Coming to Terms (part 1)

This post will be a short one, but take the time to mull it over and then add your comments to this conversation. I will follow up next week with some summary statements and some of my own thoughts as well. Not long ago, in preparation for a class I was teaching, I came across the following quote, and to tell you the truth, it has been one that has stuck with me, nagging me, and calling out to be considered.

Ronald Rolheiser, in his book The Restless Heart, writes, “Spirituality is about what we do with our unrest…about what we do with that incurable desire, the madness…within us.”

How does this compare to how you think about the term spirituality? What are the strengths with how Rolheiser defines the term? How would this change how you and your church address your community in its spiritual hunger? Does this definition come up short? If so, what are its shortcomings?

Looking forward to reading and interacting with your comments.


The Rest of The Story

In the first chapter of Genesis we can make a couple observations about “what God is like.” Clearly God creates. We can also see that God is in relationship with the Trinity and also with what has been created. Finally, God rests from the work of creation.

God creates, relates, and rests.

In the same chapter we learn that women and men are created in the image of God. As such, we know from our own experience and also from the example we find of God in Genesis 1, that, like God, we are made to create, relate, and rest.

Rest is a wonderful gift, a leisure afforded us by our creator. It also entails a demonstration on our part to trust in God’s care, provision, and protection while we rest from our effort. Not least, to rest is a command from our Creator we are called to obey.

I encourage you to trust God by receiving this gift of rest and obeying God on a frequent basis. Why not now take some time to look at your schedule over the next few months and block off some intentional time to rest. It doesn’t need to be whole days or weeks of time, but it should be frequent and guarded, and time spent that will provide you with rest and refreshment from routine. Consider scheduling a lunch with a loved one, a coffee break at your favorite coffee house, an afternoon at a park or state forest, a day trip to the beach or lake, or an appointment with a hammock. The key is that, during this time, you cease from your labor, and you trust in and awake to God’s presence and provision. Consciously, rest in God.

That is the rest of the story.


A Focus On Likeness

If I were asked to define the goal for a person trying to follow Jesus, I would say that our goal is God’s glory and, through his power, to grow into the likeness of Jesus for the sake of the world.

I think this is at least a starting point for understanding the focus for our everyday lives.  For many of us, I think our focus moves toward lists of what we need to acquire or accomplish and to getting through the day. With our heads down, trying to get through, we often fail to think about our day as a means to help us grow into the likeness of Jesus.

When I consider my days in light of my Christian faith, many times what I evaluate is, Where did I fail, God? I find that my Christian faith in my everyday experience is a matter of what Dallas Willard calls sin management. Did I sin less today than yesterday?

Living our lives trying to sin less, while it may be needed, does not get us to our goal of growing into the likeness of Jesus. We can avoid bad behavior, but that doesn’t guarantee we are surrendered, available, alert, and attentive to what God is doing in our midst. Sin management is the equivalent to killing the weeds, and that is one approach to managing a lawn. Another approach is to feed the grass so that, as it grows and becomes healthy, it provides less and less room for the weeds.

Feeding the grass is an invitation to apply what we already know of God to our everyday experience. As we go through our days, we should take time to: listen to a spouse, play with a child, sit with an elderly neighbor, slow down and watch a bird, forgive a slight, serve someone, just to name a few ways (feel free to add to this list in the comments).

Does this resonate with you? Are we killing weeds or feeding the grass? When we come to the end of our day and look back, where was our focus: getting through the day, or were there moments when we attempted to grow in our Christlikeness?


The Church of Juvenile Faith?

In the most recent Christianity Today, the cover article asks, “When are we going to grow up?” It charges that, in the twentieth century, with the success and focus on youth ministry, the church has become (reflecting our culture) obsessed with becoming forever young. Adopting many of the sounds, preferences, styles, and vernacular of adolescents over the past fifty years, the church has transformed its public face, appealing to the tastes of the young.

In so doing, the church has definitely attracted a fair audience and hearing. The article continues to suggest that the shadow side of this success has been the adoption of some immature beliefs—a kind of Christianized version of adolescent narcissism. This narcissism shows up when we celebrate God, faith, and the church as existing to help me solve my problems; and this belief is accepted as an authentic spirituality.

Is this type of faith and understanding of spirituality at work in our churches? Do you see this as a problem? Are our churches, as the article suggests, playing to our culture’s celebration of youth and staying and looking young? Is the church selling our faith short by attempting to sell a gospel that is long on benefits but lean on obligation?

It seems that, if the analysis is correct regarding the current state of the Evangelical church, then what is wrong in the pew is also wrong in the youth room. We would love to hear your thoughts.

 

Photo credit: robchenier


Transition into Summer

Spring is winding down, and summer is in clear view. Camp details are being finalized. Fundraisers for short-term mission trips are everywhere. Teens are amped for the school year to get done and to enter into the rhythm of the summer.

So have you thought about parents lately? Why? Because any parent with a teen knows that the school year provides a structure to family life, and that structure can quickly unravel during the summer. As youth workers, the health and vitality of teenagers’ family lives should be a high priority for our ministries. Yet often times, in the midst of all the activity, we can overlook caring for and equipping parents.

We know that youth ministry can be overwhelming and that you can’t do everything. So we put together some tips and resources you can use to help parents with the transition into summer.

INFORMATION
Parents need information on how to transition to summer without experiencing an imbalance in family life.

  • Transition Tips: We created this list of tips for you to give to parents to help them think about planning their transition to summer. Email it to all your parents using the mass email feature in the Tracking Assistant section in your BFO subscription.
  • Parent Further: This is a great site to point parents to for practical ideas for creating healthy and vital family practices.

ASSISTANCE
Parents need practical help with transitioning to summer.

  • Transition Night: Host a parent night at your church for the explicit purpose of parents helping parents transition to summer. Ask two or three parents to share their summer family schedules, how they change their daily routines, and what they do to stay connected and encourage family faith practices during the summer months.
  • Ask Parents: See how the church can help families transition to the summer.

ENCOURAGEMENT
Parents need to know they are not alone and that they are valued.

  • Texting All Parents! Add all of the parents’ cell information into the Tracking Assistant section in your BFO subscription.  And send all of them encouraging texts about parenting and faith on a weekly basis.
  • Summer Survival Kits: Create summer survival kits for parents. Include a note of encouragement, a family devotional book, a family movie, and a list of engaging family activities that parents can do with their teens.

INVOLVEMENT
Parents need to be involved in all aspects of their teens’ summer lives.

  • Invite Parents: Ask parents to participate in the youth group activities throughout the summer. It will give them more time to connect with their children and will be great for all the teens to see the faith of families lived out!
  • Don’t Compete: Make sure that parents don’t feel like they’re competing with the youth group for time with their children. Communicate clearly and regularly, asking for input from parents about all the summer activities.

 

Photo credit: ashley.adcox