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Threshingfloor

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, Leadership, Threshingfloor, young adults

Six tips for leading a great DNA group

September 16, 2016

 

 

 

Within Threshingfloor we have structured things to call people towards living as disciples of Jesus in all of life. We’ve called this structure the four spaces – the spaces being, 1) day-to-day life, 2) DNA groups, 3) Communities, and 4) All-Community Gatherings. DNA groups play a crucial role in delving into the intensive discipleship that helps us apply the Gospel to the hard parts of our life. By connecting regularly with 3-5 people of the same gender with the intent of learning together, dealing with sin, and growing in faith, DNA feeds into both day-to-day life and strengthens the larger community.

As we move out of summer and into fall there are DNA groups starting up for the first time, picking up after taking the summer off, or renewing their focus. If you’re leading (or thinking about leading) a DNA group, here are six tips for leading it well.

 

Set the expectations

Don’t pass this thing off as casual – set high expectations. If there’s reading or homework, make it clear that people need to do it before showing up. Insist that the DNA group is high priority on the schedule, not just a show-up-when-it’s-convenient event. If you want to go deep with your group everyone needs to be committed and know what’s expected of them.

Worth noting under this heading – a DNA group isn’t just a Bible study. It’s aimed toward multiplication. Make it explicit that you expect the people who are in the group to, at some point within the next year, launch out and start their own DNA group.

 

Keep things simple

If you want to multiply, let your structure be something that anyone can remember. Whether it’s a specific curriculum such as the Gospel DNA, or a study of a book of scripture, build in simple, memorable rhythms that are done each meeting. After several meetings, start passing off leadership of meetings to help others build skills.

 

Ask hard questions

Don’t settle for surface answers. Ask hard question – hard to answer because they require thinking AND hard to answer because they expose emotions/thoughts/faulty operating systems. When someone answers, ask follow-up questions on their answers. If you’re studying a section of scripture and someone answers with a “Well, I think that…” kind of statement, ask them where they see that in text. Doing so will help emphasize that God’s truth is more important than our ideas. There are some great tips for questioning at Michael Hyatt’s blog here.

 

Get at the heart matter

Help people identify what lies they’re believing and what stories they’re telling themselves that don’t align with God’s story. Dealing with the heart matter is what works – not changing actions. Here’s a couple examples of how this might look

  • A girl in the group struggles with anxiety. A surface-level focus tries to get her to stop being anxious. Heart-matter focus digs into what stories she’s telling herself about who God is (or isn’t) and who she is (or isn’t). Those stories feed that anxiety. Help her align the stories she’s telling herself with the true Gospel story of God.
  • A guy is in a relationship that’s leading him towards sin. Surface-focus tries to get him to just cut out the relationship but doesn’t deal with why it was there in the first place. Heart focus delves into the why, working to uncover what he was trying to find in that relationship and what lies he’s believing about God and about himself.

Follow the Spirit’s lead

Pray as you prepare for DNA. Pray as you’re on your way to the DNA meeting. Pray with the DNA group. Not the kind of prayer that’s just talking to God, instead build in space for asking God questions and listening for the answer. When the Spirit speaks, whether it’s through an inner prompting, another person’s words, or the scripture, act accordingly. Sometimes this means stepping outside of your normal groove. It might mean that while you’re praying to start DNA group you feel prompted to stop and talk with people at the table next to you in the restaurant where you’re meeting. It might mean that you’ve spent hours preparing for this week’s discussion and on the drive there God prompts you to change subjects. Go with it. Follow the Spirit’s lead.

Seek obedience, not knowledge

Structure your DNA in a way that it presses people to live out what they’ve learned. Hold people accountable to applying what you’ve discussed. I’ve found one of the best ways to do this is to end each meeting by asking the questions, ‘What is God saying to you?” and “What are you going to do about it?” Have each person answer the first question, then take a moment to each pray silently and ask God what he wants you to do. Each person should share their action plan – a specific thing or things that they will do before the next meeting to apply what God is teaching them. Start each meeting by asking people to report in 2 minutes or less whether or not they completed their action plans.

 

 

Following these six tips, especially number five, will help you lead a DNA group that leads to powerful discipleship and lives transformed by Jesus. My prayer for this fall is that our DNA groups would become places where people encounter God in ways they never have before, discovering freedom and joy that they thought was impossible. By the grace of God, it will be so.

 

 

 

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!

Journal, Leadership

Five Years of Labor

August 26, 2015

This past Sunday we celebrated five years of Threshingfloor and our ministry to young adults and college students here in the Fargo-Moorhead area. Five years ago I moved from Brainerd to the FM area, not knowing what to expect beyond the fact that I was going to be studying creative writing and working to see people discipled to and in Jesus. So much has changed since then. I’ve learned a massive amount and changed as a person. We’ve seen people encounter Jesus for the first time, seen people with years as Christians explode into new season of growth, and made a whole lot of awesome friends.

The first few years of ministry here was all passion and almost no knowledge. Dorm room Bible studies, midnight conversations, all-night prayer sessions, leading Salem’s young adult Bible study all filled my life with the rush of doing what Jesus had placed me in Fargo to do. I juggled school, jobs, and ministry, going 1000 MPH all the time and loving it.

In those early years we gathered a team of people that had a passion for something that was truly soaked with the Gospel and reached the unreached in the name of Jesus. We didn’t know what we were doing, but we did we did it with zeal. We spent most of our time bouncing from idea to idea, trying to figure out where we were going.

Around my second year in Fargo I got married, graduated, and moved into working full time. It was a new learning experience and was, in all honesty, harder than the previous. Having a part time job and full time school along with ministry was somehow easier than working 40 hours a week and doing ministry. As I was forced to pull back from such a central role in Threshingfloor, we discovered the beauty of something that is lead by a team rather than an individual. People from within our communities stepped up and took on ministry, allowing us to launch a second community. It’s the power of Jesus that can grow what we can’t grow. His presence is the only necessary ingredient in the process of multiplication of disciples.

For this past year as I’ve moved from working full time and doing ministry to functioning as a full-time missionary to young adults in the Midwest, there’s been increased spiritual warfare. As I was preparing to write this post I looked back over my previous year-of-labor posts that I wrote and posted the first few years here in Fargo. Reading those paragraphs from years ago, I can’t help but see my passion for what we were doing. That passion still resonates in my soul, but it’s different. My passion is still there but it has been tempered and has changed keys.

Three years ago I wrote that Kelly and I had maybe two more years in the FM area and that we wanted to see the city significantly changed when we left. It’s been three years, and (by my estimation), there hasn’t been that significant change – no huge movement or gathering of thousands. But there are lives that have been deeply impacted by our work. I love to hear and share the stories of those that we’ve gotten to shepherd closer to Jesus.

At Threshingfloor’s five year celebration on Sunday we gathered the six people who were a part of the original core that grew into Threshingfloor. We spent 20 minutes doing a panel discussion to share some memories and thoughts looking back over the years. During our panel discussion, Kelly gave advice for people to commit and be faithful to the ministry that God has called them to.

Her words resonate with me. More than zeal or flights of passion, faithfulness resounds in my soul. It’s not possible to set your sights too high when God is in the picture, but it is far better to be steadfast and faithful and have deep, current shifting impact in a few lives than flit from one thing to the next and be a drop of water on the surface of an ocean. I believe that we’ve been faithful – not perfect, but definitely faithful – to the work of Christ within Threshingfloor. That is something that God has and will bless.

Five years of labor have passed. Who knows how many more for us here. Regardless, we want to be faithful and steadfast.

Where does God have you today? If you’re young and new, ride your passions and let them empower you for those 1000 hours poured out, but set your sights on long-term faithfulness. The kingdom of God is an oak tree, not a flower in the field. It will grow and fill the block with shade, but such things take time. Remain steadfast. Don’t step out of the race moments before breakthrough is achieved.

Christian Life, Evangelism, Ministry Update

The Paranoid Farmer

May 18, 2015

The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground. He sleeps and rises night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows; he knows not how. The earth produces by itself, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. But when the grain is ripe, at once he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.”
– Mark 4:26-29, ESV

What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.
– 1 Corinthians 3:5-7, ESV

No farmer spends his days sitting in the fields, staring at the dirt, exerting his will in hopes of making his crop grow. The farmer tills the ground in preparation, plants his seeds, waters, fertilizes, and trusts that growth will happen because that’s what happens when seeds are planted in good soil. There may be seasons of drought and dismal harvests occasionally, but the earth has an amazing capacity to produce life from its soil. The farmer’s staring or willing doesn’t make any difference. His tilling, fertilizing, and watering can prepare but they don’t make things grow.

In three weeks the fifteen or so people in our Threshingfloor community will all be giving our Wednesday nights through the summer to plan and host weekly grill outs at Island Park, a park in downtown Fargo. Last summer Luke and Matt, a couple guys from the community, started the grill outs as a way to give international students something to enjoy during their weeks. In a matter of a month or so it went from 20 to about 60 people coming each week to eat, talk, play games, and enjoy the beauty of God’s summer nights. The majority of people there, to my knowledge, weren’t Christians.

We want to continue with what God blessed last year and make a space for people who aren’t believers to encounter the love, service, joy, and peace of God’s people. We’ll be spending the next few weeks preparing to spend our Wednesday nights through the summer as missionaries, demonstrating God’s love and welcoming near his ever-near kingdom by feeding people, praying for them, and who knows what else.

We won’t be paranoid farmers, fretting over our fields. We know our God is the one who causes growth. We’ll scatter seeds and lay down to sleep. I’m confident that when we come to the end of the summer, after we’ve done the work of prayer and believing and loving, God will have caused growth and a salvation harvest will be taking place. It’s going to be awesome.

Commentary, Leadership

Passing on the Mantle

May 21, 2013

Last night the Threshingfloor leadership team spent some time talking about how crucial it is for us to be intentional in training up those who will come after us in the ways of the Lord. We focused on the life of Josiah as an example of a leader who followed God passionately in his time but failed to raise his sons after him to do the same. Below is an excerpt on the same topic that I wrote back in July of 2011 after reading through 1 and 2 Chronicles. For the full post, go here.

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Godly leadership fails if it doesn’t train up the next generation

Hezekiah is one of the bright lights in the midst of the darkness of 2 Chronicles. He is introduced by the declaration, “And he did what was right in the eyes of the LORD, according to all that David his father had done,” (2 Chron. 29:2). Hezekiah cleanses the temple, reinstates the priesthood and worship, restores the Passover, and does numerous great works throughout his lifetime. The writer of Chronicles says that, “since the time of Solomon the son of David king of Israel there had been nothing like this in Jerusalem.” (2 Chron. 30:26) However, as with all humans, Hezekiah eventually dies.

Chapter 33 begins with Manasseh, Hezekiah’s son, taking the throne in his father’s stead. Manasseh’s reign is a terrible contrast to the previous ruler, with the Chronicler recording that he,

did what was evil in the sight of the LORD, according to the abominations of the nations whom the LORD drove out before the people of Israel. For he rebuilt the high places that his father Hezekiah had broken down, and he erected altars to the Baals, and made Asherahs, and worshiped all the host of heaven and served them…. And he burned his sons as an offering in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, and used fortune-telling and omens and sorcery, and dealt with mediums and with necromancers. He did much evil in the sight of the LORD, provoking him to anger. (2 Chronicles 33:2-6 ESV)

The principle here is one that is critical for us to grasp; Godly leadership fails to have any lasting effect if it does not train someone to take its place. We don’t know what Hezekiah did or didn’t do in raising his son, but it is clear that Manasseh had not been trained to walk in the ways of the Lord. As a result, all of his father’s reforms and restoration of the worship of God were destroyed in an amazingly short amount of time.

Take this to heart, parents, pastors, leaders, and all Christians. We may reform our culture and live righteous lives today, but if we do not intentionally pass what we have received from the Lord to the next generation, all our labor will have been in vain. I see in our own day a growing reformation of the church and Christianity as we return to the sufficiency of the gospel, the need for both the Spirit and the Word, and the church being a community of believers who live in imitation of Christ rather than a Sunday meeting. However, if these reforms are not consciously and carefully passed on to the following generations, all the good we have done will collapse.

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