shelter, love others

How do we as Christians miss the simple love of God so often?  Why do we continue to allow ourselves and those around us try to complicate God?

I know those are powerful statements, but they’ve been on my heart lately.

Love God

God loves us.

Love others the way God loves us. Unconditionally

 

I could quote scripture after scripture about loving your neighbor as yourself, loving your enemies, turning your cheek, caring for the poor, widowed, and needy, and go on and on, but we all KNOW those.

So why is it so hard to put those into action on a day to day basis??

I’m not talking about “oh next week i’m going to do _____” or  “last summer i _____”  Faith is not a checkbox. You don’t get to “check off”  a “love others” box.  It doesn’t work that way.  Following Christ is a lifestyle, not a to-do list.   You don’t get to say “I did my Christian duty for day/month/year/lifetime”   It DOES NOT work that way.  Yet we often practice this through our actions, words, and teachings.  We do not focus on putting things into DAILY action, we give tangible once in a while, destination opportunities.   Going and serving on a mission trip or taking monthly trips to serve a specific group or weekly meetings with people who can’t come are GREAT things, but those things should be an overflow of our daily lives and an overflow of our hearts, not something we do to meet a criteria list.

Does anyone else see this happening?

I’m not saying it’s easy to love everyone, forgive others, or any of the other things God has called us to do, BUT we aren’t called to do these things on our own either.  God is with us through his Holy Spirit and we were given that gift to call upon when we are in need.  God wants to be in relationship with us.  He wants us to know Him.  God doesn’t give us anything we cannot handle.  I’ve FIRMLY come to believe that over the past several years through my life experiences and watching those around me.  He will be with us if we simply call on Him.  Even if we don’t, He’s still there, right beside us.

My quote calendar today read as follows: “God walks with us, He scoops us up in His arms or simply sits with us in silent strength until we cannot avoid the awesome recognition that yes, even now, He is there – Gloria Gaither

Now, I don’t know who Gloria is, but she get it.  She’s clearly been there.

God is pretty simple and pretty straight forward…..if we let Him be.  So stop complicating things.  Stop trying to tell people they have to fit in certain boxes to be with God/come to church/be your friend/etc.   We are called to love as God loved, and if that means scooping up, then scoop up, but if that means sitting in silent strength, then sit.

I realize this post is pretty sporadic, but I hope you find something in it that speaks to you.  I really feel that when I’m going through something or wrestling with something, God speaks to me through my fingertips as I type, and I know I’ve heard Him in these moments.

This has been sparked by various life events, but they all (mostly) boil down to the fact that by complicating God, and things related to Him, we are DESTROYING the Church as He meant it to be.  By gossiping, twisting, complicating, and adding things on to God’s word, we are doing an EXTREME disservice to ourselves and those around us.

So just be.

Be who God called you to be.  Be where you are and rest in Him.  That’s all we can do, and if we listen, He will tell us the rest.  Rest in the shelter of those in your community, your faith community.  If you do not have a faith community, let’s chat about it.  I’ve learned lately that faith communities take on MANY more shapes than simply pews and stages.  they may be Google Hangouts, fireplace breakfasts, long walks, text messages, or any number of other places.  God is everywhere, not just the Church, so let’s chat about it.

For now, after your mind has been boggled by that post’s sporadicness, I leave you with a beautiful song by Jars of Clay

Obituary For The American Church

Obituary For The American Church – Mike Breen

7 Youth Ministry Numbers You Really Should Know

This article was originally published October 4, 2011.

One of my favorite pastors had always noted, we need to be ministering to who we are accountable for, and that isn’t always who is on our rolls. Rolls are a terrible statistical number.
In the business world a good “ROI” or return on investment in a project is considered pretty successful if it reaches the 5% mark (sometimes less, sometimes more depending on the endeavor). That doesn’t transfer very well to the church world, where every person counts and everyone has to be involved. This is the reality we live with as youth workers.
Years ago my friend Mark DeVries suggested me to a church in my area that was looking for a youth leader. His Youth Ministry Architects had done consultant work with that church and in their report (which Mark gave to me & was made available on the church website) gave me some new understandings to “numbers” in ministry and what is feasible. I have carried much of those numbers with me in keeping some idea on the growth and health of the ministries I have been a part of.
Some numbers have been around for years, and you will probably hear similar in some youth ministry workshop that you go to in the future. Some of these Mark has written more extensively in his bookSustainable Youth Ministry.
1. 10% of the worship congregation makes up a healthy reflection of numbers in the youth ministry. 200 people in church on Sunday then you can range around 20 teenagers. Sure you can be healthy and be higher or lower for varied reasons, but that’s a good measure. It is important to distinguish the worshiping congregation over the church rolls. An unhealthy congregation cannot expect to have a thriving youth ministry that exceeds its own metrics. If it does it may not be sustainable. Churches that look for youth to be the magic pill saving their church are going to be disappointed. Rolls then become your new outreach focus, not group.
2. 7 the amount of Friends a teen needs to have in the youth group. (This I believe picked up from on of the myriad of Chap Clark writings) You know the question every teen asks when signing up for an event or deciding on signing up, “Who is going to be there?” They need to know that there will be a collection of friends there to talk to and hang with. This number ensures that someone will be there that they know. Small groups, and small youth groups, help to fill this need. The hospitality of a group helps with this. Cliques are killers to this. Notice who isn’t there, list out their friends from the group, are those friends coming? Can you list seven teens? If that sounds silly just think about where you go that doesn’t have some friendships involved. It is a number that is important.
3. 4-6 is the amount of teenagers that an adult can know intimately in a spiritual mentor type role. This makes a great case for the need for many youth leaders in your ministry. Jesus, though he had 12 disciples, is known to have kept just a few of the fellas closer to him and invested in them more than the whole group. This is fluid, a teen you are tight with this month you might have fallen away from the next because you have started to invest in another teen. That’s natural progression and perfectly okay in my book, but you want other leaders in place to fit that spot. So if you have a ministry of 25 youth, then you need 5 adults who are fully invested in the lives of the teenagers, that is if they are equally spread out. Best to have 6 or 7 so that everyone is known.
4. $1,000 per kid per year. The folks at Youth Ministry Architects through their work over the years have given a range of 1,000 per kid per year spent on youth ministries in the budget & staff salary for the youth ministries. In the case of my small church, we have 32 youth on rolls, 3 that are irregular attenders (family dynamics), so for the 29 I feel we are accountable that would be $29,000 a year for the budget. We do not quite meet that, but we certainly know it and we work to fill gaps as we can. We also know that we are not going to have bust out growth years without some financial investment.
5. 50 the general ceiling of teenagers that a paid staff person can keep up with on an effective basis. Do you see business managers who manage 50 people on their own? No, businesses know it’s a stretch and ineffective so they’ll throw structures/positions in place to help. Youth ministries are generally without that. The solo youth pastor at a 200 youth church (active) might be the manager of 50-60 adults throughout the year. Not to mention the programming and administrative tasks. If this is you, you need to be asking for some help. If help is not available in paid help then search out ways to fill in some gaps with parents gifts and talents. But again, that becomes more people in the equation.

6. 20% ceiling for youth ministry is where numbers can begin to become unpredictable. At this point the numbers associated with investment do not always work directly with growth.

7. 1 Family is what you have so don’t sacrifice them. If you are like me then had some ceremony that was before God where you took some vows to another person and thus created a family. You probably didn’t have anything in the vows to uphold, protect, and nurture a youth ministry. If you are single with/without a child/ren similar applies. There is a responsibility to that relationship first no matter what the church says. That isn’t to say that your family cannot do that for a youth ministry, just remember where your priorities and commitments stand first and foremost. Way too often I am seeing youth leaders get caught up with the youth culture and being the ‘everything’ for the teenagers that they are leaving nothing for their family, and sometimes leaving all together. Keeping up with numbers, growth, friendships, and other metrics are great, but the most important number is your family.
As with any statistic you can claim it means something different, but these are pretty observable if you go through writing down who you know really well right now. It probably isn’t that many if you are honest about it. If there are kids who come infrequently then write down who their friends are in the group, it probably doesn’t come to 7. Numbers can fluctuate depending on contexts of environment. Areas that have a single set school system (one junior high and high school) could bring in higher numbers than those who have a spread set of school systems.
So have fun playing with some #’s.
Shalom
-Gavin
Gavin Richardson is Digital Community Builder for YouthWorker Movement and the Short One at YouthWorker Circuit.  He has been in youth work for almost two decades now, has been a writer and consultant on numerous internet and published projects for the church. He’s often a speaker around the country on church communications and community building. His current projects are working on developing online Youth Disciple Groups and finishing a new book “Sticky Sheep.” He is the part time youth guy at Good Shepherd UMC in Hendersonville, TN.  If you ask, he will say that he is a “misfit” of the church. He lives in Nashville with his wife Erin, son Brooks and dog Crimson. You can connect with Gavin (and he’s totally cool with that) through http://about.me/gavoweb.

Racism is Against Christianity

The title is pretty bold.  But pretty true too.

Racism is an issue that has been on my heart heavily lately. I now work for an organization which has “eliminating racism” as part of it’s mission statement.  I’ve been reading through a book by Francis Chan lately called “Erasing Hell” which is a great read so far!  I debated trying to go into an extensive blog post on MLK day about how racism doesn’t mix with Christianity, but I couldn’t quite find the words and knew that this was an issue that needs the right words for people to continue reading.  In talking with a friend, we’ve both concluded that it can be quite difficult to speak on ‘controversial’ issues without offending people to the point where they quit reading. Well read on or stop, but the text below from “Erasing Hell” might rock your world, in a much needed way.  I’ve found Chan’s words to be some of the most fitting on the topic.  Racism is wrong in all sectors, but especially and ultimately in the community of Christians, so I encourage you to take these words to heart, and please leave your thoughts.  I’d love to start a conversation about this.

Racism. The Christian church in many ages and in many places has stood on the wrong side of this issue, and its damnable-literally.  What’s racism got to do with hell? you may ask.  According to Jesus, it’s got everything to do with it.  In Matthew 8, Jesus smuggles a warning about hell into the context of racism and ethnocentricism (the belief that one ethnicity is superior).  The entire context of Matthew 8-9 depicts Jesus reversing all of the cultural and social assumptions of the Jews f that day.  One assumption is that the Jews as the “people of God” are much more fit for the kingdom than all those other nasty sinners – those Gentiles, those Greeks, those Romans.  But in Matthew 8, Jesus is absolutely floored by the faith of a Roman Gentile military leader.  This leader of high standing had the faith and humility to submit to the authority of Jesus.  And Jesus accepted him as he is, a Gentile.  From this encounter, Jesus spins out a short message about many people of all nations and colors and ethnicities that will flood into the kingdom.  And it is here that Jesus says that the “sons of the Kingdom” who think that God values one ethnicity over another (in this case the Jewish people) are damned to hell: “the sons of the kingdom shall be cast out into the outer darkness; in that place there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 8:12 NASB).  The teeth that once gnashed at the person of another race or color will gnash in the agony of eternal torment.

Why is it that only 5.5% of the American evangelical churches could be considered multiethnic (where no single ethnicity makes  more than 80% of its congregants)?  Why is that?  5.5%!  And we’re supposed to be living in the melting pot, the place where hundreds of languages and colors often live within a few miles -or feet- of each other.  What’s so sad about this is that many pople outside the church are FAR less racially divided. Consider the military, our places of work, or athletics.  Yet there are three places where racial division still persists: bars, prisons, and the American evangelical church.

We need to see the glaring contradiction in saying we believe in hell making no effort to tear down the walls of racism and ethnic superiority.  If we are going to take Jesus’ words seriously, we have to make more of a concerted effort to forge the avenues of racial reconciliation and unity under the banner of the Gospel of Christ.  

One day, Christ will come back and there will be an amazing worship celebration – with African bongos,  Indian sitars, and an ensemble of Mariachi trumpets – where every tribe, tongue, nation, and color will bow to the knee of the King and celebrate!

If this sounds irritating, go back and read Matthew 8, its written for you.

What if Target Operated Like a Church? | TonyMorganLive.com

What if Target Operated Like a Church?

Tis the season to shop for Christmas gifts, so I recently made a trip to Target. I love Target because I don’t have to spend a lot of money, and I avoid going to Wal-Mart.After spending a little bit of time in the store, it struck me how different Target is from most churches I’ve visited in the past. That led me to wondering how Target would be different if it operated like the typical church. So, with that in mind, here’s my initial list:What if Target Operated Like a Church?Instead of having men’s and women’s clothing departments, they would be called clever names like Impact and Embrace that are completely meaningless to new shoppers.Each department in the store would have its own logo to go with their clever name. And, of course, all those logos would be different than the logo on the front of the store.The workers in each department would all have their own t-shirts and flyers to promote what’s available in their departments. The youth clothing department would, of course, have the best flyers.The store manager and his wife would be pictured on the front page of the website.You wouldn’t actually be able to buy anything from the website, but each department would have its own page explaining why they are such a great department and the the information would be several months out-of-date.If you are in the shoe department and have a question about flashlights, the shoe department employee has no idea how to help you because it doesn’t have anything to do with shoes.Shoppers would be able to start their own departments so that they can buy the items that they want to buy. Don’t worry…that means there will certainly be a clothing department for singles.Shoppers would also be able to appoint their own store manager and then serve on committees and boards to tell the store manager what to do.The store would only be open one day a week between 9:00 a.m. and noon and on the first Wednesday evening of every month.Hope this makes you laugh. Emily and I did. And, maybe it also challenges some preconceived notions. After all, churches are sort of notorious for worshiping methods and traditions whether or not they actually produce results.What would you add to the list?

via What if Target Operated Like a Church? | TonyMorganLive.com.

Seth’s promise is to build a school for Liberian orphans | Inspire. Change.

CLICK THERE –> Seth’s promise is to build a school for Liberian orphans | Inspire. Change.. <–CLICK THERE

We just met this guy about a month ago at a friend’s small group.  He made a promise.  did all he could.  and carried through with it.  it’s as simple and as amazing as that.  Check him out on his university’s homepage!!

After All

Lately, I’ve really felt led to just share some of the great music that’s come out lately with such powerful lyrics.  Below is a new song from the David Crowder Band’s final album.  The lyrics don’t seem too special, but after you listen to the song it just overcomes me with the power, grace, mercy, and love of God.  I can’t help but feel it.  Take a listen for yourself.

I can’t comprehend your infinitely beautiful and perfect love
Oh I’ve dreamed dreams of majesty as brilliant as a billion stars
But they’re never bright enough after all

You are Holy
Oh Holy
Holy, Holy, Holy

I will sing a song for you my God with everything I have in me
But it’s never loud enough after all

You are Holy
Oh Holy
Holy, Holy, Holy

Heaven and earth are full, full of your glory, glory
My soul it overflows full of your glory, your glory
Oh blessed is he who reigns, full of your glory, your glory
My cup, it can’t contain all of your glory, your glory
Hosanna we are found after all you are

Holy
Oh Holy
Holy, Holy, Holy

I can’t comprehend
You’re infinitely beautiful