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Fear or Love - Two Ways to Engage Culture

Photo Credit: dryhead (Creative Commons)

I was hiding. The coffee shop in Fort Langley was supposed to be a sanctuary of sorts, a place where I could quietly study, my headphones and americano protecting me from distraction and sleepiness. I was finishing the final chapter of Richard Mouw's When the Kings Come Marching In, a brief theological study of the vision of the heavenly city in Isaiah 60. Mouw identifies this city with the same heavenly vision from Revelation 21 and 22, examining the city's description and the implications for our present cultural engagement. Mouw contends that the kingdom city will be filled with redeemed culture--art, commerce, technology, politics, race relations, all redeemed by the salvific power of Jesus.

This is when I noticed her talking to me. The woman at the adjacent table was looking at me, her mouth silently moving in the rhythm of speech, drowned out by my in-ear headphones and the latest album from The War on Drugs (a fantastic record, and one worth purchasing). I removed my headphones and apologized. "Sorry, I couldn't hear you." 

Apology quickly accepted, she began her speech again, sharing about the article she was reading about the pending economic crisis. Interest rates would spike, houses would be foreclosed, food would be in scarce supply, and no one sees it coming. She introduced herself as Mary, and asked me what I was reading. I shared that it was a theology book, and she wondered aloud if I was a Christian. I said I was a pastor, and she shared her own brief testimony of faith, how she had been connected with a local church, but currently was searching.

At first, I quietly considered her words with a calm understanding and propriety, though I honestly was looking for an opportunity to place my headphones back in and continue my studies. Then the conversation took a strange turn as she moved from the economic crisis and her faith to the need to hoard food and supplies, buy stock in gold, sell our homes, and move to the north of British Columbia to escape the impending tragedy. She spoke of concentration camps being built in California intended to round up the majority of the population; how electric hydro meters were instruments installed by "them" in higher government agencies to cause cancer; how she met a former Pentagon agent in South America who confirmed all her suspicions, that the conspiracy goes "right to the top." She had "connected the dots" and passionately implored me to tell the church so we could take care of our own. Would I tell my church? Would I help save the Christians from the impending disaster?

My articulate response: "Uh....."

While she shared her paranoia and fear with increasing fervor, I silently prayed, "Jesus, what do I say to her? How can I respond with grace and truth?" Her mindset was such a contrast from the book I had before me. While Mouw was speaking about the beauty of the heavenly city, with its rich heritage of art, language, and commerce, Mary was frightened by the very powers of the city and technology (ironic, as she was reading her articles on a MacBook in a coffee shop). She stared at me with frantic eyes, searching mine for a sense of fraternity, hoping for a kindred spirit in her fear.

Then the answer came to mind, a passage from 1 John:
This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.
I looked into Mary's eyes and said, "I hear a lot of fear from where you're coming from. And I don't think Jesus calls us to be afraid. Perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. So, I'm convinced nothing can separate us from this love. And I hope you'll experience the love and peace God gives us in Jesus. I think if we're seeking the kingdom of Jesus and entrusting Him with our lives, deep down we have nothing to fear."

She silently nodded, then sighed with a sense of defeat--I clearly hadn't been convinced. I packed my things and turned to go. She thanked me for listening, then turned back to her articles of fear.

I want to be more like Mouw and less like Mary

I believe we're called as Christians to engage and redeem our culture, not condemn or flee from it. I want to be a part of what N.T. Wright calls "building for the kingdom." This requires recognizing that we'll never full bring the kingdom of God to Earth, but that doesn't mean we're to be passive or paranoid about culture. Instead, with grace and humility, we work hard to create and promote justice, beauty, and truth in our world as signposts for the kingdom of heaven. This means moving past the fear, recognizing it's still present, and choosing to allow the love of Christ to be our primary motivation behind all we do. 

We don't avoid the fear; we redeem it as we step out in love. Let's live by love, not fear.

What is your primary motivation--love or fear?

(This post appeared at The Mayward Blog)
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Making Presumptions



My much-anticipated catch-up session with a youth minister got off to an auspicious start.  Upon entering my favourite Japanese restaurant, I told the owner that I would need a table for two.  As one of the waiters led me to a table, a woman who I didn’t know entered the restaurant immediately after me.  Somehow, the waiter thought that the woman was with me (my wife wouldn’t have been too happy) and somehow the woman remarkably didn’t see me sit in the booth first.  Once she sat down she finally looked at me across the table.  Slightly embarrassed, she gasped “Oh sorry...I thought that he was seating ME.”  She quickly made her way to another table as I tried to stifle my laughter.

An honest mistake to be sure.  And in retrospect I don’t blame her for wanting to sit with me.  Kidding.  Sort of.

But her innocent presumption got me thinking of the many times we make presumptions in youth ministry.  And as in this case, they often turn out wrong.

1.  Presuming what youth will like.  How often do we think that we know what the youth need?  I’ve been part of teams and planning processes where we jumped right into scheduling topics, nights and themes without even doing a proper needs assessment (formal or informal).  It’s important to balance what you might think the teens need with what they tell you they’d like to see.  Usually, the final result will fall somewhere in between the two.   

2.  Presuming what youth will be like.  We’ve all learned to not to judge a book by its cover.  But it’s amazing how often we still do that in youth ministry.  In our fast-paced world, a first impression may become the only impression.  Thus, it takes discipline not to form a bias or opinion of a young person solely on how he looks, how he talks, or how he shakes your hand.  It’s simply unfair if we do.  We need to take the proper time to forge a healthy relationship with teens.  Which leads me to my next point. 


3.  Presuming you’ve earned the right to be heard.  I’ve written before about the importance ofearning the right to be heard.  When possible, we need to build genuine relationships with young people before we attempt to evangelize or catechize them.  Because they won’t care how much we know until they know how much we care.


4.  Presuming that if it worked before it will work again.  When we repeat and recycle processes we can get complacent.  Thus, an “if it ain’t broke then don’t fix it” mentality can become very dangerous in ministry.  While it might mean that things are comfortable for you, in reality it can lead you to grow complacent.  Eventually, this attitude will stifle creativity, discourage risk-taking, and prohibit growth.


5.  Presuming that your pastor knows what you are doing.  This is not at all a comment on your pastor’s intelligence; rather a comment on your communication with him.  Do you give him and parish leadership regular updates?  Does he know the wonderful things you are doing?  Does he know where you need support?  And do you know his expectations of you and the youth ministry?  If you can’t answer “Yes” to all of these questions, then you need to rethink your communication strategy with him.


6.  Presuming that the parents know what you are doing.  Ensure that your youth ministry is more than a glorified babysitting service.  For the most part, parents are grateful for what we are doing as youth ministers and therefore don’t necessarily need to know every detail of every gathering.  However, regular correspondence with the parents will go a long way towards earning their trust.  It could be in the form of face-to-face meetings, emails, phone calls, newsletters, or a regular place in the church bulletin.  The parents will be more apt to support us and our ministry if they are kept in the loop.


So what presumptions do you make in your youth ministry?


Asking yourself this tough question will give you a decent indication of how well you are doing.  We certainly don’t want to get caught making too many presumptions.  Or for that matter...any assumptions either.


Because we all know what happens when you assume.

Clayton Imoo is husband to Gail and father to sons Sean Isaiah and Jacob Isaac and daughter Kayla Marie.  He has served as the Director of the Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministry of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Vancouver for the past ten years, helping parishes develop their own youth and young adult ministries.  When not doing ministry, Clay enjoys spending time with his family, playing music, playing sports, playing naptime, and writing blogs on topics such as family, faith, and the Vancouver Canucks.  Learn more about him at http://www.claytonimoo.com or follow him @claytonimoo

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Canadian Parents Take Note

This week we highlight something amazing and fresh here at Canadian Youth Worker. It's a conversation for parents & families facilitated by a good friend of ours, Dr. Kelly Schwartz, about the concept of Family Assets.

There is so much information about what families are doing wrong here in Canada. Dr. Schwartz reminds us of the many things that families are doing well.

This is the first of many planned parent and family targeted resources from Canadian Youth Worker. Share it, like it, dislike it, view it. This conversation is yours Canada. Where you take it is up to you!!


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Canadian Youth Worker Interview with Danny MacKay

Danny is a youth worker associated with www.iamsecond.com. Listen as he shares stories about mission, Canada, youth workers and also takes part in our Great Canadian Youth worker Quiz.

Enjoy!!


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Precision

Not very often we hear about precision in our business. For a surgeon, yes. For a diamond cutter, yes. For a tree feller... A tree feller?
Discipleship does not happen by accident. Too many ministries keep busy and have lots of fun, but aren't very intentional or precise when it comes to the real Christian maturity process.


Dave Brotherton now lives in Sauble Beach, Ontario and Pastors Sauble Christian Fellowship. Dave was a youth pastor for 20+ years, taught youth ministry at Ambrose University in Calgary for 8 years, and was the National Youth Director for the Alliance Churches in Canada since 1999. Now Dave leads a church and speaks into youth ministry from the Senior Pastor's perspective.
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Canadian Youth Worker Interview with Geoff Stewart

Geoff Stewart stops by to share about all things Canadian, BC, youth ministry & so much more. Listen to his story, have fun and enjoy some creative interaction on CanadianYouthWorker.com


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The Letter

The letter was one page and hand written. It was filled with Encouragement. Hopes. Dreams. Goals. Direction. Questions.

As I read this letter the penmanship was familiar but I could not place it at first. It was a very personal letter as it asked very detailed questions that obviously had intimate knowledge of my life.

It was an encouraging letter in my work with Toronto Youth for Christ, my leadership, vision and direction moving forward into a new year. Was my staff feeling encouraged and valued in not only their work but in their lives.

It then moved into asking me how my commitment to my wife as her husband and best friend or even how I am setting an example to my son as a man, husband and father.

The challenge came when it asked me about specific books that I had just read and they knew the books on my "too read" shelf. Had I been challenged, provoked to action or action from what I read?

At this point I knew who had authored this letter.

This was a letter that I had written to myself 5-months earlier.

This was a fun exercise and allowed me to refocus, remember, challenge and encourage myself based on intimate knowledge of my life.

Even if you actively journal throughout your year, to receive a letter from yourself is like having the image in the mirror talk back to you about your life.
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Come Aboard the Bandwagon



This is a slightly-modified version of a post I did for Canadian Catholic earlier this year.

This Sunday's FIFA World Cup final features two soccer powerhouses:  Argentina and Germany.  The Catholic social media world has been all over the fact that its our current Pope Francis' country (Argentina) vs. his predecessor Pope Benedict's Germany.

The heavy interest in this Sunday's match reminds me of the hoopla surrounding another sporting spectacle:  the Super Bowl.  On February 2 the Seattle Seahawks trounced the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl 48. The highly-anticipated match-up between the NFL’s best defense (Seattle) against the league’s best offense (Denver) started off poorly for the Broncos and went downhill from there.

As part of the pre-game hype, I took a break from making Vancouver Canucks music videos to do a song for the Seattle Seahawks, cheering our southern west coast neighbours on (it has 160,000 hits on YouTube).

Here in Vancouver - given our proximity to Seattle – there was a lot of chatter about Vancouver adopting the Seahawks as their NFL team.  As well, there was a lot of back-and-forth between the loyal Seahawks fans and the newer fans leading up to the big game.  The “diehard fans” drew their line in the sand and warned the “bandwagon fans” to stay on their own side.

It didn’t make sense to me.

I’ve been a diehard and loyal Vancouver Canucks fan for practically all 40 years of my life.  I have
fond memories of listening to the games on the radio with my father and my brother.  With the small number of games being televised back in the day, we were forced to use our imagination in visioning what the play on the ice looked like.

In recent years, and especially during the Canucks’ Stanley Cup run of 2011, I heard a lot of backlash against the bandwagon fans.

“I’ve been following this team through thick and thin for 30 years!” was a common mantra for the diehards.  “Where were you when the team was struggling?”

The short-sightedness of these comments was quite amusing to me. Many bandwagon fans are our future diehards.

I’ve always argued that bandwagon fans don’t cause any harm, and that diehard fans should actually encourage them, embrace them, and welcome them. Who am I – as a diehard fan – to judge the level of fandom in a person?  Is it based on how many trivial facts and stats you know?  Or maybe how long you’ve been following the team?  Is it how many games you’ve been to?  Or perhaps how loud you scream at the TV or how many beers you consume while watching?

It got me thinking:  how do we get people on the bandwagon for Christ?

I’m currently investing in my next-door neighbour Mike. He’s my “evangelization project”.  His mother is a CEO Catholic (i.e. attends Mass at Christmas, Easter, and occasionally) and he had a pretty rough childhood as he lost his father when he was a teen.

We hit if off immediately upon meeting as we are both avid sports fans.  Whether we are coming home from work at the same time or taking out the garbage on Sunday night, we always make time for neighbourhood sports talk.  I understand him and he understands me – namely my love for my family and my faith (along with my love of sports).

In 2013 I challenged myself to invite Mike to Mass with me, and thankfully he accepted. He recognized a lot of my friends from hockey parties and other social gatherings and they were all happy to see him there. During Mass, I took the time to explain certain things to him – especially why we kept switching postures from standing to sitting to kneeling. Like sharing the intricacies of a sport, I communicated the meaning behind what happens, while trying not to come across as a know-it-all.

Mike was curious, inquisitive, and respectful.

This is at the core of the evangelization. Are we inviting fallen-away or potential new Catholics to experience the life of our church and faith? Are we doing everything we can to answer their questions?

I want people to see how passionate I am about my faith that they ask me about it. I want to exude joy and have them want to experience it too.

Back to Mike. Since December, he’s asked a couple of questions about what happened, and I’ve tried to answer them the best I can. I plan to bring him to Mass with me again in the near future. I know that my role is to walk with him and be there for him, much like Jesus on the Road to Emmaus.

Let’s go beyond accepting bandwagon fans; let’s be intentional about filling the bandwagons with our friends and acquaintances. After all, the victory parade we’re anticipating is way beyond anything you’ve ever seen, bigger than the Super Bowl and Stanley Cup put together.

So tell your friends to climb aboard, Christ has plenty of room on his bandwagon.


Clayton Imoo is husband to Gail and father to sons Sean Isaiah and Jacob Isaac and daughter Kayla Marie.  He has served as the Director of the Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministry of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Vancouver for the past ten years, helping parishes develop their own youth and young adult ministries.  When not doing ministry, Clay enjoys spending time with his family, playing music, playing sports, playing naptime, and writing blogs on topics such as family, faith, and the Vancouver Canucks.  Learn more about him at http://www.claytonimoo.com or follow him @claytonimoo
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Canadian Youth Worker Interview with Graeme Watt

Join us this week as Graeme shares his story about serving, youth ministry, Canada and his organization Loveworks.


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Finding Kindred Spirits



Choosing teams on the playground during elementary school recess is essentially a childhood rite of passage. There are two team captains, typically the kids who have the appearance of being natural leaders (i.e. they're bigger and louder) while the rest of the potential players line up and the ritual begins. If I ever found myself in the rare position of being the captain, I typically took a posture well-known by the other kids: I would pick my friends first. It didn't matter if they were good at the game or not; they were my friends. Some captains picked the strategy of choosing the biggest, most athletic kids, regardless of relational equity or quality of character. They just wanted to get the most points. But I found myself drawn to the people I liked, the people I knew I would have fun playing the game with, the people who gave me joy, the people I trusted. Even if we didn't win, we'd have a blast doing it together.

We choose the teammates we love to do games with.

Now as a pastor, I have the task of hiring for three different positions for my church's youth ministries leadership team, including a full-time young adults pastor. It's been an enlightening, exciting, and daunting endeavor as a leader. Choosing a leadership team requires a great deal of discernment, humility, patience, and a knowledge of one's vision and values. Finding the right team chemistry is vital, and I've been blessed to be a part of some incredible church leadership teams where the team dynamic is defined by mutual trust and shared values. I know what I want in a team because I've experienced it before.

A few weeks ago, I attended an evening lecture at Regent College featuring author and pastor Mark Buchanan. He shared that he would choose leaders based on what he called the "Numbers 11 Principle." In Numbers 11, the people of Israel are complaining to Moses so strongly that he eventually pleads with the Lord to kill him at once rather than continue to face the criticism and whininess of the people. Instead of killing Moses, God gives him the following command:
Then the Lord said to Moses, “Gather for me seventy men of the elders of Israel, whom you know to be the elders of the people and officers over them, and bring them to the tent of meeting, and let them take their stand there with you. And I will come down and talk with you there. And I will take some of the Spirit that is on you and put it on them, and they shall bear the burden of the people with you, so that you may not bear it yourself alone. (Numbers 11:16-17, ESV, emphasis mine)
God takes some of the Spirit on Moses and places it on these trusted leaders. It's interesting that God doesn't just give His Spirit directly; He gives it through Moses, a sharing of His Spirit that mingles with Moses's spirit. This is more than just team chemistry or synergy or alike personalities--these are kindred spirits, shared hearts, what Buchanan called "deep calling to deep." There is something mysterious and beautiful and complex here, a sharing of the Spirit of God to stand together and bear the burden of the people. Buchanan encouraged his listeners to seek out these kindred spirits and do ministry together.

One of my youth ministry friends, Brian Berry, uses the language of locking arms or stacking hands together. I love the image of interlocking limbs as teammates, the intertwining partnership it embodies. And when people on the same team or project aren't kindred spirits, there is an underlying tension behind every decision, a fumbling of locked arms and an awkward de-stacking of hands. It's akin to the feeling of going for a high-five with someone and completely missing; we're not fully with each other in this.

Kindred spirits. Stacked hands. Locked arms. Partners in the Gospel. Whatever the phrasing, these capture something I've experienced in the past decade of ministry: there are certain people you just love doing ministry with. It goes beyond personalities or interests--this is the experience of shared values, shared hearts, shared minds, and a spiritual connection permeating it all. It's the reason I moved to Arizona years ago--I was following the call of a kindred spirit, someone I loved and trusted. It's the reason I came to British Columbia--I found kindred spirits here that I didn't even know existed until the Spirit of God brought us together. It's the reason I married my wife--she is a kindred spirit, a person I eagerly want to do life with, no matter where God leads us together.

We choose the people we love to do (fill in the blank) with.

As I'm hiring for positions and looking to build a team, I'm looking for kindred spirits. I'm looking for people to do ministry with for the long haul. That withness is essential for any team, whether on the playground, together as parents, or a pastoral team.

Who are the kindred spirits in your life? How do you know?

(This post originally appeared at The Mayward Blog here)

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B.C. Youth Workers: Open Vancouver is coming to Trinity Western University on September 26-27. Check out the Open manifesto, send a proposal to be a presenter, and contact the organizing team with any questions!

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REVIVE US REFLECT: What'chu talkin' 'bout, Willis?

Have you been in a discussion or an argument with someone and these words came out of your mouth, “That’s not what I said!” Frustration is usually not far behind those words. It’s a brutal feeling when someone takes what you said out of context or interprets what they heard through their own filter on life. It’s exasperating when you believe you explained something so eloquently and you were careful and intentional with your words, only to have the hearer translate it into something like, ‘You hate me!’ Or ‘You don’t think I’m good enough.’ 
“Aaagh, that’s not what I said!” have you been in that place as well? What about when people make negative assumptions about you, and they don’t even know you or have a relationship with you.

“Your prophets have said so many foolish things, false to the core. They did not save you from exile by pointing out your sins. Instead, they painted false pictures, filling you with false hope. Lamentations 2:14

 As I listen to this passage on my audio bible, I become very aware of how frustrating that must be. Time and time again throughout Jeremiah and Lamentations, God is warning Judah and Israel of what is to come, calling them to repent, or do as he says, and someone from some other place is speaking to the king or the influencers in the community declaring, “God said…” and it was the opposite of what God was communicating. I visualize God with His mouth open screaming, “I didn’t say that!!”

                           Tired of you tellin' the story your way
It's causin' confusion
You think it's okay…
Make Me Wanna Scream.
Michael Jackson - Scream

I took a moment to look inward and I urge you to do the same; Have you ever put words together or prepared messages or themes or spoken to individuals quoting God, but that was not what He wanted to say?

Camp season has begun. Some of you like me will be speaking at camps. Are you speaking what God wants you to speak?  Maybe you are camp chaplain, or the camp director and will be leading devotions for the counselors. Are you speaking what God wants you to speak? There will be junior counselors and senior counselors made up of volunteers, students and camp interns who will have opportunity to speak to campers one on one or in their cabins. Are they speaking what God wants them to say?

You can only speak what He is saying, if you have a relationship with Him and you take time to hear what He is saying. God told Jeremiah exactly what to say, and then he spoke it.

I had already written most of today’s blog earlier, but once I got down on my knees and asked for clarity, Holy Spirit shared with me what He actually wanted said and it was different from what I originally had. As I listened, I gently heard Him speak to my heart saying, “They are telling students what I have to say when they have no relationship with me.”

I Didn't Say That.

Youth worker. Is this you? Have you been caught up in the duties of life but have not personally heard from God for yourself in a long time? STOP! Stop speaking. START. Start listening. Holy Spirit cares about you. He’s got your youth, He’ll take care of your family, He wants you! You’ve been so far away from Him and you know it in your heart. You’ve got this whole itinerary this summer that you set up. He wants you to stop going, slow down and sit for a while. God cares about you too much to lose you. He can help you get back on track, but it starts with Him. Please it’s time for self-care. As a fellow youth worker, we all are a team. And when one is down and out of the game we feel it. I watched Costa Rica and Greece play in the world cup. One player on Costa Rica received a red card and was out of the game. These teams went into overtime and Costa Rica was exhausted. The goalie was hurt in so many places, yet they couldn’t sub him out because they used all of their substitutes. I felt for them. Look if you need to sit on the bench for a while to rest up so you’ve got legs again, then please do it because we want to keep you in the game! When you get a red card, the team is down a person, but when you have a sub, someone else comes out in your place. Do you need a break?  God will provide a substitution for you. I know you can’t see who it will be, but someone will come. Take a break and spend time with Him. 

If you are working with a team this summer, and you see that a student or counselor doesn’t have a relationship with God, please pastor them and have them take a time out for self-care which starts with God. Be watching for them so that there are no young counselors or parents that are creating confusion speaking a message that is contrary to the one God is giving.

Stop talking. Start Listening. Let Him speak to you. Allow time to resurrect your relationship with Him. Students need to hear what God is saying to them. As ministers of His word, we need to be clear so that our hearers can walk in clarity.

I’m praying for you. To whom this concerns.

Youth Speaker & Founder of the Young Woman of Power (YWOP), Alison hosts conferences and develops programs that are designed to build the confidence of youth such as the YWOP PivotFWD workshop which she delivers in Calgary’s Youth Judicial System and the citywide Young Women of Power Conference. She considers herself to be a pastor to those who don’t want one or don’t know they need one. For more info or to book Alison as a speaker visit www.ywop.ca 
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Canadian Youth Worker Interview with Jason Ballard

Jason Ballard works with Alpha Canada. He's in love with his wife Rachel, their son Hudson and Jesus. Jason spends his time creating resources and helping local youth workers learn to use Alpha to create spiritual conversations in their ministry setting. Watch our interview as we talk about all things Canadian and all things youth ministry.

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Canadian Youth Worker Interview with Brett Ullman

Canadian author and speaker Brett Ullman joins us this week to chat about all things Canadian, youth ministry, his personal journey and so much more. Share it, like it, comment on it. We'd love to hear from you!




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REVIVE US SERIES No. 3: The Youth Church For The Poor

The views and concerns addressed in this blog series are bigger than our youth. It is a reflection of how Christians young and old view the church and what we feel we need to do to make Jesus look cool.  To expose how we got here, each blog in this series will describe a church concept that students came up with, followed by a personal challenge from myself or one of the other panel members in hope of a personal revival in God’s people.

Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God. (Revelations 2:7)
Revive Us O Lord.
For a Quick Recap on the Series Click Here
James 1:26-27
26 If you claim to be religious but don’t control your tongue, you are fooling yourself, and your religion is worthless. 27 Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.

There were six students in this group from a completely different background; Dutch Reformed, Alliance, Pentecostal and a couple of students who didn’t know what their church was. For their class project they created ‘The Church of Hope’ with a primary focus on ministering to the poor. Their church was located right in the downtown core of the city where the poor could easily access it. On staff they had a pastor and associate two counselors and a social worker. One of the ministries they provided was a residence to the homeless. For those who didn’t have a place to stay, housing would be provided along with a place of worship that had a soup kitchen attached to it.
With this group of students the physical needs of the poor would be met but after hearing their presentation I had to ask, is that all that Jesus and the church has to offer the poor?  

One of the members of the panel was a gentleman who worked for the Salvation Army. He inquired, “So how will you sustain, the counselors, social workers and full time pastor with a church that is ministering to the poor? Where will you get your money from?” A male student slouched over with dark brown hair and answered with an apathetic voice. “That was not a part of the assignment. We were not asked to figure that out. Money was not an issue.”
A teacher from the school was also sitting on the panel and asked the students, “Why do you want to do this? What was your motivation?” She was having a hard time getting a clear answer from them. So she asked another way,  “What are the beliefs of your church?” The same student responded, “We’re not suppose to have denominations.”
I helped rephrase the question, “What is your church philosophy what do you want to see happen with the poor?  What do you want them to believe?” Silence. Then the boy with the monotone voice replied, “We weren’t told to do that.”

As frustrating as these responses were, I realized that the students’ views are a refection of what we as Christians and youth workers have instilled in our students. They are our disciples, following us. But something has gone wrong in the discipleship process. What I heard from these students doesn’t reflect my heart for the poor, or does it? The students have the actions down pat, but the motivation, the heart behind why they do what they do is lacking. Their attitude towards the poor is...We do what we are supposed to do.

James 2:14-25 talks about a Faith with no action or deeds. James uses the example of seeing a brother or sister in need and offering them nothing. He says that kind of faith is useless. This message is so clear in my head, faith without works is dead. I believe it is a passage that guides so many of us Gen X’ers and older Millennial’s because of what we have seen the past generation model.
We organize mission trips, we collect offerings to support work overseas, we hand out sandwiches, collect school supplies, we have food or clothes drives and we have a sponsor a child to make sure we do not forget the poor.
This is all great but what are our students picking up? What kind of disciples are we making? Have we swung so far to the works side that we’ve neglected the faith element when it comes to ministering to the poor?

Isaiah 61
The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God. ,
to comfort all who mourn,and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
a planting of the Lord
for the display of his splendor.

In Luke 4 Jesus reads this passage of scripture and says it is being fulfilled. Jesus was empowered to preach, to heal, to comfort, to set prisoners free.
Luke 7:22 John’s disciples asked Jesus are you the Messiah, the one we’ve been waiting for. Then Jesus tells John’s disciples, Go back to John and tell him what you have seen and heard—the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cured, thedeaf hear, the dead are raised to life, and the Good News is being preached to the poor.” NLT

When we set up mission trips what is our purpose?  Do we build houses to demonstrate Jesus nice-ness?  Why do we have students share their testimony? To give them ministering opportunities? Is that all Jesus can offer the poor?
Our students are mimicking what we do and from our example they have learned that it is good to give to the poor. But Jesus offers so much more. Fellow youth worker, do you believe that the word of God brings Good News to the poor?  What is that Good News?
He is Jehovah Jirah. The provider. I remember my first miracle at the age of 5 when God miraculously provided $100 for my family after I cheerfully gave a dollar. As a single woman starting my speaking business with nothing, Jesus walked with me through extreme low places but I’m not in that place anymore! Jesus is hope. For the person on disability who is just scraping by but can never get ahead, Jesus can heal them. For the parent struggling with mental health, Jesus can bring comfort to their heart, the street kids in your town or city that are regularly in trouble with the law and are on probation, Jesus can set that kid free! Do your students know that the gospel of Jesus Christ can help bring the poor out of their poverty? Do WE know that?!

Do WE believe that God can break the cycles of poverty in our society? God is a champion for the poor He can bring change to social structures that keep the poor poor. He can remove corrupt leaders, break a pattern of addiction in a family line, God is in the business of salvation for us all and that salvation creates transformation and restoration in our lives and in the world, that is the Good News we have to offer the poor.
Youth worker, my prayer is for revival in our hearts, that you would seek and catch God’s vision for the poor in your sphere of influence. What does Holy Spirit want to do? How can it be brought about?  Once you’ve caught it, live it out and share the vision with those that you are discipling so that the next generation of Christians are not apathetic monotone doers but are people of faith and deeds.

To Follow the Revive Us Series  
Houston We Have A Problem: The School Project
Disciples of the "Buddy" Church
Youth Speaker & Founder of the Young Woman of Power (YWOP), Alison hosts conferences and develops programs that are designed to build the confidence of youth such as the YWOP PivotFWD workshop which she delivers in Calgary’s Youth Judicial System and the citywide Young Women of Power Conference. She considers herself to be a pastor to those who don’t want one or don’t know they need one. For more info or to book Alison as a speaker visit www.ywop.ca 


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Leadership Posture and Tone

Photo Credit: texasgurl (Creative Commons)

If you have a piano, take a minute and pick out two keys, one black and one white directly adjacent to each other. Pound on those keys as loudly and quickly as possible. You'll probably give yourself a headache from the painful sound emitting from the keyboard. You've just created auditory tension

Now, keep one finger placed on a white key, then shift the other to the key exactly one octave higher. The harmonious sound will ring true in your ears (as long as the piano is in tune!). This has been a basic lesson in tone and harmony, and there's a ministry leadership lesson to be learned in this:

How I speak matters as much as what I speak. McLuhan put it this way: the medium is the message

Colossians 4 puts it another way: 
Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone
My communication should be wise, patient, and full of grace and empathy. 2 Timothy 4 speaks of correcting, rebuking, and encouraging with great patience and careful instruction. (Key phrase: with great patience.) James 1 tells us to be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger.

If what I am saying to you is 100% true and beneficial for you, but my tone and posture are ones of judgment, condemnation, or self-centered frustration, then I am adding the static of arrogance to my message. I come across as quick to speak and anger, while forgetting the patience required for listening and being present. On the other hand, if my posture and tone are gracious and gentle, yet I cannot speak without conviction or truth, then perhaps my message isn't worth hearing in the first place.

Think about how you're communicating with fellow leaders in your church / ministry / team. Tone matters. If the medium is the message, then how we approach a fellow leader in our communication is just as important as the information we're sharing. A sarcastic, whiny, or passive-aggressive vocal tone is creating unnecessary relational withdrawals. Leaders of organizations don't need whiners; they need people who can communicate the truth in a humble-yet-confident manner. Communicate verbally with a tone of grace and clarity, finding a healthy balance between boldness and subtlety.

Healthy communication also includes physical presence. Slouching in staff meetings, walking brusquely by offices without greeting, or avoiding eye contact all send a negative message. If I'm chatting with someone and they've positioned their body away from me, looking like they want to leave at any moment, I'm less apt to share with them. Shift your emotional state by shifting your physical state. Being physically and mentally present with fellow leaders fosters trust and healthier communication.

Ask yourself: what messages am I sending through my tone and posture? Even if the content of your message is filled with grace and love, your tone and posture might be communicating something entirely different.

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B.C. Youth Workers: Open Vancouver is coming to Trinity Western University on September 26-27. Check out the Open manifesto, send a proposal to be a presenter, and contact the organizing team with any questions!
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