Aside

Called to????

After a chat with a buddy on theological training and its outcomes, I had to ask this question. “What should be the outcomes after four years of studying theology?” Many people would respond by saying that it is in the pastorate (church) that all or most students should end up in. Others may say the mission field. The idea that does surface is that often we get the calling confused with that of the office. In other words we confuse function with office. So how should we respond to that?

I do think that we have asked the incorrect questions when it comes to theological studies and its outcomes. Instead of asking where are you called to, we should ask what are your called to? In other words, what is it that God has called you to do? Let’s get a bit closer to home here and use myself as an example. I believe I am called to minister to young people. Now automatically you would assume I will take up a post as a youth pastor at a church. What has typically happened here is that we confuse the calling (a function) with a post (an office). As someone who ministers to youth, that office can exist in more than one expression, namely, as a youth pastor at a local church, as a teacher at a school, as a person at an NGO that has youth as its mandate and that list could go on forever. There are many more examples one can use but I hope it brings the point home?

When we are called to the ministry it primarily means we are called in a capacity to make Jesus known to people. That is the FUNCTION. Our calling is NOT to an OFFICE but that of a function. The function, as mentioned above, is to make known Jesus to the world (by the way that is every believers calling as well). So let’s not get too stressed about where we will end up because the place we end up at will always be negotiable. I do believe that God is bigger than the limitation we place on ourselves and that of our callings. We sometimes wonder that if we do hang out at a place so different from that of traditional ministries we might be missing the mark. That is because we confuse our function with office. Again, I would like to propose that the office (where we minister) is irrelevant, as long as we fulfil our function (that which God has called us to). This office may never meet people’s satisfaction or what they may believe to be a relevant place to minister.

So at the end of the day we should be saying that it doesn’t matter where you end up or what the office looks like that you hold. What does matter is that you fulfill the mandate that has been given to you by God. 

Weekend or Weakend?

So it’s that time of the week when most people wind down. Except when you are in the ministry. For some strange reason the weekend tends to be the busiest time for those involved in ministry. And if you are bi-vocational, it also means you will be sacrificing some rest time as well as family time. So there are two huge sacrifices asked of us.

The results of these sacrifices?

Firstly, there is no time to rest. If anyone has been in ministry you know that preparation doesn’t end when you put the pen down. It continues up until the actual event and often times lingers on beyond the striking of the clock. So one tends to move from a busy week to a busy weekend back into a busy week. No wonder people in ministry are tired!

Secondly, because of the busyness in the week, family time is usually on the weekend but if you followed point one closely you will see that yet again there will not be any or much family time. So in this sense, family time has been sacrificed for ministry time.

Finally, with all this busyness how does one reflect and meditate on personal matters? Because whatever free time you will now have, will be taken to fill up with either family time or rest. So how do we keep refreshed when there is no time for that?

But to add further injury to the above is the confusion and guilt that comes with all of these.

Firstly, if we don’t “DO” ministry then we tend to feel guilty in letting the Lord down when in actual fact we are afraid of letting the church down and what their responses and opinions might be of us.

Secondly, we feel guilty for once again making our family secondary to that of a ministry, which is a misplaced guilt feeling. And although we know it but choose to rationalise it, our families begin resenting our shallow commitment to them and our increased commitment to the church and other people.

Finally, we just start hating our calling and the place we find ourselves in because it all just tends to spiral out of control. We begin experiencing burnout, escapism from the ministry, family break-down and personal devotion with God starts waning.

What’s your weekend/weakend like?

One Year Later…

One year later, and I am changed!

Yes, I know we all change and a year is more than enough time for many things to change. But let me explain and put that statement into context.

Exactly one year ago I  left Exclusive Books (EB) under very struggling circumstances to an unknown future. Honestly, sometimes the fear of the unknown is just so much brighter than any present circumstance and reality that we might have. Sometimes the seeming safety and security of the present can rob us from achieving greatness and satisfaction in our lives, but instead we remain with what we are familiar with. It’s like that saying rings true for so many of us, “rather the devil you know than the devil you don’t.” This was true in so many ways for me, I opted to dine with the proverbial “devil” and I settled for less than what could be possible. But toward the latter part of my stay I began asking questions, deep and honest and sometimes down right scary questions about myself, my purpose, my skill and ability and if I am found in the right place. Obviously, the answer to that question was a loud resounding NO!

These questions that I began asking led to a challenge in my belief of myself and my belief system. Now questions are not bad and neither is doubt because questions can lead to answers we never knew existed and if we do not ask, how will we ever know any different from where we find ourselves? And doubt can lead to faith, and when my present looked so bleak and dark, I could only hope and believe that God had something better in store for me and that he would catch me when I jump (or maybe I was pushed?).

And so in June 2011, my stay at EB ended and a new chapter in my life began. Just what that new chapter would offer was beyond my wildest imaginations! It’s alot like the Habakkuk 1:5  story where I would not believe what is possible and about to happen even if God had told me. I definitely was a Habakkuk. And so this journey continues to surprise me and overwhelm me at times, but what a ride!

The path I chose not to travel… what it could have offered? I think it could have offered me countless opportunities that would be great but I wonder if it would have that WOW factor? I declined a call as a youth pastor to an amazing church that offered great opportunities. I also declined an opportunity to work abroad, which I could imagine would be just as amazing with international travels and cultural experiences. I never made a good choice or a bad choice but I made a choice and it has made all the difference.

The path I chose to travel… and what it does offer? I began “working” but actually it’s more ministering and fulfilling a dream that I have had for many years. I am currently at the Cape Town Baptist Seminary as Registrar and Youth Lecturer. I have also commenced with my doctoral studies and I continue to be involved in youth at local church levels where invited to be part of. But I am here! And I love it. I lecture and admin and study and smile and live.

So, one year later and I am saying, don’t be afraid to make a choice and enjoy the journey that God will let you begin, a journey that hopefully will be shared with people who matter in your life. I am on such a journey and I am sure you would be able to say what I am currently saying, “what a ride! WHAT A RIDE!

Youth Rally – Part 3

So now that I have given both positive (good) and negative (not so good) opinions, let me attempt providing some alternatives.

But before I do, let me reminisce a bit about my days at youth rallies and coffee bars. I remember days at Silvertown, Athlone, Battswood, Grassypark, Westridge Baptist Churches and Presby Bridgetown, Docks Mission in Belgravia and so many other churches that evades me right now, with fond memories. Many of my Facebook friends are a lifetime of these very people who I have met at these events. It was filled with fun and excitement and yes there was coffee and doughnuts. What is a youth event without coffee and doughnuts? I remember the WABY song festivals and people like Colin Johnson, Ron Lomax, Linzay Rinquest, Johnny Cyster, Rodney Readon and this list can just go on and on. It was great events, it changed me in so many ways. I was a believer of youth rallies. And it was extremely effective, bringing so many youth groups together from different walks of life and denominations. And many young people came to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ through such events.

But the question remains, is this the most effective means of getting youth groups together? I do suppose it rests upon the purpose of the event hey? But let’s stick to youth rallies here.

  1. The purpose: I suppose apart from presenting the gospel of Jesus Christ to young people and with this I might suggest bringing the devotion (the 10 min sermon) as close to the beginning as possible – someone who may have never heard the gospel before might be in need of that and if relegated to the end we might miss that opportunity completely. Furthermore I would imagine that the event would be to allow young people to expand their friendship base and foster relationships, both new and old ones. So let’s give more time to relationship building and networking. Lets end the evening earlier and offer coffee and whatever has replaced doughnuts, let’s help young people develop the ability to grow socially.
  2. The event and items on the programs should be kept to a minimum (note point 1), preferably for an hour, so that maximum time can be given to young people to meet others. With regard to “items” done on the program, as much as possible try to screen what is to be done. We don’t want to send a message that is contradictory to what we would want to accomplish. Yet, let’s not miss the opportunity to showcase the talents that our youth may posses, it may be the only platform available to them to show the world what they have (reality is that many won’t make it to idols).
  3. More adult supervision. It’s quite sad and disconcerting to see so few adults at theses events. Either the adults are afraid of being in the same vicinity with the youth or they are just not interested. It may help adults to better understand a part of youth culture. It is also at such events that we can challenge the whole generational theories that might be out there. Young people need adult supervision and input in their lives, so let’s take every opportunity that exists.
  4. The venue? While it is understandable for the venue to be a church, as it is usually the church’s youth group that is hosting the event, i think a more neutral venue should be used so that we could attract youth that are unchurched as well. In this case, I would want to even encourage for a combined effort of more than one youth group when hosting the event. If we could network and combine our resources, we could reach so many more young people and be so much more effective. (I think the days of solo youth ministry has passed and if we continue down this track we might even become more obsolete than we already are.)
  5. Youth Participation is important and while they may love music and being entertained, I think that them being involved would be a more valuable experience than just sitting in the pews and sponging things in. I think we need to create events that allows for more interacting and crowd participation. This generation is wanting to give what they have and we should help them do exactly that, if we will not utilise them and their gifts and talents in church circles then we can be rest assured that they will use it elsewhere. Why not allow them to live for something worth living for.

So, the question at the end of it all, if we are wanting such results, should we look at alternative models? Should coffee bars have a come back? Will there be a place for it?

After all is said and done, I think that there should be a rehash of what coffee bars were and what it should be to meet the current generations needs. I think the name youth rally should be completely dropped and be replaced by something sexier 🙂 and more relevant in terms of getting the message and purpose across of what we are wanting to say. But beyond everything I think our aim at such events should be to foster a community experience in which all or most of those attending would be able to give in terms of their talents and gifting.

Youth Rally – Part 2

So as a follow-up to yesterdays blog (click here) as promised, I’m going to be reflecting on some of the negative things that I experienced on Friday. I also know that these are biased and should by no means be seen as dogma or law. In return I will post tomorrow a recommendation/s (which I would hope you would come out with guns blazing to critique so that I could come up with better suggestions next time around).

It is also important to see it as a continuation from yesterdays post as the evening is not all negative but there have been many positive aspects to it.

So after the evening, by sitting through and participating in the event, and with much reflection the weekend I have come to these points. That often there is:

  • The disregard for time or the inability and lack of control of what is placed on the program. It can become so full of “acts” (sometimes these acts can be unsavoury and distract from the intended purpose of the evening) that it can become overkill. We still live in a world with boundaries and if we as leaders cannot discern or set these boundaries of overdo or overkill then how can expect our youth to be able to? What lessons are we sending?
  • The relegation of the Word to the end of the program. Now I know in our current dispensation, the Word of God is downplayed and at times even considered irrelevant. The interpretation of the Word of God is frowned on even more, “that is your opinion” they would say. At times we even would consider preaching as a disturbance in the worship service or program, an unnecessary element that could be left out. When we misplace this important aspect and element from a Christian gathering, you can only then imagine the implications of our actions? The Word of God in your life can also be relegated, and even be an unnecessary disturbance which could be better left out.
  • When I’m at work or study and I give in sloppy work, I can bet my bottom dollar (sorry for the American expression) that I will be in trouble. What I find extremely disturbing is the quality of what we present as groups at such events. Yes, the Lord does love a volunteer and none is to be omitted from this amazing privilege of being a part of the ministry. But it is important to know what your gifting is and then also the quality that you present. I actually find it quite offensive when we feel we can give God just any scrap, I honestly think he deserves more than that. Let’s not for the sake of wanting to give or “minister,” as we will put it, just give anything irrespective of its quality. Some of the acts that we presented were bordering and even went over into the offensive side. I wonder what message we send across when we say, “anything is good enough for God, as long as you give”? Again, I think God deserves more than that considering what He gave us.
  • A general misplaced purpose. Toward the middle of the evening I was unsure as to what the evening was really about. If we could pin it down to just one thing and then do it well, it would have been an event well marketed and spent. Instead I walked away and was unsure as to the overall purpose of the evening. Was it to showcase talents? Was it for fellowship? Was it for hearing how God could transform lives? Was it to make some money through sales? I’m not too sure if I have the answer to those questions!

So, was it a bad evening? No it wasn’t! I think some goals, whichever they may be, were met. I do however think that  maybe there should be a more clearly definable goal and purpose to such events so that young people would be able to walk away with something concrete in a world were there are so many messages bombarding them all the time. So in the end, I would want to say that we should be careful with the messages that we send across, whether intentional or not.

Stay in touch for part 3…

Youth Rally – Part 1

I attended a youth rally on Friday and I thought that I would give an insight into what I experienced. So this blog would be in three parts. Beginning with the good parts, then moving to the bad parts and finally I will be giving my recommendations (which might not account to much in any case).

So to begin with the good parts…

I remember my youth days and many of it were filled with youth rallies; back then it was called coffee bars. It was an awesome time for you to meet with friends you have not seen in a long time. It was also a great opportunity to meet new people and by that I mean people of the opposite sex (of which I was a disaster). Youth rallies were also awesome for showcasing the youths talent and of that there were many, from singing to dancing to drama ( I even remember at one time a very shiny body showing off his muscles in a very tiny brief – which I still find disturbing 🙂 ). And obviously every youth rally has to end with a devotion; not a sermon because it was always kept to 10 minutes at a maximum (but more of that to come).

But after a while youth rallies began declining and soon became very ineffective and youth groups stopped attending and supporting such events for reasons at that time not known to me. So when this youth rally was announced, I was dubious to its success based upon the history and trends of youth rallies. I expected a handful of youth groups, with some really bad showcasing of talents and a crowd (the handful) would be unmanageable.

So come Friday and would do I see? The church is packed! I could not believe it! Could youth rallies be experiencing a come back? Have I in my educated “guessing” limited what God could do, yes even with a youth rally? And the crowd was controllable and generally supportive of the program. The showcasing of talents? Lets just say that some of them should not enter SA Has Talent :). But on that in the next blog.

So what is my opinion and lessons learnt on Friday?

  1. There is nothing new under the sun and if we rehash old ideas and present it in new ways it can still be effective.  God is bigger than my opinions and ideas and with him nothing is really impossible. He can even use youth rallies for whatever purpose he wants to achieve. So don’t consider anything as obsolete because we serve a God a who isn’t.
  2. Young people will always support such events because it affords them the opportunity to meet other young people and increase the friendship base (even if it’s just a number on Facebook). Part of what we do as youth workers is to afford young people wholesome friendships which such events could offer (although there were some unsavoury activities – more about that in my next blog) but we should never underestimate the importance of friendships and relationships for young people.
  3. Good marketing will result in good returns. I could see that some effort was put into the event and resulted a good crowd and some participation in the program for the evening. It’s encouraging to know and notice that youth groups are still actively marketing their youth groups and events that they host.

So are youth rallies back? I’m not about to answer that question before publishing the next two blogs…

Premarital Sex

We had a guest lecturer at the Seminary yesterday, Rev Dr Stephen Willis, who wrote his PhD dissertation on the “relationship between premarital sexual activity and marital dissolution” through the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. While his talk had so many great talk points and gems to ponder on and even places of rebuke for us who are raising kids without any thorough thought processes.

But what stood out for me more than the sexual practices activity and unwise decisions made by our adolescents, was the awesome and important role and responsibility that we as youth pastors and adults leader should play in the lives of teenagers in assisting and guiding them to live lives of purity. But what should this guidance look like? How do we go about educating adolescents on this important topic and experience in their lives?

 

 

Dr Willis gave some advice on how to address this important aspect namely:

  1. We have to engage young people before they engage in any sexual practices. The mean age for sexual engagement and experimentation usually is around 15 years old. That means we have to begin engaging with teens by the time they hit the double figures. Yes that’s right, you read correctly. By the time they reach 10 years old, we should have engaged them from a responsible perspective otherwise they will be receiving the information from less reliable sources such as friends, the internet, movies and magazines. And with the steady moral decline out there we sure do not want to take that risk.
  2. We have to educate and empower parents to be able to have this dialogue with their kids. Believe it or not, parents are still the most influential sources and guides in the lives of adolescents. For too long have parents abdicated their roles and responsibility to youth workers, teachers and other people of “influence” to guide and teach on issues of morality in the lives of their youth. It’s no wonder why there is so much rebellion from teens against parents who just let go of their right and privilege to guide and nurture.
  3. We have to encourage younger ages for marriage. I know this might sound weird and against our cultural grain. But here’s the thinking. If adolescents are having sex at an earlier age and marrying at a later stage, then it becomes obvious that the years between will accumulate the amount of sexual partners engaged. Yet at the same time, it would be wise to delay dating to a later age so that there would be less temptations and pressures to engage in sexual activity. This simple, yet I can imagine volatile talk point could save our adolescents from facing and experiencing unnecessary risks of physical, emotional and even spiritual trauma.

So where to from here?

Let’s just get the conversation going! Put your voice in there!