Archives For Church

How do we find God’s direction?  The answer is in Scripture, of course!  But Scripture typically doesn’t have the simple answer we’re looking for.  Should I buy that car or not?  Yes or No?  That’s because the Bible, despite our expectations, isn’t primarily a how-to-manual or a list of applications.  Instead, it’s mostly a book of stories, forming one BIG story.  And stories, for a variety of reasons, are not easily copied.

Because of that, I’ve found it more helpful to read the Bible as the essential contours of an on-going narrative, a narrative that God wants to see continued in us, rather than a script which we must woodenly re-enact. Finding and then following God’s direction is more liked heeding the situational prompts in improv.  Remember Whose Line is it Anway? In that show, a group of performers were given a scenario and then based on their cues, worked out what happened next. That’s a simple picture of the situation we find ourselves in now.

God has laid out some clear applications and commands in the Bible.  But mostly he’s given us the better part of His story, a story that explains where we are right now.  He’s established the stories course and pointed to its consummation.  And now He calls us to work out our lives in ways consistent with its trajectory.

So what are the contours of God’s BIG story? How can we know if we’re getting the direction right?

Here’s the seven biblical prompts you and I must heed to find God’s direction.


1. The Kingdom is the Mission. Jesus called his followers to acitvely participate in the Kingdom of God’s arrival here on earth.  Jesus’ summarized the whole of his message and ministry when he said: “the time is fulfilled, and the Kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel (i.e. the good news!)” (Mark 1:15Matthew 4:17). He taught his disciples to proclaim the same thing (Matthew 10:7).  According to Jesus, the Good News is the near arrival of the Kingdom.

And that is good news!  Because this kingdom has been promised ever since the opening chapter of Genesis. In the beginning, God created man (male and female) not like one of the beasts, but in his own image, as extensions of his own rule in the world (Genesis 1:26-28). But sadly man surrendered to a beast and abandoned this right to rule (Genesis 3:8-19).

God’s mission, beginning with Abraham and then through the people of Israel, was to reestablish His reign in and among people (Genesis 12:1-3). And yet Israel also failed by worshipping foreign idols. God, however, promised a future ruler, resurrection and exaltation of His people over the idolatrous and beastly kingdoms of this earth (Ezekiel 37:1-14Daniel 7:1-28). This is the kingdom that Jesus proclaimed as about to break out.

Is your life proclaiming the arrival of God’s Kingdom?

2. Christ is the Means. A kingdom needs a king, of course, and Jesus is that king. It may seem odd that Jesus proclaimed the near arrival of this kingdom some 2,000 years ago, especially if we equate the kingdom with heaven, which can seem very far away. But it makes sense when we recognize that Jesus actually inaugurated this kingdom in himself.

Jesus was born as the perfect image of God (John 1:1, 14) and as such he was and is the ideal ruler which God promised in the Old Testament. Jesus acted in ways consistent with the monarchs of Israel and His followers recognized this and acclaimed him with Jewish royal titles, such as “the Christ”(Psalms 2) “Son of David” (2 Samuel 7) and even the “Son of God” (2 Samuel 7). But of all titles, Jesus preferred to refer to himself as the Son of Man.  Why?  It’s the Son of Man in Daniel 7 who establishes God’s eternal kingdom.

Is Jesus the king of your life?

3. The Cross is the Moment.  Jesus’ crucifixion is His coronation, the moment He received His Father’s kingdom in redeeming his people.  There is no kingdom without a king.  And there is, of course, no king without subjects. I know we in America don’t like the idea of being subjected to anyone.  But Jesus’ reign, established in the cross, is unlike any reign of a king we have ever heard.

Jesus told his disciples, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it shall not be among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among must be the slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:42-45).

And this is what we indeed find in the cross of Christ. Jesus is crowned king in becoming the despised subject of a Roman crucifixion.  Look at the references to Jesus’ coronation in Mark 15:16-27.  The cross is an ironic reversal of what it means to rule.  Those who rejected Jesus’ right to throne actually placed him on it. Through his death, Jesus purchased a people for God, a people over which he now rules (Titus 2:14).

Because Jesus became the least, God raised him from the dead and gave him “the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:5-11)

Have you received the gift of the King?

4. The Cross is the Model.. Where the King leads, his subjects must follow. Jesus said, “a servant is not greater than his master, nor is the messenger greater than the one who sent him” (John 13:16). In the cross, Jesus blazed a new and living way by which he calls us to follow.

The cross is not just something Jesus did for us that we can’t do for ourselves. It is that. But it is also the pattern we are now commanded to live. Jesus demonstrated the way of salvation. He taught us, “if anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.” (Mark 8:34-35).

If King Jesus rules as a servant who are his people to do otherwise.

Are you living in the manner of King Jesus?

5. The Church is the Movement. It’s the expanding ghetto or community of God’s kingdom people. With Jesus’ resurrection and exhalation to the right hand of God, he has begun to rule by pouring out the Holy Spirit upon his people. Through His Spirit he has united his church and empowered them to advance His reign (Acts 1:8, 1 Peter 2:10).

For those who have received Jesus as king and have become partakers of the Spirit, the kingdom of God has already begun to reach earth. The Church is the beachhead of Christ’s earthly rule.

Daily the Church practices the lifestyle that Jesus has called them to and extends the boundaries of the kingdom in teaching and witness. Weekly, they gather together to celebrate the kingdoms arrival. They gather around the throne, the feasting table, or what we call communion, to remember the sacrifice and share the living food that Christ has given to them. In the presence of him who bore our sin, they lose all bitterness and forgive as Jesus the king has forgiven them.

Are you united with the King’s people?

6. The Commission is the Method. The reign of King Jesus is spread through the commission Jesus gave to his followers. Jesus called his disciples to go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing and teaching them all that he had commanded (Matthew 28:18-20). The Church advances the kingdom by calling people to make a decision for Christ in baptism and teaching them to live as Christ has lived and taught us to live.

Are you inviting people to the King and teaching them to live like Him?

7. The Coming is the Motive. The eternal kingdom which Jesus inaugurated and over which he now rules is not complete.  We, his subjects, continue to  pray as he taught to pray, “your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” (Matthew 6:10)

The Gospel, or Good of News, according to Jesus is the arrival of the Kingdom!  The kingdom is both now and not yet.  It’s arrived in Jesus and is presently being lived out in the confines of the Church. But the future completion, and the arrival of Jesus in bodily form is what we continue to hope and pray for.  And thus its something we ceaselessly work towards.

Jesus has equipped and empowered his church to bring about the unification of heaven and earth. And as we live His kingdom, we will see Christ exalted and Him come again.

Are you longing for and working towards the King’s arrival?

I think that’s simple enough.  In fact, simple enough to memorize.

  1. The Kingdom is the Mission
  2. Christ is the Means
  3. The Cross is the Moment
  4. The Cross is the Model
  5. The Church is the Movement
  6. The Commission is the Method
  7. The Coming is the Motive

This is God’s BIG picture! Your God-given-direction is found in living a life consistent with this trajectory.

I’ve been talking with my dad about the state of Christianity in America. My dad is a well-known youth evangelist who in his thirty plus years of ministry has lead thousands of people to the Lord.  But in recent years he’s become increasingly concerned about the church’s growing superficiality.

For example, he’s been asking Christians, both young and old, “why did Jesus have to die?”

The typical answer he hears is of course, “To save us from our sins.”

“So why couldn’t God just forgive?” He responds.


At this point most are at a loss.  He’s seen it over and over again – even among life-long believers and leaders in the church.

But of course our shallowness is more than just anecdotal.  In 2005, sociologists Christian Smith and Melinda Lundquist Denton in a comprehensive study identified a new belief system among otherwise fervent “Christian” teenagers which they termed Moralistic Therapeutic Deism.

  • Moralistic” because their Christian faith was primarly about living a moral life.
  • Therapeutic” because it’s aim was for them to feel good about themselves and therefore didn’t include things like “repentance from sin, of keeping the Sabbath, of living a servant of a sovereign divine, of steadfastly saying one’s prayers, of faithfully observing high holy days, of building character through suffering…”
  • Deistic” because God is viewed as “one who exists, created the world, and defines our general moral order, but not one who is particularly personally involved in one’s affairs—especially affairs in which one would prefer not to have God involved.”

Some of you might be thinking, “Hey wait a minute!  I’m a Christian.  And that’s what I believe!”

I know.  It does sound a lot like what people call Christianity today.  You’ve heard it said, “It’s not a religion its a relationship.”

Of course I’m not blaming you or your church.  It might just be the “Gospel” most churches appear to teach.

Think about it.  What happens if an American who knows absolutely nothing about Jesus or the Bible is suddenly provided a banquet of nothing but the “Gospel” – What Trevin Wax calls the story for an individual?

  • All have sinned.
  • Sin deserves death.
  • But Jesus died for our sins.
  • Believe in Jesus and your sins will be forgiven.
  • Now be a good person.

That is the Gospel!  And yet it’s NOT the Gospel. It’s the Gospel without an essential context.   It’s a summary for a people who already know the bigger story.

But without a clear presentation of that larger story, the new believer is left to fill in the gaps in that summary with what our culture values the most – Self!

Now shake self and that summary together and Voila!

Moralistic Therapeutic Deism.   Jesus died so we don’t have to feel guilty.

My point is that it just may be our over emphasis on the Gospel as told for the individual which is to blame for the anemic state of the church.  Jesus + nothing does equal everything but in another sense it leads a real state of confusion.  We need to emphasize the Gospel without ignorning this bigger picture.

Here’s how Fred Sanders in His book The Deep Things of God: How the Trinity Changes Everything puts it.

When evangelicalism wanes into an anemic condition, as it sadly has in recent decades, it happens in this way: the point of emphasis are isolated from the main body of Christian truth and handled as if they are the whole story rather than the key points.  Instead of teaching the full counsel of God (incarnation, ministry of healing and teaching, crucifixion, resurrection, ascension, and second coming), anemic evangelicalism simply shouts its one point of emphasis louder and louder (the cross! the cross! the cross!).  But in isolation from the total matrix of Christian truth, the cross doesn’t make the right kind of sense.  A message about nothing but the cross is not emphatic.  It is reductionist.  The rest of the matrix matters: the death of Jesus is salvation partly because of the new life he lived after it, and above all because of the eternal background in which he is the eternal Son of the eternal Father.  You do not need to say all of those things at all times, but you need to have a felt sense of their force behind the things you do say.  When that felt sense is not present, or is not somehow communicated to the next generation, emphatic evangelicalism becomes reductionist evangelicalism.

Emphatic evangelicalism can be transformed into reductionist evangelicalism in less than a generation and then become self-perpetuating.  People who grow up under the influence of reductionist evangelicalism suffer, understandably, from some pretty perplexing disorientation.  They are raised on “Bible, cross, conversion, and heaven” as the whole Christian message, and they sense that there must be more than that.  They catch a glimpse of this “more” in Scripture but aren’t sure where it belongs. They hear it in the hymns, but it is drowned out by the repetition of the familiar.  They find extended discussions of it in older authors, but those very authors also reinforce what they’ve been surrounded by all along:  that the most important things in the Christian message are Bible, cross, conversion, and heaven.  Inside of reductionist evangelicalism, everything you hear is right, but somehow it comes out all wrong.

What do you think?  Is it an over emphasis on the Gospel told for the individual partly to blame for Evangelicalism’s superficiality?  And if so what other things might be essential to a fuller picture of the Gospel?

We’re ramping up for our church’s yearly firework stand.  The proceeds of course support our youth and children’s programs.  But you know what’s really cool? The residuals of the stand extend far beyond the money.  Here are 4 additional ways the stand benefits the church.

1. The stand empowers us to work as a team

Have you ever gotten lost in the details of a never ending project, wondering how your contribution makes a difference?  When goals are ill defined, teamwork can suffer, vision gets blurred and strategies become tangled.  But a goal that is SMART (specific, measurable, actionable, realistic, and time bound) unites a team.

At the firework stand, you never have to wonder if your time and energy are making a difference.  The goal is crystal clear.  We aim to sell as many fireworks as we can from June 28th to July 4th for the children and youth of our church.

2. The stand encourages 24/7 relationships.

Our firework stand may just be the best way for you to build lasting church relationships.  Think of it as a church bootcamp.  It often can take months for the Sunday morning and Wednesday night attender to build deep connection with people in the church.  You could speed up the process by planning and inviting others to an extra-church activity, but this too takes time.

The cool thing about the stand is that it’s a 24/7 operation.  From the 28th of June, to the 4th of July, the stand is never void of people.  There’s always a group working or just having fun hanging out.  There’s plenty of opportunities to create memories together.  If you make it a habit of coming down to the stand, I guarantee you’ll be well connected before the end of the week.

3. The stand enables a growing connection with our community

“If you build it they will come.”  Yes I know the movie wasn’t about a firework stand.  But it could have been!  It’s amazing the number and variety of people who come to our stand.  Many of them are repeat customers.  People who wouldn’t think twice about coming to church, flock to check out our product and prices.  They come for the fireworks, but in the process we sell them our mission and purpose.

Just imagine taking our church,  located at 500 SE Everett and transplanting it for a week down on the most trafficked area in Camas.  It’s more than fireworks.  Its intentional ministry.

4. The stand ensures a united celebration.

Year after year we’ve moved beyond what we previously thought possible.  In the last three years alone we’ve seen revenues climb from $10,000 to $26,000 to $42,000 – and this in the midst of a faltering economy.

This year we’re taking it above $50,000.

But again, it’s not just the money we get excited about.  The firework stand has continued to bless our church by allowing us to practice genuine and effective teamwork and to build lasting relationship inside as well as out.

I think we can praise God for that.

Let’s face it.  If you’re in ministry you either have or will drive the bus. Here are 6 ways getting a job as a substitute school bus driver will just enhance your ministry potential.

1. Connect with students

It’s time you got out the office and used your time more wisely!  By working as a bus driver,  you’ll spend way more time connecting with students.  You’ll hear their conversation!  You’ll see them interact!  And you’ll learn about their world.  What’s the latest pop culture reference?  What are they excited or concerned about?  What major events happened during the day?  There’s not enough time to learn about this stuff on Sunday morning or Wednesday night.  And reading about it only takes your time away from students.  More interaction is what you need.  Bus driving is the key.

2. Connect with the school officals

Connecting with school officials can be a daunting challenge.  You can always connect with students outside school hours but chances are you’ll never meet a school official outside of school.  By becoming a bus driver you’ll learn more about the ins and outs of your schools employees and programs.  You’ll interact with staff.  You’ll get to know them personally.  You’ll become intimately acquainted with the school calendar.   When’s the next dance or week of testing?  This is good stuff to know and all too easy to miss.

3. Receive valuable training and certification

As a youth pastor we require training and certifications which are sometimes hard to come by.  Some are just easy to overlook.  When was the last time you were trained in CPR and first aid?  Others are expensive.   My state, for instance, has made it difficult to obtain a bus drivers license.  Gone are the days when you could walk into the DMV, read a book and take an exam.  It now requires training by certified instructors.  Courses run around 2,000 dollars.  There’s another option though.  School bus barns have these instructors to train their employees. By becoming a school bus driver you can earn a valuable commercial drivers license and stay on top of CPR and first aid.

4. Leave your best time available for students

Secondary jobs can be a pain when you’re in youth ministry.  They tie you down and take up valuable hours when students are free from school.  But that’s what so cool about working as a substitute school bus driver.  You work both a little before and little after school.  The heart of the day is free for you to plan your next staff meeting, event or message.  You’re also can plan events when students are available.  Don’t forget you’re off when students are off – weekends, holidays, summer vacations.  Finally as a substitute you’re free to choose days that work best for you.  If an emergency arises, just tell them you won’t be available.

5. Supplement your small ministry salary

We do what we do because we love it, not because of the money.  But money is still important. Bills are bills and sometimes youth ministry salaries just don’t cut it.  School bus driving is a great way to supplement your income without taking away from what you  love doing best.  The money could also help you to run a little farther.

6. Raise needed youth funds

And of course if money is not an issue for you or your church doesn’t want you moon lighting, the wages you earn could always make a much needed contribution to the youth ministry budget.

Can I hear an “Amen!”

Your thoughts?

The New Testament is a collection of books, letters and sermons written by Jesus’ disciples and or their disciples.  But the early Christian didn’t cease writing after the New Testament.  Here are 5 must-read letters written in the decades after the passing of the Apostles.


The Didache, or Teaching of the Twelve Apostles, is a discipleship manual in three parts.  The first outlines the ethical teaching of the Church (chapters 1-5) and the second concerns its ritual teaching such as baptism, communion and leadership (chapters 6-15).  The book concludes with a brief exhortation to endure to the end (chapter 16).

The Didache is likely the earliest book outside the New Testament.  This is strongly suggested in the fact that apostles and prophets still move freely between churches.  The Didache sees this as a blessing but is also wary of those who might take undue advantage.  It states,

Let every apostle who comes to you be received as the Lord. But he shall not remain more than one day; or two days, if there’s a need. But if he remains three days, he is a false prophet. And when the apostle goes away, let him take nothing but bread until he lodges. If he asks for money, he is a false prophet.

Interestingly enough the ethical teaching in the Didache has much in common with  Matthew’s gospel  and may have been written in a community near where Matthew was composed.

1 Clement

1 Clement is a letter written by the church of Rome to the church of Corinth.  The author or authors are troubled that the Corinthians have ousted their senior leaders for younger ones.  A situation which, they are convinced, has arisen out of envy.

Let us therefore, with all haste, put an end to this [state of things]; and let us fall down before the Lord, and beseech Him with tears, that He would mercifully be reconciled to us, and restore us to our former seemly and holy practice of brotherly love.

Clement reminds the Corinthians of Paul’s letter to them but He is also deeply indebted to the book of Hebrews.  Indeed some in the early church believed Hebrews was written by Clement.  At the very least 1 Clement, like Hebrews, was written in Rome before the end of the first century.

Ignatius of Antioch’s Letter to the Romans

Not much is known about Ignatius’ of Antioch.  What we do know about the man comes from seven surviving letters he wrote on his way to martyrdom in Rome.  The letters give a profound glimpse into one bishops thoughts before he will be ordered to renounce Christ under the threat of a painful execution.  He writes to the church of Rome,

I am afraid of your love, lest it should do me injury.  For it is easy for you to accomplish what you please; but it is difficult for me to attain to God, if ye spare me.

But like an athlete readying himself for the fight he shouts

Let fire and the cross; let the crowds of wild beasts; let tearings, breakings, and dislocations of bones; let cutting off of members; let shatterings of the whole body; and let all the dreadful torments of the devil come upon me: only let me attain to Jesus Christ.

Polycarp’s letter to the Phillipians

Ignatius writes one of these letters to Polycarp, the bishop of Smyrna and one time disciple of the Apostle John.  Soon after Ignatius’ death, the church of Philippi sent word to Polycarp, bishop of Smyrna and one time disciple of the Apostle John, requesting that he collect copies of Ignatius’ letters for their own use.  Polycarp’s letteris a treasure trove of New Testament allusions.  Though he says very little that is new, his book wonderfully encapsulates the teaching of the Apostles.

These things brethren, I write to you concerning righteousness, not because I take anything upon myself but because you have invited me to do so.  For neither I, nor any other such one, can come up to the wisdom of the blessed and glorified Paul.  He, when among you, accurately and steadfastly taught the word of truth in the presence of those who were then alive.  And when absent from you, he wrote a letter, which if you carefully study, you will find to be means of building you up in that faith which has been given you, and which has been given you…

The Martyrdom of Polycarp

The only narrative in this list, the Martyrdom of Polycarp is a riveting account of Polycarp’s own martyrdom in Smyrna.  Ignatius’ letters only hint at what might await him.  This document actually describes by those who witnessed it the fate that befell Polycarp when he refused to deny Christ.

Polycarp declared, “Eighty and six years have I served Him, and He never did me any injury: how then can I blaspheme my King and my Savior?”

Follow the hyperlinks above and begin exploring these letters yourself.