A Tech-Wise Parable, Part 1

There was a young Student Pastor, named Blake Jorem. And he had an idea for a student summer trip. Blake gathered all the parents for a special meeting to discuss the trip and go over the details. His plan was simple, he thought.  He would take the students from Church of the Biblical Community on a trip to New York City. The trip’s purpose was to give the students, 6th-12th grade, a chance to experience different cultures, visit Rockefeller Plaza and Broadway, see the Statue of Liberty and Central Park, to eat exotic foods and ride the exotic smelling subway.

The trip would be perfect. Every pre-teen and teenager had lamented to anyone who would listen that they hadn’t had a chance to see the Big Apple like all their other friends. Blake thought this trip would be a no-brainer, homerun for the parents. Their kids would get to be included in what all the other kids were doing, it would be a learning experience, and it would afford the parents a break from their children for a while. It would be perfect.

So, the meeting was had, the idea was out there, and it was now time for questions from the parents.

Many of the parents sat quietly for a few moments, letting the announcement of this trip wash over them like the smell of a foreign, open-air market.

And there came a man whose bewilderment could not be squelched any longer.

“Blake”, he said “this trip sounds like it would be fun. How many students are you hoping to take?”

“As many as want to come.  I hope over 40.” Blake explained.

How many chaperones are you thinking about taking?” another Mom quickly asked from the back.

“Chaperones? I hadn’t planned on taking any chaperones. This is a trip that will allow your students to find their own way through New York City.” Blake explained a little puzzled by the question.

“Their own way!” exclaimed several parents in unison.

“Their own way.  We are talking about New York City. There is no way I am letting my 6th grade daughter finds her ‘own way’ through a city like that,” said one of the father’s whose calm, but wavering tone was not enough to hide the now bulging vein from his forehead.

Blake could see things had made a turn in a direction he hadn’t fully anticipated. “Listen, Listen,” he explained while trying to quiet the talking amongst the parents.

“I think I have a pretty good idea about the heart and state of your students. We will have a list of all the good places they should go and only those places. We will need to trust our students to make the best decisions. These students need the opportunity to prove they can handle something like this. Other children are doing the same thing. If we don’t give them this opportunity now, don’t you think they will feel deprived later? We have kept the cost of this trip low, so it won’t cost you that much. AND, this trip is sure to keep your children entertained.”

One of the parents had finally had enough. Allen Martin stood up from the back and began to speak calmly, yet resolutely;

“Trust. This is not an issue of trust. This is an issue of parental protection and care. I agree with you that there are many great things to see in a city like New York. But to send my child out into a city like that without me with her would be dangerous and confusing. Yes, it’s first and foremost about protection. There are dangerous places in New York City. There are things that happen in that city that a child cannot un-see. There are things that could happen to her or him that could shape them for the rest of their life. I, frankly, don’t care if every parent in this room thinks it’s okay to send their child to NYC alone. It’s not happening in my house. So, one of my goals as a parent is to protect my child from things I know to be unsafe. New York City has a host of amazing things to see and do. But the rewards are not worth the risks, sending my child there alone with only their peers.

It’s not only about protection, it’s also about interpretation. My child is still growing, still learning, and still figuring out the world. They don’t just need protection from things. They need an adult to help interpret what they are seeing and doing. How are they to know the significance of a place like the Statue of Liberty or the 9.11 Memorial site? They can’t do that on their own. They need us as parents to help them, whether they are 6 or 16.  And lastly, they need a mentor to guide them through what an experience like that means for them, at their age and for their own context.  I want my child to understand that while NYC is an amazing city, it is also expensive. What if they come back to Low Point, South Carolina believing the false narrative that their life here is boring and mundane in comparison to a life in NYC. That would set them up for a lot of failure and grumbling. 

When my oldest daughter learned to drive she learned in stages and is still doing so. She had to study the rules of the road, she had to pass a test, she had to drive only with an adult that could teach her, she had to pass another test, and only then was she able to drive herself, and even then, she had restrictions put on her from the state and from us. It took her several years before she was able to drive by herself.  We didn’t just take her to the interstate and turn her loose.

So, Blake, after all that I have said, what makes you think that us parents would go for a trip like this where you left our children alone in a place like New York City?”

 

Blake stood there for a moment, taking it all in and then simply said,

“I didn’t think any of you would have a problem with this trip after observing the way our students are allowed to use the internet, their smartphones, or social media.”

 

To be continued…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Lasting Message

This famous quote by Canadian philosopher Marshal McLuhan tries to put into words the important notion that how you say something is just as important as what you say.

“The medium is the message.”

In technology, how you receive a message is just as important as the message itself. For example, Facebook, the medium, has changed us more than the messages we have received from Facebook.  What I mean is that Facebook the platform, has made our world smaller, easier than ever to connect with people, and made those relationships potentially shallower.

This is an important point that we need to be aware of even in our spiritual lives and in our spiritual disciplines.

I have an iPhone and an iPad. These are enormously convenient tools of technology. On both devices I have downloaded the ESV Bible App. Having the Word of God at our fingertips, being able to scroll through the books of the Bible with ease and looking at footnotes quickly is amazingly helpful. There are some advantages to them that I am thankful to God for. But they aren’t perfect.

As a Dad and Family Pastor, I think about what these things communicate to my children.

I remember growing up there would often be times that I would wake up early. I remember walking out of our dining room, in what seemed to me at the time an unnatural hour of the morning, and there on the table opened to some Psalm would be my mom’s Bible. My mom would be reading it, sometimes humming worship music under her breath.

Or there would be times I would wake up and hear my Dad brewing a pot of coffee in the morning, only to see his Bible and journal laid out on the table.  His first and primary task of the day.

You see these memories and these examples from my parents taught me at least two things:

  1.  Reading the Word of God is important.
  2.  I should make it a part of my day, every day I can.

You see, the medium, reading from the actual Bible, left a memorable message.

Now, fast forward to our present day.

Imagine I am studying or reading the Bible from my iPhone or iPad in the morning from the kitchen table.  One of my children walks in on me.  What do they see?

They see Dad on his iPad.  They see Dad scrolling through his iPhone. What they don’t see is a man wanting to be devoted to the Word of God trying to spend his first moments of the day in the revealed grace of God.

The example might be lost if I am on my iPad. Who’s to say I didn’t check Twitter, Facebook, or looking at email? How do they know that this device that is so often used to waste our time and distract us is now being used for the study and love of God. They don’t know. I haven’t sanctified the time or the space. I have muddied the waters. You see, in the economy of the iPhone, the Bible has no more importance than any other social media app. So what example am I setting for my children? Whose to say? The holy has joined alongside the trite. In this case, it doesn’t matter what is true, but what my children perceive to be true. Is it Dad being distracted or is it Dad reading from the Bible?

It is certainly no sin to read the Bible from these smart devices. We should thank God for the access we have to His Word. But we should also from time to time be made aware that it is not just what we say and what we do, but how we say things and how we do them that also carry a message.

The medium is really the message sometimes.

Grace and Peace,

Pastor Todd

 

Home is Where Heroes are Made

I read a book a while ago and came across a quote that struck me to the heart and got me thinking.

The book is Mud, Sweat, and Tears: The Autobiography of Bear Grylls. Bear Grylls is the famous adventurer most known for his hit TV show, Man vs. Wild. It was a family favorite in our house. Bear Grylls is one of those guys I’d put on my list of people I’d most like to meet.

In his book, he was talking about his upbringing and remembering his father, who was a politician in Great Britain. He said of his father, “He worked to make a difference and to better people’s lives, but his ambitions lacked the ruthless drive so common in politics, and our lives were so much richer for it. I guess his career was being a good dad.”

Amen to that.

That quote reminds me that history is filled with great leaders that were not great fathers. Politics, business, and sports are filled with men that have accomplished mighty things at the expense of their own families. Ministry is not immune to this temptation either. Church history is filled with men that did mighty things for the Lord yet left their family to suffer in the wake of their “success”.

I remember seeing a quote from Jullian Lennon, son of the famous Beatle Jon Lennon, that sums up what I am talking about:

He [Jon Lennon] walked out the door and was never around. I’d admire him on TV- listen to his words and opinions. But for someone who was praised for peace and love and  wasn’t able to show that at home… That’s hypocrisy.” While all the world was praising Jon for being a star, Jullian was looking for a dad.

It reminds me of what Paul teaches in I Timothy 3. On discussing the qualifications for an overseer/elder Paul gives Timothy, and the church at large these instructions:

“Therefore, an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money.” (1 Timothy 3:2-3)

Now at this point, this list looks like any good list an organization, business, or political party might draw up. But then Paul adds another important qualification with an added commentary on its importance. Paul states,

He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church?” (1 Timothy 3:4-5)

Paul is saying that those that lead the church, the Bride of Christ, an eternal organization that will forever exist, must first lead their homes well. The home is the petri dish of God’s eternal kingdom. It is the proving ground for leadership in God’s eternal organization. To state it another way, a man’s leadership in the home has more eternal purpose than his leadership of a Fortune 500 company.

Nowhere in the Bible do we find God calling your business or organization a “blessing”, or a “heritage from the Lord”. Nowhere does the Lord call your vocation a “reward” or liken it to “arrows in the hand of a warrior”. But the Lord does speak that way of a man’s children. Your family, the children in your care, not the name plate in your corner office, is His reward to you. Steward that blessing well. It has eternal implications.

We live in a day and age where many are blessed to be able to pursue satisfying vocations. The culture tends to push us towards pursuing careers that try satisfying us for the money it brings, fame it lends, or its power and influence. Pursuing vocations that we are good at or that bring us satisfaction are not wrong, in and of itself. In this, we enjoy something almost unprecedented in the history of the world. An ability to choose one’s vocation is a gift of from God.We should not take that for granted, thank God for that freedom and opportunity. Pursue those opportunities as they arise but realize that they are not of first importance.

Christ is returning for his bride, the Church, not an organization or company, no matter how noble. A church led by men whose qualifications for leadership will not be indicated by the value of their company stock on the New York Stock Exchange, in the hall of fame of some sports organization, or in Silicon Valley. Jesus Christ will be looking for men that laid down their lives for their wives, taught their children the gospel, and showed, in word and deed, the powerful transformation of the grace of God. That will be found in the home of ordinary men, living ordinary lives, with gospel fortified, extra-ordinary families. So dads, take heart. Stay the Course.

Duty, Disciple, Delight

“I hate going to church.” Has your child ever said something like this? Maybe they don’t really hate going to church. Maybe they say they’re bored, they don’t understand what’s going on in corporate worship, or it’s just not fun. Or maybe it’s not church. Maybe it’s when you try to get them to have a quiet time or pray. Rather than coming away from those times with fresh insights from the Word or spiritually filled up, they come away acting like you just gave them homework to do first thing in the morning.

Does any of this sound familiar to you? If not, congratulations, you have raised a perfect child. But if it does sound a little familiar, do not be afraid. You are not alone. If your child hates church, or is bored, doesn’t like reading the Word, or can’t say a prayer deeper than thanking God for the Chick-Fil-A nuggets he or she is eating as you speed off from the drive thru to sports practice, rest assured you are not alone.

Raising our children in the fear and the admonition of the Lord isn’t easy. It’s tedious work. Raising our children in church and under the authority of God’s word in the hopes that the Lord would awaken their hearts is discipleship and missions at its finest and hardest. I think many toddlers are still considered an unreached people group.

So, what do we do? There are all kinds of books written to address that very thing, but I want to put three words in your head as we think about how to move our children from bored with Jesus to beholding Jesus. From entertained by Jesus to enthralled by Jesus.

Those 3 words are: Duty, Discipline, Delight.

Duty:

Let’s not forget that anytime we try to learn something new or try to instill in us a new habit or way of living, it tends to feel more like a duty. It feels more like something we are forcing ourselves to do. Duty isn’t bad. Especially with young children, many of the beliefs, behaviors, and practices, we ask of them will feel like a duty and not something they enjoy. If we expect them to love everything about the church and everything about reading the Bible, then we are expecting more of them than we do ourselves. So, if your child says she is bored with church, it’s probably not because she is demonically possessed. It just might be that she is human. And bored isn’t always bad.

Discipline:

If we can relax a little and give our children some grace, give ourselves some grace, and realize that this loving Jesus process is more like tending to a garden and less like putting a frozen pizza in the microwave, we will begin to be better equipped to help our children move from duty to discipline. The discipline stage is where we can help manage expectations and build the faith into the rhythms of their life. This is the stage where we do the types of things that helps cultivate faith like praying with our children, having devotions with them, worshiping with them in corporate worship, asking them about kid’s church and youth group, applying the Word of God to practical problems at home and school. These disciplines don’t produce faith in and of themselves, but they do play a big part. In the same way tilling up the ground, sowing seeds, watering them, weeding the beds, and keeping pests out doesn’t ensure you will have an abundant harvest. However, it’s the only thing you can control that gives you the best opportunity to be a part of the harvest. Discipline stage is where children move from the “Do I have to do this?” Stage to the “This is just what we do as a family.” Stage.

Delight:

The last stage is delight. This is the stage we have no control over at all. This is the stage of faith that we pray to God about. This is the stage where God takes dead hearts and makes them alive. This is something only He can do. It is only God that can move a dead heart and make it come alive. Again, do not fear. Many of our children are somewhere between duty and discipline. Some of our children have confessed faith in Christ, but still need our help. Some of the deep things of God are not easily seen as delight to those young in the faith. If we are honest, all Christians wrestle with these things. We all move from duty and discipline, but hopefully because we are motivated by delight.

Keep sowing seeds. Keep tilling up the hard soil. Keep watering the ground. And by God’s grace may He grant us a bountiful harvest in this Next Generation.

Blind Dates & Jesus

I have never been on a blind date. I am very glad of this fact. Adolescence, teenage years, and early adulthood were awkward enough without inserting strange dating ritual into the middle of them. However, I have seen enough movies and television shows depicting this pinnacle of adolescent awkwardness to understand how one on a blind date might feel. The poor boy sits in the car, gripping the steering wheel, white knuckled. He stares straight at the road, unable to look to his left or right to catch a glimpse of his date. Feeling his every breath, he wonders if this poor girl will see right through him, making him shrink right into the cloth seats of his parent’s sedan. Each second without a word spoken feels like dead air on the radio. Somebody should be talking, but whom, and about what? What if, when he opens his mouth, he ends up blurting out random facts about wildlife. In the movies, the tension of this scene builds and builds until the couple finally finds a topic with which they have some common ground. Finding that common ground, the tension is broken, and the story moves toward resolution.

In many ways, this blog post feels like a blind date. I don’t know you yet. That’s okay. That’ll change soon enough. You’ve hopefully seen a short video of me and my wife, where it was obvious my wife was the star. Maybe you’ve read the fantastic email that was sent out on Monday. (Thanks Paul Wong for the great email and whoever else behind the scenes worked on that and sent it out.) But it is okay if you still don’t feel like you have a full picture of me. Hopefully, this weekend we will be able to talk, you’ll be able to ask questions, and we will be able to get to know one another a little bit more. But just like those poor kids on a blind date, let me cut the tension with our common ground.

Jesus!

I love Jesus! I want to be more like Him. I want people to see Him in me. I want to see Him in you and point it out. I want to worship with people that long to comprehend the breadth, length, height, and depth of the love of Christ that surpasses all our understanding (Eph.3:18-19). I want to help our children see Jesus like this. I want to train our students to pursue a relationship with Jesus that reflects the eternal realities of his beauty and reject the temporal, counterfeit saviors that try to distract each generation in their own unique ways.

So, if you are reading this and are already a part of what God is doing at Community Bible Church and have given your life over to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, then we already have a lot in common. For we know,

“there is one body and one Spirit… one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all” (Eph 4:4-6).

With that said, I do want you to hear my heart and passion for next generation ministry as your Pastor for Families. There are two basic truths that serve as the foundation for my ministry and calling:

  • All life is made in the image of God and consequently, has dignity, value, uniqueness, and purpose (Gen 1:27).
  • The family, when it is working well, is the most healing and restorative institution the world has ever known (Psalms 68:5-6, James 1:26).

The family is the first and primary place we see the ordered or disordered lessons of authority, sin, grace, forgiveness, redemption, restoration, and reconciliation on an earthly level. Family is where we get the first glimpse of being a part of something bigger than ourselves. It is the primary place where we learn that blessings and freedoms are connected to responsibility and expectations. Family is the primary sanctuary for the image of God and the place where we are first taught that that image of God in all of us has value. Family is also the place where we are first introduced into the Gospel truths that move us from the race of Adam into the race of Christ (Rom. 5:12-21).

Family is supposed to be the place where we mirror in the natural and the temporal what is true eternally about God the Father and our family in the greater body of Christ. No family is an island unto itself. No family can do this alone. We are called into community with one another in the Church to spur one another on to love and good works (Heb 10:24). The Church is where the fullness of Jesus Christ dwells (Eph. 4:13). The Church helps support the family and the family helps build the church. The Church needs thriving families and families need the Church to thrive.

As Pastor for Families, I long to help children, teens, and students grow up in the love and admonition of the Lord. I long to see them embrace who they are in Jesus Christ and for them to find their identity and value in Jesus Christ. I long to see them grow in their faith as they age. I long to see children, teens, and students, not only believe in Jesus Christ (mental ascent), but love Jesus Christ as the foremost love of their life. I long to see children, teens, and students rid themselves of the legalistic, moral, behavior modification false gospel of works-righteousness. I long to help teens and students run toward Jesus Christ in their sin and shame, rather than hiding behind false identities. I long to see and help our next generation have an understanding of Christian faith that grounds and sustains them in our current cultural upheaval.

What do I see as the vision for Next Generation ministries at Community Bible Church?

I hope that the vision of the next generation ministry at Community Bible Church would “exist to Equip and Support families to Love Jesus Christ and the Gospel.”
This vision for next generation ministry is built on three key words: equip, support, and love.

Equip:

I desire to equip families in our church body. Equipping encompasses all those areas that we use to explicitly and joyfully teach the full breadth of the Gospel and Gospel implications.

Support:

Supporting deals with areas that, as a church, we look to come alongside families, children, teenagers, young adults, single parents, and blended families, to offer Biblically-centered support. Areas of church life where we not only give explicit instruction, but also create intentional space for the practice of covenant community to flourish.

Love:

The ultimate goal of equipping and supporting is to provoke love for Jesus Christ and His Good News. Love is not simply an emotion or feeling. Likewise, love is not simply the collection of knowledge or the mental ascent to an idea or set of ideas. Rather, love is the combination of truth and knowledge into habits and characteristics, rhythms and rituals, that produce a lifelong love of the God-man Jesus Christ and His world changing good news.

Families that love Jesus are families that magnify Jesus. Families that magnify Jesus produce disciples that advance the mission of God among all people.
All this is done with the complete understanding that we are nothing and we accomplish nothing of eternal value, unless the Holy Spirit moves in our work.

I can’t wait to be with you this weekend. I can’t wait to hear your thoughts and get to know you and your family better. I look forward to magnifying Jesus with you and getting to work to make Jesus known in High Point and to the ends of the World. (Disclaimer: if you or any of your loved ones met and married after first meeting on a blind date, be sure to find me and give me a hard time about this blog post.)