must continue to get better in sharing the story of God at work in our lives and our world so that we always remember the goodness, mercy and love of God is meaningful ways (among other character qualities).

Our goal is to arrive home in Calgary to the West Campus facility location by 4:00pm Mountain Standard Time. Lord willing we will be on schedule. Continue to pray for a safe journey and "grippy tires" (as my daughter prays) for the rest of our journey home. We are looking forward to seeing you all. We will need showers, food & a good night's sleep...but those three things were worth trading to gain an incredible Spirit-filled experience over this past week!!

See you all soon!!

Friday, July 8, 2011

Day 7 - Jr. High MTO Update

The adventure continues. We left Vancouver for Salmon Arm with a pocket full of joy, hope, new experiences and a fresh perspective in our own personal relationships with Jesus. The journey on the road was full of laughter, conversation and some brief napping!! During our lunch stop we found out that one of our youth had received permission from her parents (who are currently in South Africa) to be baptized, so we began planning our second baptismal service of the week. But the adventure didn't come without its' challenges.

Our MTO funds were running short, so we needed to reallocate how we were going to provide for meal compensation and what not as a team. We reached Salmon Arm in the early afternoon and broke the news to our youth about this emerging reality. Students began to dream about how to solve our issue. Offers for lending money and ideas for how to stretch dollars were provided...collaboration was in the air. A second student asked if he could be baptized along with his peer. This student's parents just so happened to be camping in the area, and we were able to get ahold of them to be a part of this experience.

As we continue to celebrate God's provision for our community, we received were a large blessing...our supper meal was provided for by a couple of passionate followers of Jesus who simply wanted to bless our team with a pizza dinner, which means we are able to stretch our reserve funds a little further!

Here are two more baptism videos. They represent a small fragment of what God has done, is doing and continues to do in the lives if His children in the portion of His family we refer to as Centre Street Church Youth Ministries.

Janette Flaaten

Joel Yepiz

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Day 6 - Jr. High MTO Update

I'm so very proud of our students. They have tackled every challenge that has come their way on this adventure. The close quarters have taken their toll on some of our gals...a few of them are battling sickness (colds) which isn't the best way for them to finish off their MTO, but they aren't letting this latest challenge dampen their spirits.

Today will be filled with many good-byes. Our youth have grown attached to their new surroundings, and for some of them it will be very difficult to accept the idea that they need to transition to life at home. We continue to talk about the challenge to bring the experience home and continue to forge ahead in community collectively. Pray that youth would recognize the lessons, intimacy with Jesus and closeness of community they have experienced here in Vancouver can and will translate back into life in Calgary if we are willing to let it become a part of our daily rhythm at home.

Tonight we cap off our MTO experience in VanCity with a foot-washing experience. It's a time of great healing and spiritual intimacy. Pray for our youth as they grapple with the emotion and the power of this experience. God isn't finished speaking to them yet, and I believe clarity will be provided to those who are seeking to experience Jesus in a fresh way.

Our journey home begins tomorrow with our drive to Salmon Arm. Pray for a good night's rest and alertness on the road for our team. See you all soon!!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Day 5 - Jr. Hi MTO Update

Today marked the beginning of the downward slope towards the end of our ministry experience here in Vancouver. Our youth have definitely been bombarded this week, while being exposed to God’s present and the harsh reality of living in a broken world.

The greatest challenge we now face as a team is to develop a vocabulary that will allow us to communicate with our friends and family at home about our experience. It’s difficult to put images, sounds and smells into words. Inside jokes aren’t as easily translated, thoughts sometimes don’t carry the same weight when re-communicated outside of their original experience, and well sometimes it’s just plain hard to come home after meeting God is a fresh way. My hope and prayer is that our youth would see that God is the same in Vancouver and Calgary (not to mention the rest of the known & unknown universe)…He doesn’t change, and although we may have, His love is consistent and will carry us through the emerging challenges of being back in familiar territory.

Highlights from day included watching our youth actively seek out opportunities to minister to others without having to be prompted to do so, and also seeing how their friendships with one another continue to blossom.

May God grant us the continued grace to represent Him to our broken world; and may He use us to extend His kingdom here on earth as He sees fit!

See you all soon!!

Day 4 - Jr High MTO Update

Our third day of ministry was filled with a ton of highlights, culminating with some of our youth choosing to be baptized in the ocean (which we captured on film). Perhaps the most significant part of our journey thus far is wrestling with the questions that flood our hearts and minds as we process what we've seen, heard and experienced while on MTO.

Often times when you are exposed to visible needs, you can either become inspired to work towards meeting needs or desensitized to your surroundings. This week our youth are engaging the needs they see, but what will next week hold? As we've begun to discuss as a team, this MTO experience doesn't end during a 1 week journey. Living and loving like Jesus demands that we intentionally invest our whole person into His partnership we call mission. Pray that our youth would continue to process what they are seeing, hearing and experiencing together in community with Jesus as the head of this community.

As one of the people whom we've had the privilege to serve said: "You young people make the best missionaries." We all carry forward the mission of God. As we engage our world in the embodiment of love, grace and mercy in action, we represent our King in an authentic capacity.

Enjoy the show:

Noah Tainsh

Gabby Walthers

Braden Vandale

Erin Johnston

Leslie Ahenda

Miranda Jardine

Monday, July 4, 2011

Day 3 - Jr. High MTO Highlights

Today marked the first day of full ministry engagement on our team. We sent groups of students & volunteer leaders to work with impoverished kids, shut-in seniors, and a variety of social justice oriented ministries throughout Vancouver's famous East Hastings area.

Our team was bombarded with images, emotions, smells and questions as they processed everything they saw, heard and experienced. One of our youth summarized his experience with this statement: "Today was life changing; I'm not sure how yet, but I know after seeing and experiencing life in this setting I will be different."

This quote sums up a lot of what our youth and adults are experiencing on this year's MTO. We hope to continue to hear more stories of life change as the days continue on. One thing is certain: our team has encountered and experienced God in new ways in just a few short days. My prayer for them is that they would continue to wrestle with the question 'Now what?' The answer to this will not only change their lives, but I truly believe will shape and change our world for the better in and through Jesus both now and in the future.

Tomorrow we head out to our ministry sites again, but will also pause to celebrate the baptism of 5 students in the Pacific ocean in the evening. Pray that God's voice would be the most dominant voice in the lives of our team in the coming days, months and years ahead. The entire purpose of this MTO is to expose people to God's presence in a fresh way. The challenge is helping our youth and adults create a vocabulary and a lifestyle based on their God encounter.

I can't wait for what tomorrow will bring!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Day 2 - Jr. High MTO

Our second day of travel went by fast...which we were grateful for! We saw where we are staying for the week, and our accommodations have presented us with a set of additional challenges that we didn't plan on, but are learning to be flexible with!

Tomorrow we have the chance to experience our ministry sites. We are hoping and pray that our youth will see, hear and experience God in fresh ways. We will be serving at Urban Gospel Mission, Shining Stars (day-camp for impoverished kids), old folks homes and a variety of social justice ministry organizations. Pray that we will continue to bond and see all challenges as opportunities to grow and mature in our faith relationship with Jesus.

We are hoping for a decent night's rest this evening!! God is up to something...we are pumped to be a part of it!

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Vancouver MTO - Day 1

Today started with a full day of travelling. We are grateful that we didn’t encounter much road construction, making our commute time seem much shorter. We arrived in Salmon Arm around 4:15pm (local time).

Some of the highlights include highly energetic van conversation, great scenery and a sense of anticipation as to what God is going to do in and through us on this journey.

We ask for continued prayer for travelling safety, community building amongst our group and a hunger to be the hands of feet of Jesus as we embark on the next phase of our adventure tomorrow. We can’t wait to experience what God has in store for us!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Community - Discipleship 142

The Lone Ranger. Amusing TV, but horrible leadership strategy.

If we believe that as humans we are created in God's image, we must recognize our craving for community. We were created for relationship. So what does this mean for us as leaders? Simple...we stop trying to do things on our own.

For some reason we at times buy into the notion that true leadership is about learning how to do things in isolation from others. This is not the case. While the credibility for ones leadership can be attributed to how this individual behaves in their relationship with Jesus while in isolation, his or her capacity to lead is defined by their willingness to engage or partner with others on the journey of leadership.

Consider this: What type of leader are you? Do you actively invite people to partner with you in leadership, or do you choose to try and work things out all by yourself?

If we were created for community, maybe it's time we start leading like it.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Imagination - Discipleship 141

The mind is a powerful thing. As disciple makers, are we inspiring others to use their imagination to experience and explore the truth of Jesus Christ?

A culture of change inspires the imagination. See how one artist use her imagination to create a new art form, and imagine how we can use imagination to help create more passionate followers of Jesus.

Monday, June 6, 2011

A Shift in Thinking - Discipleship 140

Much has been written and said about the emerging shift in thinking as it pertains to youth ministry. Mike King shared some great thoughts in his post on with regards to the new reality for evangelism in youth culture. I encourage you to read the article.

In the Canadian landscape, and particularly in Calgary, I would agree with King's assessment that a significant shift in thinking needs to take place in our evangelistic efforts to the youth of our nation. Believe it or not, the Canadian youth of today are making value-based decisions with regards to their educational pursuits, leisure time and yes, even religious affiliations. In the early 80s and mid 90s, evangelistic efforts followed a Believe, Behave, Belong continuum. The youth of today are re-writing this continuum. Their culture and their values demand a Belong, Believe, Behave type landscape for spiritual transformation.

So what does that mean? Youth are more interested in understanding how they fit before they are willing to grow in their belief. It is critical that the community of believers, youth pastors, parents and volunteer leaders work together to establish the value of community in ministry towards youth. Programmatic elements of ministry need to reflect this emerging value so that youth feel as though they matter and are valued. It's only after they feel like they belong that they will be more willing to engage in conversation about what they believe about Jesus.

I think it's fantastic that the youth of today are pushing us beyond the barriers of behavioural modification and calling us to embrace authentic, transparent, and intentional community with one another. Deep down inside, I'm convinced that each of us may be able to identify with the need to belong and be valued. I wonder how communities of faith will change as a greater emphasis on living in community is proclaimed and demonstrated in each unique ministry context?

Friday, May 27, 2011

A Story of Inspiration

None of us have life all figured out. When we face struggles and obstacles, we're often left with more questions than answers. This is Cody's story. Born with complications, he didn't let this obstacle overtake him. No matter what you are facing in your are not alone. God is with you. May you find hope, rest, love and live in Him.

Cody's Story from Igniter Media on Vimeo.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Message vs. Method - Discipleship 139

This is a classic question in the discipleship conversation: How do we remain commitment to the message while using relevant methods to communicate the message?

In my younger days, I loved being a patron of The Cheesecake Cafe. This particular restaurant was known for its' desserts...and I'll admit it, I have a soft spot for cheesecake and other rich desserts!! If you wanted to experience cheesecake, this was the place to go. But then something happened. The quality of food remained the same, but it was almost as if the restaurant was clinging too much on reputation alone to communicate its' message (we make the best cheesecake) to people. Sadly, the Cheesecake cafe that has been in the area of Calgary in which I live recently closed its' doors because it wasn't making a profit. This restaurant had lost sight of its' originally defined goal of success.

In discipleship, the definition of success is obedience to God. The fruit (or result) of this success is a disciple; meaning that replication is the goal. When we are engaged in the discipleship of others, the goal is to see this other person become a disciple of Jesus and to then inspire others to do the same.

I wonder sometimes if we lean too heavily on our reputation as Christians that we resist things like creativity, originality and change in our pursuit of making disciples of others. We may hear a phrase like "we have a new way of doing things" and immediately shudder or cringe because the words 'new' and 'way' lead us to assume the message must suffer for the sake of this new method. I personally disagree. I think the message of Jesus is time-tested. The message, and therefore definition of success for discipleship, can not change. If they do, then we risk becoming heretical and living examples of defamation.

What can change, however, is the way we communicate this message. Our methods do not stand the test of time. We are constantly learning how to do things more effectively or differently in order to keep them fresh and unique. Why not employ this same strategy in our quest for discipleship? Does it really hinder the growth and development of others when we are looking at different ways to reach more people with the gospel message of Jesus?

The bottom line is that we sometimes enjoy celebrating the method rather than celebrating the message. We love to point to our strategy or our development plan and marvel at how our system has produced our desired result. Instead, should we not become more captivated by the God's message, and His messenger in Jesus, that we learn to embrace the message and discard the method when the method becomes irrelevant and disengaging? Or are we more concerned about the method and believing that it is equal in status with the message itself?

Be creative. Be bold. Hold tightly to the truth of the message of Christ Jesus, and loosely to the methods which you use to communicate it. The last thing we need is to be out-dated, irrelevant and disengaging as God's people.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Community - Discipleship 138

I'm hard pressed to find examples of discipleship that take place outside of the context of community. Whether online or offline, community plays a vital role in the spiritual transformation of people. The struggle we as humans have with the word community is that it's become quite ambiguous...we've lost site of its' original meaning.

Community is a cluster of committed people who gather together for the purpose of relationship and the expression of belonging. The great thing about community is that it isn't limited by genetic code or physical location. True community is both mobile and reproducible.

Discipleship is the by-product of true community. A community is focused on the growth and development of both its' individuals and its' collective gathered body. If, as followers of Jesus Christ, our greatest commandment (Love God & Love Others) and our great commission (go and make disciples) inspire us to live, breathe and create community, what will our personal and collective response be in the pursuit of discipleship?

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Synthetic or Natural - Discipleship 137

I had an interesting conversation today with one of my teammates. We were talking about the desire to see spiritual fruit emerge in the lives of the youth, parents and volunteer leaders that we serve. We then began to discuss the difference between synthetically and naturally produced fruit. Many of us would be aware of the emerging organic vegetable and fruit sections in our local supermarkets. The difference between this type of fruit and the chemically engineered stuff is quality over quantity. Engineered fruit is often larger in size, produced more quickly and potentially lasts longer. Yet the nutritional value of this food is lacking when compared to that of the organic variety.

I think spiritual fruit functions in the same way. Fruit that is synthetically produced may look better, ripen quicker and be more prevalent, but is the quality still there? If we agree that there is a growing season for everything, why are we so determined to rush fruit into production? Part of this demand for fruit may be attributed to the external pressures we feel to measure our success in ministry based on life change, but it's also due to our own need to see tangible results for our efforts.

Being a pastor, a parent, a husband and even a human being means learning to live with tension. I cannot control or manufacture the response of my wife, kids or ministry members to the presence of Jesus, but I can influence this response. The question I am left asking myself is this: Am I engineering synthetic fruit, or am I helping to produce the organic stuff?

If my role as a follower of Jesus is to be who I'm created to be, to inspire others in their faith journey and to love and live like Jesus, am I willing to wait for spiritual fruit to ripen in its' season, or will I try to force fruit to emerge through synthetic means? My hope is that I do not underestimate the power of God's Spirit at work in and through me, and that I may be willing to follow the Spirit's promptings that will bear fruit in its' season.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Loving Your Enemy - Discipleship 136

Recent world news has informed us that this last decade's most wanted man has been killed. Osama Bin Laden is dead. When I first heard the news, I wasn't sure how to feel. I read many twitter posts celebrating this great feat, and while I agree with pursuing justice, I'm not sure if celebrating another person's failure or demise is the best response. Having said that, I am not belittling those who were greatly affected by the events of 9-11. I personally didn't lose much on that day. What I did gain was a heightened awareness of the struggle in our world. A struggle that is not against flesh and blood, but against evil.

Jesus taught a very tough truth about love and enemies. This conversation is recorded in chapter six of the gospel of Luke:

But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you.
“If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

Like it or not, Bin Laden was created in the image of God for the purpose of relationship. He, like you and me, is worthy of love. I do not condone his actions for one minute, so please do not reach that conclusion from reading this post. What I am suggesting is that mercy and justice play a role in the God's Kingdom. I can choose what my response to this, and any other situation will be. My hope and prayer is that in any and all response I will represent love, demonstrate humility, embrace justice and walk in mercy.

Monday, April 25, 2011

The Cheerleader - Discipleship 135

One of the greatest roles we can play in the life of another person is the role of the cheerleader. A cheerleader is someone that encourages, inspires and spurs another person along in their life journey. If you look back at your life you may find people who have had both a positive and negative affect on your journey. In discipleship, we at times play the role of the cheerleader. We must inspire, encourage and believe in those whom we are nurturing towards spiritual growth and development. We must also be willing to extend unconditional love and support to them along their journey. Check out this video. I hope it inspires you to embrace the role of the cheerleader in someone else's life. I hope it also inspires you towards gratitude to those who have played this role in your own faith journey in Jesus Christ.

Viktor Frankl: Why to believe in others | Video on

Monday, April 18, 2011

The Power of Story - Discipleship 134

I stumbled upon this story as I was browsing one of my favorite leadership websites. Before His death and resurrection Jesus gave His disciples a new command: Love one another. Jesus went on to say that the world will know that you love God if you love one another. Compassion, inspiration, friendship...these terms are all things each of us long to experience. My hope is that you would be captivated by the power of a story and recognize that your story can initiate and inspire change in our world.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Celebrating Sacrifice - Discipleship 133

I've been drawn to the story of the widow's offering over the last number of days. There are two versions of this story in scripture: Mark 12:41-44 & Luke 21:1-4. Jesus and his disciples were at the temple observing the crowds. As they are watching other people, one woman catches their eye. Jesus notices a widow who comes to the temple to give her tithe. She places two small coins in the offering box worth a fraction of what others were putting into the offering plate. Jesus singles this woman out and praises her gift because it was a sacrificial gift...she gave all that she had.

I watched this new TV show called Secret Millionaire. The show follows a millionaire who secretly volunteers at a number of non-profit organizations. At the end of the show the millionaire reveals their identity and they then give monetary donations to each organization they have volunteered with. It's great that these places are receiving financial aid, but I couldn't help but think of the story of the widow once again. It's easy for us to celebrate the large donation of the significant decision that radically reshapes the landscape and context of our world. What I think is more difficult to do is to take time to celebrate what may seem to be the small and insignificant acts of kindness.

Is it more important to be charismatic or to be consistent in how we interact with others? Do we cheapen our relationships when we only see fit to celebrate the grand moments and seem less interested on the small victories along the journey?

I think part of being a disciple and someone who makes other disciples is learning to celebrate the small sacrifices which are more grand and elaborate than we realize. Small = consistent and leads to a greater capacity for generosity moving forward.

How are you going to celebrate sacrifice?

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Poetry in Motion

I'm knee deep in graduate studies over the next few weeks and finding it difficult to post creative items to my blog in addition to keeping up with the homework load. Having said that, I thought it might be fun to share some of the poetry stuff that I've written over the years. Most of these sonnets are lyrics to songs that have been inspired by friends, family and experiences in different seasons of my life. I hope they inspire you to find hope, rest and life in the middle of your journey!!

To Love You

You never know if you can see something that isn’t there
But so many choose to be unaware
Nothing compares to what you’ve done
Not even all I have
Something inside me cries out to you

Here lies my pride
I would give anything to know you
Here lies my life
I would do anything to love you

Gone are the ways that used to be holding me back again
You came and pardoned me from what I am
Gone are the days I used to feel stuck here inside my head
I choose to follow you with all I am

Here lies my pride
I would give anything to know you
Here lies my life
I would give anything to love you

Monday, March 28, 2011

Authenticity - Discipleship 131

A disciple of Jesus is someone who pursues authenticity. 

In John, one of the gospels from the New Testament, Jesus is famous for uttering the "I am" statements. These claims are foundational to understanding who Jesus is and what He believed about Himself. Here is a list of these statements to refresh your memory.

  1. I AM the bread of life.
    • John 6:35: Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.
    • John 6:48: I am the bread of life.
  2. I AM the light of the world.
    • John 8:12: When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
    • John 9:5: While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”
  3. I AM the door.
    • John 10:7: Therefore Jesus said again, “I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep."
  4. I AM the good shepherd.
    • John 10:11-14: “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand is not the shepherd who owns the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me...."
  5. I AM the resurrection and the life.
    • John 11:25: Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies."
  6. I AM the way, the truth and the life.
    • John 14:6: Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me."
  7. I AM the true vine.
    • John 15:1, 5: “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing."
These statements provide us with a window of authenticity into the life of Jesus. It is out of this worldview that Jesus engaged the community around Him. As disciples, each of us has the opportunity to create our own window of authenticity by what we do and by what we say. What I find fascinating about these sayings from the life of Jesus is that they are statements of being, not statements of comparison. Often times I find myself falling into the trap of self-promotion. I feel compelled to justify who I am and what I do to others in order to be granted their approval. I am driven by performance instead of being driven by simply being who I am.

Think about this for one minute. How would you describe yourself to someone else? What descriptors would you use? Are the statements you would make about yourself statements of comparison where you are measuring yourself against a known or unknown standard? Or are you simply making a statements of being?

Here is an example:

I am a father.
I am a better father than most dads.

The first statement is one of being, the second is one of comparison. Statements of comparison are subjective and shallow. Statements of being are not only authentic, but are also transparent and real. One set of statements breeds authenticity, while the other breeds contempt. 

Jesus understood the importance of making statements of being, but also of follow through on the statements that He made. A disciple is someone who not only speaks about authenticity, but one who strives to live authentically in each decision made every day.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Compassion in Action - Discipleship 130

What do you do when you feel burdened by the needs you see around you? Is it enough to recognize the needs and not act on what you see? Listen to this story about escaping poverty and remember Philippians 4:13 - "I can do all things through Christ, because he gives me strength."

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Simplicity Re-visited - Discipleship 129

Earlier this week I had the chance to sit in on an emergency first aid course. One of the things that held my attention were the statistics about heart attacks in males compared to females. Roughly 10 years ago, men who had heart attacks accounted for nearly 70% of all documented cases. Since then, there has been a gradual shift where this trend has begun to even out over time.

What's startling to me about this trend is that one of the major contributing factors to heart attacks is stress. I've blogged about this topic before, but I believe that the root issue behind health trends such as stress-related illnesses can be directly attributed to our lack of simplicity in life.

Listen to Jesus' words in Matthew 11:28-30, "Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."

These few verses imply several truths. I could write about this subject all day, but I'm only going to touch on a couple of things in this post. Jesus invites us to learn from Him, implying that His way of life is one that is not only full (John 10:10), but also one that is restful. Seems like an oxymoron doesn't it? Often times our goal in life here in North America is to live life fast and loud. Don't believe me? Take a drive (or walk) through your many fast initiatives do you see? We have speed limits to try and slow us down (do they work??), we have fast-food, express lube, made to order, 30 minutes or less guarantee type stuff all over the place...and I haven't even talked about church yet. In the church, our goal is sometimes to "look busy" or "create activity" because idle hands lead to sinful behaviors...right?

What if the greater miscue in life isn't that we have time on our hands, but that we don't have time or room to let God be God in our lives? If Jesus says to us that His yoke is easy and His burden is light, do we not trust that what He says is actually true?

Let's dream for a minute. What if we did life differently? What if we took the time to hit the pause button, what slow down and let the pursuit of simplicity (which is a Christ-like virtue in my opinion) dictate how we live? How much more time would we find in our day? How much more rest would there be for our souls? How much greater understanding would there be of the concept of Sabbath?

If you can't slow down your life, are you really living? Life void of simplicity is one lived in the fast lane; but how much life did you miss along the way while going fast? Slow down, find rest for your souls...learn from Jesus cause He's the only one who lived life the way it was intended to be lived.

The Passion-filled Life - Discipleship 128

Each of us is searching for meaning, purpose and significance in life. What does it mean to live a passion-filled life? This video touches on the subject in a unique way. May it inspire you to live passionately for Jesus Christ in your context or life's setting.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Rethinking Compassion - Discipleship 127

Compassion is a buzz word for the church world. Some people say it sounds too feminine, others do not understand the full meaning of this term. I stumbled across this video and wanted to share it with others. Do you think it's key for us to rethink, reshape or redefine compassion in our own lives?

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The Success of Team - Discipleship 126

One of my life's passions is creating and building teams. In my younger days, I was an avid gamer...addicted to sports games on playstation consoles where I could craft my team and play the role of general manager, coach & player all at once. I was also fascinated with teams offline. I would observe, examine and experience the successes and failures of teams while playing sports, learning in school, volunteer and leading a variety of ministry initiatives of the course of 15 years.

Now, 17 years later from my initial fascination with the concept of a team, I'm still passionate about this subject and I'm still learning about what makes teams tick. When we think of the process of discipleship, it requires a team approach...many people working together, partnering with God's Spirit to see another person reach his or her potential in Jesus Christ.

There are four things that currently occupy my brain space at the moment. I believe these four concepts are key to a healthy functioning team that is growing together.

TRUST - releasing responsibility to one another
EXPECTATION - holding each other accountable to achieve the goal or vision
APPRECIATION - encouragement, support and care
MOBILITY - flexibility, transferability (holding onto things with an open hand instead of a tight fist)

If we have the courage to work together, and are willing to be lead by the power of God's Spirit, I believe that the vision of seeing this generation of youth revive the church and change the world is not only viable, but absolutely critical for the long-term sustainability of spiritual transformation in the name of Jesus Christ.

How does your team (your family, your staff team, your friends, etc.) function? Where are your growth areas?

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Environments & Experiences - Discipleship 125

One of the many things that fascinates me about the life of Jesus is His ability to stitch together learning environments and relational experiences. Reading through the stories contained in the Bible about the disciples, their struggles, triumphs, successes and failures, it is clear that these both the environment and experience are key components of discipleship.

My family and I visited some friends over the weekend. It was great to catch up and swap stories. Later in the evening as the bed-time routine was in full swing in our house, my daughter Saydie stunned me with a comment she made about her experience our friends home. I simply asked her if she had any questions she wanted to ask me about today, or if she wanted to tell me anything. This was her paraphrased response: "Dad, I don't like who I am when I'm at their house." We unpacked this comment a little further with each other (about as far as any 3 year old is able to!!) and discovered that Saydie didn't appreciate neither her experience or the environment that was created in our friends home. She felt like some of her behaviour wasn't appropriate and attributed it to this different environment where she wasn't able to decipher appropriate boundaries. Yes, she did use other words to describe her experience, the preceding sentence was run through the "big-boy" filter!! :)

This made me think about the importance of both the environment and experience that are created for the purpose of discipleship. In relation to my daughter, does her environment and experience allow her to pursue things like authenticity and safety (among other values), or does it restrict her from being who she is?

When we create programs, strategies and plans for ministry, are we taking into account what sort of environments and experiences we are subjecting people to? Are we allowing the people whom we desire to minister to be a part of the formation process of both the environment and the experience?

My prayer for my kids, myself and my church is that we wouldn't be tempted to say "I don't like who I am when I'm in their house."

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Who's the Target? - Discipleship 124

I remember one of the first spiritual mentors that I ever had. We spent a lot of time together diving into scripture and creating a mutual relational bond. At the outset of our discipling relationship, my mentor made a comment to me that never really sat well, and still doesn't today. "Stick with me Jason and I will turn you into a better version of me." I never really understood what he meant until later on in life. As I began to make choices that were different than his suggested path or direction, friction arose in our relationship. It was during these contentious moments that I rediscovered the biblical truth of who the target is in the mission of discipleship.

The target is and has always been Jesus in the process of discipleship. We are called to help move people towards Jesus, not to have them become 2.0 versions of us. As a pastor and a parent, I find this to be one of the most challenging parts of my role. It's easy to have my children or other youth play the copy-cat game..."do what I do." There is some power in this particular learning discipline, but if the conversation and the discipleship stays at this level, I may unintentionally disciple youth and even my own kids to be like me instead of being like Jesus.

You know what made Nike so powerful in the 90s? There campaign slogan of be like Mike. Anyone who knew anything about basketball knew that Michael Jordan was one of the most gifted, awe-inspiring players of his generation. Parents would shell out hundreds of dollars for shoes that would help their kids falsely nurture the thought of becoming the next big thing in the minds of children. I know my Nike shoes didn't help me get to the NBA!!

Nike knew who their target was and how they could inspire their audience to embrace their vision of the basketball shoe. My question to all of us is do we know who our target is in the task of discipleship? Are we inspiring people to become like Jesus, or are we shaping them to be like us?

I hope my kids see that Jesus is the best example of a person to model one's life after. I'd hate for them to wake up one day and simply be me version 2.0.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Learning Styles - Discipleship 123

Check out this video. Great thoughts on how we can teach & facilitate learning with you, parents & families in our emerging digital culture.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Compassion - Discipleship 122

Reading the bible, believing it as truth and doing what it says has radically shaped my life.

There is one verse in particular that has helped to reshape my value system and inspired me to live generously here on this earth. James 1:27 says, "Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world."

What I see and hear when I read this portion of scripture is the word compassion. Compassion is a word that literally means "with suffering." When one human being has compassion on another human being, he or she is willing to identify his or her self with the plight of another person. In essence, the compassionate individual is willing to carry the burden or suffering of someone else.

Read James 1:27 again with this new definition of compassion swirling around in your heart and mind. Someone who is actively pursuing God is a person who is willing to act compassionately (to show mercy) to his fellow man. There are two significant people groups identified by this verse: orphans and widows. The definition of an orphan is a person or thing that is without protective affiliation. The definition of a widow is a woman left alone (most often used to describe a woman who has lost her husband or life-partner due to death or even what describes as a hobby - like a golf widow...meaning the husband or significant other spends all of his time working on his hobby and not working on his relationships).

It is this very biblical principle that inspired my wife and I to adopt a child into our family. And it is this same biblical principle that is inviting me to reshape my thoughts around compassion and widows. The question I have been asking myself as of late is this: Are single moms a part of the biblical example of widows in our society today?

I've been a youth pastor for 10 years and have been invited to shepherd many youth from a variety of different backgrounds over this period of time. I have learned many things, and I've also discovered that I still have much to learn when it comes to caring for people and helping to disciple them in the way of Jesus Christ. One trend that has become something we cannot ignore any longer, is that the erosion of the biblical definition of the family is accelerating at an alarming rate. When I first entered into youth ministry, the number of youth who came from a broken home situation was significantly lower than what statistics tell us what is true of our society today. More and more children are growing up in a complex family situation (divorce, blended family, single parent, same-sex parents, etc.). There are a variety of causes for these living circumstances, but no matter what the cause of the situation, the end result is the same...distress of some kind. 

As humans we love to try and identify a reason or root cause for the issue that we are observing. When it comes to youth growing up in a complex family situation, we at times try to use rationality to explain away the issue. We may make statements like, "their parents are messed up" or "his mom had a wild past in her younger days" in an attempt to categorize our observation. While these statements may or may not be true, when we allow rationality to consume our thought process and inform our activity, we lose sight of the ability we as humans have to act compassionately. Compassion invites us to think beyond the circumstance and to see the person as a person...someone who is worthy of love, respect, joy and hope. I sometimes wonder if being polluted by the world actually means losing our ability to see one another compassionately?

If we truly desire to disciple others in the way of Jesus Christ, we must be willing to view others in a compassionate light. What is true of our world today is that there are many orphans and widows in distress. Be it a single parent, an orphaned child or and elderly person who has lost their soul mate...the opportunities for us to respond with compassion are limitless. May God's truth inspire you to begin or continue to act compassionately each day.