You Want to Talk About That?

“For at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, for anything that becomes visible is light.” (Eph. 5:8-14)

 

I had the privilege of speaking on this passage in my church’s youth group a couple weeks ago. It was hard to speak on a couple specific verses before these because they were just…well…uncomfortable. But it led to good conversations and I was able to touch on this passage.

Every time I’ve heard this passage preached on, the preacher generally will like to stay with the whole we are child of light part. Which, don’t get me wrong, is truly awesome! I am literally eternally grateful for the fact that I am a child of light through the work of Christ. But I don’t remember ever hearing a good explanation of what exposing the unfruitful works of darkness looks like.

My mind automatically goes down three trails of thought when I read this. First, I think of Scooby and gang pulling of the mask of the villain as they reveal his plan and him saying, “I would have gotten away with it too. If it weren’t for you meddling kids!” Next I think of this tattle-tale kid telling his dad that his brother or sister did something wrong. Or last, to a legalistic-type preacher naming off a list of things he doesn’t like in the world and labeling them as wicked, and thus he exposed the darkness of the world. But this passage isn’t any of those and it’s what so many mentoring relationships need.

So what is it?

We as the redeem children of God were in darkness (sin) and have made light through the blood of Christ. So we should have a desire to live life in a matter pleasing to Him and that’s found in all things that are good, right, and true. So as we live here on earth and have the light of Christ shine through us into other’s lives we see things they might not. Those dark places are exposed by the light of Christ and they become visible.

In summary, it is us being an imitator of Christ as a dear child and letting His light shine through us. And as we do life with our brothers and sisters in Christ, His light shining through us exposes the dark areas in our lives.

That kind of sounds like mentoring. Two or three people pursuing Christ with the help of each other and in that relationship having the light of Christ show them where they need to grow and change to be like Jesus.

Applications

Here’s a couple of ideas to help us get started into harder conversation that could come from this:

  1. Make sure you have the relationship to do this. I’ve seen someone who doesn’t have deep relationship with someone come out of nowhere and say that someone is sinning because of x, y, and z. Generally, the response is not the accused becoming more like Jesus (even if the accusation has merit), in fact I’ve seen it backfire more often than not and the accusation does more damage than good. If you want to know, be proactive and have the conversation of, “if I saw something in your life that I thought was Biblically wrong, would you be willing to talk about?” before you start down this road. That conversation is the starting point.
  2. Come with a Bible. If there’s one thing I know about my generation is we’ll do the research if we don’t like what was said or we can’t follow the logical flow from point A to B. Information is at our fingertips and we’re very good at finding it. And an older generation is well versed in Scripture. So come with the Bible (in context) and let the Word of God “pierce to the division of soul and of spirit, of joint and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” God’s Word carries more weight than ours.

Mentoring relationships aren’t just “let me give you advice on life.” They include hard conversations about sinners being sinners and how the light of Christ can and should change us.

Growing Together

I’m excited to have this be our first guest writer post. I’m even more excited that it happens to be my mother. Both Matt and myself have a desire to incorporate perspectives from both ends of a generational spectrum into the blog, and what better way to start than have some who has raised four of her own. Hope you all enjoy.


I am not a millennial, but I have experience with them. I birthed four of them. I read an occasional article about millennials and have a couple of real frustrations with them. First is the criticism heaped on this generation for characteristics that were developed by those in older generations—the ones writing the blogs complaining about them! The other is the blanket categorization of all millennials being “this way.” Setting these soapboxes aside however, let me share a little on what I have learned from living with millennials.

Listen. James implores us to be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath—basically to hurry up and listen. One of the hardest thing for parents or anyone working with kids is really listening. We too quickly assume we understand the issue and want to jump in with the answer, solution, or critique. I am learning to just shut up and listen. It’s amazing the conversations that open up when you do this … and for some reason around my house the golden hour for these conversations seem to be 11 p.m. I have also learned not to push my agenda. There have been times that I’ve really wanted to address an issue on my mind, but I know if I just dive in with it, it will probably not be received well. So I pray for God’s wisdom in the timing to broach a subject and amazingly enough, as I listen during a conversation, the door opens wide, and my concerns and opinions are voiced. The other struggle is to shut up once it’s out there. Still struggle with that one, but we’re working it. Overall, I’ve found that if I listen, I am listened to.

Think. As I listen to the ideas, frustrations, and hopes, there are many times I’ve had to just sit back and think about what they are saying. I am very fortunate that in my experience, we are all looking at life from a Biblical worldview. As ideas are shared, there is always a scriptural basis for the thinking and an overall agreement that Scripture is truth. I believe one of the hardest realizations for my generation is that many of us have lived our lives according to Biblically-based traditions ingrained in us as Biblical truth. Our children’s “why?” or “the Bible doesn’t say …,” posed inquisitively not rebelliously, has caused me to think through a lot of things. It’s hard to admit that for one’s whole life you felt that a certain wardrobe choice, entertainment choice, music choice was sin when according to God’s Word, that prohibition is actually a person’s or movement’s interpretation and application of a scriptural principle. Clearly, as issues come up with anyone of any age group that question something clearly defined in the Bible—lying, killing, adultery/immorality—Biblical truth rules firmly and clearly; however, I believe too much of the generational and church-body conflicts stem from traditions and personal preferences being raise to the level of Scripture and being held too tightly. There is the danger for millennials to move forward with a spirit of arrogance, sort of a “Ha! I CAN do this!” and for the older generation to judge them as unspiritual or rebellious. Balance is very important. We are commanded to love one another, server one another, defer to one another, and we must remember that “one another” goes two ways. Paul addresses this in several epistles—all things are lawful, but all things are not expedient. Discernment. This is where we, the older generations can assist. Rather than judging the youngers as just wanting an excuse to “sin,” take a step back, acknowledge their interpretation and application of the Biblical principle, and have a dialogue. Share why you have concerns about that viewpoint; however, if it is not a violation of sound Biblical truth, agree to respect each other’s positions—mutual respect—and move on serving God together as two parts of the body of Christ, because if both parties are saved by the grace of God through the finished work of Jesus Christ, that’s what you are, whether you sit in church with a coat and tie or blue jeans!

Pray. In every epistle Paul wrote, he expresses he is praying for believers near and far. Perhaps if we’re praying for one another rather than criticizing, our love and unity would grow a bit faster.

“… we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, 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.” Colossians 1:9-10

I am richly blessed in my relationships with the millennials in my life. God has recently moved me into a position where I will have interaction regularly with more of this age group. I have no idea what the background or baseline of thought and discernment is for some of these young people, but my desire is that I can listen to them, think about their views and ideas, talk with them and pray for them in a way that will benefit each of us in our walk with Christ and our journey to be more like Jesus.

 

 

Learners Needed

“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” – Dr. Suess

I’m sitting in a Bible study on a Saturday morning. Well, it’s more like a Bible discussion, accountability, and mentoring group than an actual study and I love it. We’ve spent some time talking about life and how our week has been, but now we’ve moved into discussing what we’re memorizing. A friend quotes a passage that he’s memorizing from Proverbs 14 and the next guy in our group chimes in about a passage he memorized from Proverbs 15. And the short discussion starts. The subject is someone being closed-minded to ideas or having an open mind to learning. Here’s the verse we discussed for a few minutes:

“He who disdains instruction despises his own soul,

But he who heeds rebuke gets understanding.” (Pro. 15:32)

It’s pretty clear in the verse that someone who is close-minded to learning and receiving instruction “despises his own soul.” But someone who is willing to learn and receive a rebuke or two will get understanding. Sounds like a simple statement. If you are willing to be rebuked, you will gain understanding. If you hate instruction, then you despise your soul. Basic if/then statements that everyone should understand. Basic and incredibly hard to practice.

The church as a whole appears to have a learning problem. I will admit that receiving instruction is something I struggle with. Especially when I feel like I have the answer to the question or I just don’t want to hear an answer because of my pride. But it’s not just me. Every church is filled with people just like this, we’re ones that think they have it figured out and don’t want to learn anything else.

It’s as if we view the church as our spiritual “safe zones” that we hear so much about on college campuses. Church is the place I can go and not hear anything that is different from my views. If you’re going to say something that could be different than what I believe than you need to warn me before saying it, because everyone in the church reads the same Bible and therefore must come to the same conclusions as me.

Is that really what church is supposed to be like? Shouldn’t I be able to fellowship with another believer in my church that thinks differently than me? Isn’t the church a tapestry of grace, filled with believers from every tongue and nation, and not a collection of clones? Shouldn’t I be open to instruction from the Bible and then study what I just heard to test if it holds up to Scripture and not blindly accept what was taught because it aligns with what I predetermined to be correct? I should clarify that I’m not talking about core doctrines of the faith. There are doctrines not up for discussion like faith in Christ’s work on the cross as the only way to have a relationship with God. But there are a lot more areas of church life that seem to be taboo to have a different views on. Those are areas that we should learn about with each other.

Dr. Suess had it right when he wrote, “The more you learn, the more places you’ll go.” If we want the church to grow and go places, we need to be willing to learn from each other. We’ll need to take rebuke in order to gain understanding. A church on the move looks like generations of people that hold Scripture higher than their traditions and the Bible tighter than the latest trend or book by some famous theologian. It’s members being willing to learn from and be rebuked by their discussions with each other about the Scripture, so we can gain understanding together.

A church on the move is a church of learners. A church that refuses to receive instruction hates its own soul and will not gain understanding. None of us have it all figured out, there’s always more to learn, and what better way to grow together than by receiving instructing from each other.

Don’t You Forget About Me

“And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of the ministry, for building up the body of Christ,” (Eph. 4:11-12)

Ephesians 4 has become something special to me. In fact, this entire chapter has become a rally cry for me personally. It’s a challenge for those older than me and a call to action for those in my generation. So let me exegete why out of this passage.

The first part of this passage is all about unity. We have one faith, one Savior, one baptism, and one God. We, the body of Christ, the church, are unified around our Savior.

Here’s a problem that I see. We’ve divided our churches into groups intentionally or not. We’ve split our church by age and life-stage and then used those benchmarks to determine who can serve in certain capacities within the church. You’re either too young, too immature, too old, too old-fashion, single, or not willing to serve in certain capacities.

All these unspoken benchmarks have left me wondering why is it that we don’t see many, if any, twenty-something-year-old deacons or elders, or why don’t we see a twenty-six-year-old woman leading a bible study for the church. Not necessarily because there isn’t anyone in the church that’s willing or able, just we make the mistake of not thinking cross-generationally.

It may be because I’m in this age group, but I see this mindset especially targeting millennials. We’ve been put in the category of too young for the position, too immature to handle the responsibility, or too inexperienced (our favorites excuse) to make good decisions.

My response to all those excuses and misconceptions is Ephesians 4. The first few verses state that we should be unified. Yes, dividing into groups is great for administration or for focus groups. But there are areas of church life that shouldn’t require an age or marital status to serve in. Putting unnecessary barriers up for service only adds to the disunity that so many churches are experiencing.

As we continue reading we learn that God has equipped each person with a unique gift (verse 7). The purpose of these gifts were meant to be used in the context of the church. We get this in verse 16. Each part using its unique gift to help the body grow into the mature image of Christ.

So we all have a gift and it’s meant to be used within the church, but here in Ephesians 4 we get a different type of list than what we received in Romans and 1 Corinthians. This list of gifts are gifts to the church. Christ gave the church the gifts of apostles, prophets, evangelists, and shepherd-teachers. We also find out the purpose of these gifts: to equip the saints for the work of the ministry and for the building up of the body of Christ.

So here’s my hang up. If we all have gifts, we are supposed to be unified under Christ, and the gifts of pastors, evangelists, and shepherd-teachers are for the equipping of the saints for the work of the ministry, why do we fail so often at equipping and building up? It’s like we’ve missed the point of our gifts and decided that equipping consists of preaching a sermon on Sunday or listening to a Sunday School lesson. If we model our relationships after the Great Shepherd, equipping is both preaching and one-on-one discipleship. Then sending that disciple out to do ministry, either within your church or in another church because of the equipping they received from others.

Yes, this idea of equipping and mentoring is risky. But it’s well worth the risk. Look at result of Paul equipping Timothy. We need more Pauls and Timothys in our churches. 

So pastors, evangelists, shepherd-teachers don’t you forget about me. Don’t wait for us to hit the life-stage benchmarks. Forget the fact I’m twenty-something and equip me; fulfill Ephesians 4 in your church; let me be your Timothy. You’ll find all the results of your actions listed in the rest of the chapter, and they’re pretty awesome. We’re talking things like unity of faith, knowledge of the Son of God, spiritual maturity, and sound doctrine. Disciple the millennials in your church. Imagine being able to focus on feeding your flock because you’ve equipped someone in the work of the ministry. Now both of us can fulfill what God planned with our gifts: unity and growth within the body of Christ.

Now everyone else, read verse 16:

“From whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.”

We need to do our part. We need to ask. We need to serve. We can’t just pass the puck up, point fingers, and say, “It’s all their fault that we aren’t serving in certain capacities.” And we can’t not be involved because we think everyone is too old fashion or stuck in their ways. We need to do our part by using our gifts in the church and help our local body grow in Christ. We need to strive for unity, be involved, and be imitators of Christ ourselves and the result will be that other generations will follow.

Ultimately, I’m asking that those with these gifts don’t you forget about us, the millennials; instead equip us and let’s grow in unity of the faith and to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.