Theology for the Teens?

For many the concept of teaching teens theology is about as ridiculous as teaching monkeys calculus. I've frequently heard youth leaders or volunteers try and convince me that the only way to keep teens interested in church and youth groups was to have a lot of silliness in games, food, and great music. From that you should input just enough Bible in a little devotional to spiritualize the entire event. In all honesty I don't believe it. Nor have I for years. About eight years ago when I was the junior high pastor at Santa Rosa Bible Church I started thinking about how I could engage teens in the study of the Bible in a way that would be challenging to them, enjoyable, and would help them understand the major teaching of the Bible. The goal was to assist them in confirming their faith, and their understanding of the faith by the time they finished eighth grade. The result of that line of thinking was this study I called Passage. Over the following years several classes of students that have grown up at SRBC have gone through this study, and the fruit of it has been so encouraging to me.

Passage itself has undergone some transformation as well. What started as a study for teens at Santa Rosa Bible Church turned into a curriculum for a larger network of churches, home school families and youth ministries. Recently I've been asked to produce a new version of Passage that updated some of the content and included some new chapters as well.

In my free time over the last few months I've been working on editing, rewriting, and producing an updated version of the material. Last night I put the finishing touches on what I call "version 3.0" and am excited about getting to release it once again for use in local churches, homes and schools. If you've used Passage before you'll find some new things in it. If you're new to the material I believe it will serve you well in training teens to know God and understand him well.

Passage is intended to be studied in a community with an adult leading or teaching the discussion for the students. I've created both a Leader's Guide and a Student Workbook to help foster discussion, interaction and learning. You can pick up Passage right from this site and have it delivered to your door.

I am praying that the Lord uses it to advance the gospel in the lives of more teens. If you use Passage or have used it in the past I'd love to hear how God has used it in your life and development of the gospel.

Check Out Passage Here

Powering Down For A Few Weeks

According to social media and "platform" experts what I'm about to do in the next two weeks is a very bad idea for growing and developing social influence and significance. That being said I don't really care what social media gurus tell me I should and shouldn't be doing to attract, grow and keep a crowd of readers. If you're tracking with me thus far I am grateful that you read and visit my site. I'm going to give you the freedom of not having to feel like you have to pay attention to anything I write or say for the next two weeks.

I'm going to unplug. Seriously. No Facebook, no blog, no Twitter, no email, no reaching into the vast crevasse that is the Internet over the next two weeks. Why? Two reasons:

  1. I am going to be speaking at a camp for high school students in Northern California next week. I'd ask, beg and plead that you would pray for me as I teach on the nature of God. Pray as well for these students that God would be pleased to reveal himself to them, draw them to himself and grant them repentance, faith and life in Him. Pray that the Holy Spirit is at work to make more disciples of Jesus. If you want to do something fun you can send me a care package.
  2. I am going to give spend some intentional and unhurried time with my wife, kids and friends on vacation for the second week. We need it, they need me, I need them, my soul needs Christ. We're going to play, sing, eat, read, nap, laugh and have a great time together.

So that's where I'll be… in fact let's just make it a straight deal. I'll see you back here and on Facebook and Twitter in August. Thanks for reading and interacting.


Eight Years of a Great Thing

I'm in Japan today, which is a bummer. The bummer isn't because I don't like Japan. The bummer is because I'm not with my wife.

Today, eight years ago, Stephanie and I were married. I couldn't tell you then what our marriage would mature into. I had no idea of the surprises, both good and hard that God providentially had in front of us. I had very little concept of how selfish and sinful I was towards others until I was married. I had no idea of how much grace and love could be shown to a fellow human until Steph showed it to me in our marriage. I had no idea of how much I need a companion, helper, and more than anything a best friend.

In some ways it is a little appropriate that we aren't able to be together today. It's a Divine reminder to me that God has created me for another. Without her I'm the dude that burns freezer pizza. I'm the guy that can't balance his checkbook. I'm the guy that doesn't know how to thoughtfully consider others (her) better than myself. I still don't know that one well, but I am trying to grow there.

Without Stephanie I don't have the foggiest idea of what it means to sacrificially love someone and to lay down my life for her sake. Again, I don't always practice those aspects of the gospel well, but without her I wouldn't have as good of a clue about them as I do now. So, in being apart from her today I'm reminded of how much the Lord has given me her. Second only to Christ, who is himself the greatest and best gift, Stephanie has been God's "great thing" for me.

I am thankful today for her, I wish I could be with her in Japan today but I am eager to be reunited with her at home. I am eager for what God has in store for us not only in this next year, but also for the next eight years and as long as Christ will give us life and breath here.

I love you Stephanie with all my heart!

Things I'm Eager About

Here are four things that are dreams, desires and movements that I'm apart of right now.

  1. Japan. I'm heading off in about a month to visit this country and connect with a range of church-planters and leaders there. At the same time there has been a growing grassroots movement of the Holy Spirit here in the U.S. to plant churches and see the gospel advance in Japan. It seems like each week someone new is contacting me about opportunities and desire to see the gospel reach the unreached people group of the Japanese. It really has me excited.
  2. Preaching and teaching. One of things I enjoy the most in ministry regular preaching and teaching of Scripture. Beyond writing I'm not getting to do that too much right now and I miss it badly. The weekly routine of pray, study, preach, repeat was a means of grace for me. There are a few turns in the future but they aren't for a few months out. I am eager to preach and teach and use my gifts in that area to build the church.
  3. Passage. My long labor of love for teenagers is taking the turn to get a third revision. Bumping out some crummy content, putting in some new chapters, changing a few things will update it for another round of training teenagers.
  4. Porterbrook. Porterbrook Kansas is the leadership development program that I run for Journey the Way. We're just about to wrap up our first full study year and I'm excited about the next year, the faculty we have coming to teach and the new connections I'm making who want to be involved with Porterbrook. I'm praying God sends us 75-100 students for year two.

Rereading Lewis

Back in high school I discovered an author that I came to consider a wise companion (even a friend if I could call him that). While everybody else was reading… well I don't know what they were reading honestly, I was reading C.S. Lewis. This of course included The Chronicles of Narnia series, but more deeply I was reading books like Mere Christianity, The Screwtape Letters, The Great Divorce, and a few others. It might of been my sophmore year that my mom bought me a book of collected quotations from Lewis that was arranged topically. I read alphabetically through that book as well. You could say in my developing years Lewis was a very formational author for me.

And then he fell off the map. I don't know why, or what happened to end it all, but I stopped reading him. Sure from time to time I'd pick up The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (which in my opinion is the best book in the Narnia series), but overall I stopped reading Lewis. I wonder if it was a pride in thinking that I've already read him and know his material or if I just got caught up in reading other books at large. My suspicion is that I got "warned" away from Lewis because of some of his theological positions. Maybe some people thought I'd end up an Anglican Univseralist like he was, or so it is supposed. For whatever the reason I stopped reading him.

That was until lately. At the beginning of the year I was reading Douglas Wilson's book Wordsmithy to try and gain a foothold on how to be a better writer on the published page. One of the key peices of counsel that he gave was to read good writers. On a whole I've found myself reading authors that usually write non-fiction, descriptive or expository books. They are trying to teach something, usually as if they are giving a lecture or sermon. Some of it is dry, most of it is systematic and much of it turns into either behavioral or mental manuals for right thinking or living. Not to say that it isn't helpful or useful writing and material. In many ways I owe much to these kinds of books. I have to read more of them. But overall I was missing reading people who could take a thought, infuse it with a creative and faithful imagination and make it something that I would be immersed in from start to finish. In reading Wilson I was reminded that Lewis has done that for me.

All of that to say, lately I've been rereading Lewis. I've picked some of my favorites that I vaguely remember from high school and have been back in the midst of them. It's amazing what almost 20 years of life and perspective and maturity will do to you as you go back to what you consider formative in those years. Last night I finished the one book I never understood, Till We Have Faces. While I am not sure that it's my new favorite (although it might be close), I did discover what I missed so long ago. Lewis, through the genre of fiction, crafted a tale that pushed me in thinking about evangelism and engaging the lost with a world that I seem to see all to easily.

Several other issues were brought out to deal within this book as well, but I find it interesting that through the medium of fiction I'm challenged to see things from a different perspective than I would if I had read a discourse of another form about it. If all you read is non-fiction Christian literature let me encourage you to pick up some good, well writen fiction as well. Not those sappy (and poorly written) Christian rapture or love novels. Pick up time-tested, highly regarded writers like Lewis. You might add a few different shades of color to your perspective and (oh the horror) you might really like it too.

You’re Writing A Book? What’s it About?

Several of you have asked me recently about my writing and what I’m doing with it. I should say that this gives me a moment to justify my lack of writing here on my personal site. I like to think of this, my personal website, as my “mind-dump” or public journal. I am the writer, publisher and editor. The only thing that holds me back is my conscience, my wife and my time spent elsewhere (which keeps me out of trouble with the former two). But not everything written is worth the ink that was spilled or the time it took to write and read it. That leads to the book. I’ve always wanted to write a book. I think that writing is gift of mine but also a skill that I can sharpen and develop. So I needed to test and develop my skills in this area. Back in August of last year I noticed an opportunity for writers to submit articles to an online publisher that shared some similar values and desires of my own. I wanted my writing to be thoughtful and helpful for making disciples and advancing the gospel. When I saw the open door for submissions I decided to think about some things I could write about and see where it went with them. I wrote an article, sent it in, and they published it. All that did was encourage me to write more. So I kept writing and they kept publishing.

On one my articles I received some helpful and gracious feedback from the editor regarding how the concept I was developing was practical. As I thought through the practicality issue and began to improve the article a similar thread began to develop in my mind. As quickly as I could I got out my Moleskine journal and began to chart out the framework for a book. I had a concept, I had a framework for unpacking the concept, now I needed someone to go along with me on it.

Again, the editors were helpful, but a bit reluctant to move forward. They were very gracious and told me, “show us what this looks like in an article.” So I attempted to shove the entire contents of my book into one fifteen-hundred word article as an attempt. They loved it, the lights came on and… they gave the green light for me to start writing on the book.

So, what is the book about? Well, I’ll let you read the concept article and then wait for the book to be finished, edited and published. As far as I know it will be exclusively an ebook at its launch, but if my mom buys enough copies (and if it is decent enough) it might see physical form. I’m grateful for both Ben’s encouragement and Brad’s editorial direction and the entire team at GCD Books for working with me. I’m also grateful to my friends who have been both sounding-boards and prayer partners with me in writing. If you have an opportunity to pray for me this week as I write I would be grateful.

If all goes as planned everPresent Gospel should be released sometime this summer.