Categories
Enjoying the Process

Resubscribed

Phil Johnson announced today that he is stoking the coals in the Pyromaniacs fire pit.

I really appreciate Phil. He is one of my favorite people in California and certainly among those involved at Grace Community Church and Grace to You. I like his family, I like his writing style, and I like his wry, humorous sarcasm.

I also really liked the Pyromaniac back in the day (he started in 2005? That’s a long time ago!), especially before it became the group blog. To get “blogspotted” was a meaningful metric for some aspiring bloggers, like me.

I appreciate the Po-Motivators® posters and the principled arguments. I am usually glad for the targets he identifies and for the shots he fires.

However, while I love his precision with biblical interpretation and logical reasoning and wordsmithing, I wonder if part of the problem is that he’s better at pointing out what to avoid rather than pointing out where to go. The Emergent Church movement and subsequent spin-offs were/are unbiblical and man-centered. But the “truth-lovers” (as David Wells named in his book, Courage to Be Protestant) can be just as self-aggrandizing and self-congratulating while never calling an offensive play. The drift of some at TGC and ERLC may be in the wrong direction, but the answer is not better isolation, which the TMS/ShepCon group seems to prefer not only from cultural issues but from other Christians.

I wouldn’t be in the position I am today without God’s use of men like Phil, both in his original writing/preaching and also his editing and administrating for John MacArthur. And because of his/their work I’m in a better position to see some of their bent toward dualism, perhaps not in the full historical definition, but in a misapplied emphasis on sentences about the Bible without a corresponding love for cosmological Calvinism, the kind God told Adam about back in Genesis.

Maybe I should say more about this. But for now I’m resubscribed to the Fire with much gratitude, and some ambivalence.

Categories
Every Thumb's Width

Too Late for Me

Some interesting discussion going on at TeamPyro over the video below. I’m guessing most people younger than me probably don’t know that the original song was, “Momas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow up to be Cowboys” made popular by by Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson.

Is the video funny or sad? My response is a pastor answer, “Yes.”

Also, thanks to a friend of mine, I found out Phil was on the Way of the Master Radio show last Thursday. You can listen to Hour one and Hour two. Of special interest to some of my readers will be Phil’s explanation of the correct pronunciation of Augustine.

Categories
Enjoying the Process

Pyro Tubing Take Two

We saw over five feet of fresh powder fall at our Snow Retreat last week on top of the five or six already on the ground. Apparently it was record snow for the Snoqualmie Pass region over the last 30 years. Though the weather made travel to and from the Double-K a bit dicey, it was a flurry of fun for everyone–including our speaker.

With a little encouragement and a little bike helmet, Phil tackled the tubing hill just like last year. And for your viewing pleasure, here now is the video documentation of PyroTubing 2008.

Thanks to Mijah for filming and editing.

Categories
Enjoying the Process

Winter Pleasures

Winter pleasures have made blogging sparse here at the void. Last weekend I was in -25 temperature with Dave Cleland in White Lake, WI for his annual Snow Fever high school retreat. It was very much a pleasure to hang with Dave (as it always is), including our dinner at Lambeau Field two nights before the NFC Championship.

Last Thursday Andy Bowers, Jonathan Sarr, Curtis Wentling and I celebrated five years of weekly, early morning meetings. Those guys, along with previous summer interns Chris Martin and Micah Lugg, as well as recent addition Jesse Martin are some of my favorite people on the planet.

Of the original guys, two have gotten married since we started meeting, three of us have had kids, and the other has his first on the way. Along the way we’ve talked theology, planned ministry, and seen iron sparks fly. As a group we’ve read (at least that I can remember): Hard to Believe, When I Don’t Desire God, The Forgotten Spurgeon, The Book on Leadership, The End for Which God Created the World, and are a third of the way through a two year tackling of The Institutes. We’ve met mostly in my office, but also frequented Denny’s, Buzz Inn, Cedarcrest Restaurant, and at least three different Starbucks. In my office alone we estimate–conservatively–at least 225 gallons of coffee consumed. I really do give thanks daily for these minister partners and personal friends.

And then today (road conditions depending) we leave for the Double-K Ranch for our annual Snow Retreat and we’re pleased to have Phil and Darlene Johnson with us for a second year. We’re back on Friday, so continuing winter blogging will have to wait until then.

UPDATE [10:40PM February 2]: We did leave on Monday. We barely returned on Friday. It’s good to be home.

Categories
Lies Teens Believe

Is This Nirvana?

Or, Why Being a Youth Pastor is No Paradise.

Phil Johnson recently wrote a pungent post that smells like teen spirit on the dangers of dumbing down teaching to young people. He pointed out at least two problems with this minimalist approach to youth ministry.

First, most strategies intended to attract young people to the church are counterproductive. This is because you can’t win someone to spiritual, eternal realities when you focus on earthly, temporal activities. Why would they want to stick around for God when the pizza is gone?

Second, Phil stated,

Youth ministries…deliberately shield their young people from the hard truths and strong demands of Jesus. They tailor their worship so worldly youth can feel as comfortable in the church environment as possible. They squander the best opportunities of those formative student years by minimizing spiritual instruction while emphasizing fun and games. They let their teens live with the false notions that believing in Christ is easy, sanctification is optional, and religion is supposed to be fun and always suited to our liking.

In other words, dumbed down discipleship is not really discipleship to Christ at all. Not only do we fail to win their interest in church we lose their souls. Minimalist youth ministry actually keeps young people from Christ rather than attracting them to Him.

That’s not good.

Of course, that is the typical approach of most youth groups and that’s certainly how we youth pastors are perceived. Because of that it is not a good day to be a youth pastor. When I meet people at Starbucks (or on a plane or at Burger King or wherever) I often wince when they ask me what I do. How do you humbly say, “I’m a youth pastor, but probably not exactly like the ones you know”?

On the other hand, it is a great day to be a youth pastor. As Phil said, we have “the best opportunities of those most formative student years.” Young people make devoted disciples and fanatical worshipers. Biblical churches and pastors will charge their youth to “set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.” Young people will reap great spiritual rewards as they take responsibility in the Body and “when each part is working properly, [it] makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.” That is as close to heaven on earth as we get.


Comments (copied)

Drew said November 15, 2007 at 10:57 am:

Hey Sean, I know exactly what you mean about telling people you’re a youth pastor. I’ve actually had people ask me when I’m going to become a real pastor. It seems that the evangelical church’s opinion of youth ministry is at an all time low. In the context of my church, this has proven to be a real blessing b/c the contrast between a Purpose Driven Youth Ministry model and a biblical model of discipleship and sanctification could not be more stark. When parents see what it looks like to minister according to Colossians 1:28-29 they crave that kind of ministry, not just for their kids but for themselves as well.

Sarah said November 15, 2007 at 9:54 pm:

I am so thankful for the great, true, and solid “food” we get in One28.

In chapel this past week the speaker said just as one footnote about how youth pastors today are expected to be all fun and be jumping around crazy without being sensible. Thank you for the reminder, that helps me remember to be thankful.

Mijah said November 15, 2007 at 11:14 pm:

I totally agree that the church must see that souls are at stake in youth ministry.

P.S. – Second to last paragraph, last sentence: I think you wanted a “not” in that.

SKH said November 16, 2007 at 10:31 am:

Drew, it is one of the greatest joys of ministry when God vindicates His name and His ministry model. While part of His plan apparently includes not letting everyone “get it,” there’s nothing better as an under-shepherd than when He enables sheep to get it.

Sarah, thank you for the encouragement!

Mijah, it’s like we’re playing for keeps or something. And thanks for the typographical post script; changes have been made.

Dave Cleland said November 16, 2007 at 10:46 am:

“Why would they want to stick around for God when the pizza is gone?”

I had hoped Cat Tuesday would be the hook that kept ‘em coming after the last slice was gone. Alas, I was wrong.

Seriously though, even with all the statistics floating around out there about kids leaving church after high school most churches continue to look for answers in the wrong places. It just goes to show that all statistics can do is shock. Unless churches are providing a biblical alternative to popular youth ministry parents are still feeling around in the dark for a solution.

Categories
A Shot of Encouragement

The Man of God

I first heard John MacArthur share this in some version of his message on The Man of God (here’s one). Phil Johnson posted more of the context, which was originally written by Floyd Doud Shafer for Christianity Today in 1961. Really great for a pastor/preacher.


Fling him into his office, tear the office sign from the door and nail up a sign, “Study.” Take him off the mailing list. Lock him up with his books and his Bible. Slam him down on his knees before texts and broken hearts and the lives of a superficial flock and a holy God. Force him to be the one man in the community who knows about God. Throw him into the ring to box with God until he learns how short his arms are. Engage him to wrestle with God all night long, and let him come out only when he’s bruised and beaten into being a blessing.

Shut his mouth forever spouting remarks. Stop his tongue forever tripping lightly over every nonessential. Require him to have something to say before he dares break the silence, and bend his knees in the lonesome valley of suffering. Burn his eyes with weary study. Wreck his emotional poise with worry over his life before God. Make him exchange his pious stance for a humble walk with God and man. Make him spend and be spent for the glory of God. Rip out his telephone, Amen. Burn up his ecclesiastical success sheets.

Put water in his gas tank. Give him a Bible, and tie him to the pulpit and make him preach the Word of the Living God. Test him. Quiz him. Examine him. Humiliate him for his ignorance of things divine. Shame him for his good comprehension of finances, game scores and politics. Laugh at his frustrated effort to play psychiatrist. Form a choir and raise a chant and haunt him with it night and day. Sir, we would see Jesus. And when, at last, he does enter the pulpit, ask him if he has a Word from God. If he doesn’t, then dismiss him.

Tell him you can read the morning paper. You can digest the television commentaries. You can think through the day’s superficial problems. You can manage the community’s weary fund drives. You can bless the sordid baked potatoes and green beans, ad infinitum, better than he can. Command him not to come back until he’s read and reread, written and rewritten, until he can stand up worn and forlorn and say, “Thus says the Lord.”

Break him across the board of his ill-gotten popularity. Smack him hard with his own prestige. Corner him with questions about God. Cover him with demands for celestial wisdom and give him no escape until he’s back against the wall of the Word. Sit down before him and listen to the only word he has left, God’s Word. Let him be totally ignorant of the down-street gossip, but give him a chapter, and order him to walk around it, camp on it, sup with it, and come at last to speak it backward and forward until all he says rings with the truth of eternity.

And when he’s burned out by the flaming Word, when he’s consumed at last by the fiery grace blazing through him, when he’s privileged to translate that truth of God to man and finally transferred from earth to Heaven, then bear him away gently, and blow a muted trumpet, and lay him down softly and place a two-edged sword on his coffin, and raise the tomb triumphant, for he was a brave soldier of the Word. And ere he died, he had become a man of God.

Floyd Doud Shafer, “And Preach As You Go!