Links of the Month (October 2016)

One Thing – What the local church needs to get right in the 21st century. (Video)

For Your Soul – How to Pray a Psalm

For Cultural Engagement – It’s Never Too Soon To Talk About Race In Your Church

For Your Ministry – Five Tips that Will Make You a Better Communicator

For Some Ideas – 8 Ministry Ideas that Need to Come Back

For Strategy  How Average Churches are Reaching Millenials (Podcast)

Links of the Month (August 2016)

7 Things Bad Leaders Say – For Accountability
The Conversation that Saved My Ministry – by Paul Tripp – For Your Soul
Preaching in a Digital Age – One Day Roundtable – For Development
Flashback: StuMin Sidekick – Many ministers write their own curriculum with graphics and all. Make some extra cash for that work.

Super Bowl 2016 Devo

Below is a devotion I gave at halftime of a youth ministry Super Bowl party.

I’ve been learning more and more about the life of Christ. Below are some questions that got me thinking from someone who has taught me about the life of Jesus named Dann Spader:

Did Jesus ever get hurt on the playground?

Did Jesus ever make a mistake? (remember a mistake is not necessarily sin)

Do you think that Jesus as a kid ever used his God powers?

Did Jesus ever question what to do next?

Did Jesus ever get sick?

Did Jesus have a favorite Jewish stickball team?

Did Jesus ever have a bad day spiritually where God the Father seemed far away?

Did Jesus ever get subtweeted or have an embracing snapchat saved?

Jesus was a teenager like you and me at one time too. He wasn’t born at 30 years of age. He had to learn to obey. He increased in wisdom and stature. Jesus was a middle schooler once. He was a high schooler once. Jesus was a twenty-something too. Jesus had to make choices. He had to wrestle with who he was as a person and what he was going to do with his life.

Right now these story lines of identity and history are playing out before our very eyes in the NFL. One of the many storylines in this Super Bowl is the story of Peyton Manning’s past greatness and professionalism and Cam Newton’s rise to the face of the NFL. The narrative that the media tells about Cam deals directly with learning to grow up. Essentially, what he has said regarding his image is causing so much controversy. “You can’t compare me to anyone.” Cam dabs and he dances. “You’ve never seen anyone like me before,” as he grins ear to ear. Cam has the I can do it all mentality.

Cam intrigues the the casual fan because  people either are drawn to him and his attitude, or you’ve come to get fed up with him because he doesn’t act like a “quarterback”—essentially that he doesn’t act like Peyton.

With his rise, Cam is saying forget imitating anyone else, I’m going to be me. This is a powerful position. It’s powerful because the tension is very real where you embrace this line of thinking in light of Scripture. The tension between being unique by being us and imitating Godly men and women. Often we cheer, be yourself, but being yourself without a sense of Scripture is honestly dangerous. Because all throughout scripture we are taught to imitate others, not only in action, but inner thinking and in our heart by loving God and loving people. Paul says imitate me as I imitate Christ. A true disciple learns how to think and act like his teacher—imitation within the head and heart, as well as actions. So, as you look at your own life who are you imitating?

As you reflect on who you are imitating with your life. I’d like to point you to the person we are to imitate. As we go through this life 1 John 2:6 says, “The one who says he remains in Him should walk just as He walked.” We do what Jesus did. We are to think and act like Jesus. We do this because of faith.

What does it mean to walk as Jesus walked? Literally we are to step the the footprints he has laid out for us. Trust that his footprints lay out a good path for our life. I think of when it snows and there are inches upon inches. Is it wiser to charge your own path and get snow in your boots or step where people have stepped. We can step through the snow after Jesus because he was tempted just like us in every way and did not give into sin as he stepped through this life. We can do this because Jesus lived through his teenage years. He lost loved ones. He struggled with how popular or not popular he was. He wrestled with the meaning of his life and mission. Because of his struggle and his victory, by faith, let’s imitate his character and priorities.  Faith being a foundational mindset and lifestyle, the writer of Hebrews says this in regard to imitating those who learned to live like Jesus wanted them to…

Hebrews 12:1-2 “Therefore, since we also have such a large cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us lay aside every weight and the sin that so easily ensnares us. Let us run with endurance the race that lies before us, keeping our eyes on Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that lay before Him endured a cross and despised the shame and has sat down at the right hand of God’s throne.”

When we walk as Jesus walked, we will lay aside sin because we have a team of people on a journey of following Jesus. We will look to Jesus and imitate his character and priorities that he showed in his life on earth. We will keep our eyes on the rise Lord because He has made it.

When we keep our eyes on Jesus and walk as he walked. We will marvel at the greatness of Jesus and rise to make an impact and affect generations to come—whether you become as polarizing as Cam in a Christ centered way, or you stay reserved and faithful and out of controversy like Peyton, either way people will talk and you can point to Jesus.

If you want to do something meaningful with your life you will keep your eyes on the exalted Jesus and imitate the Jesus that walked on this earth.

Equipping Students…It’s Possible

It has officially been just over a year on the journey of using Explore the Bible Curriculum and the COMA technique of teaching others to read the bible. So far, its use in the Student Ministry of CenterPointe has been a success. Let me back up a bit to share more of the story about why we are using these two resources.

When I was a freshman entering Kentucky Christian University, I thought I knew much of what the the bible taught. I had competed in Bible Bowl and had attended Youth Group somewhat faithfully. When a tough bible question was asked, usually I could come up with the answer, especially the easy Sunday School ones. But, upon my first bible class, OT Survey, I realized that much of my bible knowledge had come from what other people taught me or told me, not what I had read or actually learned for myself. Quickly, in order to maintain the grade, I began diving in to the Old Testament and the Gospels. I soon realized I could make little sense of what I was reading and why it even mattered to today. I did not have any concept of how Moses connected to Jesus, or I was supposed to read Psalms different than 1 Kings.

Now to put my thoughts in perspective, my reading comprehension scores have always been low, but usually I could make out some connections to seem somewhat knowledgable. However, after struggling through the familiarity of Genesis and Matthew, I came to the conclusion that I had no idea how to connect bible stories to my own life. In the academic sense, I was fine, but in my personal walk with God I was distraught. After all the Bible Bowl and all the learning I had done, I could not figure out how to read the bible for myself and make it personal and I was supposed to be studying for life in ministry. Now, I do not mean to indict my youth ministers or others, but they had told me what to believe and think, rather than shown me how to discover it for myself in the depth of God’s Word. I merely could answer questions right on a test or pass a surface level bible study with flying colors, but there was a disconnect between learning the bible and applying the bible. Because of this, a holy dissatisfaction began to arise.

By God’s grace, people around me began to point me in the direction of commentaries and resources to help with bridging this gap. I attempted the SOAP method, but found it personally difficult. I attempted to consult commentaries, but their application was still distant and impersonal. As I began to grow in my understanding of the bible, I began to apply what I had began reading, but I sought a clear and concise way to teach others what I had been shown by others. Thankfully, my brother-in-law, recommended a resource called One to One Bible Reading by David Helm. I should mention by this point I am already a weekend Student Minister and, whether by my own curriculum, or others I resolved that I would not send my students into adulthood without being able to think critically about the bible and read it for themselves. I knew that someday Kyle (me) may no longer be CenterPointe’s Student Minister and the best way to for a ministry to sustain itself was through hearing from God and learning to be Christ-centered in every way. I was on a mission to eliminate the reasoning that the bible was difficult to understand or from another time and place so it does not apply to us today from our thinking.

As soon, as I finished reading One to One Bible Reading by David Helm, I began to implement the practices I had learned. Specifically, a process called COMA: Context, Observation, Meaning, & Application. Our church has used this process with other supplemental studies to help student and adults read the bible for themselves.  I found the process worth teaching because it was able to be reproduced. About the same time, I had been searching for curriculum to use in my new middle school class on Sunday mornings. At that time, Lifeway.com had just come out with their Explore the Bible curriculum that went book by book breaking down God’s Word in a simple process. Each week the curriculum went through essentially the same process that I had learned from One to One, so I was sold on using it in my class.

Fast forward 9 months after teaching this process through the lens of Explore our students began to get it. We were seeing students in 15 minutes sit down and pick apart a passage and figure out what it meant (central truth) and then how to personally apply the meaning in specific ways with little guidance from the “teachers.”

Our next step was to begin teaching them to teach others. By God’s timing it was finally time to launch a high school class. Our high school class, by the way we only had one consistent high schooler until this summer, is devoted to equipping students to lead other students in bible study. By God’s grace, 9th & 10 graders have been opening up God’s Word, walking through a passage in Genesis, figuring out how it applies to them, and peer to peer teaching each of the past three weeks. What has been amazing, not even sure if the students realize it, but their commitment to God’s Word has affected our outreach efforts. They are beginning to lives of intentionality and purpose, not because we have some cool mission statement, but because God’s Word speaks to them and they go apply it. Also, when non-Christians are introduced to a study that asks more questions and is more process than content, we find them learning more content than simply ignoring the teacher.

As we have brought new students into the middle school and high school classes there have been challenges. One challenge has been switching the brain from learning content to learning process and learning to ask questions. I have found that much of my personal experience of regurgitating content is the same for many church kids. These church kids are bothered when the teacher of our middle and high school classes ask more questions than provide answers. They so desperately want to get the answer right that they are unsure of why the right answer matters. One of my favorite exercises is answer questions with questions that drive kids back to the text. In essence, we are helping student be more biblically-anchored, not because of teaching content, but teaching them how to walk with God by reading His word and through process making it less intimidating. This challenge has been good because it forces students to own their faith and provide substance to the content they have already learned.

I would love to hear how others are teaching students to read God’s Word! I am all about best practices, so please share your thoughts, or questions.