Tuesday, October 25, 2011

I Blame the Youth Pastor

Have you ever heard the phrase “it’s not my fault” before? Chances are if you are a parent or had siblings growing up then you heard it and used it. I recall seeing a billboard a few years ago that had that very saying on it followed by “it’s the American way.” This got me thinking for some time now that this line gets used a lot in the church world as well.

Before I became the lead pastor of a church I was a youth pastor for 9 years. It is true that I do youth ministry once again along with pastoring a church and I must admit it is kind of fun. In talking to other youth pastors and having this happen to myself on occasion it is funny how some kids grow up in church and because they either didn’t care or simply were brats in their kid/teen days they blame the youth pastor on their lack of spiritual maturity. This happens with some adults as well with their pastor.

Now, I have always been of the mindset that a youth pastor should not be teaching anything that isn’t already being taught in the home. There are exceptions to this rule. Especially if the home the teen comes from a home that simply has no biblical foundation. However most of the times when I have heard this blame game being used…it is usually from a person that grew up in a nice middle class home and was simply a brat during their younger days. Now perhaps this person/persons had a wake up call and suddenly became a stronger Christian. It seems odd that they would immediately point to their youth pastor as the reason for the lack of their spiritual maturity in those days. A youth pastor should never take the place of a parent therefore if it is indeed needed to point the finger at someone it should be the parents because almost 9 times out of 10 attitude reflects leadership (which begins in the home).

In the church world I believe we place WAY to high of a priority on the youth pastor to raise our teens. This really needs to begin in the home less (like I stated above) the kid comes from a non-Christian home.

Even in the teenage years a kid has to take ownership for his/her own spiritual maturity. James 1:22-25(NIV) says “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. 23 Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror 24 and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. 25 But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.

Nowhere in this passage does it say “teens are exempt.” I have seen my fair share of teenagers that have gone onto awesome things. Some have become pastors, worship leaders, mechanics, etc.  Many of them knew who God was even in their teen years and therefore grew from it. Some have walked away from God or the church because they simply are not interested and what I find interesting is that they do not blame the youth pastor. Then there are those who were simply bratty, hard headed, and obnoxious who in their teen years never took their relationship with Christ seriously. No pastor or youth pastor could have swayed them because they were in a hard season of their life. It took the power of the Holy Spirit to change their lives and what do they do in return? Blame others for their lack of maturity then.

We have to be careful and own up to our past. There is no reason to blame it on someone else. Simply look back at where we came from and look to where we are going and OWN IT! 

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Sadomaschist Christians

Catchy title isn’t it? Perhaps the title is a bit edgy but none the less true in my opinion. Let me give the definition of masochism according to m-w.com: “the derivation of pleasure from the infliction of physical or mental pain either on others or on oneself.”

I do not plan on going off on a rant about kinkiness or anything like that (I’ll save that for my marriage blog hehe)…rather I want to talk about this movement of people that meets every Sunday in many different buildings they mistakingly call the church. Don't forget...people are the church...not bricks. These are people that think every time they get beat up they are having an encounter with God. If for some reason they do not feel pain then they feel sorely neglected and perhaps made to feel like a major sinner. They enjoy being yelled at the entire message because if they are not hurt by the message than perhaps they did not hear from God.

I ran across a quote today posted to my ministries website (www.thatsnotmygod.com) that said this, “Some of you, God hates you. Some of you, God is sick of you. God is frustrated with you. God is wearied by you. God has suffered long enough with you...He doesn’t care if you compare yourself to someone worse than you; he hates them too. God hates--right now, personally, objectively--hates some of you. He has had enough...YOU are the problem, not the solution....God doesn’t just hate what you do, he hates what you are!”

I will not say who said this because I prefer not to give him the publicity though many already know who it came from. What I find interesting about this quote is that it is not out of the norm for him or others to say this kind of thing and get a rousing “AMEN!” This was stated not in a church of 100 people but rather a church of thousands of people. This almost motivates me to get behind my pulpit….er….um….rocked out music stand and be a complete and total hard-nose lacking in scriptural knowledge. It seems more times than not if you are loud, mean, scripturally challenged and a lacking in grace pastor that you could end up with a large church!

Now this is what I read in the red letters of the Bible. Matthew 11:29 says, “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” Now if you are like me you have heard that the “yoke” is something heavy and because Jesus was a carpenter he probably made many heavy yokes. However Torah teachers (Rabbis, ie. Jesus) would teach the accepted interpretations or yoke of their community. Jesus invitation to those who listened to many teachers and interpretations helps establish him as a Rabbi would present an interpretation that was easy and light (to understand not necessarily to do) (Matt. 13:11-30). Therefore, he was probably not speaking to unsaved people bogged down with sin but people unsure of the many interpretations they heard in the great religious debate in Galilee.

However, many times people quote and therefore base their theology on Psalms 5:5 “The arrogant cannot stand in your presence. You hate all who do wrong.” SEE…GOD HATES YOU BECAUSE YOU SIN! Now I believe Psalms to be a very inspiring book of the Bible and would teach from it proudly. However to base a theology off of one of the most emo people in the Bible is probably not the wisest thing in the world to do. There is a simple phrase going on here we are familiar with, it goes like this “you are putting words in my mouth.” Now…imagine God and David sitting down at the great Starbucks in the sky ready to have a little coffee talk (insert Mike Myers Jewish joke here). Do you think God might say to David “um…perhaps you were putting words in my mouth.” In my opinion I think he would.

Sadly each Sunday people come in to buildings and want to be beat down. What is even sadder about this scenario is that people will then mistake a ranting leader at an altar call as having a God experience when in fact God may have left the building. I have been guilty of making some ignorant comments in the heat of the moment. I am leading a youth group again while pastoring a church and as I look at some of the messages I spoke on during the old days of youth pastoring….I have no other choice than to throw them out.

We need to stay educated on the Bible and what it says. So put your latex wear away, leave your whips and chains at home and come to a place where you hear about the red letter Jesus. Will the teachings always be mushy leaving you with a squishy feeling….no…not all the time. The concepts should be easy to understand…perhaps the difficulty is putting it into action. Let me state it this way. A pastor may make it very difficult for people to live out the simple teachings of Christ because they expect change in one meeting at the altar before they leave the building. This is the end result of the Billy Graham generation we live in. "If you don't change RIGHT NOW you have sin issues." What? I think it becomes much easier to put the teachings of Christ into action when we are free to continue on with our journey WORKING OUT our salvation taking things one step at a time. It is true we should work on it and not be lazy but I am pretty sure if you don’t change THAT MOMENT a bus probably won’t hit you on the way home from church.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Building Projects and Burnout

I love the outward example of a revival in the book of Nehamiah but first let me give a sketchy history of Ezra. He had come back to Jerusalme to revive the people who had come back from Babylon to rebuild the temple. This temple was destroyed before they were taken into captivity. But they had gotten into the mundane phase of the building program and they began to fall away from God and intermarry with the people around them. Ezra came back and he began to read the word again and brought a sort of revival to those who were again building the temple. The temple wasn't the only thing destroyed back before they were brought into captivity. All the walls around the city were destroyed as well. Nehamiah had a passion to rebuild those walls and got permission from the king of Persia and he got it. The whole book of Nehamiah is about one of the most amazing construction project that has happened in history. With what he had, he rallied the people and completed the reconstruction of the walls in a record time. The whole first half of the book of Nehamiah is about how that happened. But...just like the temple as soon as the project was completed the people began to slack in their walk with God. This is often the case when we set up a physical goal and when it is met we can easily begin to decline spiritually.

Just today I ran across an article talking about how long a pastor stays after a building project. Unfortunatley some are a victim to the process and don't make it to see the completion. What is even more interesting is that often times within 2 years of that project being done the pastor will resign and go to another church or do a complete job switch. Why? What might happen is that they get jazzed up with their people on a physical goal and when that goal is met there is nothing there to keep them motivated. If they don't keep the spiritual goal the priority then when the physical goal is met there is nothing and a kind of depression sets in. This is what happened in Nehamiah's day. The wall was up the city was finished but the people lost their connection with God. When you come to the end of the book you find that not only was their a need for the reconstruction of the walls but the reinstruction of the people. So once again Ezra is the man. The people come to Ezra and they begin to get back into what matters....what God has to say. In other words to keep the main thing the main thing....ministry. When they got back to this a sort of revival broke out.

What can be a sad thing looking at this story and statistic is that I and maybe you have seen it happen. You end up getting the churches that live from capital campaign to capital campaign. From one building project to another they are constantly pursuing a physical goal mislabeling physical growth for spiritual growth. This simply is not the case and cannot be the case. It would be interesting to me to see some of these churches that are building without truly needing to, to do a capital campaign in their church in order to wipe out poverty/debt within their congregation (a sort of jubilee). To see if people would pledge as much not to see a big elaborate new sidewalk going into their church or new building but rather pay off a widows home within the church. The spiritual goals will always give more gas to a church body than a physical goal. Sure it is nice to have new with the latest and greatest. I think it is necessary to be a good steward of what we have. However, would some of the money we drop into a church building program make even King Solomon blush? If we could talk to some of the saints that have gone on before us or even Jesus for that matter and say, "1, 2, 3, or 20 million dollar building project or fight social injustices (starting first in the church...I am a big advocate for helping those within the family)?" I think I know what they would say and I think I could show you a church body that is on such a spiritual high that no building program could ever duplicate. I opt for spiritual goals.