Friday, March 29, 2013

REPOST: Why do we call Good Friday Good?

A day when a completely good...
Absolutely innocent man...
Was betrayed by one of His closest friends...
Abandoned by all...
Endured a fixed court case...
With false witnesses...
With no presumption of innocence...
Held under the cover of darkness...
Prosecuted by the wrong person...
With no defense entered or allowed...
Was beaten...
Spat on...
Overlooked for a murderer...
Who heard those who previously cheered for Him now cry out for His execution...
Who had to personally transport His death implement...
Held to it by five inch long nails...
Stripped naked...
Mocked by those who passed by...
Insulted by those who orchestrated His murder and those who were being killed on either side of Him...
Who endured an excruciating ordeal...
Dying a death reserved for the lowest of low...
The worst of the worst...
A demise off limits to those in power...
A fate, in the eyes of the Jews, for those cursed by God...
Who, in His own words, was FORSAKEN BY GOD...

It was the ultimate injustice.

Before His own mother...
A son...
A friend...
A teacher...
The King...
The Messiah...
The Son of God... was killed.

The day the bread of life was broken and the blood of the Lamb split...


The only reason we dare label this day good is due to what it achieved. It tore down the division between God and humanity. 

The result of Jesus' death and resurrection is the reason we celebrate Easter and can call Good Friday good.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Multicultural misconception

I've posted in the past about the labels churches place upon themselves, especially the term "regional."

Now I want to touch on another label which churches labour to attach to the front of their name.


In full danger of bursting bubbles and being run out of the church, I have a declaration...

Most "multicultural" churches are not multicultural.
Just their building is.

Let me explain...

Commonly, "multicultural" churches have a number of services, focusing on different cultures.

For example, they may have a traditional English service in the morning, a Korean service in the middle of the day, and a "youth friendly" service in the evening.

Sorry folks, this is not a multicultural church. It's, probably, not even close.

It's a mono-cultural church whose building houses a number of mono-cultural services.

UNLESS a church has people from multiple cultures thoroughly integrated within the life and services of their church, not just participating in worship activities around one another, THEN it can claim to be multicultural in nature.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Solving all your Palm Sunday related problems

I've never claimed to be original. I will, relatively shamelessly, use, reuse, tweak and "adapt" things I have used and resources I've stumbled upon. 

So, just like I do every year, I lead my new church in the annual ritual of making palm leaf crosses.

And, like every year, I had to beg, borrow and steal palm branches from far and wide.

And, just like 2011, I had an epiphany from last Sunday.

In light of the effort every church goes to in order to pull off an epic palm Sunday, I want to make two resolutions that will rule over Christendom (if I were Pope Francis, this would have been my first announcement).

From now on, every church must do two things...

First, there must be a register of every adequate palm tree in suburban gardens and parks and everyone MUST allow church folk to come and prune them, free of charge, 10 days prior to Easter.

Second, before any church is built it MUST have planted within it's grounds at least two palm trees.

That is all.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Drinking UNTIL...

Sometimes I mention something, thinking I've posted about it previously, only to later discover that the snippet of wisdom has gone unrecorded.

A few days ago I wrote about the partying lifestyle some Christians can have and the unexpected price it can cost them.

During that post I mentioned, from what I've seen, that young adults drink irresponsibly until sometime in there mid-twenties.

Why then?
Because UNTIL...

If you're indulging in the party lifestyle, you'll do it UNTIL...

Until you get over it (how long can you go to the same local, seeing the same people, doing the same things, weekend after weekend?).

Until you see the futility in it (how long can you afford to go out, spending increasing amounts of cash to get drunk, forgetting the end of the night anyway?).

Until something bad happens publicly (you're assaulted, arrested, caught drink-driving or have an unwanted/regrettable sexual encounter).

Until something bad happens privately (you break up a friendship or relationship).

Until your life stage changes and you grow out of it (you get married, you have a child, you get a mortgage, you get a full time job).

As a sweeping generalisation... young adults are partied out by 27. By then you've been going out for around a decade and have hit an UNTIL stage.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Focusing on the good thermometers

From 72 there were 12...
From 12 there were 3.

Not all people are treated the same.

Some you are closer with since you're personalities mesh or you share a common interest. With some you're drawn to them since they hold influence.

This later group can both gauge and move the temperature of the group.

In every church there are a few people who are good thermometers.
In every youth group there are a couple of good thermometers.
Within every youth ministry leadership team there are those who will be able to judge and affect the temperature quicker than others.

In ministry, the people you want to connect with first are these who discern and influence the temperate around them.

With luck, these people will be some of the most valuable relationships in any placement.

You'll be able to bounce ideas off them and avoid land-mines.
You'll be able to receive for honest feedback, from both a personal and communal level.
Finally, when pitching a new idea, when you get the temperature alert onside then the way forward can be much smoother.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

When partying bites you in the a$$

Life isn't meant to be boring.
Surprisingly for some, this is even true for Christians.

I don't mind a party (or at least before Hanna was born I didn't!).
I've stayed out late and wandered the streets at all hours of the morning.
For better or worse, I've gone out and had some crazy adventures.

And sometimes it bit me in the ass.

I've embarrassed myself.
I've slept in.
I've been hungover.

But, as far as I'm aware, there's one aspect in life where it didn't cost me. Getting a girlfriend.

But others aren't so fortunate.

For, looking back in hindsight, partying can have a cost which many (especially guys) aren't aware of.

For, given enough time, eventually you'll need to choose...
  • Partying or
  • A believer who is mature enough to not be attracted to a social-butterfly-party-child.
The sad news? You'll eventually grow out of the impressing your mates by going out until the wee hours of the night (usually around your mid-twenties).

Even sadder? The quality women you'll repel by your lifestyle and never know.

This is the most worst area partying bites you in the ass.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Three questions for your world-view...

This year I'm teaching scripture at a local high school every fortnight for the class who has been split up because they are... overly enthusiastic in class.

Currently they are looking at world religions, with today's class on Hinduism.

To a Westerner. I'll admit, it sounds strange.

As I was talking to the head scripture teacher about the religion, he mentioned the filter he lead the kids through when looking at alternate world-views. 

His three questions were...

Does it make sense? (Is it logical?)
Does it satisfy those who are believers? (What is it's endpoint for life and suffering?)
Can you live it out in today's world?

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Improv baptism?

At college this week I had a conversation about baptism and salvation. The person I was speaking to held the belief that you needed to be baptised, in addition to trusting in Jesus, to be saved. 

I disagreed. I said that whilst baptism is a positive thing, it was an outward sign of an inward event which had already occurred (giving Jesus Lordship of your life). I argued that you won't be kicked out of heaven if you've missed getting dunked. Instead you'll be judged on how you've responded to Jesus.

At one point I was asked if I would baptise a kid in my youth ministry... Acts 8:36 style... once they became a Christian.

I had no real answer, but the conversation did bring to mind an impromptu baptism which took place at a camp years ago.

At the time it felt strange but I could never work out why.

My conversation this week cleared up my uneasiness.

When you get baptised, you not only join with Christ and identify with what He has done (like Romans 6 says), but a community of believers.

Thus, without this wider community present, I would defer the impromptu baptism.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

You must do this if you want people to change...

Sometimes I post things here as a reminder for myself. This should be one of those occasions.

In theory, it should be a post I go back to often. 

Just to remember.

The memorable lesson which sprung to my mind due to this post?

If you're going to ask people to change you need to tell them two things...

1 - Why the change will be for their benefit and
2 - What staying in the same place will cost them.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Listen and think for a change

Following from my previous post about a Guy Sebastian song inspiring Friday night's input time, I have an admission.

It wasn't somthing I would usually do.

In fact, the whole listen-to-a-song-and-disect-it-idea was something I inherited from the previous youth minister.

But, the more I think about it and consider why I've repeatedly done the youth adult film based bible studies, the more value I find it in.

Churches should engage in culture. Often.

Youth ministers should be aware of the culture their "audience" is immersed in.

AND... they shouldn't be shy in teaching those who are especially influenced by the culture around them to interact with it and evaluate the messages it's sending.

Perhaps, my once-a-month song segment will be expanded...

But... this is no way means that I'll be listening to One Direction in order to "discern a message."

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Can't we all just get along?

Last Friday night I played the Guy Sebastian song "Get Along," using it as inspiration for the input time.

I wondered if Guy was right and we should all just get along.

For, as nice and tolerant as the song may seem, the majority of people hear a message about agreeing with one another.

And, referring to the parable of the Good Samaritan, I said that this isn't the point.

Because people are always going to disagree with you.
About God.
About fashion.
About the job you should have.
About where you live.
About the car you drive.

BILLIONS of people will probably disagree with you about something in your life.

So... in light of people not being in agreement about a whole bunch of things the example which we are left with is this...

Don't be a jerk.

Know what you believe.
Know why you believe it.
Listen to other people.
Respectfully discuss.

And most importantly, in line with not being a jerk, show mercy and compassion.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

The price of punctuality

Church. Work. School... 
One of these does not belong.

For only one of the options is it okay to be late.

Late to work? You get busted.
Ditto for school.

But turn up late for church? Meh, no big deal.

Constantly late for work? You'll get fired.
Constantly late for school? The consequences will get progressively more dire.

But constantly turn up late for church? We'll consider changing the service to accommodate you!

Now I want to make it clear that I understand that sometimes you're actually late. It happens. 
If you have a family, and leaving the house is almost a military operation, fair enough if it takes a tad longer than you expected.

But I wonder how churches should deal with those who are perpetually tardy.
What should they do with those who always arrive to the church service two songs in?

One option is to elevate the price of punctuality.
You could reward those who are on time. I don't know how this would work (you get half your offering back!), but there's a part of me which thinks, for some, this still wouldn't make a difference.

Another solution could be to teach on the topic of priorities and the significance of church.

Whatever the answer is, and I'm not sure there's an easy fix, there are two things I think churches SHOULDN'T do.

The first misstep, and the most common option, is to lower the value of the start of the service.

Some churches will put some of the less exciting elements, like the notices, at the start or load up the beginning with less popular music since "some will miss out on it anyway."

Another "solution" has been to shift the service just a bit later since "that's when people are arriving anyway."

I think these are not the appropriate course of action since, instead of trying to correct a problem, they send the massage that it is acceptable and accommodated for.

Further, these "solutions" can subtly "penalise" those who are on time.

Finally, what message does this send to visitors to your church when they arrive at the advertised start time and half the congregation are absent?

Monday, March 4, 2013

Delivering the expected sizzle?

Yesterday, to make a point in church, I tore a pot plant from it's soil which was, expectantly, quite messy.


In the morning there were gasps from the oldies and an explosion of dirt in the evening.

Now that I'm nearly two months into my new position, I have an escalating fear.

Running out of sizzle.

For the day is coming when I'll have to do a kids talk and struggle to create a thrilling hook.

I'll have a passage...
I'll have a point to make...
I'll get to Saturday night... and
I'll have no sizzle.

And I wonder how it will be received by the church.

Even if that fateful day doesn't arrive for many months, what happens when a church hears a kids talk without the bells-and-whistles?

If there's an air of disappointment is it the fault of those up the front of the church since they've conditioned the congregation to see a spectacular performance which, one day, they couldn't manufacture?