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 dictionary.com 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.