Wisdom

iStock_000007646510XSmallI recently finished reading the book of Proverbs and was struck by four basic, yet challenging elements of a wise life.  These are some (not all) characteristics of wisdom that I desire to have both as an individual and as a leader.

1. To be a person who learns from others mistakes, experiences and advice.  This theme is found literally throughout the entire book of Proverbs.  It seems simple, but I find it to be both rare and desirable.  The skill of heeding the warnings or insight of another and applying it requires incredible foresight and self knowledge.  What is impressive about this skill is that it creates a cache of knowledge to be used in circumstances not yet experienced.  

2. To receive rebuke from others. Proverbs 9:8 & 15:31.  It is one thing to receive well the advice of others.  It is another thing entirely to receive their rebuke and requires a genuine emotional security.  To be comfortable with even a trusted friend telling us how wrong we might be is an uncommon characteristic; one which I can plainly admit to having struggled with.  

3.  To foresee consequences before they play out.  Proverbs 16:15 & 22:3.  There is plenty to say both in proverbs and in life about true foresight.  This isn’t specifically a prophetic gift as much as it is a discerning mind.  This woman or man can effectively see farther down the road than the average person, accurately predicting the outcomes of choices and circumstances.    

4.  To learn from, or even be rebuked by circumstances.  Proverbs 24:32 & 26:11.  In the first of these proverbs, the author is ultimately talking about an actual lesson he’s learned.  However, he has gone out of his way to point out how he learned it: through the observation of choice and circumstance.  In many ways, you could say that this person has gained the ability to learn from consequences.  While this seems profoundly simple, it unfortunately remains an under developed and under utilized skill.  In Proverbs 26:11 we find an oft quoted saying that points out the negative example.  Very simply, this person has not learned from consequences and proves themselves a fool by returning to the same set of circumstances and/or choices.  

Action and Interpretation

The majority of Christians lay claim to the Holy Bible, Old and New Testaments, as the only perfect rule for faith, doctrine and conduct.  We read and re-read the text for reasons both intellectual and emotional; doctrinal and devotional. The art, philosophy, struggle and journey of biblical interpretation remains as one of the major hallmarks of the Christian faith; and it is often our hermeneutical differences that mark the distinguishing factors between various Christian churches, families, traditions and denominations.

I’ve long used a basic hermeneutical tool for small group preparation which I’d learned from a Youth Specialties conference years ago.  I’ve trained both adult volunteers and students to use the three simple steps of Observation (What does it say?), Interpretation (What does it mean?) and Application (What do we do with it?).

I still think this is a good conversational methodology and fully appreciate the intent of each step; even the application step.  However, my observation has often been that when the pastor/leader drives the application conversation, it not only seems contrived, but often goes without any real action.  The intentions of our conversations do not necessarily produce the desired fruit of obedience.  This has stirred in me a pragmatic theological question: Can we truly understand the Word without responding to its truth with some sort of obedience?

The book of James makes a pretty interesting claim about the relationship between reading the word and doing what it says.

Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.

James 1:22-25

When we don’t respond to the Word of God with action, we are like someone who has looked into a mirror and forgotten their image.  This person walks away without an understanding of what they’ve seen.  Thus if we neglect the hermeneutical step of action, we too may be in danger of walking away from the Word having not truly understood what we’ve seen.

Action Hermeneutics

To internalize truth without living it out does not make us Christians, it makes us theorists. Action then becomes a indispensable step in the process, both helping us to understand and driving us right back to the text where we can observe and interpret from the vantage point of experience.   Obedience to the Word is in this sense a spiritual discipline with a supernatural quality.  As we repeat this process throughout our lives, the Spirit leads us deeper and deeper into the Word.  While the greater culture may continue to place an unfortunately high value on the ability of individuals to regurgitate information; genuine discipleship must respect those who are practicing and experiencing truth in real life.     

In verse 25, James repeats both ideas and language that he most likely got from Jesus.  Not only does Jesus close the sermon on the mount with the charge to put his words into practice, but in John 13:17 he tells his disciples, “Now that you know these things you will be blessed if you do them.” Something tells me that this  is not the usual “American-dream” that we usually associate with the word blessing.  Something tells me that the blessing here entails a deeper understanding of the Word and a security in Christ that cannot be shaken.  It only makes me curious as to how the church would look if we could incorporate this more explicitly in our process of biblical interpretation.

BASS 2014- College/Young Adult Ministry

Hey if you’re in Northern California, you should check out the BASS Convention’s college and young adult ministry workshops March 7th and 8th.  Chuck Bomar, author of World’s Apart will be sharing Friday, March 7th.  On Friday, March 8th, we’re excited to be hosting a college and young adult ministry forum where you can ask questions of experienced college and young adult ministry veterans.  Visit www.bassconvention.org for more info or to register!

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3DM/Wayfarer Student Ministry Workshop!

Friends in Ministry!

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Next month St. Matthew Lutheran Church will be hosting the 3DM/Wayfarer crew for a  special Student Ministry Workshop!

We’re going to be focusing on Student Ministry as family, and talking about balancing the structured “stage” experience with the organic “everyday life” side of ministry. We’ll hear from friends from around the nation who are seeing a movement forming in their youth and college ministry through discipleship.  Not just theory.  The real deal.  Along with the 3DM team, we’ll have pastors from around the United States and Europe share what they are doing.

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This workshop will give you a chance not only to hear their stories and some foundational teaching, but lots of time for Q + A, as well as a chance to step inside and experience some of these new vehicles for mission and discipleship: Huddles and Missional Communities.  Come ready to be encouraged, learn, have fun, and make strategic plans for the future of your ministry!

 Details

February 10th-12th, 2014
Starting @ 2pm on Monday and ending @ 12.30pm on Wednesday.
Registration and light refreshments from 1:30pm on Monday.

Cost

Cost is $149 if you register before January 27!
The cost of the event will cover the expense of the dinners for the two nights, all course materials, speaker fees and content of the workshop. Attendees must pick up the cost of their lunches, accommodation and transport.

Click here to register:

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/student-ministry-workshop-san-francisco-ca-area-registration-9750615353

Click here to see a video testimony:

http://weare3dm.com/wayfarer/we-are-3dm/student-ministry-workshop-video-testimony/

Click here for an overview of 3DM workshops:

http://weare3dm.com/events/

What I Love About Discipleship Culture

Studying culture has been a big deal since I bit into the post-modernity conversation way back when.  Ha, post-modernity.  Anyway, I loved sociology in college and even considering getting a Master’s in it; though my current master’s degree is non-existent.  Either way, when the study and observation of culture became important for church leadership, I was instantly intrigued.

2The process of understanding culture and its relevance to ministry is still important; with or without post-modernity (sigh).  This is especially true for youth and young adult ministry leaders.  Every day we live in the trenches of cultural differences; whether its the cultural difference between us and our students, the church and our students, or all three.  Youth ministries is where I learned to see myself as a missionary to a foreign culture and where I was given the foundational training I needed to do cross-cultural ministry.

As is often pointed out by both myself and others; we live in a time when the church remains culturally divided according to generational lines.  We often struggle between these cultures and as youth or young adult pastors, we strive to somehow get them connected.  I recently wrote a piece about this which you can access here.  This is a struggle which every church in the western church must face and/or is facing in some way.

If our churches have even entered the dialogue on this topic, then usually some solutions have been suggested.  Initially, the thought is to force young people into situations where they must simply outright accept the culture of older generations.  This has its cons, but also has some surprising pros.  Another solution is for the church to become more culturally relevant to the younger generations.  This too has its pros and cons.  A third option has also been expressed by taking the younger generation and planting a church that specifically addresses their needs and reflects their culture.  Generally speaking, each of these suggestions have both merit and shortcomings of their own.

Still, the somewhat depressing thought remains that these are our best options.  Either force boomer culture on millennials, force millennial culture on boomers or isolate generations altogether.  And while I’d rather fumble my way through these options than do nothing at all, it seems that many people are only becoming frustrated with the unintended results of these strategies.

However there may yet be a fourth option.  Rather than asking various generations to jump off their respective cultural cliffs, only to catch each other in the air; why can’t we build a bridge between the two? If we can build a third culture that is both shared and positive, the various generations in our congregations can begin to interact over a common middle ground which is understood and accepted by all (This actually serves the needs of multiple cultural groups, not just two seemingly opposite generations).

DiscipleshipTitle-300x224Mike Breen and the people at 3dm have done a tremendous amount of work around building discipleship cultures.  As I have been exposed to their work and ideas I have come to the realization that a shared, discipleship culture is potentially the answer to our generational-culture divide.  Mutually adopting a discipleship culture means sharing language, values, expectations and norms in a way that draws people together into a new vision of community.  This may be one of the few strategies that has genuine potential to give Christ-followers of various generations a way to relate to each other.  Furthermore, we may find ourselves connected around the lifestyle of following Jesus; which is probably the best part yet.