Mini Me…

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One of the greatest characters in film is Mini Me from the Austin Powers series.  Now, granted for many of you reading this blog you are already offended just with the mere mention of that film series, sorry, but keep reading it might come full circle (maybe). Have you ever wondered how Mini Me relates to Jesus? No? Hmm…

This Sunday I was talking with a group of people about the Tabernacle.  The Tabernacle is a pretty cool thing.  It was a fold up Temple that the people of God were able to take with them anywhere they went.  It was a kind of holy Winnebago or something.  Here’s a picture compliments of the ESV Study Bible:

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It was a pretty remarkable thing.  It was over this tent that a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night hovered declaring that God was present in their midst.  That’s pretty remarkable!  Of course, it didn’t take long before this became totally ho-hum to the people of God (don’t believe me? Check out Numbers 25). Anyway, the Tabernacle became the Temple and then something happened, Jesus of Nazareth showed up and said that he was going to replace the Temple (read John, all of it).

It gets better.  Jesus, this God-man, right before he died told his followers that it would be better for them that he leaves and sends them the “Comforter”, popularly known as the Holy Spirit.  Why was this better?

It’s better because now we can all be Mini Mes. That’s right. The Holy Spirit is the agent of salvation and the agent of sanctification.  That’s a ten dollar sentence to say that the Holy Spirit brings you to God and changes you to be more like God.  Anyone who claims to follow Jesus is indwelt by the Holy Spirit, he is at work in you.  He is changing you.  He is making you into a “Mini Me” of Jesus.  Alan and Debra Hirsch talk about the reality that the Church is to be “Little Jesuses”.

If we are Little Jesuses then we must take seriously the call of Jesus and the inner working of the Holy Spirit.  It means that we must go where Jesus goes and love what Jesus loves.

How do we know if we are taking these steps?  How do we know if we are becoming like Jesus?  Well Paul gives us some help in Galatians 5:

But what happens when we live God’s way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard—things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely. (Galatians 5:22-23, The Message)

So what kind of Mini Me are you?

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Lead, lead, lead…

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Yesterday I committed myself to watching The NINES leadership conference.  I set up the laptop with the projector and big screen and kicked back in our youth room. I was impressed with the variety of speakers and the depth of insight that was being presented.  I was less than surprised by some of the poor exegesis.  I was able to invest in about half the conference.

For those of you who don’t know how the The NINES works it’s a single day web conference where speakers discuss a single topic.  This year they got 6 minutes.  So, over the course of the nine hours there were over 100 videos.  The pace is fast and a couple fo hours disappear before you know it. This year’s topic was “Game Changers”.

There were two highlights for me as a developing leader that I am going to continue chewing on.  The first was from Mike Slaughter.  He discussed the centrality of discipleship in his ministry.  What really caught me was when he said, “Programs and services do not produce disciples, disciples do.”  Now, this is not new information.  But, it was one of those reminders that as a pastor/shepherd my calling is to disciple making.  It is not to entertaining or building a social club. The ramifications of this are still swirling in my head.

The second talk that has stuck was from Eric Geiger.  He discussed the role of the pastor.  He argued that the typical church structure is:

[Pastor]—->Minister—–>[People]

He then turned to Ephesians 4:11-12 and made the case that the biblical model is:

[Pastor]—–>Prepare—–[People]—–>Minister

This ties directly into the discipleship issue.  While I was on staff with Campus Crusade for Christ I think I was a pretty effective discipler.  The movements that I served developed high student ownership and our staff teams were diligent about preparing people to do ministry.  There was a clear DNA that we sought to replicate within each student.  I think that this has been the hardest part of the transition into the local church.  Our DNA is not as clear, the folks who have been entrusted to us are not as available, the expectations on the role of pastor is very different because the people have expectations!

This morning as I process I am wondering how do we effectively disciple in the modern world?

Discipleship…who knew.

So it turns that some of the greatest thinkers in the Christian world are coming to the conclusion that the church has missed something.  It has missed “discipleship”.  We are not training, building, developing, and sending mature believers into the world.  It seems to me that this is the “cost” of the great “evangelical” movement that has developed over the last fifty-five years. Prior to the fifties the church trained people well.  There was a commitment to “catechism”.  There was an emphasis on education.  However, there was a cost.  The cost was that of evangelism.  We were not inviting people into the community of faith. So, were we really training people well? Probably not.

But, now we get the message out and get people saved but we are not building and sending.  We need now not a pendulum swing but a re-centering on the life and ministry of Jesus.  I think that this is a good article and points us back to where we need to be.  However, it’s still a rehash of Coleman’s Master Plan of Evangelism. If we could only master the Master Plan.
NextReformation » The Great Omission

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Applying the paradigm…maybe?

Here is something I put together about applying the missional concept to the role of “Youth Pastor”.  What do you think?

Introduction

There has been a fundamental change in the way the world works over the last twenty-five years. The shift has been called “post-modernism” or “hyper-modernity” or “post-Christian” or “post-Christendom”.  Regardless of what one calls the paradigm change, the change has indeed happened. The way that most people see and understand the world is very different than it was not very long ago.   You could say, “this ain’t your mama’s world anymore”.   The kind of shift that has happened is as thoroughgoing as the shift that took place in the 1960’s, maybe even more so.

The environment that the children of the emerging generations  are growing up with is a unique one that the church, their parents, and their educators have not ever experienced.  The rampant individualism, the emphasis on a radical consumerism, and the overdevelopment of the institutional church are leaving the emerging generations out of the spiritual conversation.  If we are going to reach the emerging generations there has to be a change that takes place on a fundamental level.
Consider briefly the reality that the Benoit Mindset List tells us of this year’s graduating seniors:
“Most of the students entering College this fall, members of the Class of 2011, were born in 1989. For them, Alvin Ailey, Andrei Sakharov, Huey Newton, Emperor Hirohito, Ted Bundy, Abbie Hoffman, and Don the Beachcomber have always been dead.

  1. What Berlin wall?
  2. Rush Limbaugh and the “Dittoheads” have always been lambasting liberals.
  3. They never “rolled down” a car window.
  4. They may confuse the Keating Five with a rock group.
  5. They have grown up with bottled water.
  6. General Motors has always been working on an electric car.
  7. Nelson Mandela has always been free and a force in South Africa.
  8. Pete Rose has never played baseball.
  9. Rap music has always been mainstream.
  10. Religious leaders have always been telling politicians what to do, or else!
  11. “Off the hook” has never had anything to do with a telephone.
  12. Russia has always had a multi-party political system.
  13. Women have always been police chiefs in major cities.
  14. Classmates could include Michelle Wie, Jordin Sparks, and Bart Simpson.
  15. Wal-Mart has always been a larger retailer than Sears and has always employed more workers than GM.
  16. 16.    Being “lame” has to do with being dumb or inarticulate, not disabled.
  17. When all else fails, the Prozac defense has always been a possibility.
  18. Multigrain chips have always provided healthful junk food.
  19. They grew up in Wayne’s World.
  20. U2 has always been more than a spy plane.
  21. Stadiums, rock tours and sporting events have always had corporate names.
  22. Commercial product placements have been the norm in films and on TV.
  23. Women’s studies majors have always been offered on campus.
  24. Being a latchkey kid has never been a big deal.
  25. Thanks to MySpace and Facebook, autobiography can happen in real time.
  26. High definition television has always been available.
  27. Microbreweries have always been ubiquitous.
  28. Virtual reality has always been available when the real thing failed.
  29. Tiananmen Square is a 2008 Olympics venue, not the scene of a massacre.
  30. MTV has never featured music videos.
  31. They get much more information from Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert than from the newspaper.
  32. They’re always texting 1 n other.
  33. They never saw Johnny Carson live on television.
  34. Avatars have nothing to do with Hindu deities.
  35. The World Wide Web has been an online tool since they were born.”

Biblical Foundations

The change is simple and yet so radical that we might simply dismiss it out of hand without thinking through the consequences.  The fact of the matter is that we as the church are like most auto manufacturers.  We are seeking to outsource the spiritual formation of the emerging generations.
Biblically the primary function of the parent is to “bring them [children] up in the training and instruction of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4).  Interestingly, the emphasis is on the father here.  He is not to “exasperate” his child.  This is the role of the parent.  It is their responsibility to train and instruct their child in the Lord.

This idea is not new to the Newer Testament but is found throughout the Older Testament as well.  A key passage is in Deuteronomy 6:1-9:

“1 These are the commands, decrees and laws the LORD your God directed me to teach you to observe in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to possess, 2 so that you, your children and their children after them may fear the LORD your God as long as you live by keeping all his decrees and commands that I give you, and so that you may enjoy long life. 3 Hear, O Israel, and be careful to obey so that it may go well with you and that you may increase greatly in a land flowing with milk and honey, just as the LORD, the God of your fathers, promised you.

4 Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. 5 Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. 6 These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. 7 Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 8 Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 9 Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.”

The concepts of the parents passing on the fundamental truth about who God is, is placed on the shoulders of the parents.

It is not the responsibility of the youth pastor. It is not the responsibility of the Christian school. It is not the responsibility of the Sunday School.  The spiritual formation of the child is the parent’s responsibility.

The body of believers is then to come alongside the parent to aid in that process of spiritual formation.  This is communal.  Think about what you just read there in Deuteronomy 6.  Could you imagine being a child and every home you went to had Deuteronomy 6:4, 5 written on the doorposts?  You would be exposed to it at every turn.

The other key thing is that at a very early age (probably 13) boys and girls were understood to be fully a part of the community of faith. The disciples of Jesus were most likely teenagers.  The covenants were bestowed on children at eight days old!

Today, most people younger than 35 in our faith communities are seen as children who are not ready to exert leadership.  It’s nice if they want to be in a choir or a play, even play in the band.  But, they are not challenged to teach, to engage as leaders in the community.  How many conversations take place around the dinner tables in our homes about spiritual things?  Does family worship take place? Is there intentionality of the parent to teach their child spiritual truth?

Missional Paradigm Applied

Approximately 80% of churched children do not continue in their faith after high school.  The keys to retention seem to be pretty straightforward, discipleship and parental involvement.

Most churches however, hire “Youth Pastors”.  The job descriptions are simple.  Reach out and care for our High School and Junior High students while providing support for K-5.

The consistent pull in youth ministry over the last twenty-five years has been to create a bigger, better program.  If you entertain them, they will come.  The hard part is that you keep them by how you get them.  The entertainment has to be bigger, better, and more awesome each week or they will go down the block to the other church.

What if we saw the children in our congregation as not simply kids but as image bearers of the triune God?  What if the parents were engaged in the spiritual development of their children? What if we sought to actually send our kids out as ambassadors and engaged with them as brothers and sisters in Christ?

To achieve this there would have to be a fundamental transformation in the role of the “Youth Pastor”.  He would have to become a “Family Pastor”.  To understand what “Family” pastor means one must first define what is meant by “family”.

Family is the core building block of a community.  This would include young married people to those who have sent their children to college.  This would also include single parents and blended families.  The reason is that marriage is the primary foundation for godly parenting.  The Family Pastor would first help marriages to be healthy and then build on that foundation when as people have children.  He will help in the transition from no kids to one child to elementary to middle school to high school to college.

This role would have him focusing on the discipleship of parents, helping them to engage their children in spiritual formation. He would then be freed to foster the “youth” of the church to be missionaries to their peers.

This means that the ministry of the church to the youth would have a focus on pulling the children into mission as opposed to pushing them through a program. The emphasis would be on training.  Sending them to their peers as ambassadors for Christ.

A developing community of Christ followers who happened to be young people would replace programs.  “Church” would become a place to connect with other Christ followers on mission.  Sunday mornings would be a time of worship, prayer, training, and teaching.

Young people would be pulled into the rest of the community.  They would be influenced by 80 somethings, 70 somethings, and on and on.

Generational differentiation would be replaced as young people are seen as participating members of the community.  The Family pastor would help to bridge the gaps between generations.
Youth involvement would move beyond babysitting and singing in the choir to a full engagement in the life of the church.  Youth would be seen and understood as people created in the image God along with adults.  Believing youth would be recognized as fellow believers indwelt by the Holy Spirit with spiritual gifts.

As emerging generations graduate and leave the context of the church and enter the world, they will leave with a firm grasp of their faith, and how it functions in the context of the body of Christ.
To move from program to organic community in realm of families and youth will require time.  There will be consolidation.  But, when the gospel is embraced by a generation (be it emerging, Boomer, or even X) the results are explosive.

Nuts and Bolts
The big question that must be answered is practically what does this look like in a job description for a search committee of a church that desires to apply the missional approach to “youth” ministry.  The key would be not the development of programs but a pastor who is focused on discipleship as his primary ministry. I think that it could look something like this:

  • An embracing of the concept of covenantal family.
  • This points to the fact that within the body of Christ there are covenantal families that comprise it.
  • Children are brought to adulthood, recognized as adults, and differentiated from their parents.
  • Shepherds families (as defined above)
  • Marriage support
  • Parenting training
  • Oversees and develops volunteers in all youth ministries.
  • Disciples parents and trains them to engage in spiritual formation of their children.
  • Disciples teens and sends them out on mission to their peers.
  • Develops an environment of spiritual formation for youth church-wide cross generationally so that all believers are embraced and sent as laborers.
  • Recruiting and developing multi-generational disciplers.
  • Drawing teens into discipleship relationships beyond their parents and peers.
  • Develops an organic community among youth and families where youth are continued to be developed into adulthood and maturity in the faith.
  • Develops and provides opportunities for training and involvement in mission in the peer and familial context.
  • Develops an environment where the family is the first discipler but not the only discipler, thereby creating an environment where teens are prepared to be discipled outside the family context.
  • Teens are developed and sent as adults and mature believers upon graduation.
  • An acknowledgement from the church that this will be an imperfect and messy process.

Imagine…
Imagine generation after generation of covenant children embracing their relationship with God as their own…

Imagine sending High School seniors as ambassadors for Christ to the university, work force, and the world, year after year…

Imagine healthy marriages that foster an environment for healthy parenting…

Imagine parents and children engaged with Jesus together…

Imagine generation after generation Christ-followers being born, grown, and sent to the world…

Imagine our church changing the world by sending laborers to the harvest one son and one daughter at a time…
Imagine the Lord smiling and saying to each generation of parents, “Well done, my good and faithful servants.”

The Forgotten Ways, Part 4

The Heart of It All – Jesus is Lord. So, now what? The first main principle that Hirsch lays out is that of disciple making. The development of disciples has taken on a new cool twist recently with all the emphasis on the Jewish life and what a Rabbi really is and therefore what it means to be a disciple. Hirsch steps in a provides a clear, succinct, and challenging picture of what discipleship is all about. How important is discipleship? Hirsch argues, “if we fail at this point then we must fail in all the others.”

So what is discipleship? It is the embedding of mDNA into other people. It is that process by which men and women follow Jesus are built into people who can reproduce their lives into others. This is God’s plan for sending his message all over the world. And it as Hirsch puts it, “it worked.”

Discipleship has taken on many labels over the years, Robert Coleman called it “The Master Plan of Evangelism”. The envogue thing these days to be a disciple of Jesus, getting his “dust all over you.” Here’s the thing. We all talk about discipleship. We all know that being a disciple is an important thing to be. But, how many people actually practice discipleship? This is the real question.

Hirsch challenges our concept in this subject based on the reality that church involvement has become the lowest common denominator. The “seeker-sensitive” church has made it so that anyone can come to church. In the early church to be a member you had to work through the “catechisms”. This could take years.

When there is danger surrounding the church and it has to make sure that false brothers are not slipping in then discipleship takes on a whole new meaning. In the West we do not fear for our lives. In the West we are able to shop for our church and find the one with the best program and the least amount of commitment. This simply is not possible in the persecuted church or the early church.

Hirsch has labeled his concept of discipleship as “The Conspiracy of the Little Jesus”. This means that he understands Matthew 28:18-20 to be Jesus casting a vision for there to be “a lot of little versions” of himself “infiltrating every nook and cranny of himself.”

This is the heart of what it means to be missional. There is a build and send aspect to the entire concept of discipleship in the missional church. Discipleship has often been understood as come out to church, Sunday school, Wednesday nights. These events constantly pull people out from their worlds.

The missional understanding of discipleship is one where building and sending takes place at the same time. Discipleship cannot be done rightly in the walls of a church but it must be done out in the world. We must continue to go out and enter into every aspect of the world.

Hirsch argues, and I think convincingly, that this is the center of what it means to be “in Christ” or “abiding in Christ”.

The key to discipleship in Hirsch’s mind is embodiment. This concept simply means that the “teacher” needs to be living out the Christ message in life before the “learner”. So, again we must take another look at what it means to do discipleship. It’s not taking people through a curriculum. It is living life with other believers in the context of their world.

Paul uses imitation language throughout his writing. Can someone learn to imitate another by hanging out at church? In a coffee shop? No. They need to do life together. Discipleship is something that has to be intentional. It has to be all-inclusive.

Discipleship then has significant ramifications for how the church is led. Hirsch puts it succinctly, “leadership to be genuinely Christian, must always reflect Christlikeness and therefore…discipleship.”

Movements can only reach as far as the leadership base. Leaders in the missional church are self-reproducing, fully devoted disciples. Therefore, leaders can only be built as disciples are built. In the missional church the best way to judge health of the movement is the number of disciples that are reproducing their lives.

Discipleship is a necessity. Discipleship is the core practice of the missional church.

The way that Hirsch argues for discipleship to take place is right practice bringing about right belief. That is, processing what it means to be a Christ follower as we go. That is thrusting people into mission RIGHT NOW and teaching them on the job, as it were.

Think about all the things that we learn to do: walking, talking, socializing, all of it is done through doing and learning as you go. This is the same for following Christ. We need to take people and get them doing it. Involve them and they will become more like Christ.

I think that there is so much good here in the discussion that Hirsch provides on discipleship. There are some things that I think are inherently hard for us in the West to swallow. Especially, those of us in suburban life. How can we do life together when our congregations travel as much as an hour to come to church?

Personally, I know of two families in our church that live in my suburb. We travel 20 minutes to church. Why? Because there is a need for reformed, biblical communities in metro Detroit.

What would it look like to organize a church around its communities? What if a church organized cell/small groups based on geography and said, “Do life together. Include others from your community.” Eat dinner together. Have your kids play with each other.

What is all this took place in the rhythm of life? What if we chose to limit the number of times we “pulled out” people from the world in which they live?

Discipleship is radical. Am I willing to be radical?