This is my first blog post for 2015.

I’m definately not where I thought I’d be.

As you read this you may get angry at me. You may even hate me. For sure you will be disapointed with me.

I’m not even sure this is the best avenue to share. But my intent is to speak to the hundreds I’ve hurt. To the people that are close to me. To the people that looked up to me as a role model. The people that that have trusted me.

Betrayal and Deceit. Both are dangerous. Both I’m guility of.

Sin has a very interesting way of coming into our lives. You think you are strong enough, but you aren’t. You think you can hide it, but you can’t. You think you are untouchable, but you’re not.

SA few weeks ago I went to a Ice Hockey game.  Had a blast hanging out with my boy! I was able to find a parking spot at the very top of the parking garage. Prime parking. I was so excited to get such a great spot. It was close to the door. Very little walking. It was perfect. I was quick.

Then It was time to leave.

Got to the car and the line to leave was long. Closest to the door meant the furthest to leave. As I was sitting in the car I started thinking of my situation. Sin is easy to get into. But getting out takes a long time. You often don’t think of the exit srategy of sin. That’s not on your mind when you start engaging in such behavior.

I got tangled into sin. For six months (some would argue longer or even currently) I betrayed my family. My church was stunned. I hurt those that were on my team. I hurt parents. I hurt my pastor and friend. I hurt my wife and my little boy. I hurt myself.

I currently wake up everyday with an aganizing pain of the hurt that I have caused. For the friends that I’ve lost.  My church has been there for me. However, only a few have reached out. I don’t blame them. Would I reach out to me? Probably not.

No, I have not lost my faith in Christ.

My biggest struggle right now is staying above water. Trying to take deep breaths and not panic in this deep water.  The reality is my life will ever be changed. Most of my identity has been pastoring. But the likely hood of doing that again is slim to none. My identity has been robbed by my actions.

Satan is good at taking your identity. And if your guard is down, he’ll take advantage of  it.

Not sure how often I’ll blog now. But we’ll see.

Love you all.

James

I love to read blogs and listen to podcasts regarding culture, ministry, marriage, and more. But I’ve been exhausted at people pointing out and highlighting that youth pastors struggle with;

  • Too much on their plate
  • Stressful relationship between the senior pastor
  • Struggling marriage
  • Worried about what you did to the building in fear of being fired
  • Find it hard and difficult to find volunteers

The list goes on and on.

Yes, ministry can be hard. And since church is full of messed up people (like me and you), there is bound to be some difficult times. But it’s time to keep your eye on the ball and get to the end zone.

  • If there is too much on your plate, then take something off. I understand that decision might be hard. But learn to say no and you will be happier in the long run. Make a list of things that MUST get done and things you WANT to get done. Is there anyone in your church that can give you a hand? A parent you don’t see very much, a student that wants to hang out.

 

  • The relationship I have with my current pastor is awesome. I consider him a friend. He is consistently affirming the youth ministry and my leadership. I go to his house for dinner. We laugh. We talk. It’s good. If there is tension between you (staff member/youth pastor) and the senior pastor TALK ABOUT IT. Not over e-mail, text, or phone. Schedule time to chat about you.  Maybe if you cleared your plate a bit, that would release some tension??

 

  • Bottom Line: MARRIAGE COMES SECOND (Jesus MUST be first in everything). Your ministry, your students, the parents, and the church comes AFTER marriage.  If you’re struggling, take some time off. Talk to your Pastor and ask for a month off. Do something to strengthen your marriage. Maybe if you cleared your plate a bit, that would release some tension??

 

  • The building/church is a resource for ministry. We need to be worshiping Jesus, not the building in which we worship Jesus in. Listen, if you are part of a church that is so concerned with stains on the carpet and “misuse”, then need to possibly find a church that is more concerned with breaking outside the walls instead of maintaining the walls. This is not to say that a youth pastor can treat the building anyway they want. We need to be good stewards of our resources.

Youth ministry can be challenging, but don’t let the challenging parts dictate how you operate and the passion that Christ has given you.

coaching pic

 

There are several ways to coach.  But here is the format I use to coach my leaders in our student ministry.

1) How are you?

2) What are you celebrating, where are you winning, and what are you most excited about?

3) What challenges are you facing?

4) How will you tackle those issues?

5) How can I help you, what can I do to help?

6) How can I pray for you?

 

One of the lessons that God has been teaching me is about timing and preparation. I feel like I am a strategic guy, but sometimes I feel like I move to fast. Which, I don’t think is essentially wrong, but there needs to be a balance.

I am a fast acting guy. I feel strongly about my ideas and can see the vision before me with clarity. But how do I execute that vision and those ideas into a successful life and ministry? Too often, I can easily walk over people with the zeal of my ideas. But as of late, God has been using the words Timing and Preparation.

“By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house.” Hebrews 11:7

Champions never hurry. 

The quality of preparation determines the quality of performance. Great concert pianists invests hundreds of hours of practice before a concert. They know that the quality of those many grueling hours of practice will prepare them for their greatest performance. The world champion heavyweight boxer knows he cannot get into the ring with his opponent without preparing first. It would be too late, not to mention no fun to watch. For many weeks before the great fight, he toils in his morning workout, running, and exercise program.

Champions do not become champions in the ring. They are merely recognized in the ring. Their becoming happens in their daily routine.

Jesus never hurried.

Jesus did not begin his earthly ministry until He was thirty years old. His ministry was a short 3 1/2 years.

His preparation time was thirty years.

Jesus was very sensitive about timing. When His mother told him that the people had run out of wine at the  marriage of Cana, He replied, “Woman, what have I to do with that? My hour has not yet come.” (John 2:4) By the way, I don’t recommend calling your mother woman. But it does show you his confidence.

Obviously, God was planning a public introduction of Jesus’ ministry, but Jesus saw a need and responded to the faith Mary expressed when she said, “Whatsoever He says unto you, do it” (John 2:5).

Something good is happening every moment of our life. It may be the seed of patience or a new friendship just birthed. It may also be that the weaknesses of your plans are being revealed. Whatever it is, each season is producing some specific result from your efforts.

Look for the reward of  the present season (reward = success points), regardless of whether it appears to be success or failure. Preparation chapters in your life are not delays in your future success. Each chapter and season has a benefit and a product, if you will take the time to look for them.

One of the things I’ve learned about attending new churches and/or ministries as staff is the vitality of taking the time to learn the details. I often, speak of an idea or vision before giving a lot of time to learn the details of the idea or vision. I don’t apologize for my passion, but I do apologize for my learning to be slow to speak. If you will take the time to prepare, your presentation of your ideas and visions will have believability. The people will will have confidence in becoming a part of the plan. You may not learn all the details the first night you hear them, but don’t worry; set aside a few hours each week to begin to prepare your presentation.”

Preparation time is never wasted.

Think about the life of Jesus. He saw hundred around Him because of the sickness and disease, but His time had not come. He saw thousands warped  with the traditions and legalism of religious systems, but He knew His Father was growing Him up. “And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man” (Luke 2:52). Jesus was willing to wait.

He prepared Himself.

In what ways can you prepare yourself to be more effective in your ministry and/or work during the next 30, 60, or 90 days?

Thoughts?

Prepping a sermon I’m giving for Palm Sunday. I must admit for the last few weeks I’ve been thinking, praying, and researching for some direction. I’ve read the Palm Sunday portion of scripture over and over and over. I’ll admit, I had nothing. No inspiration. No plan. No focus. Until tonight.

Reading Luke 19:41, ” As Jesus came near and saw the city, He wept over it.” That one statement is impacting me! He knew what was about to happened. He wasn’t weeping out of fear of what was to be, he was weeping at the gift he was about to give.  The betrayal, the mockery, the shame, the spit, the flogging, the murder – and so much more – was planned. In other words, the resistance, the rejection, the unbelief and hostility were not a surprise to Jesus.  Jesus still didn’t let them go and continued the journey.

Jesus knew that we were going to be messy. Jesus knew that we were not going to be perfect. Jesus knew that we would betray him with our words, actions, and lifestyle.

We at times don’t think God sees all that we are, or if He knew what kind of person you were going to be that he wouldn’t have gone to the cross. Christ knew that we were going to screw up often. He knew that we would be drawn to things that are wicked. But that’s what the cross is all about! The whole point of the Cross, the whole point of the entry into Jerusalem where at one moment they’re praising Him and within days they’re nailing him on the cross was because His love surpasses all understanding  and that’s true love.

 

Those who know me have a slight understanding of my thought process. I love to think outside the box. I am an idea guy, and I only like tradition if it brings life. I don’t like tradition just for the sake of “something we’ve always done.”.  As a ministry, it is critical to always evaluate what you are doing,  how you are doing it, and why you are doing it.

I’m not a big fan of the traditional side of church. Traditional church reminds me of something my parents went to and the church I grew up in. But the older I get and the longer I’m in ministry, the more I realize that some tradition is healthy. As a matter of fact, there are some traditions I think  should come back!

What are your traditions you think the Church should bring back?

 

 

I am doing an 8 part blog regarding the reasons we possibly have faithful people, but not fruitful. If you missed part 1, you can read it here.

The second reason people are unfruitful is because they are controlled by the desires of the flesh. It might be the inability to control sexual lusts, compulsive behavior, laziness, etc. (Romans 8:5, Psalms 63:1-3, 1 Cor 10:11)

If we chose to live by the sinful desires, than we have literally set ourselves up for failure. If we want to give ourselves to such desires, we have no life to give to people.  If you are serving in ministry, be aware that a compromised leader creates a compromised church. A compromised church leads to a compromised result.

Have you sat down recently and examined the fruit of your life?

There are so many people that are faithful but unfruitful when it comes to ministry/leadership. Showing up is great! Being there when you have that commitment is awesome! But I think we have lumped being faithful with being fruitful.

When I was growing up we had a grapevine in our backyard. It provided shade, it was an awesome plant. But year after year we never had grapes. The plant wasn’t dead, as a matter of fact you would think it was thriving. But a thriving plant doesn’t mean it’s a producing plant.  I later found out that it’s because you have to trim and prune the plant in order for it to produce fruit, thus being unfruitful. Producing fruit takes work.

So why are there people that are faithful, but unfruitful? I believe there are 8 characteristics of an unfruitful soul.

1) Having a lack of knowledge of the Bible (Hose 4:6)
When we have a lack of knowledge of the Bible, we have a lack of knowledge of who God is. The Word is one of the many ways that the Lord will speak to us, and if we ignore that, we’re ignoring the very person that will help us grown in our faith.  It’s a compromise. In vs 7, The Priest exchanged God’s Glory for something disgraceful.

It  becomes dangerous when we start trading what God wants for our lives with other things.  We get comfortable with putting something else in front of Him.  And the end result is we’re thriving in action, but unfruitful in growing and producing. Jesus wants to be what we want, and He does not want to be our #2.

What are your thoughts?

 

 

 

For the last several weeks our student ministry (Ignite), have been talking about people who have interacted with Christ and how their lives were flipped because of it. I felt it was a solid series but the last part has stuck with me. Jesus wants to be what you want.

Are you like me in that you want to find something that makes a difference. That contributes. That allows you to put some kind of mark on this world. Because isn’t it true, most of the time we feel like what we’re doing doesn’t matter? And where we live doesn’t matter? And what we say and think doesn’t matter?

In fact, I want you to ask yourself this question: what matters most? And then I want you to ask yourself Why? How did you come up with that answer?

I love the story of the rich man mentioned in the book of Mark (chapter 10:17-22). Here is a guy that has everything, everything anyone could ever want, and above all else the guy was super rich. But he felt the need to go up to Jesus and fall on his knees to Jesus because he wanted to make sure that He and Jesus was all good.  And Jesus’ response to him was that he lacked one thing. How can a rich man that has everything lack something?

Mark tells us the man left sad. Which makes sense. He had lived his whole life believing if he followed the rules and chased money, his life would count for something—that he would matter. Jesus wasn’t saying that following rules and making money is bad. But above all of that, Jesus wants to be what we want. He wants to be the thing that fills that greater, deeper need in all of us. And that was a change that the rich young ruler could never make.

In student ministry, I see time and time that the family unit is breaking down. Why? We blame our schools that there is too much homework, we want to blame everything but we won’t stop and evaluate what we are involved in. We place more value on sports and other extra circular activities that we start to lump church events (including sunday and youth nights) as “extra”.

God wants our #1. He wants what to be what you want.  The danger of students walking away from church is really not the churches fault, we’re creating opportunities for Him to be #1.

Is your #1 ahead of Christ?

I don’t like the word tradition. I’ll admit I have traditions, but when it comes to church stuff I can’t stand the word. Throughout my ministry life I’ve met too many people who love their traditions no matter the cost.  Tradition is comfortable. Tradition is safe.

I believe that churches that are not married to traditions of yesterday are paving the road for success  tomorrow.  And before you get angry let me say I actually have a few church traditions that I love that I grew up with. But I’m not sure they relate to the generation of today. For example:

  1. I grew up with a Sunday Night service. It was a smaller service (“Venue”  is what it’s called in post modern churchology)
  2. Wednesday night family night. I loved have youth as a teen and the memories of my parents talking to people after church (especially in the summer) brings back happy thoughts.
  3. Potlucks: Who doesn’t love to eat?

But the danger in our churches becomes when we make our childhood traditions the norm for the next generation. What worked back then, may or may not, work now.  I understand there are some churches that still have family nights once a week, still have potlucks, still have sunday night services, but they’re all typically smaller congregations.

So then, do you believe traditions of old has their place in the church today? Why or why not.

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