Thursday, February 27, 2014

This Is What I Do With My Needs

Worship begins with an acknowledgement that we need someone or something.

Without that acknowledgement, we have no need to worship anything. After all, if we have no need of anything external, why are we giving away our worship? Inherent in worship is a giving away of some part of ourselves. Our reverence. Our regard. Our honor. Our homage. Our time. Our talents.

Why give this away to anything when we see no need of that person or thing?

But we do have needs. And no one or nothing fulfills that need except for God. Indeed God does meet all our needs. He meets them gloriously. He meets them with riches found in Jesus.

We need God to do so. We need Him like no metaphor can fully explain. This acknowledgement of our need begins our worship.

It’s not worship simply because we have a need. It’s worship because our needs have been met. It’s a reminder to ourselves that none other can meet these needs. It’s a heart full of thanks and praise that we give to Him for meeting those needs.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Christ-Centered Leadership


Some books grab you by the cover. This is despite the common knowledge that we should not judge a book so.

Some books grab you by the title. It's sharp, witty or currently relevant.

Some books grab you by the author, because you are familiar with something they've written before.

But some books grab you by content. Such is the case with Christ-Centered Leadership: The Incarnational Difference by David L. McKenna. I was handed this book by my conference superintendent and instantly wondered if this would be a book I would have to read. (No one tell my superintendent I said that.)

Though I always have a stack of books waiting to be read, I felt an urge to move this up to the top. Convenient, since I was given the book the day after I had just completed a couple of others I had been reading.

McKenna is from the same corner of the Church that I am, so I had heard his name before, though this is hist first book I have read. He has served as president at three different colleges. Now retired, he writes about Christian leadership with a breadth of experience and wisdom. But he understand, right from the beginning, that Christian leadership must have something different to offer.

"If Christian leadership development separates itself from secular theory at any point, it is at the cross of Christ."

He then uses Philippians 2:5-11 as the standard for which all leaders must strive. 'You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.' Using that as a starting point, we journey through those 7 verses to discover what Jesus modeled for all of us.

Using his own journey as an example, McKenna leads us deep into the mind of Christ, sharing both positive and negative examples. He concludes by discussing the incarnate model of Christ and how difficult it is to live out.

Discussing our calling, I liked that he did not mince words but provided a set of very difficult questions that every leader should be asking and asked. He gets very personal when talking about how connected our calling is to our passion. In fact, it is vital to the success of our mission.

Some leadership books can cause weariness just by reading the title. This one will give you a sense that you're with David in person, just relaxing and sharing stories. That makes this a book I would recommend.

Monday, February 24, 2014

It Will Get Worse...And Better

We're teaching the children of our church the books of the Old and New Testament. In order to do this, I have been sharing the highlights of each book with them and then teaching them a motion or sign language sign to help them remember each book.

We've been doing this for a while, so we're up to 1 and 2 Thessalonians, when I came across this fun little section in 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4.

Don’t be fooled by what they say. For that day will not come until there is a great rebellion against God and the man of lawlessness is revealed—the one who brings destruction. He will exalt himself and defy everything that people call god and every object of worship. He will even sit in the temple of God, claiming that he himself is God.

Paul is teaching about the last days, the main theme in both of his letters to the Thessalonians. He's trying to calm down those who were afraid they had missed the big day of Jesus. Wouldn't you be? But check out how Paul 'encourages' them.

Jesus isn't coming until...

Until what? Until things get worse,...much, much worse. There's a man of lawlessness. Yeah, he's going to cause a big heap of problems. So, Thessalonians, don't be worried you've missed it. You'll know it's coming when you see all sorts of evil being enacted that you never even dreamed would happen. Sounds like a lot of fun.

It's going to get worse. Feel better? You should, because that is also when things will get better.

Then the man of lawlessness will be revealed, but the Lord Jesus will kill him with the breath of his mouth and destroy him by the splendor of his coming. ~2 Thessalonians 2:8.

Oh yeah, we win! In case you forget, when the weeks get long, and the community less than encouraging, we are on the winning side. When you begin to wonder why we do what we do, we're playing for the victor. That shouldn't be confused with the idea that we're playing to win, as if victory is somehow undecided yet.

Ministry will never be easy. I don't believe that it should be. But I find my ability to forge ahead often rests in my ability to see the big picture. It will get worse. But it will also get better.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Reading the Bible Doesn't Always Make You Feel Good

You know how you can read the Bible for years and still make new discoveries? Not all of them are great. Here's an example.

I was reading John 20. Verses 19-23 tell us that the disciples were behind locked doors (scaredy-cats) and that Jesus doesn't respect locked doors. He comes in and has the nerve to offer them peace and the Holy Spirit. Sweet, right? It's not even Pentecost yet! They should be doing some pretty awesome stuff. After all, this would be the first group to receive the Holy Spirit power in the New Testament era. 

But then we keep reading. Verses 24-25 tell us where Thomas got his doubting moniker. Verse 26 tells us 8 days pass and the disciples are all together again. They're still behind locked doors. For this I have two theories. 

a. They are a bunch of morons who never learn that locked doors won't keep out Jesus. 
b. They were wanting Jesus to show up, and since He showed up the last time they locked the doors, they locked them again. This would make them the originators of the idea that 'it's only weird if it doesn't work.'

But what struck me in this most recent reading was that there was apparently nothing to write about in the 8 days that passed between the first time Jesus appeared and the second time Jesus appeared. This might not be a big deal if Jesus hadn't blessed them with the Holy Spirit the first time. 

Jesus rises from the dead and they receive the Holy Spirit and nothing happens for more than a week!?! How is this possible? How can they have had the Holy Spirit for 8 days and done nothing worthy of writing home about? 

Then again, how long have I had the Holy Spirit? How long have I had access to God's power? What have I done with it? 

Sometimes reading the Bible is just not fun. 

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

The Answer to Bad Religion Is Not No Religion



I have some problems with this book. But if I were to focus on those issues, Martin Thielen would probably say that is part of the bad religion that leads many to no religion. The Answer to Bad Religion is not No Religion is a great premise.

Martin argues that too often people opt for no religion based on the bad examples of Christians practicing their religion poorly. Rather, he argues, and I agree with him on this point, that the answer is good religion. If Christianity is true, then striving to live by its principles is a good endeavor. Being imperfect people, we will fall short of the perfect ideals of a holy God. Of course, logic tells us that just because sinners (of which I am one) do not live out the truth perfectly does not mean we should abandon the truth.

What remains would be living a lie. Not a great idea. On this, Martin nails it. What he does is to give examples of bad religion. He hits several of the usual suspects, but doesn't beat a dead horse. Then he segues to point out that choosing no religion is neither helpful nor necessary.

Then Martin goes into great detail about what good religion should look like. This is what I really liked about this book. Martin spells out a great vision of what the Church should be...and can be. He speaks with great hope about the future of the Church, offering many examples of churches and people getting it right.

If there was anything I did not like, it was the general impression that I got that disagreement was discouraged. Martin labeled himself as moderately progressive, letting me know in a general way some of the things we might disagree on. Having read this entire book, I would quickly add that I think we would agree on most of the essentials, meaning we would get along just fine in the same church. But there were issues, which I'll leave unstated here, that I believe we would disagree on that deserve to be discussed. Because truth can be sought after and because truth will dictate our actions, the living out of that truth would have big implications on how we each would live.

Our differences aside, Martin has written some good thoughts out on a great idea which deserves to be considered by all, those inside the church and those who have rejected her. I received this book for free from my good friends at Westminster John Knox Press. They didn't tell me what to say. They just asked that I say something. If you want to check it out, you can do so here or here.

Monday, February 17, 2014

It's Harder Than It Looks

Its harder than it looks. That's what one of the teens said after a student led night. I wanted to respond with, 'Yeah, that's why it's called a job.' But that might have been misconstrued as harsh. Besides, if we're being honest and nice about things, we could say this about most things. 

If we are to actually look back and consider what high school was like, it was harder than it looks. The other people, to whom we continually compare ourselves to, also have a job which is likely harder than it looks. And it would be nice if someone looked at our responsibilities and realized that we're not sipping lemonade with our feet in the sand. Unless, of course, your job is to taste test lemonade while sitting on the beach. Then your job is not harder than it looks.

And we all hate you.

Having said all this, just because a job is difficult does not mean we shouldn't work at it. And in the context of youth ministry, we should also be sharing it with our students. If for no other reason than Jesus didn't just call on professionals, we should share the job. Here's why...

We're not liars.
If we tell students and parents and volunteers that ministry is not just about what we, as pastors, do, then we might want to apply that truth. That means including others in the tasks of ministry. That means involving their voices and their ideas. 

We're not superheros. 
Yes, we have a gift. But we don't have the only gift. Our students are not Lois Lane waiting for us to fly in and rescue them. They are partners, younger brothers and sisters, looking for us to guide them into using their gifts and abilities in the ministry. 

We're not going to live forever.
Okay, in the spiritual sense, yes we will. But here on Earth, we will need to be replaced. We constantly need to be multiplied. We need others who will continue the work. Where better for them to gain that experience than under the supervision of those who have gone before? 

Yes, it will be harder than it looks. Both for them who are stepping up for the first time and for us, who are showing them the inner workings of what we do. No one ever said we shouldn't do something base don the degree of difficulty. 

Besides, if we can show one more person just a small glimpse of what pastors do all week, then we have done something very beneficial. 

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Frames - Multi-Careering



I love the idea. I hate the idea.

Those were my first thoughts when I first heard about Frames from the Barna Group. The idea is that you are much too busy to read full-length books. So they are going to give you powerful ideas in more manageable amounts. Instead of a 200-300 page book, you’ll get a 90-page book, full of eye-catching info graphics that convey the same information.

Like I said, I love it…and hate it. I hate it because it communicates that we don’t have to make choices. We can continue to work at this extremely unhealthy pace and still not have to choose between things that matter. But I love it, quite frankly, because this is where we are at. I can stick my head in the sand and pretend that things will change. Or I can reach people where they are at. Honestly, where I’m at.

I got this from my good friends at Youth Worker. They give me stuff and ask that I post a review. With them in mind, I would say that this is a great resource for teenagers and college students. The first series of Frames covers 10 topics, from women to fighting for peace, from handling your 20’s to why church is important. The book I handled was on multi-careering and featured writing by Bob Goff, a guy who has more careers than many other groups of people combined.

The fact is that teens and college students have plenty of other required reading, so anything that grabs their attention will have to be ingested quickly, making these books just the right size. It’s the perfect idea for small group discussions or mentoring. Buying the whole pack would be a great idea for those wanting to read them and pass along as well. I look forward to getting the entire first series.

You can find these for purchase here and here.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

The Church DOES Still Have a Purpose

One last post this week will give you just a bit more from my sermon this past Sunday. Enjoy!

What purpose does the Church still serve?

We might be less inclined to think the Church unnecessary if we experienced Christian discipleship like so many throughout history, or even those overseas, where persecution means so much more than someone else sitting in the pew you normally occupy or the sale at the Christian bookstore not including the series of novels you’re currently reading.

If we found ourselves depending on the encouragement of our brothers and sisters and looking for another illegal copy of the scriptures, we might see a weekly meeting as irreplaceable instead of a check on our to-do list, something to be done before enjoying the rest of our day. Seeing Church as a means of survival instead of something to be survived changes everything.

What does God want to accomplish through the Church?

A look throughout scripture gives us a picture of what God is imagining the Church to be.

The Body – In multiple verses, perhaps most famously in 1 Corinthians 12, we are called the body of Christ. Unique like the parts that make up our physical body, we find our ultimate fulfillment when we work together, understanding that none of us live well without the others, and always keeping in mind that Christ is the head of this body. As Paul wrote in Ephesians 5:23, “Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior.” Paul, in Corinthians, even goes so far as to say that when one part suffers, all suffer. (12:26)

The Bride – God also pictures us as a bride. Let’s not underestimate the value of a bride and subject her to being simply something pretty to look at. Without a bride, a marriage does not happen. Again, from Paul in Ephesians 5:31 “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” 32 This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church.”

The Family of God – Closely connected to both of these pictures is the idea that the Church is a family. "So now you Gentiles are no longer strangers and foreigners. You are citizens along with all of God’s holy people. You are members of God’s family.” Ephesians 2:19.

Do you see what these pictures have in common? It is a picture of unity. The body doesn't work unless it all works together. A bride and husband do not get along unless they get along together. And family? We don't have to look very far before we see that family becomes very complicated unless we get along.

It is a grand picture of unity, which is what Jesus prayed for us in John 17. This is not unity for the sake of window dressing. Notice Jesus prayed for unity so that the world would know God loves them.

Why don't we see this unity? Perhaps because, unlike the persistent widow that Jesus talked about, we haven't wanted this long enough to continue asking for it. We might ask for it once or twice, but have we shown how serious we are in deciding that enough is enough and asking God for this, together, time and time and time again. Because that is when we will show ourselves to be serious about the things that God is serious about.

The Holy Christian Church is the embodiment of the next phrase used in the Apostle’s Creed.

The Communion of Saints means that every Christian believer is spiritually connected to every other Christian believer throughout the world. That spiritual connection exists through our common adoption into the family of God and the worldwide presence of the Holy Spirit. The Apostle Paul acknowledged this fact when he addressed the believers at Corinth as “the church of God in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be holy, together with all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ—their Lord and ours.” 1 Corinthians 1:2

This, of course, can be taken in a positive way or a negative way. There is something great about being part of something bigger than ourselves. When the Church behaves like it should, we see amazing things happen, as all of us together accomplish more than any one of us could as individuals.

On the other hand, it also means that we throw our names in to the same group as those we read about in newspapers. One person on the internet rants about whatever it is they wish to rant about and then adds an exclamation point, proclaiming their words to represent Christ and His Church. Meanwhile the rest of us want to go hide under a rock.

One person speaks and the rest of us are left answering 'Do all Christians believe that?' to our searching friends. Dan Bernard put it this way:

Remember putting your face above a headless frame painted to represent a muscle man, a clown, or even a bathing beauty? Many of us have had our pictures taken this way, and the photos are humorous because the head doesn't fit the body. If we could picture Christ as the head of our local body of believers, would the world laugh at the misfit? Or would they stand in awe of a human body so closely related to a divine head?

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

What's Missing From Church?

I got to preach on Sunday, so I'm including a few excerpts on the blog here this week. 

The early Church fathers clearly included belief in the Church for a reason.

How do we know this? Well, it’s listed right along with their belief in God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. While we would not likely find ourselves questioning the import of God, we might find ourselves tempted to see the Holy Christian Church as somewhat of a minor character, as if the writers of this creed were a high school or college student, looking to say a few more things so their paper will be the required length.

It must have meant something to the Apostle Paul, who spent his life establishing churches in so many towns where he visited. It must have meant something more than having a group to collect a tithe from; otherwise it would not have been worth dying for. In our heritage, it must have meant something to John Wesley, who refused to evangelize someone unless there was a local church to connect the newly converted with.

But times have changed.

We currently have an obvious issue, in that people do not revere the Church like they should.

A survey (in 2013) by Barna Group asked over 1,000 American adults the following question: "What do you think about going to church?" About 30 percent of Americans say attending church is very important, about 40 percent are ambivalent about attending church, and 30 percent say attending church is not important at all. Those who are ambivalent about attending church gave two reasons for their ambivalence: "I find God elsewhere" (40 percent) and it's not "personally relevant" (35 percent).

If the main product for which church exists and the main practice for applying said product are both absent from Church, then we should agree that Church has lost its purpose.

Millennials who are opting out of church cite the following three factors with equal weight in their decision: the moral failures of church leaders, hypocrisy, and the church's irrelevance. 20 percent of Millennials say that "God is missing" from church and 10 percent sense that doubt is prohibited. Also, when asked to list "What made your faith grow?" the church didn't even make the top ten.
~Jon Tyson, Sacred Roots (Zondervan, 2013), pp. 14-24

But here is where it gets interesting.

Research shows that the great majority of Americans who say they have "no religion" are still quite religious, or at least "spiritually inclined." In 2011, an Associated Press poll found that 8 in 10 Americans believed in angels—even 4 in 10 people who never went to church. In 2009 the Pew Research Center reported that 1 in 5 Americans experienced ghosts and 1 in 7 had consulted a psychic. In 2005, Gallup found that 3 out of 4 Americans believed in something paranormal, and that 4 in 10 said that houses could be haunted. More than 90 percent of those who do not belong to a church say that they pray, and 39 percent of them pray weekly or more often. Half of those who say they have "no religion" frequent New Age bookstores, and they are especially prone to believe in ghosts, Bigfoot, and Atlantis.
~Rodney Stark, America's Blessings (Templeton Press, 2013), pp. 28-29; T. M. Luhrmann, "Conjuring Up Our Own Gods," The New York Times (10-17-13)

While it would be really tempting for us to scoff and just laugh at these people for considering Big Foot to be in any way connected to spiritual matters, it is vital that we ask how the Church has become so irrelevant in a people who so clearly are hungering for the spiritual in their lives.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Who is the Weird Uncle in Your Church?

Yesterday, at church, I preached on church, to the church. In case you're wondering, yes, I noted the irony. I'm including some excerpts here for your enjoyment, review, or mocking...pick one. 

“Stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother’” (Matt. 12:49-50).

Saying this, Jesus gave us a picture of the Church being a family. Let me ask you a question. How many of you have been to a family reunion? How many of you have noticed that you have a weird uncle? How many of you go to great lengths to avoid that weird uncle? How many of you are starting to wonder if you are that weird uncle?

Did you notice that Jesus leaves out those kinds of details when He mentions the spiritual family He has? No mention of the weird uncle, or the aunt that insists on hugs and smells like cheese. He also leaves out the overachieving cousins, the grandparents who insist on telling you how much harder they had it when they were younger, and the in-laws. Don’t forget the in-laws.

I’m guessing there are at least a few of us who consider skipping family reunions or holiday family gatherings for this and many other reasons. Considering how difficult family can be, it’s no wonder we see similar avoidance techniques in the church. We can all acknowledge that church has more than its share of weird uncles.

Should any of us not be so immersed in this habit we have, we can note what a strange thing it is we have done here this morning. We have taken time and resources to come and sing and pray and learn at a place we call church. To worship God. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not arguing against it. In fact, I’ll be making a case for it this morning. But we should at least be honest enough to admit that this is not the most natural thing we will do all week.

I’m going to church. Have you ever stopped and considered that statement? I’m going to church. Is that a verb? I’m going to Church what? I’m going to get my church on?

But what is church? Many of us grew up singing how the church is not a building or a steeple. You can thank me later for getting that song stuck in your head. Of course, does anything rhyme with steeple besides people? Then we might do this weird thing with our hands where we open the doors and see all the people. Seriously, besides some sort of spiritual contortionism, what is that? So going to church refers to a group of people more so than a building. It makes our statement, I’m going to church, make even less sense.

So it would seem, despite how we often misuse the word, that we know what The Church is, right? I'm not so sure.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

That Sounds Tempting

You know when you've experienced that constant nagging. That feeling of a continual poke or jab or itch. It's that annoying whatever that just won't go away. If you have kids, you know what I'm talking about. They pick and they poke until they get the desired reaction from their victim. 

I have to imagine this was the sort of predicament Jesus found Himself in while in the desert, hanging out with the devil. Luke 4 tells the story. 

Then Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan River. He was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, where he was tempted by the devil for forty days. Jesus ate nothing all that time and became very hungry.

Jesus was tempted by the devil. Its easy for us to think Jesus had a forty day fast and prayer meeting and then stared down three temptations from the devil. But that's not what it says.

It says Jesus was tempted for 40 days. What must that have looked like? Was it just a bunch of questions from the devil? Like a long car ride with kids, was it a constant barrage of 'are we there yet'? Except, in this case, it might have been 'are you hungry yet'? All while the devil snacks on cheese doodles, a snack from the devil if ever there was one. (Seriously, it stains everything.)

Forty days!?!

And it was after the forty days that satan brings out three big questions, tempting Jesus with power, fame and, of course, more food. But Jesus resisted. What an example!

I have resisted temptation for 40 minutes, when a plate of cookies might be staring at me. Perhaps I've resisted a bit when I know I shouldn't say something out loud.

But forty days? 

The book of Hebrews says we haven't resisted temptation to the point of death. Nope. Not even close. 

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Forgotten God


How's your memory? Have you ever forgotten...God?

Francis Chan says we have, and I would agree with him. Forgotten God: Reversing Our Tragic Neglect of the Holy Spirit is his call to action. But he knows what kinds of obstacles he's looking at in writing such a book.

But Francis isn't scared, because the Spirit brings freedom. You might think that an entire book on the Holy Spirit will mean a whole lot of dancing, hands raised and talk of supernatural gifts. But you would be wrong.

Francis takes the time to methodically answer our questions. Questions regarding why we need the Holy Spirit, why embracing a theology of the Spirit is nothing to fear and what exactly the Holy Spirit does.

He writes in an engaging and simple to understand manner. He also motivates the reader to want more. Early and often he convinces us that if all we're accomplishing is done without the help of the Holy Spirit, then we're not accomplishing or experiencing all we should.

Honestly, a lot of this book will leave you smacking your head, acknowledging that this makes sense. Many of us have read the Bible enough to recognize the work of the Holy Spirit. Reading it in this matter-of-fact style that Francis offers sort of pulls it all together.

This is not just a good read. It is a should-read.

You can pick up a copy here.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Are You Really Willing to Drink the Water?

So recently West Virginia had an issue with their water. Who knew that mixing chemicals in would make it dangerous to drink, right? It was a big issue, but one that people took seriously and, at least for most people, has been solved. I found this quote from an article that intrigued me. "West Virginia American Water president Jeff McIntyre reiterated on Monday that the water was safe, underscoring his point by drinking tap water in front of reporters." 

That, my friends, is applying truth to action. It also made me question my own ability to apply truth to life. Let me explain.

Recently, at a church potluck, the fun was followed by sickness. Now, as a germaphobe, don't even get me started on how the church is a breeding ground for illness anyway, with all the hand shaking and hugging and laying on of hands. As a pastor, I just trust that friendliness and spiritual practice is more important than the threat of getting ill. Plus, I assume either God is protecting me from getting ill more often or I'm building up a super-immunity because of my continual contact. (Yet another reason to go to church, hooray!)

As I was saying, the potluck was followed by reports from people that they got sick that day and the next day. Someone mentioned a particular dish and their assumption that food poisoning was the culprit. The particular dish they mentioned happened to be the very dish my wife had brought. The very dish to which there were leftovers in my fridge.

So now I was keenly interested and started investigating. Contacting all those who had experienced unpleasant trips to the bathroom, I started a survey. What did you eat at the potluck? Could you describe the consistency of what came back up? Are you sure it's not the flu?

I'm happy to report that the results revealed that my wife's dish was not the culprit. Some who did eat of it did not get sick. Others who did not eat of it were also among the ill. Food be clean!

But although my wife's cooking was redeemed, what i did next did not reflect any faith in the truth I had discovered. I threw out the leftovers. Yep, I tossed them, not in the same way others had tossed their lunch following the potluck. 

I told myself I was too busy to risk it. But the truth should have set me free. 

What did I really believe? If we say we believe something is true, our actions should reflect that. Jeff McIntyre showed that he believed the water to be safe by drinking it. I showed doubt in my actions. The worst consequence in either of these circumstances would be a few sick days. But what about matters of eternal importance? 

What we say we believe about God and Heaven and eternity should be reflected in our actions. Are yours?

Monday, February 3, 2014

Ministry Monday: Two Rules for Youth Ministry

I have two rules when it comes to talking to anyone about being involved in youth ministry. Rule number 1 is simple. 

Run

Run far. Run long. Run hard. But, for all that is good and holy, run. Save yourself. Don't be the hero. Just run away. 

Rule number 2 is a little more complicated. I only have the second rule because I know you won't listen to rule number 1. You'll assume I am joking. You'll think you will be different. You might assume I'm being over-dramatic, which of course would make you WRONG! I NEVER GO ABOVE AND BEYOND STATING SIMPLE TRUTH! 

See, you're only asking for my opinion because someone came up to you and asked if you would drive the youth on a trip. Or maybe they asked you to provide some food. If you're young and hip, they may have asked you to teach a class or lead a small group, perhaps be a mentor. Way to be you! 

Or maybe you're asking because you think hanging out with teens and doing all-nighters sounds like a good time. While you've clearly not reached your thirties yet, you're looking at this as a fun way to volunteer without doing something that seems more serious. 

Heaven forbid you're feeling called on by God to be involved in youth ministry. But if that's the case, I get why you're ignoring rule number 1. Which, of course, is why I have rule number 2. 

Commit at the beginning to stay until the end

I'm telling you now because there is going to come a moment. Or several moments for that matter. A moment will arrive when the discussion turns awkward, when the pizza is cold, when your vehicle smells like feet, when your spouse wonders why all your jokes include bodily noises. 

A moment will come when your advice is not taken, when teens will turn their backs, when your 'cool' will warm, when the questions will sound eerily like something you've already answered. These moments will come often, without warning. They will strike hard and fast and without apology. 

Your decisions will be questioned, your wisdom will be mocked and your sanity will be stretched. And it in those moments you will want to turn around and run. You may even remember our conversation, when I told you to run. You may think back and realize what I was talking about was accurate. But if you were to come back and talk to me in that moment, I would not tell you to run. 

I would encourage you to stay. You haven't seen the end. You haven't seen as long as you can if you just hold tight. For the discussions will turn around, more pizza can be ordered, your vehicle can be cleaned and your spouse may even join you in this journey. 

As difficult a sit may be, stay. You haven't seen the whole story play out. One more week and the crisis may change. One more month and you may even see hope where before there was only despair. One more year and you may forget that you ever questioned not being involved. 

As you forge ahead, you will see young adults heeding what you said, offering thanks for your words and asking why you did it all. You'll see the silver linings as you stay long enough to see troubled teens turn into ministry-minded adults. You may even have some of them asking to get involved in youth ministry. 

When that day comes, I hope you'll remember to pass along these two rules for youth ministry.