Saturday, July 28, 2012

How Facebook is Saving My Soul...Well, at Least My Sanity

Unless you've been living under a rock (or a teenager), you are probably on Facebook. It is an incredible tool for youth ministry, but that's not what I wish to discuss. Facebook is helping to keep me sane.

Here's what I mean: As you probably know, I recently started a position as the Associate Pastor for Children and Youth at Charles Town Baptist Church. This is in addition to being a full-time teacher, a husband, and the father of four little boys. As a result, things have gotten extremely hectic. There are good days where I want to conquer every mountain in West Virginia. Then there are days when it feels like the wheels have come off and I'm not doing anything right.

Through Facebook, I have made a number of connections with several youth pastors around the country. Some of them are in Virginia, some are in Texas, a couple are in North Carolina. These are guys who I have never met in person (looking forward to when that can happen), but I know that I can send them messages or call them when I need some encouragement. They are helping to keep me sane.

Two of those guys are Josh Evans and Austin McCann. Both of them have blogs that you should be reading if you are involved in student ministry at all.

Facebook is saving my soul...sort of. Thank God for Facebook.

How are you using Facebook to help your sanity?

Saturday, July 21, 2012

A Review of The Dark Knight Rises

I have been a big fan of Batman ever since I saw the first movie with Michael Keaton and Jack Nicholson. I saw all of the movies, except for that dreadful one with Uma Thurman and Arnold as Mr. Freeze. I was especially enamored by Christopher Nolan's take on the character beginning with thrilling Batman Begins, continuing with the gut-punch that was The Dark Knight, and now concluding with The Dark Knight Rises.

A lot has changed in Gotham City since the Joker came to town and Harvey Dent was "murdered" by Batman. There is a city-wide holiday in Dent's honor and a law that allows certain criminals to be locked-up much easier. Some people still hope for the days of Batman, but to many, he is nothing more than a bad memory.

It is not my desire to recap the entire movie, so let me get to what I want to say. First, it was great to see some of the old characters return. I enjoyed the performances by Christian Bale, Gary Oldman, and Michael Caine. The inclusion of a new character, played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, was also well-done. I am a big fan of Joseph Gordon-Levitt and he did not disappoint. I am also a big fan of Tom Hardy, but his portrayal of Bane was wasted on him. He wore a mask the entire time and I'm not entirely sure that it was even his voice.

There were a great number of teaching points in this film. There were incredible acts of bravery and loyalty, even by the villain. Many individuals were willing to lay down their lives in order to save others, even when moments earlier they were turning tail to run.

The movie also had much to say about the current political environment of our country and what may happen if we continue to allow politicians to use their rhetoric to tear us apart. I don't know if this was intentional or just me reading into it, but I was surprised at the result. From my perspective, Christopher Nolan did not have nice things to say about socialism and the whole Occupy Wall Street movement. These would make great discussion points as well.

Overall, I loved the movie. I know that it is the end of the trilogy, but it ended extremely well. While it was probably the weakest of the three films, it was still an amazing movie and worth the 2 1/2 hour length. I don't know if I can recommend it for general consumption based on the amount of violence and the callous nature in which some characters treat human life, but it is highly entertaining and thought-provoking. Knowing that some (or most) of your students are going to be seeing the film will lead to some great discussions about the film and how such attitudes can play out in our Christian lives.

I would also recommend that you check out the resources provided by Dare2Share in regards to The Dark Knight Rises

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Notes From Awakening, July 18, 2012

In case you were unable to attend or did not fill in your answer sheet, here are the notes from Awakening on July 18, 2012.

What Does the Bible Say about Facebook?

1. God wants us to use social media (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc.) for His glory.
1 Corinthians 10:31 - So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

2. One day, we will have to explain our actions, even what we do on Facebook.
Romans 14:12 - So then each of us will give an account of himself to God.

3. We can use social media for good or we can use it for evil.
Romans 6:13 - Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness.

Application: How are you using Facebook and other social media? Are you using it to tear others apart or to build them up in Jesus? Are you pointing others to Jesus through your Facebook?

I would like to offer a very special thank you to my friend Austin McCann for his help with preparing this lesson. Austin is currently the student pastor at Courtney Baptist Church in Yadkinville, NC, and a really great dude. Thanks again, Austin.

The Hate-filled United States Will Destroy our Children

We live in a world full of hate. In a time when we are told to be tolerant of each other, I think there is more hate now that I ever remember. Hate is everywhere...and most of it is done in the name of tolerance.

  • Black people hate white people.
  • White people hate black people.
  • Conservatives hate liberals.
  • Liberals hate conservatives.
  • Some "Christians" hate gay people.
  • A lot of gay people hate Christians because of the actions of the "Christians."
  • Just about everyone hates the President.
  • "Christians" hate Muslims.
  • Muslims hate Jewish people.

The list goes on and on. There is no end to the amount of hatred that is found in the world. And, quite frankly, it is completely ridiculous. If we continue to hate each other, we will destroy our children.

Romans 2:11 states "For God shows no partiality." No group is better than the other. We are all, whether we want to admit it or not, sinners. Every one of us is a wicked, condemned individual who on our best day deserves to go to Hell. With that in mind, there is no room for hate. There is no place for looking down on someone because of the color of their skin or because of their religious choice. We can disagree and we can believe the other person is wrong, but there is no place for the hate and rhetoric that our world is full of.

And we wonder why there is so much violence and bad behavior with students today.

What is my suggested solution? Prayer and a whole lot of it.

If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land. - 2 Chronicles 7:14

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Lust Is Still Lust - Part 2

Yesterday I wrote about the dangers of lust, both for young men and young women. I'm not so naive as to think everyone agreed with what I wrote. I would like to share a few statistics that I found to show why this is such a huge issue and one that we need to take seriously.

  • 93% of young men and 62% of young women are exposed to porn by age 18.
  • 70% of young men and 23% of young women have spent more than 30 minutes looking at porn in one sitting. A large portion of those have done it on more than one occasion.
  • Large numbers of young men and women have seen horrific sex acts, including bondage (the subject of the very popular books I referenced yesterday), rape, and child porn.

While I could continue to lay down an argument against porn and lust, my purpose is to show that this isn't something to be toyed with. It isn't something to laugh about and pretend like it is not a big deal. Lust is a huge problem. When students are spending significant periods of time looking at pornographic material, it is no longer a joke.

It is deadly serious.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Lust Is Still Lust...Even When Girls Are Doing It

But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. - Matthew 5:28

In the world of youth ministry, lust is a huge issue. Youth pastors are constantly hammering the boys to keep their eyes in their heads and not to think dirty thoughts about girls. They are also constantly hammering the girls about modest dress and making sure that they are not causing their Christian "brothers" to stumble by the clothing they wear. And this is not without a good reason. Like I said, lust is a huge issue. Porn addiction is extremely prevalent in young men...and young women.

There has been a great deal of controversy of late about a series of books that detail a very graphic sexual relationship. I have not read them and have no desire to. The controversy arises from the fact that many women in churches are reading these books and talking about how much they enjoy them. To me (and many others) this is the equivalent of a guy openly discussing how much he enjoys looking at Playboy or some other porn magazine.

The same thing has been done with a movie about the world of male strippers. Again, I have not seen the movie. But imagine the backlash that would arise if the boys in our youth groups were openly discussing a movie about female strippers or porn stars. We would have them and their parents at the altar confessing before the band could play the first chord.

I guess what set me off (and caused me to write this post) is my sadness over what I perceive to be a double-standard when it comes to lust. For some reason, it is horrendous when a young man talks about sex or posts a picture of a girl in a bikini on his Facebook, but many will give a pass to a young woman who posts pictures of half-naked men. I can't tell you how many Christian women I know who post inappropriate pictures and clips to their Facebook pages and Pinterest boards.

The book of Proverbs talks about adultery being like taking fire into your jacket. You aren't going to escape without getting burned. Our young men are bombarded with sexual images and many are falling into the trap. Our young women are having the same thing done to them, but no one seems to be making a big deal about it. It is a big deal!

Lust is lust, regardless of who is doing it. Men, we do need to be careful about what we are looking and watching. We need to be careful where we allow our thoughts to go and we need to capture every thought for the glory of God. But at the same time, women, it is important that you are doing the same. Just because a book doesn't have pictures doesn't mean it isn't causing you to lust. And the excuse of "Women aren't turned on by visual images" doesn't really hold water in this argument. If that was the case, the movie about the strippers and the pictures on Pinterest wouldn't be so popular. There is too much at stake to even allow the smallest amount of lust into our lives.

John Owen, a Puritan preacher, had this to say: "Be killing sin or it will be killing you."

Friday, July 13, 2012

Being Disappointed by Your Students

Even though I haven't been a youth pastor for very long, I have already learned that one of the difficult parts of being a pastor is the disappointment that is bound to arise. This is especially true when it comes to students. Sometimes you will think your students are genetically predisposed to disappoint you. They will lie to you (even when you've caught them red-handed). They will do some of the most stupid things you can think of. They will fail to keep commitments. Your students will disappoint you.

Here are a few things that I have had to remind myself of. Hopefully they will help you as well.

  • Don't take it personally. In most cases, your student didn't mean to disappoint you. He/she probably didn't do it out of spite or maliciously. The disappointment you are feeling was not done by the student to hurt you. He/she probably didn't even have you in mind when he did it.
  • Remember, he is just a student. Even when your student does the stupidest thing on the planet, you need to remember that he is just a student. You and I both did some really idiotic things. I once jumped up and down on a table in the church lobby singing "Dude Looks Like a Lady" by Aerosmith. I also blew up some mailboxes with firecrackers after being dropped off at a friend's house following a youth group event. Did I disappoint my youth pastor? Absolutely, but he didn't hold a grudge because I was only a student. Remember that when your students are doing similar things.
  • Continue to love your student. There are going to be times when the disappointment you are feeling is going to run deep. When you are called to the hospital in the middle of the night because one of your students has alcohol poisoning. When you find out that one of your students is expecting a baby. When a student lies to your face about what you saw on her Facebook page. When this happens, remember that you are there to love your students, just like Christ loved you. Enough said.

I am finding out that being a youth pastor is one of the most challenging and enjoyable professions there is. But just like any profession, there will be dark days, especially when that darkness is brought on by one of your students. Bathe it in prayer and remember what you have been called to do.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Tips for Using Humor in Youth Talks

It's always a good thing to make students laugh. When you get them laughing, they are much more likely to listen to what you have to say. That's why even the most serious movies have humorous parts. What are the two memorable parts of The Avengers? Those funny scenes with the Hulk.

However, it's not easy to use humor in your talks. Some people can do it, some people need to practice. Here are a few tips to remember when you are using humor with your students.

  • Make sure your humor fits the occasion. Some people try to use humor just to use humor. I once heard a sermon where the speaker spent 10 minutes telling jokes that had absolutely nothing to do with his message. I'm not sure if he was nervous or what, but he lost a good portion of his audience before he even got started. If you have a humorous story, make sure it fits the flow of your sermon and not just being used to kill time.
  • Make sure that your humor is appropriate. This should be a no-brainer, but you would be surprised at how many people don't get it. Your students don't need to hear your sexual innuendos, your political jokes, or your slightly off-colored comments. Yes, most of us have middle-school (and high school boys) who love the sound of bodily functions, but they are best to be avoided. Remember, when you stand in your pulpit or platform, you are representing the Almighty to your students.
  • Make sure you can pull off the humor you are attempting. You might think you are Mitch Hedberg or Jim Gaffigan, or even Dave Chappell, but you aren't. And since you aren't, it's best not to try to act like them. Just be yourself and attempt humor that fits you. If you can't do it, don't attempt it. You'll just look foolish...and not in a good way.

Hopefully you are attempting to use humor in your youth talks and sermons. There is no better way to win over a crowd. Just make sure that you are using the humor correctly and in a God-honoring manner.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Book Review - A Radical Idea by David Platt

I recently finished the booklet A Radical Idea by David Platt. Platt is the pastor of a church in Alabama, as well as the author of Radical and Radical Together, both of which have been bestsellers and have had a profound on the way that many do church in America.

The booklet A Radical Idea is a short consolidation of the ideas that were presented in Radical and Radical Together. Platt is seeking to convict individuals of the way that most view the church. Instead of viewing church as a gathering of individuals who are equipped to serve and minister to others, many view the church as an opportunity to be ministered to and to bring their friends so that they can be served by the professionals who run the church. Platt wants to turn this idea on its head. His desire, using Scripture as his basis is to have the pastors equip the people of the church to mobilize and serve those around them, sharing the Gospel as they go.

Most, if not all, of the material presented in this short booklet was culled from his previous two books. As such, if you have read Radical or Radical Together, very little of what is presented here will be new or groundbreaking. These booklets are, however, an excellent introduction to the writings and ideas of Platt. It is my belief that they would serve great for a discussion group or a discipleship program. I would suggest them, but not in place of the full discussion provided in the full texts.

I was provided with a free copy of A Radical Idea by Waterbrook Multnomah in exchange for a review of the book. I was asked to provide an honest review of the work, not necessarily a positive one.

You can read my review of Radical Together here.