Funny Stuff

Fun street art

There’s no real point to this one. I just thought it was super fun, creative and thought it was worth sharing.

ht to LikeCool

Church Leadership

Nehemiah vs. The American Church

Photo by Nick Chill via Flickr (Creative Commons)

I love the audacity great faith brings.

It’s idealistic. It’s over-the-top. It’s incomprehensibly arrogant simplicity. It’s stupid fun to be around.

And that’s why I love my church.

This little church in the city truly believes they can be instrumental in seeing a new San Diego rise up to be an amazing place to live.

Right now, we’re in a sermon series on the book of Nehemiah.

As I read the narrative I can’t get past step one.

Step one of rebuilding your city? Chapter 1… lay on your face and be honest in confessing to God.

O LORD, God of heaven, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with those who love him and obey his commands, let your ear be attentive and your eyes open to hear the prayer your servant is praying before you day and night for your servants, the people of Israel. I confess the sins we Israelites, including myself and my father’s house, have committed against you. We have acted very wickedly toward you. We have not obeyed the commands, decrees and laws you gave your servant Moses. Nehemiah 1:5-7

What I love about Nehemiah and its message to the church is obvious… it’s not about your church, people. The purpose of the church isn’t to build a little empire. It’s to bring life to a dead and dying city. It’s to see the gospel bring renewal.

When I look out over the landscape of church culture I can’t help but see that we’re missing step one.

We need to deal with our own hearts. And we need to focus on the city and not our fiefdom.

This next passage absolutely wrecked my view of the local church. At the end, when Jesus comes to judge the church, Revelation 2-3 gives us a glimpse of how he judges the church… it should change how you and I do business.

v. 1 “To the angel of the church in Ephesus write”

v. 8 “To the angel of the church in Smyrna write”

v. 12 “To the angel of the church in Pergamum write”

v. 18 “To the angel of the church in Thyatira write”

3:1 “To the angel of the church in Sardis write”

v. 7 “To the angel of the church in Philadelphia write”

v. 14 “To the angel of the church in Laodicea write”

In case you missed it. Jesus isn’t judging the work of a single, local church. He’s judging the work of His body in each city.

Can I get an Amen?

Church Leadership Good News Music

Greater things…

I think the visuals of this version of the song, coupled with the history of Northern Ireland… really adds the significance and desperation needed for this song. Greater things are needed in the city.

For those of us in ministry, the real question this song brings to the forefront is one of priorities. Will 2010 be a year when we lay aside our pet projects and church crap and actually bring Good News to the cities we live in? Or will we just continue “discipling” and “entertaining” the same people another year without ever compelling them to take action and live out what we believe?

Unrelated sidenote: I’m itching to get back to Belfast.

Church Leadership Harbor Mid-City hmm... thoughts

Fears of a new venture

What does youth ministry in this neighborhood look like?

That’s the big open question in my mind this week. A week ago I met with a couple of leaders of Harbor and let them know… I think I’m at a place where giving my energy to lead something makes sense. I’ve completely enjoyed stepping back– forcefully– and spending time in the pews. And yet it’s clear within my soul that I need to help Harbor figure out what is next with student ministry.

Replication is my fear. Honestly, that’s it. I am fearful that I’ll help lead them a direction towards “adamisms” and things that I’m comfortable with. I’m fearful that I lead them to replicating stuff that other practitioners are already doing without being sensitive to the needs of our church and community. I’m fearful that we’ll be too ambitious or not ambitious enough. I’m fearful that in our zeal to meet the tangible needs of students we won’t be Gospel-driven enough. I’ve lived in cities for half of my adult life, but all of my ministry experience is with suburban kids. I’m not fearful of the kids. But I am in full knowledge that I don’t know how to identify with their struggles. So that’s an over-arching fear mixed in there, as well.

Fear. It’s where I’m at. Not the trembling kind of fear before embarking on an unknown ministry for the first time. Thankfully, I’m not that 21 year old kid grabbing the mic for the first time. On the one hand this is a more carnal fear. Some fear is based in the success of my past and present ministry. What if I screw it up and everyone looks at me and says, “Doesn’t he work for Youth Specialties? Isn’t he supposed to be an expert? How come he sucks so bad?” On the other hand, this is fear based in saying to Jesus… “OK, I’ll try something completely out of my experience and culture. I’ll go where you want and do what you need done. I’ll swallow pride and embrace not getting it right and risk the humiliation of starting over.” It’s a fear based in a life dedicated to saying to the Lord, “I want to change this world, help me be that leader that changes things in my world.

I’ve learned a thing or two. I’ve lead enough stuff to know that fear can be useful. Fear ultimately forces you to the core of what you’re trying to do. Fear forces you to look at the proposition of failure with a knowing grin. I may be afraid of failure but I’ve got enough experience to know what makes a success too.

3 life lessons I’m applying— If you are in the same boat– I’d suggest these things.

1- This is no one man show. Not that I’ve ever really run a one man show, per se. But from the onset of this I want to be clear that I’m no more than 1/4th the leader. I wish I had set this rule up 10 years ago!

2. This is about developing leaders for influence. If I’m going to invest my time in developing leaders, it’s not going to be so that they can be the shift supervisor at Starbucks. This is going to be about something much more important than this.

3. No more babysitting complacent teens. Since I’m not drawing a paycheck on this thing, I feel less-than-zero pressure to entertain. I want to invest in students, I want to invest in developing leaders. I want to teach God’s Word. And I have the ability to say no to the rest. Fun is always part of the equation. But watching kids be bored with the most exciting stuff on the planet… not my cup of tea.

More coming on this, I’m sure.

Culture hmm... thoughts

Bad news for suburban kids

graduation-dayIn the next few weeks millions of high school seniors will hear their name called and walk across the stage to recieve a high school diploma. There is an interesting phenomonon on graduation day that I’d like to point out.

Kids in the city are typically pretty excited about the achievement. In the city graduation rates are typically lower and there isn’t the same assumption that every child will graduate. Consequently, everyone is more excited and a city high school graduation ceremony is truly a celebration. Parents go nuts when they hear their kids name called. And students literally do backflips when they get their paper.

Kids in the suburbs are typically excited about graduation for other reasons. It’s assumed they will graduate so the ceremony carries an air of “farewell to my friends” more than a true celebration of achievement. Parents take pictures and clap politely as their children achieve something they fully expected their child to achieve. Rather than this being a moment to celebrate, students are anxious about how much they will get at their graduation party or hoping to get to go to the hot girls party. It’s a nice day but lacks the flamboyance of the party in the city.

That’s not the bad news.

dorm-lifeThe bad news is that kids from the city are going to kick the kids from the suburbs butt from here on out! While their richer, more priveledged peers wallow away their days coming up with new ways to not work, take advantage of their parents wealth, and essentially avoid responsibility as long as possible, all while piling up tens of thousands of dollars in college debt. Kids from the city are taking advantage of the system and running laps around their advantaged peers.

Let’s contrast things.

1. The typical “rich white kid from the suburbs” goes to college on a combination of his parents dime and college loans. Almost none work significant hours. (20 hours per week or less seems to be the norm) They waste time professionally. They are so busy playing, going to class, and hanging with their friends that they skirt by classes without taking them seriously. I’ve met countless affluent college kids who passed all of the tests but didn’t learn a thing in 4 years of college. They graduate with $40,000 in debt and no real life experience. Without a job they move back home and hope that someone will give them a job. I’ve even witnessed these affluent college kids chose to live at home and make no money while skipping opportunities to take entry-level jobs at places in their chosen career path. The assumption is that the system will work for them. One day they will magically wake up from a video-game-induced dream get their dream job and make loads of money. The truth is they don’t know how to work hard to earn good money as they’ve never been forced to innovate solutions or hustle to make rent money. In fact, with the mom/dad fall-back plan there is no motivation to strive to achieve anything. They will always have a roof over their head, they will always have food in the belly, a car to drive, and someone to care for them. And even more true is that the silent racially lopsided system doesn’t work like that anymore. While they were watching The Hills, kids from the city took the upper hand.

2. The typical “working-class minority kid from the city” goes to college on a combination of scholarships, work study, and summer jobs. While their more affluent peers weren’t looking, their ACT and SAT scores have caught their suburban peers and the system rewards minorities who compete academically with rich white kids. In other words, a Hispanic student from the city will get a full ride with the same scores that the suburban kid had. (It’s no secret that scholarship dollars are easier to get for minorities.)  Taking advantage of that, these students work harder in class, consequently learn more, and are ultimately rewarded with more opportunities than their affluent peers. job-search-resumeWork study and summer jobs, combined with almost no college debt result in a college graduate who is highly marketable and financially advantaged for the first time ever. They are more industrious, more hungry to take responsibility, and more aware that they can make it than ever.

As an adult I look at this and slap my head. If you were an employer looking at the resume of recent college graduates… which employee would you want? The kid who came from nothing but is crawling out of poverty by his achievement and hard work? Or the kid who was handed everything and never worked a day in his life?

And that my friends is bad news for the suburban kids.

Parents! What are you going to do with this scenario? How can you change your behavior from enabler to motivator?