God, Stay With Me

Last night we had a church council meeting where we discussed which ministries were growing, which were weren’t but could, and which ones needed to end. Every church I have ever known constantly has conversations about how do we grow and get new people. The Methodist Church’s focus on numbers always makes my spirit feel uneasy and that we are treading to close to being concerned about what the world thinks is important as opposed to what God values. I am not against reaching new people, but often our conversations become centered around the fact that everything we do needs to be geared towards gaining new members. Seldom do our conversations center around how do we as the church engage in a bold prophetic critique of events happening in our world while modeling an alternative vision for how to live in this world and inviting others to join us. Which, now under a new president, we are quickly seeing many opportunities that the church needs to prophetically respond to.

As I was traveling home last night I couldn’t help but just feel exhausted over the ways the youth ministries were mentioned in this conversation. I know we are not growing numerically. I get that. But man, it is hard to hear that though. While people mentioned the youth ministry is very important and there was no mean spiritedness at all about their sharing that it’s not growing, it still is hard to hear. I deeply love the youth I get to work with, and I love the things we are trying to do. I do my best to pour my heart and soul out in ministry, but to be honest, at the end of the day, I have no idea how to make a ministry grow. I think part of our issue is that churches are so boxed in to a model that is decades old and it’s difficult to break out of that model. But to make one grow, who really knows how to that expect God?

But one thing I often notice around church growth conversations is that they so often center on our efforts. What new strategies can we implement? What are the latest business, marketing, and leadership ideas can we incorporate? And so on. But what I hardly ever seem to hear is how God plays a part in it. We are desperate to make our churches grow so they don’t die and yet the spirit and presence of God seem to not come into the picture.

So as I was driving home I just felt like praying but not couldn’t find the words to say. So I listened to this beautiful cover of Stay With Me by Sam Smith, sung in this version by Black Violin. They changed several of the lyrics up a bit and as I was listening it was a perfect ministry song of lament. This crying out that there are things we don’t understand, our ministries don’t go as planned and we are just pleading God, stay with me. I need you now. It’s love and your all I need. Deep down we need this thing to work, please don’t leave. God, stay with me; stay with us.

I love the youth I get to work with every week and I am so grateful that they are a part of my life and faith journey. So maybe, if God stays with me, and I attune my heart to the Spirit’s presence I can figure out how to love them well, how to be a faithful model and guide of someone trying to live out their faith as a (in the words of Brian McLaren) contemplative and activist (which I hope to be one day).

I am thankful to God for the gift of music and the way God speaks to the depths of our souls through music. I am thankful that God’s presence is with us. I pray I can faithfully tune my life to the ever surrounding presence of God. If I spend more of my time intentionally in the presence of God then I will more naturally love these youth better and be a better pastor to them, for them, and with them.

Thank you God for listening to the depths of my soul, for understanding me, and for staying with me.

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Ministry Approach: Anxiety vs. Love

Next week I get together with our youth volunteers to reflect over the book Contemplative Youth Ministry. This is probably the best book on youth ministry I have read. It challenged me deeply, and it gave me great hope and a hunger for youth ministry to move from talking about God to immersing ourselves in God.

I wanted to share this list from Mark Yaconelli in the book who looks at two approaches to youth ministry: the anxiety way and the love way. If we are honest, the anxiety model he shares is the primary model that churches look for and work towards. May our hearts and minds about ministry be challenged as we move in the direction of the Spirit.

Anxiety seeks control. (How do I make kids into Christians?)
Love seeks contemplation. (How can I be present to kids and to God?)

Anxiety seeks professionals. (Who is the expert that can solve the youth problem?)
Love seeks processes (What can we do together to uncover Jesus’ way of life?)

Anxiety wants products. (What book, video, or curriculum will teach kids about faith?)
Love desires presence. (Who will bear the life of God among teenagers?)

Anxiety lifts up gurus. (Who has the charisma to draw kids?)
Love relies on guides. (Who has the gifts for living alongside kids?)

Anxiety rests in results. (How many kids have committed to the faith?)
Love rests in relationships. (Who are the kids we’ve befriended?)

Anxiety seeks conformity. (Are the youth meeting our expectations).
Love brings our creativity. (In what fresh way is God challenging us through our kids?)

Anxiety wants activity. (What will keep the kids busy?)
Love brings awareness. (What are the real needs of the youth?)

Anxiety seeks answers. (Here’s what we think. Here’s who God is.)
Love seeks questions. (What do you think? Or as Jesus said, “Who do you say that I am?”)

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Prayer for Syria

Want to respond?

Donate to Aleppo Crisis Relief Fund

Become a Refugee Responder

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3 Compelling Documentaries

I just saw the trailers for these documentaries and they seem like moving and compelling films to watch.

 

 

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The White Helmets

The other day I watched this incredible documentary on Netflix, The White Helmets. It shares the story of a group of volunteers in Syria who run to the places that have just been bombed and seek to find and rescue survivors. The White Helmets motto, “to save a life is to save all of humanity.”

Click here to learn more and support The White Helmets

Watch the trailer below:

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The Wordlessness of Worship

Worship is a topic I think about often. I have been to Methodist Sunday morning worship services the vast majority of my life and the more I contemplate and reflect on worship the more I realize that we use way to many words in our services.

The whole service is a continuation of words being spoken with hardly any break. If there is silence between songs you can feel the awkwardness in the room. Sometimes there is silent or mediative prayer before the pastoral prayer, but that is often only 15 seconds and all I can think about is how much I would like to pray for but keep thinking any second now my prayer will be interrupted by the beginning of the long prayer said by the professional.

I long for more silence wordlessness in worship. I believe these brief moments slow us down. It gives us time to be still, to pause, to know God is near. It gives time for everyone to share their voice to God, and not to have a few people speak to God for you while you listen.

In church we talk so much about God but it feels to me that so often we do little to actually be with God. I see this everytime in youth group when we stop our regular schedule to do a night of prayer. It’s a beautiful thing to witness youth journeying throughout the church or room to different prayer stations and being authentically engaged in prayer. What they often share is how grateful they were to have an opportunity to actually be with God and to not have to listen to someone (me) speaking and simply to be in presence of God. It never fails, for every time we give the youth space to be with God, our hearts are filled, we feel heard, our souls are cared for.

I also can’t help but wonder how much more powerful corporate worship could be if there was space for more conversation. It seems people gather to be told information about God, to sit there and listen and then to leave. Very seldom do we invite everyone to share their voice and to connect with one another in deep conversation.

I long for less words in worship, less speaking about God and more time to actually be with God. Some books I have been reading have reminded me that I have not done a great job of helping youth practice the presence of God. I have tried to teach them about God instead of inviting them into sacred space to experience God.

Some of the most God encountering moments in worship happen for me when there is slow music playing with no words being said, because in those moments its a real invitation to bring my life before God; whether I speak or don’t, I know God is there and receives me. Often in worship when we talk so much about God, God often feels so far away from our worship. I often feel I don’t know where God is but God doesn’t seem here. But in silence, when I get to be with God, then God doesn’t seem distance, but is a real presence in the mess of our lives.

Silence reminds us how noisy our lives are. Silence invites us into vulnerability where we are naked before God. It’s restful but also terrifying, but there is a sense of peace that comes along with it

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Great Videos

I want to share a few great videos I have watched recently. They aren’t all related, but they are good.

This video shares and honors the stories of those affected by the war in Syria. Click here to make a donation.

This video is a great Ted Talk about the power of introverts.

This is a great talk about millennials in the work place

Let us stand for love and inclusion, especially for our Muslim and immigrant friends and family.

And because our lives always need laughter, I have recently discovered honest trailers and they have many based on comic book characters that have hit the screen.

 

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