Friday, August 18, 2017

CLASS: “Authentic” Youth Ministry

Here is yet ANOTHER post NOT written by yours truly (why is it every time I say that, I keep hearing applause??)

This article is by Greg Reid

I came from an unconventional background, and I lived an unconventional life and did unconventional ministry. I was an unconventional child, much to the concern of my very conventional parents. I tried to re-bury worms when it rained one day because they were coming out of the ground and I thought they would be cold. I cried for hours when I was 6 when I couldn’t find my neighbor friend, and my mom told me he had gone to Washington. She couldn’t figure out why I was so upset…till she figured out it was because I knew Washington was dead, and I thought she was trying to find a nice way to tell me what happened to my neighbor…

I remember my friend David had been brought in as an elder at our church and he kind of defined unconventional. He challenged “doing church as usual,” urged compassion for the less fortunate and irked people who felt inconvenienced by “problem people.” I heard about one meeting where the leadership was discussing whether to help “that family” again since they always seemed to be in need. 

David responded, “I know! Let’s just chain them to their beds so they can barely reach their food!”  I would have loved to have seen the shocked expressions…

At one point one of the other elders looked at David and said, “You don’t color between the lines, do you, David?” “There’s lines?” David asked in astonishment.

I get David. I get loops, cliffs, turnarounds, but lines? Not really.

I am allergic to “how to” things – especially “how to” youth ministry books. They’re kids. They don’t color well between the lines either, so I figured, let’s just get ‘em to color. If we get them to do Jesus colors, the lines will come.

Some years ago, God set me in the midst of a group of some of the most unconventional kids you could imagine: “barely saved,” as some would say – still smoking, sometimes going on drinking binges, often cussing, ripped jeans, pierced, tattooed and earringed, kids who often went home to abusive parents, occult families or just the streets. I wasn’t prepared for them – but I was completely prepared – to try to steer the  Jesus bus in the chaos and pain and crazy lives of my young passengers. I understood their hurt – the abuse, rejection, loneliness, crushing sin addictions.  
What I didn’t know was, how do I act around them? How should I talk, dress, behave? Do I become super-parent, taskmaster, schoolteacher or buddy, pal, “one of them?”
When in doubt, ask.

“So what’s the best advice that you can give me?” I asked one of our guys that was most honest and understood my heart.  He said, “Don’t blow your class.” I understood immediately. At that time, I was 33. I wasn’t 15 or 18. Or 40. Or 80 or whatever. I could look or act old or like a child but I was still 33.

Recently, we endured what I call the “Rob Bell glasses phenomena.” 

Note to readers from James - watch this video:
Rob Bell-Beware of this false teacher!

Video (15:08 min) by Todd Friel of Wretched

Rob Bell, the author and later off-the-reservation theological pariah, wrote a millennial-appealing book and did some DVD’s and soon became the de facto role model for a whole new generation of young youth pastors in the early part of the millenium. Soon, everyone was buying Rob Bell glasses, dressing neo-preppie college cool, speaking in short sentences punctuated with angst and profundity followed by long pauses, waiting for the heavy truth to wow the crowd. Short, round bar table to replace the dreaded and outdated pulpit,…iPad and/or MacBook replacing the Bible, which was found on the iPhone app… These guys were plugged in, wired up and ready to go…nowhere…which is where Bell went before plunging off of Heretic Cliff. It was all questions, relevance, the hip du jour trends…and eventually became Emergent Soup, leaving a lot of pretty sincere young youth leaders embarrassed by Bell’s betrayal and having to “rethink” coolness as calling and connecting. All of it was, in the end,  simply the sound of fashion, signifying nothing…

And I think we all go through this stage when we’re younger as we’re trying to find our identity. But really…seeing 70-year-old evangelists with a ‘fro…no.

The Impact of our ministry to youth is not the clothes we wear or the hipness we try to exude. It’s in the depth of our message and the realness of our love and care. If “imitating culture” was the trick, John the Baptist was a total failure. Wearing camel hair and chomping on locusts – definitely uncool.
On the other hand, we don’t want to alienate the culture either.  Missionary Amy Carmichael did the unprecedented when she began to wear the traditional woman’s Sari dress so as to better fit with the people she longed to reach for Jesus. western dress had tagged her as an imperialist privileged person. Wearing a Sari said, “I do care not to offend you. I do want to identify with you..”
It’s hard to find the balance. I think it is partly in Paul’s “I am all things to all men, that I might by all means save some,” (1 COR 9:22) and “whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.” (1 COR 10:31).   It’s not to impress. It’s not to be cool. It’s not to be something else. It’s to do what God wants.

And that’s almost always just about matters of the heart. If you’re insecure, you might tend to act and dress to impress. If you were the uncool kid, you might act and dress to PROVE you’re cool. I pray God gives you the grace to avoid all of these things. Just be who God made you to be!
Here’s one key: Paul said, “By the grace of God, I am what I am.” Simple, isn’t it? There’s no trying, no struggle, no regrets and no one-upmanship. I am just who He made me to be. Be imitators of Christ, not of the world, not of the culture, not of the newest hip worship leaders or motivational “preacher.” Be who God made YOU to be.

I don’t know who said it, but I’ve taught it to many, many of my youth over the years (if it’s you, let me know and I will credit you, because it’s just so great!) but here’s the best bit of advice I’ve ever heard on this:  “Be who you is, because if you ain’t who you is, you is who you ain’t.”
s youth pastors, you may be expected to dress up for church events: when you preach, when it’s a special event like Christmas or Easter. Don’t shoot yourself in the foot by showing up in ripped jeans and an old Iron Maiden t-shirt. “But I’m not a coat and tie guy!” You’re missing the point. You are all things to all people so you can by all means save some. Even church folks. Get it? It’s not about dress. It’s about the heart. You showing up in radical youth clothes on Sunday is a message: “ I don’t care what you think.” That’s a pretty good way to cut short your stay as a youth pastor.
Tattoos aren’t a great way to “relate” either. I know everyone is getting them. And I will leave the debate about whether it is scripturally allowed or not for another day. I do have a couple of thoughts, though. One, remember that when you get older, everything shrivels and sags and colors fade, and your radically awesome angel will eventually resemble a chunky midlife hippie with receding hair and mysterious lesions on his face…

And if you are getting it to impress others with your coolness, why? And if you’re getting it to impress kids in your youth group with your coolness, how does that model Jesus, bring them closer to Him? How does it model separation from the world? Just a thought for those honest enough to ask themselves these questions. Simply put, what is your real motive?

So how do you dress and still be yourself? Well…dress like you dress, unless (1) It’s offensive or (2) You’re asked to dress otherwise. Other than that, my best counsel is this: dress to minimize attention to YOURSELF. Don’t let anything distract from the message of Jesus. You’re a vessel for the glory, don’t TAKE the glory. It’s ok to look nice, or fun, even hip, but don’t dress to impress. Dress to decrease so He might increase. That means not being decked out in Armani everything and Ft Knox gold hangings that get more comments than whether your message changed anybody. And don’t dress like a slob either. It’s not grungy or classy that counts but what is in your heart’s motives, and whether you are working to become the backdrop to the real star of the show – Jesus.
In the end, kids won’t remember your cool tattoo much. (Unless if was a cheaply done lion head that now resembles a leaf…) They will remember some of your messages, many of your out of the pulpit words, some simple but profound words from God, but mostly, whether you really loved them, and were there for them in that crucial and painful time called adolescence. But most importantly, your prayer should be that they will remember Jesus.

Be who you is – uniquely, warts-and-all you – and avoid the traps of dressing or talking or acting like a kid to impress them with how well you can “relate.” They will see right through it. They’re not looking for someone LIKE them to party with them, but someone different from them to LEAD them. 

Don’t stoop to the world to find tricks to impress or clothes to draw attention to yourself. Help youth step up to the kingdom world where it’s not what you wear, but who you are in Jesus that is all that matters.

Don’t blow your class.
Gregory Reid

For more on youth ministry according to Greg Reid, check out this article as well:


Another note from James, for more about this, check out this article regarding who you are in Christ, your spiritual I.D. as it were:


Saturday, August 5, 2017


JOHN 4:16-19
16 Jesus saith unto her, Go, call thy husband, and come hither.

17 The woman answered and said, I have no husband. Jesus said unto her, Thou hast well said, I have no husband:
18 For thou hast had five husbands; and he whom thou now hast is not thy husband: in that saidst thou truly.
19 The woman saith unto him, Sir, I perceive that thou art a prophet.

The LORD Jesus is having a dialogue with the Samaritan woman. Thus far, He has asked her for a drink and she has become somewhat contentious, asking why He, a Jew, would have anything to do with her, a Samaritan - to say nothing of the social barriers that were in place between men and women.

He then mentions this "living water" that He offers to those who ask Him (vs. 10), to those who recognize Him for Who He is. She is still thinking in the natural however, considering the advantages of such water that would enable her to never "thirst again", but nevertheless is soliciting this from the LORD (vs. 15).

It is here that He beckons her to go and get her husband. Note that: the LORD is interested not only in this woman's salvation, but also that of her supposed husband. That is the heart of the LORD. The salvation of souls, as well as the redemption of entire families as each member places faith in Christ for themselves (ACTS 16:31), an institution that He Himself created (GEN 1:22) - and this institution is being dismantled today in the politically correct methods of perverting this sacred entity into forms that are both confusing and counter-productive if not to human proclivities, then to God's plans.

The woman then replies, indicating that she has no husband - and she isn't lying! As the LORD Himself reveals, she has had FIVE husbands, and has apparently given up trying to find the perfect man to marry, and is instead 'shacking up'. 
Again, this is the way of our modern society as well. For whatever reasons, more are living together, and by the biblical standard, committing fornication.

Sex is not dirty - it was created by God for man and woman, not only to instill a matrimonial union through intimacy, genuine love, caring and commitment to one another, but from that blessed union, create a family. Sex is not an amusement to be proliferated freely with just anyone, but with one and only that a person vows to remain committed to for life. This vow is ably fulfilled but only by those who possess the Spirit of God Who alone can enable us to fulfill it according to His approval. But I digress . . . 

Jesus knows her, knows all about her and her entire life, from birth to death and beyond (JER 1:5). This is the focus then of today's devotional instruction.
We as saints, true born again believers in Christ by grace and faith may on the one hand take profound comfort in this truth. At the same time, this truth should instill in us a sense of humility and reverence.

We derive comfort in knowing that no matter what trials, struggles, heart-ache, depression, loneliness, injustices, what have you - Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith knows all about it. In fact, long before we ever encounter these difficulties, long before God even created all things, He knew of every circumstance and situation we would ever face: and in His grace, mercy and almighty power and wisdom, provided an answer to these dilemmas. All He asks is that we trust Him, wait upon Him, and receive - in His time (whether that time is here on Earth or in eternity) - the answers.

We have comfort in knowing that the Almighty is All-loving towards His children (JOHN 1:12) and wholly trustworthy. Because of His Almighty power, we have confidence that He is able to do ALL things for us; because of His nature of love and holiness we know He has the purest and best motivation in His provisions for us, to the glory of God.

We should also have a deep sense of humility and reverence for the LORD because of His omniscience ("all-knowing") ability. He knows not only what we say and do, but what we think, perceiving even more deeply than we ourselves are able, the deepest intents, inclinations and motivations of our hearts. Consider Peter's denial that he knew the LORD, even when he vehemently denied beforehand that he would ever do such a thing!
He did deny the LORD, and Jesus knew he would (MATT 26:34-35).

He knows all that we do in ministry to the LORD, His church and this lost world. He knows our works (REV 2:2,9,13,19; 3:1,8,15) and will reward faithfulness (not necessarily success; see MATT 25:21,23) in such service that is according to His will and plan for our lives (JOHN 15:1-10).

We ought to examine ourselves (2 COR 13:5) and seek the LORD on issues of our hearts (HOS 10:12), allowing His holy light to shine into the deepest recesses (HEB 4:122 COR 4:5-6); and reveal that which brings offense to His Holy and tender heart, and implore Him to purge us of these things (2 TIM 2:21).
Jesus knows what we do in the dark, when no one is watching. The enemy whispers in our minds, "No one will ever know . . . "

And of course that is a bold faced lie - God knows and sees all! Even if no one else knows, the One Who is the MOST IMPORTANT will know, and this should inspire in us a kind of holy dread and fear of God (ISAIAH 66:2) as well as for the deplorable sinful nature of our fallen state (ROM 7:18).

I think it was John Wesley that said, "Give me 100 men that fear naught but God and sin, and I will overturn England!"

The lost souls of this world should rightly fear God in the deepest sense for His absolute and undeniable knowledge of all that they say, do and think. Unlike the saint of God, they have no refuge in which to hide from the judgment of God, but must face the Holy Law of God and be utterly condemned by it - no matter how moral or religious or righteous (in their own eyes or in the estimation of others) they may be.

A friend of mine told me he was sharing the Gospel with a stranger he met at a coffee shop and when he pointed out the demands of God's Law for sinless perfection, he asked what he would do once he faces God on Judgment Day. This stranger replied, "Oh, I'll just lie to Him."

Utterly blind!

There is only one refuge, one source of salvation, one means of a safe retreat from the incontestable, incontrovertible Judgment of God and that is the atonement for our sins through the act of grace by the LORD Jesus Christ on Calvary (ROM 5:1-16), Who bore not only all of humanities sins, but also God's Holy Wrath upon those sins (ROM 8:2-3)!! He willingly offered Himself (JOHN 10:17-18; PHIL 2:6-8) on our behalf, to suffer and die for our sins (which rightly would render to us eternal death and separation from the ONLY Life Source in all creation - God Himself). Yet not only did He pay the price for our sins, He then offers to us ETERNAL LIFE by His Spirit of Life. Our Blessed Redeemer!

By this paramountly priceless act, through His precious blood, He delivers to us this deliverance from sin, death and hell, transforming us from condemned sinners into consecrated saints! 

Are you saved or not? Jesus knows.
For those of you who are not yet saved, answer this call to repentance, for today is the day of salvation for you (2 COR 6:2)!

For those of us who are already saved, remember that in the very steps and course of your lives: all the blessings and burdens, from the heights of joy to the depths of sorrow, and every experience in between, Jesus knows!
Let us trust ourselves to and rest in the everlasting arms, and in those nail-pierced hands that created the universe with such omnipotent power and yet handles us with the tenderest of gentleness.