Don’t Forget That!

April 29, 2012

“You think the people of this country exist to provide you with position. I think your position exists to provide those people with freedom.”

–William Wallace

1. They are converted.
2. They have been equipped, not entertained.
3. Their parents preached the gospel to them.

‘Joel Osteen, the popular megachurch pastor from Houston, appeared Tuesday afternoon on CNN’s “The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer” and said that he considers both presumed GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney, a Mormon, and President Obama to be Christians.’

Youth and Theology

April 24, 2012

‘The vast majority of teens, who call themselves Christians, haven’t been well educated in religious doctrine and, therefore, really don’t know what they believe.” Certainly, these results, at least to some degree, reflect the typically shallow theological culture of youth ministry. Why, then, does there seem to be a gap between youth ministry and theology?

We live in a society where we have relegated the teen years to something of a carefree vacation, protected from consequences and responsibilities.

It is strange that we teach young people complex calculus and physics but don’t think they can handle or will be interested in understanding the significance of the Trinity or atonement.

Churches have different expectations of youth ministries.

Some pastors view youth ministry as a necessary bother. They see youth ministry as required yet do not want it to cause them problems or drain their time. Some churches view youth ministers as entertainers and buddies, not serious ministers of God’s Word. Hence, they may hire energetic young adults without theological training (this varies between denominations) to run programs and do little to invest in their theological formation. The care with which we select youth pastors is not typically on par with the process we go through to call other clergy. Often the first question a church leader has for the youth pastor is, “How many came this week?” The second one may be, “Did they have fun?”

Youth pastors just love kids and want them to meet Jesus.

Evangelistic passion among some youth pastors has meant a neglect of theology—both studying it and teaching it. We can aim for “decisions for Christ” and overlook the spiritual formation that follows conversion. It is easy to get so wrapped up in doing evangelism and relationships that little time is spent deepening our own understanding of doctrine. Given that most people who come to faith do so before they complete their teen years, a youth minister can easily take on the attitude that “students don’t need deep theology, they just need Jesus.” Yet presenting the gospel without a solid theology is dangerous. A youth pastor with weak theology is more susceptible to developing a messiah complex, thinking we need to save these students. Students who don’t grasp good theology cannot articulate a faith that will stand up in college or beyond.’

Dawkins Retires

April 23, 2012

“The Lord has blessed me to play in the NFL for 16 years. I would like to thank the Eagles & the Broncos 4 believing In me. I would like 2 thank all my teammates & Coaches that I have been blessed 2 go to battle with. Along with u, the fans 4 helping make my career 1 that i have enjoyed tremendously. In other words. I am announcing my retirement from the NFL. #BBTB,” said the post linked from Dawkins’ Twitter page.

Aggressive Girls, Clueless Boys

Your son is probably unprepared for the girls who will pursue him sexually. How about you?
by Dennis Rainey

It was just a routine check. When Susan and Tom gave 13-year-old Josh his first cell phone, they told him that they would occasionally look through his text messages. But Susan was completely unprepared for what she found that Saturday morning.
She waded through a couple hundred short, inane messages, more than slightly confused by the shorthand that kids use when texting. She was struck by the fact that Josh and his friends seemed to text each other more than they actually talked. And then something different popped up. There was no confusion about this message: “If you could have sex with me, would you?”
Her mind spinning in disbelief, Susan continued looking through the texts. And a story began to emerge: While hanging out with some friends a couple weeks earlier, Josh had met a girl from another school. They began texting each other the next day, and it was clear that she had quickly begun pursuing him sexually. With suggestive language, she talked about what she wanted to do with him, and within a few days she lured him into sneaking out of his house in the middle of the night so they could meet for sex at a relative’s empty apartment. “I’m wearing a thong,” she wrote. “Can you sneak out tonight?”
Susan was so stunned that she could hardly breathe. Josh has never had a girlfriend, never even kissed a girl, she thought. We’ve raised him in a good home. How could this happen?
In a daze, she found her husband and filled him in. He was just as shocked. They knew they would someday need to talk with Josh’s younger sisters about how to handle boys who wanted sex, but they never expected this.
A shift in our culture
Sex among teenagers is old news, unfortunately, as are the trends of aggressive boys pursuing girls, men pursuing women, and adult women pursuing adult men. But a growing number of parents like Tom and Susan are learning that something has shifted in our culture over the last few decades.
Increasingly, girls are aggressively pursuing boys—in high school, middle school, and even earlier—in numbers we never saw in the past. The rules have changed, and many parents are asking for help in how to protect their young sons. This shift has caught them by surprise, and they don’t know what to do.
A few years ago, I wrote a book entitled Interviewing Your Daughter’s Date. I challenged dads to man up and take steps to protect the purity of their daughters. Interviewing a young man who wants to date your daughter is a good way to filter out the undesirables, so to speak, and call young men to treat a young lady’s sexuality with respect and nobility.
After that book was published, I heard stories about fathers who stepped up and had some great heart-to-heart conversations with young men. But what I didn’t expect were the messages from readers and FamilyLifeToday® radio listeners asking for help in protecting their sons from aggressive girls. Here is a sample:
“We have three grown daughters and a 16-year-old son. You would think our family would have experienced plenty of aggressive behavior from boys toward our daughters, but nothing compares with what I see our son going through.”
“I have a 14-year-old son. He is contacted by girls all the time on Facebook and texts. One went so far as to take pictures of herself in scant clothing (in my opinion) and send them to him. This occurred without the knowledge of her parents and when my son was in seventh grade.”
“My 10-year-old son was enticed by another fifth grade girl via e-mail to open another e-mail account so that I couldn’t monitor it. But I found it and canceled it. She is sending e-mail messages and e-cards to him and two of his friends in a love quadrangle that she’s brilliantly orchestrated.”
“I have two sons who attend public school. Recently, they were talking at the dinner table about the girls that grab their butts in the hallways. My husband and I were shocked. They said, ‘Welcome to public school, Mom!'”
“I have a 13-year-old boy, an 11-year-old boy, and a 7-year-old boy. All of them have been pursued by girls. I think what shocks me the most is the encouragement from the parents of the girls who mistakenly think it is ‘cute.'”
“We recently were hunting for a church nearer to our home. We found a good one, except that girls in the youth group zeroed in to our son like heat-seeking missiles.”
There have always been girls who are flirty and crazy about boys, even some girls who could be labeled as “bad girls.” You probably remember a few from your own days as a teenager. But now, the “bad girl” problem is becoming more commonplace. Over and over, parents are expressing the same concern: Girls are pursuing their sons more openly and relentlessly than ever before. They are calling, texting, sending suggestive photos, setting up romantic liaisons … and they’re doing these things at a younger age.
I want to make it very clear that I am not placing all the blame for teenage promiscuity on girls. I also understand that parents need to protect their daughters from aggressive boys, especially as those boys move into the latter years of high school and beyond. A shocking number of men and boys have, and continue to be, sexual predators. I make absolutely no excuses for them. But I’ve heard from enough parents to realize that we also have a growing problem with aggressive girls. And most parents tell me they just aren’t prepared for it.
The need for a plan
The fact is that many parents just don’t realize how little training they are giving their adolescent and pre-adolescent sons in how to relate to the opposite sex. I’m not just talking about sex education; our boys need to learn what to expect in adolescence—and beyond—and how to handle it. Temptation, lust, and sexual attraction are bearing down on them. They need to be prepared. You need to prepare them.
I wrote my recent book, Aggressive Girls, Clueless Boys, to offer time-tested counsel to empower you to teach and equip your son to understand a biblical perspective of sex and how to protect himself from seductive girls who would do him harm. I write about three commitments you need to make as a parent that will keep you engaged in your son’s life as he moves through the years of high hormonal temptation.
And I discuss seven conversations you must have with your son. Six of these are founded on passages from the book of Proverbs and focus on helping your son understand what God says in the Bible about maintaining sexual purity. These conversations are intensely practical and will help you establish boundaries for your son and also prepare him for specific situations he will face with aggressive girls both now and later in adulthood. Each of these chapters ends with a suggested step-by-step guide for directing the conversation with your son.
They thought they had more time
Tom and Susan, the parents in the story at the beginning of this article, found themselves dropped in the middle of a minefield. Their son, Josh, had never even been on a date, so they were shocked to find that he had become sexually active. When they met with Josh and told him that they knew what was going on, he tried to deny the extent of his involvement. But the evidence was clear, and he finally admitted what he had done.
Tom and Susan immediately took away Josh’s cell phone, shut down his Facebook page, and grounded him from going out with friends for a period of time. They made sure he kept busy with school and sports, so that he wouldn’t have idle time. And they moved him out of his downstairs bedroom into a room upstairs with his little brother.
The wounds were still fresh when Susan related the story. “Josh knows this isn’t what God wants for him.” But the future seems unclear. How do you restore a child to a path of purity after he’s already lost his virginity … at age 13? They are praying that God will use the experience for good in Josh’s life.
“I wish we had known these things were going on,” Susan said. “I think we would have been more prepared.”
Adapted by permission from Aggressive Girls, Clueless Boys, by Dennis Rainey with David Boehi. ©2012 by Dennis Rainey. FamilyLife Publishing.
Listen to Dennis Rainey talk about his book—Aggressive Girls, Clueless Boys—on a recent FamilyLIfe Today interview.
Related resources
Aggressive Girls, Clueless Boys by Dennis Rainey
Parenting Today’s Adolescent by Dennis and Barbara Rainey
So You’re About to Be a Teenager by Dennis and Barbara Rainey and Samuel Rainey and Rebecca Rainey
Interviewing Your Daughter’s Date by Dennis Rainey

In many towns across the U.S., you can locate a number of well-established churches simply by looking for their steeples. But many church plants, including the one I serve, will meet in a variety of different (and usually not ideal) locations before they establish themselves in a building of their own.

Chris Priestley is the senior pastor of Crossroads Church, a church plant that meets in Westover, W. Va., just outside the college town of Morgantown. The church began five years ago while he was still living in Charleston, and every weekend he would drive two-and-a-half hours to be part of it. When it first began, their meeting location didn’t even have walls.
“We started with 20 guys in a picnic shelter along the river, so you’re dodging goose poop and all that kind of stuff. It was just nuts,” he said laughing.
As the congregation grew, Crossroads was able to move into a storefront facility that was more central to the community they were trying to reach.
“My strategy in that is we just want to be as central in the location that we’re a part of as possible, so that we can have the most impact there and really know that culture and be a part of it,” he said.
Although a fully-enclosed building was probably better than a picnic shelter, it wasn’t ideal by any means. The congregation would become distracted while trying to listen to sermons, Priestley says, because curious passersby would peer into the window during their services, and in the summer, birds would sit outside and chirp loudly within earshot of the service.
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The storefront could only hold about 80 people, and two years ago, the church moved into an old church building that had a greater seating capacity.
“With a church planter there’s got to be versatility in recognizing you’re not going to be in your location long if you’re anticipating growth,” said Priestley. He later added, “Right now if you’ve got enough seating for 100, statistically you’re only going to get about 80 people, and really probably about 60, before they feel uncomfortable.”
Priestley became the senior pastor of Crossroads and essentially replanted the church shortly after it moved into the old church building two years ago. When he took over the congregation, however, he also assumed the problems associated with maintaining the worn-out building as well.
During the first summer there, a hole somehow opened up in the roof which allowed water to leak into the building when it rained. That same year the air conditioning and heating units both broke down. The summer was hot, and although the hole in the roof created extra ventilation, the church had to distribute bottled water and use portable fans during services to keep cool.
“It was pretty nutty. We thought about putting a Slip ‘N Slide down the middle of the aisle in case anyone wanted to get baptized that way,” Priestley said jokingly.
The building also had problems with its foundation, which caused water leaks and mold to grow in the basement-level nursery, and the church had to have experts come in to fix the problem.
Priestley’s advice for the church planter who is looking to buy a building is pretty simple: don’t do it until you’re ready for a building that seats over 200 people, and make sure you’re prepared to stay there for at least five years.
Jim Moon, Jr. is the lead pastor of Crosspoint Encuentro Church in Smyrna, Ga., and the coaching director for the North Georgia Church Planting Network. His congregation currently meets in another church’s building, but at one time they gathered at a local Christian school and had to set up and tear down all of their equipment every Sunday.
“The thing that’s hard about [being a portable church] is it never stops. You never get a break. The volunteers never get a break. It’s a constant sacrifice and it’s a constant use of human energy and motivation,” he told me on Thursday.
Moon explained that setting up and tearing down equipment could take a total of two hours on a Sunday, when the service itself was only an hour and a half long at the most.
Church plants who utilize local schools for meetings don’t have access to the school until the custodian lets them in, and they are restricted on how long they are allowed to stay. When they are on a time limit, Moon says, it can be difficult to build community and have fellowship time after the service ends, but there are advantages to meeting in a facility, like a school, that isn’t a church building.
“We noticed almost immediately when we started meeting at a church facility that there was a category of people that would not show up,” said Moon. “When we were in a school…they would give it a try because it didn’t feel too churchy.”
Churches that meet in schools were the focus of some major media attention earlier this year when New York City’s Board of Education decided to ban worship services in the city’s public schools, a decision that affected over 60 congregations. The ban was eventually overturned in court but was seen as a threat to the churches, which not only pay rent to the schools but often providede additional funds and services to them as well.
When it comes to finding a good facility, Moon says there are a number of factors that church planters should consider. First, it should be only “one turn off a major road” so that newcomers can find it easily. Church planters shouldn’t spend “a boatload” of money on a facility they can only access a few hours a week, and they shouldn’t have to spend too much on rent in the early stages of the church’s life.
Cleanliness and sanitation is also important to many people, especially to those who have children, and making sure there is enough room for a nursery can be vital when considering a location. Lastly, church plants should be careful not to move into a place that is either too big or too small for them. A small facility leaves no room for growth, and one that is too large can rob a worship service of energy and excitement because the room looks empty.
Moon says many church plants begin in the church planter’s home. His church began with “Sunday night prayer and launch team meetings” in his home before they eventually began having full worship services at an outside location.
The impact that a move has on a congregation depends on whether or not there is upward mobility, Moon says. For his congregation, which is now considering moving into a larger facility and even switching its service times, the idea of moving to a new facility has unified them, because they believe that a new location can help them to better accomplish their mission.

As the campus pastor of a church plant, I have heard funny, sad and inspiring stories about what it is like to be a part of a new church in its earliest stages of life. It can be a painful process at times, and church planters often work long hours for little pay in order to see the vision that God has given them fulfilled. Sometimes, it seems, vision is all they have, but in the tough times it can also be enough to get them by.
When I called church planter Bill Craig to interview him for this article, he was parked by the side of a busy Florida road with a banner advertising his new church plant attached to the side of his SUV.
“This is what you’re willing to do when you’re a church planter,” he told me while laughing. His new church, Kaleomark Church, launched just one month ago and is the third church plant he has started and the fourth he’s worked with in his 20-year career.
After leaving behind the financial security of the last church plant he was a part of, where there were about 500 regular attenders, Craig now supplements his family’s income by stocking shelves at a local supermarket for $8.50 per hour. It’s important for those who accept the call to become church planters to also find contentment in any financial situation, he says.
He and his wife have gotten used to living a humble life. While planting their first church in Ohio, the couple lived in a house in which the apartment above theirs leaked water from its bathroom down through their ceiling and into their kitchen. The overweight woman who lived upstairs was verbally abusive to her two children, and they would sometimes sneak downstairs just to receive hugs from Craig and his wife. Because of the leaks in the ceiling, and the fact that it creaked under the woman’s weight, Craig says he was afraid that one day she would end up falling through it.
“My nightmare was that she was going to fall through one day…and this large, naked woman, who was absolutely evil to her kids, was going to fall on my kitchen table while I was eating breakfast, and I was going to lose my appetite for the rest of my life,” he said jokingly.
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He pointed out that both Jesus and the Apostle Paul were poor during their ministries, but the Father had called them to a mission they simply couldn’t ignore. The vision for all church planters, he says, should be to share the Gospel message and accept whatever path God has laid out for them, even if it isn’t convenient.
“The vision that keeps you going is…accepting whatever God sees for you and your future,” he said.
Will Plitt, executive director of Plant NC, told me on Tuesday that every Gospel-centered church is called to live out the Great Commission, but says many church planters are also called to minister to a specific social and cultural context. He also says that, in addition to vision, it is important that a person feels called by God to be a church planter.
“If a man is not called to plant a church, it will be difficult to impossible as he leads his family into something that he might not be equipped or wired for,” he said.
“Calling and vision many times kind of go hand in hand, because on those dark, difficult days and seasons where you feel alone, where you want to quit …on those days all you have is calling and vision. And if you do not have a calling, and you do not have a strong vision, then it’s just easy to jump ship.”
When Plant NC assesses people who want to be church planters, they spend several hours with both the planter and his wife to make sure they are unified in the vision of starting a new church. If a person’s wife and family aren’t on board with the idea, he says, it can cause big problems later on.
And when it comes to gathering a group of people to help with a new church plant, Charles Hill, a church planter who was featured in part one of the “Inside Church Planting” series, expressed why it can be so difficult to do.
“It’s the only place on earth where you are convincing people to come work for you, for free, every single week. They come work for you…Oh, and they pay you,” he said. He later added, “That’s why it’s a Holy Spirit-thing.”

By Jeff Schapiro | Christian Post Reporter
There are churches in the United States that are hundreds of years old. Many of them have rich traditions and have seen hundreds if not thousands of people come to know Jesus Christ through their ministries. Yet there is a special crop of people – the church planters – who feel called not to preach from pulpits in front of well-established congregations, but to create churches of their own.
I serve as the campus pastor at a small church plant in Barberton, Ohio. My early Christian life was spent in an established, traditional church, leaving me unprepared for the heartaches and joys of being part of a brand new church.
People need Jesus – that’s for sure – but how does a person build a congregation from the ground up? Who are these people who are brave enough – and perhaps naïve enough – to go into a town and create a church from scratch?
Charles Hill is an experienced church planter who I first met through my church’s senior pastor, who receives ministry coaching from Hill. After beginning a career in law enforcement as a police officer in Columbus, Hill went on to plant and pastor churches that have seen successful growth in both Ohio and Utah.
He is now working on a new project, New City Church in Columbus, which held its first Bible study this past Sunday. I asked him why he hasn’t just stayed put and built one large church.
“I believe in the power of the Holy Spirit to lead that process,” he told me Monday afternoon. “I guess if we look at it from a human side, the human vantage point is that I’m kind of wired to be…an entrepreneurial starter.”
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An entrepreneur? Many Christians think of pastors as being people who study the Bible and pray a lot, but entrepreneurs? Hill isn’t the only one who thinks that characteristic is important in a church planter.
Ryan Jones, the director of the Liberty Church Planting Network (LCPN), who has personally helped plant churches in both Ohio and Virginia, says part of the assessment process for LCPN’s members is whether or not they have that entrepreneurial spirit.
“They (church planter) [need to] have the vision for something, inspire other people to have that vision … [and] inspire everybody to take the jump to make it happen,” Jones said Monday.
LCPN, which since 1980 has helped 900 churches get planted in the U.S. alone, assesses those who want to be planters based on a number of criteria, including entrepreneurial skills, church planting, ministry experience and relational evangelism. Jones says some pastors are not strong in one or more of those areas, but they can thrive in established churches because they have a large pool of people to pick from who can help them do ministry and make up for the areas they are most lacking in. Church planters, on the other hand, usually don’t have that luxury.
Jones says the flock that follows a church planter is often “dirtier” than the one that follows an established church pastor, primarily because church plants target people who are un-churched and de-churched (those who were hurt by the church or decided in the past that it wasn’t for them), and the flock at an established church often consists of more mature Christians.
So what does the typical church planter look like? Jones says the average age for a church planter in his network is mid-to-late 30s. Many of them are seminarians (his network was founded by Jerry Falwell, the founder of Liberty University), although every planter is different in some way or another.
Church planting veteran Charles Hill says he meets a lot of church planters who are in their late 20s to early 30s, which he thinks is a good age to begin planting. He says church planters should be self-starters, have “tremendous” gifts of faith, the ability to communicate the truth of the Gospel and the ability to put teams together.
“There is still enough naivety [at the age of 33]…at the same time you’ve got enough energy to believe that you can make a difference. You’re finally getting enough wisdom – with a wife, and a marriage and kids – to where you can really truly start to have the wisdom to benefit congregations of people,” said Hill.
Naïve? I asked him what he was most naïve about when he first started planting.
“Everything,” he laughs. “Whatever you think it takes, crank it up about 100 notches.”
Outside of seeking the help of the Holy Spirit, he says one of the most vital things a new church planter can do is get a good ministry coach. It is not necessary for planters to make many mistakes when someone can help them to avoid such pitfalls.
Hill, who has been the pastor of both thriving churches and brand new church plants, spoke about a study that said church pastor is the third most stressful occupation. And among pastors, he said, church planters are probably some of the most stressed.
“Pastoring a church was simple compared to starting it. Right now we’re starting something out of nothing with no people, no money…When you pastor, yeah, it’s tough, but for most pastors it’s stable,” he said.
All of the stress and all of the work is worth it, however. Jones says he recently spoke to a planter in his network who saw eight people put their faith in Jesus during the first Sunday the church was launched. After talking it over, they agreed that it was worth all of his effort thus far to see those eight people come to Christ, with hopes that many more will follow.
“Church planting is possibly the most effective means of a method of evangelism in our churches and in our culture,” said Jones. “There’s nothing that reaches more people than new churches, because new churches have to reach people to survive.”
Part two of the “Inside Church Planting” series will focus on what it is like in the early days of a newly-formed church plant, and will take a look at both the growing pains and joyful moments of a new church experience. Stay tuned.

Modification, not Gospel

April 19, 2012

This could be said about a lot of Christians, not just youth groups. Thoughts?

‘Ministry leaders are seeing a major problem among youth groups – an emphasis on behavior modification over the Gospel.
In a series featured on The Gospel Coalition website, several ministers discussed their concerns with how youths were being taught in the church, namely with messages aimed more at keeping them out of trouble.
“Many youth pastors preach moralism over the gospel in order to protect students from self-destruction,” said Cameron Cole, director of youth ministries at Cathedral Church of the Advent in Birmingham, Ala. “Unfortunately, law-driven ministry often yields the opposite of its intention; law and pressure often inflame rebellion.”
Cole doesn’t see a lack of Gospel teaching in youth ministries when it comes to salvation and justification. He believes youth pastors may even be “more faithful” than senior pastors in “helping their flock understand Christianity as saving relationship rather than cultural religion.”
But when it comes to sanctification, or the process of being set apart for holy use, youth ministries are getting it wrong, Cole believes.
“Youth ministry often focuses on emotional exhortation and moral performance,” he observed. “A legalistic tone frequently characterizes the theology of sanctification in youth ministry.”
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According to Brian H. Cosby, associate pastor of youth and families at Carriage Lane Presbyterian Church in Peachtree City, Ga., such teaching has led to widespread belief in “Moralistic Therapeutic Deism” where “we are supposed to be ‘good people'” and where God is more like a “cosmic therapist” or “divine butler.”
But Cole understands why youth ministry tends to focus on legalism and behavior.
Simply put, “youth pastors want to see changed lives,” he noted.
“Wanting validation for their tireless labor, youth ministers occasionally focus on behavior modification as a means of providing tangible proof of the efficacy of their ministry. A kid carrying his or her Bible to school, signing a chastity pledge, or sporting a WWJD bracelet may appear like signs of spiritual progress – the fruit of ministry labor for a youth pastor.”
Cole cautioned, however, that “if these actions come out of a student misunderstanding Christianity as a code of behavior rather than heart transformation through the Holy Spirit, then they do not necessarily reflect lasting life change.”
Parents aren’t helping the situation either. Wanting their children to be moral, parents sometimes view “the church exclusively as a vehicle for moral education, rather than spiritually forming them in Christ, and put pressure on youth and senior pastors to moralize their children,” Cole pointed out.
The Birmingham youth director stressed the need for youth ministry to be viewed not as a venue for entertainment and moral teaching but as a serious teaching and discipleship ministry.
And youth pastors, he stressed, need to view themselves as sowers who plant Gospel seeds for harvest down the road.
Quoting Mark Upton, a former youth worker and current pastor at Hope Community Church in Charlotte, N.C., Cole said, “If anyone asks you about your ministry, tell them you will let them know in ten years.”‘