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young adults

Christian Life, young adults

Young Adult, Work Hard

October 24, 2016

 

 

Those who work their land will have abundant food,
but those who chase fantasies have no sense.
Proverbs 12:11

 

The hardworking farmer should be the first to receive a share of the crops.
2 Timothy 2:6

 

In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we command you, brothers and sisters, to keep away from every believer who is idle and disruptive and does not live according to the teaching you received from us. For you yourselves know how you ought to follow our example. We were not idle when we were with you, nor did we eat anyone’s food without paying for it. On the contrary, we worked night and day, laboring and toiling so that we would not be a burden to any of you. We did this, not because we do not have the right to such help, but in order to offer ourselves as a model for you to imitate. For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: “The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.”
2 Thessalonians 3:6-10

 

If Jesus is your Lord you don’t get to come home to entertainment and leave dishes undone, your apartment a mess, your car piled with fast food garbage, and the like.

With a world of entertainment available to us at the push of a button or a few clicks of the mouse, it’s incredibly easy to coast through life doing the bare minimum amount of work. This is especially true for young adults in the stage of life where you’re living on your own, unmarried, without kids, and without any significant responsibilities. It’s so simple to work a job that pays the bills, come home each day and spend the evening (or afternoon or morning, depending on what your work shift is) watching tv or playing video games or fiddling around on some social media outlet.

I want to declare that if you’re a follower of Jesus that must not be your method of life.

Those who don’t work don’t eat

Paul’s word to the Thessalonians are harsh to our American ears. “Keep away from every believer who is idle and disruptive and does not live according to the teaching you received from us…’The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.’” Apparently to the apostle idleness is as significant a sin as adultery, since he also tells the Corinthians to do treat an adulterous person in a similar way (1 Cor. 5).

This ought to be a challenge to us, my friends. Are our lives marked by idleness? Do we spend more time relaxing and being entertained than we do being productive and serving others? There is a time for rest, but don’t forget that God set aside one day for sabbath and six days for work. As the wise writer of Proverbs declared, “Those who work their land will have abundant food, but those who chase fantasies have no sense.” (12:11)
This truth goes beyond the physical reality. Though in his letter to the Thessalonians Paul is addressing people who are benefitting by eating physical food without working for it, the principle stands in a spiritual sense as well. Those who don’t “work their land” spiritually won’t eat and will have malnourished spirits. Those who sit by and expect others to provide the food for their spiritual selves will not grow.

Work like Jesus

Let’s stop chasing fantasies in movies, novels, and video games and instead be the hardworking farmer who follows the Master into the fields daily to sow, water, and reap. I want us, my brothers and sisters in Christ who are still young, to be able to say with the Apostle, “we worked night and day, laboring and toiling so that we would not be a burden to any of you. We did this, not because we do not have the right to such help, but in order to offer ourselves as a model for you to imitate.”

Young adult, work hard. Let your life be a model for those who come after you. Work like Jesus, who gave his life to the labor that the Father had placed before him. Your reward will be riches that go far beyond this life and far outweigh the momentary pleasure of spending every evening being entertained.

 

 

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.

 

 

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, Commentary, Spiritual Growth

The field worker, the fool, and the Jesus follower

July 24, 2013

 

 

“Whoever works his land will have plenty of bread, but he who follows worthless pursuits lacks sense.”

-Proverbs 12:11

We live in an age of infinite distraction, and it’s killing our faith. As I interact with people, young adults in particular, I’ve noticed amazing amounts of time being given to what I believe should be described as, at best, worthless pursuits. Spending an hour scrolling through a Facebook feed, pinning images of the household you wish you had (a post about Pinterest and coveting is something for a later date), watching movies three or four nights a week, playing enough video games to make it a part time job, sleeping in until noon, and many more of the pursuits that are considered commonplace among people of our day are what the Biblical writers would call worthless.

It’s my firm belief that God has placed in every Christian a desire to do something of worth. Those of us who are Jesus followers have been born again to a living hope that is meant to bear fruit that re-shapes the world. However, our both the devil and our fleshly nature delight to keep us satisfied with passing time in passing pursuits. Proverbs 12:11 talks about two types of people and I want to connect those with Christ’s commands for his disciples today.

The field worker

The first person we meet in Proverbs 12:11 is a man who works his field and recieves the reward of a plentiful harvest.

Himagese works hard. Field work in the time when Proverbs was written didn’t include sitting in an air-conditioned, GPS-guided, gasoline powered tractor. Field laborers in Israel rose at dawn and spent the day with their hands and feet in the dirt, laboring for the food that would keep them and their families alive. They didn’t take days off because they were tired or needed some “me time,” and they couldn’t allow the pursuit of entertainment to keep them from their labor. Rather than shying away from difficulty, the field worker presses into the heavy stone and uses all of his strength and ingenuity to move it in order to plant his crops.

He works faithfully. Rather than being frustrated and giving up when the crops seem to not be growing, the field worker continues his diligent labor, knowing that the Lord is faithful to produce a harvest. Regardless of his own mental, physical, or emotional state, the field worker continues onward, knowing that ultimately it’s about more than him. He works faithfully.

He feeds himself. As a result of his faithful tending of his land, the field worker’s harvest is plentiful and he is able to feed himself and his family, with extra left over to share. He wasn’t completely dependent on others for his sustenance, and was a blessing rather than a burden.

The fool

The senseless fool, on the other hand, spends his time chasing worthless pursuits rather than diligently working with what the Lord has given him.  He is lazy, seeking his own pleasure and avoiding anything that would bring discomfort, settling into the rut of sleep and entertainment rather than pushing himself. Even when the fool feels the burst of motivation to work he doesn’t have the self-discipline to continue after the motivation fades. Because of his laziness and pursuit of worthless things the fool is completely dependent on others for his livelihood. If he has well-off family and friends he mooches off of them. If he doesn’t, then he will inevitably become a beggar, barely getting through life on odd jobs and the charity of others.

The Jesus follower

Proverbs 12:11 is talking about a physical reality, but Jesus makes it clear that the principle applies in the spiritual realm as well through illustrations like the parable of the talents. The disciple of Christ is to be the field worker, not the fool. We are to work faithfully and with all our strength in the harvest fields of Christ’s kingdoms, availing ourselves of the means of feeding ourselves that he has provided. The faithless fool of a servant who merely slides by and buries rather than diligently working with what the master has given him will be thrown out into darkness.

My fear is that many of my generation and my friends spend most of the lives in the fool category rather than the field worker. We must not allow worthless pursuits to consume the time that Christ has given us. We should be men and women who cast off everything that hinders us and are diligent in fostering our own spiritual growth rather than waiting around for someone to come and carry us to the place where we are called to be. We need to stop making excuses about the difficulty of getting up earlier in order to read the scriptures, of finding time in our schedule to pray, of speaking about Christ in our workplace.

We have been born again and indwelt by the Holy Spirit who has (past tense) given you all that you need to be the disciple who takes up their cross and follows Jesus no matter the difficulty.  The grace to change is already yours, you need only take hold of it. Jesus called us to be field workers, not fools, and what Jesus calls us to he will empower us for. Get up and get working.