Thursday, April 29, 2010

Noticer - The Movement

I ran across an author today after he "followed" me on Twitter - his name is Andy Andrews.  Andy is an author and speaker who has begun quietly influencing some of the most well-known people in the world.  His most recent work - The Noticer - is a allegoric, fictional work written from his own story.  While homeless and living in garages and under a pier in Southern Alabama...
"...a mysterious old man named Jones has a miraculous way of showing up. A man of indiscriminate age and race with white hair and wearing blue jeans, a white T-shirt and carrying a battered old suitcase, Jones is a unique soul with near angelic qualities. Communicating what he calls “a little perspective,” Jones explains that he has been given a gift of noticing things about life that others miss. In his simple interactions, Jones speaks to that part in everyone that is yearning to understand why things happen and what they can do about it."
 I haven't yet read the book - I just found out about it - but watching this video intrigued me.

First, what a great idea!!!  To ponder and then contact the 5 most positively influential people in your life to let them know how they have influenced your life!  That could be very powerful in one's life!!  I wonder who mine are and would be??  Who have I influenced - would I be part of someone's 5???  How was I influenced by my family???

As a Christ-Follower, as I watched that video, I couldn't help but think "Who was / is Jones?"  Was he a real angel.....a demon?????  (Yes, they REALLY do exist!)  At first glance, you may think, "Well, it MUST HAVE been an angel!  How else could this guy have gone from homeless to influencing major famous people!"  But, allow me a little latitude.....

One thing I didn't hear on the video or read on the websites is anything about Jesus or even God.  I actually began to get a little bit of a sinking feeling the more I watched and read.  I may be WAY off base, but is The Noticer influencing people towards the Trinitarian, Loving, REAL God?  Or to somewhere, someone else?  Could this just be a distraction from pointing people to a loving, all-encompassing relationship with the Creator and His Son, Jesus Christ?

Jesus spoke clearly on this, " He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me scatters" (Matt 12:30).  Also, every angel we read about in God's Word gives all glory to God and points us back to Him.  Did The Noticer do that?

As Believers, we MUST be discerning of what we allow to influence us.  There are lots of things out there that want to take us and our families down paths AWAY from the most important Thing.  I wonder if this movement is indeed a GOOD thing for Believers.  I think it CAN be, but.....

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Family + Church = Collaborate / The Book Review

The latest book to hit the virtual shelves of Amazon and other websites in the genre of Family Ministry is called Collaborate!  This book is a compilation of 35 different authors that focus on different aspects of the  intentional partnership between the church and the home.  I was given the opportunity to receive an advance copy (for the purposes of reviewing it on this Web-Log) from Ministers Label and Michael Chanley - the collaborator of Collaborate!

This type of book is, from what I know, a one-of-a-kind approach within the field of Family Ministry.  It was enjoyable to hear the different stories of how certain ministries and programs came into existence.  For instance, Carey Nieuwhof's chapter on his journey into understanding the centrality of the family for evangelism and discipleship was excellent!  Maybe it's just because I feel a slight connection with Carey (he lives in Canada and I live near Canada - goofy I know) - even though I'll likely never meet him - I enjoyed hearing his story.

Another chapter filled with Story is Fred Stoeker's chapter called "Doing Book."  Fred, one the authors of the "Every Man's Battle" series, put his heart into explaining how he was able to have difficult, yet meaningful conversations with his pre-teens and teens.  You should check it out!

Basically, I liked just about every chapter that put the family BEFORE the programs and ministries of the church:

  • "The Missing Piece - Developing a Biblical Worldview in your Children" by Jim Wideman
  • "Paramount Parenting" by Matt Markins
  • "The Small Conquering the Big" by Steven Dilla (again one with a dramatic personal story)
  • "Living the Shema as a Dad" by Timothy Smith
My favorite chapter, by far, was Dr. Rob Rienow's entitled "Building a Theology of Family Ministry."  Rob does simply an amazing job at laying a whole-Biblical approach to the importance of Family Ministry - far beyond the standard Deuteronomy 6 and Psalm 78 passages.  His linking of the First Commandment (Genesis 1:28) and the overarching Meta-Narrative of the Covenant of God, the Great Commandment (Matthew 22:34-36), and the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20) is exactly what every church needs to read / hear to see just how central the family is to the Covenant Plan of God.  I love this quote:
"If we are passionate about seeing the advance of the Gospel of the Kingdom of Christ, let us begin by turning our hearts toward home.  Let us ask God to help us begin our ministry in this world by 'making disciples' of our family members, even if they are scattered around the country - our parents siblings, spouses and children.  Let us passionately and biblically defend God's plan, structure and purposed for the institution of the family, as well as the institution of the church."
If we accept on any level what Dr. Reinow lays out, then that calls for a serious evaluation of how we do ministry! Is the Church missing the mark?  Has the modern church moved too far away from the plan of using the family to be the first and central place of discipleship and evangelism?  If that's the case, then it is a move that is AT BEST, ineffective or AT WORST, un-Biblical!  To that end, there were some frustrations with some of the chapters within Collaborate.

One such chapter for me was Justyn Smith's chapter on "PJ's All Stars Leadership Team."  This chapter about PJ's (Pastor Justyn's) seems like a great way to develop kid leaders - even including components for the kids to do at home.  But underneath this program is the idea that what happens at church is more important than what happens at home.  It puts the onus of raising discipleship squarely on the church - PJ specifically - and not onto the parents.  There are others that do a little of this as well: 
  • "Selling Out - Sold Out" by Rob Bradbury
  • "Family Nourishment" by Joyce Oglesby
  • "Parent Liaisons" by Anna J. Light
  • Even the logo on the front of the book puts the "church" about twice as big as the "home"
The problem is not that our churches DO NOT or CANNOT do discipleship with kids effectively, nor do I believe that we should stop all Children's Ministry programming ('cause then I would be out of a job!☺). But, are our ways of doing ministry with kids, youth and adults minimizing or even violating scripture by taking the responsibility away from parents.  Common objections would be:  "Well, parents aren't doing it effectively" or "This is how we choose to partner with the home."  Well, if that's the issue, what about if the families in our churches are not tithing or giving financially?  Do we begin to give FOR them?  Or do you teach and instruct them on the importance and commandment to give financially back to God?

I realize this may make me unpopular with many Children and Youth workers, so feel free to disagree.  In fact, I encourage it as I believe we are all still works in progress - ME INCLUDED!!!  I too am trying to work this stuff through and bring honor to God in my family and service in ministry.  Thanks Mr. Chanley for allowing me the opportunity to read and review this though-provoking book!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Fasten Your Seatbelt!

Ladies & Gentlemen:  Start Your engines!

Get ready for a barrage of information!  Over the next two months there are just a ton of things happening around Colonial Woods for kids & families.  So here you go:
  • April 18th - Kindergarten FJIF Take-It Home Event - "You Want Me to Worship Where?
  • April 18th - CM Equip Meeting - ALL Children's Ministry volunteers are encourage to attend this Summer ministries preview - faithbook!  6 PM @ CWMC!
    • May 1st - Faith @ Home Church Seminar - Pastors & Leaders in Family Ministry will hear from Mark Holmen on how to start Family Ministry within your church.
    • May 16th - 2nd Grade FJIF Take-It Home Event - "Bringing Missions Home"  10:45 Service
    • June 6th - Mom, Dad & Me - Families of 1st through 5th Graders are invited to attend our 3rd Family Worship event during the 10:45 service in the Gym at CWMC.
    • June 13th - Promotion Sunday - This is the day that all kids entering Kindergarten through 6th Grade are promoted.  Be on the lookout for that information.
    Well, how do you like that???  Summer is just around the corner!!!!

    Wednesday, April 7, 2010

    New Resource: Faith Begins @ Home Devotions

    Uh, we go again!!!  The 'D' Word - Devotions!  The next book review in the Faith @ Home series from Mark Holmen is on quite possibly the toughest topic to talk about.  Family Devotions (which we will somewhat define in a bit) is ESSENTIAL to producing Faith filled children; but it is one area that is often the biggest struggle in our families.  So to that end, Mark starts off with an "Attitude Check."

    "You don't HAVE to..."
    Mark relates a personal story from his teenage years when he did NOT want to go church.  Every Sunday he would ask him mom if he HAD to go to church.  She would typically respond simply by leaving the light on and not saying anything.  Then one day, she responded "You don't have GET to!"  What kind of comeback could he have?  Maybe we need an attitude check - we don't HAVE to do devotions, we GET to do them!

    Would you like to know God more?  Would you like to be able to hear God's voice better?  Would you like your kids to spend Eternity in Heaven?  Then remembering who God is and what He has done for you and SHARING THAT WITH YOUR FAMILY is a great way to start!  "Devotions are not about what you do, but about what God has done and is doing all around you."

    Family Devotion Myths
    So what do family devotions look like?  Well first, here are some myths about FD:

    1. Family devotions are long & boring - they can be a 2 minute "God Moment" or just about anything that points our kids back to Jesus.
    2. We don't have to do family devotions because our kids are involved at church or attend a Christian school.
    3. You have to have all the answers to lead family devotions.  
    4. Family devotions require hours of preparation.  Look for the teachable moments.
    5. You have to be a Biblical scholar or expert to lead family devotions.  This is not something we can "call in the experts" on!  It can only be done by us as the parents.
    6. You have to stop everything else you are doing to do family devotions.  
    But what IS family devotions?  They are how you bring Jesus and Christ-like living into you everyday life!  They are about taking the "God Moments" and capitalizing on them.  It's about being Wholly and Holy committed to Jesus and seeking to know the Truth and apply it to our families.

    Devotional Tools
    "Half the battle is having the right tools."  If you want to win the war for the souls of your children, you have to have the right tools.  So here are a few:
    1. A Personal Relationship with God - You cannot give away what you do not possess yourself!
    2. God's Word - You can also use a concordance, a topical Bible, access to an online version, etc.
    3. Music - Bringing music in your devotional living can be a great way to connect families to God.
    4. Online Messages - Listen to some of the greatest Christian speakers out there by just a click of a button.
    5. Your Eyes and Ears - Again, pay attention for the "God Moments."
    6. Devotional Resources - a simple Google search could list thousands of resources available that will fit your life's schedule.
    In the last section, Mark gives 6 Family Devotion outlines that just about anyone can do!  

    Convinced yet????  If not, keep this in mind:  What is at stake here?  What is the end product if we do NOT teach our kids about Christ?  Keep in the end in mind!  We want our kids to walk daily with the Lord as they grow up and go out on their own; but that takes US doing the hard work now!

    Tuesday, April 6, 2010

    New Resource: Faith Begins @ Home Dad

    I will be reviewing a series of books by Mark and Maria Holmen from the Faith Begins @ Home Movement.  Here's the first one!

    OK Men, it's time for a little 'man-to-man' talk!  Let me ask you a couple of questions:

    • What is the most important thing you want to pass on to your children?
    • What do you think when you hear that your child's faith will be a mirror image of your faith?
    • What are you willing to do so that your, your children and grandchildren will one day enter eternal life in Heaven?
    These are just some of the hard hitting questions Mark Holmen address in this new resource:  Faith Begins @ Home Dad.   This book will convict and inspire you to truly change the way you live your life and the priorities you have set up.  I found myself saying, "OUCH!" several times as I read through the first few chapters.  A short read, one that packs a powerful punch, you can finish it likely in just a few hours.  Even for people like me who fall asleep when they read!!!  

    Challenge to Our Priorities
    Mark lays out a clear challenge to the things dad often prioritize for our kids.  We all want various things for our children, not the least of which is a strong faith in Jesus; but do we act like faith matters?  "Here's the deal, dad:  You can raise your children to be a Cubs fan, a soccer star, an avid hunter, a straight A student or a successful business leader, but if they end up spending eternity in hell, will you be proud of what you did?"  Yup, that one hurt!

    Challenge to Obey
    Instead of asking WWJD - What would Jesus Do - the real question is WWJHYD - What would Jesus have YOU do?  When someone "gives you the bird" on the expressway, WWJHYD?  When you're on a trip alone in a hotel room, and pornography abounds, WWJHYD?  When you haven't read the Bible in a week but it's opening day of Tiger baseball, WWJHYD?  Men, are we living in obedience to God's Word?  

    Challenge to Choose then Commit
    "At the end of the day it comes down to a choice.  You have to choose whom you are going to serve. It is an unavoidable choice."  Left alone, children will NOT follow God - it is part of our fallen nature.  As parents, we have to intentionally show our children how to live for God.  No choice is STILL a choice - it's a choice to NOT follow Him.  

    We must commit to spending time with Jesus and then passing that story down to our children.  Can we be as committed to our raising Godly children as much as we are committed to our favorite sports team?  Can we be committed to following Jesus even when "times are tough."  

    Your Influence
    Now the good news!  You still have the chance to turn things around!!!  Men, you have the 2nd most influential position in your child's spiritual development - 2nd only to your wife!  You exert more influence than pastors, sport figures, youth group, youth sponsors, and (believe it or not) well above their friends!  Are you ready to stand and fight for your kids to escape an eternity of fire and pain?  Are you ready to fight for your kids against the powers and schemes of Darkness?  It's time to take a STAND!!!

    His, Dean Butterfield