Youth Ministry Article

There's an article on youth ministry in the current issue of Time Magazine. You can click the link below.

It's a great article. Time says what I've been trying to tell people recently. Youth ministry is not about trips and concerts and Six Flags and whatever else we've focused on the last 25 years. Those things are OK, but they are not youth ministry. Don't be afraid to get your teens into the word of God. Don't be afraid to teach your kids to pray. Don't be afraid to instruct your kids in doctrine. They want it. They come to church for answers and we spend all our time and energy entertaining them and pacifying them. Anyway, this is worth passing around your church.

A Spooktacular Night!

Elvis Zombie & Witch (Isaiah & Mollie)

Lebanon's prettiest witch.

Jason & Elvis Zombie (Isaiah w/ his friend Brendan)

One is My Favorite Number!!!

Here's Myers Baby #3's first photo. I'm breathing a big sigh of relief as it looks like we will only be having a single baby. Not multiple like some of my "so-called" friends have been teasing me about. The baby is between the two crosses. He/she has his/her mother's smile!


Have a Fun Halloween!

That's right, I said it! A pastor just encouraged you to enjoy Halloween. Halloween is one of my favorite holidays. Why? Because it's one of the few days we Americans set aside just for fun. People dressing up, kids begging candy, etc... I really enjoy it. The only time I didn't enjoy Halloween was when I was attending a church that insisted on having a "Halloween alternative" where people had to dress as Bible characters. So basically everyone showed up in their bathrobes and such. It would have been much more interesting to see John the Baptist beheaded, the bear eating the children who mocked the prophet, Adam & Eve in their "creation" suits - there's all kinds of scary stuff in the Bible.
I got to be honest, I don't think Halloween (or even Satan) poses much of a threat to Christians. You can argue that it originated as an evil day, but it's just not that way now. I have even known some parents to tell their children that it was evil because it is Satan's birthday. WHAT!? Why do so many Christians insist on living a life of fear? The Bible tells us that God does not give us a spirit of fear, but a sound mind. Halloween is a day like any other day. Let your kids have a little fun! I think when we dress as scary things, or the undead, or whatever - we actually have an opportunity to mock death. We Christians have been given the victory over death. To show Death he has no sting, go ahead and dress like a zombie (Isaiah chose to dress like an Elvis Zombie this year!).

I also get really tired of intelligent Christians giving Satan too much credit. Everytime they sin it's because Satan has really been working on them hard. Let me say this as clearly and as plainly as I possibly can. SATAN IS NOT A GOD! He is not omniscient, so he does not have access to your thoughts. He is not omnipresent, so since he can only be in one place at a time, he cannot be tempting all Christians at all times. So how vain do you have to be to think that Satan's going to focus all his attention on you because you're that big a threat to him. He is not omnipotent, so not only does he not have power over a Christian covered under the blood, he's already been defeated.

Sunday I asked my teens "When you sin, do you think it's because Satan caused you to sin or because you're just screwed up and sinful?" Every one of them answered the latter. Let me share with you the wisdom that a bunch of knuckle-headed teens have already figured out. If you are losing the battle with drugs/alcohol, it's because your dumb enough to put yourself in a place where it's available. If you find yourself fornicating or committing adultery, it's because you don't have the sense to keep your pants zipped up. I could go on and on, but I think you get the point. All Satan needed to do in your life, he did in Eden. You are sinful and fallen and if you find yourself losing to temptation alot, try praying and reading your Bible and changing some of the patterns of your life. Don't give Satan more credit that he deserves. He's not showing up to you personally and tempting you like he did with Jesus in the wilderness. He only needed to do that with Jesus because he was JESUS!

So have a fun Halloween. Dress up or rent a scary movie or go egg the deacon's house or something.

Perfect Church?

Being a youth pastor, I tend to hang out with other pastors. Inevitably, the conversation always goes to "I wish our church was..." or "If I started my own church, it would...". I have some very strong opinions on what a church should or shouldn't be. But even my own opinion goes through somewhat of an evolution. Some people think the perfect church would be small/traditional, mega/contemporary, postmodern/missional/emergent, house church, urban street church, purpose-driven, 5-star, seeker-sensitive, have large/exciting kids ministries, blend kids and adults without separation, liturgical, spirit-led, bluegrass, rock, country, gospel, and on and on and on and on.

I've read all the books. Attended all different styles of church (and a few different denominations). Lived east coast to west coast and several spots in between. I don't have it all figured out but these are some things that I personally feel sure about:
  • A church that isn't authentic is a waste of everyone's time and money. If you don't feel you can truly be yourself at your church - then leave. But first try being yourself, and see if you get kicked out (it might be in your head).
  • True fellowship can only happen in small groups. These small groups can take many different forms: Sunday School classes, home groups, coffee shop groups, accountability groups, etc... But if you don't have good small groups at your church, you don't really have a church - you have an overglorified worship gathering.
  • Churches NEED to be seeker-sensitive, but not seeker-driven. We need to make sure that seekers feel welcome and that the message is clear to them. However, many churches wasted loads of time and money in the 80s and 90s trying to sneak up on people with the gospel. If the gospel you're preaching and presenting doesn't offend a seeker, you're preaching a false gospel. I've been saved for almost 30 years and it still offends me!
  • Churches are failing miserably at discipleship. Membership classes and Sunday School are not enough. We need to spend more time in serious mentoring relationships. These, too, can take many different forms. But just like Jesus, we need to approach new believers and say "Follow me." And here's a question for you: Did Jesus start discipling the 12 before or after they became believers?
  • Worship, no matter what the style of music, needs to be taught. It's more than music; it's a life.
  • A church should be an asset to it's community. If your church is not an instrument of positive change (spiritual, physical, relational, economic) in your city or neighborhood, how can you start becoming such an instrument?

This is just a starting list. What are some of your characteristics of this mythical "perfect church"?

Blog Remodel

You probably notice some changes to the blog. I've spent some time doing a remodel. The two biggest changes are the name and new labels.

I changed to WIDE OPEN because that's how I try to live my life. I don't want to be one of those pastors who live secret lives because they're scared to show the world or their church their true self. WIDE OPEN was the theme of the 2004 Youth Specialties National Youth Workers Convention. That's where I got all the cool graphics. They're available for download on the YS website.

The other cool thing is that I added labels to all my posts. This allows the reader to search for a specific post by topic. For instance, if you can't remember what I said was the best movie of the summer, you can look at the list of labels on the right-hand side and click on "movies". This will bring up a list of all my posts about movies.

Sorry for the inconsistent blogging lately. I'll try to get back into the swing of things.


What I'm Listening To

This is what's getting the most play-time in my MP3 player lately:

Derek Webb: Mockingbird - This CD is awesome. You can read more about it in my post below.

Gnarls Barkley: St. Elsewhere - GB is a fun band to listen to. They have mixed modern sounds with old-school R&B and the result is incredible. Their first single "Crazy" is a great song. If you want to see a great version of it, go to YouTube and do a search. You'll find their MTV AwardShow performance where the entire band is dressed up in Star Wars costumes. Very cool!

Chris Tomlin: See the Morning - This CD is growing on me the more I listen to it. It has alot of really great praise songs. I really enjoy his version of Amazing Grace.


New Law

One of my favorite songwriters is Derek Webb. He's awesome! His music is OK, but lyrically he is seriously a modern day prophet. You'll never find another musician who makes you more uncomfortable (in the right ways).

I just got his latest CD titled Mockingbird today. It's great. One particular song really spoke to me. It's called New Law and it's about how we tend to be scared of the freedom that God gives us when we become Christ-followers and we tend to trade that freedom in for a "new law". Here's the lyrics:

don’t teach me about politics and government
just tell me who to vote for
don’t teach me about truth and beauty
just label my music
don’t teach me how to live like a free man
just give me a new law

i don’t wanna know if the answers aren’t easy
so just bring it down from the mountain to me

i want a new law
i want a new law
gimme that new law

don’t teach me about moderation and liberty
i prefer a shot of grape juice
don’t teach me about loving my enemies
don’t teach me how to listen to the Spirit
just give me a new law

what’s the use in trading a law you can never keep
for one you can that cannot get you anything
do not be afraid
do not be afraid
do not be afraid


Best New Shows

I have to say that I don't ever remember a period of time when TV was as great as it is now. There are so many good new shows on that you can't possibly watch them all. But I thought I'd point out my two new favs.

Dexter (Showtime) - This is a Showtime original series about a cop who is a forensics expert by day, and a serial killer by night. The twist is that he only kills bad guys. If you don't get Showtime, you can view the episodes on Showtime's website at http://www.sho.com/site/dexter/home.do (and they've edited any nudity or f-bombs so it's actually a better place to view it). Dexter is obviously pretty dark but nonetheless a very cool show.

Heroes (NBC) - This is a cool new show about a group of people around the world who have superpowers. They don't know each other, but they're slowly starting to find out they are connected somehow. This show has conspiracies, cool bad guys, a slowly unfolding mystery, and more. You can also watch this one online at http://www.nbc.com/.

By the way, this new trend of networks posting their episodes online to be viewed the day after they air, is by far the greatest thing networks have done in a long time. If you missed a show, or you'd like to check out a show that only comes on during church or work or whatever - don't fear. Just watch it online! Sweet!

So now you can watch these shows along with LOST, The Sopranos, Dog the Bounty Hunter, 3 CSI Shows, 3 Law & Order Shows, SportsCenter, Boston Legal, ER, Medium, House, American Chopper, oh, and Dr. Phil, Oprah, SuperNanny, Trading Spaces, and whatever other crap your wife makes you watch.


Sick Wisdom

Well, I've been sick for the last 3 days. I stayed home yesterday and today, so I've done a lot of sleeping and watching movies - some good, some so-so. I just finished one that was excellent, though. It's called Warm Springs and it was an HBO Original Movie. It deals with Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Eleanor from the time he contracted polio until he got his political career started again. Rent this if you get a chance.

There was one great line in it. Kathy Bates plays a physical therapist of FDR's. In this scene he's going through a low time and kind of having a pity party. She finally loses her patience and responds to him by saying, "Franklin, I'm not going to play this game with you. I can't help you out of the pit you're in if I jump in it with you."

That statement made me realize that I probably spend too much time sympathizing with people's problems, and not nearly enough time encouraging people or giving them hope. Why is it when a friend is down, we feel this need to wallow with them. There's nothing wrong with a little sympathy once in a while, but what people need is hope. Jesus modeled this. I haven't yet found the verse that says, "Verily, verily, I know how you feel." But how many sermons have we heard on "Jesus can help because he knows what you're going through." I can think of plenty of times when Jesus offered hope, encouragement, and "good news", but I can't think of very many where he used sympathy to draw people out of their problems. Anyway, something to think about.


This is Awesomely Bad!

I've heard of Christian weight-loss programs, but this takes the cake. People will do anything to make a buck off of Jesus.

Their Season Ends

The Oakland A's finished their season Saturday night in Detroit as the Tigers swept them in the ALCS. A little disappointing, but still this is the farthest they've got in the post-season in the 8 years I've been a fan. Thanks boys, for a great season of great memories!


Random Thoughts of a Depressed Mind

I've been down for about a week now. I don't know why, but I always battle depression in October. For about the last 15 years, I get pretty depressed when October rolls around. The weird thing is this is pretty much my favorite time of year. I love the cooling, the early dark, the leaves changing, etc... The last two years was pretty mild, but I'm feelin' it pretty heavy this year. I can't sleep at night and when I do fall asleep I don't want to get out of bed. I'm having a hard time focusing on tasks at work. I'm a little more on edge around Jamie and the kids. I'm pretty much constantly focused on the negative aspects of my life. Anyway, all that to say I could probably use a prayer or two.

Here are some questions to ponder (or even respond to):
  1. Is it possible to discipline your kids appropriately and have them not grow up hating you?
  2. Why doesn't God kill all those "GOD HATES FAGS & SOLDIERS & YOU" people from that church in Kansas?
  3. How can my A's win 3 straight against the Twins, but not one yet against the Tigers?
  4. When was the last time anyone saw a truly joyful Christian? Why are homosexuals way happier than us?
  5. Why isn't anyone starting a revolt against the US Govt for what is nothing less than financial rape through our taxes?
  6. When will Christians stop believing W is a good thing for this country because he claims to be a Christian? Everybody out there (even if you love him) knows in their gut that he is less than honest. I'm not saying anybody else would be more honest, but stop making him out like he's the best thing since Martin Luther. Other than tax cuts (primarily for the wealthy) and war, name one other promise he's kept. How are all of your "faith-based initiatives" doing? W is the best liar I have ever seen, because people believe him. When Clinton said, "I didn't inhale" or "I did not have sex with that woman" or "We will cure AIDS by the year 2000", we all went, "Yeah, right, whatever." He was a horrible liar. But the crazy thing is we think W is a better Pres because he's a better liar. Anywhoo...
  7. Is anyone else extremely disappointed in the 21st Century? Where the crap is my flying car?! And why am I still walking on sidewalks? Aren't they supposed to be moving for us?
  8. When they talk about Steve Irwin's death, why do they always refer to the stingray as a "gentle creature"? Hellooo...it's got "sting" in its name!
  9. Why is Rich Mullins dead and Paris Hilton still walking and breathing?
  10. How much longer till October's over?


How Sweep It Is!!

The A's swept the Twins in American League Division Series! Now it's on to face either the Tigers or the Yankees in the AL Championship Series. This is the first time the A's have won a post-season series since 1990. I personally watched them blow it two years in a row when we lived in the Bay Area. If only I could have been there in person tonight. I have to admit I got a little misty-eyed. LET'S GO OAKLAND!!!!!!!!!!!!!


Insight on Arminianism

There's a great blog I read for my daily dose of theology. It's Scot McKnight's blog at www.jesuscreed.org. McKnight is a great writer and has given us many great commentaries. He's been running a thread on his blog recently titled "Do Calvinists Understand Arminianism?". It's been great and he's got more to come. It's based on a new book by Roger Olson called Arminian Theology. He says it's a great read. It sounds like it's doing a lot to bridge the gap between us Free-Willers and the TULIPs. You all should check it out.


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Last night Jamie and I finished watching Season 2 of LOST on DVD. We didn't see any of the episodes during the regular season so we've been stoked watching them on DVD since they released a couple of weeks ago. LOST IS AWESOME!!!!!!!!!!!!! There is no greater show on TV! The list of best shows on TV goes like this:
2. The Sopranos (even though I realize it's a very foul show, I have this need to feed my inner gangster)
3. Dog the Bounty Hunter (only because I too long for the day when I can put boot some guy's back before I tell him about Jesus)
4. Everything else...

The new season starts Wednesday and I can't wait. If you've never watched this show, buy or rent the DVDs and get busy. It's incredible. I said it last year and I'll say it again. Hurley is one of the best characters on TV and if they ever kill him off, I'll probably never watch the show again. Long live Hurley!