I have never done these but feel compelled to have ALL those who chaperone and volunteer to do this. But, I need some feedback…

  • What is the best company to do this with? Cost-effective…
  • Do you keep this stuff on file?
  • How do you deal with the criticism of “Well I guess you don’t trust us anymore”?

Would you help me out?

Feeling Like a Drain Plug

February 1, 2013 — 3 Comments

The Christian’s life is a fickle thing fraught with interesting turns and challenging twists. One day we feel like God is our BFF and nothing can separate us from His abundant love and the next day we feel like there is a cosmic chasm between God’s grace and the fate of our everlasting souls. While taking a bath today after a somewhat intense workout I put my hand over the drain and felt the pressure of the water weighing heavy on my hand. I thought about what a perfect metaphor a drain plug is for the Christian life because of one major fact: WE ARE OFTEN STUCK IN BETWEEN.

You read that correctly. If you are a Christian then you understand there comes a time where the tension of the drain plug becomes the very definition of our souls. Because we are so close to going down the drain but we, for some reason, are alive but the weight of the water (the world) is pressing down on us. So there we are, stuck between being flushed and holding the world and the pressure is too much to bear but alas, we are stuck.

Yet…

To relieve the pressure the plug must be drained. The plug cannot pull itself, it must be pulled. Jesus died so that all the pressures of this world can go down the drain (Matthew 11:28-30). Did you know that a drain is not designed to go down the drain? We are not designed to be flushed, drained, evacuated, disintegrated, bombarded or discarded.

WE ARE DESTINED FOR GREATER THINGS.

We are invited to participate in the kingdom of God and to reign-in what God is doing in heaven so that it can be established on earth and the chains of spiritual warfare cannot have dominion over your souls. We are promised an eternal kingdom where the apostle John tells us that the second death will not reign over our souls (Rev. 20:6). Did you catch that? Jesus is pulling the plug and all of the worldly sorrows are flushed.

So what do you need to let go?

What do you need to focus on? In what ways are you experiencing (not?) the abundant life (John 10:10)?

In what ways are you feeling sorry for yourself and not allowing Jesus to change your life?

Feel like a drain plug?

Allow Jesus to pull the plug.


Like many of you, we have a set curriculum flow in our ministry and we use LIVE curriculum from the guys at Simply Youth Ministry. It has been an awesome tool for us to use and simply to put in the hands of our teachers who have material that is engaging, biblical, concise and relevant. Yet, we also have class on Wednesday nights and sometimes we have a special focus we do on Sunday mornings. I probably write 4-5 series a year that is mostly topic but every now and then I will spend time in a book. Often though I get asked, “How do you write so much material for your students?” I would like to give you some ideas that might help you in this and might spurn you to some amazing works. Only you can write the best curriculum for your group because only you know the DNA of your folk. Here my suggestions:

  • Jot down what your group is struggling with.

It could be a massive catastrophe that happened and you need to take some time to process it or it could be that your group is experiencing a lot of sexual temptations. What are their struggles?

  • Think biblical principles for growth

We need to move on having “neat ideas” and have something that will help them grow as a disciple. Don’t talk about faith, show them.

  • Think of different learning styles.

Do not write curriculum to be read to students with discussion questions at the end. Some students need that, some students need video, some students need games, but most need some type of physical engagement. Also have discussion questions that are thought provoking. Move past the “what do you think about that” questions.

  • Write a little bit each week

Have a schedule where you write a lesson a week. That is pretty easy to do. If you can’t do that then something is wrong with you. Seriously.

  • Ask feedback from the kids

They will tell you if they got something out of it or not. Let them process it with you.

  • Just keep doing it…

Some of my early series I wrote just stinks. I might even be judged for that kind of crap. Growth comes from consistency, persistence and the Holy Spirit.

What would you suggest? or…

What do you think about that? :)


We are going to Nicaragua this summer for a mission trip and we are in full fundraising mode. I spoke at a church yesterday and they paid me (like most churches) for my preaching. I immediately put the money in for our Nicaragua trip and was thankful God blessed me with an opportunity to speak and to contribute to the overall trip. By the grace of God Heather and I are half way there with plenty of time left to raise the remaining.

So what does that have to do with you? I set a goal for the mission team to raise $10k by the time we leave and so far we have raised $2765 (See our fundraising page here). That means we are a quarter of the way there. I want to help raise the money for the mission trip by offering my services to other churches. I would like to speak for your youth group retreat, lectureship, weekend seminar, church service when the preacher is absent, family retreat, Wednesday night class, high-school reunion, leadership retreat or whatever. The effort is to raise money for the trip but also to provide you with a service that could be catered to whatever type of need you might have. My areas of interests include (but are not limited to):

  • Youth Ministry (This is really where my heart is): Design, Culture, Training, Organizing, Conflict, Systems Theory, etc.
  • Youth Culture: Having a Biblical Worldview, Adolescent Issues, Family Dynamics, Social Media, Teenagers in Pain (Suicide, Depression, Cutting, Sex Addictions, Porn Addictions, etc.)
  • Theological Topics: Trinity, What does the bible mean for me today?, Church and Kingdom, Sin, Idolatry, Salvation, Mission of God and His People (i.e., Evangelism).
  • Apologetics
  • Textual Studies

Anything you can pick I can try to speak on. In no way does that make me an expert and I will be blunt if I cannot speak on certain things. If nobody wants to take this offer then that is perfectly fine. I am OK with that. I just wanted to throw this out there as an option. Below is an example of a lesson I did with #Hashtag this past summer. It was a neat project but you can see my style of speaking. I have spoken for numerous churches, Heritage Christian University Youth Ministry Lectures, Freed-Hardeman University Lectureship (Youth and Main Sessions), Revival Youth Minister’s Retreat, Numerous Youth Rallies, Evangelism University, Southern Evangelism Conference and other venues. You can email me at “remackenzie11@hotmail.com” if you would like to throw some dates out. Keep in mind, I help you but also this helps 30+ go to Nicaragua. Let me know if I can help.

Also, don’t ask me to speak if you feel sorry for me. If you feel sorry then just donate some money to the cause and invite someone else to speak. I think I can help but want you to feel comfortable.

Video Lessons

“Know Who You Are” – Series I did for #Hashtag on Ephesians

Youth Ministry 6.3 – YouTube channel where I interviewed a bunch of people in and around Youth Ministry.

Downloadable Classes and Lessons:

PNEUMATOLOGY 101 - Class taught about the Holy Spirit

Life of David (Part 1) – Teacher Lessons - Lessons taught on the Life of King David

Who is God (Teacher’s Lessons) - Series Taught about the nature of God


You can read the first three posts here, here and here. Where do we go from here? I am sure there is all of the statistical data to discuss and missional “stratgery” that merits our attention. But if we take a step back and ask, “What works?” I am not sure that we can come up with a cookie-cutter plan that works for everyone. But that’s what we want isn’t it? We want a P90x program that can be plugged into any church context that will automatically multiply our numbers. We tell ourselves thought it’s not about numbers it is about saving souls (souls are numbers right?) yet the pressure of our budgets and the depleting numbers in our Sunday night service is evident that something must budge. So we want an evangelism P90x to plug in and get results. I think we should move in a different direction…one that is simple. Consider The Skit Guys and their hilarious video that closes with a point I want to highlight….

Investment into one person. We are not called to save the world but we can invest in one person. Eddie and Tommy both talked about how investment made on their part or on the part of someone else made the difference in salvation and changed their lives. Last night one of my former youth group kids spoke to my current youth group and he talked about a relationship he had with a girl for 2 1/2 years and how he was able to baptize her. Investment. One person. Full focus. Prayers, efforts, service, study all focused on one. So often we worry about all the things around us when sometimes God reveals the fertile soil that is right in front of us.

What if we taught students to invest their lives into people for a year committed to discipling them and helping them grow over a period of time. Then watching that person do the exact same thing. Friends, discipleship and evangelism does not have to be mutually exclusive. They can be one in the same. So that is what I have learned. It takes investment, relationships and a whole lot of God in this process.

What would you add?


Often we know what to do by what not to do. For example, Heather and I have told Samuel over and over not to touch the eye on the stove as it will burn him. Two year olds do not comprehend directions and the implications of danger. Sometimes they just have to learn it themselves. When we weren’t looking Samuel touched the eye of the stove and burned himself. Now he knows what to do based on what not to do. Evangelism is the same way it seems and there are some pitfalls in the way we are mission-minded. A bit of clarification in these studies: I am no missiologist and these are purely subjective based on experience. Some of these also might be contextual (i.e., what works for Eastern Christians might not work for Western Christians) both geographically and generationally. I am coming at these from the standpoint of youth ministry but some of them span the generation gap. For better research and methodology I suggest you peruse Ed Stetzer’s website for various “missional” topics. I am still a babe in the missional discussions but here are some evangelistic mistakes…

#1 Doing nothing at all

This is a pitfall many of us get into as the ruts of life tend to deter our focus. Whether it is based on fear, apathy, rejection, lethargy, apostasy or whatever one of the worst things we can do when it comes to evangelism is to simply do nothing. But…

#2 Doing instead of being

Us westerners are good at doing things as we are used to tasks, accomplishments, projects and goals. We are always at the cusps or precipice of the waves of doing. The church is no different as we have this program, that trip, this initiative, this goal or that yearly theme (“Saving Souls in 2013″) all border on idolatry. Mission-minded people do a lot of things but not to the neglect of being a lot of things. Jesus said the harvest is ready and that we needed more workers but he also told us to pray about this harvest. In other words we need people who are ready not who simply do things. Which reminds me…

#3 Making evangelism program-oriented or staff-oriented

Evangelism is the work of every member as we are a part of the priesthood of all believers. Comments like, “That’s why we hired you” or “that’s what we pay you for” are statements coming from people who are too lazy and selfish to do the work God requires them to do. Evangelism should flow effortlessly from the leadership and from every member in the church. It’s not a “class” or a “day” or even a “Service-project.” Evangelism seems to be a part of the spiritual disciplines much like prayer, fasting and giving.

#4 Evangelism as systematic theology class

I once thought evangelism was about knowing things in Scripture and when they figured these things out they would eventually become Christians which I equated to evangelism. It never occurred to me that sitting with someone in the hospital was evangelism. It never dawned on me that praying with someone over the phone was evangelism. I never grasped that maybe going to a football game to watch a kid play was evangelism. Knowledge is important but it also puffs-up. Transformation, submission and obedience seem to be key components of evangelism.

#5 Thinking it is up to you to save people

We have many people out there who have Messiah-complexes and that if they don’t save someone then the world, as they know it, is over. News flash-you are not Jesus and the redemption of this world is not up to you. If Jesus wanted all of this world to be saved he would have died on the cross for our sins. Wait a minute…

What would you add?

 

 



© firwoodchurch.com

You can read the previous post here.

I am concerned now about what motivates us to do evangelism. In other words, if I were to sit down with a teenager and ask them, “Why should you evangelize?” I wonder what responses I would get:

  • What is evangelism?
  • (With shrugged shoulders) I don’t know.
  • Because I heard I should do it in the lesson or something.
  • Because it says I should in the bible.
  • Because a whole lot of people are going to hell if I don’t and it would be my fault because I never said anything.
  • Because the gospel is an invitation for something beautiful.

Ok, that last one was mine but I am sure you have heard multiple reasons why you should evangelize and some of them are good and some of them are less than helpful. I would like to at least entertain that our desire to evangelize is related to two factors: 1) our understanding of the Scriptures (and our response to that understanding) and 2) our perception or view of the world.

I cringe when someone tells me that I need to evangelize because at judgment day I don’t want to be standing next to my friend and them asking me why I never mentioned Jesus to them as they go down the vortex to hell. First of all, who said we are going to talk to other people at judgment day? Secondly, God chooses different people to plant seeds, to water but only God increases. Thirdly, what about that person I met on the airplane? Am I going to answer for that for not offering them the invitation because I wanted to sleep instead?

The call to evangelize in Scripture:

18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20)

We are told to Go, while making disciples, while baptizing and while teaching. That is the call to the disciples Jesus worked with but it seems implied that this is not only a contextual command but an overarching command to all disciples bearing the name of Jesus. We simply “Go.” That is the call. Whenever, wherever, whoever, however we simply “Go.” What I have noticed though is that students don’t follow leaders from information they follow them by imitation (heard this quoted somewhere but have seen it true in my ministry). Show me a youth group kid and I will be able to tell you the personality of their youth minister. Hence, Main Street kids tend to be weird, cynical, prophetic, fun (we have been accused of being “rowdy”) and hopeful. Which describes yours truly! So here is the deal:

EVANGELISM STARTS IN YOUR LEADERSHIP!!! ELDERS, MINISTERS AND MENTORS. YOU CANNOT LEAD A PERSON TO A PLACE YOU HAVE NEVER BEEN.

Remember that. So the call to “Go” rings forth from your leadership. You can have all of the resources imaginable (I recommend Dare 2 Share) and all of the events under the sun but if the culture of your ministry is not evangelistic then no amount of teaching will ever accomplish your task.

Secondly, We must perceive the world and look at it differently. We should feel broken at the people who are not participating in the kingdom of God. Our hearts should break when we see marriages fail, companies plunder, people turn to gods and not God, and all of the injustices we see. We must look at things differently. In the first Lord of the Rings movie: The Fellowship of the Ring it is apparent that everything has changed for the hobbits and for the world and the longing to go back has been trumped by a new task, one that is forged in fire and fraught with despair. The royal elf and Lady of Light Galadriel, played by Cate Blanchett, says these words about what has happened:

The world is changed. I feel it in the water. I feel it in the earth. I smell it in the air. Much that once was is lost, for none now live who remember it.

Leaders, students and all of us need to get to this point where we say, “The world has changed and is forever different and everything we see is now filtered through the lens of the gospel and we will forever try to live out the call to reach out as laborers in the kingdom of God.”


© Graceway Media

Our students just got back from attending a conference about evangelism and the discussion that came from that from our students was extremely helpful and has shifted my thoughts on what it means to be evangelistic or to do evangelism. Our discussions seem to center around the difficult conversations we have when talking to people about God, Scripture and multiple issues. It seems that the student’s perception of evangelism is that it cannot be based on one simple, “throw-it-all-out-there” conversation but it takes multiple conversations built on a relationship.

That’s not to say the gospel cannot be offered to someone whom we have only just met but it is to say that most of the time evangelism takes time, initiative and a whole lot of prayer. This leads me to how we teach students what it means to be evangelistic. For a long period of time I taught students at Main Street that evangelism is sitting down and studying systematic doctrines so that when people assent to a knowledge of who God is and what the bible teaches then they could make a decision to follow Christ and put Christ on in baptism.

That’s sounds good except the issue I have with it is that the first century Christians did not do evangelism this way. I know you are quick to go to all of the conversion stories in the book of Acts but I want you to think about something for a minute:

When Peter, Paul and others are involved in the conversion of people what exactly is said? What is discussed? Do they use Scriptures and if so what Scriptures do they use?

I think what happened in the beginning stages of the church was that the Spirit played a role in the preaching and teaching and what happened was that a lot of people bore witness (Greek – martureo) to the works, words and life of Jesus and part of that testimony was how Jesus completely changed their own life.

 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard,which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life—the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us— that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. (1 John 1:1-3)

There was testimony from what they saw in Jesus himself but they, in turn, bore witness to that testimony with the joy (1 John 1:4) of fellowship in Christ. In other words, Christ changed their life and they shared that news everywhere (Dare we talk about the apostle Paul here?). The original disciples were not quick at sharing dogma (i.e., teaching) but at sharing life. They were vulnerable and they invested themselves in the work and ministry of local churches all around the Roman Empire. That does not mean a system of beliefs is not necessary for Christians as part of sanctification includes knowing what to believe and what to do with those beliefs.

Yet it is entirely different to approach Scripture saying, “What do I need to know?” versus having the attitude, “What does God delight in or what brings God joy?” One seeks information and the other seeks transformation. I think where we fail in evangelism is that we are more interested in making converts instead of disciples. We seek to concentrate on their eternity (which is absolutely important) but we fail to tell them what to do here in the meantime.

So I want to blog a little about evangelism and how it relates to youth ministry. I admit that I am not good at evangelism because I am not good at sharing my life with people. I recently was asked to speak at the aforementioned conference about evangelism and my response was as blunt and confessional as I could be:

 I feel like I have not been evangelistic enough and teaching about evangelism when I am not practicing it like I should sounds a bit troubling to me.

Yet, I am learning. So join me as we journey together.


© YouthMinistry.com

Yesterday I had the opportunity to speak at Goodpasture Christian School during their chapel time. I have probably spoken there 20 times since I have been at Main Street. I have also had the pleasure of speaking at numerous FCA events all over the county. It is a daunting task to speak in front of 600-700 junior/senior high kids at 9am and often I wonder if they got anything out of the message. So in your days as a youth minister you will probably be asked to speak in front of teenagers at their school for a religious event and so I want to give you some tips I have learned (you probably know these…I am a slow learner) speaking at different events.

#1 – Gather all of the facts.

How long do you need to speak? What are some things you cannot say? Is there any specific message you want me to mention? Who is the target audience? Who is in the audience (denominations)? What does the facilities look like? Will there be any time for discussion? What kind of sound equipment do they have available? Gather the facts.

#2 – Be Realistic

I had delusions that I would alter the course of their life with one, finely-crafted message and that they would come up to me in droves crying, telling me how much my message meant to them. I am an idiot. Teenagers will text during the message, will think about other things, will be confused or just not care. Our job is to simply bring good news and let the message fall on whomever God wills, however God wills.

#3 – Keep it simple

I know you want to share the Greek syntax with them but they do not care about your 2 years of Greek graduate school and $20k in debt from that Greek (I digress). They need a simple message with a simple point. I recommend two books to help you in that endeavor: Andy Stanley’s Communicating for a Change and Doug Fields and Duffy Robbins’ Speaking to Teenagers.

#4 – Make it fun

I can hear your snarky response: “Dude…” wait a minute you would probably start, “Brother, you are watering down the gospel message by entertaining kids!” I guess you would not like the way Jesus communicated with parable. He probably watered down his own message right? Sheesh. Make it fun. Don’t be inappropriate but make it fun. I once brought tuna, sardines, spoiled milk, jalapenos, brussle spouts and mixed them all in one bowl. I then brought a $20 bill and said, “Who wants it?” Everyone raised their hands and then I put it in the bowl and said, “Who wants it now?” That kid came up and put his hand in the bowl, got the $20 and everyone laughed. I followed up talking about how everyone has value no matter how dirty things in their life get. Make it fun, make a point.

#5 – Tie things in to the gospel message whenever and wherever you can

You have to be sneaky with this in certain contexts but people need to hear the message of salvation in Christ alone, through faith alone by grace alone. Some contexts won’t let you do this but a simple, “God redeemed you on the cross” can get the message through.

What are some other things you have learned?