Monday, August 26, 2019

Do we just swap hedonism for reckless grace?

A few weeks ago I was taking about the way people validate doing what they want.

In a mass generalisation, our actions are often fed with the self-talk of “I can do what I want” - The calling card for individualist hedonism.

But, are Christians in danger of replacing this modern mantra with one equally as dangerous - “God will forgive me”?

Paul mentions this in Romans 6 where he addresses the potential for abuse of God’s grace.

When we take for granted the forgiveness of God then we will be inclined  towards sin, driven by unhelpful self-talk.

Of course, the danger is that the mantra sounds very religious and correct.

God does forgive.
If you ask Him, He will forgive.

But, driven by our sinful desire, we tend to abuse the good things God offers us and can sanctimoniously replace the “we can do whatever we want” attitude with the equally reckless “we can ultimately get away with anything.”

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Investing instead of caring

The longer I’ve been out of vocational ministry the more I suspect that I wasn’t a very good youth minister.

Sure, I was efficient.
At times, I was effective.

But, I’m increasingly convinced that I wasn’t good.

One of the reasons was that I confused investment with caring.

I would invest in others.
But, all too often, I didn’t genuinely care.

I would invest in leaders.
I would invest in potential.
I would invest in talent.

But, this is not caring.

Genuine caring doesn’t hope for a return on investment.

All too often I did.

I would predominantly spend my time and energy with those who were already serving.
I would intentionally spend my time and energy to minister to those who, I thought, had the greatest ministry potential.

And, worse still, I could justify the investment.

I now write this to my shame.

I, even unintentionally, overlooked those who needed, nay deserved, to be cared for.

I wonder how many ministers mistake their investment for caring.

In part, I now recognise this because I’m not a great investment.

But, on a deeper level, I wonder how this strategic investment in pastoral energies meshes with the image of ministers as a shepherd and the church being a family.

Neither of these images are primarily concerned with a suitable return on pastoral investment.

Furthermore, for a new ministry agent or a fresh member of a congregation, when is the point determined that someone isn’t “worth” the continued investment?

Somehow, I suspect that a large number of people have walked away from a church, if not THE church, because they weren’t deemed an investment with a suitable ROI.

Monday, August 19, 2019

The no-longer-young-adult next step

I’ve previously written that 25 year olds are not young adults. 
I haven’t been a young adult for over a decade.

Whilst I may still be studying, I also work full time, am married and have kids.

Yet, far too many late-twenty-something’s are treated and ministered to like young adults by the church because they don’t know what else to do.

This is how you have youth group leaders who won’t, or can’t, retire.

Many churches don’t know the next step for those who have aged out of young adult ministry.

In my mind the next step, especially in light of the energy and time restraints of a no-longer-young-adult is intentional mentorship.

The next step for someone the step beyond young adult ministry is to choose a few people or the same gender and intentionally invest in them.

Those who have popped out of the youth and young adult ministry programs should help those who are a step behind them chronologically and spiritually.

This is the ministry many churches lack.
This is the ministry many young Christian’s lack.

But, it is the precise ministry which no-longer-young-adults can handle and, often, crave.

In the middle of burgeoning families and careers they can still be deeply impactful and productive.

Often, all that is needed is the adult to be empowered into this role and paired off with a few suitable young people.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Apples with apples

I fit into a few general demographics.

I am in my 30’s.
I am divorced, but newly married.
I have two small children.
I live 15 minutes away from the church I attend with my wife and 30 minutes away from the church I attend with my kids.
I work full-time and study part-time.

The amount I attend, contribute and give have all changed over the last decade and a half. I assume they won’t stay the same over the next few decades. Life situations will, in part determine my involvement.

The problem I used to fall into was that I would lump people together irregardless of their situation.

If you didn’t attend church every week then you were flakey.
If you didn’t give then you were a freeloader.
If you didn’t volunteer then you were a deadweight.

Of course, none of these were said aloud and the positions are overstated, but within the ministry bubble, the perceptions exist within ministry.

The trouble I fell into, and can be a victim of now, is when you don’t fairly compare those within similar situations.

When you compare those of a similar age, marital status, parental responsibilities and geographic restraints then you are able to get a more accurate grasp on their spiritual health.

In ministry, we need to compare apples to apples...

Monday, August 12, 2019

The danger of assuming the next sentence

One of the greatest dangers you can do in any relationship is to assume.

Assumption causes friction in the workplace.
Assumption feeds dissatisfaction in marriages.
Assumption can derail a ministry.

One of the greatest dangers in ministry is assuming that you know the next sentence.

No matter if you’re heading into a meeting or having an impromptu conversation, assuming that you know where the conversation is going can cause serious harm.

The reason?

Your assumptions affect your actions and attitude.

And the two most dangerous assumptions to make are...
You’re doing good and
Everything is fine.

Both of these, hopefully, in ministry you hear a great deal.

But, the danger is when you expect to hear these two sentences and they aren’t the ones forthcoming.

Perhaps criticism is the purpose of the meeting.
Maybe the person speaking to you is not as “ok” as you’d assumed, but they are quite the opposite.

If you’re actions and attitude are expecting to hear the two most dangerous statements then significant ministry opportunities can be missed or seriously damaged.

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

How long until sex gets good?

Sex, at the start, can be awkward.

A while ago I saw a couple who’s wedding I attended approximately a year prior. Having been married for a significant period of time, I wondered if sex was great yet.

Sure, it depends upon a hundred details which I have no idea about, but my mind did wonder back to the honest sex conversation I had before I was married.

A mate told me that sex doesn’t get good for around three years.

Three! Years! 

Without giving you a glimpse into the bedroom with my current or ex wife, I wouldn’t completely agree.

But, it definitely doesn’t happen instantly. Or within a week. Or month. Or longer...

And, maths will back me up.

Let’s say, as a Christian, that you’re relatively new to sex.

Assuming that you had sex, say twice a week (I’ll use this number for the simplicity of maths), and you don’t have sex while she has her period (which is a genuine possibility, but a choice the couple can make due to a myriad of reasons), then you’ll have sex approximately six times a month before a break of around 5 days.

From what my wife was told by a friend, it takes around 8-10 times until sex stops being uncomfortable for the female. From our frequency above, which is increased due to the honeymoon, this would take up the first month of married bliss.

Furthermore, very few people, never mind the sexually inexperienced, jump headlong into a complex sexual repertoire. Thus, you’d probably begin with a few go-to positions.

With a window of a half-dozen opportunities per month, it may take a while to be comfortable to find, expand and be comfortable with your sexual range. Again, with the above frequency and dependant upon your sense of adventure and openness of communication, this may take another few months. Maybe more.

So, how long does it take until sex gets “good”?

That’s impossible to say, but I’d advise a perspective husband to expect somewhere around six months.

But, how does this explain the advice which I received?

I suspect, his answer had to do with the progressive definition of good.

Sex, can be “good” from day one. Hopefully, it would be.

But, sex after a month is a better form of “good.”

And better again after six months.

And again after a year.

When it comes go hitting your sexual sweet spot, where you are both completely comfortable having overcome any obstacles or awkwardness and identified both of your preferences and turn-offs, this can, conceivably, take years.

But that journey is one of the blessings of marriage.