Books Friday is For Friends

Hopecasting by Mark Oestreicher

My partner in crime at the Cartel has a new book coming out. He has something like 70 titles in the youth ministry genre, been the general editor of a couple Bible projects, and is the general editor of our Cartel publishing line.

But this is Marko’s very first general audience Christian book.

So it stands out that the audience isn’t limited to people who are working in local churches with teenagers, it’s for everybody.

Here’s the truth: I haven’t read it yet. So I can’t recommend it from that perspective.

However, I can recommend it wholeheartedly as a friend who has born witness to the process of creating the book… and the life altering stuff that happened which lead to the creation of the book.

This book kicked Marko’s butt.

It made him uncomfortable. It made him work harder than he wanted to. It interrupted him. I think it drove him crazy and pushed him to places he didn’t really want to go. And, in the end, he’s really proud of it.

Here’s the description:

Why are some people full of hope, while many of us struggle to get past the snooze alarm? Hope often seems elusive—both to explain and to experience. So we find ourselves instead clinging to lesser substitutes. From self-medication to lazy clichés, we apply these balms to our pain and experience little to no comfort. But we know, in our guts, that these replacements aren’t the hope-filled lives we long for, the lives we were made for. Mark Oestreicher gets it. Through hard-wrought experience and robust-bordering-on-desperate theological reflection, he offers here a fresh perspective on Hope, that virtue that God carries to us even as God carries us. Read Hopecasting and discover a good God casting hope your way.

And here’s what Scot McKnight has to say, he’s way smarter than me:

Hopecasting takes us through the joy of holy week, into the exile of darkness and hopelessness, and to the empty tomb of hope. In this book Marko teaches each of us how he has learned to practice a life of hope through the resurrection. What a gift of God this book is. May you discover the reality of a biblical hope that reshapes life today.

So that’s the scoop. Give it a shot.

You can buy it from Amazon or at The Youth Cartel store.

Friday is For Friends youth ministry

5 Weeks Until Open Grand Rapids

Ah… winter.

A quick scan of social media reveals that folks living in Michigan, Northern Indiana, and the Chicago area are completely sick of winter.

The supreme irony of our living in San Diego is that we’re Midwesterners who love a good midwest winter. We’d get 6 inches of snow and Kristen was ecstatic about shoveling the driveway. I absolutely loved giving people a hard time about canceling things because it was cold or a bit icy.

So, a year ago, I scheduled our very first Open Grand Rapids right in the middle of winter. On purpose! My hope was that people would have a little cabin fever and look forward to something to get out of the house for on a cold Saturday.

Welp, um… I was wrong. The weather was a bit of a sucker punch and we had a very hard time getting people to come out.

Year one was great: But year two will be a lot better!

This year’s Open Grand Rapids is March 28th (SPRING!) on the campus of Cornerstone University. If you aren’t familiar with the format we have a great line-up of presenters presenting on real-life stuff from all over the region. Instead of the “big national organization” bringing in a group of ringers to offer big-box-version youth ministry training without local context, we recruit local youth ministry experts to offer training to fellow workers doing youth ministry right in that same context. So don’t expect polish or production or anything fancy about Open Grand Rapids. But do expect a very full, very high quality day of youth ministry training for just $25. (No one gets paid and most of the money gets donated back to a local organization & the local organizer team.)

The kicker? What our presenters lack in the experience of doing the same seminar dozens of times per year, they more than make up for in real-life experience. 

What has became so evident at our 3rd Open Boston a couple weeks ago is that with a little bit of experience, some feedback/coaching, that the quality of training is just as good as any I’ve seen.

So that’s the scoop on Open Grand Rapids. I hope to see you there.

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Church Leadership Friday is For Friends

A Weakness with Formal Ministry Preparation

Driving across rural Kansas in December I couldn’t help but be reminded of this fact:

  • In the New Testament, nearly all of the illustrations Jesus used were agrarian.
  • In modern times, nearly all modern formal education happens in the city.

It’s a conflict that most people training for vocational ministry either completely ignore or they think they can read a commentary which will explain what Jesus was referring to. (Most of these commentaries aren’t written by people who don’t know anything about that stuff either… they are written by people who live in the city but did research from other books about what to put in the commentary.)

And the implication is that most ministry models emulate a business structure and worship is built around a lecture when Jesus’ illustrations for believers were that ministry should run like a farm.

But I think most Americans are so removed from agrarian life that they miss what life in ministry could really be.

And so I’m left to wonder:

  • How can people learn to shepherd a church flock if they don’t know anything about actual sheep?
  • How can you “fish for men” if you don’t know how to fish?
  • How can you “reap a harvest” if you’ve never planted a crop?

And let’s state the obvious… I’m not aware of any ministry preparation that places wanna-be pastors on farms or commercial fishing boats or herding sheep.

Instead, we send wanna-be pastors to the city where ministry preparation looks like any other course of study.

And we wonder why our churches look like businesses, why church workers are comfortable in offices, why they are white collar workers completely missing the blue collar majority of our population?

He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?” Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, “Do you love Me?” And he said to Him, “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.” Jesus *said to him, “Tend My sheep.

John 21:17

But most of us couldn’t pick a sheep out of a line-up.

Photo credit: Deputation by Peter Eskersley via Flickr (Creative Commons)