Monday, December 31, 2012

My Favorite Albums of 2012

I really like music. Here are some of my favorite albums that came out during 2012. Some are Christian, some are not. All of them are good and worth listening to. What albums from this year would you add to the list?

Monday, December 24, 2012

Being the Children's Pastor

Every week, on Sunday morning, I have the opportunity to teach Children's Church. For an hour, I have a group of between 12-17 small children (and a few bigger kids) in the Fellowship Hall of Charles Town Baptist Church. We have a wonderful time.

Our Children's Church program is nothing entirely special. We sing some Sunday School songs (Father Abraham, Deep and Wide, Down in My Heart), we take up an offering, we say the pledges, and we do a Bible lesson. Our program is not fancy at all. In fact, compared to some churches, we are probably amateur hour. But that doesn't matter to me.

I love Children's Church. I love the fact that I get to share the Gospel with little ones each and every week. Currently, we are using a curriculum called The Jesus Storybook Bible. Each story selected from the Bible tells the story and then explains how that story points to Jesus, the Rescuer who came to save the world from sin. Most importantly, I love the way the children are interacting with the message of the Gospel.

I was thanking a volunteer the other day and he responded by quoting a cheesy song from a few years ago about children being the future. This is somewhat true, although I tend to think of them as the church of right now as well. There are many people who will bemoan the biblical illiteracy of many in our churches today. I am doing my best, and relying on God as well, to combat that by teaching the children entrusted to me by God (and their parents) in the best way I can.

That is what I love about being a Children's Pastor.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Book Review - 1000 Days: The Ministry of Christ by Jonathan Falwell

I chose to read 1000 Days: The Ministry of Christ by Jonathan Falwell mainly because he is the pastor of Thomas Road Baptist Church. As a graduate of Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary, I had the opportunity to hear Falwell preach and I was impressed by his style of communication.

The book 1000 Days: The Ministry of Christ is about exactly what it seems to be. Through fifteen short chapters, Falwell highlights a number of events from the three year ministry of Jesus. The events include the announcement of His ministry in the temple, the choosing of His disciples, the parable He told the lawyer about the Good Samaritan, and the messages Jesus gave while He was on the cross. Each chapter contains an explanation of several Greek phrases that can be found in the Scripture, chosen to help the reader understand the intensity of the vocabulary, something not easily conveyed in English.

The book is written in an easy-flowing manner, as if Falwell were talking directly to you. I would not be surprised (although I have not looked it up) to discover that this book was based on a series of sermons that Falwell preached at his church. Each chapter begins with an illustration, an examination of the Scripture passage, and an application for the reader. It should be viewed as a plus that Falwell writes the same way that he preaches. His writing style makes it much more accessible to a broader audience than most books that are written about Jesus.

This book would be a great resource for pastor and teachers who want to communicate the truth about Jesus. Much like a book by Craig Groeschel, this book can easily be used by a pastor to produce an excellent series of sermons. I would suggest that additional research go into the preparation, but Falwell has done an excellent job with the material he presented in this book.

I was provided a free copy of 1000 Days: The Ministry of Christ from in exchange for an honest review of the text.

Rejoicing that Your Enemy is Alive

Yesterday, John Piper posted this on Twitter:
What if your least favorite person died? Then you saw your favorite person rejoicing that the least one was alive? Luke 15:32

I quickly grabbed my Bible to find out what the reference was. It was the last verse in the story of the Prodigal Son, where the father is rebuking the older brother for being upset that his younger brother had returned.

The thought shook me a little bit. Could I be willing to rejoice when my least favorite person is found to be alive? Would I be able to stand it knowing that my favorite person is rejoicing over this?

I guess this gets to the heart of forgiveness and grace. You see, there was a time when we were the enemies of God. We were opposed to Him, but yet He rejoiced when we were made alive again and at a cost to Him. God had to sacrifice His own Son to restore us to life. He let His Son take on our sins and He rejoiced in doing so.

An amazing thought, isn't it?

Friday, December 21, 2012

The Horrible News that Became the Best News Ever

In Awakening, we have been doing a series on Advent. As I was studying for the series, I realize that the news the angel brought to Mary and to Joseph in his dream was not really good news. Well, at least not at first. In fact, to them, it was probably the worst news you can receive. The only experience I have to equate it to was the time I found out I was being expelled from college (another story for another time).

Mary was a young girl, getting ready to be married. I can remember how excited my wife was when it came to planning our wedding. She spent hours looking at bridal magazines, going over all of the wedding related stuff. It was her favorite topic. I can imagine it was the same for Mary. She was probably thrilled over what was about to go on. Then, the angel shows up and delivers the news. BOOM! All of her plans and dreams, gone. In an instant. This was not good news.

Joseph was getting the final preparations ready for his wedding as well. I am sure he was just as excited, but, as a dude, he had to keep it under control. Then he gets word that Mary is pregnant. He knows he isn't responsible, so it has to be another man. Under Jewish law, he could have Mary executed. He didn't really believe that story she was telling about it being God's Son, did he? Then the angel arrived and confirmed it for him. This was not good news.

There were looks. There were whispers. They lost many friends. Joseph probably lost business because of this. But they continued on. They stayed together and Joseph protected Mary. He married her to protect what was left of her reputation. It was not an easy life.

The news from the angel was not good news. But it became good news. The baby that was born to Mary was Jesus, God in the flesh. He grew up sinless and died on the cross for our sins, the sins that separated us from God and kept from having a relationship with Him. He was bruised and crushed for our iniquities. God turned His back to Jesus in the hour He needed the Father the most. He was buried and, three days later, Jesus made an open mockery of sin and death by coming back to life. Jesus did all of this willingly and He extends the salvation from sin freely to those who believe, without any preconditions or requirements.

And that is how the horrible news became the best news ever.

Guest Post - 5 Things Every Student Pastor Must Do

This is a post from my good friend Josh Evans.

The title is a bit direct and forward, but I believe you will find in this post some thoughts that we must do as student pastors.

  1. Grow in our walk with Christ- Sometimes being full-time in ministry is the easiest place to not grow, but every student pastor must grow personally. I am not writing about helping others grow or even studying for your sermon. I am writing about growing in the quiet place where it is just you and God. If you do not have this time every single day, you are doing everyone you lead a disservice.
  2. Create a welcoming environment- This starts with the student pastor. Look if you want your church to be an open door for lost people, you have to try to get lost people there, but also model for your students and volunteers what it is like to create a welcoming environment. Find guests, and you speak with them, and do not count on everyone else to do it for you.
  3. Study adequately for your sermons- I am totally fine with curriculum, but write your own sermons. We use curriculum, but I try to derive my own sermon out of the thoughts that the curriculum gives. Do not just find something online all of the time, print the manuscript, and read it to your students. Find time to pray about what your students need, and then derive a message from God’s Word that will speak into your students’ lives. Your students will see right through someone who gets up and acts like they have studied, but have not.
  4. Build a personal relationship with students’ parents- This is a must. I believe that there is a shifting of this philosophy as of late, and it is a good one. For years, youth ministry was a babysitting service, and now it is seeking to be a family ministry, and that is how it should be. I try to build relationships with my students’ parents by sitting with them at games, keeping them informed through newsletters and meetings, texting them, and by calling just to ask how their student is doing. This is vital if you want a foundational and long-lasting impact on your students’ lives.
  5. Praise your volunteers- I have the best volunteers on the planet in our student ministry. They hate it when I praise them, because they try to be humble, but the Bible says “give honor to whom it is due.” Adults who work with students week in and week out deserve honor. Show them appreciation with gifts or words of encouragement regularly. Write some handwritten notes to encourage and thank them for their service.

About Josh: Josh Evans is the student pastor at Union Grove Baptist Church in the Winston Salem, NC area. He has been a mentor and pastor to students for 4 years. Josh is passionate about seeing life change in students and teaching them the truths of the Word of God. Josh is a blogger, speaker, student pastor, and die-hard Duke Blue Devils fan! Josh and his wife Abby were married in February of 2008, and it has been the happiest years of his life. Abby recently gave birth to their first child, Lynlee Jewel Evans. Josh and his family live in the Winston Salem, NC area. You can connect further with Josh on his blog or send him a direct email at

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Stuff Youth Pastors Like: Getting to Preach in "Big Church"

For most youth pastors, we felt the call to ministry because of preaching. We love to stand up and deliver a message from God's Word. It is an incredible and humbling task, one that is very exciting and deeply draining. We are standing in front of the congregation as the spokesperson of God.

But, for most of us, that happens very rarely. I am the youth pastor. My ministry is to the teenagers and the children. Most Sundays, I am in Children's Church, dancing and jumping and playing games. But then, it happens! I get the nod from the pastor, like a big league call up from the minors. I get to preach in Big Church!

When I get to preach in Big Church, I pull out the big guns. I use my best illustrations and go for broke on the text. Of course, as a youth pastor, I am legally obligated to preach from 1 Timothy 4:12 at least once a year. I think it is in the church bylaws.

My next opportunity to preach in Big Church will be December 30, 2012. I've already started working on my sermon and my Logos Bible Software is getting a workout, helping me get some great stuff.

How often do you get to preach in Big Church?

Here is a video of me preaching in Big Church. This is not at my current church, but it is me preaching, so I'm pretty sure it fits.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Help Me Win a Trip to SYMC

Hey everyone, I have a huge favor to ask. Simply Youth Ministry is giving away a free registration to their conference in March. Tina and I have already paid for me to go, but it would be awesome to win, so we could use the money for other things (like feeding kids or buying Chick-fil-a).

Anyway, in order for me to enter, I need you to go to the link below, fill out the form, and write a couple of paragraphs about why you think I should go to the conference. There is only one registration, so I'm guessing the more entries, the better, right?

The deadline is December 20, so if you can do this right away, that would be awesome. You all are the best and I love you. Not just because you are helping me out, but that certainly doesn't hurt.

You can click on this link to get more information about the contest.


Click here to help me get entered!

Stuff Youth Pastors Like: Greg Stier

Have you ever met Greg Stier? He is one of the nicest guys I have ever met, but he has this intensity about him that makes me think he is going to rip my arm off at any moment. Greg is the president of Dare2Share Ministries, an organization in Colorado designed to train teenagers (and youth pastors) in the fine art of evangelism. Greg has a passion for seeing young people share their faith and he has a passion for seeing folks come to Christ.

I have had the opportunity to speak with Greg once, at a youth pastor training luncheon that Dare2Share hosted. We have developed a pseudo-relationship through Twitter and it was very exciting for me that he vaguely knew who I was.

Greg is the author of a number of books, but the one that I recommend is Outbreak. This was the book that introduced me to him and Dare2Share and it is one of the texts from the Youth Ministry course at Liberty University.

If you don't know who I am talking about, get to know him. Greg is a great dude and one who loves Jesus deeply. You can follow him on Twitter at @gregstier or read his blog at

Greg Stier loves Jesus. Greg Stier loves evangelism. Greg Stier loves teenagers. Greg Stier loves youth pastors. And that, my friends, is why youth pastors like Greg Stier.

Awakening Teaching Calendar for January 2013

Here is a list of the preliminary teaching calendar for the January 2013. Please refer to this list so that you are able to see what we will be teaching on each Wednesday in Awakening.
  • January 2 - Habits - Hanging Out with God (Philippians 2:12-13)
  • January 9 - Habits - Accountability (Proverbs 18:24; Ecclesiastes 4:9)
  • January 16 - Habits - Bible Memorization (Psalm 119:11)
  • January 23 - Habits - Involved with the Church Body (Acts 2:12-13)
  • January 30 - Habits - Tithing (1 Timothy 6:10)
  • February 6 - Habits - Studying Scripture (Psalm 19:7-8)

After the lesson has been taught, additional resources for each lesson will be available. Please check back to access these materials.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Stuff Youth Pastors Like: T-Shirts

Everyone loves a comfortable t-shirt, but youth pastors go crazy for them. We practically build our entire wardrobe around t-shirts. If it weren't for Sunday morning services and my day job as a teacher, I'm pretty sure I would never wear a collared shirt.

Youth pastors collect shirts from everywhere. We have our youth group shirts, we have band shirts, we have shirts from conferences. We even have random shirts we found at Kohls and bought just because they were awesome.

Here are some of the awesome t-shirts I currently own. Trust me, my collection is growing.

This is my youth group's shirt.

This is my ridiculously awesome Charles Spurgeon shirt from Missional

My Relient K t-shirt. This shirt got me in some hot water.

Chick-fil-a is seriously the best place to eat in the country.

I have many more shirts to share with you, but that's just a start. Remember, youth pastors like t-shirts and they will always love to receive more. Their wives may not appreciate it, but only because they do the laundry.

Coming Soon: Stuff Youth Pastors Like

I know, I know, the whole "Stuff (Fill in the blank) Like) has been done to death. In fact, I'm pretty sure that Stuff Youth Pastors Like has been done already (feel free to Google it and let me know). However, I'm of the belief that you can never have too much of a good thing. Hence, my list.

I came up with a list of things that I like and, since I am a youth pastor, I hope that it will resonate with others as well. I will try my best to be humorous, but really the list is just designed to make you smile and nod your head in agreement.

I currently have about 20 items on my list and will add more as I come up with them. I will post a new item every couple of days just so I don't overburden you with goofy things.

I hope that this list will make you appreciate the youth pastor in your life all the more. Enjoy!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Darkness on a Beautiful Day

During a typical day, I will check the news from time to time on the Drudge Report. Early in the morning, I saw a link to an article about a school shooting. I looked at it briefly, but then went about the rest of my day, not knowing the devastation that had taken place.

As details began to come out, it became more and more apparent that this was more than just a typical story, not that a school shooting is ever typical. This event was evil beyond the scope of imagination.

As I heard details, I wept, but quietly because I didn't want my students to know what was wrong. I wanted them to have no idea that evil of such a magnitude exists in the world. These children aren't even my flesh-and-blood, but I felt an instinctive desire to protect them. I know they probably found out about the tragedy when they went home, but for the time they were with me, I wanted them to believe that the world was safe.

I have never prayed for Jesus to come back. I know that we should and I am certainly looking forward to when Christ returns. I want to grow old with my wife. I want to see my children grow and become godly men and marry beautiful wives. However, yesterday the prayer of my heart was "Come quickly, Lord Jesus." I couldn't get any more words out.

I was not personally involved with the tragedy in Connecticut. I have never been to Connecticut and don't know if I ever will. We were all profoundly affected by yesterday, just as many of us were profoundly affected by the Columbine shooting many years ago. It was a sudden and jarring reminder of sin and the devastation that it brings.

People, we need to pray. We need to pray for peace and healing to come to the families devastated by the shooting. We need to pray for everyone involved and the toll that this is taking on them. We need to pray for each other. Most importantly, pray that Jesus will come and restore our world. We need it and we need it more than ever.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Vote for Josh Evans

My good friend in ministry Josh Evans has had a post nominated for best post of the year. Would you please take a moment to go and vote for him? His article is pretty funny.

Please go here to vote.

An Incredible Video about Christmas

I'm sure most of you have seen this video at some point by now. I used it with my students in Awakening as we talked about Mary and Joseph and the joy they experienced. Please watch it and share with your friends.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

What Kind of Youth Pastor Can't Play Guitar?

I really need to play my guitar more. I used to love playing guitar. My best friend, Terry, taught me to play a few chords and we jammed together all the time. Terry is quite talented, so it was awfully kind of him to tolerate my shortcomings musically. He even let me borrow his guitar when I went back to college so that I could continue to learn and practice.

Over the years, I learned to play a number of songs, including a few songs by the Foo Fighters, Soul Asylum, and Oasis. I also really enjoyed playing MxPx and Huntingtons songs, but they sounded funny on an acoustic.

Then, for some reason, I just stopped playing. I still have the guitar in my room, but it is covered with dust. I sold my first guitar, then my electric guitar, but I kept the good one. I really need to pick it back up and get busy.

Maybe it is because I can't sing that well that I don't play. Maybe it is the fact that four kids makes finding time to play a bit difficult. Whatever the excuse, I need to start playing again. Maybe I'll do that next year.

I have to fulfill that stereotype, right?

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Five Kids You Find in Every Youth Group

  • The Mascot. Every youth group has a mascot. This is usually a smaller boy who wants to belong with the older, cooler kids. In order to get their attention and gain their friendship, The Mascot will do really weird and crazy things, such as volunteer to swallow goldfish, spit spitballs at the youth pastor while he is driving, or show his rear end to passing motorists from the back of the bus.

  • The Lovebird. The Lovebird is a boy/girl in the youth group who, at one point or another, will have a crush on every member of the opposite sex in the youth group (except the Mascot). The feelings are strong for about a week, then fade just as quickly. This is especially true when a visitor comes to the youth group.

  • The Pastor's Kid. The Pastor's Kid usually like to cause trouble and can get away with it because he is the pastor's child. He/she is usually best friends and archenemies with the Lovebird because he/she always manages to "snag" the prettiest of the group. It is also the Pastor's Kid who gets the Mascot to do all of the things he does.

  • The "Too Cool for This" Kid. There is always one kid in the group who is too cool for what is going on. She stands in the corner, listening to her iPod and making snide remarks. Yet, for some reason, she always shows up to every activity. It probably has something to do with the Pastor's Kid.

  • The Preacher Boy. The Preacher Boy was called to preach before he could talk. He loves to strut around, letting everyone know that he has a step on them in holiness because he is going to be a preacher one day. The youth pastor loves this guy and asks him to pray at every youth group meeting and activity. If the youth group does the service in church one night, it revolves all around the youth group's prize pupil: The Preacher Boy.

Please remember, these are simply sketches of individuals and not meant to identify any one person in particular. Except for me. I was about three of them.

Which one of these best fits you when you were in your youth group?

Friday, December 7, 2012

Recently Read Books

I like to read. I haven't been able to do it as much as I would like as of late, but I'm starting to get back in the habit. As time permits, I will post reviews of some of the books that I have read, but for now, here is a list of some of the books that I have read recently, in case you want to check them out.

There are a number of other books that I have read, but that is a pretty good list to start with. I will highly recommend all of these titles as excellent resources for ministry. In fact, I believe that Gospel would be an excellent book to use with a student leadership group or with a group of adult leaders.

Don't forget that we are in the gift-giving time of year.

What books have you recently read that you would recommend to other ministry leaders?

Thursday, December 6, 2012

The Promise of Salvation

I was doing my devotions yesterday out of Galatians 3. In this chapter, Paul is discussing with the Galatians how if humans make a covenant and it is ratified, no one can make changes to it. It cannot be annulled or added to. And this is with a man-made contract.

Paul continues to say that God made a promise to Abraham and that it is was made to his offspring. That promise, as I have been teaching my kids in Children's Church, was the Rescuer (Jesus) who would take away our sins.

Think about that for a second. If a man-made contract cannot be changed, how much harder is it to change a contract if God is the one making the promise? There is nothing that can be done to change the promise of salvation and those of us who are firm in that, through our faith in Christ, have nothing to fear.

Galatians 3:26 - For in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith.

Photoshop Pictures for Advent Series

I have been really trying to improve my Photoshop skills as of late. While I don't have a full version of Photoshop, my copy of Photoshop Elements 10 seems to be able to handle what I have been wanting to do. Here are some examples of the promo pieces I made for each lesson, beginning on Wednesday, November 29.
I would love to know your thoughts.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

I Won't Be Setting a Bible Reading Goal Next Year

This is typically the time where people start to make goals for next year. Goals to lose weight or exercise more or quit smoking. Some people also set goals to read through the whole Bible. There is an entire industry devoted to this desire.

Last year, I set a goal to read over 3,000 chapters of the Bible. I failed. I read a lot of the Bible, but it started to become a chore for me. I fell behind my schedule and there was no joy in it for me. I read because I was trying to make my goal, not because I was trying to get closer to God or grow in my relationship with Christ.

I quit my plan. And I loved it! I could start to read the Bible because I wanted to, not because I was trying to meet some artificial goal I had set for myself. At the end of the day, God doesn't care how many chapters I have read. He isn't going to grill me because I never read Haggai or Zephaniah (although it might be slightly awkward to meet them in heaven). God is only concerned with the growth of my relationship and how it is developed through reading and applying His Word.

As the new year approaches, I recommend that you make it a point to be in God's Word on a daily basis. Read it, savor it, love it, but do not let it become a chore. Study God's Word because you want to, not because you have some sort of goal to meet.

What are some ways that you use to read the Bible? Do you use a reading plan?

Repost: Lust is Still Lust...Even When Girls are Doing It

This is a repost from my former blog. It sparked some conversation and is well worth revisiting.

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."

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Greg Stier: Why America Has Not Been Reached

Greg Stier, from Dare2Share Ministries, is one of my favorite people. He and I have built a bit of a relationship through Facebook and Twitter and he is always a great encouragement to me. I have a number of his books and we have used his teaching series in Awakening.

Recently, in the Christian Post, Greg shared 7 reasons America has not been reached for the Gospel. Without reposting the whole article, here are the reasons he gave.

  1. We have outsourced the work of evangelism.
  2. We have lost our sense of urgency.
  3. We are ashamed of the Gospel.
  4. Many Christians can't explain the Gospel.
  5. Church leaders are not leading the way.
  6. We have forgotten how to pray.
  7. Churches don't mobilize their young people to share the Gospel.

To read the full explanation of each statement, please visit Greg's post at the Christian Post.

What are your thoughts? Do you agree with these statements?

Monday, December 3, 2012

Welcome to!

Thank you for your visit to my new blog. This is a new writing venture for me. Previously, I wrote another blog to chronicle my adventures in becoming a pastor. However, now that I have become a pastor, it was time to retire the old blog and begin anew. I will, from time to time, repost some of the older articles, particularly articles that were noteworthy in the past.

My goal is to write articles on student ministry and children's ministry. From time to time there will be articles and links directed to my church family, but may be of help to others as well. My prayer is that this new blog will be an encouragement to you and will cause you to grow closer to God as a result. At the end of the day, that is the most important thing.

Again, thank you for your visit. Please make it a regular occurrence.