Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Eric Metaxas on The Church's Ministry to Youth


'You Lost Me'
A Wakeup Call for the Church

We’ve all seen the statistics and heard the stories: Good Christian kids go to college, grow disillusioned, and leave the faith. In his new book, “You Lost Me: Why Young Christians Are Leaving Church . . . and Rethinking Faith,” David Kinnaman writes, “Overall, there is a 43 percent drop-off between the teen and early adult years in terms of church engagement.”

Kinnaman was co-author with my friend Gabe Lyons of the book unChristian, which examined how unbelievers view the Church. But as Kinnaman says, “You Lost Me, on the other hand, is about young insiders”—those who were once part of the Church.

We lose these young people for many reasons, according to Kinnaman’s research. Some have felt that their questions about faith were ignored, or that they were given pat answers. Others had their interest in the arts or sciences discouraged by church members who believed that these couldn’t possibly be Christian vocations. Still others “feel isolated from their parents and other older adults in the realm of faith and spirituality.”

It boils down to this: Young dropouts often feel that the church doesn’t understand their concerns and needs, and has no real guidance to offer. But Kinnaman believes there’s reason for hope. “The majority of young dropouts are not walking away from faith,” he says, “they are putting involvement in church on hold.”

Many dropouts still believe the tenets of Christianity. What they need from the Church is a renewed effort at disciple-making, an effort that meets them where they are; lets them express their questions, ideas, and doubts; and encourages them to grow in Christ.

And what do we do about those younger teens who haven’t yet reached that point where so many drop out? Kinnaman says that we adults need to form one-on-one relationships with them, instead of trying to mass-produce young believers. He writes, “I think we are constantly building, tearing down, and rebuilding our youth and young adult development regimens based on the fallacy that more is better. . . . We need new ways of measuring success.”

So, he suggests, one metric of success might be to connect young people to older people — mentoring relationships. Kinnaman says, “These relationships would not be solely focused on spiritual growth, but should integrate the pursuit of faith with the whole life.”

That makes sense to me. Today’s younger generation is relationally oriented. Teaching them a set of principles in an isolated setting is not going to inculcate a biblical worldview in many of these teens. As my BreakPoint colleague John Stonestreet says, "When it comes to teens, worldview is as much caught as it is taught'."

Even providing lots of entertainment, as some youth ministries do, is not going to do it. It’s spending time with these kids, showing them that they matter to you, and living out your beliefs in front of them. That’s going to spark their interest and their desire for God.

So let’s not read the statistics and shake our heads. To keep our young people in the church is going to require a sustained effort — and a lot of relationship building. But it’s an effort that will pay off in a spiritually healthy younger generation and a revitalized Church.

Dave Kinnaman and John Stonestreet have worked with the next generation for years, and they talk about this and Dave’s book “You Lost Me” on this weekend’s BreakPoint this Week.  Come to BreakPoint.org to listen. And while you’re there, find out how to download an audio of a talk by John titled “Why Students Walk Away from the Faith (and what we can do about it...)”

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

"I am going fishing!" - Simon Peter, John 21.3



Last week my family & I joined grandparents & uncle & aunt & cousins at a beautiful beach in Port St. Joe, Florida, and it was great.

One of the highlights was going fishing for a day out in the bay!  My daughter Calli brought in a MONSTER Red Fish that was delicious (see illustration above).  Before she brought it in, the thing took her on a tour of the whole circumference of the boat.  It was trying to run & she was steadily trying to reel it in.  In the end, she won the contest & we dined heartily that night.  I was proud of her!

And my son Joseph brought in a Flounder - an amazing fish that's almost as interesting to study (check out its eyes!) as it is tasty to eat.  My mouth is watering just with the memories of the feast.

The rest of us caught a whole bunch of trout & other good stuff, but those two were the trophies.





Oh, and we all caught our share of sharks too.  Very cool creatures... in a deadly, predatory, cold-blooded, carnivorous, stealthy kind of way.




But it's good to be back in Decatur, Alabama!




Monday, May 28, 2012

Memorial Day Reflection: Angel Flight



You need to click HERE to watch and read and listen to this song about the "Angel Flights."  They are also sometimes code-named "Archangel".  "Angel Flight" is named after the designation for the Texas Air National Guard C-130 that transports the bodies of Guardsmen slain in combat.




Friday, May 18, 2012

The Posture Needed for Prayer



The end of the gospels teach us something pretty profound about prayer.  Jesus keeps telling his men that something terrible is about to happen.  And when it does happen, he'll be dead (for a while, anyway) and they will all be scattered in fear.

That's when you see something interesting take place.

You have Peter, super-confident that he'll be able to withstand the coming disaster, making all these blustery boasts about his own courage & faithfulness.  So when Jesus implores him to pray, he takes naps instead.  After all, if you're going to be the last one standing in battle, you've got to have your rest.

And then you have Jesus -- the very Son of God Himself -- torn up with temptation, falling down on his face before his Father in prayer, begging for help, not at all relying on his own self-sufficiency.

If Jesus Himself needs to pray...  how much more does Peter?  James?  John?  Me?  You?

But how often do we play the part of Peter?  It's easier to be the hero in my mind and imagination than it is to fall down on my face and pray.




Thursday, May 17, 2012

When They Said Their Worst About Jesus

As I work on an upcoming sermon that will cover these verses in Matthew 27...

 And those who passed by derided him, wagging their heads and saying, “You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself! If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross.” So also the chief priests, with the scribes and elders, mocked him, saying, “He saved others; he cannot save himself. He is the King of Israel; let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him.  He trusts in God; let God deliver him now, if he desires him. For he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’”  And the robbers who were crucified with him also reviled him in the same way.

... I'm struck by the realization that when Jesus' enemies bore the worst testimony they possibly could about him, they say things like this:

  • "he saved others"
  • "he is the King"
  • "he trusts in God"
He did save others.  And that's, in fact, why he did not come down off the cross.  Because he was saving others still.  

And he's still doing so today.




Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Eric Metaxas Reflecting on What the President Recently Said


Imagination, Culture and Politics
The Battle for Marriage

May 14, 2012

Were we really surprised? President Obama announced, after years of opposing so-called “same sex marriage,” that he is now for it. “I think same sex couples should be able to get married,” he said.

That’s quite a change of heart, especially since the day before, so-called gay “marriage” was soundly rejected by the citizens of North Carolina, who voted 61 to 39 percent against gay “marriage.” Was the timing of his announcement a coincidence? I don’t think so. For one thing, the gay-rights movement was extremely upset by the North Carolina verdict. And adding further pressure on the President, his Vice-President, Joe Biden, came out for gay “marriage” the week before.

Folks, this is pure politics. But what’s more important than the President’s pronouncement, was something Joe Biden said about gay “marriage” on “Meet the Press.”

According to Biden, the television show “’Will and Grace’ probably did more to educate the American public [on homosexuality] than almost anything [else].”

Now, think about that statement. “Will and Grace” was the first show to feature a gay character who wasn’t a stereotype. The growing acceptance of same-sex “marriage” required a previous change in “the social culture.”

Now here’s why this is so important, as I said, politics is downstream from culture.  Or, as Chuck Colson said, “Politics is nothing but a reflection of culture.” And Chuck was quite right — especially when it comes to sexuality and the family. When the Supreme Court of Hawaii created a right to same-sex marriage in 1993, the reaction was an overwhelming rejection at both the personal and political level. The Defense of Marriage Act was passed and signed into law with both Republican and D emocratic support.

Today, this kind of response is simply unimaginable. Why? Because popular culture, including “Will and Grace,” has shaped the way Americans feel about same-sex relationships.

Note that I said “feel” and not “think.” Most people simply don’t reason their way through issues such as same-sex “marriage.” Their response isn’t the product of who has the best argument, but whether they feel “comfortable” or not with the proposed outcome.

And TV shows like “Will and Grace” raised their comfort level with regards to same-sex relationships. It didn’t matter that it was fiction or that the actor portraying “Will” wasn’t even gay. The show’s creators had succeeded in their goal of shaping the audience’s imagination. People saw “Will” or watched Ellen DeGeneres and their comfort level rose. They saw that thes e were folks “just like us.”

And of course, once they thought that, persuading increasing numbers of Americans that denying these folk the “same exact rights” as heterosexual couples simply wasn’t that difficult.

Now, while I lament the outcome, I respect the shrewdness of our opponents. While a television show should not the basis for overturning millennia of tradition and custom, we should never forget that contending for marriage and the sanctity of life requires an appeal to people’s imaginations.

The President’s announcement notwithstanding, we have “won” nearly all of the political battles concerning so-called same-sex “marriage.” But if we want to preserve marriage, we have to do a better job of contending for Truth upstream of politics: In the culture, and in people’s imaginations.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Canyons & Lakes!


The picture above is of Son #2 joining some of the rest of us who also flew off the rope swing into Bear Lake several days back when we enjoyed a quick camping trip with my mom & dad.

Nearby Bear Lake is Dismals Canyon, which is absolutely beautiful and full of rich history.  The crazy thing is that the area is completely surrounded by normal-looking farmlands.  But then suddenly this canyon opens up and you go down to a completely different world.

And the canyon is also home to these little glow-in-the-dark creatures they call "Dismalites."  According to our tour guide, there are only three places on earth where these creatures are found: Australia, New Zealand, and Dismals Canyon in Alabama.



Should you visit the area, you could also go see longest Natural Bridge east of the Rockies...





100 Great Things About Living in Alabama:

#66... Dismals Canyon & Bear Lake

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The Meaning of Marriage



Starting this Sunday night, DPC's Ever After ministry (a monthly marriage workshop!) will be interacting with Tim & Kathy Keller's book The Meaning of Marriage.

Second Sunday Night of Every Month
6:00 - 7:00 pm
DPC 
Free Childcare Provided

You don't have to read the book to participate.  Each Session I'll be handing out a brief summary of one chapter and we'll work through it together, asking questions and sparking discussion.  We might even pick a fight now & then.

Tim Challies has written an outstanding review of the Kellers' book that you can read by clicking HERE.

If you only have time to read two paragraphs of his review, I've provided them for you below.  It's all very convenient...


Conclusion

This is a powerful book; it is my new favorite book on marriage and the best of all the books I read in 2011. The Meaning of Marriage elevates marriage, making it something beautiful and holy and lovely. And with it comes friendship and companionship and sex and everything else God has packaged into the marriage relationship. This book celebrates it all and it does it within the greatest context of all—the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Having read the book through two times, I’ve found myself wondering how to best measure or evaluate it, but perhaps these criteria are useful: Would I want to read it with my wife or would I encourage her to read it on her own? Would I recommend it to the people in my church? In both cases the answer is an unreserved yes. In fact, I bought the audio book and listened to it with my wife and her assessment is the same as mine: Though there are many great books on marriage, this is the one we will recommend first.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Eric Metaxas on Chen Guangcheng



Have you read the amazing story of Chen Guangcheng yet?... You need to start here:


Telling the Whole Story
The Flight of Chen Guangcheng

Eric Metaxas

The story of Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng is the stuff of which movies are made: illiterate until he was in his twenties, he not only taught himself how to read, he taught himself the intricacies of Chinese law.

He used his legal skills to defend the victims of government oppression: disenfranchised peasants, the disabled, and women forced to have abortions as a result of China’s infamous “one-child” policy. This last effort officially made him an enemy of the state. He was arrested and convicted on what most observers consider to be trumped-up charges.

After serving fifty-one months in jail, he was placed under house arrest. In an effort to silence him, officials surrounded his home with guards, surveillance cameras and even installed a jamming device to prevent him from communicating with the outside.

In response, Chen played what the “New York Times” called a “cat and mouse game” with his would-be jailers: He tried to a dig a tunnel, smuggled videos and, finally, on April 22nd, he escaped. The escape was so well-executed that his jailers didn’t know he was gone until the following Thursday.

He then made his way, via a series of safe houses and with the help of fellow dissidents, three hundred miles to Beijing and, eventually, the U.S. Embassy.

Oh, by the way, did I mention that Chen is blind?

Throw in details like actor Christian Bale’s being manhandled by Chinese guards when he tried to visit Chen, and it’s little wonder that the media is all over the story. Yet, in all the coverage there is no mention of what motivates Chen Guangcheng: Namely, his Christian faith.

Chen is part of what is called the “weiquan movement.” It’s a group of “lawyers, activists, intellectuals and ordinary citizens who aim to push the boundaries of reform by using China’s existing laws and courts to defend human rights.” They are overwhelmingly Christian. Li Subin, one of the movement’s best-known activists, says that he takes his inspiration from Proverbs 21:3, “to do righteousness and justice is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice.”

This willingness to push has made them a target for Chinese officials. Like Chen, Li has served time in prison for his efforts on behalf of the poor and marginalized.

Reading about Chen, Li, and their comrades, I couldn’t help but think about Dietrich Bonhoeffer and his comrades. In both instances, the response to monstrous evil was to speak out at great personal risk. Just as Bonhoeffer decided that his place was in Germany alongside his suffering brethren, Chen has said that he does not wish to leave China and wants to “continue his efforts for Chinese society.” However, as I record this, it appears that he now fears for the safety of his family and may seek asylum in the U.S. for himself and his loved ones.

Whether he will get the chance is another question because, in another unfortunate parallel, it’s not-at-all clear that the rest of the world is willing to hold China accountable. News reports use words like “complicated” and “crisis” to describe the impact of Chen’s escape on US-China relations — relations in which righteousness and justice are trumped by dollars and yuan.

However it turns out, Chen’s full story needs to be told. What he did is remarkable. And why he did it — faith in Jesus Christ — is no less so.

Editors Note: Chen Guangcheng, accompanied by his family, said he is confident that the Chinese government will allow him to study in the United States.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

What To Say To Tears



Someone sent me Pastor John Piper's reflections on Psalm 126.  So good I had to share it here...


From Psalm 126:

May those who sow in tears reap with shouts of joy! He that goes forth weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, bringing his sheaves with him.
 From John Piper:

...Say to your tears: ‘Tears, I feel you. You make me want to quit life. But there is a field to be sown (dishes to be washed, car to be fixed, sermon to be written). I know you will wet my face several times today, but I have work to do and you will just have to go with me. I intend to take the bag of seeds and sow. If you come along then you will just have to wet the rows.”


Then say, on the basis of God’s word, ‘Tears, I know that you will not stay forever. The very fact that I just do my work (tears and all) will in the end bring a harvest of blessing. So go ahead and flow if you must. But I believe (I do not yet see it or feel it fully)—I believe that the simple work of my sowing will bring sheaves of harvest. And your tears will be turned to joy.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

2012 DPC Pictorial Directory!


Thanks to the enthusiastic leadership and loving service of Jean W., Alan C., Steve S., Abbie B., and many others, DPC has a brand-new, beautifully-designed "Member Directory in Pictures!"

Thank you all so much!  This will be a wonderful tool for deepening our knowledge & love of our church family.  And the great thing is that it was all done "in-house" so that it might be revised on an annual or as-needed basis.

The picture above is great.  Four sisters piled in a chair, enjoying the new directory in their home.

Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!   
It is like the precious oil on the head, running down on the beard, on the beard of Aaron, running down on the collar of his robes! 
It is like the dew of Hermon, which falls on the mountains of Zion!
For there the Lord has commanded the blessing, life forevermore.  
~Psalm 133