Hijacking the Word ‘Blessed’

In February, Huffington Post featured an article by Scott Dannemiller on the way Christians use the word blessed, and it resonated with us. Check it out and see if you agree or disagree. If you disagree, why? If you agree, how can we do a better job of communicating with our teens about the difference between reaping the benefits of sound financial investments or good business decisions, and the ways God actually chooses to bless God’s followers?

Is Sacrilege a Myth?

Most of us probably know at least a couple of little old ladies whose favorite hobby is finding things to be mortally offended over. It’s no secret that the elderly have more trouble evolving than the rest of us, even if they were young and crazy world changers once upon a time. It seems that, more often than not, most of them get to a place where they stop appreciating change, and it’s never more obvious than in the church.

In the church, teenagers are often made to feel offensive just by existing. They can’t skateboard through the parking lot or play tag in the hallways or laugh loudly in the empty sanctuary after service because the old ladies tell them they’re being disrespectful. The ever-present villain we call Generation Gap does its best to drive a wedge between these two age groups so that the elderly assume teenagers don’t understand reverence and teenagers assume the elderly don’t understand that having fun is a kind of reverence and respect.

“Nothing is sacred anymore” is a popular refrain with the old people, and that is both true and completely false. The idea of sacred is one we use in the church to refer to things that are set apart to remind us that God is holy and worthy of our worship. But our understanding of sacred gets off track when we assume that God can be contained in human parameters. We often forget that God created the very world we live in. And, if God created it, doesn’t that make it sacred? That is to say, God created everything. Therefore, nothing is sacred because everything is sacred.

Which means that loud and boisterous teenagers being who they are is a sacred act of worship reflecting the beautiful creation of God.

What Are We Really Getting Out of Short-Term Missions?

True, The Onion is irreverent, and no subject is sacred with them. True, they’re not a credible source for serious news stories. True, they are willing to speak truth and and expose subtexts surrounding situations that the legitimate media outlets ignore or avoid or hide.

So how about this time? Does The Onion have short-term missions pegged?

And what if The Onion is wrong? It’s the type of media outlet many Christians would describe as ‘worldly’ or ‘secular.’ So, suppose short-term missions really can be life-changing and transformational in lasting ways. That’s all fine and good, except for the fact that, somehow, a worldly site like The Onion is still getting a different message. If the message we send is what’s reflected in that article, then what are we getting wrong, exactly? The act of short-term missions itself? Or the translation and explanation of its meaning and significance?

Whatever it is, we’re obviously going wrong somewhere.

Scripture Is Not Just for Others; It’s for Us Too

Do you ever consider how often we use Scripture to prove ourselves right? To back up actions that other people view as unloving?

Yet how often do we use Scripture to gauge the state of our own hearts and souls?

There are so many commands and instructions in the Bible, and we Christians often use these to argue with other people about why they are wrong. We may not frame it that way. We may not ever admit that we’re judging someone as wrong and trying to prove ourselves right. We frame it with all kinds of fancy terms like discipling, and imparting truth, and doing God’s will, and sharing the gospel, and—my personal favorite—correcting in love.

But, if Scripture is for rebuking and correcting, how often do we use it to rebuke and correct ourselves? Jesus commands in various places to watch out for false prophets. He often uses wolf/sheep metaphors to get his point across.

When reading these passages, do you ever internalize the command, and wonder if you have sometimes acted as a false prophet, a wolf leading sheep astray? In Matthew 7, Jesus says you will know false prophets by their actions. Do you ever ponder your own actions, and wonder if you’ve done anything that might mislead someone about the truth of the kingdom of heaven? Have you ever lost your temper? Have you ever been dishonest—even a little bit? Have you ever said something hurtful that you wished you hadn’t? Have you ever alienated a non-Christian with divisive or judgmental words, or shut someone out of the kingdom of heaven based on a flawed idea of what the kingdom is?

GIVEAWAY: Bleed Out, by Aaron Mitchum

The book Bleed Out, by Aaron Mitchum, is a great resource for teens on what it looks like to be compassionate in today’s world. Grab a copy for a teen you know today. Click the Enter button below for a chance to win. Contest runs through Monday, January 27. A winner will be announced Tuesday, January 28.


GUEST POST: Jason Frizzell | Consumerism

*Editor’s Note: Return guest and friend of the Barefoot blog Jason Frizzell shares some thoughts on consumerism and values today.

What do you really value? In different seasons of life I’ve found this question to be both motivating and debilitating. As I’ve stared into the mirror and seen the reflection of how I have invested my time, resources, and abilities, I’ve experienced moments where my values are inspiring and moments where my values humble me because they are different from what I hoped them to be.

Life is a journey, filled with a sequence of highs and lows. Self-discovery is critically important for an individual, his or her family, and his or her broader community. The process of self-discovery begins with uncovering what our values really are.

Values, beliefs, and customs are directly related to tendencies, priorities, and actions. Objectively identifying how we behave will lead us to question why we do what we do. It is the determination of the why behind a particular behavior that leads us to discover what value drives our activity.

The sobering reality is that much of what we say we value actually differs from what our realistic, lived values tend to be. While it’s true that an external environment, perceived limitations, or uncontrollable circumstances contribute to the development of a set of values, personal choice and activity still bring a set of values to life.

Let’s look at the state of the North American church for a moment. Consumerism and democracy have shaped North American faith. As a result, people have a tendency to voice their individual opinions while searching to create (or consume) their own personal spiritual experiences. The resulting factor has been an elevation of personal spiritual development with the resulting diminishing value of a communal experience or expression. The question of, What do I get out of this? becomes more important than, What can we contribute to this?

Knowing what we value will help us redefine a vision for our present reality and our future hope. Values shape who we are and what we do. What do your values say about you?

Twitter Revolves Around You; the World Does Not

We’ve all seen the articles about how we spend too much time on social media and not enough time “being present” with those who are physically in front of us. We’ve been exhorted to turn off our phones and have face-to-face conversations. Blah blah blah.

That’s not what we’re going to talk about today, so don’t check out just yet.

Twitter is fun. Twitter is its own community, and it allows you to carry a large number of friends around with you in your pocket, everywhere you go. It allows you something to do while you’re stuck in a long line. It provides a place for you to share weird conversations you overhear in public. You can take pictures of what you’re doing and share that very moment, rather than wait ’til you get home.

These things are all great when you’re out and about alone. But, when you are with other people, and you’re live tweeting your friends’ conversations, and pictures of what you and your friends and family are doing, you’re essentially taking something that isn’t about you, and making it all about you.

Instead of your wife’s labor and delivery process being about the child the two of you are bringing into this world, and the special moment that is for your family, and the incredible amount of effort and pain and beauty that is the child-birthing process, live tweeting it makes it about your annoying mother-in-law, who treats you like a moron; about your long and boring wait outside the labor and delivery room; about the grossness of a C-section.

Instead of your seniors’ graduations being about their accomplishments and achievements and the futures and possibilities that loom ahead of them, live tweeting them makes it about you being there; about the boring ceremony you had to endure; about how great of a youth worker you are.

Instead of your sister’s wedding being about her and her partner joining together for a lifetime, live tweeting it makes it about how good you look in your dress; about the awkward, too-long hug you got from Uncle Bernard; about the mess you made of the chocolate fondue at the reception.

It’s okay to accumulate stories about your long wait in the delivery room, about how you got stuck sitting behind the seven-foot-tall man at graduation; about how you made a total fool of yourself at the chocolate fondue station, and then later on the dance floor. These are all ways that we personalize our experiences and relive them later, with friends. But should we live tweet them as they happen?

This article both is and is not about being present. As it turns out, everyone who has come before, and said that we should make an effort to put down our phones and be present, is right—because, once we do that, we will be far less inclined to find a way to make the world revolve around ourselves.

GUEST POST: Jason Frizzell | Leadership Culture

*Editor’s Note: Jason Frizzell joins the Barefoot blog today to discuss leadership culture. You can engage him here in the comments, or find more from him on his website.

Over the last fifteen years I’ve had thousands of conversations with people about serving in youth ministry in some form or other, with only hundreds ending up buying into what I was selling. Does this make me a failure?

I don’t believe so. I wonder if the challenge we have in recruiting and retaining leaders is more of a question about the culture of leadership we’ve created than it is about our ability to lead, cast vision, or position people to succeed.

I’m experimenting with three ideas on how to grow a leadership culture in my community.

1. Believe in God’s sovereignty. If I truly believe that God designed all of life to function together for a reason and a purpose, I need to trust that God stitches teams, communities, and contexts together for a purpose as well. The Bible teaches that every part of the body of Christ has a unique function and role to play for the overall well being of the entire organism. We need to believe this truth as leaders. God will provide what we need. Perhaps a shortage of leaders is an invitation to rethink the way we’ve been ministering to people rather than a sign that the community is apathetic toward youth ministry.

2. Reject your personal need for affirmation. Leadership is not about a leader. Leadership is about serving the community to usher people into the presence of their Creator. It’s nice to be told that you bring value to a community or a ministry, but this can’t be our primary emphasis in recruiting people to serve with us. Our need for affirmation cannot be humanly directed. What would it look like for us to rest in knowing that God delights in who God has created us to be?

3. Pray like you’ve never prayed before. Jesus challenged his team of disciples to pray for workers for the plentiful harvest fields. We need to do the same. When was the last time we were driven by desperation to cry out to the Father, asking for what only he can give? Do you have space in your calendar to saturate your community in prayer and ask for others to respond to God’s invitation for their lives?

What would you add to the experiment in creating a culture of leadership?