Episode 45: Seeing the Big Picture in Youth Ministry (with Tyler Hallman) [Podcast]

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Youth ministry should be more than just planning a bunch of events. A recent meeting at the 9th Avenue Church of Christ went so well that Adam asked the youth minister, Tyler Hallman, to join him on the podcast. In this program, Adam and Tyler talk about why seeing the big, long-term picture in youth ministry is so valuable, and how it can be done in the local congregation.

LOFpodcast

Resources

Sustainable Youth Ministry by Mark DeVries [book]

The Lunch Ladies: Cultivating an Actsmosphere by Philip Jenkins [book]

More from A Legacy of Faith

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Music Credit

Opening theme: “Josie Has the Upper Hand” by Josh Woodward

Closing theme: “Afterglow” by Josh Woodward

 

The Value of Christian Hospitality

Hospitality is an important trait for the Christian. Many people are nervous about opening their homes to others. This week, Leah and Adam share why hospitality means so much to them, and give some tips on how to get started.

(Click here to watch on YouTube.)

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The One-Week Social Media Challenge

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We are just over a week from Christmas, so this is a good time to issue a one-week challenge. Further, this is a time of year where people are a bit more focused on positive things, so maybe today’s challenge can be accepted and enjoyed.

I see what seems to be a growing trend on social media that really bothers me. To be honest, I used to take part in it–and still fight the temptation to on a very regular basis–but I make myself stop before I hit “send” or “like” or “retweet” or whatever.

It is the practice of sharing on social media things that a person knows are going to be hot-button issues and that only add to the argument. These can come in a variety of forms, but I want to talk about those areas that are not religious in nature; rather, they can pull people away from our main goal, which should be to draw people closer to God, His Word, and His people. While there are a lot of these areas, I want to talk about two which many Christians take part in regularly, but that can divide people. In particular, I am talking about the worlds of politics and sports. Today, I want to talk about those two areas, then give a one-week challenge for every Christian to take on social media.

Politics

Every day, as I scroll through my Facebook feed or Twitter timeline, I see Christians who post link after link about this politician or that party. Honestly, I sometimes wonder if these people ever leave their computer screens, or even if they ever switch off of political websites.

Is there anything wrong with politics? Not at its most basic level. In fact, I enjoy keeping up with politics to a point. I am grateful for men and women who are in office who are Christians and are fighting to uphold Biblical values.

But if I use social media to blast and defame one party or one politician over and over again, how can that be construed as having a Christian attitude? I may disagree–even strongly–with someone in office (locally, state-wide, or national), but that does not mean I have to constantly be spreading things about that person on social media.

Further, when it comes to political parties, some Christians need to be reminded of one very important fact. God is not a Republican, nor is God a Democrat. God is God, and supporting one party as if it is “God’s party” is making an idol out of a donkey or an elephant. It may not be a golden calf, but it’s in the same conversation.

Christians need to consider political matters, but they need to think about how their constant “linking” and sharing looks to others. Is it drawing them nearer to the cross of Christ? Shouldn’t that be our goal? Ask yourself: how much of my social media influence is used to run down politicians or to build up a certain party, versus how much I use it to try to encourage people to follow Jesus?

Sports

Here is where I struggle even more. I love sports, and I have favorite sport’s teams that I root for. Though I don’t make the time to watch as many games as I used to, I still enjoy it. I like pulling for “my” teams and, yes, it’s kind of fun to see certain other teams lose at times.

That said, I have stopped talking about sports on social media. Admittedly, I have broken my own “rule” a time or two, and I wished I hadn’t. Thankfully, I believe since April, I have not posted a single thing on social media about any one particular team. I do not say this to brag; I say it because I have issued this challenge to myself first, because I think it is important to my influence as a follower of Christ.

Why? Because people are truly passionate about sports, and if I post “for” one team or “against” another, it could be a barrier to reaching them with the Gospel.

Now, should it be that way? Of course not. But if we are honest, we must admit, it is that way.

Again, as I scroll through Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, I see a constant stream of sports posts. Many of them are light-hearted, but many are not. Some who claim to be Christians take shots at opposing teams, coaches, and players that are nothing short of cruel. Then they say, “Well, it’s all in good fun. Can’t people take a joke?”

Some can’t, and I don’t want that to keep me from reaching them with the Gospel.

Again, I need to ask myself, am I trying to win people to my team, or to my Lord?

The Seven Day Social Media Challenge

By now, you can probably figure out what the one-week social media challenge is. Just in case you haven’t figured it out yet, though, here it is, written in a form for you to say or even write out as a pledge:

For seven days, I will not, on social media, share or like any political post or sports-related post that might be considered divisive. Further, for the next seven days, I will only post things on social media that are encouraging, uplifting, and that try to bring people closer to God, to their families, and to their fellow man.

Can you take that challenge?

Will you take that challenge?

Before you press “like” or “retweet” or “share,” think of the challenge. Are you trying to win people to your party? Your politician? Your team?

Or Christ?

Take the challenge. At the end of one week, just see if you aren’t filled with more joy. Just see if you aren’t seeing people in a better and more positive light. Just see if you aren’t looking for more opportunities to teach others about the Lord and encourage folks to live lives of faith.

We have been given a gift by living in the era of social media and mass communication. Each of us has an opportunity to use this gift to God’s glory, or to spread divisiveness. We are stewards of this gift, and “it is required of stewards that they be found trustworthy” (1 Corinthians 4:2, ESV).

Now in this way those who are trusted with something valuable must show they are worthy of that trust. (1 Corinthians 4:2, NCV)

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AUTHOR: Adam Faughn

Christianity and Christmas

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“It’s Christmas time in the city,” and everywhere else for that matter. Christmas is a wonderful time. We take some time off and spend it with our families. Family traditions are formed. Gifts are usually exchanged, and holiday meals and the smells of cookies and candies fill the air. People decorate. Children imagine. Lights are everywhere and more benevolence is done in one month than gets done the rest of the year combined. What’s not to like about Christmas?

Christmas has become a part of our culture. We know it was never something the church of the Bible celebrated. We know it is not commanded in Scripture. But as time went on a mixture of pagan traditions and religious ideas came together and produced Christmas. Now it is so popular that it seems the rest of our annual calendar revolves around it.

Over the years have come the expressions, “Jesus is the reason for the season,” and “Put Christ back in Christmas.” I understand the sentiment behind these statements. For people who have always celebrated this holiday in the religious sense, it would seem wrong to do it any other way. But on the other hand, Christmas is man’s creation, not God’s. Therefore, it is really impossible for Christmas to be bound upon anyone. What one chooses to be thinking about during the Christmas season belongs somewhere in the realm of individual liberty. If people don’t even want to celebrate Christmas on any level – they certainly don’t have to. God simply hasn’t commanded us to celebrate Christmas.

For the Lord’s church to demand that people assemble for a Christmas ceremony is no more appropriate than for us to turn the assembly into a rock concert, or to use fried chicken and sweet tea at the Lord’s table. While this might seem like a ridiculous analogy, we need to learn not to go beyond what is written. It is fine to celebrate any cultural holiday, as long as the observance of said holiday does not violate the commandments of the word of God.

There is really no Biblical link between Christianity and Christmas. Some people will choose to get together and have family time and a Christmas tree and gift giving and Santa Claus. They may never have a nativity scene in their front yard and they may never go to a Christmas church service. People hide Easter eggs and celebrate the Easter bunny tradition, but never associate such with the resurrection. Folks also enjoy other holidays like Halloween and Valentine’s Day but do not connect these holidays in a religious sense.

The reason why liberty exists within the realm of cultural holidays is because of the lack of their authorization. If we had a holy commandment from Scripture that required the celebration of these holidays then they would all be binding and a part of our relationship with God. But we don’t. In fact, it would be safe to say that where no commandment exists, no law exists, and, therefore, no authority or responsibility.

Since Christmas is a man-made holiday, I feel no pressure to celebrate it religiously. Personally, I am thankful that so many people are thinking about the Christ this time of year, since He is too often forgotten the rest of the time. It would be sad if we were to limit our Savior to just December. Jesus is the reason for every season, and we don’t need to put Christ back in Christmas – we need to put Him back on the throne of our hearts.

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To Nobody, Through Nobody

A Sad Commentary about a Wonderful Ceremony

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On the day after Veterans Day this year, there was a Medal of Honor ceremony at the White House. The following information appeared on armytimes.com:

Retired Capt. Florent A. Groberg on Thursday became the nation’s newest Medal of Honor recipient — and the 10th living service member to be recognized with America’s highest valor award for actions in Iraq or Afghanistan.

I’m certain that you would join me in being grateful to men like Capt. Groberg. Nothing I would say here–or anywhere–would be intended to minimize the service and dedication of those who serve in our armed forces. They deserve every honor they receive.

However, there was one thing about the ceremony that troubled me. I was doing some channel surfing and happened to see the portion of the ceremony that took place immediately after the Medal of Honor was awarded. 

There was a great deal of much-deserved applause. The president then nodded to a man whom I took to be a chaplain of some kind. The chaplain, along with all the others I could see in the camera shot, reverently bowed his head. He then said:

Let us pray. 

May the example of all the soldiers we remember today serve to inspire us to defeat all the enemies we face. May the acts of virtue we remember give us the courage to hold on to what is good, strengthen the fainthearted, support the weak and help those who suffer. May we, the living, bring honor to those who have perished so that others may live in peace.

Grant your blessing to remain upon us and be with us always.

Amen

It was obvious that the man intended for this to be a prayer. After all, he began with, “Let us pray.” The whole experience left me with a couple of questions.

  • To whom was this “prayer” addressed?
  • Through whom was the prayer offered?

Sadly, we must have reached the point in our society where, even in the highest levels of the government of our nation, it is no longer “politically correct” to pray to the Father through His Son as we are directed to do in the Bible. “Freedom of religion” has become “freedom from religion.”

How sad it is that this took place at a ceremony honoring a man who bravely fought for a country that still puts “In God We Trust” on some of our currency and still claims to be “one nation under God.”

Throwing some words into the air is not prayer. This action may add some sort of dignity to a ceremony. It may make people “feel religious.” It is not prayer.   

It is my opinion that prayer is best defined in the description given by Hannah of her prayer for a son. In 1 Samuel 1:10 we read, “She…prayed to the Lord…”  Her “definition” of that prayer is classic: “…I have been pouring out my soul before the Lord” (1 Samuel 1:15).

It seems to me that it is way past time for those who love our nation to follow her example. It appears fairly obvious to me that, as a nation, we are drifting farther and farther away from what some would call our Christian heritage.

May I appeal to those who can truly address God as “Father” to pour out their souls to Him through His Son for a nation that Abraham Lincoln regarded as “the last best hope of earth”?

Will you do that, please?

Will you do that before we become another in a long list of once great nations?

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Episode 44: A Men’s Reading Group [Podcast]

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In 2016, Adam is restarting a reading group for men who live near him, but in a different format. On this week’s podcast, he discusses the way the program used to be done, and the plans for the future. We hope this week’s program encourages you to gather with others and read about important subjects.

LOFpodcast

Resources

Inside My Mentoring Group” [Blog post]

Two Years of My Mentoring Group: What I’ve Learned” [Blog post]

Mentor Like Jesus by Regi Campbell [Book I used as the idea-starter for my group]

Stepping Up: A Call to Courageous Manhood by Dennis Rainey [Book mentioned in the podcast that I read with every group]

More from A Legacy of Faith

To subscribe to A Legacy of Faith by email for free click here.

Subscribe to the podcast on iTunes

Subscribe via rss

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Visit the show archives

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Music Credit

Opening theme: “Josie Has the Upper Hand” by Josh Woodward

Closing theme: “Afterglow” by Josh Woodward

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

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It’s here! It’s here! One of my favorite times of year is here – Christmas-time!

As I am writing this, The Polar Express is playing on my TV and we are about to the part that still makes me cry when I read it to my children: “The bell still rings for those who truly believe.” Um, yeah. I have a bell as one of my decorations … and, yes, I can hear it!

This is a busy time and, for many, a difficult time. Some try to turn it into a time of debate. Still others seem to take great delight in trying to out-Grinch the Grinch.

But for me, and I hope for my children, this is a time of joy. Why? Because I love the idea of thoughtful giving. I love the increased opportunities to make people smile. I love the parties, the presents and, yes, the parcels. I love the magic!

Parents, especially moms, don’t miss this special time to teach your children about giving. I think wish lists and letters to Santa are great, but make sure you take the opportunity to teach them to be giving, too. Think about people who may not have a pile of presents to open. Maybe the elderly need a visit and some child-crafted Christmas joy. Maybe there is a family you know (or don’t know but can find out about through a school or other organization) for whom you can be Santa. You haven’t really lived until you’ve done a drop-and-dash Santa stop and shaken the jingle bells as you run away! Maybe there is someone who has suffered loss who will be alone unless you reach out with an invitation to Christmas dinner.

During this hectic, fun season don’t forget a major priority as a parent – teaching. Teach your children to see through compassionate eyes. Teach them to love giving as much as receiving. And teach them to help create the magic around them … now and all year through.

“Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you.” Luke 6:38

“And remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’” Acts 20:35b

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When Elders Shepherd

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I was reminded of the importance and value of it again recently. It is the role of elders as shepherds, and it is a role that is invaluable to a congregation.

It is always encouraging to see these men fulfill this role, but sometimes I see it more clearly than others. As I saw it in action recently, it reminded me of the time I think I saw it most clearly in my life in ministry.

Without revealing all the details, it was the morning of a surgery. But this surgery was a little different, because it involved a young child, and no one knew exactly how long the procedure would take. All we knew was that it was incredibly serious and it would take a long time, possibly all day.

I got to the hospital about 7:30 in the morning–which was about 30 minutes before the surgery was scheduled to begin, if memory serves–thinking I was doing well. What I saw when I came around the corner from the elevator literally brought tears to my eyes.

There, in the waiting room at that early hour, were all of our elders (seven in number at the time) at the congregation I worked for. They had been there about 30 minutes, and not one of them would leave until mid-afternoon.

Their presence preached.

It spoke volumes.

It comforted.

It healed.

It led.

It was, in a word, outstanding pastoring.

Of course, throughout the day, they carried on conversations the family and many others. They shared stories at times and let people just sit and rest at others. But nothing they said that day could have meant any more than their mere presence.

Over and over, I have seen the remarkable difference that it makes in the lives of people when elders take the role of pastoring (or shepherding) seriously. Sometimes it is done at a funeral home. Other times, it is dropping by to visit a wayward member. It is done at times in the back of an auditorium, while at other times it is done by the fireplace of a lonely member who is shut in.

It involves laughter sometimes, and salty tears at others. It can be rewarding, and (yes) also frustrating. It takes a lot of emotional effort and patience, but usually helps elders lead–by shepherding–in an even more powerful way in the future. It is a work that builds upon itself.

I can’t tell you how often I have been to visit someone in the hospital or in their home and seen the face of that person light up as they’ve told me that one (or more) of the elders has stopped by to see them. While so many people joke about the preacher being “the pastor” (in spite of what the New Testament actually teaches), deep down, people still want to see their shepherds. After all, that’s the way God designed it.

In far too many congregations, elders become a de facto “board of directors,” and they hire out the shepherding to the preacher. To borrow a phrase, “these things ought not to be so.” Yes, the preacher should visit and help lead people as he is able, but in God’s wisdom, He designed each congregation to be led and shepherded by a plurality of elders. This is done not just in decision making in the meeting room, but in helping members daily in kitchens, living rooms, and restaurants.

Elders, please shepherd. If you truly trust in the wisdom of God’s plan for the church, you will.

And when you do, just watch how God blesses the lives of the people, due to your effort.

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AUTHOR: Adam Faughn

What, not Where

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Sometimes we pray, “Lord, help me to be where you want me to be!” This seems reasonable. It may occur to us that we want to be in the right place at the right time so that someone can hear the gospel. It may be that we want to be “where” the right house or job is. Perhaps it is a plea that God will not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Or maybe the “where” is a prayer for the future and it just means that we want God to providentially lead. This prayer of where is a good prayer, but at the same time, there may be a better prayer we ought to be praying.

Instead maybe we should pray, “Lord help me to be WHAT you want me to be!” You see, if we get the “what” right, it doesn’t matter where we are. Will we be a better Christian in another town? A better worker for the Lord? Will we be more effective because of peripheral circumstances, or will it be the quietness of our inner spirit which really allows others to be changed to be more like Jesus? Do we really believe that the early church was concerned with where they were, rather than what they were?

Paul and Silas sang praises to God and prayed while in stocks in the inner prison of Philippi. Abraham worshiped God on a mountain upon which he obediently offered up Isaac. Noah was faithful amidst a generation of people whose thoughts and intentions were nothing but evil continually. Job was righteous sitting on a pile of ashes while covered from head to toe with terribly painful boils. Esther was courageous while living in exile in the palace of a king who worshiped idols.

Maybe it is actually the other way around! Maybe we should ask God to put us somewhere difficult! Maybe we need to not get to be where we want so we can become what He wants! James said to “Count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete lacking nothing” (James 1:2-3). In reality, the heroes of faith were chiseled into greatness through hard and perilous circumstances. It is the fire which purifies, not the creature comforts we so often accustomed to and desire.

Where is not important. When is not important. These are circumstances that are subject to change and not always within our control. But we can always be determined to be what God wants us to be. If we are constantly striving to be WHAT God wants us to be, then when exactly He comes in glory will be irrelevant, and where we will be headed in that moment will be more than satisfactory to our souls.

Faithful, Christian people need only be concerned about the “what.” Wherever we are, and whenever He comes, may we be whatever He wants.

“You have commanded us to keep Your precepts diligently. Oh, that my ways were directed to keep Your statutes! “ Psalm 119:4-5

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“Sir, We Need Your Permission To…”

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It is a fear of every parent. All of us who have children at home and those of us who have children who have their own families dread a call informing us of a serious injury and/or illness.

A few years ago, a friend of mine received one of those calls. His seventeen-year-old daughter had been involved in an automobile accident. 

Fortunately, the injuries she sustained did not appear to be serious, but the doctors wanted to make sure. The father was told that he had to give his consent before his daughter could be treated.

Of course, he quickly gave his consent. The appropriate testing and treatment was done. His daughter recovered.

Please think with me a moment. Can you think of any procedure for which an “under-age” girl does not need parental consent and/or notification? Can you think of such a procedure that will definitely result in death? 

Are you aware of the fact that some of our states will allow a girl who is under the age of eighteen to abort a child she is carrying without any requirement to notify her parents and/or get their consent? Are you aware of the fact that there is a growing drumbeat of support for making this the policy of our entire nation? 

Interestingly, and alarmingly enough, the website of Planned Parenthood provides information for a variety of “work-arounds” for young ladies who happen to live in a state that requires parental permission/notification. I suppose one should expect that from our nation’s largest abortion provider. 

Is it just me, or is there something terribly wrong with this sort of “logic?” What kind of sense does it make to demand parental permission to treat what appears to be a relatively minor injury while, at the same time, allowing an unborn child’s life to be terminated with no such demands or restrictions?

I pray that you will think about that.

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