Saturday, January 26, 2008

A Relaunch of sorts...

I've really been thinking about this blog for awhile now. What do I want to use it for? Do I want to maintain it anymore? Do I want to use it constructively, that is, as a way of constructing new ideas? I don't think I have the time or energy to dedicate myself to a series, unless I really put some structure in place and managed it that way. I don't want to do that, though. Ergo, the missional theology for youth ministry series. I started reading Thomas a Kempis, and thought about offering thoughts on my readings. I have decided I'm not a fan of this either. As I've been reading, I quickly realized when I read with the idea of posting something about it, I didn't read to absorb the words, to be challenged and convicted by them. Rather, I read with the idea of posting something insightful or meaningful. This completely defeats the purpose of why I was reading Thomas a Kempis. I've shared random thoughts on experiences from ministry. I'm sure some of these will still make their way onto the blog from time to time, but I'd like to give a little more focus to my postings. Again, the question, what is the point of this blog, or how ought I to use it?

I read quite a bit. I spend at least an hour everyday with my nose in a book. I am thinking, then, that I'll start to use this blog to interact more publicly with those books. I still don't think I'll post everyday. With a family, a job in youth ministry, and frankly a life, I'm not sure I can make it happen in the substantive fashion I imagine (or maybe I'm not that substantive, but I'll pretend anyway). I'm guessing that as I go a significant amount of my comments and summaries will somehow pertain to youth ministry, but that makes sense, doesn't it?

So, anyway, there you go. I'm trying to bring a little focus and purpose to this blog, and if it doesn't work, I'll probably shut it down.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Why a Mobile Ministry Office is a Must

Okay, so it may not be a must for every pastor, but it certainly has some significant advantages over the traditional church-based office. Let me give you some background: I have an office at our church buliding. I try and get work done there, but it is stuffy and distracting. However, those are things easy to deal with. I decided, though, to spend the majority of my mornings at a coffee shop nearby, using my Mac as my primary computer, checking my email, and doing other various menial tasks throughout the morning. In the process, I frequently run into members of our congregation (probably 3-4 a day), and have developed a relationship with some of the coffee shop workers.

Because of my mobile office, I have developed a friendship with a 73 year old man from our church. He is an active 73 year old, a great personality, and committed to following Christ today (meaning he respects and values where he has come from but is excited about where he is going). He and I spent the last hour chatting about prayer as lived theology, what it means to be the church in a post-Christian world, and how a new building will not magically bring people into our fellowship, but must be used to send our people into the world. His friendship over the last month, and specifically the last two weeks, has been a source of immeasureable encouragement. I am convinced that if I spend all my time at the office during the day, where I'm *supposed* to work, I would have missed out on this friendship, and thus missed out on the work of the Spirit using him to encourage me in my calling.

I am in the middle of some fairly significant revisioning and reculturing in our youth ministry, and I believe that God is orchestrating this relationship as a pivotal source of encouragement and even vision. I ask you, especially those friends in ministry, if we are the church for the world why do we spend so much time in our offices removed from said world? I understand some people cannot work in a coffee shop environment, and so need a quiet office setting. But, for those of us who can, why do we not spend more time out here?

Monday, January 21, 2008

The Spirit of Christ

Thomas a Kempis begins his treatise with a brief paragraph. We are encouraged to meditate upon the life of Christ, to then act accordingly, that is to find our life therein. Knowing the difficulty of such a task, Thomas insists that it is by the Spirit of Christ that we are empowered for this life. Hearing and understanding lead to action in the Spirit of Christ.

Thomas' words are very simply understood. They are often taught. Are they often taken to heart? How many times do we understand the words of Christ, know who he is, and yet never fully give ourselves over to those words by following him? What if we did so? How would our churches look different if we understood Christ and "endeavored to conform our life wholly to the life of Christ?" How would our lives look different? How would our world view us? Is it really that simple, or in its simplicity is this calling quite difficult? May the Spirit of Christ be our guide as we seek to faithfully be conformed to the One who teaches us and calls us to his way of life.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

The Imitation of Christ

Lest we all think the book meme taggy thing is just an excercise in complete uselessness, it has inspired me to engage Thomas a Kempis' classic, *The Imitation of Christ.* I have been meaning to read this book for a while, and now seems like a providential moment to begin. Let me explain.

Our youth are going through series this spring called, "The Way." We are looking at what it really means to follow Christ, to enter into his way of living in world. It has been a convicting beginning for me, recognizing that I often fall woefully short in my own life of living in the Jesus Way. To then challenge our youth community to do so, and invite them in on that journey, well let's just say I had better be journeying myself. I think this book could serve as a beginning point everyday for listening afresh to the call of Christ.

Secondly, I have been seeking to live a more intentional life, in my own spiritual formation and in how I engage people. I have taken to do most of my work beyond my office, in coffee shops for the intention of being known and getting to know our community. Amy and I have invited a college student (and my wonderful JH director) to live with us, not as a favor but because we value sharing our lives with other people. Part of this little experiment includes creating an intentionally communional (a word coined by Mark Ostreicher at Youth Specialties...I love it) environment and life. We are all getting up together to begin our mornings in prayer together, followed by breakfast together. We have opted (most nights) to shut off the television and engage one another in life, conversation, and laughter. We have spent most evenings bringing others into our little community, and it has been wonderful. Part of this intentionality for me includes devoting more set aside time to spiritual practices, hence the morning prayer and breakfast. I want to bring Thomas a Kempis into this.

Since I have fallen pretty far short on virtually every series I've endeavored to start here on this blog, I'm only going to say this. My hope is to read just a short paragraph everyday (Thomas breaks each chapter into two or three short paragraphs) and offer a short reflection on each one. If I miss a day on the blog, that may mean that I missed a day myself, or it might just mean that I didn't have a chance to post. However, I'd like to invite you all into my conversation with Thomas.

Finally, I'll also be posting some of my reflections on our youth blog at church. My hope is that students will be intrigued and maybe even inspired to take a peek at The Imitation of Christ themselves. Would you care to join me? I'll be starting Monday, January 21. Anyone?

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Tagged by Josh, called out by Jonathan

So I got tagged by Josh, and got an email from Jonathan calling me out for not posting in over a month. So, I'm back, I guess.

1) One book that changed my life: I find it exceptionally difficult to choose just one, as many books have influenced the direction of my life. I'll say that Barth's Church Dogmatics IV/3.2 most recently redirected my life. Without reading his section on the church for the world, I don't think I would have rethought my vocational direction and I would not be in youth ministry right now. That's a pretty big change, I suppose.

2) One book you have read more than once: Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Every one should read it once, and when you do, you'll read it again.

3) One book you would want on a desert island: Chronicles of Narnia (all combined in one volume so its one book).

4) Two books that made you laugh: Irresistible Revolution and Grudem's Systematic Theology

5) One book that made you cry: Irresistible Revolution

6) One book you wish you'd written: The Brother's Karamazov. So honest and real and true. A close second would be Life Together by Bonhoeffer. To be able to write from such an experience of genuine Christian community with the brilliance and passion and discipline that Bonhoeffer does makes me long for something similar.

7) One book you wish had never been written: Mein Kampf.

8) Two books you are currently reading: Revisiting Relational Youth Ministry by Andrew Root and Intuitive Leadership by Tim Keel. There are others too.

9) One book you've been meaning to read: The Imitation of Christ by Thomas a Kempis (or Imitatio Christi)

10) Five people that I tag: Jeff Lee, Josh Johnson, Don Coleman, WTM, and Jenell Paris.