Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Youth Pastors bring 3V school assemblies to their community - Part 1

Youth Pastors in Fayette County have been working together for several months to bring the 3V School Assembly program - vision, volume, velocity (coordinatred by Paul May - Clearer Vision Drama Company) - to schools in their area.

So far they have been to four schools (three more to go) and it's going great. The students are loving the hilarious dramas, the rockin' band, and the BMX bike stunt guy. Check out www.teensforchrist.org/3V.aspx for pictures and a video of the BMX guy. Something like 5000 students will experience the 3V Tour before it's over this week. The culmination of the 3V Tour will be a huge outreach event at Uniontown High School on Wednesday, April 1st (we had a sneak peek of the big outreach last night at a local church and 10 students came to Christ! Way to go Mike and Starla!). We are expecting 800-1000 students to be there - they'll experience the dramas, concert, and BMX stunt guys as well as a clear presentation of the Gospel and an invitation to receive Christ.

We still need to raise $2000 to help pay for this event. If you could make a donation of any amount (large or small), please visit www.teensforchrist.org/3V.aspx - we have credit card donation set up through paypal. Your help would be greatly appreciated! Please KEEP PRAYING! Thanks so much! I'll post again on Thursday to share how the outreach event goes.

One more thing - we want to thank Ron & Leigh Hudson and Art & Christine David, youth leaders at Calvary Baptist Church in Uniontown, for spearheading this network outreach for us. We love you guys!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Great youth network meeting last night!

Our Fayette County Youth Network met last night at the home of Larry & Michelle Georgiana - that had to be one of the best meetings we've ever had - it was just fun! This group of people (mostly couples) is really bonding together. It was like a small group meeting last night. There were youth leaders from five churches there and these folks are preparing for a huge outreach next week - the 3V school assemblies (vision, velocity, and volume). They've done several other things this school year including a school year kick off event in September, a fall get together, a Christmas party, and the iPromise purity event in February. I really believe that God reveals Himself in special ways when His people come together and work together for the Kingdom. I just want to say to my friends in this network, it is a great privilege working with all of you! And thanks for Larry and Michelle for opening your home.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Exciting speaking opportunity

I had the privilege of teaching a couple of workshops at SPARK, the United Methodist Youth Conference at the Westin in Pittsburgh yesterday afternoon. I was talking with students about the fact that God IS present and working in their schools. They just need to look for what God is doing and join Him in that. I shared some of my story of how God called me to be a missionary to my high school (Go Turkeyfoot!) when I was a freshmen. There were probably 75 students between the two workshops. I hope that some of them will go and make a difference in their schools. Thanks to Renaye Hoffman for inviting me to come!

Friday, March 20, 2009

Why do we need denominations?

Occassionally, I hear the question asked, "Why do we even need denominations?" Although the primary focus of my blog is helping Christians work together across denominational lines, I do believe that denominations serve several good purposes. (DISCLAIMER: I'm making lots of generalizations here and these are non-research based opinions).

First, local churches need some kind of structure and accountability. Denominations provide local churches with an oversight, resources, and a kind of stability. And as I think about the history of the church, it seems like a de-centralized authority structure is necessary to provide checks and balances for the entire Body which we'll need until Jesus returns to earth. I think only Jesus could rule the entire Church.

Second, I think denominations help keep the whole church balanced theologically. When one part of the church emphasizes one aspect of the spiritual life too much, another part of the church brings emphasis back to forgotten aspects. It's so easy for us to go off on theological tangents that we need other believers to remind us of the other importants parts of the gospel (i.e., truth and grace, faith and works, God's part, our part, etc.).

Third, and this is similar to point 2, I think God uses different churches to bring good things to the rest of the body. Reformed churches have given all of us some solid theological thinking. Baptist churches remind us to keep winning souls. Pentecostal and Charismatic churches have given us fresh forms of worship and reminded us of how much we need the Holy Spirit. Anglican and Lutheran churches help us connect with our history (including emphasis on the practice of communion). Methodist churches have helped us keep our social conscience. Non-denominational churches have inspired us to stay on the cutting edge. My point is God has a lot of gifts for the whole body of Christ in these different churches.

Let me be clear that I realize there are tares in the wheat. Some people, some churches, and some entire denominations have left the faith. I'm just saying lets not burn the wheat because there are some tares in amongst it. Lets diligently stand for truth AND diligently connect with others who are doing the same even if they are in a different church. And let's appreciate what the different parts of the Body of Christ have to offer to the rest of us! Instead of focusing on what divides us, let's focus on how God has blessed other churches and what we can learn from each other.

Monday, March 16, 2009

churches reaching schools

The mantra of "separation of church and state" has so infiltrated our culture and even the church that many Christians feel like they cannot have any influence or positive impact on our public schools. Over the past several months, I've seen several examples of Christians (particularly youth pastors) reaching schools in different ways. 1) Youth pastors in Latrobe/Derry and in Uniontown are working together to bring school assembly programs to schools in their communities. 2) Youth pastors in Murrysville are helping coach local sports programs - and they aren't telling kids about Jesus at practices, they are building relationships with kids. 3) Youth pastors in Greensburg (pictured here) recently met with a local high school principal to hear about what is happening with students from her perspective - and it was really eye-opening. 4) Youth pastors in the Penn Trafford school district are creating a monthly bulletin-insert-size newsletter to share with their churches to encourage their churches to pray for the local schools and for the Christian students who are doing exciting things to reach their friends. 5) I, and a very good friend of mine, do a Release Time Education program for high school students in Brownsville (RTE is one of Pennsylvania's best kept secrets). 6) A youth pastor from Somerset is helping students in his youth group form a Christian club at their school that will focus on reaching their friends for Christ. There's a lot we can't do, but there is a lot that we CAN and must do for our public schools. This is where most of our students spend most of their time. America's public schools are a great mission field.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

In the spirit of Martin Luther, I offer my 9.5 theses

I suppose that, like Martin Luther five hundred years ago, most of us in ministry have strong feelings about what we'd like to change about the church. These are some of the convictions I've developed over the past decade of ministry. These are somewhat untried and untested ideas, but I really believe these things.

1. No one one church is or should act like it's the whole body of Christ.
2. The value of denominations is in what the uniquely offer to the Body of Christ not what separates them from the rest of the Body.
3. "When God looks at a city, He doesn't see many churches; He sees one church in many congregations." - Ed Silvoso
4. For the good of the kingdom and for the wise use of God's resources small churches need to join forces, pool resources, even merge together! (heresy, I know.)
5. God has blessed large churches to be a blessing to the rest of the body of Christ.
6. "The purpose of unity is not 'unity for the sake of unity' but to demonstrate that God's truth is true." - Mike King
7. A divided Body of Christ is a defeated Body of Christ.
8. Youth pastors and young pastors are the best candidates for forging unity (new wine and new wineskins and all that).
9. A church united is extremely difficult requiring, and thus demonstrating, the supernatural love of God.
9.5. This kind of love is what the world is waiting to see.

Those are my thoughts about building a better church. I'd love to hear yours.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

The surprising thing that Doug Fields said...

Sometimes, you just wish that someone would see and really understand what it is that you are passionate about. Well that happened to me and some friends at the Doug Fields/Group Publishing "National Youth Ministry Conference" this past weekend. A bunch of guys from the National Network of Youth Ministries were there helping youth pastors connect with local networks back home in their communities. Group even had us do a workshop on youth ministry networking - that was very exciting. We were all blown away, though, on Sunday night when Doug Fields said from the main stage that he can't believe how many youth pastors he talks with who are trying to do youth ministry all alone. He said that he had been telling lots of youth pastors to go and connect with the National Network of Youth Ministries because he is a big fan of what they do. That was a very encouraging moment for all of us - someone who is that well-known gets the importance of coming together and working together. So, it's official, Doug Fields says youth pastors should get connected - thanks Doug for the affirmation and encouragement!(www.youthworkers.net).

Amazing group of students!

A couple Saturdays ago, Christian students from Hempfield, Penn Trafford, Greensburg Salem, Franklin Regional and Mt. Pleasant high schools in Westmoreland County came together to share stories of what God is doing in their schools. As we went around the table, we heard very different stories, but very encouraging - God is at work in our schools! My favorite part of this was seeing these students connect with each other and encourage each other. The video here is of three students from Penn Trafford talking about what they had done to reach out to different groups of students in their school.