The Beatitudes of Our Current Church Culture

Love this.

In a recent sermon at Wine Before Breakfast, Joe AC, pastoral director of Parkdale Neighbourhood Church in Toronto concluded with these modern day Beatitudes from the perspective of our contemporary, self-satisfied church culture. by Joe Abbey-Colborne Blessed are the well off and those …with ready answers for every spiritual question; …they have it all. Blessed are the comfortable; …they shall avoid grief. Blessed are the self-sufficient; … Read More

Catalyst One Day: Phoenix

My team and I will be attending Catalyst One Day in Phoenix on November 18th! Well, my baby boy is due on November 17th, so there’s a chance I’ll miss it.

The focus for this year’s conference is MOMENTUM: What is it? Why is it important? How do you get it and then how do you keep it? You’ll get to hear from a couple amazing pastors who have answered those questions time and time again.

Andy Stanley and Craig Groeschel will share some tips and techniques that you can use to create and sustain momentum in your church or business. You’ll learn how to create systems, environments, and cultures that will set the right initiatives in motion to fuel progress.

The event will also include some rich times of worship, Q&A sessions, and some forums for candid conversations with Andy and Craig.

You can call Aaron Foster today to receive a special discounted rate of $99! His number is (888) 334-6569. Or…

The Catalyst peeps gave me two free tickets to give away! Leave a comment on this post with your first and last name. I’ll choose one random winner on November 5th.

Giveaways.

Sorry, no giveaway here… but I have some good news if you were hoping for one!

There’s a giveaway happening somewhere right this minute. Thousands of them.

New cars, iPods, cash, guns, trinkets of all kinds!!!

If you do a search on Twitter for the phrase “RT to enter” you will find thousands and thousands of giveaways. All of them are giving something away in hopes that by entering their giveaway you will also visit their website, buy their stuff, talk about them, love them, join them, etc… I just went back to the Twitter page where I entered that phrase a few minutes ago and there and already 56 new “RT to enter” tweets ready to load.

Before I say anything else, I should confess that I’ve done my fair share of giveaways. iPods, clothes, money… and all as a youth pastor trying to get kids to come to my group. I always hated it, but I did it because I was told (and believed) that it worked.

It didn’t.

Well, maybe a few kids came hoping they’d win the prize. But for every winner, you’ve created dozens of losers. Was it really a good idea to make 1 kid happy and 99 disappointed?

I got fired a couple years ago for many reasons, but two main ones. I’ll spare you the first reason, but the second was that my attendance wasn’t high enough in my High School Ministry. I was expected to grow 30% every year, or else… I’d done the giveaways at the big events but we weren’t exploding numerically like the rest of the church.  I even did giveaways when my convictions objected, because I needed to fill seats.

I’ve since repented, and it has made all the difference.

Here’s what I suspect is at the subconscious root of most giveaways: Disbelief that what you have to offer is good enough on it’s own, so you sprinkle a giveaway on top. Or perhaps you do have something great to offer, but you have no idea how to get people interested without offering them something sparkly. If you’re a start-up business with tons of potential but no way to get the word out, that’s one thing. If you’re a church group, that’s another.

This thing we’re a part of called church started with a tribe. They were OK with slow. They preferred it. Every time Jesus was around big crowds he scared them away. The early church was a megachurch, but they did it the right way. No gimmicks. No tricks. Just the Good News and the Holy Spirit.

There were no giveaways this year in my youth ministry: Just the Good News and the Holy Spirit doing His thing. We’ve quadrupled in attendance this year. I hate to mention that. I don’t want to sound arrogant. I want to slap my old self in the face with my paltry gimmicks and cowardly approach to ministry. I want a “do over”, but that money is spent.

My advice to ministry leaders in particular, take it or leave it: Stop wasting God’s money on gimmicks. Jesus is enough. If your church or youth group is small, maybe it’s because God wants it small! If it’s huge, right on, but if it’s not… please don’t sell your soul to fill the seats. Please don’t add to the materialistic, consumer mentality by enticing people with junk when what they really need is free for all of us.

I should have aimed this one at youth pastors in particular. There are plenty of you doing giveaways that don’t fall into this category. My hope in writing this is that you’ll zoom out and see how sad giveaways are in a ministry context.

In my opinion 🙂

Summer Camp 2010

This was my 9th Summer Camp, and it was my favorite by a mile.

I took 90 students and 12 leaders with me to Forest Home last week. I’ve spent the past 8 summers at Hume Lake (minus 1 Summer). I love Hume. Every year was amazing. But this year was just different.

I don’t think it had anything to do with the location. It had to do with what happened among my students and leaders. I’ve never, ever seen a group this tight-knit. Usually when you take that many students somewhere it’s very difficult to feel a sense of unity, but not this year.

The theme of the camp was brokenness, and our students and staff bonded so deeply in their shared need for a Savior who can take what it broken and make it beautiful. Their transparency and humility was contagious. There wasn’t a faker among us. Everyone spilled their guts, and found so much hope in the acceptance of God and His people.

I’ve said it a thousand times… this has been the best year of ministry for me yet. I’ve never felt closer to a group of students and leaders- and that’s saying a lot because I’ve had some pretty remarkable students and leaders over the years 🙂

Enjoy.

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What Does a Pastor Look Like?

I had heard about this sort of thing happening to other youth pastors, but it had never happened to me… until yesterday.

A guy came into the church office and asked to meet with a pastor. He needed some counseling, and he didn’t know where else to go. He was probably in his 50’s, well dressed, and visibly shaken from whatever was on his mind. I was the pastor that they called to come and talk to him. Usually our Mercy Pastor gets the call, but he was unavailable.

As soon as I turn the corner he looks at me little bit funny. He literally looks me up and down, reluctantly shakes my hand, and then follows me into our conference room.

Guy: “What do you do here?”

Me: “I oversee our Student Ministries Department.”

Guy: Sigh

Me: (Trying to ignore the sigh) “So, what’s going on? I can see that you’re pretty shaken up by something.”

Guy: “Is the Lead Pastor around?”

Me: “I don’t think so, but I can check for you.”

I go look for Mark Connelly (who looks like a surfer more than a pastor). I find our Executive Pastor of Spiritual Development Paul Fischbach (he has a goatee and a bald head so he definitely looks like a pastor). Paul’s busy so he can’t talk to him. I go back in with him…

Me: “I couldn’t find our Lead Pastor, but I’d be happy to talk with you. (Long pause) I’ve been in ministry for about a decade now.”

Guy: (Spends about ten seconds trying to figure out what to say to me, and then…) “I’m sorry… I just can’t… thank you for your time.”

This story is part funny, but part sad too. Funny that I got completely judged by my age and appearance, sad because this guy left our church hurting when he didn’t have to.

The funny part is that THIS IS OUR LEAD PASTOR. He looks like he’s on his way to his Senior Prom.

Do I need to look more like beefcake up above?

Or maybe this guy:

The Whole Gospel

I believe that Jesus Christ died for our sins.

I believe that we are saved by grace through faith.

I believe in the substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ.

But… that’s not the WHOLE gospel. It’s the best part, but it’s not the whole thing.

The whole gospel is that God cares about the whole person. I’m pretty sure Rick McKinley was the first person I heard say it that way. Or it might have been one of the 2,103 verses in the bible that talk about the poor (financially), the oppressed, and the marginalized.

God cares that people don’t have clean, safe drinking water, about people who go hungry, about people who are homeless. He also cares that their souls are broken and thirsty, and in need of healing that I believe can only be found in Him. To be a pastor, you should probably care about both of those things too.

If I had to pick one of those two things as a priority, I’d pick the soul because it lasts forever. But, here’s my beef with that cropped gospel:

People need to live long enough to actually hear that part of the gospel.

It doesn’t have to be one or the other. You can care about, and address both needs.

I write this because twice this week I’ve been questioned about the gospel by two pastors who used to know me pretty well. They asked if I prioritize the gospel enough.

Yes.

I know that Jesus offers “living water”, but you’ll never swim in that lake if you’re a 5-year-old, malnourished African boy who drinks dirty water every day and suffers from dysentery. If you show up in that kid’s community with a tract about 4 steps and a cute bridge, they’re gonna say YES to your gospel (because they’re polite). But what they really need is a holistic, comprehensive plan for restoration. Not a ticket to heaven. Jesus offers both.

A “gospel” that doesn’t care about physical needs isn’t good news at all.

Grand Opening at Mission

The grand opening for our new buildings at Mission was last weekend, and it was a huge success.We opened a new Worship Center, and a new Student Center.

The initial thought for the weekend was to bring in a famous football player, which would likely draw a huge crowd, but we bailed on the idea after a new one was presented. We decided that we’d try to save a thousand lives instead of focusing exclusively on luring a thousand new people to our campus. Not that its a horrible idea to use a football player, but it just didn’t seem to resonate with who we are. Besides, the quarterbacks are already millionaires… they don’t need the money.

We decided to give all of the money we would have spent on the quarterback to charity: water. If you haven’t heard of them, I’d like to take this opportunity to welcome you back to civilization. How was it being frozen in ice all these years?

We sent them a check today for $26,000 today, which will go right to the people of Marialapas, Haiti. Apparently I’m going to Haiti to visit these lovely people when the project is done.

Best day at church, ever.