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Ministry Update, young adults

Seven reasons I’m still invested in young adult ministry

February 9, 2018

Later this year I’ll be turning 30. At this point I’ve been married for over five years and a father for almost two. I think it’s time to admit that I’m moving out of the “young adult” category. That, however, doesn’t mean I intend to change the focus of the ministry that I’ve been invested in for more than a decade.

I was 19 when I started pouring significant time and focus into what became Junction122, a vibrant young adult ministry in the Brainerd, MN area. Since those early years my passion for making disciples among those ages 18-30(ish) has only increased. Yet, in general, those within the church don’t seem to see a need for intentional ministry that targets that age range. College ministry, sure, but post-college and late 20s? Not so much. Once you’re out of college (or if you never went) there’s an implicit expectation that you should suddenly be fully folded into the adult world.

The truth is that those ages 18-30 have unique challenges and needs that those who aren’t in that stage of life don’t have. Those unique needs and challenges require unique Gospel answers that I believe merit intentional ministry focuses. Here are a few of the reasons why I personally am committed to ministry focused on young adults:

They are a massive mission field

Some of the latest survey data says that 70% of young adults in the United States self-identify as something other than Christian. That’s over 61.5 million people. According to Barna’s recent research on Gen Z, those born between 1999-2015 who will soon be entering into the “young adult” category, the trend away from Christianity continues to increas. Only 9% of Gen Z are considered “engaged” Christians. And, based on Barna’s definition of “engaged” given on the bottom of the web page linked to above, I think it’s fair to say that that means only 9% of Gen Z are Christian.

If almost 90% of the coming generation isn’t engaged with the Gospel, we have a huge mission field in front of us that we don’t dare ignore.

Most kids who grew up “Christian” aren’t

The book Almost Christian, based on the result of the National Study of Youth and Religion, concludes that the vast majority of the teenagers surveyed (most of whom are now young adults) who self-identified as Christian functionally believe something other than the biblical Gospel. Instead of the true biblical faith, they were living what was coined as Moral Therapeutic Diesm – essentially, if I live a basically good life God will do good to me.

Little wonder then that 70% of students leave the church during or shortly after high school. The faith they had wasn’t so much faith in Jesus as it was an enjoyment of church programming. In my own experience over the last 11 years or so I’ve seen dozens of young adults discover Jesus for the first time as they are truly discipled, and they say things like, “Wow! How was I never taught this growing up?,” or “I don’t know if I even really knew Jesus all those years.”

There’s a massive need to disciple those young adults who grew up in church into a true, living, dynamic relationship with the God who loves them.

College ministry isn’t enough

There are far more 18-30 year olds outside the walls of college campuses than there are within, and with the ever-increasing cost of tuition this is only growing more true. Government data shows that only 40% of those ages 18-24 are enrolled in college. That means that even if we were to see every college student in the country become followers of Jesus, there would still be 60% of the young adult population to be reached.

Discipleship during those college years is crucial, and thanks to organizations like Navigators, CRU, Intervarsity, and many others, ministry on college campuses around the world has been normalized and celebrated. Tens of thousands have come to Christ as a result of those ministry. That, however, isn’t enough. We must go beyond the borders of campus.

They are making life-shaping choices

Whether or not they attend college, young adults are making significant life-shaping choices. In the American culture many if not most of the choices that set the trajectory of your life are made in your 20s. The career you’ll focus on, who you’ll marry, the habits your adult life will be built upon, where you’ll buy a home, and so much more. If those choices are made without Jesus as the guiding factor it will have a lifelong impact.

Young adult ministry is crucial to help shape the foundations of young adult’s lives with Jesus at the center.

They have huge opportunity for steps of faith

In the midst of those life-shaping choices, many young adults have a fearlessness and flexibility that enables them to take steps of faith that would be significantly more challenging for someone with an established family, career, etc. There’s a reason why most of Jesus’ disciples were young men.

I’m focused on young adult ministry because I want to empower them to take steps of faith that will open them up to experiencing God in ways they never thought possible.

It’s fun

Sure, it’s selfish, but it’s also legitimately true. There’s something energizing and exciting about working with young adults; the directness of their questions; the raw energy and willingness to try something totally new; the immediacy of the struggles, all give life to young adult ministry. The church needs the energy and passion that only young adults can bring.

Jesus loves young adults

There has been much negativity spoken and written about millennials and other coming generations. For some reason the opinion of the majority tends to skew towards the negative when dealing with those who are younger. That’s a problem.

Jesus doesn’t look at young adults and college students and think “Man, what a bunch of troublemakers. They need to be less entitled and spend less time on their phones.” No, I believe he sees in them the beauty of what they were created to be in Him. Jesus loves young adults and wants to see them as significant players in His kingdom.

Those are just a few of my reasons for focusing on young adult ministry. Don’t let those who are entering adulthood be missed with the Gospel. How can you intentionally shape your life, your church, or your organization to engage 18-30 year olds? You won’t regret it.

Want to make an impact among the young adults in your city? Connect with elementum.

Discipleship, Evangelism, Ministry Update

Support Us

June 14, 2016

 

 

For the last five and a half years I’ve been working to make disciples among the young adults in the Fargo-Moorhead area through Threshingfloor Communities. For the last year and a half I’ve also been on staff with Verge Ministries, expanding that disciple-making scope to include coaching ministry leaders and helping launch ministries throughout Minnesota, North and South Dakota, and Iowa.

There’s a ridiculously huge need for ministries targeting this age group (roughly 18-34 years of age, according to most demographers). In Minnesota alone there are 1.2 million young adults. According to national studies from the past few years, only 22% of those young adults are evangelical Christians, with that percentage declining as you move to following generations. According to Kinnaman and Lyons, “one third of college-aged adults want nothing to do with religion, and 59 percent of Christian young adults drop out of church at some point in their twenties.” (Good Faith, 12)

That means that there are at least 1,170,000 young adults in Minnesota alone who don’t self-identify as evangelical Christians. Informal studies here in Fargo have shown that under 5% of the 70,000 young adults that are residents are engaged in a local church, meaning there’s well over 66,000 in just my city that aren’t connected to the body of Christ.

The harsh reality is, as Jesus makes clear, simply self-proclaiming on a survey or attending church regularly doesn’t equal being born again. There are literally millions of young adults and college students in our cities and states for whom Jesus’ beauty, power, and love are, at best, a nice myth.

My passion is to see those numbers change. I want to see thousands of churches, individuals, and ministries rise up in the power of God’s love to see the Kingdom of God established in the lives of those wandering twenty-somethings. I want the depressed 23 year old girl in Bismarck to discover the joy of the Spirit of Christ. I want the porn-addicted 19 year old student at Bemidji State to find freedom in the Gospel. I want to see the 30 year old man in Des Moines whose past few years have been devoured by video games encounter the powerful purpose that God has for his life.

It gets me pumped up just writing about these stories. I’ve seen ones like them become realities over the past 5 years of ministry as we’ve worked, prayed, and stepped out in faith. The momentum is growing, and both Kelly and I are feeling the call to do more.

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To do that we need your help. For the past year and a half Kelly and I have supported ourselves with a few different income streams; I’ve worked three days a week at a vendor for Microsoft and raised enough support to fund two “full” days of ministry work, enabling me to travel to cities like Park Rapids and Bismarck to coach young adult and college ministry leaders, as well as grow Threshingfloor towards having deeper impact in Fargo, going from one to three communities. Kelly’s worked full time. Our combined income has been enough to cover both ministry and living expenses thus far.

But things are changing in the next month. We’re expecting our first child at the end of July, which means that Kelly won’t be working full time for much longer. My part time job and minimal support won’t be enough to provide for our family. I need to make an important decision in the next four weeks: do I go back to working full time to provide for our family and significantly cut back the ministry I’ve been doing, or will God provide the financial support to enable me to continue with the ministry work?

Regardless of which one happens we’re going to continue disciple-making and working with the young adults God has put us into contact with, but in a more limited capacity. In order to stay on track and increase the hours I’m putting towards making disciples of young adults throughout the Midwest, we need to raise an additional $2000 a month of support. Some of this money will go directly to ministry expenses and launching new ministries, and some will go towards our living expenses. If you want a specific breakdown of how donations are used, email me – ben@verge28.org.

Would you consider helping us reach young adults and train ministries leaders by investing $25 or even $100 a month, or giving a one-time donation?

There are so many huge opportunities amongst this generation. Even as the world is getting darker and more distant from the “Christian” culture of 50 years ago, there’s a deep hunger among young adults for something true and lasting; something that’s found only in Jesus. Your support is a true blessing and investment in seeing those young adults reached.

 

If you do want to give you can do so here.

If you want to join our prayer newsletter and stay up to date on the ministry that’s taking place, go here.

 

 

Christian Life, Commentary, Evangelism

When People Get in the Way

November 23, 2015

People are inconvenient. They keep you up late, stay longer than you’d like, talk louder than you want, don’t get what you’ve been trying to communicate, and cause a thousand other problems.  People are also who God loves, who he sent his Son for, and who we’re called to disciple, and it’s in those times of inconvenience that there is the most potential for God to work greatly. The question is, how will we respond in the moments when we’re inconvenienced and our plans have to be trashed?

Several days ago I listened to a great message from Christine Caine given at Bethel church on some lesser-observed pieces of Jesus’ feeding of the 5000. What she said sparked some thoughts that have caused me to reevaluate how I respond when I’m inconvenienced.

Here’s the scene: Jesus’ disciples have just returned from their first solo (and by solo I mean apart from Jesus, not alone) missionary trips. As usual the crowds are surround Jesus, asking for healing, wisdom, and whatever he’ll give. His disciples are working like crazy, so much so that they don’t even have time to eat. Remember, all this is immediately after their first missions trip. They’re wiped. Jesus, knowing his disciples are tired and in need of rest decides to escape away to somewhere that they can chill for awhile.

The people, however, have different ideas. When Jesus and the disciples arrive at their retreat spot all ready for some peace and quiet there are literally thousands of people waiting for them, clamoring for attention. Jesus and his team came expecting dinner and possibly a day or two or rest and peace. What they get is people. Inconvenient, plan-shattering, energy-sucking people.

Here’s where I want us to zoom in and watch closely. How do the disciples respond to this interruption? How does Jesus act? How should we respond when we encounter situations like this, albeit (most likely) on a smaller scale?

Mark writes,

So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place. But many who saw them leaving recognized them and ran on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them. When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things.

By this time it was late in the day, so his disciples came to him. “This is a remote place,” they said, “and it’s already very late. Send the people away so that they can go to the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat.”

But he answered, “You give them something to eat.”
Mark 6

The Disciple’s Reactions

We don’t get their initial response in Mark’s writing, but the way the disciples come to Jesus a bit later and drop not-so-subtle hints by saying, “This is a remote place…and it’s already very late. Send the people away so they can get something to eat” speaks volumes.

They came for a retreat and for some rest. People are getting the way of this, so the disciples cunningly use the people’s hunger as an excuse to get what they want. “Jesus, the people are hungry. Send them away.” But who’s really hungry here? We see a few verses earlier that the disciples are the ones who haven’t even had time to eat. It’s probably safe to assume that at least some of the crowd had eaten whatever the last meal was and had thought about food on their way into this “remote place.”

Unlike Jesus the disciples are focused on themselves and their own plans and needs. These lenses only let them see the crowds as a problem that needs a solution – in this case, to be gotten rid of. To them the people are an inconvenience, and when people are seen through the lens of a problem to be solved or an inconvenience to be removed, we’re blinded to the places where God often does his greatest works.

Jesus’ Actions

In contrast, Jesus’ response to this “inconvenience” is compassion. He sees the crowd not through the lens of “what do I want” or “what are my plans,” but through the lens of the love that asks “What do others need?” and the faith which wants to know “What are God’s plans?”. For Jesus, the crowd isn’t a problem to be solved; it’s an opportunity for demonstrating the Father’s character and power.

Because he sees this “inconvenience” as an opportunity rather than a problem, a miracle happens. He submits to God’s changing of his plans and the disciples get see the glory of a God who provides abundantly for thousands.

The question for us is, whose perspective are we living with? The disciples’ or Jesus’? When inconveniences come our way are we living in the self-absorbed world of the disciples, eager to remove any obstacles to our plans and expectations for our lives and ministries? Or are we living in the faith and love of Christ and seeing through God’s eyes, viewing every inconvenience as an opportunity for God’s glory to shine through?

In his essay “On Chasing After One’s Hat,” G.K. Chesterton puts it well when he says,

Most of the inconveniences that make men swear or women cry are really sentimental or imaginative inconveniences–things altogether of the mind. For instance, we often hear grown-up people complaining of having to hang about a railway station and wait for a train. Did you ever hear a small boy complain of having to hang about a railway station and wait for a train? No; for to him to be inside a railway station is to be inside a cavern of wonder and a palace of poetical pleasures. Because to him the red light and the green light on the signal are like a new sun and a new moon. Because to him when the wooden arm of the signal falls down suddenly, it is as if a great king had thrown down his staff as a signal and started a shrieking tournament of trains… An inconvenience is only an adventure wrongly considered.

People are inconvenient. They’re slow to understand, they don’t follow expectations, want help with the most ridiculous things and don’t seem to grasp the simplest of truths. But people are who our Father has sent us to, and it’s in those inconvenient places that we are given a choice to focus on ourselves or to walk in love and faith.

Let’s be like Jesus, looking over the crowd with compassion. Let’s be the boy at the train station, full with wonder and expectation that God is in every crack just waiting to do something glorious. Next time someone gets in the way of your plans, follow God’s lead. See an adventure rather than an inconvenience. Who knows what will happen. You may end up feeding thousands.

Commentary, Culture, Leadership, Threshingfloor, Verge, young adults

8 Things Learned in 8 Years of Young Adult Ministry

October 27, 2015

This fall, perhaps more than any previous, has gotten me thinking over the past. Threshingfloor celebrated five years of ministry to young adults in the Fargo-Moorhead area a couple months ago. In just over a month I turn 27. It was over eight years ago that I started ministering to young adults as we moved our little college-age/young adult Bible study from our church in Baxter to downtown Brainerd and watched it grow to something amazing. Since then I’ve done dorm-room Bible studies, spent countless hours developing leadership teams, discipling all manner of people, and launching disciple-making communities.

A few days ago as I thought back over the years, I noted down a long list of the things I’ve learned that might be helpful for others to know. After an hour or so of sifting and boiling things down, I’ve narrowed it down to 8 things, one for each year I’ve been working among young adults. Here they are.

  1. Deep community beats amazing production. Every time.

I can pull my iPhone out of my pocket and watch any show or movie I want at any time, contact people almost anywhere in the world, or enjoy any of the tens of thousands of incredibly well-produced apps that are available to every other American with a smart phone. Young adults don’t need (or, in many cases, even want) a great production or another event. Our hearts long for deep community where people truly know each other, engage with the hard issues in life, and work together to make the world a better place.

2. Always try new things.

One of the best ways to keep young adults engaged is to try constantly be trying something new. Better yet, let them try something new. Whether it’s a new “experimental” style of Sunday school, launching a new service, starting a new community in a different part of town, or simply a different take on a section of scripture, most young adults are quick to get on board with something that’s new. Take advantage of that.

3. Have high expectations and make them clear.

As you invite young adults to join in and take leadership roles (or any role), make it clear that your expectations for them are high. Make it clear means telling them face-to-face what you expect and repeating it frequently. For those in leadership roles it’s best to have them sign some sort of agreement so that they know what’s expected of them and when. By putting the bar high you’ll inspire many to reach levels they didn’t even know they could. I’ve been consistently impressed with the amount of time, energy, and passion that our leaders – all of whom are volunteers – put into their communities and disciple-making. Having the expectations spelled out explicitly also gives a platform to have the hard conversations when people aren’t meeting them.

4. Prepare to be disappointed but don’t lose hope.

Of course, it doesn’t always go how you want it to. People will inevitably fall short, stumble back into sin for the fortieth time, or act like twelve year olds who aren’t getting their way. Prepare your heart to be disappointed in a way that keeps you from losing hope. It’s ok to be frustrated at people’s slowness (Jesus was!), to be tired of dealing with the same issues, and to long for something more. Just don’t lose hope. God is always working, even in the midst of apparent failure.

5. Trust the Holy Spirit

How do we know God’s working, even in those times of disappointment? Because he’s sent his Holy Spirit. Rather than clamping down and trying to control the difficult situations and people, throw yourself into prayer and trust that the Holy Spirit can work in young adult’s hearts too.

Time and again I’ve been ready to write someone off as too stubborn or just scrap the ministry and start over. The Holy Spirit has always intervened in those moments, working transformation in my heart and the hearts of those around me. Trust him.

6. Teach, demonstrate, and coach.

The postmodern wants no teaching because it’s too authoritarian. The professional wants no demonstration because it’s too time consuming. The attender wants no coaching because it’s too invasive. Jesus, however, clearly demonstrates all three all throughout his discipleship of the twelve.

Take the time to teach your people, but make sure that you’re actually demonstrating what you teach. Don’t teach on evangelism if you’re not going to go out and demonstrate what evangelism looks like. Don’t do a study on prayer if you’re not going to demonstrate prayer in your own life. Then after demonstration, coach your people until they are able to do what you’ve demonstrated. Don’t move on to the next subject until the teaching has become living.

7. Knowledge doesn’t cause change.

Coaching is so important. In a world where information abounds it’s becoming increasingly clear that knowing more about something doesn’t always change you. A six month curriculum on financial responsibility doesn’t guarantee that the attendees will use their money wisely. It’s in the doing – in the developing of new habits and practices – that the life change comes. Focus on and celebrate obedience more than understanding.

8. Vision matters more than rules.

In a back alley near downtown Fargo, in angular, hasty letters someone spray-painted, “I follow dreams, not rules.” That phrase captures the heart of most young adults today. They are ready and willing to leave their job, city, and even their friends and family if their hearts are captured by a vision. They’re willing to change their habits if they catch a glimpse of what life on the other side looks like.

Rather than emphasizing rules and “thou shalt”s, paint pictures of what life will be on the other side. Rather than hammering, “you need to read your Bible more,” declare and demonstrate the joy of connecting daily with the Creator. Instead of bludgeoning people towards purity, give them a vision of the joy and freedom of walking in step with God’s plan.

 

 

Those are eight of the many, many things I’ve learned in my eight plus years working with teens and young adults. Did any of them resonate with you? What have you learned in your time working with millennials? Share it in the comments!

Christian Life, Leadership

Your Ministry is God’s Mercy to You

October 24, 2013

 

 

Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart.

(2 Corinthians 4:1, ESV)

Ministry is no easy thing. Paul describes it like being poured out as a drink offering on the altar of peoples’ faith, as if he was being drained for the sake of their growth. When the Lord calls you to a life of ministry – a thing which he does to every one of his followers – he is calling you to a life of sacrifice. A life of dying so that others may live.

In that dying it’s easy to let bitterness and dissatisfaction fill up those places that you’ve emptied into others. Frustrations at people’s slowness to step out in faith, at lack of commitment by volunteers, at leader’s foolish choices, and at your own failures grow like weeds. Bitterness against people who speak ill of you or abandon you when you desperately needed them takes root. Depression at the lack of progress is natural. Ministry becomes a burden and your heart weighs heavy with the souls of men and women who you love.

Jesus knew this burden. The Apostle Paul knew this burden. That’s why he wrote the words that appear in 2 Corinthians 4:1; “Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart.”

Ministry is a Gift

Remember, the ministry God has given you is a gift. It’s not a job or an obligation. He has purchased you as sons and daughters, given you a new identity in Christ and filled you from foot to head with the infinite power of his Holy Spirit. As 2 Peter 1 says, He has given you everything needed for life and godliness.

Ministry becomes a burden when we forget that it’s a gift from God and start treating it as something that we have to accomplish. Disciple making isn’t something we have to do; it’s something we get to do. What an amazing truth! We who were enemies, children of wrath doomed to destruction, have been reconciled through the cross and appointed as ambassadors of reconciliation.

Christ didn’t save us and set us aside out of fear that we wouldn’t be good enough. He saved us and made us good, giving us the honor of representing him. Remember that your ministry is a gift. It was given to you by God in his great mercy. When it starts feeling like a curse, turn your eyes toward our God’s glory. There’s a reason that Paul moves from “we all, with unveiled faces, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another,” into “therefore, having this ministry”.  Beholding God’s glory is the fuel for our ministry.

Ministry is a Mercy

Our calling to be ministers of reconciliation isn’t just a gift, it’s a mercy. We have this ministry “by the mercy of God.”

More often than not our Lord chooses the most broken people to be his greatest ministers so that he will get the greatest glory. (2 Cor. 4:7) Not only that, he chooses the most broken people to be his ministers because the ministry will be the furnace of their sanctification. If it wasn’t for the fact that God in his mercy had moved me into a place of leadership over first a small group of 7th grade boys to a youth ministry intern to the director of Threshingfloor Communities my life would be full of foolishness.

The weight of spiritual authority has been a mercy from our king to mature me. The thought that my sin will effect each of those who I oversee is a merciful fence to keep me from sin and  crucible to refine my character. Not only is my ministry mediating mercy to the people who are a part of it, it’s also God’s means of giving mercy to me.

Don’t lose sight of this truth. It may well be that without the ministry that Jesus has called you to your life would be being wasted on self-service and sinful living. Being a disciple maker is Christ’s command for every Christian not as a punishment or a means of proving, but as a mercy. Therefore, because our ministry is given to us by the mercy of God, we will not lose heart. Roots of bitterness will be washed away by the waters of praise. Frustration will be killed with the sword of faith. Even during those late nights lying awake with the needs of our disciples running through our minds, during seasons of drought, and during times of overwhelming tiredness, we will not lose heart. Jesus is enough.

 

 

 

Leadership, Spiritual Growth

Loving those you minister to

June 28, 2013

“So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you have become very dear to us.”

-1 Thessalonians 2:8

Both Jesus and the apostle Paul refused to let their ministry be one of words only. They knew full well that Gospel words may make converts, but only Gospel lives can make disciples. Jesus invested his life in the core twelve of his followers. Paul writes in 1 Thessalonians about how he was ready to share not only the truths of the Gospel but also his own life with the people he was ministering to.

Within Threshingfloor one of our goals was to set up a ministry that made it impossible for someone who wasn’t willing to “share themselves” to lead ministry. Honestly, it’s not that difficult to throw some words at an audience and then walk away. The difficulty of ministry comes when your life begins to intersect in uncomfortable ways with others. For God to be glorified in ministry like that – in ministry like Jesus did – there must be a deep love for the people who are being ministered to. Paul said of the Thessalonians, “you have become very dear to us.”

The first question we need to ask ourselves is whether or not the people we minister to are dear to us? Do we love them? Do we love them enough to mourn over and confront their sin? To inconvenience ourselves in order to serve them? To share our very lives with them? If not, to put it bluntly, you shouldn’t be ministering. Here’s four ways to shepherd yourself into love for your people:

Realize your own sinfulness

The biggest thing that keeps me from loving other people is the assumption that I am somehow better than them. The moment we start seeing ourselves as more sinless than the people we are ministering to our love will begin to die. Yes, we may be further down the road of sanctification, but look back to where you came from. The apostle Paul regularly reminds the churches of the fact that he was once the chief of sinners. By calling to mind his own brokenness in the past he kept himself humble in the present. When we realize our own sinfulness we will love other sinners much more easily, and realize just how much Jesus has done for us.

Grow in love for Jesus

The great commandment is about loving God, and the second is about loving people. In a very real way our love for God will determine our love for people. If our affections for Jesus are waning and we are straying into sin then our affections for the people we are ministering to will fade as well. One of the most important things a Christian can do is feed themselves affections for Jesus. Spend time reveling in him, worshiping him, and giving thanks to him.

Give thanks

One of the best weapons against bitterness is thanksgiving. One of the best ways to feed your love for someone is to give thanks for them. I make it a regular practice that before I pray for any of the people in Threshingfloor I spend several minutes thanking God for specific things about each of those people, for things that I actually am thankful for. Don’t let thoughts of frustration or anger linger in your mind or take root in your heart. Instead, give thanks to God for the good things about the people he has placed around you and entrust to him through prayer the problems.

Listen to their stories

It’s hard to love someone who you don’t really know. Generally if I’m frustrated with someone’s slow progress or shortcomings I’ve found it’s because I haven’t really seen the whole context behind the struggle. Maybe that girl who keeps gossiping and making every conversation about her is terribly afraid of having people ignore her. Maybe the guy struggling with sexual addictions was abused as a child.

As you get in people’s lives and hear their stories, the Holy Spirit will grow love for them in you and will empower you to minister to them in amazing ways. Only when we love our people and share our lives with them will we see disciples made. Anything else is just a waste of time.

 

 

Christian Life, Evangelism, Spiritual Growth

Fulfill the Ministry

June 20, 2013

 

 

“And say to Archippus, ‘See that you fulfill the ministry that you have received in the Lord.'”

– Colossians 4:17

Every person who has been born again into the kingdom of Christ has been given a ministry that they are to fulfill. We are a kingdom of priests (Exodus 19:3) and ambassadors of reconciliation (2 Cor. 5). The mantle of “minister” in the Christian faith is not held only for those whose vocations are building up the body. Every follower of Christ is a minister filled with the Holy Spirit and ordained for a specific ministry in this life.

At the conclusion of his letter to the church in Colossae, the apostle Paul tells the believers, “say to Archippus, ‘See that you fulfill the ministry that you have received in the Lord.'” This is, I believe, a timely word for Christians today who, like Archippus, need a reminder of the ministry that they have been appointed to.

A Received Ministry

First we must note that this is a received ministry. Archippus didn’t appoint himself to it. He didn’t see a need and realize that he had the perfect skill set to meet that need. He didn’t demand a role. He didn’t take authority. Instead, he received his ministry as a gift from the Lord. Just like Paul mentions in 1 Timothy (and in most of his epistles), every ministry that a believer has is an appointment from their Lord. Whether it is a joyful or a painful ministry, a successful or a struggling ministry, an easy or a seemingly impossibly ministry, the ministry that God has called you to is where he will empower you. Don’t seek to go beyond the Lord’s appointed place until he calls you.

Ministry in the Lord

Secondly, Archippus’ (and our) ministry is in the Lord. All ministry, whether it be preaching, sweeping floors, working faithfully as an executive at Microsoft, or as an at-home parent, is a ministry to be done in the Lord. As Paul writes in Ephesians 2, we are saved by grace through faith. Then, and only then, do we proceed to “created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we might walk in them.” Ministry is the natural outworking of grace within us, not the desperate upworking of faith. Anytime we minister “out of the Lord,” we will inevitably be burned out and fail, but when we labor from our position “in the Lord,” we will bear much fruit.

Brothers and sisters, we like Archippus and every other disciple of Christ, have received a ministry in the Lord. We are to bear witness of the truth of the Gospel and display in our day-to-day lives the surpassing glory of our savior. Are we fulfilling our ministry, or are we abdicating the Lord’s call  for the sake of comfort, excusing ourselves with lack of understanding or experience? We are commanded by our king to make disciple as we go throughout this life. Can you point to specific places in your life where disciple-making is taking place? Let us be men and women who examine ourselves to see whether or not we are fulfilling the ministry we have received.

Ministry as Community

However, we must not stop with simply examining ourselves. Paul writes to the entire church at Colossae and tells them all the remind Archippus to fulfill his ministry. Like Archippus, we need a community of people around us who will regularly call us back to the path that the Lord has set before us. Are we as fellow workers in Christ reminding each other of our call? My prayer for Threshingfloor and for every body of believers is that we would become communities that encourage and empower each other for ministry. Rather than sarcasm, we must have sincere encouragement; rather than bitterness, ready forgiveness; rather than masks, total honesty. That is a truly powerful community.

As we become that I am convinced that God will do amazing things in our midst. When we as believers begin living in the ministries we have been called to in the Lord, our Lord will show himself to be mighty and begin to work wonders. For our small community here in Fargo, I have no doubt that if we each build our lives soundly upon Christ and allow his grace to move us in disciple-making we will be able to radically shift the 97% of non-believers in our metro area. I believe we will see communities of believers rise up across the city to bear powerful witness to the risen Christ, and that risen Christ will prove himself as we fulfill the ministries we have been given. Let us be faithful to do so, my friends. Our God will not fail us.

 

 

 

 

Christian Life, Commentary

To The Very End

April 4, 2013

There have been numerous times since the foundation of Threshingfloor that I’ve sat in bed at night or labored in prayer some early morning that I’ve questioned my ability to do what God has called me to do here in the FM area. Juggling school, work, ministry, marriage, friendships, and everything else in life is no easy task. Spiritual progress isn’t in a straight line and Kelly and I are left wondering whether what we’re putting so much time into is actually working or not. Struggles and failures in my own walk with Christ make me question whether I should be leading a ministry.
Sometime last week Kelly and I’s Bible reading plan for this year, the M’Cheyne reading plan, had us read Exodus 31 and 1 Corinthians 1 on the same day, and the Lord used the two passages to remind me that if He has called me to this work, he has and will give me the ability to accomplish it.

In Exodus 31 God describes how he has given men the skill to do the work that he has called them to do in constructing the tabernacle. He declares, “I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with ability and intelligence, with knowledge and all craftsmanship…And I have given to all able men ability, that they may make all that I have commanded you.” In 1 Corthinians 1 the Apostle Paul reminds a group of young believers, “You are not lacking in any gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will sustain you to the end.”

Oh how good a reminder for us when we doubt! Even more than Bezalel we after Christ are “filled with the Spirit of God” and are “not lacking in any gift.” Join me and remind yourself of this truth when the task before you seems impossible. Our sovereign Lord has called us from before creation, filled us with his Spirit, and prepared work for us to do. He knows exactly what we need to accomplish that work and will supply all that we need.

Problems come when we start comparing our strength to the task in front of us. Occasionally I’ve heard people make the comment “God never gives us more than we can handle” with the intention of comforting someone who is struggling. This, however, is nowhere near the biblical truth. God only gives us more than we can handle in order to teach us to depend not on our own strength but on his.

Welcome those moments of overwhelming and inadequacy. Press into them. Have confidence that the Spirit which raised Christ from the dead will give you the strength to do what the Father has called you to do. It’s when we are weak that he is proven to be strong, and it’s when we walk in his power that Jesus gets the glory. Remember, God is faithful. He will sustain you to the very end!

Journal

Another Year of Labor

August 25, 2012

It’s a Wednesday, 5 days before school starts and I’m back again at MSUM, sitting on the grass in front of Ballard hall watching a growing stream of freshmen and their parents flow through campus in search of purpose. A year ago I wrote a post titled A Year of Labor, cataloguing my thoughts and hopes after one year of ministry in the Fargo-Moorhead area. Now another twelve months have passed, and I am sitting in the same spot on nearly the same day, reflecting once again.

Much has changed since August 2011. Kelly and I were engaged and married, Threshingfloor has grown and solidified its form, we have learned much about the reality of Satan’s war against God’s people, and I have (somewhat sadly) given up my dreadlocks.

If the several people I have bumped into over the last few days have any say in the matter, I’m not the same person I was a year ago. Most of them didn’t recognize me for the first several seconds (probably due to the dreadlocks being gone). Much has changed, but my passion remains the same as it was two years ago when I first set out from Brainerd with my Oldsmobile Alero packed full of stuff and moved into the dorms that I now sit in front of. My purpose here is to spread the fame of Jesus’ name by making disciples of people like the ones I see before me now. They are bitter, angry, and indifferent to the God I serve. They delight in sexual indulgence, perversity, laziness, deceit, and love themselves more than anyone else. They are held captive by sin and Satan, blind to the fact that they walk in death and willfully reject true life. My heart breaks for these thousands of college students and young adults who are surrounded and lost in darkness.

Two years of countless hours of work, of financial sacrifice, of all night prayers warfare, of great meetings with leaders who are succeeding amazingly and painful meetings with leaders who are falling short, of acceptance and rejection, pain and peace, and so much more; all these things are a small price to pay to see the salvation of these souls.

Kelly and I have perhaps two more years in Fargo. We have both determined that there is nothing we’d give our time to than seeing the gospel do its transforming work in this city. We want this city to be noticeably changed when we depart, to the praise of Christ. The mission we are on is no easy one, but it’s rich with reward and the Lord is using it to build around us an amazing family of believers who love each other and love the lost deeply. It has done great good for us in our marriage thus far. It has given me reason to wake up and work day after day. I have had greater joy in this work than in any other that I’ve done thus far in life, and I am beginning to feel what Paul must have felt when he said that he counted everything else loss when compared with knowing Christ and sharing in his sufferings. I am confident it’s what every Christian has been called to do, in some shape or form.

Christian, I ask you, do you labor? Have you given yourself to the cause your King has commanded? Your life will be dry and empty until you do, no matter how many Bible studies you attend or books you read. We were born again, recreated, to be laborers in the harvest fields. Anything else is a revolt against the DNA that the Spirit has rooted in our bones.
Come with me. Let us go. Another year of labor lies before us. The fields are ripe for harvest, and the workers who are already laboring are in sore need of your strength. The reward is beyond comprehension, both in this life and in the next. This is what we were made for. Go!

I conclude with the same quote from Charles Spurgeon that I closed A Year of Labor with. It still resonates deeply with my soul.

O Zion, shake thyself from the dust! O Christian, raise thyself from thy slumbers! Warrior, put on thy armor! Soldier, grasp thy sword! The captain sounds the alarm of war. O sluggard! Why sleepest thou? O heir of heaven, has not Jesus done so much for thee that thou shouldst live to him? O beloved brethren, purchased with redeeming mercies, girt about with loving kindness and with tenderness, ‘now for a shout of sacred joy,’ and after that, to the battle! The little seed has grown to this: who knoweth what it shall be? Only let us together strive without variance. Let us labor for Jesus. Never did men have so fair an opportunity, for the last hundred years. ‘There is a tide that, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune.’ Shall you take it at the flood? Over the bar, at the harbor’s mouth! O ship of heaven, let the sails be out; let not thy canvas be furled; and the wind will blow us across the seas of difficulty that lie before us. O! That the latter day might have its dawning even in this despised habitation! O my God! From this place cause the first wave to spring, which shall move another, and then another, till the last great wave shall sweep over the sands of time and dash against the rocks of eternity, echoing as it falls, ‘Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! The Lord God Omnipotent reighneth!”
Charles Spurgeon, Spurgeon’s Sermons, sermon VII