Real Christianity

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We millennials want the “real deal.” We want real coffee and real free-range beef and real gluten-free, soy-free, sugar-free cardboard to eat.

Okay, we’re a little weird.

We’re a generation who hates the fake, but we sure do engineer “fake” profile pictures of ourselves on our social media. We decry the lies of politicians and yet so easily fall for the delusions of “fake news.”

When it comes to Christianity, we say we hate the fakers or pretenders of prior generations who put on a suit and tie on Sunday and yet live like Jesus means nothing on Monday as they eat, talk, and act just like the unsaved. And yet, we do the same things, indulging in the sins of our generation (which are many).

Where is the reality? Where is the substance? Where is real Christianity?

I know one place it is – Detroit, Michigan. I spent Spring Break here, touring the city through the eyes of inner-city church planters and pastors.

The pastors and Christians up here are not fake. It’s been a huge encouragement…and a big rebuke.

I’m sick of seeing people who pretend to love Jesus but by their lives obviously do not. I’m sick of being that person myself!

I love to meet people who truly love Jesus. People like the ones up here, of all generations, who gather together in the rough parts of town. Who sit around discussing their various unsaved friends and how they can strategize with others to reach them.

How rarely we talk about such things in my sphere. The older generations preach about it, and the younger generation complains about how we’re not doing it – but is anyone actually doing anything?

Is anyone actually accomplishing the Great Commission?

I love how one of the pastors up here explained the Great Commission in Matthew 28:18-20.

The command of the passage is to MAKE DISCIPLES.

Not “go” (a participle in Greek), which is the context of this command. Jesus assumes we have “gone” into the world ever since he launched the church out of Jerusalem like a flaming arrow in the first century, spreading the Gospel fire around the Roman Empire. We too have “gone” to the world into our various workplaces and neighborhoods (though we could all go further and meet more unsaved people).

But the central command is simply to MAKE DISCIPLES. That’s not a quick-fix, Bible-Belt-strapping thing.

In Detroit, it looks like a Christian having to call an ambulance for a lady who will later curse them out. Or being threatened with a drugged-up new believer who tries to kill them in his delirium.

And yet after hearing about and seeing such things, it’s easy to get on a “spiritual high” up here where things are “real” only to miss out on the reality going on in the Bible Belt. Things may look a little different, but drug addicts and hurting people – indeed, unsaved people in general – are everywhere in this world. The opportunities to make disciples is endless.

But how do we do that? How do we make disciples? Jesus gives two simple processes after the initial command.

  1. Baptize the new converts. This is the important first step. This brings them into the fellowship of a local church for accountability and discipleship. You cannot disciple new believers outside the context of the local church, which makes church-planting so important.
  2. Teach them to obey everything Jesus taught. Notice He does not command us simply to teach them everything He taught, as if we just need to teach a bunch of facts to new believers. As if we just need to have them memorize a bunch of key verses and then they are discipled. Doctrine is huge, but the Bible always connects doctrine to doing. So we teach these new believers to OBEY in day-to-day life what Jesus taught.

There you have it. That’s real Christianity. Churches who do this are real. Christians who do this really love Jesus. It’s simple…but oh so hard!

But what if I go to a church that doesn’t seem to have much time for these things? That’s no excuse for us. To you (and me), let me challenge:

  1. Realize that the teenagers within your church and even freshmen college students ARE the new believers. Odds are that anyone under 20 is a new believer in some sense, even if they’ve been saved for fifteen years. In fact, most of us millennials are still baby Christians (some of us are in the “terrible twos”). We need a lot of discipleship.
  2. Stop complaining about how the church isn’t “real” and start acting. You may not be a pastor. You may not have a chance to teach or preach or even sing a special. But there is nothing stopping you from growing the body of Christ. There is no lack of opportunity to be involved in ministry because there is no lack of unsaved people in this country, from Detroit to Greenville. So GO – make disciples in your city. It’s easy, especially for we millennials, to complain about how the church isn’t real. It’s far harder to be real in our own lives and obey the Great Commission.

Matthew 28 is the basis for mentoring and discipleship. In fact, according to Jesus in this passage, making disciples is our whole mission on this planet. We don’t have time for complaining or warring between generations.

It’s time to make disciples.

Does it sound too ambitious? Too dangerous? Too messy to get involved in people’s lives? Too heart-breaking?

That’s why Jesus ended the commission with these words.

“Behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Amen.

We Need Each Other

“The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you,’ nor again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.’” (I Cor. 12:21)

I spent a few credit hours during undergrad in psychology classes. One of my favorites was developmental psychology (I was an education for a couple years). I thought it was incredibly interesting how human interaction plays a massive role in the development of children. A simple Google search will give you story after story of feral children. These are kids that developed without any or very little human interaction.

A case I remember studying in class was that of Victor of Aveyron. Victor was a feral child found in the early 1800. He couldn’t speak, didn’t like wearing clothes or taking baths, and acted as if he were an animal. By the estimates of the doctors of his day, he had lived by himself for many years and was just starting puberty when he was found.

A French physician name Jean Marc Gaspard Itard took Victor in and proceeded to attempt to teach him language and essentially tame the boy. By the time Victor died at age 40, Itard’s years of work had gotten Victor to understand basic questions, wear clothes, bathe, and eat cooked meat. But Victor never once uttered a complete sentence.

Years of isolation away from human beings during the most crucial developmental stages of childhood set Victor’s life on course for a very interesting and, to me, a very sad existence.

Christian Development

Victor never had the interaction of humans in his life as he developed as a child and hence his life as an adult. Our churches have many under or undeveloped Christians. They’re the teens in your church that believe in Jesus, but haven’t developed a passion for anything spiritual. They are the young adults that are Christians, but have the hardest time talking about anything spiritual because they just can’t. They don’t know how. They are the adults that can talk Jesus, but can’t give a clear gospel message. They have the appearance of a Christian, but haven’t grown into the full stature of Jesus.

1 Corinthians gives us a great example of how members of the body of Christ are supposed to interact with each other. And with these interactions comes the spiritual development that our churches need.

We Need Each Other

The church is a body. Every Christian is a member. God placed us in a specific role. And we all need each other.

“But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose.” (I Cor. 12:18)

“The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.” (I Cor. 12:21)

To isolate ourselves from the rest of the body and say “I have no need for them” is foolish and, well, not Biblical. We need each other to grow. When our human bodies don’t communicate within each other and systems start to do their own thing, we general end up at the doctor’s office or in the hospital.

When the body of Christ has members that isolate themselves from the rest of the body, they become spiritual sick and stagnant in their growth. God specifically placed us in the body of Christ to have a specific role and to influence those around.

The Basis for Mentoring

This a foundation for mentoring. The body of Christ united and working together to help each other grow “to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.” Eyes need the feet to move from point A to point B. And the feet need the eyes to show them the path. So Christians need each other to grow.

We can’t encourage others to live in spiritual isolation and expect full spiritual development. We can’t let those who are spiritual children wander without any interaction with other believers and expect them to lead the church effectively in the future. Paul already told us what happens to isolated spiritual children. They’re “tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.”

We are a body, placed in a role by God. When we fulfill our role to the best or our ability and help those around us develop in their role, we grow as a church into the stature of Christ.

We are the body and we need each other.

Come and See

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“How did you meet your wife?”

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been asked that in the past three weeks. (Yes, I got married. That is, Matt got married. Not Caleb – he just got a dog, which is not the same thing as a wife.) It seems everyone wants to know how the two of us met. It’s a pretty interesting story, and I must admit, I don’t mind sharing it.

Here’s a more important question though – “How did you meet your Savior?”

How did you come to know Jesus, the Son of God? It’s a different answer for each one of us. Some, like myself, were led to Christ at a young age, perhaps through a pastor’s message or parent’s talk. Others came to Christ later, maybe through a friend, spouse, or family member. Others perhaps got saved by simply reading the Word of God or a tract or falling under conviction in a service.

However it happened, one thing is true for all of us: there was a moment we became followers of Jesus. Or you could say, we became “disciples” of Jesus.

That’s where we get a word we use often on this blog – “discipleship” or “discipling.” Sometimes we call it “mentoring” or “life on life relationships.” That’s what this blog is really all about, particularly in the area of intergenerational discipling. And that will never change.

But this year, we want to get into a deeper discussion of what that actually looks like BIBLICALLY. You know our opinions on certain practical matters. But recently I was hit with this question – what does the Bible actually say about discipling and mentoring? What does it command? What do healthy intergenerational relationships look like according to Jesus?

In 2017, we at the Church Accords want a lot less opinions and a lot more Bible.

So let’s dive into the Bible and start with the Gospel of John. It doesn’t take us long to find discipling there. John 1, in fact!

I love that chapter. You start with the very beginning of time, eternity past, the Word with God…and end with that same God interacting one-on-one with dirty, smelly Galilean fishermen. If Jesus, the Word of God incarnate, who created all things and IS GOD, can stoop down to take flesh and disciple guys…what’s our excuse again?

Anyway, we see in the end of John 1 the various ways people become disciples. If we’re going to study what the Bible says about discipling, we should probably start at the beginning. You can’t make disciples if you aren’t one yourself. But if you are a disciple, as Mark Dever points out, you WILL be making disciples.

How does it all begin? How can someone meet Jesus?

John gives us a couple of ways.

  1. Through preaching the truth of Jesus (35-39). John the Baptist was standing with some of his guys and saw Jesus. He pointed at Him and said, “Behold the Lamb of God!” And two of his guys left him to follow Jesus. Jesus asks them what they’re looking for. They say they want to see where He’s staying. I love Jesus’ reply – it’s one that every disciple-maker can use: “Come and see.” Some people become disciples of Jesus through hearing someone else proclaim Him as the Savior. This doesn’t diminish one-on-one relationships. In fact, preaching should always go hand-in-hand with personal conversation. The Bible puts a premium on solid, biblical preaching, but it also emphasizes discipleship. We must do both.
  2. Through someone else’s invitation (40-42, 45-51). Andrew, one of those guys from before, goes and does what every good disciple-maker should do – he brings someone else to Jesus. Specifically, his brother Simon Peter (heard of that guy?). Then a couple verses later, Philip is finding his buddy Nathanael and bringing him to Jesus. Notice what words he uses: “Come and see.” I love that! The disciple has taken up the words of his Master, inviting people to experience what he’s experienced. This is discipling!
  3. Through a personal experience with Jesus (43-44). Some people are drawn to Christ on their own. Sometimes, Christ captures someone’s heart not necessarily through a person, but through His Word and Spirit directly. Philip was approached directly by Christ and called to be a disciple. From the following conversation with Nathanael, Philip seemed to have been studying the Old Testament and knew what Moses and the prophets wrote. Maybe through his own study of Scripture, Philip’s heart was prepared for an encounter with Jesus.

There are a variety of ways people come to meet Jesus. We all have our stories. For some it’s a radical, life-jarring event where Christ drags you out of a life of sin. For others, it’s as simple as a young child’s prayer kneeling next to their Mom. Either way, a miracle has occurred! And we must never forget that. For if we realize all that Jesus has done in calling us to Himself, we will feel compelled to go out and tell others to “come and see” Jesus.

You met Jesus. Now it’s time to introduce Him to others.

Six Ways to Start Mentoring in 2017

To start the year, we have another guest post from Andrew Miller, who’s posted before. Be sure to check out his own blog.


 

“Yesterday is history, tomorrow a mystery, but today is a gift. (That’s why it’s called the present.)”

A quote from one of my favorite animated movies is quite insightful.

So 2016 is history and you might say there are many things about 2017 that are a mystery (and I’m not even going to mention politics…)

There are some things that don’t have to be a mystery though. Like actually following through on resolutions for once… (I’m preaching to myself here…)

Have you made any resolutions? I’ve made a few but they’re pretty insignificant compared to my most important resolution: to invest more into my relationships this year.

I’m going to ask you the same question I asked myself: “Do you think you’ve invested enough into your relationships this past year?”

It can be a difficult question to ask and even more difficult to answer.

If your reply is, “yes I have!” that’s great! If you haven’t, there’s always room this year for improvement (hence why this year doesn’t have to be a mystery!)

No matter how you did LAST year, THIS year gives us 365 more days of opportunities to be encouraging one another.

So if you’re committed to investing in people this year but aren’t sure HOW you go about doing that, here are 6 pieces of advice that might serve you well this coming year.

1. Set the example.

Before you start investing in someone else’s life, you have to start with yourself. Make sure YOU are setting the example for what their life should look like. Are you living Christlike? Is your life a reflection of God’s grace to you? If your mentee’s life looked just like yours, would you be proud or encouraging them in their lifestyle?

The best mentoring comes not from the words you speak but from the way you live your life. We’ve all heard the phrase, “actions speak louder than words.” The more we hear that phrase doesn’t make it any less true.

Remember that the main idea of mentoring is “doing life together.” And that means doing life together in a God-glorifying way. And that starts with YOU.

2. Identify your mentoring opportunities.

The anxiety of finding the “right” mentee is sometimes discouraging. Not every younger person that comes along will be right for you. But there may be more mentoring opportunities out there than you think.

Start by looking around you. You don’t have to travel very far to find people around you that are in need of someone to just listen to them, to care about them. That could be at your work with one of your coworkers/employees or even at school with one of your peers or students.

However, one of the best places to start looking for people who are attempting to seek after God with all their heart is within the church. Look to your local church to find someone who would be willing to be encouraged with this mentorship. That’s one of the reasons the church exists, right? We are to be building each other up as brothers and sisters under the unity of Christ.

I also think there is a false stereotype that a “mentor” is a person of an older age. That’s usually the case due to the fact that people who have lived longer have more life experience and therefore can offer more “life advice.”

However, sometimes there exists a person who is younger that has more wisdom whether that be life wisdom or spiritual wisdom. This may happen when an individual becomes a Christian later in their life and starts seeking wisdom.

So don’t be afraid if you have a younger person giving you advice. And don’t be afraid if someone a little older than you seeks your opinion or guidance on something.

There is something we can always be learning from each other. So let’s start sharing.

3. Set aside time.

This is a type of relationship after all. Relationships take time. Sometimes they take more time than we expect or want them to, but they still take some amount of time and energy.

Sometimes developing these relationships and investing in them take sacrifice.

Be intentional.

If you don’t know this secret about relationships, I’m giving it to you now…

Relationships. Take. Work.

No matter how you slice it, they require time and commitment. Whether it’s a friendship, romantic relationship, or mentorship, you will need to plan to spend some amount of time (on a regular basis) to develop the relationship.

It’s sometimes easy to forget this. We’re all pretty busy people doing fantastic things. We get busy, have other priorities, and just lose track of time.

Even when you’re busy, however, you should still be able to find time.

What’s the loose definition of mentoring? “Doing Life Together.”

One of the greatest mentors I’ve been told about was a pastor named Tom Craig. I unfortunately never had the opportunity to meet him, but it is easy to see the impact he made on the people around him. He was a busy man but he still found time to invest in people.

If he was on a trip to Home Depot, he would call up one of the teens in his youth group to see if they wanted to ride along. If he was out running errands, he would be developing relationships.

Everything he did was centered around serving, developing, and growing people. Everything.

How much of our life is centered around people?

4. Have a plan.

You don’t always have to have something in mind to say as you shouldn’t plan out EVERYTHING you’re going to discuss.

However, it would be helpful at times to have a general idea of what you’re going to be studying/doing/talking about.

If you have regular conversations-over-coffee, think about what you’ll talk about. Ask yourself, “what is this individual’s greatest need right now and how can I help them?”

It may require listening to them and understanding the challenges they are facing in their life to know how you can help them.

Or if you’d like to go through a book as well, have a couple books in mind and talk to them about it.

Whatever route you choose, make sure your plan’s end goal is to grow both of you closer to God.

5. Read…lots.

We’ve heard the saying, “readers are leaders.” Not only does reading make you a better leader, but it gives you more to talk about.

Like I said in the last point, going through a book together would be VERY beneficial for both you and your mentor or mentee.

Might I suggest a book on relationships? (Relationships, a Mess Worth Making by Timothy S. Lane)

Or even a C.S. Lewis book? (The Screwtape Letters, Mere Christianity)

No matter what you choose, the book should be challenging your heart and your mind.

6. Be “THAT” guy/girl.

I saw a quote the other day that really captures much of what mentoring is.

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Did you have someone in your life guide you to where you are now? Was there someone strengthening and encouraging you along the the way of life?

Maybe it’s time YOU give back.

Maybe it’s time for YOU to become that person in someone’s life.

Remember – it starts with you.

A Tradition Even Millennials Can Love

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Millennials are not fond of traditions. We hate it when old people get stuck in the ruts of a certain color of pew, singing out of hymnbooks, or having a certain order of service.

But sometimes our witch-hunt to destroy traditions can take us too far.

In a conversation with a millennial friend, we debated whether or not the whole Christmas season was even biblical. American Christianity seems to have embraced the culture of covetousness, materialism, and empty rituals inherited from the Catholics and pagans.

Why do we need to dedicate a whole month (or two or three) to an account found in only a couple Gospel chapters? Why don’t we do the same for the holiday celebrating the death and resurrection? Why don’t we dedicate times to reflect on His earthly life or various other aspects of salvation?

Would God really have wanted us to spend so much time focusing on Christ’s birth and use it as an opportunity to indulge in gluttony and greed?

I was sincerely curious. For years, I have been one of the most Christmassy people around. My room was always the most decorated, and I was always the first to start listening to Christmas music (I waited till October this year!). But was my obsession with the season really motivated by an ethnocentric, Westernized materialism?

Certainly, the overspending and overeating are issues we must repent of. We should find a balance between Black Friday hordes and Scrooge-ness. But I don’t think we should throw Santa out with the sleigh on this issue (though getting rid of Santa may not be a bad idea)…

God obviously enjoys holidays. In Israel’s Law, He instituted several feasts throughout the year to celebrate certain events – Passover for the Exodus, Booths for the wilderness journey, and the Day of Atonement to confess sin. What about these feasts today? Paul dealt with this issue in Romans 14 and declared that we have Christian liberty on the matter of holidays (vs. 5).

Must Christians celebrate Christmas? No. But if we are to be redeemers of our culture and have a witness in our community, embracing the positive aspects of Christmas is a great idea. Like what?

Celebrating the birth of Christ for an entire month is not too much of a focus on a small matter of Scripture. If properly studied, the birth of Christ – more accurately, the Incarnation of the God-Man – spans many, many passages.

There are countless Old Testament passages that speak of Christ’s coming. John 1 and 1 John 1 are as much Christmas passages as Luke 2! Reflect on those passages and stand in awe at the fact that “the Word became flesh.” Study the Pauline epistles for references to His Incarnation (Philippians 2 is a great place to start).

The Bible cannot help but speak about the fact that the God of the Universe became a man. And why not? It’s an earth-shattering concept! He forsook Heaven to suffer as a little baby! We could celebrate that all year round for all eternity and never fully exhaust the wonders of that truth.

I thought I knew the Christmas story after ten years of studying it. I’ve written stories about the night Christ was born and countless poems and blog posts. But every year, I still come away with something new.

This year, I was struck by how often the characters in the story are drawn to worship God because of the news of Christ’s birth. Literally, everyone is drawn to praise!

Why doesn’t the Christmas story compel us to do the same? It’s no empty tradition. It’s a time to worship Christ! If we truly celebrate the Incarnation as we should, we will come away calling, “Oh come, let us adore Him!”

It’ll also cause us to give gifts, not out of materialism, but out of genuine selflessness. Gifts that cost us something, like the Magi. Or better yet, like God who gave up His Son.

It’ll cause us not to be focused on our American traditions but on the world in need of the Gospel, from a Jewish priest to Gentile sages. The shepherd’s encounter with baby Jesus led them to want to “make known” to all what the angels had “made known” to them.

It will cause us to reach out to the poor and needy, since our Savior was born in poverty, without even any room in a guest house for Him.

Christmas can be a time of great spiritual growth and evangelistic drive to the needy. Or it can be a time of empty traditions and ethnocentric materialism. You decide.

I call on millennials to spend less time wanting to disregard a good tradition and more time in redeeming it for the glory of God and the worship of the One born King of the Jews!

Merry Christmas from The Church Accords!

Living and Proclaiming the Gospel

“Because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction. You know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake.” (I Thess. 1: 5)

So this post is for me as much as it is for you. One of my pastors spoke on this passage a few weeks ago and it struck a chord with me, because I see what this passage says, and then the church having two extreme parties on either end of a spectrum with each generation leaning to one or the other.

Here in 1 Thessalonians Paul is explaining how the gospel was proclaimed in Thessalonica. We learn that the Gospel wasn’t just proclaim, but it was proclaimed with the power of the Holy Spirit and backed with the full conviction of the Apostle. Then afterward this gospel was determined to be genuine by the conduct of the Apostle among the people. In the words of my pastor their Gospel message was:

  • Word-filled
  • Power-enabled
  • Holy Spirit dependent
  • Sincerely genuine

Here’s the reason why I bring the topic of Gospel preaching/witnessing up: because I see two different parties, with very few people landing truly in the middle.

Party 1: The Tract-Giver

Let me first state that I do believe that God’s Word does not return void and tracts can be a good way of sharing the good news of Jesus. But, I will also say that I have seen those simple pieces of paper destroy months of work in a mere matter of seconds. I’ve watched as my co-workers received a tract instead of a tip and launch into a rage about the jerk that says the news on that piece of paper is worth more than the $1.00 tip they could have left. My gospel efforts completely destroyed in a matter of seconds.

Tracts are Word-filled and therefore power-enabled. But guess what, unless you’ve made contact with that person over and over again the chances of the message being considered sincerely genuine are slim (notice I did not say impossible, because God can still use tracts even without a consistent Christian testimony in someone’s life). Paul’s message was made more powerful by his life with the church at Thessalonica.

Party one-ers are people who only proclaim the Word with no attempts at making sure the message is being perceived as genuine by consistent contact and  Gospel-living. This is the stereotype of the older generation. Younger generations see many older people in their church passing tracts to everyone, but without making an attempt to make a connection that so many in a younger generation crave and need in order for the message to be perceived as genuine. There’s no proving what manner of men they are.

Party 2: The Bible-Liver

People in this party are those that use the “by your fruits you shall know them” to get away with never once sharing the gospel in word to anyone. They focus solely on “living for Jesus.” They think that if a passerby would just see them reading their Bible in public, watch them volunteer at the local children’s home, or hear them praying and talking about how much they love Jesus with their friends it will be enough for that passerby to engage them in conversation. Now I can’t deny that this doesn’t happen. I’ve been that person praying with a friend and have someone come up to talk to us specifically about the Gospel. It does happen, and when it does it’s an amazing work of God.

But I must say that throughout Scripture there is a lot of proclaiming of the Gospel for it to change lives, not just living with hopes of starting conversations. Here in 1 Thessalonians the Word was preached and then received because of conduct of the proclaimer. We see in Romans 10 that the proclamation of the Word of God is vital to the spread of the Gospel.

“How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?”

This party is the millennial stereotype. We like to be involved with lots of ministries, we want to serve, we like to talk about Jesus and what He’s done, but we’re not the best at speaking the Biblical gospel. We feel more comfortable serving on mission fields by feeding the hungry and fighting sex trafficking, than we do sharing the gospel with a neighbor or going canvassing with our church.

Party 3: The Bible

The Bible is pretty clear that it takes both. First we must proclaim, like actually talk and speak the Gospel. When was the last time we actually spoke the Gospel to an unsaved person? The Word needs to proclaimed and be heard in the ears of the unsaved.

Second, we must live a life worthy of the message we proclaim so that message will be received as genuine.

“so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.” (Col. 1:10)

It is by our actions the message we have been given to proclaim is determined as genuine or not. We need to start living the Gospel out to those around us. And we must engage in questions over time that lead to deeper, more eternal-focused discussion.

We need to leave the extremes and join the middle. We need to have the words of the Gospel genuinely proclaimed by Spirit-filled people whose manner of living are worthy of the calling that we have been given.

 

Building Relationships in the Busiest Time of Year

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Welcome to the Christmas season – like it or not.

Welcome to lots of stress, little time, and a fair amount of whining. The schedule is packed with activities as the stomach is packed with pounds.

So where’s the time for mentoring? When can we possibly squeeze in some discipleship? We hardly have time for our wives and kids – how can we find time to invest in some needy person this holiday season?

Here’s a few practical tips for finding time for discipleship during the Christmas season – or during any busy time.

1. Start at Home.

You won’t be an effective mentor if you’re not an effective parent or husband. You can disciple a young-married guy to spend time with his wife, but it will be words of hypocrisy if you aren’t doing it yourself. You can’t disciple guys to respect parents if you have a horrible relationship with yours. You can’t preach proper parenting if you never spend time with your kids. Your mentee will see right through you.

So don’t sacrifice time with family for time with mentees. This doesn’t mean to forsake your disciples entirely – maybe you can find a way to do both in balance. Maybe invite your mentee to join you on a family outing. Sometimes his seeing how you treat your family is better inspiration than hours of time and gallons of coffee.

Besides, your greatest “mentees” will be your wife and kids. Be sure you are discipling them effectively before expanding to others.

2. Don’t Do by Yourself What You Could Do with Another.

Going to buy a tree? Going shopping for your wife? Going on a mid-afternoon peppermint mocha run? Text a young guy to tag along. Teach him how to shop for a woman (no easy feat!). Show a young-married girl how to pick out food for Christmas dinner. Show her how to find the best deals on toys. Spend a few extra shekels on buying them a chestnut praline latte (I’ll take a grande!).

Sometimes you can learn more by just accompanying someone on a task than you can by listening to their advice.

Here’s a key fact: you have to eat. And oftentimes, lunch break isn’t long enough to go home. So instead spend it with a young coworker or someone from church who works nearby and needs some advice.

3. Use the Busyness as a Tool for Discipleship.

You aren’t the only busy and stretched one out there. Odds are, the person you’re investing in is also pretty stressed. Use the crazy season as a tool for showing how to maintain “peace on earth” from Christ in a packed season.

Be the example! They are looking at you. If they see you panicking and freaking out, they will do it themselves. Show them how they can shine like a Christmas light in a dark world.

Show them the attitude of the humbly-born Christ as you celebrate His birth.

Rioting Millennials. Rejoicing Racists. Gracious Christians.

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Christians, in this divisive time, let’s beware lest we be known more by complaining, stereotyping, and gloating than by our loving and extending grace.

Let’s beware lest we become a church of Jonah’s.

Jonah didn’t want to go to the Ninevites because they were different from him – and very, very horrible. But God called him to speak grace to an undeserving people.

We all have our own personal Ninevites: people who are different from us that we think in our self-righteousness don’t deserve God’s mercy.

For me, to be completely transparent, it was the stereotypical Boomer Trump supporter. I was fine with believers who chose the “lesser of two evils,” but I was very frustrated with the world of older, whiter Midwestern people who shocked the world when they gave him the Presidency. The coal worker in Ohio. The manufacturing employee in Michigan whose company moved to China. The blue collar hard-worker in Pennsylvania whose job got replaced by robots or illegal immigrants.

God’s love surely doesn’t extend to them! They are so ethnocentric. So unconcerned about morality in their choice of a candidate!

When Wednesday morning came, I woke to a new morning. And a new reality.

Drain the Swamp

There are a lot of needy people in the Midwest. Without a Savior. Looking for someone to make their lives great again.

These people need the grace of God. Not my hipster millennial judgment.

I’ve been so caught up in my own little world, going from coffee shop to coffee shop, fixated by tweets and hashtags. Talking only to millennial friends about a “bigoted” candidate that surely couldn’t win.

I’m happy to share the Gospel with fellow millennials in coffee shops. Go to an African-American or Latino neighborhood and extend love – no problem.

Show compassion to Muslims – easy. Show compassion to Trump supporters – no way!

I was blind to a whole host of people in desperate need of some grace.

That’s the lesson I learned from this election cycle.

Who are your Ninevites? For you Boomers, it may be those Muslims that you are excited about barring from the country. Or Hispanics you want to put on the other side of the wall. Or the millennials in downtown New York that you think are just sore losers. Or your Democrat friend on Facebook who is #stillwithher. For we millennials, it may be that older family member who won’t stop posting about draining the swamp. Or our neighbor with the Trump hat.

God’s grace is not content to stay in one people group. Or one voting block. Or one community. It knows no limits. It breaks through our prejudices and racist remarks and self-righteous judgments and hashtags to reach to individuals in rural Wisconsin and Rust-Belt Ohio and inner-city Chicago and Muslim-heavy Detroit.

Make Christians Gracious Again

It’s time for Christians to forget about the 2016 election cycle and start thinking about sharing the Gospel.

Let’s face it – there are some real hurting people out there right now. Imagine being the illegal immigrant mother who now thinks she will be deported with her young children. Think about the Muslim child who is fearful for his life at school in the Deep South. Think about the Trump supporter who’s been out of work for as long as Obama has been President. Think about people who just got a little bit of hope that things could change.

America is divided – but it has one thing in common: it needs the grace of Jesus.

America will not be made great by Supreme Court nominees or a wall. America’s greatness is directly dependent on the grace of God. I certainly hope for some policy changes and pray for the new President’s success. But what I’m most concerned about is not America’s greatness but my personal graciousness to those different from me.

Millennials. Boomers. Rioting on streets. Partying in the streets. Whatever you’re feeling from the election, it’s time to move on. It’s time to extend the grace of the Gospel to all people. While millennials are rioting and racists are rejoicing, may Christians of every generation be showing grace.

Quotes from a Mentoring Weekend

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Caleb and I just finished helping with the Men’s Retreat for our home church – Calvary Baptist – this weekend. The theme was basically what this blog is all about – relationships, and particularly mentoring/discipling the next generation. It was a refreshing and inspiring time. Believe it or not, the conference was entirely run by millennials – and it went great! If more churches would trust millennials with responsibilities like this, I believe they would not be disappointed.

For our post this week, we thought it’d be good to just include a few quotable highlights from the weekend. The three speakers were Dr. Sam Horn, Pastor Ben Ice, and Scott Taylor. All three sessions were excellent, and the panel on inter-generational relationships was equally impactful. Here are a few tweet-able nuggets:

  1. “Discipleship is about glorifying God – causing other people to come to right conclusions about who God is and what He’s like.” -Sam Horn
  2. “Be one. Make many.” -Sam Horn, referring to disciples
  3. “Depend on one. Serve many. Mentor a few.” -Ben Ice
  4. “Mentoring starts with an invitation, continues on with sacrificial investment, and activates intentional influence.” -Ben Ice
  5. “Mentors pray together, speak words of grace, and challenge their thinking with Truth.” -Ben Ice
  6. “Mentoring is not a program to implement but a life to imitate” -Randy Pope, as quoted by Ben Ice
  7. “Mentoring is one intentionally and vulnerably sharing his life with another.” -Ben Ice
  8. “I’m not doing anything alone. If I’m going to Home Depot, I’m taking a teen with me.” -Scott Taylor, referring to Calvary’s former Youth Pastor Tom Craig’s philosophy of discipleship
  9. “Pick your spots. Not every moment is a teaching moment. Sometimes, you just listen.” -Scott Taylor
  10. “I don’t know what he taught me, but I love Jesus more because of him.” -Scott Taylor, referring to a friend’s quote about Tom Craig
  11. “Home is not the place to relax.” -Scott Taylor

    We hope to have the audio posted soon!

When Your Kids Don’t Agree

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It’s no secret that young people have trouble respecting authority. Any parent knows this to be true.

Maybe your hair is frazzled right now from your toddler’s amazing impersonation of a tornado. Maybe the bags under your eyes feel like a thousand pounds because your baby decided to pull an all-nighter (and not for prayer and fasting).

For others, perhaps the weight is a little heavier than loud cries or rowdy behavior. Maybe for you, it’s a child who’s left the home to sow “wild oats” and broken hearts. Maybe it’s a millennial college student who comes home from Thanksgiving with a significant other of the same gender and a new atheistic faith to match.

Those sorts of things are incredibly hard – and far too incredibly frequent.

Open Relationships

I’ll admit it – we millennials are leaving the faith at a quicker rate than ever before. And Generation Z after us looks to continue that trend.

I don’t pretend to know how to stop that flow. Only the Spirit of God can change hearts. Even the best parents have encountered this sad reality. However, I do think that if more parents read carefully the words that Caleb posted last week, this would be a less frequent occurrence.

Being open to discussing beliefs and current issues is absolutely crucial to building inter-generational relationships, especially with your children.

I have no right to advise parents on how to raise their millennials and Generation Z, but I am deeply concerned about a trend I have noticed with some friends.

It’s one thing for millennials to not be able to discuss doctrinal issues with their parents. But it is quite another thing when millennials cannot even discuss the debatable issues with their parents for fear that their parents will get upset or angry.

Music

For instance, I know many millennials who hold different beliefs about music than their parents. But most are too afraid to tell their parents that. Their views are not unbiblical in the least, and most have really thought it through prayerfully and with the advice of older mentors.

And yet, they must keep their views on music hidden from their parents.

Politics

Millennials cannot tell their parents who they are voting for – or if they are voting at all. I hate to bring up such a controversial subject – okay, I actually enjoy it. But many millennials absolutely dread when older people bring it up. They cringe when they see a “Lock it up” status from their parents on Facebook. In this election in particular, millennials are discovering that many of the principles their parents raised them to hold to – such as standing for morality, respecting those of different nationalities, refraining from foul language – only apply outside the realm of politics.

This is not just anecdotal among my friends. Research shows that evangelical millennials are much more likely to oppose the Republican nominee – and his numbers are abysmal with millennials as a whole. This truly is an inter-generational conflict this election cycle.

But to confess to their parents or grandparents that they are considering not voting for the Republican nominee – or not voting at all – would be just as hard as confessing some heinous crime.

A Plea

Parents, I plead with you – on both these issues and many more – do not let your child feel like they cannot disagree with you! On matters that are eternal and founded in the Word of God, do not budge an inch. But be open for your children to come and ask you about the “debatable matters.”

If they cannot come to you to discuss those issues, why would they come to you to discuss their doubts about key doctrines? Many parents are in the dark about what their kids believe until it is too late.

I am so blessed to have parents who are open to discussion. We do not agree on all points, but I know that I can discuss the political race with my Dad – and believe me, we do OFTEN! There’s nothing better in the world than knowing that I can have an open discussion with my father and mother about politics and music and so many other issues. Will we always agree? Hardly. Will I respect their position even if it goes against mine? Yes, because they gave clear scriptural principles – and so did I.

We simply choose to live in the confusing land that is Romans 14. That’s the best place to land on these issues. That’s the place where open discussions can happen about these issues.

That’s the place where the Spirit works to make the faith of my fathers the faith of me.