Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Sermon - Joshua 1:1-9 - Courage for the Coming Year

This is the manuscript for the sermon I preached on December 20, 2012. There is no video of the message, but I wanted to share it with you anyway. As always, please leave your thoughts below.

In just a couple of days, 2012 will be over and 2013 will be starting. For many of us this is very exciting and for some of us, this is completely terrifying. We are standing on the edge of something new and we are not sure what is going to happen. Could this be a good year, one full of excitement and adventure? Or is this going to be a devastating year, one that drops us to our knees at every turn?

This is the exact place that we find Joshua in our Scripture passage today. Joshua is on the edge of something that will go very, very right or go very, very wrong. The leader of the children of Israel, Moses, has just died and Joshua has been picked to take his place. The children of Israel have never known another leader. Moses has been the guy for the past 40 years. Those are some big shoes to fill!

Illustration: A few weeks ago, I was questioned by a number of the men in our church in preparation for my ordination. One of the questions, and forgive me because I don’t remember the exact wording of the question, had to do with me stepping into the role of senior pastor were something to happen to Bro. Brian. The person who asked the question wanted to know if I would be able to step up to the responsibility. I’ll be honest: I was extremely overwhelmed by the question. Overwhelmed to the point that I was unable to answer the question for several minutes. Just the thought of stepping into the leadership role of something like this church was difficult to grasp.

Illustration: One of the pastors who is extremely influential to a number of pastors, me included, is John Piper. You may have never heard of him, but, trust me, he’s a big deal. He has written a number of books and has been at his church in Minnesota for a ridiculously long time. Recently, he determined it was time for him to step down from the preaching ministry at his church and they began to look for someone to take his place. He preached his final sermon at his church last night. That means next week, the new guy takes over. The thought of stepping into the pulpit that Dr. Piper filled for so many years has got to be incredibly overwhelming.

I am positive that Joshua was feeling overwhelmed. He had just traveled for forty years with Moses and he saw all of the incredible and amazing things that God had done through Moses. He saw God use Moses to part the Red Sea. He saw God use Moses to provide water out of a rock. He saw God use Moses to provide manna and quail. He saw all of these things. And then, suddenly, Moses is gone and Joshua is in charge. It is at this point that God shows up and gives Joshua a pep talk. God sits Joshua down and tells him that everything that had been promised to Moses was still in effect now that Joshua was the leader. God was still going to give Joshua the land that He had promised and that there will be no enemy that will be able to stand before Joshua and the children of Israel.

There were two things that Joshua needed to keep in mind as he began this new adventure as the leader of the children of Israel. First, any strength and courage that Joshua would have must be found in God alone. Second, Joshua needed to make sure that his life was grounded in the Word of God. Let’s take a look at each point as it applies to Joshua.

Point 1 – Joshua’s strength and courage had to be found in God alone.

In verses 1-6 of Joshua 1, there are at least six different personal pronouns where God is telling Joshua something. He promises Joshua He is giving the land to him. He promises that He will be with Joshua. And most importantly, He promises He will never leave Joshua or forsake him. Joshua had only to find his strength and courage in God. Why? Because it was God who was going to do all the work. There was nothing that was going to take place in the life of Joshua or in the lives of the children of Israel that God would not be involved in. Every step that Joshua took, every piece of land that he claimed, every battle that he won would be the direct result of God working for him. Joshua could have strength and courage for what was about to take place because he had God Almighty already working for him. Can there be any greater ally than God?

Point 2 – Joshua’s life needed to be grounded in the Word of God.

Verses 7-8 demonstrate the need for Joshua to be grounded in the Word. Obviously, at that time, Joshua didn’t have the full text of the Scripture like we have today. In fact, at this point, he most likely only had the Law that was handed down to him from Moses. But God tells him that being grounded in that Law is absolutely necessary for Joshua’s strength and courage. Joshua would need to know the Law inside and out, backward and forward. He would need to make it the tool he went to when times got difficult. God made it very clear that he was to know the Law and he was to obey that Law.

And what was the result of Joshua finding his strength and courage in God alone and being completely grounded in God’s Word? The answer is at the end of verse 8: “For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.”

Which brings us to this question: What does this have to do with me? It’s great for Joshua and we can read to find out what happens, but 2013 hasn’t been written for me yet. You can’t tell me that everything is going to be great and wonderful this coming year.

You are right and, if you look at our text, God isn’t telling Joshua that everything is going to be great and wonderful. There is no promise of easy days. However, the same things that were needed of Joshua are also needed of us. We must find our strength and courage in Christ alone.

I cannot promise you that 2013 is going to be an easy year. There is no guarantee that everyone who is in this room with us today will be with us this time next year. Not to be morbid, but we are going to say goodbye to some very dear friends this year. Some of us are going to get sick and some of us will have surgeries. This is because we live in a broken world that is screaming out for Jesus to come and fix it. However, as we find our strength and courage in Christ alone, we will be able to face whatever challenges come our way.

At some point in the future, my family and I will have to make a very scary decision, one that will have a huge impact on our lives for many years to come. To be honest, the thought of making that decision keeps me awake some nights. It has been a matter of a lot of prayer and a lot of discussion between Tina and me. I have cried over it, wanting to make sure that I am pursuing God in this decision. And as scary as it is, I know that God will be with me.

Proverbs 3:5-6 tells us Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.

Philippians 4:13 says I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

When our strength and courage relies completely on Christ, we will be completely at peace, knowing that God is working for us. Our lives must be grounded in God’s Word. The Bible is full of the benefits that come from being grounded in God’s Word.

  • There is purity from sin when we stay grounded in God’s Word.
    How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word. (Psalm 119:9)
  • There is direction for the way we are to go when we are grounded in God’s Word.
    Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. (Psalm 119:105)
  • There is joy to be found when we are grounded in God’s Word.
    Your testimonies are my heritage forever, for they are the joy of my heart. (Psalm 119:111)
  • There is an explanation for the joy we are experiencing when we are grounded in God’s Word.
    but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, (1 Peter 3:15)

I read the Bible…a lot. I know this is something that you would expect to hear a pastor say. I know, I’ve been told, even by some of you here, that I’m one of those weird guys who just loves to read the Bible. But this is what I’ve found…the more that I read the Bible, the more I want to read the Bible. And as I read the Bible, I am better able to understand the circumstances and situations that come my way. That doesn’t mean that it gets any easier. Doesn’t mean that it is all roses and cupcakes. What it does mean is that I can see God’s hand in my circumstances and I can understand that He has a plan.


As we begin this new year, many of you are thinking about resolutions that you are going to make…and break over the next couple of days. I can’t think of a better way to start a new year than by praying and asking God to help you find your courage and strength in Him alone and to help you become grounded in God’s Word.

If you are here today and you do not have a relationship with Jesus, the Jesus you need to know in order to find your strength and courage in God, why not make today the day that you begin that journey? You may be feeling a tug, urging you that now is the time. If that is you, I would love to have the opportunity to speak with you about the Jesus who left Heaven, was born on Earth, died on the cross for your sins and mine, and who defeated death by rising again. That Jesus wants the opportunity to forgive your sins and present you as holy before God. If you want to talk more, I’ll be down front.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Book Giveaway - Stop Asking Jesus Into Your Heart

Over on his blog, my friend Josh Evans is giving away a copy of J.D. Greear's new book Stop Asking Jesus Into Your Heart. You can visit his blog in order to get the details of how you can enter to win the book. You have until Thursday, February 7, to enter, so hop to it!

How I Use an iPad for Preaching or Teaching

A lot of youth pastors are fond of technology, particularly iPads or Kindle Fires. We love to find new ways to utilize the apps and functions in order to help us share God's Word.

While there are a number of different ways to use an iPad for preaching, this is the method I use when I am preparing my sermon or youth group lesson.

  1. Type your sermon transcript or notes in a word processing program. I personally use Microsoft Word for this step. I type out word-for-word what I am going to say. I then use the various tools to highlight and accent different areas of my transcript to help me know what sections are what.
  2. Make a PDF of your document. I have a plug-in on my laptop called CutePDF. This allows you to "print" your document and save it as a PDF, color and all. Just make sure to save your original document in case you need to make changes to it later.
  3. Upload your PDF to Evernote. Saving your PDF to Evernote is vital. It keeps you from the losing the file. I would also recommend uploading the Word document as well. After uploading the documents, be sure to sync your device to Evernote. This will ensure that your uploaded document can be accessed on your iPad. You should also open the PDF so that you are able to access it, even without WiFi.
  4. Open the PDF in the Kindle app. This final step is optional, but it is the one I prefer. I read a lot on both my Kindle Fire and the Kindle app on iPad. I like the side-to-side scrolling from page to page instead of the top to bottom way that Evernote does it. This works best for me.

I realize this may be somewhat cumbersome, but I do it so often that the steps have become second nature to me. I hope that some of this technique can help you as well.

What tools or apps do you utilize when teaching or preaching from an iPad or other tablet?

Monday, February 4, 2013

Please Stop Adding to the Gospel

When I was growing up, I heard a lot about how to be a good Christian. Good Christians dressed a certain way. Good Christians only listened to certain kinds of music (none of which were very good). Good Christians did not go to the movies. The only problem is that I wanted to go to the movies. I wanted to listen to Green Day and dc Talk. So I had a lot of guilt.

Because of this, I did some pretty crazy things. Perhaps the worst was throwing away my music. I had a fairly large collection of cassettes and CDs. After a particularly convicting camp or youth conference, I would get a big black trash bag and fill it with all of my "ungodly" music...only to rebuy it all a couple of weeks later. I cant tell you how many copies of Dookie or Superunknown I have purchased in my life. All because some well-meaning preachers were adding things to what it meant to be a Christian.

The apostle Paul face the same sort of thing in Galatia. There were individuals who were trying to convince the church members they needed to be circumcised in order to be a "real" Christian. They were adding works to salvation.

In Galatians 5:1, Paul encourages the church to be free and not submit to the "slavery" this would bring. The church would constantly be trying to live up to an impossible standard, just as I was by trying to give up movies and music.

As youth pastors, we need to be careful of how we present the Christian life. We need to show our students that certain things are good for us, but not because they will save us. We need to demonstrate that prayer is awesome and vital, but not something to beat ourselves up over. Daily Bible reading is necessary and important, but we should not feel guilty if we miss a day now and then.

Christ saved us for freedom. We need to make sure we are conveying that message. Guilt is should not be a tool in our youth ministry toolboxes.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Update on Goals for 2013 - No Memorizing Has Been Done

Earlier this year, I wrote out a number of goals. These included reading at least 25 books this year, reading as much Scripture as possible, and memorizing the book of Ephesians. These seemed liked fairly attainable goals.

It turns out I was wrong about one of them.

For the life of me, I have not been able to get the memorization going. I'm not sure if the passages are too long, if the wording is too complicated, or my heart just isn't into it. Whatever the reason, I have memorized none of it. I tried, but could not seem to focus. I'm not entirely giving up on it, but, for now, this goal is on hold.

Book Review - Live Second: 365 Ways to Make Jesus First

It is an interesting event when you are trying to review a daily devotional. Obviously devotionals are meant to be read over the course of a year. To review one requires that the reader read the book in large sections.

This was the case when I read Live Second: 365 Ways to Make Jesus First. This book is based on the popular video series called "I Am Second." These videos include a number of famous individuals who have made themselves second. Videos include Josh Hamilton, Lecrae, Tony Dungy, and Brian "Head" Welch.

The book is broken into a number of different topics, each one beginning with a link to a video. The daily reading contains a Scripture passage, a short reading commentary, a prayer for the day, and a few reflection questions. The daily passage also has its own Twitter hashtag for the reader to share his thoughts from the particular day.

This book is an excellent gift idea, particularly for someone who is a new Christian or someone who might be looking into Christianity. The videos are of well-known individuals, giving the book some credibility. The reading is short and easy to understand. The readings may be a bit shallow for the more mature Christian, but, as I said, it would be a great gift for the new believer.

Overall, Live Second: 365 Ways to Make Jesus First is a good read and worth sharing with others. Please note: I was provided with a free copy of the book to read and review. It was sent to me by Booksneeze.com. I was not required to give a positive review.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Two Books Every Youth Pastor MUST Buy and Read

My title may be a bit dramatic, but I really feel that these two books are absolute must-owns for any youth pastor. I'm not saying that because I have friendships with both authors. I'm saying that because they are truly great books and will change the way you do some parts of your ministry.

The first book is Flimsy Ministry by Brian Siedel. This book was written to challenge the way we look at the calling of youth pastor. Too often the youth pastor is seen as the black sheep of the church staff. Brian seeks to turn that idea on its head. I promise it will shake up the way you look at being a youth pastor. The book is available in both paperback and Kindle. I bought the Kindle version and read it in about two days. I promise you won't be disappointed. Here is a link to the review I wrote on the book shortly after I finished reading it.

The second book you must buy and read is Ministering to Gay Teenagers by Shawn Harrison. With homosexuality becoming more and more accepted in our world, it is not a matter of if a student will tell you he's gay, it is when. Shawn, writing from his own personal experience, has written an incredible book on how to deal with the situation. He does so with grace and offers very practical tips on how to guide the student, the parents, and the church through what can be a very difficult and tumultuous time. Shawn was kind enough to send me a copy of the book and I read it in one day. At about 50 pages, it is well worth the investment of time and money. This book is available on your Kindle and Kindle app for iPad and iPhone. Here is a link to my review.

Please note: I am not pumping these books because I want my friends to make money (I do, but that's not why I'm doing this). I am asking you to purchase and read these books because I truly believe in the message behind these books. I know there are a lot of hurting youth pastors in the world. Trust me, I'm one of them. We are hurting because of the paradigm that we are playing into. I also know there are a lot of hurting students and parents in the world dealing with the issue of homosexuality. If we are to be God's servants to young people, we need to be adequately equipped and prepared. These two books are excellent tools to help do that.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Book Review - Who Do You Think You Are by Mark Driscoll

In Mark Driscoll’s newest book, Who Do You Think You Are?, the reader is provided with 15 different identities that they are able to espouse if he is a believer in Christ. These identities are taken from passages of Scripture found in the book of Ephesians and Driscoll then proceeds to tell how each passage is applicable to the individual who has placed his faith in Jesus.

With so many Christians living defeated lives and believing the lies of Satan about their actions and their pasts, this is a much needed book. As stated, Driscoll takes a passage from Ephesians and shows how it identifies the reader. These include being a saint, being blessed, being appreciated, being saved, being reconciled, being heard, and being victorious, to name a few of them.

The text is very easy to read and Driscoll lays each identity out with a number of outlines to help the reader grasp the point he is trying to make. For example, in the chapter entitled “I Am Loved,” Driscoll defines five ways that Jesus loved the church. In the chapter “I Am Forgiven,” he gives the reader seven things that forgiveness is and seven things that forgiveness is not. These helpful lists can be found in numerous places throughout the text.

I have only two complaints about the book. First, Driscoll and I differ when it comes to our belief on the gifts of the Spirit. He believes that gifts such as healing and speaking in tongues still exist and are to be used today. I do not. He has had some unflattering words to say about cessationists in the past, but that was not reason enough for me not to read the book. Second, all of the chapters open with an illustration to help set the context for what is to come. Many of these illustrations deal with individuals who have had sinful or abusive pasts and these are often described in a rather graphic nature. Words like incest, prostitute, and rape are used throughout. While this may not be an issue for some, it can be a turn-off for others. I know from listening to him preach in the past that this is a huge issue from many in his congregation, but, when writing for a larger audience, it is wise to turn down the tone a bit.

Overall, Who Do You Think You Are? is an excellent resource. It is easy enough to understand for a new believer, but I can also see many sermons and series being born after reading this text. This is the type of book that a pastor will want to order numerous copies of to give away at counseling sessions and to new believers. Well done, Pastor Mark. Another excellent book.

Please note: I received a free copy of Who Do You Think You Are? from BookSneeze.com in exchange for an honest review. I was not required to write a positive review, but I did because I liked the book.

Recommended Reading

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The Four Types of Books a Youth Pastor Should Be Reading

We've all heard people use some sort of pithy quote about reading. "Readers are leaders and leaders are readers." I don't know how truth something like that is, but I do know that reading is important. Aside from the Bible, it is vital that a youth pastor be constantly reading in order to grow intellectually.

Here are the four types of books that I generally read to help me grow as a pastor and leader.

  • Leadership Books - I will be honest, this is a new type of book for me. I never read much in the way of leadership before. However, as a youth pastor, you are a leader, a leader of students, parents, volunteers, and members of the church. Your effectiveness in ministry relies on your ability to lead. I am currently reading Developing the Leader Within You by John Maxwell. Other books you might want to check out are The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People and How To Win Friends and Influence People.
  • Youth Ministry Books - I want to constantly be growing as a youth pastor. To do this, I read a lot of youth ministry-related texts. Some I've read multiple times. I honestly can't tell you the number of times I've read Purpose-Driven Youth Ministry. I also highly recommend The Seven Checkpoints by Andy Stanley, Outbreak by Greg Stier, and Raising the Bar by Alvin Reid.
  • General Christian Nonfiction - A lot of Christian leaders write books. Many of them are really good and are worth your time to check out. I read a lot of books in this category, mainly to learn and sometimes to get sermon ideas. Some of the books I've read in this category include The Explicit Gospel by Matt Chandler, Gospel by J.D. Greear, and Erasing Hell by Francis Chan. This is the category where I do most of my reading because I learn the most in this area.
  • General Nonfiction - I don't read a lot out of this category because I tend to bounce from book to book way to easily. However, it is important to learn as much as you can to be an effective leader. Nonfiction is a great way to do that. Some of the most interesting books are nonfiction. Some of my favorites include Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell, Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach, and Freakonomics by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner.

Of course, the above list is not comprehensive. There are many other types of books that you should be reading. Commentaries and books to help you understand the Scripture are necessary. I also highly recommend that you take the time to read some fiction, just to give your brain time to relax. I am a huge fan of Michael Connelly, John Grisham, and Vince Flynn.

Of course, being a reader won't make you an effective youth pastor or leader. That being said, it certainly can't hurt. Grab a book and get started.

All of the books referenced have been linked to Amazon.com to make it easier for you to find out more about them. If you have a Kindle or the Kindle app on your iPad, most of these books are available in that format as well.

For other posts on this topic, please visit my friends Josh Evans (here and here) and Austin McCann (here). They both have written on this topic recently.

What books do you enjoy reading? How are these books helping you become a more effective youth pastor or leader?

Monday, January 28, 2013

Three Lessons I Learned from Losing My Position

I think one of the sad realities of being a youth pastor is that we are most likely not going to have a lot of job security. I realize that this is not the case in every situation, but a number of us will be fired from a church at some point in their career.

Here are a few lessons I learned from losing my job at a church.

  • Don't Get Bitter. When you lose your job, it is very likely that you will have some anger. This is perfectly natural. Be angry, but do not sin. Be careful not to say anything ugly or hateful and please do not post anything on the internet. You cannot take those things back. Whatever anger you have, you need to release it. There were three people that I blame for me losing my job. I don't know what role they played in it, but I blamed them. Here's the thing, though: my anger did not affect them. It hurt me. It hurt my family and my friends, but the three that I was angry at were not affected. They probably didn't even know I was angry at them. I had to let the anger go and not get bitter. Bitterness does nothing.
  • Move On. After you are no longer at a church, you cannot have any say in what happens at the church. All of the programs and plans you had made may or may not continue. There is nothing you can do about it and worrying about it isn't going to help. My wife and I found out that some of the activities we were responsible for at the church fell apart the first weekend we were not there. It made my wife upset, but we were not responsible for them any longer. Anything that happened for that point on was not on us and we needed to let it go.
  • Be Prepared For a Range of Emotions. I went through an entire range of emotions. At first, I couldn't believe that it had happened. Then I got very angry, both at the pastor and the three individuals that I held responsible. I got depressed and upset, not knowing what I was going to do next. I even tried to convince myself that there was a chance that things could change. Only recently have I come to accept the fact that that particular chapter of my life is over. If you aren't prepared for the roller coaster you are about to experience, it can really shake your faith.

Losing your job or getting fired from a church really sucks. It is painful and it might feel like the world is ending. Here's what you have to hold on to: if God called you to ministry, there will be other opportunities. Keep trusting Him and He will direct your paths.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Looking For Opportunities to Preach

The other day I was reading through Quitter by Jon Acuff. In the book, he was talking about how he wanted to speak at Catalyst on the main stage. For those of you who don't know, Catalyst is a very large leadership conference that takes place in Atlanta, usually in the fall. He had been invited to do a workshop (or lab), but he and his friends were really hoping that he would be asked to speak on the main stage.

As I was reading this, it made me think of another book that I had read called Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell. In this book, Gladwell talks about how the Beatles had to play night after night after night in dive bars and other unsavory locations before they ever became the phenomenon that they eventually were.

I say all this because I'm in the same place. I posted on my Facebook the other night about how I wished the college I graduated from would extend an invitation to me to come preach. I know that it will never happen for a number of reasons. We do not share the same ministry philosophies. I am not currently pastoring anywhere. I have different views on the Bible translation issue. Anyway, let's just say that it will not happen. And I am okay with that (sort of).

My desire, though, is to have the opportunity to preach elsewhere. To have the opportunity to share God's Word with a congregation. I want to continue to improve and sharpen the talents that God has given me. I get to speak every day to my students at school, but there is nothing like sharing God's Word. It is an awesome responsibility to stand up as the messenger of God. If you visit my Sermons page, you can see that I have some opportunity in the past. Those times were a blast.

I said all that to say that I am looking for opportunities to preach. They don't have to be huge arenas or megachurches. Just looking and praying for opportunities. It's hard to be out of the game, so to speak.

Recommended Reading

Friday, January 25, 2013

Defining the Relationship

One of the things that we hear a lot about, particularly in church work, is to "build relationships." The problem arises in the fact that we never actually define what this means. And that is where things can off the rails. So what exactly is meant by "build relationships"?

Some people view building relationships as hanging out and shooting the breeze. They think that hanging out in the youth room is the way to do it. The desire is to become friends with the kids in the youth group and, in this way, earn the right to speak into their lives.

For me, building relationships is about caring for their spiritual lives. Yes, I want to spend time with the students, but I want that time to be intentional. I define "building relationships" as caring enough about the student to make sure they do not stay where they are spiritually.

If we really look at it, students in the youth group have enough friends. They have friends at home, they have friends at school, they have friends in the youth group. They do not need a 33-year old, married father of four trying to be their friend. That is just weird. What they do need, though, is someone who cares enough about them to show them what it is like to live the life of a 33-year old, married father of four. They need to see me love my wife and kids. They need to see how I react to situations and what my response will be. Yes, they need to goof off with me at times, but they need that to see that I am human. They need to see that the faith I purport to have is real and alive and strong enough to weather any situation.

Building relationships is key, but it is even more key to define what that looks like. Students don't need us to be their friends; they need us to love them enough to share Christ with them.

How would you define "building relationships"? Do you agree or disagree with how I defined it?

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Chapter Notes - Who Do You Think You Are: Chapter 9

The ninth chapter of Who Do You Think You Are by Mark Driscoll is called "I am Heard." This chapter, using Ephesians 3:14-21 as its basis, deals with prayer.

Driscoll uses the acronym PRAYER to list out and detail six principles about prayer. While there is too much in the chapter to describe here, allow me to share the acronym with you.

  • Prayer is Personal.
  • Prayer is Relational.
  • Prayer is Asking.
  • Prayer is Yearning.
  • Prayer is Expecting.
  • Prayer is Revealing.

Prayer has become a huge part of my life as of late. I prayed a good deal when I was a youth pastor, especially for my youth group. I pray a lot now that I am no longer a youth pastor, while I am seeking the right church to minister in. Prayer is vital to the Christian's walk and it is incredibly comforting that, for those of us in Christ, we have a God who hears us.

To read more, grab a copy of Who Do You Think You Are from Amazon.com.

Recommended Reading

Buy a Copy of Who Do You Think You Are by Mark Driscoll and Get Some Awesome Stuff!

Right now, I am working my way through Who Do You Think You Are by Mark Driscoll. It is a great book that talks about our identities in Christ, using the text of Ephesians to make his points.

In order to get as many people to read the book as possible, the publisher is giving away some awesome stuff to anyone who purchases the book during the next week (January 21-27). Here is a list of all the great stuff you get:

All of this can be yours, just for purchasing the book! You should read the book anyway and now you can get some other stuff as well.

Here's what you need to do:

  1. Purchase your book or books from any retailer that sells it. Click on this link to get it from Amazon.com.
  2. Scan your receipt and e-mail it to driscollpromotion@gmail.com.
  3. Thomas Nelson will verify that your purchase is eligible and send you an email with instructions on how to download your freebies.

There are also some great freebies if you purchase five or more copies. So if you are thinking about doing this with a small group, it might be worth it. Visit The Resurgence for more information.


Recommended Resources

Monday, January 21, 2013

Book Review - Flimsy Ministry by Brian Seidel

If someone was to ask you to describe a youth pastor, how would you do it? Would you describe him as the goofy guy who wears his hat backward and whose office is a disaster? Would you describe him as the staff member who is most likely to destroy the church van?

This is often the way that most youth pastors are described and thought of. In Flimsy Ministry, Brian Seidel describes the common view of the youth pastor as the "paradigm" and he seeks to overcome that view. Describing the common view of youth ministry as a house of cards, Brian describes each card in the house and offers a plan to help pull that card from the house.

Perhaps the strongest part of the book is the inclusion of many personal stories, both his own and those of others. Perhaps the most encouraging, and devastating, one was that of a youth pastor who was nearly destroyed by his job and was able to live to tell about it.

Seidel looks at many of the issues with youth ministry, examines the common thoughts about that particular issue, then offers ways to overcome that particular issue. The one that resonated the most with me was the idea of using youth ministry as a stepping stone to another ministry. I have been accused of this in the past and it was hurtful. I appreciated the mindset that he encourages of being a youth pastor until God takes me somewhere else. More youth pastors should have this thought.

My only complaint about the book was the formatting. I do not believe this to be the fault of Seidel, but it was not properly formatted in the Kindle format. This takes nothing away from the content, but does make it a bit difficult to read at times.

Flimsy Ministry is a much needed book. I would recommend that youth pastors read it and share it with their senior pastors. There is much to be discussed in the book.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Stuff Youth Pastors Like: Hoping For a dc Talk Reunion

The album that changed my life was Jesus Freak by dc Talk. It absolutely blew my mind. Every song was incredible and I wore out my copy. The tour to support the album was incredible as well. I've been to a bunch of concerts and, outside of Dave Matthews Band in Charlottesville, it is still the best show I've been to.

A few years later, the guys from dc Talk released solo albums and they were really good. It was my hope that this was just a temporary bump, but then the hiatus started and continued indefinitely. Toby Mac released a bunch of albums and gets unlimited airplay on Christian radio. Michael Tait released two albums and then became a part of the Newsboys. Kevin Max released a number of independent records, made a movie where he did drugs and cheated on his wife before getting saved, and recently joined Audio Adrenaline.

With all of this moving and shaking in the music industry, youth pastors keep holding out hope that dc Talk will get back together. If they were to release a new album, it would certainly be the top-selling album...of all time.

So, here's my plan: stop buying Toby Mac's music. Honestly, it isn't that good anyway (just kidding). Don't buy the Newsboys (they are good, but seriously, can Michael Tait ever really pull of "Breakfast" or "Shine"?). And, whatever you do, no matter how good the new Audio Adrenaline single is, don't buy their new album. Boycott all non-dc Talk music. This will cause record sales to slide and they will be forced to get the group back together.

This could seriously work.

Recommended Music

Friday, January 18, 2013

Book Review - Ministering to Gay Teenagers by Shawn Harrison

I have to be honest: I don't know many gay people. In fact, I only have one gay friend. During my stint as a youth pastor/volunteer, I have never had any gay students in my ministry. Maybe there were and I didn't know it, but to my knowledge, I have never crossed paths with a gay student.

It was for that very reason that I was pleased when Shawn Harrison sent me a copy of his book, Ministering to Gay Teenagers to read. I wanted to be adequately prepared for the day that the Lord brings a student experiencing same-sex attraction into my ministry.

Shawn writes the book from his own experience with same-sex attraction. He shares his story of being bullied and harassed in high school and how Christians were some of the worst. He also shares how a young lady came into his life and accepted him as a person. Not as a project or a sinner, but as a person. She took him to church and it was through her witness and friendship that he came to know Christ.

Ministering to Gay Teenagers offers many tips to both the youth pastor/volunteer and to the parents. There are many helpful suggestions and ideas on how to handle what can be a devastating revelation. Throughout the book, Shawn never seeks to prove a point or states whether homosexuality should be embraced as a viable, alternative lifestyle. He strives to help the reader understand that change is only possible through the work of the Holy Spirit and that youth pastors and parents should not for change or guilt, but pray for the Holy Spirit to move and work.

The book is very short, only about 50 pages. I read it in less than an hour. While it is not exhaustive, Ministering to Gay Teenagers is a good resource and should find a place on every caring pastor's bookshelf or Kindle.

Thank you, Shawn, for sharing this book with me. I pray that it will be a tool to help bring others, gay or straight, into the loving embrace of Jesus Christ.

If you would like to know more about Shawn's ministry, please visit his blog at Six:11 Ministries.

Recommended Resources

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Chapter Notes: Who Do You Think You Are? Chapter 1

In his new book, Who Do You Think You Are?, Pastor Mark Driscoll uses the book of Ephesians to identify the many different identities that we have as believers in Christ. Through fifteen different chapters, Pastor Mark shares how we should identify ourselves if we are found in Christ.

In the first chapter, called "I Am ___________?" we are shown that the major problem in the world is the fact that we have no sense of who we truly are. We have lost sight of the fact that we image bearers of God. Instead, the majority of us identify ourselves with other things. Using the acrostic IDOLS, Pastor Mark writes that we find our identity in other things, things outside of Jesus Christ. These things include:

  • Items
  • Duties
  • Others
  • Longings
  • Sufferings

While I personally do not struggle with finding my identity in items, I do struggle with finding my identity in my duties. I struggle with not knowing who I am if I am not a youth pastor or involved with a church. That is where I often my worth. The reality is that my worth is not in youth ministry or a position at a church. My worth comes from Jesus Christ and I will be worthy even if I am never on staff at a church again.

I will continue to share my thoughts and key ideas as I work my way through the book. If you have not picked up a copy for yourself, I would highly suggest that you do so. I would also love for you to share your thoughts with me on each chapter as well.

Recommended Reading

Three Reflections on Losing My Ministry

I've written a lot about losing my position as youth pastor. Here are a few of the lessons that I have learned after going through this situation.
  • It is more painful than you can imagine. Losing a youth ministry position is not like losing a regular job. If you are doing it right, you will pour your heart, soul, and tears into youth ministry. You will have spent hours upon hours praying for your students and their families, begging God to do mighty things in their lives. When that is taken away from you, it is like a big part of you is taken away. There is no other way to describe it than to say it sucks.
  • You will learn who your true friends are. While I am sure that many people are shying away because they are not certain of what to say, going through a situation like this will show you who your true friends are. I have received a number of text messages, emails, and Facebook messages from people letting me know that they love me and support me. Sadly, a number of folks who said they loved and supported me have been nowhere to be found. Again, I want to give them the benefit of the doubt, but it still hurts.
  • You have to believe that God meant this for good. I don't believe in coincidences. One of my favorite verses is Acts 17:26. That verse talks about God defining our days, even down to the places we will live. Nothing happens by chance. It is somewhat humorous that the last lesson I did in Children's Church was on Joseph and how all of the bad things that he went through, God meant it for good. I am trusting that the same thing is happening here. I have had conversations with individuals that never would have taken place if I had not lost my position. There are plans being prayed over that never would have been dreamed up if this had not happened. God means everything for good.

There is much more that I could write about, but I am really ready to put this incident behind me. I know that I will never completely have it behind me and that the scars from this will last for some time. That being said, I believe that God is completely in control and I am excited to see what is coming next.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Book Review: Love Does by Bob Goff

I recently finished reading Love Does by Bob Goff. My wife and I first heard of Bob Goff while listening to a Catalyst podcast on the drive home from graduation at Liberty University. He and his friend, Donald Miller, were talking about writing the book and the adventure that went into it.

Love Does is not so much a story as it is a collection of stories. Bob has had quite the life and he recounts many of his adventures in the book. My favorite stories include how he got into law school, the young man who wanted to use his house and boat to propose to his girlfriend, and the giant Valentine he made for the girl he was pursuing.

The part of the book that was a bit off for me was Bob's attempt to tie all of his adventures to some sort of Jesus moment. This was done as a means of application, but, at least in my opinion, not all of them fit. I did think it was great that Bob was attempting to see God's hand in all that he did.

If you are a fan of Donald Miller's writing style, you will see much of that in Bob's book. I recommend that you get a copy of it. It is not overly spiritual and will probably not change how you look at God, but the stories are pretty awesome. They might just cause you to do something incredible.

Here is a video of Kid President interviewing Bob Goff. It's pretty awesome!

Recommended Reading

What the Future Holds for Me

As you may have read the other day, I am no longer the youth pastor at Charles Town Baptist Church. One of the comments I have received from a lot of people is not to allow this to discourage me. I actually have no plans to let that happen. Here are a few things that I foresee happening.

  1. I am praying. I don't understand why this happened. I want to understand. I want to know why God took me away from the church and kids I love. I am praying that God will make it abundantly clear what His will is.
  2. I am looking for a new church to serve in. I truly believe that God has called me to ministry. I am not happy being on the sidelines, not having the opportunity to teach or preach. It was rather strange to be sitting in the congregation of a new church on Sunday. But that doesn't mean I won't ever be involved with ministry again. I am just waiting for God to provide the opportunity. I am currently sending resumes and looking for the right ministry.
  3. I am considering other options. I don't really know what options I am considering. Maybe I will start a small group Bible study. Maybe I will start a church. Maybe I will get involved with a church on a volunteer basis. There are a lot of options and I am trying to keep my heart open to God's leading. I would ask that you would pray for that as well.

As I said, these are things that I am considering for the future. I don't know what God's will is, but I want to make certain that I am willing to pursue it wholeheartedly.

How can you get involved with the future God has for me and the area of Charles Town? Leave a comment and let me know how you want to help!

Sunday, January 13, 2013

You Can Help Me Become Debt-Free

My wife and I have a dream of becoming debt-free. We are slowly, but surely, moving in that direction. We have paid of both car loans and the new sidewalk we added to our house and we are currently working toward paying off our credit card debt.

I would like you to help.

Don't worry, I'm not asking you for money (but if you want to give me some, I'll take it). Here's how you can help: shop at Amazon.com after you visit my blog (which you are doing right now). Every item you purchase from Amazon.com after visiting my blog and clicking on the ad, Amazon will contribute a portion of your purchase to our account. It won't cost you anything extra.

Just think, you can get new items and help me pay off my credit card debt. Our desire to get out of debt revolves around our belief that it will make us better servants of God. We will be able to minister better when we don't have the specter of debt floating over our heads. And now that we no longer have the additional income from me being a youth pastor, every little bit helps.

Thanks in advance. I really do appreciate your help as I move toward being debt-free. While I'm on the subject, if you are interested in how to become debt-free, I would recommend getting The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey. It has some really great and practical ways to help get on the path to financial freedom.

Recommended Resource

Friday, January 11, 2013

Can I Still Be a Pastor Without a Church?

It has been a tumultuous couple of days. On Monday, I was asked to resign from my position as Associate Pastor for Children and Youth at Charles Town Baptist Church. While this was not entirely a surprise, it came out of nowhere and hurt like the dickens.

I have no desire to go into all of the gory details of what led to this point, nor do I wish to point fingers or place blame on anyone. What happened happened and what was said was said. I am sure that everyone involved in the situation would like to do things differently and pray for a better outcome.

That brings me to my question: Can I still be a pastor without a church? I am currently a flockless leader. Looks kind of bad, doesn't it? My wife and I are regrouping and praying about what the future holds for us. We are beginning to look at some possibilities, but mostly we are trusting God to take us in the right direction.

I am saddened and I am hurt by what took place. As I said, I am certain that everyone who had a part in my resignation would like to do things differently. Unfortunately, we cannot change the past; we can only work toward the future. I am taking solace in the fact that God is sovereign and this "bump in the road" was not a surprise to Him.

I would ask that you pray for my wife and children. The boys are taking it a bit hard because they are not going to see their Sunday School teachers or friends anymore. My wife is hurting, not understanding how something like this could be allowed to happen. However, we are resolute and refuse to allow a snag of this nature to prevent us from serving God.

Thanks everyone!

Monday, January 7, 2013

Goals for 2013 - Read as Much Scripture as Possible

Continuing my discussion of my 2013 goals, I decided that I will read as much Scripture as possible. Last year I set a goal of reading over 3,000 chapters of Scripture. This year, I am not setting a goal.

I love to read the Bible. I love digging into God's Word and discovering how the story of God's redemptive plan plays out. The more of the Bible I read, the more I see how the pieces fit together.

The reading "plan" that I have used in the past and will be using this year is the Grant Horner Reading Plan. This reading plan is intense (10 chapters a day in 10 different locations), but it is an incredible experience. The thing I like the best is that there is no schedule to the plan. You can read at your pace without worrying about falling behind or getting into a hole.

If you decide to do this reading plan, be warned that you will develop a strong understanding of the Bible. You will read a number of different passages, many of them multiple times. You will begin to see how all of the writing flows together. And, if you tire of reading some passages multiple times, there are a number of sites online that offer modifications to the program.

What are you using to read Scripture this year?

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Goals for 2013 - Reading a Minimum of 25 Books

In continuing to discuss my goals of 2013, I have decided to read a minimum of 25 books, both fiction and non-fiction.

In previous years, I have attempted to read 50 books or more. Sometimes I make it, sometimes I don't. The first year that I read 50 books, I was reading for volume, not understanding. I can barely remember any of the books I read that year. I read a lot, but retained little.

This year, my goal for reading is lower. Not because of a busier schedule or anything. I simply want to be able to understand and apply what I am reading. The main focus of my reading is ministry, but I do enjoy other books as well. I particularly enjoy crime novels, especially those by Robert Crais and Michael Connelly.

As I read, I will be posting several reviews. I hope that you will be able to find something that will be of benefit to you this year.

What books are you reading this year?

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Stuff Youth Pastors Like - Lecrae

There is a crazy trend among youth pastors. It involves their love for rap music, particularly rap music created by the new scene of Christian rappers. These rappers include Propaganda, Tedashii, Trip Lee, and the king of them all, Lecrae.

Lecrae has blown up all over the place. His music has been endorsed by Jeremy Lin and Tim Tebow. His album, Gravity, was named one of the top hip hop albums of 2012. It's pretty sweet, by the way.

Lecrae has appeared at conferences around the country. He has done songs with a number of Christian artists, including the David Crowder Band. Lecrae might be the first rapper that I have ever seen to be endorsed by John Piper.

Despite all of his success, Lecrae is one of the most humble guys I have ever seen. He is not about promoting himself or selling his own records. Every time I have seen him perform, Lecrae's goal is to point others to Jesus. He realizes that he is a crooked stick, a tool in the hands of the Maker. Wow!

As a youth pastor, you are legally obligated to own at least one Lecrae album. I own four of them, making me cooler than anyone who doesn't have any. Start with Gravity. It will blow your mind. Rebel is one of my favorites as well.

Here is a video of Lecrae's performance at Passion 2013.

So, how many Lecrae songs do you know?

Goals for 2013 - Memorizing the Books of Ephesians and Philippians

The other day I wrote a post about my goals for 2013. I didn't make a lot of goals, but I did come up with some things that I think would be good for me as a pastor and an individual.

One of those goals was to memorize the books of Ephesians and Philippians. I broke the book of Ephesians down into easy to manage chunks, typically about 6-8 verses each. Each day I am to read and study the verses for that particular week, usually about 10 times a day. The goal is to have the verses committed to memory by the end of the week.

Following this pattern, it should take me about 26 weeks or so to memorize the book. After that, I will review the book once a day for about 100 days. Doing this is supposed to firmly imprint the text in my memory.

I realize that this is a huge task, but I am not going to stress about getting it accomplished. The goal is not to be able to recite a book of the Bible perfectly. The goal is to be completely bathed in God's Word and to flush my mind with the words written by Paul.

Are you attempting to memorize any Scripture this year?

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Goals for 2013

Most of these will be broken in just a few days, but since everyone will be looking for things like this, here are some goals that I have for 2013. I will go into a little more detail about each one later.
  • Memorize the books of Ephesians and Philippians.
  • Continue to write Stuff Youth Pastors Like.
  • Read a minimum of 25 books, fiction and non-fiction.
  • Develop a deeper prayer life.
  • Read as much Scripture as possible without having a set goal.

What goals do you have for this next year?