Monthly Archives: December 2011

The Reade Center and the Glamour of Ministry

There is one building at Taylor that holds most of my best Taylor University moments. It isn’t the ugliest building on campus. That is reserved for the Union and its outdated 1960’s UFO shape. It isn’t the coolest, most glamorous building. That is reserved for the new science building. It is the overlooked Reade Center.

The Reade Center is a pretty boring building in the middle of campus. With a modern architecture in the shape of a rectangle, it is built to be functional. Even though it isn’t glamorous, most of my favorite Taylor moments happened in the Reade Center.

As a child I went to visit my dad at his office in the Reade Center. Growing up we didn’t have a television so we would watch movies with my dad on the second floor in the faculty lounge. I would walk the halls of the Reade Center as a kid and dream of someday being a student at Taylor.

As a Christian Education major, I spent a lot of time in the Reade Center. It is there that I felt called to devote my life to full-time church ministry. Sitting in my freshmen year Intro to Christian Education I forged relationships with people who are crazy enough to spend time with teenagers. On the second floor I sat in Dr. Heth’s Greek class which kicked my butt but made the Scriptures come alive in ways that I never imagined. In Dr. Lay’s class we sat outside the Reade Center and lived out what community looked like. I ate up every story that Dr. Phil Collins told about what real ministry and leadership was all about.

And it was in a senior CE class that the scales fell off my eyes and I saw the most beautiful, wise woman in the world. I thought I would never have a chance with Hillary Boss, but one of my band of brothers from that first Intro to CE class convinced me to ask her on a pick-a-date. The rest is history and that beautiful woman in that Reade Center classroom is now my wife!

There is no such thing as the glamour of church ministry. Serving Jesus Christ, especially in full-time church work, is not for those looking to make a lot of money or make a name for themselves. In a lot of ways serving in full-time church work is a lot like the Reade Center. When big donors think about where to donate money it isn’t the building that houses the Christian Education department. There aren’t huge grants for ministry development and research. And it’s probably a good thing. Like the towel that we were given at graduation from Taylor, serving Christ is meant to be in the background, not the center of attention.

I am proud of my Taylor education and the lifelong memories that it brought. I am most proud that my time at Taylor taught me to serve.

Youthful Faith

Each Advent season my hope is that I will encounter the story of Jesus’ birth in a different way. Having grown up in the church it is far too easy to take the story at face value and go through the motions. This season I have been trying to go through the Pray As You Go podcasts from the Jesuits. The music, Scripture readings and reflections follow the church calendar so today’s reading was about Zechariah.

Zechariah is doing is his priestly duty and entering the temple when the angel Gabriel appears to him. Gabriel proclaims that Zechariah’s wife Elizabeth will have a baby. Zechariah and Elizabeth are beyond the normal parenting ages and had given up on having a child. Zechariah is so surprised by this announcement that he probably doesn’t even hear what Gabriel says about his soon to be son.

Luke describes Zechariah’s response this way, “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.”

Zechariah asks the “how” question, but the thrust of it is that he can’t trust Gabriel’s pronouncement. In his old age, Zechariah’s relationship with God has become routine and exists mostly in duty. He probably had a fervent faith at one time but in his old age he has given up on the miraculous. His faith is cold. As a result of his unbelief, Zechariah cannot speak until the birth of his child.

Then Gabriel appears to a woman who is much younger. Mary, a young girl, has never slept with a man. Gabriel appears to her and proclaims that she will have a son, Jesus, who will reign on David’s throne.

Luke describes Mary’s response, “‘How will this be,'” Mary asked the angel, “‘since I am a virgin?'”

Like Zechariah, Mary asks the “how” question, but with a different intent. She believes Gabriel’s pronouncement, she just doesn’t understand the practicality of how she will become pregnant. She knows she is a virgin so how could she be pregnant? Her faith in God is strong and real. Mary believes what Gabriel says unlike Zechariah.

What is correlation between faith and a person’s age? Later in his gospel Luke records Jesus as saying, “Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” As we age, how do we keep a simple faith like that of a child? How do we guard ourselves from a “faith” that is routine and driven by duty like Zechariah’s?

Maybe it’s that over time we stop listening to God’s still, small voice to step out in faith. We get so busy that we don’t take the time to listen. We stay in our comfort zone and don’t give God the chance to show himself to us. Our once vibrant, youthful faith becomes dry and routine like Zechariah’s.

What has God been calling you to do but you haven’t taken the step of faith?

This Advent season, may we have the youthful faith of Mary.

Does Your Church Have a Kid’s Table?

There is a positive wave of conversation right now in youth ministry circles critiquing the youth ministry practices of segregating teens from the adult congregation. The folks at the Fuller Youth Institute have been researching what makes faith continue into adulthood. A big finding is that students who are involved in the adult community of faith have a longer, lasting faith. Here is a video that summarizes some of the questions and findings from their research:

One small change that we have made lately is making every 5th Sunday a Family Sunday. The children don’t go to Sunday School and we reformat our whole service to be family friendly. Our last Family Sunday we designed a Family Feud game show between two families and for the message our pastor interviewed his son. The big unifying message was about the effect that parents have on their child’s faith.

What does your church do to integrate children and youth into the life of the congregation?

Reflecting on 2011 from Google

There is power in reflecting on the past, especially when it is combined with images, video and music. Here is Google’s look back at 2011.

Canceling Facebook

Today I made a big decision. It was a hard decision but a much needed one. I decided to end a relationship. I permanently deleted my Facebook account today.

Even as I went through the process of deleting my account, Facebook made me feel like I was missing out on something by leaving. It showed me four pictures, one being my wife, and said that each person would miss me. Will my wife actually miss me because I don’t have a Facebook account? No she won’t! But Facebook wants me to believe that relationships on Facebook are real and that I will be missed. The irony is that I actually live with my wife and when I am on Facebook, my wife misses me.

As I sit here I wonder what is happening on Facebook. It’s like a party is going on and I’m not invited. What am I missing? What won’t I know about because I’m not watching everyone’s lives going by on my Newsfeed?

What is the real impact of social media on relationships? I understand that social media can enhance relationships but isn’t relying on an online connection with someone a sort of relational crutch?

We were created for relationship. The type of relationship where we see the other person and listen to their voice. Being present with someone is powerful. I gave up on Facebook because I want to go back to experiencing the power of presence with those in my life. I want to listen to what is going on in their life. I don’t want to be limited to quick snippets. I don’t need Facebook to enhance my relationships. Seven years ago we were fully functional without Facebook. I can thrive without Facebook.

Sorry Facebook, I don’t need you.

Turn Off Your Dang Phone!

So this story about Alec Baldwin being thrown off a plane for not obeying the flight attendants when they told him to turn off his phone led me to go on this short rant.

Why is it that some people think they are above the law? Over Thanksgiving I sat next to a guy who three times didn’t listen to the instructions about turning off your phone before takeoff. The flight attendant would nicely tell him to turn off his cell phone and he would act like he was turning it off and put it in his pocket.  Then he would bring it out seconds after the flight attendant walked down the aisle.

My sense of justice went off the charts but luckily for this guy I didn’t say anything. It was not my place to go all justice league on him.

Why don’t people listen to flight attendants? Guy in the seat next to me just turn off your dang phone! Alec Baldwin, being a TV star does not give you the right to not obey the flight attendants and then vent on Twitter. NBC should mandate that Alec work as a flight attendant for two weeks and see what it is like to be disrespected.