Category Archives: Ministry

Name Dropping Jabez

I did not intend on posting this on my blog. I wrote it as a first attempt to fulfill the latest item on my bucket list which now contains three goals: hit a hole in one, play a round of golf under par, write a guest post for Stuff Christians Like. I realize that Jon Acuff usually has professional authors, comedians, and people whose blogs are read by more than 50 people guest posting for him, but that isn’t going to stop me from submitting sarcastic and ridiculously cynical essays to him. Well, at least until the restraining order is notarized.

There are only three acceptable ways to mention the book of Chronicles in church… Hold on a minute. I have just been informed that there are, in fact, two books of Chronicles in the Bible. I guess that proves it—they will make a sequel of just about anything… Where was I? Oh yes, three acceptable ways to mention either of the books of Chronicles in church:

1. Listing the books of the Bible. Every kid’s program in every church in the world requires memorization of the books of the Bible. Fortunately, there are 1,462 different tunes that the canon can be forced into. You may have to stretch out Sam-u-el into three syllables or say “letter to the Romans” to make it work, but you can do it. Add some hand motions and a few claps and you’ll be on the Billboard Youth Camp Top 40 before you get to that awkward pause between the Testaments. You did write in an awkward pause between the Testaments, right?

2. The ultimate challenge in a through-the-Bible-in-a-year program. The first few weeks are going to be great as you learn about creation, the flood, Abraham, and Jacob. Even the constant whining of the Israelites in the wilderness is interesting because you know it’s only a matter of time before God sets them straight with a stray earthquake or serpent. But around May, after you’ve fought through the law and heard every possible way to sacrifice a turtle dove, you’ll hit the really tough section—the genealogies in the Chronicles. Name after name. Generation after generation. It’s a good thing these people lived so long or they never would have had time to think up another phonetic atrocity to call their offspring. If Chinese water torture and the Scripps National Spelling Bee had a child, it would be the Biblical genealogies and they would name him Casluhim.

3. Jabez. Even before Bruce Wilkinson popularized Jabez’s prayer by selling nine million copies of a 96 page book (seriously, it’s shorter than that one you read skimmed for your 6th grade book report), I had learned that “Open your Bible to the book of 1 Chronicles” meant “Go to chapter four and get ready to hear about the momma-torturing, pain-causing, more-honorable-than-his-brothers, Jabez.”

So why do we love talking about this Jabez guy? Is it his rags-to-riches story? His prayer about wanting greater influence? His reliance on God? I think it’s simpler than that—mentioning Jabez proves that we know the books of Chronicles exist. Name dropping Jabez indicates that we successfully navigated the first four chapters of the gauntlet of genealogies (only five to go).

Sure, there are some great lessons we can learn from the prayer, but when you drop the J-bomb I know what you’re saying—“I finished 1 Chronicles and read it closely enough to notice one specific guy.” Well, I will too…right after I figure out how to pronounce Hazarmaveth (62 points on a double word score).

What’s the most obscure Bible passage you’ve ever heard preached from?

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Are you ok?

When I’m going through tough circumstances I find myself being asked “Are you ok?” quite a bit and I know what the questioners are doing. They are doing the same thing I’ve done when I’ve asked others in similar situations the same question:

They are reaching out.
They are showing they care.
They are trying to determine whether I need help…
…or to talk
…or to vent
…or to punch a wall.
They are letting me know they are willing to listen.
They are ready to offer perspective.
They are willing to ease my burden if possible.

What they aren’t doing, and what I’ve failed to do so many times, is asking the right question. I wonder why no one has ever just screamed back at me “Of course I’m not ok! You wouldn’t be asking if I was ok!” In certain circumstances ok just isn’t an option and we’re all tired of putting on a happy face and saying “yeah” when everyone knows better.

so…

Is there a right question? If so it needs to acknowledge that the problem isn’t fixable. It needs to be specific. It needs to direct the hurting party to think of the answer himself without being pretentious. It needs to be humble in its phrasing. It needs to imply these very personal questions without being invasive:

Do you have hope?
Are you still trusting?
Are you finding peace?
Do you need help?
Do you know others care?

I’m not sure there is a question that envelopes all of the emotional, spiritual, and personal feelings we are trying to communicate so I’m just going to keep asking “Are you ok?” and hope that I can convey those feelings through my actions and willingness to listen. More importantly, I’ll try to remember that others are doing the same when they ask me.

So, yeah, I’m ok. Thanks for asking.

What I Learned at NAFWB’11

I love the annual National Association of Free Will Baptist Convention. Unfortunately, I have not been able to attend the past three, but there was no way I was going to miss this one since it was within six hours of home and my wife thought she could con her parents into keeping our 5 and 6 year olds. This was the first time I have ever been to the National without any responsibility so I had a lot of time to visit all of the exhibits and actually see what they were offering, see some of the NYC competition, the fwb21 panel, evening services, the tweet-up lunch, talk to a lot of friends and family, and generally just do whatever I wanted.

Because I had a little more time to observe and was able to have real conversations with more people, I was able to learn several things that many FWBs probably have known for a long time:

  • All you can eat wings at Buffalo Wild Wings for lunch is a great idea.
  • All you can eat wings for supper the same day is not a great idea.
  • If you are looking for something to be offended about, you will find it.
  • We Free Will Baptists treat the NAFWB evening service more like a political rally than a church service—we are listening to cheer for what we agree on and with a keen ear for anything we don’t. I wonder what would happen if that many dedicated Christians gathered in one place listened to God rather than the people talking.
  • 4 of the FWB colleges were giving away lanyards at their booths while the other was giving away raisins. My 20 month old daughter is a big fan of California Christian.
  • 20somethings do a great job of talking about bettering the denomination, but there were fewer than 5 in the business meetings. Perhaps that is because…
  • There is no such thing as an exciting report.
  • I will order food just because it has a cool name. My receipts for a Homewrecker burrito at Moe’s and a That’s How I Roll signature creation at Coldstone attest to this.
  • Talking with those you disagree with is the first step toward denominational unity.
  • Talking about those you disagree with is the first step away from denominational unity.
  • If real discussion only happens once a year, we will need to re-take that first step every year.
  • My generation thinks the disunity within our denomination is superficial, but I am pretty sure it isn’t. I realized this week that, out of fear of offending, we haven’t talked about the real issues for so long that a whole generation doesn’t know what they are or how strongly the beliefs are held. If our denomination is going to be unified in a way that it hasn’t been in my lifetime, we must discuss specifics without ad hominem and let each other know the real reasons for our objections.
  • NAFWB delegates should be required to remove their name tags when smoking outside of the convention center.
  • We are definitely a rural denomination. I had a hard time distinguishing the people who were visiting the NASCAR Hall of Fame next door from the FWBs.
  • There is a Bojangles in the Charlotte Convention Center! One worker told me they had another Baptist convention last week so I would be surprised if there is a single chicken still alive east of the Mississippi.
  • My cousin told me that my great grandpa, George Scott, made the motion to make the Wednesday night service at NAFWB a missions-emphasis service. Since the missions service is always great, I’ll accept that it was my family’s idea without any documentation. (But if anyone has any, let me know.)

Defining 20somethings

When @webby778 and I started our 20somethings Bible study class two years ago, we were asked numerous times why we needed a specific ministry for young adults. We were convinced that by focusing on our specific audience each week, we could spark some excitement within our age group, so we started trying to define our age group. Here are some of the thoughts that we came up with. Please add your own in the comments or disagree vehemently if you want. After all…

  1. …we like to give our opinions. Don’t tell me what you think without letting me tell you what I think. I may be way off base here. (see what I did there)
  2. We have no problem jumping from one topic to the next. Even if a conclusion has not been reached, we can abandon a discussion and move on with the knowledge that we at least talked about it.
  3. We think we are multitaskers and, therefore, are not generally offended if others divide their attention while we are conversing. Usually we are not as good at this as we think though.
  4. Fun is the most important factor determining whether we will recommend something to our friends. Even if we recognize something as valuable, we probably won’t endorse it if it’s not fun.
  5. We like spontaneity. This isn’t to say we don’t like structure, but “off the cuff” doesn’t bother us.
  6. We prefer the easiest form of communication available even if it is not the most efficient. We won’t visit if we can call, won’t call if we can email, won’t email if we can text.
  7. We like the idea of making a difference, but often don’t care enough to be personally involved to the point of changing the way we live.
  8. We think we understand more about people than we really do and often express this by making generic lists and summing up diverse groups of people in a few simple points.

While typing this out, I realized that a few of these items could use some explanation and it would be great to discuss how a young adult’s ministry can capitalize on these characteristics. I’ll work on that pretty soon.