Friday, March 30, 2018

Thoughts for Reflection on Good Friday

Most Kings when it is time for them to die come to some sort of process where they talk to their successor, son, or one taking over power to give them the crown. Sometimes Kings died on the battlefield, but if not they usually have a noble death, where they are surrounded by family and the King that will be coronated at his death. Jesus death was nothing like a kingly death.

Read John 19 it describes the events of Jesus death on a cross

On the cross...

1. Jesus Experienced Physical Suffering

1. Before Jesus had to even go through his day of torture and crucifixion he stayed up all through the night praying and the Bible says he sweat drops of blood. Bleeding through your sweat glands is A real physical condition called Hematidrosis.
2. He was struck with 40 lashes (minus 1) with a cat of nine tails. With balls wrapped up in leather, and glass, and metal, and small bones to do the most damage to people’s flesh.
3. The Roman soldiers pulled His beard, spit on Him, beat Him with rods, punched Him (While Blindfolded) in the face and asked to prophecy who hit Him.
4. They wrapped together a crown of thorns and pressed it into his head to mock him.
5. He was made to carry his own cross.
6. He was crucified at Golgotha. The details of crucifixion are...He was nailed and probably bound so that you had to press upward with your legs and pull with your arms to even breathe. People usually died of asphyxiation when crucified. We get our English word excruciating (someone who has “excruciating pain”) from the word crucifixion. Crucifixion only existed as corporal Roman punishment for the few years preceding and following Jesus life. It is known to this day as one of the most cruel forms of capital punishment known in human history.

2. Jesus Also Experienced Emotional Suffering

Look at the passage where Jesus was in the garden of gethsemane He was so troubled that his emotional state affected his physical state when he sweat drops of blood. We can see clearly emotional torment from the things that he said on the cross. He had to make arrangements for John to take care of Mary his mother, and His Father in heaven turned His back on His son when he "became sin." Jesus said, "Father why have you forsaken me."

3. Jesus aAlso Experienced Spiritual Suffering

Read Isaiah 53:3-12 which is a prophetic explanation of what Jesus would go through in the future. It is AWESOME!!! The cup of God’s wrath was poured out on Christ. That was the suffering for the sins of the whole world. Think about if Jesus had to spiritually suffer for only our worst sins. He not only suffered spiritually for our worst sins, but ALL our sins.

One of the eyewitnesses a Roman Centurion saw the “way in which he died”, and proclaimed “truly this was the son of God.” This would have been an incredible proclamation for a Roman, because a Roman would have believed that Caesar was the son of God. This is not only a proclamation of Jesus as God, but that Caesar was NOT! Here are a few questions for you this Good Friday for your reflection.

1. When you read about the details of the Crucifixion what do you feel? Love, Mercy, Grace, Hope, Sadness, Fear, Wonder, Thankfulness?

2. What is your response to the fact that, “He bore your sins in his body on the cross?”

3. What is your response that the Romans wrote above his cross, “The King of the Jews?”

Pray and thank God that he has sent His Son for us in our place.

“Dear Lord Jesus, Thanks you so much for your sacrifice in my place. Thank you that you suffered in my place that I could be free, forgiven, and be called a child of God. Jesus, you are so wonderful. I thank you so much for your cross. I fall down before your cross so that you would give me forgiveness and freedom from all my sins past, present, and future. Thank you for your grace, and that you died for me, even though I did not deserve it or earn it. You died for me while I was still a sinner. THANK YOU!!!”

Here is a wonderful song by Matt Papa to illustrate the Wondrous Mystery that happened for you and for me on the cross.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018


In my previous blog I addressed the first motivation for Youth Ministry which is Jesus receiving to himself the reward for the suffering he went through, which is the salvation of you and me. 

It is sometimes hard to maintain motivation in Ministry. What do we keep doing this for? After we realize that we are doing ministry to possibly obtain for Jesus the "rewards for his suffering" then we look forward to how to maintain that motivation. I dare pose that question because many times I have lacked motivation. When the Elders seem to be against you, a Pastor doesn't understand the loud music you use, or a parent complains about the how long a missionary service project went, or the dread of every youth pastor when your teens start attending the cool youth ministry service down the road. What keeps us going to not give up in Youth Ministry?

One of the most difficult times in ministry for me was to see young men and women that I had poured my life into and discipled for years walk away from the Lord. One evening I had just left youth group and was going home. On the way home I had to get gas. I stopped by one of the 24 hr gas stations and noticed a young man that I had poured years of ministry into. He approached another customer and asked him to buy him some alcohol. After the person bought the alcohol for this young man he walked across the street to a group of guys who were obviously smoking up. I knew from other kids that this young man had walked away from God and even to this day is full on in that world. It made me so sad. I am sure you have had that moment where you were so saddened to hear what happened to one of your students who you poured so much into. It is hardest for me to keep my motivation up in those moments. In these moments the Love of Christ has to be or compelling motivation. 

One of my favorite passages of Scripture is found in 2 Corinthians 5:14-21 which describe us as ambassadors and that our motivation should be The Love of Christ! His love compels us...

“For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again. So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”
‭‭2 Corinthians‬ ‭5:14-21‬ ‭NIV‬‬

1. The Students We Serve Need Jesus THEY Need Love & Message of Reconciliation That We Have to Give.

I was a youth pastor for quite a long time in the San Francisco Bay Area. I worked and lived in Oakland. I often would take kids home into East Oakland neighborhoods. I myself lived in a pretty rough neighborhood, but some of the kids I would take home lived in scary places. I remember one time feeling such a sadness that kids in 7th grade had to live in such a scary place. I remember feeling such a sense of, "wow, how is this kid going to experience the love of Christ?" I knew that he would never experience the love of Christ if our ministry did not bring that into his life. That became my motivation for this one kid. We cannot just let terrible circumstances for some kids build for us our motivation. We have to be inwardly so motivated and compelled that every kid in our ministries is in eternal need of the love of Christ and we are ambassadors of that love and message of reconciliation! You can't take every kid home with you like I wanted to do those nights, but you can be an ambassador of the love of Christ. 

I had a student for several years who had Autism. He was an awesome kid. Our ministry somehow had built such a loving atmosphere that we were able to love and serve many students with disabilities. This young man was exceptinol he didn’t not have a filter for his mouth wich was awesome. One evening he came into youth group with a full order of chili cheese nachos. I was like, “Thank you for bringing those buddy." reaching out to take one. He said "NOT APPLICABLE" as he pulled them away from my reach. He did this type of stuff all the time. He was so funny. We loved him! One day his mother called me and just wanted to thank me for loving and accepting him. She said that he came home from school everyday crying, but never wanted to ever miss youth group. She described in sad details how he was picked on and bullied everyday. I was so touched that a group of kids could love and accept a young man with no filter and express the love of Christ to him. One time in the middle of a deep and serious discussion, he asked, "I don't mean to be gross or anything, but does too much masturbation cause cancer in your testicles?" If it had been my youth group when I was growing up we would have all been on the floor laughing. Our group took it with such grace. Because these kids had created a safe place no-one even laughed out loud. We were able to handle it with love and grace and this young man felt heard, and loved. I am sure someone was messing with him at school and told him this. Through the love of Christ and motivation to love each other we were able to build something where this young man with Autism and no filter was loved and accepted. It was awesome to witness. 

I was a youth pastor right out of college at a young church plant. during that time I started a fall retreat called the "Fall Brawl" it still lasts nearly 20 years later. I returned to this church recently to present our ministry in Germany I reconnected with the church administrator. He had been in my youth ministry many years earlier. It was so great to reconnect. He and his wife invited us out to lunch after the service. He told me a story about how during the Fall Brawl one year I came into the room late at night and was talking about him with another youth worker. I thought he was asleep but he wasn't and he said he overheard out our conversation. I was thinking, "OH NO! What did I say?" I was thinking it was going to be terrible that I was making fun of him or something. I could not for the life of me remember what I had said. He said I was expressing concern at how things were going in his life with difficult family situation, and my hopes that he would grow to love Christ, and that God would touch his life despite all the hurt he was going through. He expressed to me with tears in his eyes how much that had touched him. He was so touched that I would care so much about him. He said it transformed his life. He is now in ministry as that churches administrator. I could not believe it. But when the love of Christ compels you you will build loving attitudes and habits. I do not remember it, but all I can say is that I was speaking about someone out of the compelling love of Christ that had been built into my life. Funny enough, that same retreat nearly 20 years later, a silly idea that I had called "Fall Brawl" is still the main attraction at this church every year! The love of Christ is compelling and what you are building will last beyond you if it is built on the love of Christ!

2. As leaders WE ourselves need Jesus and the Love he gives

When we seek to love and invest in teenagers, we will be the recipients of the things we are working toward now for all eternity. I was invested in an incredible way by my own youth pastor. I can say with a high degree of confidence that Chuck was compelled by the love of Christ! Chuck died about a year ago of cancer. I was ministering at a youth retreat during the time that he was placed in hospice and died during that time. I wrote a letter to him that I want to share. 

Dear Chuck,

I wanted to write to you as soon as I heard that you were placed in hospice care. Right now as I'm writing this letter I am preaching at a Christian school's retreat here in Germany near Stuttgart. I write this to tell you practically what your investment has produced. Through your influence and pouring Christ into me you have multiplied that in the nations. When you said yes to being youth pastor at our church, and said yes to me when I asked you if you would disciple me, you decided to make an investment for the kingdom. And that investment even further than you could have imagined. 

I can't begin to describe what you mean to me. I don't know how to put it into words, but I'll try by describing to you the two most recent encounters we've had with you and Amy. The one encounter is when our car broke down on the freeway and you came to pick us up and we stayed with you overnight. I tell you that story because I remember that so vividly how you had discipled me and it was a perfect example of your input into the difficult and hard moments of my life (i.e. Broken down car and broke newlyweds) And how you encouraged us to lean on the goodness of God in the hardest times. Through deep deep pain and through heavy tears I cannot begin to thank you for that investment. We were made ready for our most difficult journeys together as a couple because of your example and leaning on the goodness of God in the hardest of times. Your life and your testimony were such a strong encouragement in that time when you picked us up, and so early in our marriage. You and Amy encouraged us through a difficult time with our car breaking down and that's a perfect example of your testimony in our lives. 

The second time I want to remind you about is when Simone and I came down to visit your church and present our ministry. This encounter reminded me that we are partners in kingdom work. It was so good to hear you preach and again to be ministered to by your love for the Lord, your heart for people, and your heart for his church. Then we had some lunch together and again you showed us how you are humbly leaning on the grace of Christ. You said that day you really knew and had experienced what the scripture meant when Paul wrote "for me to live is Christ and to die is gain." I can't begin to tell you what that little bit of time meant to Simone and I. I felt like I was sitting at one of the apostles feet just listening to the wisdom and grace that came from every word. 

Your lifelong encouragement and discipleship have been an integral part of my life, ministry, and walk with Christ. I just preached today that Jesus is the bread of life, and anyone who continually comes to him and continually believes in him will always be satisfied! You exemplify that. You will and have always sought to be satisfied in Christ. You are a giant in the faith for me, and I will always be grateful for your influence in my life. 

I wanted to share this verse with you so that you know that the Lord is rejoicing over you, and he is quieting you with his love, and exulting over you with loud singing. 
“The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.”
‭‭Zephaniah‬ ‭3:17‬

And this last verse is who Jesus is. He is our hope our resurrection and our life...
“Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?"”
‭‭John‬ ‭11:25-26‬

I will close with this as a final encouragement. This last year Caleb our 4 year old boy had pneumonia. It was real bad. He was as sick as I had ever seen him. However, He recovered wonderfully. The next day I asked him how he was doing. He said, "daddy I'm doing better. I'm not dying anymore!" So funny, but then I thought that's it, that's it! That's what we have in Christ. In Christ we are not dying anymore! Christ has overcome death! This body will surely die, but Christ has defeated death, hell, and the grave and we will not taste it because he has tasted fully for us. He is the resurrection and the life, and we believe it!!!

I am sure you are familiar with Dietrich Bonhoeffer the famous German theologian who was hanged by the nazis. He wrote in a letter the day before he was hanged “This is the end–for me, the beginning of life.” Bonhoeffer "knew whom he had believed and was persuaded that he was able to keep that which he committed unto him against that day." My dearest big brother in Christ if this is the time that Christ is calling you home, then it is for you the beginning of life. I am only very sad that I cannot see you one more time. However I am not sad for you because you are not dying anymore! And I will see you soon! I love you! 

“Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.”
‭‭Jude‬ ‭1:24-25‬

Your son in the faith,
Richard Moore
Acts 20:24

This sort of love compels us and it is our great motivation to lead students to the know and experience the great love of Christ. I hope you are compelled to love Christ, love students, and stay in ministry. We do this because Jesus is worth more than anything...

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Motivation for Ministry: The Reward of His Suffering (Part 1)

What is our motivation for ministry? That is sometimes hard to pin down as youth ministers. We find motivation from many sources. One of my motivations in ministry had been for a long time the investment that my youth pastors made in my life. Being youth Pastors like them motivated me for a long time. I wanted to be the same type of youth pastor that these guys were to me. But I have seen that over the years being a cool youth pastor is not a proper motivation.

I came across a story recently about the Moravians. It was the early 1700’s in Germany when Count Zinzendorf and the Moravians at Herrnhut were compelled to reach slaves living and working on the islands of the West Indies. John Leonhard Dober, and David Nitschmann were brethren from Herrnhut. In 1732 they both decided to set out from Germany to these reach these slaves in the West Indies. Their plan was to sell themselves into slavery and travel by slave ship, and work there among the slaves, to have the chance to preach the gospel to those living and and suffering under slavery there. And so the story goes as they were leaving on the ship to travel to the West Indies, thinking that they may never see their family and friends again, it is said that one of them from the boat shouted these words back to their family and friends on shore…

“May the Lamb who was slain receive the reward of His suffering.” 

These men stayed on that island for two years. And after two years returned to Germany. The Moravian missionaries of Herrnhut continued to send missionaries to the West Indies. The Moravians baptized throughout the West Indies some 13,000 people before any other missionaries ever arrived there. This is an amazing story of a few men who believed in the power of the gospel to save people. and acted radically on that gospel. I want to focus on the thing that they said to their loved ones

“May the Lamb who was slain receive the reward for His suffering."

What is the reward of His suffering? It's us. It's those we minister too. It is all people who have ever, or will ever believe in Christ. This will transform our ministries when we view youth who come to our clubs, our youth groups, our Sunday Schools, our outreach events, or whatever our ministry is involved in not just as attendees, or another kid, but a possible "reward for the suffering of Christ." This kid that annoys me, that smelly teenager, that wild kid, the rebel, the kid with autism, or cerebral palsy, or the quiet kid in the corner, could possibly be a "reward" unto Christ! This will drive and motivate us to present our service to God as a pleasing sacrifice. Everything will change for us when we are not just creating an AWESOME youth ministry program, but seeking to present Christ with the reward for His suffering! Those students in your groups who might one day trust and come to know Christ, they are the possible reward for Christ, they may well one day be His offspring! Lets look at a passage in Isaiah 53:2-11

“For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth. By oppression and judgment he was taken away; and as for his generation, who considered that he was cut off out of the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people? And they made his grave with the wicked and with a rich man in his death, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth. Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand. Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities.”
‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭53:2-11‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Why was it the Lord's good plan to crush His son? So that he would see His offspring: us, those who would trust in Christ, we are the reward unto Him for the suffering that He endured. That kid who annoys us, the details of pulling off another lock in, or preparing for your next youth service. Let your motivation be presenting Jesus with the reward for His suffering. You will never lack motivation in ministry ever again.

Let’s rededicate ourselves to this great call, seeking to win kids to Christ. We work daily in a profession where young people can find Christ That's AMAZING! You are His reward, they are His reward. Let’s think this way as we move forward and minister to to young people. Matt Papa below explains the great Mission that the Moravians took on and gives us motivation to reach people for the reward that Christ will receive. Check it out! Blessings as you serve Christ by reading youth!

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Is Pastoral Restoration Biblical? The Ashley Madison Controversy Exposes Deeper Issues

Pastoral restoration? With all the moral failures in ministry lately what's a path to restoration? To my knowledge, The Bible doesn't lay out a path for "pastoral restoration" per se. I could be corrected, but all the things I have read on pastoral restoration use biblical passages on general Christian restoration. Let me propose that is because we have made the pastoral ministry something it was not meant to be. Have you ever heard the phrase "called to the pastoral ministry". That is kind of a misnomer because the role of pastor/overseer/elder are filled by particular spiritual gifts, not this huge hierarchical position that we have turned it into. That is why the the scripture only lays out qualifications for those who practice their pastoral gifts. If a man falls into a "sexual sin" he is just no longer qualified because he is not "above reproach" anymore. 

Let me ask you a question to clarify. If a person with the gift of evangelism is caught in an adulterous relationship, does that disqualify them from the spiritual gift of evangelism? No, of course not they have just fallen into sin and need to be restored, “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.”
(Galatians 6:1-2 ESV)

Or put another way. What if another with the spiritual gift of helps and hospitality has been found to have abused their hospitality, and had an inappropriate sexual relationship with a guest? Are they disqualified from the spiritual gift of hospitality? No they still have the spiritual gift they just need to be restored in a "spirit of gentleness."

I believe that the problem is that we have elevated the "ministry" to a place where I believe the New Testament did not mean it to be elevated to. The New Testament writers talk about the pastoral giftings as "one among many" gifts that are equal to any other gift in the body. So, in our current structure, when a pastor falls into sin it is more egregious than when a person with the gift of hospitality falls into an inappropriate sexual relationship. 

Also the modern pastor has more visibility than in the past. With the rise of the of the Internet with sermons online, and other organizations like the Gospel Coalition, Sovereign Grace Ministries, Acts 29, and pastoral conferences with thousands in attendance, and other such church planting and ministry training organizations, there has been this unbiblical and unhealthy move toward superstar attractional ministry leadership models. You can probably name your favorite pastor. Where do you know them from? Probably online. I am as guilty in supporting this as any other. How often have I watched a sermon from a talking head superstar pastor? How often have I read their books? How often have I visited their church or personal websites? This feeds the system. However, the New Testament had a completely different style of pastoral leadership. It was a bottom up, one of many, servant leadership type of shepherding ministry that was happy to be unknown outside of the congregation of which they were shepherds. 

They (i.e. The Apostles) didn't train for years and years in seminaries separated from the local body they had come from. Only to return later to another Church that they had no previous contact to. Being devoid of any real practical experience besides a one year practicum/internship, in which they got to preach one time on a Sunday where almost the whole church was away on vacation. See my point? We have to radically rethink the pastoral ministry. 

Besides all this. If the spiritual gifts are spread out in the congregation relatively equally, how many with the pastoral gifting would there be in a typical church. Probably in a church of 200 there might be up to 10% that's about 20 people or so with that gift. What are those men doing with their pastoral/teaching gifting? Probably sitting on their hands because the lead pastor has his "Kung-Fu grip" on the reigns of leadership. They probably aren't even aware they have a pastoral gifting. I bring this up because if there were 20 pastors of a church it would protect the church when one of the pastors fell. The church could carry on and the church would be able to "restore such a one (fallen pastor) with gentleness" without everything collapsing. But as is the current leadership structure, there is one pastor who has full and final authority. Elder and Deacon boards do nothing in practicality in those leadership structures. Actually they do something, everything the pastor tells them to do. This must change!

Let me be clear, I do not believe that a pastor caught in a extra-marital affair should just be kept in ministry after forgiving him, or one week later hired somewhere else. Or worse yet taking on a new Church Plant in a different city. What I am saying is that the whole system is unbalanced, and lends to a unbalanced pastoral ministry. We need a practical pastoral reformation, kind of like the great theologies that were won for us in the first reformation (i.e. "the priesthood of all believers."). That Priesthood of all believers needs not just to be believed, but practiced in our current congregations. In other words "every member a minister." 

The current Ashley Madison controversy exposes many problems and we are all going to talk about the sexual aspects and what is wrong with pastors. We definitely need to bring those secrets out so that the Church can deal with it, and seek to be a righteous and pure bride once again. But I want to challenge us to think in Biblical paradigms, and not to leave the current hierarchical pastoral position untouched. 

Pastor, please do not continue to usurp authority, but rather give it away. What I mean is in areas that the Bible does not prescribe for you to have authority over, please give your authority to other gifted men who are there already in your congregations. Train others to take your job and take your place. Its kind of like working yourself out of a job. In the end you and your church will be stronger and more protected as a result. Ultimately God is in control of His Church, and He will see that it is transformed from the top to bottom. Let us with renewed vigour make Jesus Lord, and ask our congregations to practice the priesthood of all believers along with us who are spiritually gifted as pastors, so that the body can be whole from the bottom on up. The most encouraging thing about Pastoral failure, or the Church being in upheaval is that Jesus still reigns! No matter how bleak things look he shall reign forevermore, and He can redeem, He can salvage, and mend all that was broken. My new favorite song is by The Silver Pages an old Hymn called "Jesus Shall Reign." I hope it encourages your heart that Jesus is the cornerstone of His church!

Monday, July 18, 2016

Superstar Preachers, Pastoral Moral Failure, and the State of the Evangelical Church

There has been a rash of moral failures in high profile pastors in the evangelical world in the past several years. I will not name any names, because I think that would be counterproductive, and not graceful to the families and men who are involved in these failures in ministry, envethough they had very public ministries and very public failures. In a quick count off the top of my head I counted more than ten pastors that I could think of off the top of my head in the last few years. What I would like to address is the current state of the American Pastor and church. What I do believe is that these failures in ministry are not about adultery, or pastoral abuse, or pornography, or alcoholism, although those things are very wrong with terrible consequences, but rather these are symptoms of much deeper issues that the church is facing and must face and come to terms with before we can move forward or ever be a righteous "city on a hill" once again. I want to first address personally what I faced in ministry, and secondly what the Church has taken on in leadership structures that I believe are unbiblical, and should change through the leadership and power of the Holy Spirit

The Current State of Pastoral Ministry
Pastoral ministry is challenging for many reasons, but most of all because you are seeking to lead people into a relationship with Christ. Because I want people to know Christ above all things, I will do whatever it takes unless it is plainly unbiblical, unethical, or immoral. But sometimes those lines can become a little blurred. This has been what I believe has happened to many pastors in my opinion over the last few years. The Slippery Slope starts with small decisions to not do the biblical, moral, or ethical thing. Let me explain.

Pastors do not decide one day that they are going to steal hundreds of thousands of dollars from their churches. They decide that they will use their ministry credit card once and then twice for personal items. Pastors don't decide one day that they want to cheat on their wives with the secretary, they make one decision to have a "working lunch" with their personal assistant and then decide to have dinner with her a few months later. A pastor doesn't decide one day that he wants to topple a church with his power structure and have that church crumble under his failures. He decides to change the church bylaws to get "everyone on board with his leadership." A pastor doesn't want to be an alcoholic, but he gradually slides down that slippery slope because he comes home in the evening and wants to "take the edge off" when faced with the unbiblical model of a multi-site megachurch that he is the superstar of. These are the small compromises that I have seen and experienced in my years in ministry. Men In ministry must take measures to be "above reproach."

Let me give you a personal example of this. When we moved to California to become youth pastor we were required to register our car 90 days after the first day it was in California. Of course I waited a few days too long. When asked on the form when the first day the car was in California, I lied that it had been in California less than 90 days to avoid the penalty. I was so convicted that I returned to the DMV to tell them that I had lied and I was there to pay the penalty. The woman at the DMV was shocked that I would even want to return to make things right. She even said I should not worry about
it, but I insisted that lying is not acceptable for me as a Christian and if you let me get away with it now then on another occasion I might also lie. I had to pay a hefty fine, but that was a powerful lesson for me and through that and other lessons I was able to build honesty into my life and ministry. Later on I accidentally used my Church credit card for personal use. I realized it later, and immediately went to our church administrator to pay back what I had spent. Integrity means that what you say, do, and think are all consistent with each other. The slippery slope that we find ourselves on is sometimes very hard to discern in pastoral ministry. The word of God gives us clear parameters, and the Holy Spirit will convict us of sin and righteousness.

Pastor, some questions that might help you avoid these pitfalls are, do you have a living, humble, needy, celebratory, affectionate, meditative, worshipful, loving, and tender, communion with Christ? If not why not? Has the ministry become your identity in Christ? or is Christ alone still your identity? Or do you, as I did often say, "I am not an emotional person." Maybe you need to open your personality up to godly changes. Ask the Lord to make you a tender, emotionally connected person, like Jesus our master. Lord remove our hearts of stone and replace them with hearts of flesh (Ezekiel 36:26)!

The Current State of the Evangelical Church
I would like to address what I also see as systematic problems within the evangelical church in America. There is such a thing as an ungodly unbiblical model of church governance and I believe the evangelical church is flirting with those unbiblical models. Here are the problems we face...

1. We are attracted to the superstar preacher. If he is charismatic and funny and a great preacher we listen and good preachers gain a following quickly in our information rich culture.
2. We are not self feeders anymore. Christians have a hard time because of superstar evangelical preachers. We don't feed ourselves spiritually we look first to those leaders/pastors.
3. We have innovated ourselves to death. Megachurch structures, multi-site campus churches, and entertainment/superstar preacher driven ministries are the byproduct of our over-engineering of church ministry, and I believe are not biblical models and should die with the pastors who plant them.
4. We overlook serious moral character flaws or outright sin (i.e. the "cussing preacher") in pastoral leadership if they are charismatic and entertaining preachers
5. We have forgotten the mandate of leadership in 2 Timothy 2:2 especially in regards to empowering and multiplying new preachers and teachers. Instead those preachers hold on to their pulpits with Kung-Fu grip.
6. The entertainment mode of ministry has so enamored the church in America it is hard to imagine any other way for the average Joe who is not gifted so charismatically to be seen and understood as successful. The average Joe minister may be very successful at making disciples, multiplying leadership, and planting new churches, but he doesn't have 5,000 sermon views a week and so we discount him as unsuccessful. We need a new ministry scorecard.
7. We have forsaken personal holiness for a consumer driven brand of church. Look at the numbers on divorce, pornography usage, alcohol abuse, etc. and it becomes clear the church of Jesus Christ looks exactly like the world. How can we be a mirror of the gospel if in reality we only mirror the world. My brothers and sisters this should not be. Ephesians 5 describes how we should walk in holiness as the church...
“Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not become partners with them; for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret.” (Eph.‬ ‭5:1-12‬)

I am so sad about this current trend in pastoral failure and so that is why I am writing to at least bring the topic up and investigate some solutions to systemic problems that I see. Most of all we can pray that God would bring us back to sole devotion to him, his word, and his glorious church and the proper government of that church. The hope that we always have even as fallen pastors is that the immense Grace of God extends even to us who have fallen in ministry. God is sovereign and even when we walk through the fire, even in our brokenness, and our failures, he is there and he will and can restore us. He may not restore us to ministry, but he will forgive and his grace knows no bounds. This however does not mean that we can treat his grace cheaply or take advantage of it. Thank God! That is the good news that is available to every man woman and child. It is also available to those of us who serve the Lord in professional ministry. He has taken our punishment and wrath upon himself that we might be credited with his perfect record of righteousness! Hallelujah!

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Recovering From Being Fired or as Youth Pastors say "Being Pushed Out"

Maybe like me you have also served in a church that might not of wanted you as much as you thought they wanted you. I've been in those situations on a few occasions. Years ago, I came into the new Church with a lot of excitement and energy for ministry, only to find out a few months later that some of the pastors did not want me there to begin with. On one occasion, I heard later from one of the Deacons at a Church that I served at, that the search committee had made their recommendation of me to the pastor, and the pastor told the committee to keep looking. He thought that I was not God's man for our Church. His only reason, was that I wore earrings, and had an edgier approach to ministry.

These type of experiences can be very humbling difficult for those who experience them. My guess is that you currently feel, or have felt the same way at some point in your ministry career. In the places that I wasn't wanted it was never for a moral reasons. It was only ever about appearance. I came to understand that my position was more about appearance (earrings and Jeans) and style (musical preferences) than about theology and practice (of which I am very Theologically conservative). It is definitely a difficult thing to accept, when you are disliked for your appearance or style of ministry. In the American south it was especially hard to not be judged right away on appearance. I have left churches in my past for some pretty dumb and selfish reasons, but the hardest reasons to leave a church that you actually want to serve at is when you have been "pushed out" or as Donald Trump says "You're Fired."

There are several reasons that Youth Pastors get "pushed out". I will try to address a few of the big ones, and then give some helps for recovery for you.

1. Moral Failure: This is the worst way to leave a Church. When there is something that disqualifies you from ministry that is a very hard thing, and it should all make us very sad. First of all, let's never be in this position. We hear about this more than we should. Maybe a youth pastor runs off with the youth ministry assistant. The youth pastor has an affair with another woman, or the youth pastor did something financially that was not above reproach, and someone reproached. The books were all out of whack, and in fact the youth pastor had been using the Church credit card to buy thousands of dollars of stuff for personal use, including his new entertainment system. No really that happened, not to me thankfully. And on and on we hear about story after story of moral failure until we are sick to our stomachs.

Recovery: This is a hard road from repentance, to healing, to restoration. If you are willing and you have people who love you and want to restore you, then please take this journey with them. The body of Christ can be a beautiful gracious and merciful picture of the kingdom of God when we open ourselves in these situations. Please seek this out if you are in this situation. You will be amazed and blessed on the other side. Galatians 6:1 says it this way, "Brothers and Sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves or you too may be tempted." And I also beg you Church to be a place of reconciliation and healing, not a place of shame and guilt. These awful situations can be an opportunity for the grace and power of Jesus to shine.

2. Community Failure: Maybe the community of Christ has stopped acting like the faithful body of Christ, and is acting more like an organization, business, hierarchy, fraternity, country club, or even God forbid controlling and ungracious, or something else that does not resemble at all the true body of Christ (Ekklesia). Maybe it has even turned into the "Ken and Barbie Show" This is when the church also has the opportunity to repent and change into the loving, gracious, mercy filled body that Jesus has called us to be. It is hard for the Church to recognize sometimes when it has lost the point, but let us be honest and really take hard looks at ourselves in all seriousness to correct what we have done in error or sin.

Recovery: This is also a hard road to recovery. First I would encourage those of you involved in ministry who have experienced Ecclesiastical failure or abuse to hang in there. This can be the hardest road to recovery. I would encourage you to also get with a mentor who can lovingly restore you to a place where you can love the church again. I had a mentor recently ask me if I had been hurt by ministry in the Church. It is hard to answer that when you have been hurt by these man made systems that are probably not biblical in their hierarchy. We have to recover from those power systems that have hurt us, and begin through the renewing of our minds to love Christ's Church again. If we immerse ourselves in the word of God, and healthy Church communities, then we might have a chance at loving Jesus body again.

3. Pastoral Failure: Pastors sometimes get jealous, ambitious, or otherwise do not like how things are going in a youth ministry. I want to call this Pastoral or leadership failure. Maybe it starts with the pastor sharing the pulpit. The pastor starts to think that the youth pastor is a better preacher than he is. He is actually probably right on this point. The youth pastor is usually a better preacher than the senior pastor in my experience, but what sometimes happens is the pastor then gives into is a jealousy, and the thinking that "I have to get rid of this guy or he will overshadow me." This is when the push begins for some youth guys. The pastor goes to the Deacons, the Elders, or other leaders of the Church to start the youth minister witch hunt. For whatever reason, this may have happened to you. I am very familiar with this personally, and too many of my colleagues have also experienced the "pastoral push." There is hope.

Recovery: The first step is to forgive your pastor. In your prayer life ask God to give you forgiveness in your heart for him. Some steps to help you on your journey if you are involved in the same ministry are, asking for his help. Say something like, "I feel like your wisdom and leadership could really be helpful in the Youth Ministry. Could you help me with ______?" "Could you come and give me another set of eyes for what we need in the youth ministry?" "Could you come and share your sermon from a few weeks ago with the youth?" It is hard for him to be your enemy if he is helping you. It is also hard for you to be at odds if you are meeting regularly and praying together over the ministry and Church. If you have been untimely "pushed out" write the pastor an email of forgiveness telling him thank you. Include your gratefulness for your time at the church, and what things you learned from him as a result of your time at the church. It is also hard to hold a grudge or not forgive someone who you express gratitude toward. So do those things and find yourself on the way toward forgiveness, healing, and recovery.

4. Stylistic Failure: The Deacon board meets one month and a few of the Deacons/Elders/Board Members are not happy with how loud the youth group is on Wednesdays. They are also not happy about the music that blares from the youth room. The first problem is that they are talking about the youth pastor without him there. If he is a pastor in your church he should also be an Elder/Deacon, etc. If he is spiritually qualified to be a pastor then he is spiritually qualified to be an Elder/Deacon. So make him one. If he is not qualified to be an Elder/Deacon then don't hire him!!! The second failure is that you are talking about him without him there. The third problem is that no style is more Holy than another. No style of worship is more holy over against another. First PresbyBaptiMethodist worship is just as sanctified as the "Coffee Shop Church" that meets in the underground coffee house in town. Because "Where two or more are gathered in my name there I am in their midst." so Jesus said, He makes our gatherings holy, not with hymns, or choruses, or loud rocking music, but because he is there in our midst and His presence is enough! If this stylistic failure is part of your experience then you also probably have the calling to go and plant a church. Go! and do what God has called you to do. Unfortunately we are divided into so many subcultures and they are usually delineated by musical lines, and so you may be called to a specific subculture set. Don't pass it off. Really think about going into that subculture planting a missional work there that the gospel seeds will eventually turn into a church. No matter how big it becomes you have done what God has called you to.

Recovery: The way in this type of recovery is also forgiveness. The person or persons who are responsible for making the style of Church a idol may need to be forgiven by you. If that is the case I recommend going through every single scripture on forgiveness, bitterness, and repentance to be able to work that out. If you need to approach that person, and let them know, then do that. I do not recommend it most of the time though, because it can compound the problem. Also in my experience those people are immovable, inflexible, and are usually not wrong in their own eyes.

This process of being "Pushed Out" is most often the last straw for guys in ministry and they end up leaving ministry. I hope and pray that is not the case with you. My goal at Youth Pastor Recovery is to help you 1) keep walking with Christ and 2) stay in ministry. If any of these things have happened to you in ministry I want to say, I am sorry, and hang in there don't give up on Christ, and don't give up on His Church. He is there watching after us, and there is an expression of Church out there that will be like a healing balm to your soul. God bless you on your journey to recovery. I hope and pray that Christ can become your obsession again. Here is some worship to help you begin that journey.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Recovering from Pornography, Masturbation, and Sexual Sins

Ok, yep we gotta deal with this one...Let's just get it over with...

Sexual Sin

There I said it. The cat is out of the bag. Everyone was thinking it up to this point, and wasn't saying anything. I just had the guts to say it out loud, or at least type it out loud. Pornography, Masturbation and sexual sins are a problem for youth pastors, not just pastors. I had a ministry colleague who was put in charge of the entire youth ministry program of about 400 children and teenagers over the course of a weekend, because it was found out that the lead youth pastor had run off with one of the girl interns. He had been having an affair with her for about a year. The youth pastor had three kids, and ran off with the youth intern! Sadly I was not as shocked as I should have been when I heard this, because I have heard of these type of things so often with pastors and youth pastors. Unfortunately these stories are more common than they should. I maybe a little jaded, that is why it did not surprise me. I am not sure why, but I kind of expect youth pastors and pastors to mess up in this area. That Is why I write this to empower you to come out of the shadows and live in freedom and victory. I want men of God to act like men, and stop this madness. About five years ago I found out about a Bible college friend that was exposed as he was a youth pastor at a large church for having tons of Pornography on his Church computer. He had a computer technician check it out for viruses, and the computer tech told Him, "I know why you have a lot of viruses on your computer, it's because
you look at a lot of Porn." In Bible college several of my hall-mates and I met together every week for accountability in the area of Masturbation, and pornography. At that time the internet was in its infancy stages, and yet we all had trouble with this issue. Years ago I was on a men's retreat and of course this was the theme of the weekend. The speaker asked all the ment to go around and tell the group when they were first exposed to pornography. I thought first of all that is a bold question! Shocking, and personal. I thought,"How could he imagine that every guy has looked at Porn?" We went around the room and every guy from about 80 men shared that they had been exposed to Porn, and the guy who was exposed to Porn latest in life was 18 years old. The average age of first exposure to Porn was around 11 or 12. Not one guy had never been exposed to Pornography, and most had regular contact.

What I want to accomplish in this post is to expose the "secret" sin that we don't talk about and have kept in the dark shadows for far too long. I want to let you know that you are not alone and this is not an issue that we can keep on ignoring and keep quiet anymore. Lets get it out into the open and talk about it! If we keep it in the secret dark corners then that is where it will stay.

I also want in this post to let you know that you can live in victory! I have also like every other guy been exposed to Porn at a very young age, and from that time on until about a year before I got married struggled with addiction in the area of pornography and masturbation. I want you to know that there is VICTORY! I have, by the grace of God, for the last 12 years lived in victory over Pornography, and only on a handful of occasions have I let myself be exposed to it in those last 12 years. IT IS POSSIBLE TO OVERCOME! Looking at pornography and the guilt associated with it do not disqualify you from ministry. If Porn would be a disqualification, then every man would be disqualified. But that does not give us an excuse or license to do it. That would be what Dietrich Bonhoeffer calls "Cheap Grace". We can't just throw our hands up in the air and say, "Oh well, I can't control it, I can't live in victory." That is not true! I am a living witness and testimony that it is possible. Also our scriptures are pretty clear that we can and shoud live in consistent victory over sin (Romans 8).

These are by no means an exhaustive list of help for these sexual sins, but I wanted to lay out several ways that we can overcome these pitfalls in the area of sexual temptation. First of all...

1. Talk about it: Talk about it first of all with your wife. For me it was before we were married. I told My future wife that this was a problem for me, but that I had lived in victory over it for about a year. I told her that if she decided to marry me that she would have to be my main accountability.  For me that meant that she had EVERY password and account number that we/I had. Bank accounts, Internet accounts, facebook, twitter, etc. and that all our computers were always set up in a public places, and that I reminded my wife periodically that she needed to check up on what had been viewed on all our computers. This may be a very embarrassing conversation, but it has to happen. Freedom will not happen without honesty, and dialogue with your spouse or a good friend, mentor, discipler, accountability partner, etc. If holiness is such a big issue as God makes it, then do whatever it takes. Drastic sins deserve drastic measures ("If your right eye causes you to sin gauge it out").

2. Be honest with your sexuality: This applies to you and communication with your spouse, but you also have to have someone in your life that you can talk about this with. If you do not then you are only on a destructive pattern. It is a lie to say that we are not sexual beings and that we do not or should not have sex drives. God made sex for our pleasure, and for us to reflect Christ's love for the Church. Please be honest about this and talk with your partner about it. My wife and I recently are talking more and more about what we appreciate and do not appreciate in our sexual lives. We are being honest with each other, and we are growing in great ways in this area. Because of it we are growing to love each other more deeply. You also need to be able to talk honestly with outside people. There are things that guys can share that are just not appropriate in the marriage relationship. Sometimes you need to gripe, sometimes you just need to dump what is in your heart, and sometimes the dark stuff in a man's heart might be too much for your wife. I know that it is sometimes too much for my wife, so I encourage that mentor, discipler, friend, accountability partner, or someone who pushes you on to holiness. Please do just that with each other...Push each other on to holiness...If God does then we should too.

3. Pray and worship often: If you do not have a deep and emotionally connected personal prayer and worship life you will never change in this area. Guys have a problem with emotions. We deny, stuff, or otherwise ignore our emotions. That is a dangerous and problematic cycle that we get ourselves into. If we are not developing and growing a loving, humble, needy, celebratory, affectionate, meditative, worshipful, loving, and tender, communion with Christ then you might struggle in this area. If you can say that you do not have this type of multi-faceted relationship with Christ, and you say its because, "I am not an emotional person" you are wrong...if you believe you are genuinely not an emotional person in your personality, your personality needs to change! You need to pray for The Lord to make you a tender, emotionally connected person, like Jesus was! It is obvious that He was emotionally engaged. It is hard to read the passages where it says that Jesus was, "moved with compassion" without thinking that he was an emotionally engaged saviour. So open your heart and let God work on your compassion quotient. 

If we want to change in this area we have to work hard at it. For me it was not an easy process, but a most awesome, humbling, and holy process,  and I am so excited to be able to say to you today that by the power and grace of God I live in consistent victory over Pornography and sexual sins!!! You can do it! Lean on Christ and the ministry of the Spirit and His Church to give you freedom and victory. 

This article below is about sexual sins and missions, but youth ministry and missions are the same thing. So here is a link to a great article about why people don't enter missions and or ministry because they feel disqualified. Thanks for reading. God bless you as you tackle this difficult and very important area of purity. 

Missions and Masturbation Article

Lord deliver us!!!