Archive for the ‘CE/Youth MInistry’ Category

A recounting of a young boy who had a vision of Heaven was turned into a book and now into a Movie. I have not read the book, but what I have to say fits any incident fitting the vision of heaven experience.
I think that visions can happen, though that does not mean that case by case we should not be aware that it’s possible someone just had a vivid dream. But what is a little off is 1) needing some extra confirmation of heaven (though it is encouraging to have it, we shouldn’t need it) and 2) thinking that there is new truth revealed to these people for the Church.
This is not to say that experiences can’t be of great encouragement. But it does seem that an individual’s vision can give us more surety of the reality of God than how he has spoken to all of us. And though we want to affirm that God speaks to our hearts in many ways, and through many means, we should be careful when we take what we feel God is saying to essentially be equivalent in it’s authority to His Word, a Word which we are to interpret our experiences by, and not interpret it by our experiences.
To defend this, let’s go to the Bible where two apostles talk about Visions. Paul talks about being caught up to the third heaven and he chides the Corinthians for caring more about visions, gifts and experiences than about growing closer to Christ in holiness. But the most Amazing text is in 2 Peter 1:16-19

For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain. And we have something more sure, the prophetic word, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts

Did you catch that? The vision was an affirmation of the truth of the Gospel. He doesn’t dismiss its power. But Peter says that the scriptures as MORE sure than that! Let me be clear as crystal… the point of this passage is not to DOWNPLAY the significance or validity of experiences (certainly the mt. of Transfiguration was meant to strengthen their faith) but to RAISE us to new heights in appreciation for how amazing, how incredible is God’s Word! If we are in practice finding more validation in individual experiences, (for though many of us would say we don’t, yet really we do) lets us raise our appreciation for the Holy Spirit’s power in scripture. Let us go there to find nourishment to live whether or not God gives us experiences.
Lastly let’s be careful about adding on to scripture. It is very common to take someone’s experience and decide that it is revealed truth from God on par with scripture that is for all the church to believe. If this boy saw angels in a certain way in his vision, that may very well have been part of the vision but I think it’s a bit sketchy to start making extra biblical conclusions about the nature of heaven from anything but the Bible. I say this because revelation warns us not to add to scripture, and Paul says not to go beyond what is written. To be encouraged by a vision or revelation has a place in our lives. To be given new information that is for all the church for all time (not specified for you or your immediate context) I think you would need to petition the church to reopen the canon so that the new additions and revisions you have to the word of God can be put in there. But since few of us are as bold to do that, and those who have done that began Mormonism, Christian Science, and the Jehovah’s Witnesses, let’s make sure that we are not looking to visions to revise and improve the Bible. We do not believe in an open Canon, so lets’ not act like we do.
In conclusion, Experiences and visions can happen and are great when they do. But they are always under and submissive to the Word of God both in their affirmation to our hearts and to truth.
So I probably won’t see it in theatres, but if you want to I’d say go for it and be encouraged.

Why Youth Ministry?

Posted: October 7, 2013 in CE/Youth MInistry

Recently while using a website to look up Bible verses, I saw an ad saying “Is youth ministry biblical? Take our survey!” The name of the organization made it clear that they thought youth ministry was not biblical, that it took away from the family’s God given role. This is one of the most frustrating things for those of us who work in the church. It is seen to be that the conservative, traditional position must be to have everyone worship together, and at all times, and to have no specific ministries to people with certain developmental needs. Sometimes they will demand that a scripture citation be given to support having a separate ministry for youth, and will attempt to cite scriptures showing that the family is where spiritual formation should be happening for growing souls. (the name of this blog!)
Now, I’m totally against progressivism altering the Christian faith. I adhere to biblical inerrancy and would never bow to the cultural relativism that is causing evangelicalism to lose it’s distinctiveness on many fronts. And so it breaks my heart that these complaints against youth ministry are coming not from the progressive, Christ of Culture side of evangelicalism but from the Gospel centered, Christ against/transforming culture side of evangelicalism.
This despisement of youth ministry rests on a number of premises which I disagree with.

First, the notion that, if we cannot find youth ministry in Scripture, we must concede that it is not God’s will. Many roles and functions of the church today are not found in Scripture. For example, a lead pastor is nowhere to be found, simply a collection  of Elders. Church secretaries are completely absent, as are anyone whose job it is to maintain the church property. We do not see any position besides Elders and Deacons in the local church, nor do we see any ministries such as marriage counseling, a worship team (volunteer or paid), an orphanage, or specific ministries for dealing with grief or for outreach to specific populations, or to pregnant teens, etc. with the exception of widows.

All these I have listed are ministries and positions I would totally support. I think they are consistent with the ministry given to the church. They are not against the churches call, and aid her in fulfilling the great commission. Nor do they require structures or denials of Biblical principles. Yet no one is crying out, for the most parts, that these practices are against a biblical view of church.

Second, the notion is that, since every text that mentions children specifically gives the responsibility of passing on the faith to parents, that it is the family who has responsibility for passing on the faith, and though the church may augment the family and support them, they do not have a God-given responsibility.
The hermeunitcal error here is to assume an exception in a text when none is give. If we have numerous texts where the church, and the authorities therein, are called to account for all the sheep God has entrusted to him, and we have texts that say they are to guide them, train them to obey, than it would be only natural to assume that all the church includes, well, all the church. To mention the certain groups this would include would be needless, than the text would read ” shepherd the flock that is among you; men, woman, widows, husbands wives, children and everyone else”. For example, every text about who wives are to submit to in authority is related to their husbands. Does this mean that a woman who,is married, is a wife. And they therefore do not need to be submissive to the authority of the church, since no text specifically outlines that, included in the church, are wives? of course not! but this is what we do. The reason we do not see children mentioned specifically as a church responsibility is because they are considered as part of the church, and to delineate each group of the church whenever the church is commanded to do such and such would be ridiculous. Again, to be clear, UNLESS we have an exception given in the text, OR we have a statement of exclusivity in another text (i.e. if it said “wives, be submissive ONLY to your husbands, children, be obedient ONLY to your parents (not the church or governing authorities) we should not assume that because a families responsibilities include elements of the faith, that means that we can restrict the churches role.

Lastly, much of this is an attempt to restore the family as the center of the Christian life against other institutions. Institutions like the schools, government, etc. These other institutions are extrabiblical at least in terms of any role in moral, faith, and personal development, and do not have divine authority in these areas. However, the church is biblical, and definatly was ordained by God for those reasons. It’s place in a believers life is central, and is given such terms as “the bride of Christ”  “a pillar and buttress of the truth.” Such grandiose terms are not used for the family. In fact, the signifigance of the family draws largely on the fact that marriage is a type of Christ and the church.
Something is amiss if in seeking to be profamily we relegate the Bride of Christ to a subordinate position in the Christians life. Youth ministry does not ignore parents God given responsibility to develop their children’s faith, but it also takes seriously the churches charge to shepherd EVERYONE in it’s flock. We never see Christ talking about valuing the church to much, and in fact, he sees himself as one flesh with the church.

My conclusion is that many of these views place family as more important than the church in an attempt to call families to their God-given duties. They also fail to understand the central nature of the body of believers as central, not just supportive, to the Christian life. The church is not merely a gathering of believers, it is a divinely ordained and eteranal instiution that we are all called individually to be connected to. Lastly, we should not assume that texts that speak about shepherding everyone in the flock or caring for the local church can have exceptions applied to them that are not in the text. DOn’t get me wrong, family is amazing, but do a quick church on how the bible talks about family, and how the bible talks about the church, and look at the amazing terms and priveleges the church is given. Notice also how instuctions to churches are primary in the epistels, and instructions on how to interact with family or at work or with government come after.

The church is central to the life of every believer, once a young person has professed faith, their membership in the universal church is alongside of the other believers in their family, and they are accountable to the church as a beliefver, and the church is accountable for their soul. It is not the family who is a member of the church, each believer is a member themselves.

Why church history?

Posted: June 12, 2013 in CE/Youth MInistry

I’ve been asked this question before, why study church history? What purpose does it serve?
The answer to that question may also serve to answer why we study history in the first place.
But before I get going on it, let me say this. I am shocked when people ask me that question, but still think it’s important to learn secular history in the schools. They’d feel bad if an Amreican student didn’t know about Abraham Lincoln, George washington, or important events like the fall of the berlin wall or the civil rights movement, but how can this be? I mean, how could we think the history of the Nation or people we belong to, whatever that may be, takes precendence of our history as God’s People, the church? Our primary people, our primary nation or kingdom we belong to, is the church. And our students grow up being able to list almost all the presidents but couldnt’ even name the most Major persons from Church histroy such as Augustine or Luther? for shame.
But i digress. The point is that if the history of our secondary people group matters, it only follows that the history of our primary people group matters.
But the reason for history is often stated as “we need to know how we got to where we are.” Or something like “being aware of our roots keeps us connected to our past” which I think is not the important point.
Or a statement is made such as “those who don’t learn from Histories mistakes are doomed to repeat them.” I think this gets closer, though cheesey.
The reason why history is such a valuable study, why my dad says all the best insights come from the history guys, is that reality is always far more complex than we could theorize. Thus as we experience it, our concept of it is deepened. History is the secret of weaning from others experiences, corporate or individual, just as we would learn from our own experiences. When this ceases to be the goal of historical study, it becomes nothing more than learning stories to satisfy curiosity. But in learning from experiences, oh the richness, the insight we gain that we could not with all our theorizing. We see how beliefs we hold dear have been held in the past, what has led to their demise or what dangers that belief system holds. We see what patterns emerge and so are aware of them, able to discern patterns in social reality just as there are patterns in nature. We see what makes great movements start, what has been in all of them, and what makes them fall apart. All of us makes us so wise as if we actually had lived for hundreds of years. But, just like our own personal experience, it is learning from it that matters. Thus history, if it is a blind fact science, is useless. Philosophy and reasoning must come in for it to become practical.
So I urge us all to know history, and to see the patterns that happen so we can better interact with the world God has put us in.
May the church go forth!

despair in Spiritual warfare

Posted: October 23, 2012 in CE/Youth MInistry

Many times the term “Spiritual warfare” brings to mind a valiant “worker” casting out demons, or a common christian in an refusing the lies of Satan. Such things certainly are spiritual warfare. However, I do think the term is broader, for there are dangers besides the powers of Darkness, things besides Satan and his forces that are calling us to sin, such as what are commonly termed the “world” and the “flesh.” In fact, many of the references to a spiritual conflict, a fight of faith of some kind, are absent of a mention of Satan and his minions and focused more on Sin itself as the enemy, and Holiness in obedient union to Christ as the goal. The goal of Christian life is not victory over Satan, it is Sanctification. Satan could be totally wiped out and yet a propensity to sin, a heart not fully delighting in Christ and full of unbelief, remain. Satan is a lethal adversary, but his defeat alone is not the goal. It is the overcoming of all sin by the power of Christ. A goal which, admittedly, will never be fully reached in this life, but that is the goal nonetheless.
Many times we are very lazy in pursuing this one goal. We cleave to our old ways, we don’t walk by the Spirit. Often times there are reasons for this, we believe lies about the pleasure of sin, we don’t believe God about his way being the path to Joy. But there is another hindrance that I have found, one that keeps me down.  It comes on me strangely. I feel I believe that the path of sin is not beneficial, and that the path of holiness is more to be preferred. I despair because I believe that I will fail. I feel convinced that I will not make it, that I may have short bursts of energy but will always fall back into my old ways. This despair is strange, because I see little attraction to sin, besides the sin of unbelief, and I see that God’s way is better. I see it is better, but I don’t see it is possible.
What is the way out of this trap? Well, obviously if I had found the say out I would not be writing this post! But I think a number of things can help. First, I think that, perhaps, the fight to belive I am able to persevere may be a losing one. I need to believe in Christ’s strength, not my own. Second, I think it requires that we understand the need for community… Satan can lie to us that we cannot grow, and we think we are not denying God’s power because we are not denying his ability, but our own. But, in the end we are denying we cannot grow… and these lies are best called out by a community of believers. Lastly, I’d like to say that we need to be aware there is such a thing as spiritual inertia. We believe that it is too hard, but the more we move, the more we get into a rhythm. Lastly, we need to recognize the power of Worship. Praising God for who he is, no matter how we feel, transforms us into the people who are more God centered.

Many of us get caught in despair at our own abilities, and we sin when we are focused on our own abilities in the first place. It is there, that we go wrong, set our eyes on Christ and his power communicated to us through the Holy Spirit, and move from there.

Opening Post

Posted: August 21, 2012 in CE/Youth MInistry

I need to begin blogging regularly. I welcome any of you who want to read my thoughts to my blog. My blog is mainly to cover two areas. Reflections on how best to work with the Spirit so students grow, and general reflection on the vibrant realities of the faith as they connect to life. Because my mind may be preoccupied with the lesson the students are learning, I may often write more reflectively on the topic that is being discussed at youth group. However, I may also delve into reflections beyond the scope of what I go into during youth group, and I invite students to use this blog as a peek into my thoughts.
I wanted to open up with what I thought the goal of our Christian life should be, that which we should be striving after ourselves and helping those we love strive after, (by the power of the Spirit of course!) There are aspects of our walk, and of students walk, that are important but are not the ultimate end. Take content for example. I would argue that, while the basic content is needed to have faith, and better understanding of more content can enhances someone’s liveing out the faith, mastering of content is not our ultimate goa in life or for those we minister to. I can speak for myself that I have a better  mastery of content than many believers I have met who put me to shame with their maturity. Nor is it simply actions. One could say “it’s a heart issue” but heart too often means simply a matter of emotions or intentions. And good intentions are not enough, the well meaning person who does wrong still does wrong.
The goal of our walk and the sign of our maturity is best stated as Devotion to Christ. Devotion requires some accurate knowledge in order to be devoted to the right thing, and involves emotions and actions which spring from deep affections. I think it captures what people are trying to get at when they talk about our whole lives being an act of worship (to devote something to God was to hand it over to him as an act of worship) and yet preserves the difference between the Living sacrifice that is all our life, and the sacrifice of praise that is one part of the church’s ministry Thus, Devotion is our goal. A person may know a great deal, have many works or many experinces, but the people we shoule try to be like are those who have the most single minded devotion to Christ, be they PhD’s or Delivery Drivers. And I have seen plenty of “uneducated” people who put me to shame with their devotion.
This is the sign of Chritian faith, not being in the right tradition or having an adequate undertsanding of the latest controversy. This is not to say that a tradition closer to revealed truth will not be of great help in it’s people having devotion, but the traditions accuracy itself would not guarantee it. And if devotion to the tradition, be it reformed theology, Charasmatic experience, anglican liturgy, or Lutheran sacramentalism, in front of devotion to the person of Christ, then even the perfect tradition would be of little avail.
So it seems to me this should be our Goal and the goal of those we minister to. We have as our goal in ministry BEING over DOING. We want to be and make Devout followers of Christ. It is important to keep this in mind when we do our elements of Christian Education. When we are teaching them new facts about God, it is not so they can show off how smart they are to their friends, and it is certainly not so they can pass a test. They learn to know more to guide their devotion. Likeswise when we teach them to serve, they serve out of devotion to Christ not with a passion to assuage some guilt or fulfill their duty to  manking.
I’m really struggling to get devotion to the person of Christ to be my goal. My default is to see how much I know as the test of how I’m doing spiritually. At other times, it’s what I’m doing, my actions. But my single-mindedness needs to move from knowing about Christ, to being devoted to Him. And even actions may be for Christ or for many other reasons, if I am driven to act out of wanting to be seen as moral, or to assuage inner guilt, than it is of no benefit in my fight to become Christ like. But out of devotion, than yes. I hope that this can become my only goal, that I really set my mind and heart on it.

however, in my next post, I want to deal with a doubt that can keep us from pursuing devotion that is not often talked about. It is not the unbelief that God will satisfy, or the belief that anything is more worthwhile than devotion to Christ. It is the belive, often form experience, that though devotion is the goal, I am too weak to ever be devoted, and so I can despair of striving for it.

Grace and Peace, Luken