Monday, May 14, 2012

Lausanne Congress on Global Evangelization Report on Youth Around the World

A very interesting video on the evangelistic movement of youth around the world. If you care about youth and them coming to know Jesus you will appreciate this.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

This Momentary Marriage

John Piper wrote a book that is awesome called "This Momentary Marriage" Here is the link

This is an amazing story of a couple who love Jesus an accident happened and went on to still get married.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Facebook Apologetics

Have you ever had a debate with someone on Facebook or anywhere over the internet?  I had one yesterday.  It drives home the importance of having a great handle on what we believe and why and why we need to be well read as Christians so that we can defend and give great evidences and proofs for our faith.  I will post the entire transcript here and you tell me if I was in line and how I handled myself.  Did I do as 1 Peter 3:15 says to "Sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and respect."? I hope and pray so.  Funny enough I started praying only half way through the exchange and the tone and response got better and better (maybe I should pray always instead of only sometimes).  Toward the end you might be able to tell that they might even have been somewhat responsive.  At first I was defending a parent of one of my students who had posted that she was really led to pray for her kids and the teachers and the administrators, etc. I was at first responding to the parent of some kids in my youth ministry and then I started to respond to this person who I call Facebook User.  Here is the transcript.  What do you think?...

Me: Parent's Name, You were right the Opposition is definitely there (She had asked me to have a look at her post about praying for her kids). Maybe it will not only drive us to our knees for our kids, but make us take a more deliberate action to rescue our kids from a Godless public school system. Proverbs 1:7 says The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; Fools despise wisdom and instruction. (Proverbs 1:7 NASB). Education cannot happen without Christ at the center. Blessings on your Godly walk on behalf of your kids!
Facebook User: Richard, you may want to look up the difference between "education" and "indoctrination". The latter requires the absence of the former - which is why ideological extremists of all kinds work so hard to try to keep their children and followers from non-approved learning. In other words, you are threatened by the "godless public school system" because you are afraid that if your kids learn anything beyond what you teach them, they won't believe you.
Me: How did I guess you might not like my advice to Parent. And it's not indoctrination when it is truth. And I'm not running away from learning I would be running after true wisdom and understanding because Christ is the fountain head of all knowledge (Colossians 1:15-20). And those two things aren't mutually exclusive. I am also not threatened by anything because I have a great Savior. It would be my life's greatest joy to see my children make a decision to follow Christ with their lives. I don't expect you to understand until you have given your life to Jesus. And you can! "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. (John 3:16, 17 NASB). I would pray that you might trust Jesus as I have. He saved me from my sins. Blessings!
Facebook User: Richard, what is the truth? How do you know it's the truth? How can others know it's the truth? Ultimately, Richard, religion is about faith. It only works if you don't ask too many questions, if you are OK with things not making sense, being contradictory. I have no problem with that, religion may be the opium of the masses but it's probably less harmful than opium.
Me: Well the Scriptures (The Bible), claim inherently, and extrinsically that they are true. We can know it is truth by the many infallible proofs within and without. It seems like no matter how many proofs I might give you though, you would not want to accept them? You are right religion is about faith. So are many things in this life for instance you take it on faith I guess that there are scientific laws in this world that you cannot see. You see the effects of for instance the laws of thermodynamics because really smart scientists held their theories to the test and they observed them over and over again. I take those things on faith even though I cannot see them. I do not agree with you though that religion (or for me faith in Christ) only works if I don't ask questions. I have asked over 30 years of questions and have found many helpful answers that strengthen my faith. What for instance do you consider contradictory? I might try to help offer answers. Blessings!
Facebook User: Richard, the argument that "it's true because it says is true", really only works on those who think it's true to begin with :-) And what part is true? How is it true? What does "truth" mean? I don't know what the answers to these questions are for you, I don't know how you, yourself, see the Bible, so I don't know what questions to pose to you - but here is one that applies to most Christians. How do you know that the books chosen to be in the Bible were the right ones to chose?
Me: Facebook User, I did not argue just that it says it's true, I argued that there is inherent (internal) and extant (external) evidence that they the scriptures the 66 books that we have now are true and accurate. I would have a hard time here giving you the full scope of evidence that those 66 books that make up the Bible are accurate, but I would submit to you some reading if you have the interest, "Evidence That Demands a Verdict" by Josh McDowell, "Many Infallible Proofs" by Henry M Morris, and maybe the "Case for Faith" and the "Case for Christ" both by Lee Strobel a man who set out to prove as a journalist that Christianity could not be true, and became a Christian as a result. I would submit to you that the whole 66 complete books of the Bible are true and accurate in all that they claim. As far as how is it true? That is an interesting question. I might ask then how is anything true? How is history true, science, math, any knowledge for that matter? How are those things true? I would argue that the scriptures are true again from what it claims about itself, no other writings from antiquity claims the things that the Bible claims. Also the solid archeological evidence that is being unearthed (a recent find validated that King David of Jerusalem actually existed) Also the extant copies are in so much more abundance as to leave the next ancient text in question as to its accuracy. There are so many copies of the ancient texts of the Bible that all other ancient texts could be called into question as to authorship and authenticity in comparison. According to Merriam-Webster's Dictionary (By the way Noah Webster used the English Bible as a regular source when writing his 1806 Dictionary) truth is defined as "the body of real things, events, and facts: actuality: a transcendent fundamental or spiritual reality". How do you define truth? I guess you can gather that I see the bible as accurate, authoritative, and inspired by God and without error in it's original manuscripts. I affirm that the scripture having been received by divine inspiration is infallible so that it is true and reliable in the matters it addresses. I also affirm that scripture is in its entirety inerrant (without error), being free from falsehood, fraud, or deceit. So I believe in Verbal, Plenary Inspiration of Scripture that the words as they appear are what God intended us to have and by plenary I mean the whole not part are inspired. Your question about why the books we have today are the right ones (66) is a good one. It also requires a lengthy answer if you would bear with me and read all of what I write without getting bored to tears :) The process is called Canonization. It is a process by which many men have held up a plethora of rigorous criterion to be able to say these 66 books are the authoritative word of God. To make a long story short the OT was accepted as the Canon ("rule" or "standard") around the 2nd century B.C. and the NT Canon was widespread accepted by the early church. The 27 Books of the NT were then ratified at the Council of Carthage (397 A.D.) in the west, and in the east by the thirty ninth Paschal letter of Athanasius (367 A.D.). The test these many men held up to scripture to confirm their authenticity was 1.Conformity: to the rule of faith in the Christian churches (i.e. were they recognized and practiced) 2. Apostolicity was the writer a person who had known Jesus or was the writer in direct contact with an Apostle (one who knew Jesus and followed Him), and thirdly Catholocity (Universality): did the book adopted have widespread use and continuous acceptance by churches everywhere. Are you still with me? This is quite simplifying the history and movement of Canonization, but that's how it happened. Through History and verification I can know that these 66 books (39 OT and 27 NT) are the right ones. There are a couple books that I would give for your perusal "Doctrine" by Mark Driscoll and Gerry Breshears, and a really hefty read "The Canon of the NT" by Bruce Metzger was a professor at Princeton Theological Seminary. So there you have it. Hope it helps. Blessings!
Facebook User: Ah, Richard, you are a literalist. I am really puzzled on how people can be literalist, however. Leaving the issue of historical evidence aside (which I'd argue does not support the overall Biblical message most modern Christians extract from it), there are many factual as well as doctrinal contradictions, in particular when you compare John with the synoptic gospels. You can argue the factual differences are minor (when did the Passover meal took place? who carried the cross? who went to the tomb? who they she/they found there), but they are there and I'm curious how someone who understands the Bible literally deals with them. Some of the doctrinal differences, however, are pretty major - and have divided christendom to this day. The Jesus of Matthew requires good works for salvation, the Jesus of John only requires faith. Which one is it?
Me: Facebook User, Yes I am a literalist and by that I guess you mean that I take things literally as written. I guess you are a literalist as well. You have to be to understand language. For instance you understood that I am a literalist because you interpreted my language literally :) As far as the historical evidence that validates the Bible you just have chosen to reject it (or not review it). That's fine so in a sense we don't have much more to talk about, but you cannot say that evidence is not there for validation of the biblical record (I have submitted many books to review). As far as doctrine/theology it is man's attempt to codify, and systematize the teachings of the Bible (Thus 'systematic theology'). Theology is not inerrant the Bible is. I do as you do find it sad that Christians divide over doctrine this shows how flawed man is. As far as the objection that Jesus of Matthew requires good works for salvation. I am not sure how one can conclude that. But to answer the objections that scripture contradict themselves there are explanations and conclusions out there that one can draw in most instances to understand and make sense of suspected contradictions as is with any literature (many History, fiction, science, books etc also have seeming contradictions). I think this will be my last post :-) unless you would still like to discuss faith. I have given lots for you and the rest of the people on this post to think about hopefully. My prayer is that your honest pursuit of truth would lead you to find Christ. Blessings!
Facebook User: Hi Richard! I have enjoyed this exchange. I am sure that doing a piecemeal approach you can find the confirmation you seek about many points in the Bible. For me history, however, is both deeper and broader. I can tell you, for example, that my first doubts about Christianity came about because I also took the Bible literally, including the story of the creation of man. Once I started learning about Sumerian/Akadian/Babylonian religion, however, it became clear that the Hebrew creation story was based on the Sumerian story - they were too similar to not be related, but they weren't identical. The Sumerian creation myth is older, however, so it would be logical to assume that it was closer to the truth. But that meant that the Adam & Eve story was not true. And that's where I started. I majored in Ancient and Near Eastern History and Archaeology, so I studied closely the context both of the events described in the Bible and the actual writing of the Bible. Lately, I've been doing quite a bit of reading on early Christianity - and it's amazing just how diverse beliefs were. In any case, let me finish with your question about Mathew and good works - it's Matt 19:16-22 and also 24:45-51, though not as clear cut.
Me: Ah yes let me just in closing answer those questions about Matthew 19:16-22. I know I said It was my last post :) but I cannot resist. In interpreting scripture we have a rule 'context is king'. And so to answer this we have to look at the context a few verses later Jesus says "with people this is impossible, but with God all things are possible". Thus answering the salvific question. Jesus is demonstrating how it is impossible to attain or work for our salvation, but it is possible with God. Thus he shows how foolish the rich man is for thinking he could keep the law of Moses (because he had not really kept it as shown in his attitude of holding on to his wealth). As far as Matt 24:45-51 again in interpretation as with any literature you must look at the style of literature that you are dealing with. Jesus is using parable as he did regularly here. He is telling a story to people who already call Jesus 'Lord' if you look at verse 42 you will see the point of the parable. And his point is "be on the alert, for you do not know which day your Lord is coming". and as I like to say, "I do not work for my salvation, I work as a result of my salvation". Working to please Christ is just an honest and loving response to my Savior not so that He will be my Savior. Anyways the point of this parable is not about earning salvation. He is telling those who already call him 'Lord' to be ready for his return. It is great to hear about your educational background. I would like to hear more about the "Creation Myths". But alas I have to work! I have also enjoyed the exchange. God Bless you!

Monday, May 7, 2012

Missional Model For Youth Ministry

Missional Church Planting and Congregational Transformation:
A Missional Youth Ministry Model

American Baptist Seminary of the West
Doctor of Ministry Program
Professor: Rev. Portia Wills Lee MDiv
January 18-22, 2010

Course Project
By: Richard Moore

Missional Model For Youth Ministry

Section 1: Spiritual Gifting Modality
            In the search to understand God’s desire for ministry and to seek His methods for reaching many more hearts with His good news, this paper will attempt to delineate clearly a re-visioned model of ministry.  With the Great Commission at the center, I will seek to keep my own spiritual gifts and my personal cultural context in mind.  Above all I will seek to stay true to a scripturally authentic theology.  My goals will be to lay out a relevant model that incorporates many different current models that I believe are scripturally authentic while seeking to stay relevant to the present youth culture. 
            First of all, I need to deal with my own spiritual gifts.  I believe that my spiritual gift is that of prophecy.  With that spiritual gift I am not able to tell the future, but rather to proclaim truth in a bold and courageous way.  I also believe that God has gifted me in the area of preaching and teaching.  I preached for the first time at my home church when I was seventeen.  I caught the fire and realized my spiritual gift that God had given me many years ago when I accepted Him into my life, but was just now starting to practice. I also believe that God has given me that ability to connect deeply with people from the pulpit or in whatever context I happen to be speaking.  I have also managed to use that gift to be quite relevant in its delivery for the lost person to easily understand.  Another spiritual gift that God has graciously given is that of a giving heart.  I am most thankful for this gift because on many different occasions I have been able to give what I have to help people that are in need within the Church and also those who are apart from Christ.  I am not wealthy by any stretch, but I am open to use the resources that I do have to bless those that could use anything to further missions and ministry.  A re-visioned model would incorporate these spiritual gifts into a missional approach to ministry. 
            Spiritual gifts will be the basis for doing ministry in this personal model.  My emphasis on prophecy enables me to see the model including many justice issues.  In class we discussed many justice issues, several of which I would include in a missional model.  I would love to see God use me in my ministry context for three groups of people.  The first group of people that I want to care for is those that are unborn.  I would love to train young people to understand and to care deeply and passionately about the unborn.  I would love to flesh this out more and more in my present ministry context.  With that I have partnered with to encourage our students in God’s work of protecting the most defenseless of our society.  I brought this up as a justice issue in class because there is not another group of people in this world that are more defenseless.  It is a pretty unsafe place to be a person in our world of abortion on demand. Considering the injustice the ethnic communities already suffer, the addition of this supreme injustice of denying life to the living is yet another injustice to the unborn ethnic child.  This should not be, and I believe that God will bring the Church to account on how we loved and cared for the mother and her unborn baby so as to be Christ’s hands and feet to those in crisis.
Another justice issue that I would love to address in my missional model is that of modern day slavery.  San Francisco and Oakland are among the worst cities in the country for sex slavery and human trafficking[1].  These among other slavery issues are ones that I believe that my prophetic voice can and should open up students to connecting with ministries that aid, free, and assist women, and any people who have been caught and stolen into slavery.  I have and will continue to talk about these modern day justice issues trying to give students practical ways to get involved and make a difference in the world with their gifts. 
            This gift of prophecy can be a great benefit and also a great hindrance when not used properly and not in love.  Two other justice issues strike me as I think about revising a model of ministry.  For several years in youth ministry I have had students with disabilities.  In every church, in every ministry, and in almost every working environment, I have been around students and older people with disabilities.  I have made it a point to incorporate and make those with special needs safe and comfortable in my ministry contexts.  This has been more of a blessing to my heart than I think I have been to those affected by disability.  I want to seek justice for those students affected by disability and more than that to make these issues concerning disability prominent in ministry.  I can see how God has been preparing me for this task.  I would not have actually thought that God would be doing this in my midst for preparation, but when our daughter was born with a disability, He confirmed the justice and the kindness of this work toward those that need ministry as well.  Just recently I have visited and studied a youth ministry model that reaches specifically those affected by disability.  It is located in San Jose.  It is a Young Life chapter called Capernaum.  I had the blessing of visiting them during a club.  I was so impressed it was truly awesome.  They had 50 to 60 students in a club meeting on a Wednesday afternoon,  all affected by disability in a different ways.  They are truly evangelizing students with disability and showing the goodness of Jesus to those with disability.  It was so exciting to see every student treated as a truly unique person whom God loves[2].  I want to take these same principles and place them wholeheartedly into our ministry context.  We will seek to make the message so simple and applicable that anyone can understand.  The person with any kind of special need should also feel completely welcomed and loved.  These principles of acceptance and acknowledgement by students will grow from me as a leader.  I will seek to model an embrace of others who are not like me so it grows as a value in our youth ministry.   
            The final area I want to exhibit justice with my model of ministry is to the poor and disenfranchised.  This should and hopefully will include many opportunities for our families to serve those who are needy to give them the tools to start to learn the skills to live life and to get back on their feet.  I will do this by engaging the community-service organization within our Church to look constantly for new opportunities to serve the poor and needy.  Our youth are right now partnering with a church in Oakland that serves food every week, and we serve them once a month and are seeking to serve their church in as many ways as we can.  We will also work with our community service organization to seek to make partnerships with groups in the community. We don’t have to create service opportunities, but just partner with those that are already serving the needy (i.e. the Interfaith Homelessness Network, and The Urban Church). 
            Another spiritual gift that I have is that of preaching and teaching.  I am more than blessed by God to have this spiritual gift.  I am a specific type of communicator.  I am a youth communicator.  God has given me so much opportunity to preach and teach, and my model will include this aspect.  I will seek to use this aspect of my ministry to draw those apart from Christ who are students.  I believe this aspect is the one way that my gift can fulfill the Great Commission, “and teach these new disciples to obey everything that I have commanded you”[3], “Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to all creation.”[4]  I am not the lone soul-winner as a minister in the missional model.  For this responsibility to be completely upon me, then the model will fail.  In the missional model of youth ministry, the whole Church as adults and students together must take on the responsibility to evangelize and reach their friends to become a church that is not just friendly and warm on the surface, but that is relevant in every way to the life of a student.  This means that the student involved in this ministry must also have the complete backing and support and work alongside the whole church.  Students, if they have accepted Christ and are fully His, constitute the Church now, and we must treat them as such by giving them opportunities that adults also have in the Church body to serve.  I am not saying that I would stop evangelizing through relevant preaching to students and personal evangelism to them, but I do maintain that students must now engage in the work alongside the rest of a congregation to make a missional model of ministry work effectively.  We would also seek to entrust ministry of the Church as soon as possible to those youth that are maturing spiritually so that they could function as the Church now.  According to Chap Clark, the editor of Youth Worker Journal and the director of the Youth-Ministry Department at Talbot Seminary, “the fact is that for large numbers of adolescents, youth ministries in churches represent a world that is foreign, irrelevant, and even occasionally offensive.”[5]  We will build service opportunities that allow adults and youth to serve alongside one another to become relevant again to the youth that we would serve.  Principles that guide missions around the world by reaching a culture that is foreign to our own must be employed.  We will immerse ourselves in the culture of students, which is foreign many times, and seek to meet them on their terms.  Youth ministry that does not meet students where they are is not polite at best and offensive at worst.  Clark goes on to describe in this new model should seek to train students also in evangelism because in the missional model the responsibility for student evangelism is shared between students and adults.  Then the principles that guide cross-cultural missions can be adopted in cross-cultural student ministry.[6]  I will do my part to train and to evangelize students, asking also those saved students to obey the Great Commission in their obligation in sharing Christ, and share Him consistently with their friends. 
            The best way to accomplish this is to ask students to share in the calling of God to fulfill Jesus’ prayer in John 17, "They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth. As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. For their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they themselves also may be sanctified in truth.”[7]  I would then seek to use my teaching to train students to be focused on the Great Commission.  As Jesus said, “Teach them to obey all that I have commanded you.”[8] Jesus mandate is found in Mark 12:29-31 Jesus answered, "The foremost is, 'HEAR, O ISRAEL! THE LORD OUR GOD IS ONE LORD; AND YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND, AND WITH ALL YOUR STRENGTH.' "The second is this, 'YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.' There is no other commandment greater than these."[9] This is the start, and I will seek to teach this so that students can put it into action.  I believe that God has gifted me to teach His Word and to preach it with authority, so in my teaching I will strive to draw the student that is not yet a Christian.  I will also seek to empower purposeful and powerful Christians with spirit-filled and relevant teaching, the power of a holy life, and an emphasis on the victorious Christian life. 

Section 2: Cultural Context Modality
Our cultural context here in the bay area of California is one of the most secular locales in America.  Alameda County has fewer Christians per capita than any other county in California, and people are religious but not necessarily Christians.[10] It is also one of the most hostile places in the U.S. to practice ones faith. Clear hostility intimidates those that would evangelize in the same way that it has been done (i.e. seeking converts as opposed to caring for souls).  The evangelistic models in the past have been to share the gospel before caring for the needs of the people.  In my particular context Christians have recognized this problem with evangelism, and unbelievers perceive that evangelical Christians don’t actually care for them as people; rather it seems to them that they just want to convert them.  The Gospel should be presented with good works (service) in one hand and good words (Gospel message) in the other hand.  This model of ministry will have to be offered with great courage and discipline as we train students to leave their comfort zone to serve because service is not easy.  Then to go even further it will also be uncomfortable to share the gospel in this predominantly hostile and secular environment.  Because of this cultural context, I will have to employ the great St. Francis of Assisi’s methodology, typically misquoted to say “If necessary use words.” He actually told the friars in Chapter XVII of his Rule of 1221, not to preach unless they had received the proper permission to do so. Then he added, “Let all the brothers, however, preach by their deeds.[11]  This model will require a great deal of personal righteousness and sacrificial service before a word of Gospel message is spoken.  We must earn the right to preach the Gospel, especially to those who have fled the influence of the Gospel and come to the San Francisco Bay Area. 
            Our cultural context is Bancroft Middle School and San Leandro High School,  so my part in the missional youth-ministry model would be for me to promote campus ministry.  Our ministry will seek to identify subcultures present on these campuses and identify their needs. For example, my background is the athletic subculture.  I have been volunteering for several years in the after-school intramural program and the athletic teams.  I want to implement a training program for students to see their particular area of interest or subculture on campus as their own personal mission field.  This will not be accomplished without much effort and thought on the part of the students.  They must consider their circle of influence as those to be served, loved, and influenced for the Gospel.  This is the revision that needs to be implemented into our modality. 
            I would like to implement aspects of two different models of youth ministry that have been chronicled in a book called Four Views of Youth Ministry and the Church by Mark Senter.  The first is called “Mission Now.”  In this model students are viewed as the missionaries now to their specific contexts such as campus ministry and subculture within the larger youth culture being reached.  In this model adults team up with students and empower them as missionary trainers to the student population. Missionaries on foreign mission fields use similar techniques.  The second view is called “Mission Later.”  The goal in this view is to see youth ministry as a means to an end.  Churches would minister to youth with the understanding that a successful youth ministry would become a viable youth Church in the end[12].  One of many urban examples is Crossover Church in Tampa, Florida. That youth ministry was so successful in hip-hop outreach that the youth ministry became the church plant, and they reshaped the church to be a hip-hop church to reach a completely disenfranchised subculture.[13]  Another example of this is the Skate Church of Portland, Oregon[14] and West Seattle,[15] just to name a few. These churches also grew from a youth-ministry model that was so successful in reaching the skate youth culture that they finally planted a church.  There are also many other youth-ministry models that were very successful in reaching Generation X, postmodern, and most recently the millennial generation with services shaped just for them that these churches gave leadership and resources to plant the church for youth culture.  I have a great vision to plant youth churches.  It might not be here in the Bay Area, but I do believe that God is preparing me for the task of reaching youth and planting young churches that stay relevant in the face of an ever-changing culture. 
            Examples of these types of Generational Church planting movements are Mars Hill Church in Seattle, which spawned the Acts 29 church-planting movement in the reformed tradition with a very young and edgy approach.[16] The coffee-house model is also very popular with the younger generation (Tommy’s Interactive in Columbia, South Carolina).[17]  It can take several forms and none of these may look like another because of context.[18]  A weekly magazine in the Columbia area has even seen the shift and applauds the efforts of the nontraditional church.
The Underground and other nontraditional local churches — Tommy’s Interactive and The Shack, among others — consciously appeal to those who have felt left out of traditional Christian congregations. Whether you’re gay, tattooed, dreadlocked or just unkempt, these churches aren’t going to turn you away.  This open-minded approach to gaining adherents is one the church desperately needs. Despite the much-touted influence of evangelicals in electing President Bush, the proportion of the U.S. population calling itself “Christian” is actually declining — from 86.2 percent in 1990 to 76.5 percent in 2001, according to the American Religious Identity Study (conducted by The Graduate Center of the City University of New York). Fully 14 percent of the population practices no religion at all — more than the number of Episcopalians, Lutherans and Methodists combined, according to the study.  It’s not unusual, of course, for 20-somethings to leave the church and return later. But there’s a greater sense of urgency today among mainline denominations — a feeling that things are different now, that changes in the way people are thinking about spirituality require new approaches to how churches conduct themselves.[19]
This same sense of urgency needs to transform our modality if we happen to be dealing with the youth culture and seeking to become younger and younger as a church.  If it does not, the church is one generation away from dying.  My eschatology will not allow me to believe that Jesus will abandon His Church until He returns; however, that does not give us liberty to have weak modality and methodology.  Nothing is unbiblical about changing modes while keeping a biblically rigorous orthodoxy. 
Life Transformation Groups are promoted by Neil Cole in his book The Organic Church, which is Church on the small level as the Scripture says, “where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there in their midst.”[20]  This movement is a movement of small groups that meet for prayer, accountability, and mutual growth into the image of Christ.  It is taking hold in many pockets of the Church today.[21]  There are a growing number of Youth Church movements in Europe. One is ‘Jesus Freaks’ which just recently published the Volxbibel, a full translation of the entire Bible in understandable and modern German by Martin Dryer[22].  Dawn Ministries in Europe has also pushed other countries to join the movement of planting similar youth churches like Kraftwerk in Dresden, Germany.[23]  Hillsong United in Australia also has now planted many places in Europe and England.  I would like to incorporate aspects of these church-planting movements into a model of youth ministry for the present and for future work in Germany and Europe.  God has called us to be relevant, serving, incarnational, and gospel focused.  These characteristics will become the core values of our model.  The models of such churches have also tapped into the creativity of the youth culture by utilizing the art forms of each particular culture.  Youth minister when they are allowed to lead using their art forms (i.e. skating, break dancing, hip-hop, musical forms, drama, etc).  This will be a core value of the modality that I employ now and in the future.  I will seek to never squash a valid cultural art form (unless it is plainly unbiblical) as expressed in youth culture but seek to use it and allow students to lead in their particular art-form style.  For instance, if the students we reach seem to be more open to a certain style of music, we will strive to use that form in our worship context.
            Our approach in the now missional model and the future missional model of youth ministry is to prepare youth for ministry now and to looking forward to church planting later.  We will work now as a youth ministry to be the hands and feet of Jesus and raise up missionaries here and now for campus ministry, compassion, justice ministries, and for gospel witness.  All the while we will seek to plant a church out of Creekside Community Church that would be either a viable self-sustaining young church or a church that still meets under the roof of the sending church.  Creekside as it exists today is not young enough stylistically to be comfortable for the young church that we are talking about.  A church for youth and by youth is the goal of the model.  I am saddened that this has as much to do with style as with anything else.  Our church is stylistically a modern seeker model in its Sunday services.  This is not a criticism; it is a statement of fact.  The church attracts in its style a person who is a young professional from mid 30’s to mid 50’s.  While the leadership and style are all attracting and using those older people, the youth have nothing besides the youth ministry that is by them and for them.  The worldwide Church will only grow when we are planning and growing backwards.  What I mean by this is that a church has to be constantly thinking of the next generation.  We have to be planning, training, and planting toward the generation that will come after us.  The mantle of leadership has to be passed constantly to the next generation and these new communities of faith will have that same responsibility.   
            In his book called Ministry of the Missional Church, Craig Van Gelder talks about the new missional movement. Within the book he lists several aptitudes that it will need to have as a whole to embrace the Holy Spirit’s move in this new model.  The first aptitude is to “learn to read context as they seek their contextuality.”  The second aptitude is “to anticipate new insights into that Gospel.”  Thirdly they must “anticipate reciprocity,” in other words, expect to be changed by the connection with the culture and expect exchange and dependence.  The fourth aptitude is to understand that “they are contextual and therefore particular.” There will be no one- size-fits-all ministry.  Such Christians must know and embrace their own particular context.  The fifth aptitude will be that “ministry is always contextual and therefore always practical.”  The sixth aptitude is that the new missional models will have an understanding that “theology is contextual and thus must have perspective.”  The seventh is that “organization is contextual and therefore always provisional.”  In other words, the organization must be adaptable[24].  The whole theme of his aptitudes is adjustment, adaptation, and contextualizing oneself and the congregation to the ever-changing landscape of culture.  As the new AT&T advertising campaign so appropriately shows what the new missional model should be doing, “Rethink Possible.”  This was brought up in class discussion that could be a mantra of this new model.  Contextualization is just that, rethinking possible.  Asking the questions, “what is God doing here in this particular context in the San Francisco Bay Area and how can I rethink my part in His move to engage an ever-changing culture with the never changing message of the Gospel?”  These aptitudes I would love to solicit God for in our students.  That I would as a leader always be asking how can I use culture to display the marvelous Gospel and that my students would also in turn be asking those same questions.

Section 3: Theological Modality
            Theologically my desire is to engage a scripturally authentic, gospel-focused, conservative, historical orthodoxy all the while maintaining a methodologically current model of missional ministry.  I have been to Mars Hill Church in Seattle and love their church-planting initiative called Acts 29.  This church is a theologically conservative Church model with very edgy, progressive liturgy.  Their services look more like a club than a traditional church service, and the preaching is relevant and hard-hitting.  The style and structure is accessible for a younger crowd.  This is certainly from the personality of the pastor: he is not pretentious but is very hip and even looks the part.  Mark Driscol is the founding, pastor and he is well read and incredibly germane to the culture he lives in and pastors in.  This church has been at the forefront of the justice movements both in Seattle and to the ends of the earth. It has been at the forefront of church planting in North America and recently the mercy ministries to Haiti.  In conjunction with many other churches, it has started a ministry to Haitian pastors and churches who are suffering in the aftermath of the devastating earthquake.  As I understand justice ministry, it has to come from a gospel-focused theology. 
I sometimes struggle with buzzwords in the modern-church movement that the Christian community creates to define and categorize what we should already be doing as authentic Christ followers.  For example we have created the word “missional” to define and categorize what Christ has already commanded us to do and what his mission was on this earth.  Christ showed us his mission as he read the Scriptures in the synagogue, “”THE SPIRIT OF THE LORD IS UPON ME, BECAUSE HE ANOINTED ME TO PREACH THE GOSPEL TO THE POOR. HE HAS SENT ME TO PROCLAIM RELEASE TO THE CAPTIVES, AND RECOVERY OF SIGHT TO THE BLIND, TO SET FREE THOSE WHO ARE OPPRESSED, TO PROCLAIM THE FAVORABLE YEAR OF THE LORD.”’ And He closed the book, gave it back to the attendant and sat down; and the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on Him. And He began to say to them, ‘Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.’”[25]  This sounds somehow familiar as many people try to define and categorize missional models.  They all incorporate what Christ came to do and what he continues to do in authentic faith communities to serve, preach good news, proclaim release to captives, recovery of sight to the blind, to set free the oppressed, and to proclaim God’s favor. 
I maintain theological underpinnings that will be historically orthodox, including a strong Christology (Colossians 1:15-22), ecclesiology that says the Church is the God’s instrument of His movement in the world (Ephesians 3:10).  I will also not deviate from a position of biblical inerrancy (in its original languages).[26]  This makes all clear because we are free to do anything then in creating new wineskins as Christ taught us unless it is plainly unbiblical.  This gives me great freedom as I plan and think of new structures because my only restraint is God’s loving word to us.  He has spelled out our boundaries and we need not wrestle with that.  Our theology then can ask, “Does this reach people, and is plainly forbidden in Scripture.?”  Another theological leaning are the great reformation theologies.  Sola Gratia, Sola Fida, and Sola Scriptura.  These have given much guidance to the Church over the centuries and can also guide us now. 
We can also from that take church planting models from Scripture as Ed Stetzer does in His book Planting Missional Churches .  He describes a biblical model that I would like to utilize.  Team planting was the model that Paul used several times that He planted Churches (Acts 13:2-3 Paul and Barnabas and later Paul and Silas).  Setzer shows the route of frequent Biblical values that Emerging Postmodern Churches have expressed.  They are being unashamedly spiritual, promoting incarnational ministry, engaging in service, valuing experiential praise, preaching narrative expository messages, appreciating and participating in ancient patterns, visualizing worship, connecting with technology, living community, and leading by transparency and team.[27]  These are the Biblical values that the emerging models exhibit that I would like our current model to emulate and that I pray that a future youth Church plant would also model.  Stetzer gives a great diagram in his book that is helpful in the theological context to define a perspective that I want to emphasize.
I really would like to join solid orthodox Ecclesiology, Christology, and Missiology into a progressive church that has a new set of tools to that are empowered by the Spirit.   This matrix has been supremely helpful as I think about a theological model to join all these themes together into one spiritual formation.  It should be a great catalyst to awakening in the youth culture in which we will work and eventually plant. 
            With these theological underpinnings creating freedom for a new missional model I understand what we can and what we are free to do in the world.  We are free to accomplish Jesus mission, to make disciples of all nations.  This will be a freeing and empowering model I believe because I don’t have to over think anything. I just have to as the Swedish reformed movement mantra asked, “Where is it written.”  In conclusion the theology has to find the center of Biblical tension.  Where can we agree and where can we move on.  As a youth church planting movement we can agree to have unity in essentials liberty in non-essentials and in all things charity.

Section 4: Conclusion:
            The Missional model as explained by Reggie McNeal in his book Missional Renaissance underscores a definition of what missional should mean.  We should turn “from internal to external in terms of ministry focus, from program development to people development in terms of core activity and from church-based to kingdom-based in terms of leadership agenda.”[29] This will eventually create in us a desire to scatter disciples instead of gathering congregants.  Our model must reflect the heart of Christ’s incarnation as closely as possible.  We will do as Christ did go and be instead of ask people to come and sit.  We as a Church have come not far enough nor done enough for too long.  Let us with fresh passion and commitment, get our hands dirty as Jesus did, and get were people are for the good of the kingdom.


3. Senter, Mark. 2001. “The Missional Approach to Youth Ministry”.  In Four Views of Youth Ministry and the Church; Inclusive Congregational, Preparatory, Missional, Strategic.  Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House. p 79. 
5. Assisi, Francis.  1988. Rule of 1221, Chapter XVII, Chicago, IL: Franciscan Herald Press.
6. Ashley, Jennifer.  2004.  The Relevant Church a New Vision for Communities of Faith.  Lake Mary, FL: Relevant Media Group.  p 49-57
12. Cole, Neil. 2005. The Organic Church: Growing Faith Where Life Happens.  San Francisco, CA: Josey-Bass. p 27-28.
13. Dryer, Martin. 2005 Die Volx Bibel. Neckarsteinach, Germany. Volxbibel-verlag.
15. Van Gelder, Craig.  2007. The Ministry of the Missional Church Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.  p 63-67.
16. International Council on Biblical Inerrancy.  1978.  The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy.  Chicago, IL.
17. Stetzer, Ed. 2006. Planting Missional Churches.  Nashville TN: Broadman and Holman.  p 135-136.
18. McNeal, Reggie. 2009.  Missional Renaissance.  San Francisco, CA. Jossey-Bass.  Introduction p xvi

[3] (Matthew 28:20 [New American Standard Bible])
[4] (Mark 16:15 [New American Standard Bible])
[5] Senter, Mark. 2001. “The Missional Approach to Youth Ministry”.  In Four Views of Youth Ministry and the Church; Inclusive Congregational, Preparatory, Missional, Strategic.  Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House. p 79. 
[6] Ibid, p 80.
[7] (John 17:16-19 [New American Standard Bible]).
[8] (Matthew 28:20 [New American Standard Bible]).
[9] (Mark 12:29-31 [New American Standard Bible]).
[11] Assisi, Francis.  1988. Rule of 1221, Chapter XVII, Chicago, IL: Franciscan Herald Press. 
[12] Senter, Mark. 2001. “The Missional Approach to Youth Ministry”.  In Four Views of Youth Ministry and the Church; Inclusive Congregational, Preparatory, Missional, Strategic.  Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House. p 200-209
[13] Ashley, Jennifer.  2004.  The Relevant Church a New Vision for Communities of Faith.  Lake Mary, FL: Relevant Media Group.  p 49-57
[19] Ibid
[20] (Matthew 18:20 [New American Standard Bible]).
[21] Cole, Neil. 2005. The Organic Church: Growing Faith Where Life Happens.  San Francisco, CA: Josey-Bass. p 27-28.
[22] Dryer, Martin. 2005 Die Volx Bibel. Neckarsteinach, Germany. Volxbibel-verlag.
[24] Van Gelder, Craig.  2007. The Ministry of the Missional Church Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.  p 63-67.
[25] (Luke 4:18-21 [New American Standard Bible]).
[26] International Council on Biblical Inerrancy.  1978.  The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy.  Chicago, IL.
[27] Stetzer, Ed. 2006. Planting Missional Churches.  Nashville TN: Broadman and Holman.  p 135-136.
[28] Ibid, p 159
[29] McNeal, Reggie. 2009.  Missional Renaissance.  San Francisco, CA. Jossey-Bass.  Introduction p xvi

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Disability Exposes the Insidiousness of My Sin

I don’t often write about my daughter’s disability.  But the difficulties that it has brought on have created a pain that just exposes the true nature of my wicked heart.  Ana has Down syndrome and has had a rare form of childhood seizures called ‘infantile spasms’.  We have struggled with this and continue to struggle for her to become all that God has made her to be.  Is Ana totally perfect and whole in the sight of her Creator?  He “knit her together in her mother’s womb” and He “does all things well.” So the answers to these questions are a resounding and overwhelming ‘YES’.  But my wicked heart cannot accept that.  For instance I tend to wish for the calamity of friends of mine.  I am now around lots of people who are having children, and I catch myself thinking about the demise of the peachy keen life that my friends enjoy in having “perfect” kids. For instance I had a friend recently who was talking about having his boy and how they had painted his room for the colors baby boys love, and so it better be a boy.  My thought was, “what if it’s not a boy, and not only that but what if it is a terribly handicapped and disabled child, what then, huh?”. Yea I actually had that little conversation with that friend of mine in my own head. How ridiculous right? First of all that thinking is dumb because no one lives that perfect, peachy keen, bed of roses life. And secondly how dare I wish for misfortune and tragedy for people I would consider friends. 
            This is how I have been affected by disability.  I love and cherish my daughter, and I am more grateful for her than words can express. The things I have learned in my walk with Christ as a result of having her are magnificent, but there are still these corners of darkness in my heart that having a child with disability have revealed.  I have not given my pain and disappointment to God as I should and instead in those moments have exposed the sinister nature of my heart. In these moments that I imagine and wish for tragedy for my friends, I am so disgusted with the blackness of my heart.  The Bible describes this type of heart in Jeremiah 17:9, “The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked.” Who really knows how bad it is?”  This is why I am so grateful for the cross and the gospel.  When circumstances like this arise and reveal the dark corners of my heart I am grateful that the cross has already reached into those crevices and forgiven, healed, and restored me to righteousness.  PRAISE GOD! WOW!  
            I love the writer Henri Nouwen. He had direct contact with pain and suffering working at L’Arche with disabled people.  In regards to my pain and brokenness He said, “Compassion asks us to go where it hurts, to enter into the places of pain, to share in brokenness, fear, confusion, and anguish. Compassion challenges us to cry out with those in misery, to mourn with those who are lonely, to weep with those in tears. Compassion requires us to be weak with the weak, vulnerable with the vulnerable, and powerless with the powerless. Compassion means full immersion in the condition of being human.” I am so glad that I have entered that personally so that I can enter it with other people, and know that Christ, my great savior, has entered it completely on my behalf.  
Ana Lydia and Me (Richard) Enjoying the Jump House at Ana's 6th birthday party
            Another aspect that disability exposes is loneliness, and isolation.  I saw it this weekend as we celebrated my daughter’s birthday.  We wanted so badly to invite friends of Ana’s from her special day class that she is in.  We were aggressive in inviting all her peers in her class because we know firsthand the isolation, and loneliness that disability can bring.  It is not always a purposeful isolation.  People exclude you. They don’t mean to it is not malicious they just do.  So we wanted to make sure all of Ana’s special needs classmates felt welcome.  And so we rented a jump house just for that occasion where I would work hard to make sure all children in wheelchairs or a little wobbly on their feet were assisted to have a great time in the jump house.  The first boy from Ana’s class came and I asked his mother if he could come in, she said, “He’s never done it before because they are always too full and people aren’t looking out for him,” and so he came in and I held him and we jumped together.  The smile on his face said it all.  It gave me great joy that I was the first one to take him into a jump house. He had been excluded up until that point, not because people are mean, and don’t want him to, but because the world is not built for him. I don’t accept that, and so we were so glad that this 7 year old boy could know and experience that he is included and maybe that might show him and his mother the acceptance that a good God has given them in Jesus.
            Another example of the exclusion that children and families affected by disability feel is birthday parties.  Ana hardly ever receives invitations to birthday parties.  The first time that Ana was invited to a party was when she was 4 years old from a classmate at school.  And so we want to be the catalyst to that type of inviting atmosphere. We will do it because of the great invitation that Jesus has extended to us, wretched sinners, into his great banquet (Luke 14:15-24). Recently another way Ana was excluded and overlooked was when a friend of mine was asking his 5 year old son to look out for all the other kids around him and he exhorted him by saying, “You are the oldest kid here.” Which wasn’t true. Ana was the oldest kid, and I know it was not malicious or ill intended, but he just overlooked Ana, she was actually a year older than his 5 year old boy. All these types of examples over the years make families affected by disability isolated and lonely.  Some stay in that isolation just to make it easier and to avoid pain, but God has asked us to engage a hurting world in which we can act as agents of his compassion and comfort (2 Corinthians 1:3-7).  That is why I need all the sin bound up in my heart to be exposed to the light. As painful as it is I am so grateful for this journey of disability, in which God is taking me so that I can be a comfort to others and point people to the grace and mercy that we can find in the cross of Jesus Christ.