Published: Youth Minister, ‘But Now’ You Have Been Set Free

Over at Rooted Ministry the second article of a 5-part series I’m having published this week has gone live.

The essence of the series is identity for the youth pastor, centred on the phrase ‘but now’.

You can read the first post here, which looks at being made right with God. Today’s post focuses on the freedom we have because of the cross. You can read it here.

“As we minister to teenagers, as we parent our children, we often find ourselves drawn back to living pre-Calvary. We are more comfortable operating out of a place of rules, law, and instruction. And while we teach our students and children this freedom message, we often place upon them the same law we find ourselves so drawn to.

Living gospel lives means we speak this teaching and instruction from a new foundation, a foundation of grace and freedom that seeks to highlight this gift God has given through his Son. With gospel living comes rest; performance to achieve for God is turned into being with God. With gospel living comes security; we are held fast by a loving Father, free in the assurance of his promises. With gospel living comes comfort; in times of pain and trial we lean into his sovereign hand in all things, knowing that God is truly in control. With the freedom that comes from the gospel we are able to live lives from a place of joy, gratitude, and thankfulness.”

For today’s full article, go here.

You can read other published pieces here.

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Published: Youth Minister, ‘But Now’ You Are Made Right

Over at Rooted Ministry I have a 5-part series coming out this week, all focussed on the theme of identity for the youth pastor and centred on the phrase ‘but now’. The first of these five have been published today.

“Our identity, as well as our worship and obedience, is found at the cross. Nothing else matters, nothing else suffices. Yet in the chaos of our jobs and calling, how often do we forget this? Like clouds above, slow and silent, we find ourselves drifting from this truth among the busyness, the self-importance, and the variety of youth ministry. We lose ourselves in the thrust and hustle. We seek to serve God and those in our congregations, yet we find ourselves wondering who we are amongst it all.

‘But now’ reveals our true identity to us in a way that feels like we’ve just walked into a glass door. Once we were a people who performed in order to be worthy, now we are a people who achieve through the free grace we receive. These two words set us back on the path to rest and rightness.”

The full post can be found here.

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Steven PD Smith: The Australian Jesus

For those of us who take a glimmer of interest in Australian cricket, this week has been a memorable one. The Australian cricket team, so often a symbol of our nation, has begun the five-match series against our arch-rivals, England, competing for the holy grail­–The Ashes.

And there is something about test match cricket that enables allusion to the Christian faith. The hope our nation puts into the team’s success, the perseverance required for a five-day match, and the ebb and flow, the highs and lows, of what takes place out on the field. Each of these things are aspects of what it is to be a disciple of Jesus–hope and endurance, joy and suffering.

Copy of A Sent People - Part 5_ Being Part of the Answer

But in this past week we have seen the return of king, the resurrection of the spiritual leader of the team, the one in whom our nation trusts.

For a number of years, cricket fans especially, have been in awe of the ability of Steven PD Smith as a batsman. He has led time and time again as a player and as a captain.

But some 18 months ago it all came crashing down. Like Good Friday for us believers, something seemingly bad occurred. Under Smith’s leadership there was cheating, #sandpapergate as it became known, and caused uproar for the Australian public that ricocheted around the cricket world. Down came the leader, whipped and beaten by the relentless pressure, by stupid decisions, and soon enough expelled from the captaincy and the team. Australian cricket’s Good Friday event unfolded, leaving the team, the disciples, in a confused and disappointed mess.

And so, for a year and a half Australian test cricket has been trying to deal with its Easter Saturday. A day of awkwardness, a day of wondering. It is a day with a certain uneasiness about what has just happened and deliberating what’s going to take place going forward. Here we sit, trying to comprehend the awful nature of what has occurred and seeking strategies to cope in order to move forward. Where has the hope gone? What has happened to our saviour? Do we continue on in the same fashion or do we scatter?

But this week we have seen the one who restores and rescues us as Australian cricket fans.

Through two magnificent innings of 140-odd runs we witnessed the resurrection. Our redeemer has returned and all will be forgiven.

Easter Sunday has arrived, and we couldn’t help but be pulled into the hope and joy that comes from such a performance. Whether listening on the radio or watching on TV, we became drawn into the unfolding drama. In the Bible we read of how the disciples were initially shocked to hear that Jesus had risen, and so they ran to the tomb themselves into order to believe. We too became a nation who had to see for ourselves such greatness and glory.

For now, hope has been restored. The joy of watching cricket has returned. The disciples have been re-ignited for the mission. And so we wait, we watch, we have faith and want to follow the king.

When all thought was lost, we see what has been found. We have hope and look to the saviour, seeking sporting salvation. As the coming weeks progress we as a cricketing nation once again put our hope in the Australian Jesus, Steven PD Smith.

A Sent People – Part 5: Being Part of the Answer

This is part five of a 5-part devotional series based on Luke 10:1-12 (See part one and two and three and four) It includes the reading of Scripture, considering its teaching, asking questions of ourselves for reflection, and applying it in practical ways. Enjoy.


Part 5: Being Part of The Answer

Passage: Luke 10

After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them on ahead of him, two by two, into every town and place where he himself was about to go. And he said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few. Therefore, pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest. Go your way; behold I am sending you out as lambs in the midst of wolves. Carry no moneybag, no knapsack, no sandals, and greet no one on the road. Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace be to this house!’ And if a son of peace is there, your peace will rest upon him. But if not, it will return to you. And remain in the same house, eating and drinking what they provide, for the labourer deserves his wages. Do not go from house to house. Whenever you enter a town and they receive you, eat what is set before you. Heal the sick in it and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’ But whenever you enter a town and they do not receive you, go into its streets and say, ‘Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet we wipe off against you. Nevertheless, know this, that the kingdom of God has come near.’ I tell you, it will be more bearable on that day for Sodom than for that town.”

A Sent People - Part 5_ Being Part of the Answer

Consider:

One of the problems we can see from the passage, and in throughout this series, is that there aren’t enough followers being harvesters in the field.

Rather than being part of the problem, we are to be part of the answer.

We are the ones who have been sent by Jesus to share his Good News to the people of the world. In connection with the previous posts we are involved in the wider story of God. Today, we continue to be God’s messengers. We are his workers in his harvest field, seeking to share the Good News with the people who need to hear it. And while there will be judgement on those who reject God that is not ours to take part in. We are here to be part of what God is doing in the world. It is the message of the Gospel that provides hope for the world and true salvation for those who accept it.

If we aren’t being followers of Jesus who are taking part in the harvest then we are being part of this problem, are we not? How do we become part of the solution? It is by intentionally living lives that are witnessing to our faith and to Jesus’ impact in our lives. It is by not merely walking through life believing that we know the Good News and leaving it to rot. It is through becoming one of the workers.

As we’ve seen, there is a cost to this. It may mean giving up or leaving behind things that we consider precious. We need to let go of stuff, as Jesus talks about to his followers. That which binds us down or stops us moving forward is a hindrance to working in the harvest field.

As we intentionally go about focusing on being a solution in the Kingdom of God we are to seek out those who are friendly to us and the message of the Good News. There are people of peace who we can connect with, begin building relationships with, and who open up their lives for us just as we do so for them. What we need to do here is to open our eyes to the people God has placed in our lives and see where God is already at work.

As we speak, and as we show the love of God through the person of Jesus, we are an open people. Learning and loving along the way from our mistakes but more importantly, representing Christ as we seek to follow him authentically. It is this kind of living that helps bring people closer to the Kingdom.

It is hard. It’s not promised as easy. There will be times when we fail and make mistakes. But what is important is that we continue to try. We attempt to do this with love and compassion of God and people.

Ask Yourself:

  • Jesus expects his sent followers to share the message of the kingdom to the towns they go to and the people they meet. When was the last time you shared about your faith to someone else? What is stopping you from sharing something of your faith in the coming month?
  • The kingdom of God is near. How can you bring the kingdom of God to people in your community?

Take A Step:

  1. Write out your story of faith. Find someone to share this story with in the coming month.
  2. As you pray this week, thank God for the Good News and how the kingdom of God has impacted you and your life. Pray also for those who don’t know God and ask that he can reveal himself to them.
  3. Choose to give a certain amount of money to an organisation or person that helps share the Good News to people who do not yet know Jesus. Make this a practical step this week in helping others hear the Gospel.

A Sent People – Part 4: The Kingdom of God Is Near

This is part four of a 5-part devotional series based on Luke 10:1-12 (See part one and two and three) It includes the reading of Scripture, considering its teaching, asking questions of ourselves for reflection, and applying it in practical ways. Enjoy.


Part 4: The Kingdom of God Is Near

Passage: Luke 10:9-11

Heal the sick who are there and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’ But whenever you enter a town and they do not receive you, go into its streets and say, ‘Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet we wipe off against you. Nevertheless know this, that the kingdom of God has come near.’ I tell you, it will be more bearable on that day for Sodom than for that town.

A Sent People - Part 4_ The Kingdom of God Is Near

Consider:

There are times when the people of God are not accepted. This is to be expected. At times it may be worth persevering through the dislike but at other times it’s not worth it. It’s time to move on.

Jesus encourages those he sends to heal the sick and say to the people ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’ As Luke outlines in v1, Jesus will soon be following these workers and coming by the towns and villages they minister to. What is important is the message. The message that the kingdom is coming is to be made known to the people. How they respond will consequently be judged by God in the future. The message is to be made public, but so is the recognition that they have rejected this message. God’s workers will need to discern when it is appropriate to move on to other pastures. However, they will make it known that their rejection will be public, and the message is still the message.

But how do we show that the Kingdom of God is near? What are some practical examples that lead us to conclude that the Kingdom of God is working within others and in particular places?

One way to see God working in our lives, or in a particular place, is to look with intentionality at the various ‘communities of practice’ that operate in your life or the life of others.

These communities of practice are activities that naturally occur, and you may already be involved in, but become places where God can use you to share the message of the Kingdom. For example, you may be involved in a sporting club where your involvement can be a witness to others. To take it a step further you can be intentional about how you approach this activity. Rather than simply being there for the sport and fun it becomes a harvest field; where you are now one of the workers who are building authentic relationships with your teammates. There may be a person or peace there welcoming you into the club or team, and it is important to be on the lookout for a person like this. This type of intentionality is an important key in seeing the activities you do during the week as being part of being a witness as a follower of Jesus, drawing people closer to the Kingdom of God. This could also be how you understand your knitting club, your book club, your art class, your uni subjects, your school class, etc etc.

Jesus is making it clear that he has come to bring in the kingdom of God. He is following his sent workers and as he sends them he reveals to those in his hearing that he will bring this kingdom of God to the people, households, towns and villages that these 72 go to.

Judgement will come and for those who respond negatively to the message of Jesus, this Good News of the kingdom of God, will be found wanting. The judgement upon them will be worse than it was for Sodom in the Old Testament, where that city was destroyed because of its disobedience and active rejection of God and his ways (Genesis 19).

Ask Yourself:

  • There are times when moving on from relationships seems to be required if the mission of God is to be fulfilled. How do you think we can discern this in the relationships we have with others?
  • God will judge those who hear the revelation of his kingdom. Whether they respond positively or negatively is not ours to judge, it is for God.
  • People will accept and reject the Good News, this message of the kingdom. What stops us from sharing the message of the kingdom to others?
  • God’s judgement will be full and forceful for those who reject him. Jesus has already said the harvest is plentiful, how can we be part of the solution? What can we be part of in order to help people from this judgement?

Take A Step:

  1. Write down on a piece of paper who and how you will share an aspect of your relationship with Jesus to someone in the next fortnight.
  2. Pray and seek God’s guidance on which relationships in your life need to be held loosely. Seek out a mature believer for their guidance in this matter.
  3. What part of your week is most like a ‘community of practice’? How could you be more intentional about your relationships and weekly activities for the work of the Kingdom?

A Sent People – Part 3: People of Peace

This is part three of a 5-part devotional series based on Luke 10:1-12 (See part one and two) It includes the reading of Scripture, considering its teaching, asking questions of ourselves for reflection, and applying it in practical ways. Enjoy.


Part 3: Person of Peace

Passage: Luke 10:5-8

“Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace be to this house!’ And if a son of peace is there, your peace will rest upon him. But if not, it will return to you. And remain in the same house, eating and drinking what they provide, for the labourer deserves his wages. Do not go from house to house. Whenever you enter a town and they receive you, eat what is set before you.”

A Sent People - Part 3_ People of Peace

Consider:

Now Jesus seems to be giving advice on how to greet people to those he is sending out. He is expecting them to be entering people’s houses as part of their ministry. As they meet new people in the towns and villages the workers will be entering houses and begin building relationships. Jesus encourages those he sends to come into a place with an attitude of peace. They are to approach each household with an intention of bringing peace. When this has been given, it seems it is evident someone of peace will be there. If a ‘person of peace’ is in this place then the peace will rest upon them. A relationship will be built and a friendship ensue. They will not be against the worker, but will be helpful and seek to encourage their work. They will be open to the worker of the harvest and give them a fair hearing.

Who is a ‘person of peace’? A person of peace is someone who likes you and you like them. They are not a believer initially but is someone who welcomes you and receives you into their life. They may serve you and you may invest in them. They are a helper in connecting you to other relationships in their network. Over time it may be the case that they turn to follow Jesus themselves, but initially they are helpful friends in the task of spreading the message of the Kingdom.

If this person of peace isn’t found within a particular house then it will be evident. The worker in the harvest will discern whether or not there is peace in the house they go to. If this isn’t the case they will move on to the next place.

When accepting the hospitality of others it is encouraged to stay in the same house. This will bring honour upon that house as they continue to provide for the worker of the harvest. This also shows that the worker isn’t someone who leeches off others by moving from house to house getting the choice hospitality from different families in the town. A deeper relationship is built with that one household rather than the shallow friendships of many people.

During their stay at a particular town they are to contribute to society. The labourer deserves their wages and are to not be freeloading from the community. They are to work and contribute to the community, serving the community during their stay. They will be provided for, this provision ultimately coming from God, in the needs that they require – food and shelter. It is not appropriate for the labourer to be picky but to eat what is in front of them and accept the hospitality provided by the household.

Ask Yourself:

  • It is important for labourers of the harvest to approach their mission with grace and peace. When you are involved in ministry to your neighbours, or through your church, do you have this attitude?
  • Relationships with certain people take time and require discernment. Are you building deep relationships with people in your community? Are there some relationships that you need to ‘move on’ from?
  • God will provide the needs of those who work in his harvest field. Are you taking on too much yourself, do you need to handover your needs and wants to God and trust him for them?
  • As God’s workers we are to contribute to the community, both church and wider community. How are you serving the communities you are part of? In what ways can you build relationships through serving and helping others?

Take A Step:

  1. In the next three weeks resolve to invite someone you wouldn’t normally to your home for a meal.
  2. As you think about the different communities you are involved in, pray for discernment as to what relationships should be a priority for you.
  3. As you meet someone new in the next little while make an effort to be a person or peace.

Published: The Power of Two by Danny Hunt

My friend and colleague, Danny Hunt, recently wrote a book about being a second-chair leader. That is, a leader that has a boss.

It’s a short book but packed with wisdom and reflection from his 30-plus years of experience in church leadership. It is aimed mainly at those who are involved in church life, but would be suitable for other industries as well.

I was fortunate to read the book recently and have a review of it published on TGC Australia.

You can find it here.

A Sent People – Part 2: Travel Lightly

This is part two of a 5-part devotional series based on Luke 10:1-12 (See part one) It includes the reading of Scripture, considering its teaching, asking questions of ourselves for reflection, and applying it in practical ways. Enjoy.


Part 2: Travel Lightly

Passage: Luke 10:4

“Carry no moneybag, no knapsack, no sandals, and greet no one on the road.”

A Sent People - Part 2_ Travel Lightly

Consider:

Jesus continues talking to those he is sending out. This time he tells them to travel lightly. In fact, it almost sounds like they aren’t to take anything at all. Furthermore, when they see people it seems they are to be rude to them by continuing on to their destination, ignoring any greetings given. But this isn’t quite the case.

Those being sent out into the harvest have what they need. They have the Lord Jesus for protection and all the material needs required. They will be supplied with all they need while out in the harvest, nothing more is needed. What they have in their wallets is sufficient, their bag and shoes are good enough, and those they meet may well hold them up as they head out to the field.

As God calls those to be workers in the harvest it is important to understand the importance of travelling lightly. There is a need to let go of comfort and not to be weighed down by the materialism, consumerism, and security that surrounds us today. Just as it is easier to get through an airport terminal when only having carry-on luggage, so too it is easier for the workers of the harvest to keep things simple and take very little on their journey. They are to leave behind that which binds them, which holds them up, which stops them from moving forward. They are to continue to share the message of the Kingdom to those in their influence.

This not only speaks of the physical and material lightness required in mission but also the openness we have in our weeks and relationships. There is much that holds us up from sharing the message of the Kingdom, nothing more so than weeks filled with activities and appointments. There is something to be said about giving space in our weeks so we can be open to how God is leading and moving in our lives. More directly, the more intentional we are about leaving behind that which binds will mean we are more open to see God move and have the space to respond to His leading. This might mean that we have the freedom to find new ways of building relationships. It may mean we have more energy to be hospitable. It may mean we find ourselves drawn closer to Jesus and his mission because we are open to seeing how he will use us to build the Kingdom.

There will always be people who wish to talk and seek to be helpful for the workers of the Kingdom. Eastern culture is a hospitable culture and a culture that includes many greetings and customs. These can hold the workers up if they are to greet every person they meet along the way. Instead, Jesus encourages them to be so focussed on the harvest that they spend no time worrying about the custom of greetings in their society. They are not to get distracted in these things. Refusing hospitality from their own people is not looked upon fondly, but Jesus directs his workers to get on with the task of sharing the Gospel of the Kingdom and make it a priority.

Rather than being drawn into these meaningless greetings followers of Jesus are to build authentic relationships with people. Over time these greetings become meaningless because they aren’t said with intention, it’s just what people do when they see each other. On the other hand, authentic relationships are to be built, and through these friendships the sharing of the Good News can be told in conversation or seen through actions of hospitality and care.

Ask Yourself:

  • When Jesus sends his workers out into the harvest field he gives them all that they require. Are you trusting that Jesus has equipped you in your ministry right now?
  • Being a harvester requires us to carry little. What do you need to lay aside in order to walk more lightly as a pilgrim of Jesus?
  • There is much to distract us from the mission God has given us. Is there anything distracting you from being in the harvest field right now? What can you do to change that?

Take A Step:

  1. Spend some time in prayer thanking God for the gifts he has given you and the way he continues to equip you.
  2. Write down three things in your life that is holding you up in your relationship with Jesus. Lift them up in prayer and give them over to God.
  3. What is distracting you from being involved in God’s harvest? Talk to someone who can help you be involved in ministry in your neighbourhood more easily.

Published: Theological Reflection In Training For Youth Ministry

It was only a little over a week ago I wrote about the impact my Master of Divinity studies had on my training for youth ministry. I outlined four points about how my theological education has prepared and impacted my role as a youth and young adult pastor. However, there was really a fifth point. And that fifth point became a whole post, recently published on Tim Gough’s Youth Work Hacks as a follow-up piece

In this post I flesh out how the theological education I received has helped in applying theologically reflective practice into the ministry. This means, looking out for where God seems to be moving and asking the question of what He is doing amongst the local believers. Sometimes this may sound foreign to people, particularly in youth ministry, because it’s not taught or explored very often. But, I think it is actually the most important of the five points across the two articles.

“Theological reflection, the idea of being able to reflect on our experiences in life and ministry through the lens of faith, can often go missing in youth ministry. It takes effort to stop, think, and articulate what God might be doing within our own lives, let alone through the ministry we might be involved in. We can find ourselves more focused on ‘doing the program’, or ‘getting the task done’, than taking the time to reflect on the ways God seems to be working in our midst.”

You can read the whole thing here.

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Published: 5 Advantages of Gospel Centred Youth Ministry

It’s very pleasing to have had another post about youth ministry published on The Gospel Coalition.

This time I’m written about what I see as the advantages to a gospel-centred approach in youth ministry. It seems odd this even needs to be said. And using the phrase ‘gospel-centred’ when everyone else uses it beings to lose its meaning. Nevertheless, it was a good reminder to write these five points, and I would like to believe it all holds true.

Hope you enjoy it.

You can find it here.

“I can’t help but reflect on the hundreds of teenagers I’ve been privileged to teach and shepherd through the years. Some have stuck with faith and the church. Others dropped off, never to be seen of again.

Without the gospel and an understanding of God’s guiding sovereign hand in this work, I wouldn’t have survived this long. Thankfully, the growing is God’s and the sustaining is God’s—and yet we have the privilege of being a small part of this work through a gospel-centered youth ministry.”

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You can view the whole thing here.

You can read other published articles here.