10 reasons I thought the Exodus movie was lame
My wife and I just got back from our Dare 2 Share staff party. We all met at a restaurant for food and fellowship then drove over to a movie theater to watch the much anticipated Exodus movie.
While the staff party was fun, the movie itself was pretty lame. Here’s 10 reasons why I thought this movie was so bad:
1. It depicted God as an angry 5th grade-ish looking boy who kept appearing throughout the movie to awkwardly confront Moses.
2. It used a classic liberal interpretation of the book of Exodus by depicting the miracles as a series of natural phenomenons that just all happened to unfold back to back to set up the exodus of the Israelites.
3. Moses used a sword instead of a staff, depicting a Moses who delivered the Jews more through his own strength rather than the power of God.
4. The previews made the movie look like it aligned with the Biblical account. It wasn’t even close. I felt duped.
5. You couldn’t quite tell if God was real or Moses had been just hit in the head by a rock (which he had been in the movie) and imagined it all.
6. The parting of the Red Sea was the result of a meteor hitting the ocean, or something like that.
7. The people of Israel walked across the Red Sea in mud and water that at times was almost chest high.
8. In some ways Pharaoh was the most sympathetic character in the movie.
9. Believe it or not the ten plagues were kicked off by an army of angry alligators.
10. The plot of the actual story in the Bible is way more compelling than this convoluted, confused mess of a movie.
Save yourself the hassle, read the book of Exodus and go rent The Prince of Egypt. But, if you’re determined to watch Exodus: Gods and Kings, wait for it to come out on Red Box. It doesn’t deserve more than a buck fifty.
A fun (and kind of gross) video that has nothing to do with disciple multiplication (but kind of does)
I stumbled on this little video on YouTube while looking for “serious” videos about what it means to make and multiply disciples. Although it technically has nothing to do with the gospel (it’s about how bacteria multiplies in our bodies) it has implications on what contagious evangelism can look like in a teenager’s life, an “Outbreak” if you will.
So without further qualifications, here ya go…
The Power of Collaborating together for the Gospel
As I type these words I’m at a mountain retreat with 10 other youth ministry leaders from around the nation. We are collaborating around a vision that we pray will result in every teenager in America engaged in a Gospel conversation with a Christian peer. To accomplish this we need to inspire, equip and deploy at least 30,000 churches/youth ministries to join us in this quest.
That’s right 30,000!
Humanly speaking this big vision seems well beyond our capacity to achieve. But we are convinced that, through God’s strength and the power of collaboration, it can be done.
As we brainstorm and work together to synergize our efforts toward this exciting vision there are certain realities I’m discovering anew about the power of collaborating for the Gospel.
So, whether you’re on a church staff that is collaborating to reach your community for Christ or a youth ministry network that is brainstorming how to reach the teens of your city for Jesus here are four principles of Gospel advancing collaboration that may help:
1. It is best when bold.
Bold vision fosters strong collaboration. As a matter of fact the bigger and bolder the vision the more it necessitates working together for your common and audacious cause.
And I submit that there is no cause bigger or bolder than the spread of the gospel in a community or on a campus. The gospel transforms people from the inside out (Romans 1:16) and the results can change everything.
The power of Jesus’ bold vision is still being felt today. He told his disciples in Matthew 28:19-20, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
As a result of the bold vision of Jesus entire societies have been transformed. The poor have been fed. The broken have been healed. The hopeless have been given hope. Nothing else changes everything else like the gospel.
So get a bold vision from God that centers around the advancement of this powerful message. Which leads us to our second point…
2. It is birthed out of prayer.
The ultimate collaboration is birthed out of prayer together as brothers and sisters in Christ. Prayer is the ultimate team building exercise. It opens up vertical channels of divine wisdom so that the horizontal interchange of ideas and strategies are full of impact and effectiveness.
As we have been brainstorming for the last three days we have salted our times together with extended times of prayer. Why? Because the vision is so bold and so big that we need God to give us the ideas to make it happen! Without his wisdom surging through our hearts, souls and minds there is no way it can be done. With it there’s no way it can’t be done!
That’s why I love James 1:5,6. He promises to give us the wisdom we need if we ask him in faith, “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.”
We must collaborate with God before we collaborate with each other if that collaboration is going to stick.
3. It is built on the God’s Word.
Every morning we have started with a devotional time where a principle of God’s Word was unpacked that was relevant to our subject that day. These principles have created the trajectory of our time together and helped us to make sure we are seeking to accomplish God’s will in God’s way.
One morning Doug Holliday talked about “The Jethro Principle” in Exodus 18. Yesterday Zane Black talked about the power of Christ to accomplish this bold vision in https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Colossians+1%3A28-29&version=NIV.
Every morning as we’ve unpacked God’s Word together the principles we have talked about have shown themselves to be crucial in our collaboration. They have formed the foundation of our plans on solid rock, not sinking sand.
4. It is bolstered by strong relationships.
Between playing broom hockey, eating meals together, hanging out in the hot tub and chatting it up around the pool table a band of brotherhood has been formed and forged. God made us social creatures and when we spend enough time getting to know each other then we can be more vulnerable, share more ideas, deal with necessary conflict and get more done.
I have found that when a group of people know, love and like each other then mountains become molehills. And when they don’t molehills can become mountains.
This whole experience has been a great privilege for me. As we wrap up our time together today we are literally coming down from the mountains with a clear vision and some practical plans to accomplish it for the glory of God.
I challenge you to unleash the power of collaboration for the cause of Christ with your team. As you dream, pray and play together God will clarify your vision and give you the wisdom to accomplish it for his glory!
7 reasons your teenagers aren’t sharing their faith more often
1. Because you’re doing it for them.
Think “outreach” in youth ministry and we automatically think “event.” The words go together like “dodge” and “ball“. The challenge is that our teenagers themselves are our biggest outreach “event“. Because the average teenager has around 400 online and face-to-face friends they must be inspired, equipped and unleashed to engage them in Gospel conversations.
Think about that for a moment, the average teenager has more friends than the average youth room can hold! But we have an almost irrepressible appetite for doing outreach events instead of mobilizing our teenagers to be the outreach event.
To make the switch we must turn from quarterbacks to coaches. Instead of just “Hey kids bring your friends out and watch me throw the touchdown throw of salvation in their lives” we must equip them to bring the “J” word up with their own peers. Of course, outreach events are fine and good and needed from time to time. But if they are replacing, rather than enhancing, our teenagers’ personal evangelism efforts then they are limiting our true outreach effectiveness.
2. They don’t understand the urgency.
When’s the last time you talked about the reality of hell with your teenagers? Yes, that’s right, hell. Of the 12 times the word “hell” is mentioned in the New Testament 11 are mentioned by Jesus himself. Perhaps the scariest story in all of the Bible is the story of the rich man and Lazarus. In Luke 16:19-31 Jesus paints a picture of eternity in hell in terrifying colors.
Was he using scare tactics? Of course he was! In the same way a dad uses scare tactics on their four year old child who is chasing a ball toward a busy street at rush hour. It’s out of love that Jesus “scares” us with what is at stake for those who are lost.
And, of course, we want to motivate teenagers to share the good news of Jesus to their lost friends, not just because of the hell they are headed to but because of the “hell” they are going through apart from Jesus Christ. Jesus himself was clearly motivated by this himself in Matthew 9:36, “When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.”
3. It’s not a true priority in your youth ministry.
I’ll never forget getting a personal tour of a multi-million dollar non-profit Christian ministry and asking the tour guide an awkward question. On a plaque this ministry had listed their values and priorities for all who entered their building to see. The first one was evangelism. I simply asked the tour guide which of their many divisions were focused on evangelism and how it was being fleshed out on a grass-roots level. She looked at me dumbfounded (as the other ministry leaders who were with me cringed.) Evangelism was a plaque priority but not a real priority in this ministry.
The same is true in many churches and youth ministries. D.L. Moody used to say that he could tell more about a man’s priorities by his checkbook than his prayerbook. Why? Because we put our money where our heart is! I say that I can tell more about a youth ministry’s priorities when it comes to evangelism by it’s Wednesday night program rundown than any clever missional slogan (“to know him and make him known”, etc) on their ministry flyer or website page.
If evangelism is truly a priority then are youth leaders will be scheduling time for evangelism training on their calendars and in their weekly meetings? Are you carving out time to have teenagers share stories (good, bad and ugly) about gospel conversations they are currently engaged in? Are you taking the time to give the gospel just in case any unreached teens showed up that week?
Youth leaders schedule time for games, announcements, teaching, worship and even snacks on a weekly basis. Are you also scheduling time for the advancement of the most important message on the planet (aka “the Gospel“)?
4. They don’t know how to bring it up.
If teenagers don’t know how to bring up the gospel to their friends they probably won’t. If their friend says, “It’s hot in here” and they respond “It’s hot in hell too” that’s probably not the best strategy. Teenagers must be equipped to naturally engage their friends by asking questions and listening. The free Dare 2 Share app has a simple strategy we use called “Ask, Admire, Admit” on the “How 2 Share” segment than can be very effective in equipping teenagers to bring the good news up with their peers.
We also have developed high-quality, beautifully illustrated outreach books that youth leaders can receive free of charge on Share6campaign.com. Over 260,000 of these books are being used across the nation to help teenagers engage in Gospel conversations. Teenagers simply write a note in the front of the book, hand it to their friend, ask them to read it and then to talk with them about it afterward. A brilliant and simple plan for teenagers to bring the gospel up with their friends.
5. It’s not being modeled by your leaders (and, yes, that includes you)
Share the Gospel. Have your leaders do the same. Set the pace as leaders. Enough said.
6. They suffer from a lack of Gospel fluency.
Could your teenagers pass the microphone test? If I put a microphone up to their face as they were leaving youth group and said, “You have two minutes to explain the gospel message to me” could they do it in a clear and comprehensive enough way for a lost person to understand the good news? If not then your teenagers are not fluent enough in the gospel message.
A few years back Propaganda (Jason Petty) and yours truly did a youth group curriculum video series called Life in 6 Words: The Gospel Explored that is designed to build your teenagers’ gospel fluency. Get it and use it. When you’re finished your teenagers should be able to pass the microphone test.
7. Not enough intercessory prayer.
“I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth” 1 Timothy 2:1-4.
Is intercessory prayer for the lost a “first of all” level priority in your youth ministry? As someone once said “We must learn to talk to God about men before we talk to men about God.”
If every week in youth group you set aside some time for intercessory prayer for the salvation of the unreached teenagers in your community, God’s unquenchable love for the lost will begin to marinate into the souls of your teenagers. As they yield to the person of the Spirit in prayer they will also yield to the passion of the Spirit in evangelism.
These seven obstacles to your teenagers sharing their faith can be removed if you are willing to prayerfully and persistently make evangelism a youth-group wide priority as well as one in your own life.
So let’s get cracking!
Announcing a new strategic training partnership between Dare 2 Share and Sonlife!
We are pumped for this partnership but you and your teenagers will be the biggest beneficiaries! For more information on how to be a part of Lead THE Cause go here.
“Jesus is Lord!”
“If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” Romans 10:9
I love this little verse in the middle of Romans that gives a strong call for salvation to all who read it’s powerful and penetrating words. But I also believe this verse has been misunderstood by many of my brothers and sisters in Jesus. As a result far too many unbelievers either visiting churches or attending evangelistic outreaches have been confused about what it actually takes to be saved.
The phrase “Jesus is Lord” is packed with deep theological significance. Too many times it is preached from the Americanized “Lord of my life” myopic point of view. But the reach of Jesus’ Lordship goes far beyond a singular life. He is truly King of kings and Lord of lords. He is the Master of the universe.
Philippians 2:9-11 captures the magnitude of the phrase “Jesus is Lord” better than any passage in Scripture, “Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor and gave him the name above all other names,that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue declare that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Every knee will, at some point, bow before him and every tongue will confess that “Jesus Christ is Lord!”
His Lordship is “the place of highest honor” in the universe. It is the position that can only be held by God himself. So to recognize his Lordship is to recognize his deity and his rulership over all of creation.
Here’s how the text notes of the NIV 1984 puts it, “Jesus is Lord. The earliest Christian confession of faith (cf. 1 Co 12:30, probably used at baptisms. In view of the fact that “Lord” (Greek kyrios) is used over 6,000 times in the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the OT) to translate the name of Israel’s god (Yahweh), it is clear that Paul, when using this word of Jesus is ascribing deity to him.”
To recognize the Lordship of Jesus was to recognize him as God in the flesh. To verbally proclaim “Jesus is Lord” was considered blasphemous by the Jews and treasonous by the Romans. Because Jews were monotheistic (they believed in only one God) and because they had no concept of the Trinity (one God existing in the form of three persons) many Jews viewed this simple three word description of Jesus as heresy to the highest degree.
Because Romans viewed the Emperor as Lord (deity) they sometimes tried to force early Christians to say “Caesar is Lord.” If they refused they either be mutilated or murdered. This was the case with Polycarp, a disciple of St John. Under intense pressure he refused to say “Caesar is Lord” because he believed only Jesus was Lord. At the age of 86 he was burned at the stake because of it.
In the early church the phrase “Jesus is Lord” was powerfully catalytic in the culture and potentially catastrophic for the Christian. If you lived at this time and proclaimed the Lordship of Christ at the minimum you could be put out of your social circle and at the maximum you could be put out of existence.
But the implications of his Lordship doesn’t stop there. In Matthew 7:21-23 Jesus goes even further, “Not everyone who calls out to me, ‘Lord! Lord!’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Only those who actually do the will of my Father in heaven will enter. On judgment day many will say to me, ‘Lord! Lord! We prophesied in your name and cast out demons in your name and performed many miracles in your name.’ But I will reply, ‘I never knew you. Get away from me, you who break God’s laws.’”
Recognizing Jesus as Lord is where it starts but doing the will of the Father is necessary for salvation as well. And what is the will of the Father? Jesus gives a clear and simple answer when a group of Jews asked him directly which good works they needed to do to truly be saved, They asked Jesus, “‘We want to perform God’s works, too. What should we do?’ Jesus told them, ‘This is the only work God wants from you: Believe in the one he has sent’” John 6:28,29.
Salvation is not a matter of casting out demons, performing miracles or trying to obey God’s commandments (because, in and of ourselves, we can only break God’s laws!) No, true salvation is a matter of trusting in the only One who was qualified to die in our place for our sins, the Lord Jesus Christ!
So to say, “Jesus is Lord” is to proclaim that “Jesus is God!” It is to affirm that faith in Him as the only way to salvation.
If these three words were truly part of the baptismal confession of the early church imagine the impact it had! When new believers were baptized, most likely in very public places, their verbal affirmation of the deity of Jesus became a huge evangelistic opportunity. I wonder how many believers we will meet in heaven who converted to Christianity as a result of witnessing someone else’s baptism, triggered by the proclamation that “Jesus is Lord!”
Imagine the spiritual courage it would take for a new believer to make such a bold statement in front of potentially antagonistic strangers and friends while standing in the water about to get baptized. This proclamation could get them killed. But it also could steel and seal their newfound faith in a very powerful way.
Perhaps a believer’s verbal proclamation that “Jesus is Lord’ in a public setting like baptism brands them publicly as a follower of Jesus and accelerates the sanctification process in ways we never anticipated. When someone believes in their heart they are justified and when they verbally proclaim “Jesus is Lord” in front of unbelievers (ideally at their baptism) the sanctification process is kickstarted in powerful ways.
Jesus is Lord. He is Lord of the universe. He is God in the flesh. We are saved by trusting in him to justify us. Our sanctification is kickstarted by declaring his Lordship publicly and unashamedly to a watching world. To recognize his Lordship is a powerful, controversial and life transforming thing.
And maybe, just maybe, we should reinstate these three words as the primary declaration of every new believer as they’re about to get baptized.
5 ways to share your faith on Black Friday
Black Friday is when cost conscious consumers storm Walmarts, Targets, Macy’s and more to get deals, deals and more deals. So how do we make sure those who are in shopper’s heaven actually go there someday (bad segue but it had to be done.)
If you happen to be one of the courageous (crazy?) souls who will brave the crowds to save money on Christmas gifts here are 5 ways to share your faith as you do…
1. Be kind when everyone else is being pushy.
If you’re a kind and patient shopper in the midst of push-grab-and-go aggressive shoppers you’ll stand out from the crowd. Even this small act can lead to unexpected Gospel conversations with those around you.
2. Give eye contact, smile and say “hello” to others.
There’s something about being acknowledged and genuinely greeted that can breathe life into a harried, hurried soul. I’ll never forget smiling and greeting a lady at the cash register who was helping me at a busy store. She said, “Thank you for giving me eye contact, smiling and actually acknowledging my existence.” I asked her how often that happened in her store and she said, “Not much. Some people never say a thing and many never give me eye contact…and it’s depressing.” This simple act can be an easy segue into a gospel conversation.
3. Ask questions of other customers when you’re in line waiting to get into the store or purchase items.
Long lines can lead to great conversations. Our simple strategy at Dare 2 Share is “Ask, Admire, Admit”. Ask questions (move from questions about their shopping experience, where they’re from, etc to spiritual questions like “Do you attend church anywhere?” or “Do you have any spiritual traditions you and your family do around the holidays?”, etc.) Admire what you can about what they believe spiritually. And then admit the reason you’re a Christian is that you’re so messed up you needed someone else to save you. More training on how to use Ask, Admire and Admit to initiate Gospel conversations can be found on the free Dare 2 Share app under the “How to share” button.
4. Commiserate with your fellow shoppers, neighbors, friends and others.
Chat about the consumerization of Thanksgiving and Christmas (which everyone can relate to on some level.) Talk about the foolishness of desperate shopping in a mall while some cities are having riots in the streets. Have a conversation about the reality that many in America have missed the real meaning of the holidays (which is short for “holy days” by the way) and use it as a way to bring up the real reason for the season…Jesus!
5. Bring something to leave behind that explains the Gospel in a simple way.
I like to bring Life in 6 Words GOSPEL cards. They have the GOSPEL message typed out on the back and the Life in 6 Words website URL on the front. They are a simple leave behind for cashiers and fellow shoppers. If you don’t have any of those you can download the GOSPEL message here and print out a few sheets to keep in your wallet or purse.
To be honest, I don’t usually go shopping on Black Friday but, if I did, this is how I would share my faith. I may have to brave the crowds tomorrow morning if, for nothing else, to share the good news in the midst of the craziness. But I’m not going at 5, 6 or 7 am. Early afternoon is more my style. I hope people will still be there!
What are some other ways to share your faith on Black Friday?
10 things I’m thankful for…
1. The free gift of salvation through faith alone in Christ alone (“The Gospel!”)
2. My wife and two kids who love Jesus, love each other and love me.
3. The privilege of working with an amazing staff at Dare 2 Share.
4. In spite of her blind spots, I’m thankful to live in a free country where I can worship as I choose.
5. All kinds of food…seriously, food rocks!
6. My health, I have a bad knee but thats about it.
7. Youth leaders who are living and leading THE Cause in their own communities!
8. Living in an age of transportation and technology. No covered wagons or carrier pigeons…we have planes, trains and Twitter!
9. An extended family, all of whom have been transformed by the amazing message of Jesus Christ.
10. The honor of equipping teenagers to share the gospel through Dare 2 Share for the last 20+ years.
What 10 things (or so) are you thankful for?
Only the Gospel can obliterate racism
I’m no stranger to racism. In the 70′s the animosity many of my family members had toward Hispanics in our North Denver neighborhood was palpable. It often boiled over into fights, complete with fists, bats, knives and, yes, at times, guns. My body-building, bad-to-the-bone uncles were ready to deal with “them” anytime, any where and for any reason.
It was a racist reality all across North Denver at the time. We lived in a neighborhood that teamed with racial hatred (going both ways.) Mexicans hated whites and whites hated Mexicans. The Italians who lived about 10 blocks North of us were their own entity. In the 70′s North Denver was a truly segregated part of the city and we lived right smack dab in the middle of what many considered a Mexican neighborhood.
My five uncles and mom (the only girl in the group) would grab bats, brass knuckles or steak knives when they saw gang members they hated trolling our neighborhood. They would rush outside and meet them in the alley beside our house, the lot behind it or the street in front of it and handle their bloody business.
Once my Uncle Richard jumped in the window of a car full of guys who were driving by slowly and taunting my family. He literally jumped through the driver’s side open window and started punching away. The car wrecked a half block down the street and my uncles (and mom) caught up to the scene. They pulled these guys out and started wailing away until the cops finally showed up and broke it up.
Although I was a little kid at the time I remember witnessing true violence and sensing the deep racial hatred that flowed down the streets of North Denver at the time.
But I also witnessed something that changed my life. A church in the suburbs reached out to the city and one by one reached my family members for Jesus. And there was something about this church, although it was located in the primarily white city of Arvada it was comprised of a surprisingly large percentage of Latinos.
Soon my rough and tumble uncles were worshipping side-by-side with a members of a race they formerly hated. Instead of throwing fists they were handing out gospel tracts together. Instead of yelling racist epithets in each other’s faces they were singing worship songs by each other’s sides.
I’m not saying that racism was completely obliterated in one fell swoop when my family members put their faith in Jesus. But the power of the gospel began to strip it away in large layers.
Witnessing the transformation of my family as a child convinced me that only the gospel can obliterate racism. Because only the gospel can conquer evil in the human heart.
The roots of racism lie in a twice-bitten piece of forbidden fruit. From the fall of Adam and Eve “my” has ruled the day… “my stuff”, “my life” and “my people.”
Racial tensions have been the rule, not the exception throughout human history. What’s happening right now in Ferguson is a microcosm of the racial prejudices that have saturated humanity since the beginning of time.
And the ultimate solution is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. As Thoreau said, “For every thousand hacking at the leaves of evil, one strikes at the root.”
Racism at its core is a sin problem. And this kind of spiritual problem requires a spiritual solution. That solution is the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. He died to break the power of all sin (including racism) and unite his people as one body. As Galatians 3:28 reminds us, “There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
My friend Derwin Gray reminded me that we often stop too short when reading Ephesians 2:8-10. Most of us are familiar with these classic verses but are we familiar with what comes after them? Check out Ephesians 2:8-16,
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God– not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called ‘uncircumcised’ by those who call themselves ‘the circumcision’ (that done in the body by the hands of men)–remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility.
If Jesus can break down the dividing wall of hostility between Jew and Gentile he can break down the dividing wall of hostility between any races. This should be the inevitable result of the Gospel as demonstrated through the church. For more on this check out Derwin’s powerful blog on the church’s central role in this whole situation.
I’ve seen the Gospel obliterate racism in my family, break down the dividing wall of hostility between races and unite us all as one in Jesus. It is this same Gospel that can lay the groundwork for transformation in Ferguson and every community boiling over (or just simmering) with racism.
Of course we need systemic change. We need communication between cops and the community. We need to address the injustices in the justice system and make sure everyone gets a fair shake. But all of these are merely leaves compared to the root issue. And the root issue of sin can only be obliterated by the power of what Jesus did on the cross when he payed the price for our sins with his blood and paved the way for unity through his resurrection.
My 5 encouragements to the Christians of St Louis and Ferguson
I’m sitting here with my family waiting for the decision from the Grand Jury in St.Louis to be announced and am anticipating, along with the rest of America, the potential protests (and in the worst case, riots) that could follow a decision not to indict the officer in question. To be honest, I don’t know all of the details of the shooting and have heard differing opinions from various news channels (CNN vs. Fox) about who or what is to blame.
I have personal connections to this particular area of St. Louis. My Aunt Diane works as a public school teacher in Ferguson and she and her family live in Florissant, just a short seven minute drive away from ground zero. In addition I have had the privilege of doing training conferences in the city of St.Louis since 1998 and have grown to know and love many of the churches and youth leaders in the area. We have many dear friends, prayer partners and financial supporters who live in, around or near St. Louis.
Over the years I’ve had the honor of equipping tens of thousands of youth leaders and teenagers through our Dare 2 Share conferences. Last year we trained almost 5,000 teenagers right in downtown St.Louis and witnessed God do amazing things.
I believe that the teenagers and youth leaders in and around St Louis are in a unique position of influence. They can leverage social media, conversations and prayer to set the temperature with their peers, parents and churches. And, because the average teenager has about 400 online and face-to-face friends they can have a huge impact.
With this as a backdrop here are my five encouragements to the Christians, youth leaders and teenagers of Ferguson and St.Louis:
1. Pray now, pray hard and pray with others.
Teenagers and youth leaders (and every believer for that matter) should use this as an excuse to gather together and pray for peace. The only thing greater than the hatred of man is the power of God. When we leverage God’s power through prayer we can watch Him heal divides in ways we never anticipated.
2. Use water, not kerosene.
These types of fiery situations can either be blown up through hateful words (posted online or spoken in person) or put out through words of love and peace. As Proverbs 15:1 reminds us, “A gentle answer deflects anger,but harsh words make tempers flare.”
Use water, not kerosene with your words as you talk with friends and strangers.
3. Obliterate racism in your own heart first.
Since the dispersion of the human race into human races at the Tower of Babel we have all had a propensity to think our race is the best (whatever race we happen to be.) For thousands of years we have been divided into Team White, Team Brown, Team Black, etc. As a result wars and riots have erupted in every culture ever since. Racism, at its core, is a sin issue, not just a cultural one…and sin can only be fully and finally obliterated through the blood of Jesus.
My challenge to you is, no matter what your race, refuse to knee jerk to only view this through your own biased lenses. Listen deeply, judge justly and love everyone…no matter what.
The unfolding events in Ferguson prove there is still a very deep and very wide racial divide in America. And it can only be healed through the exponentially deeper and wider love of Jesus.
4. Be a healer, not a hater.
Obliterate racism in your own heart first and then in your community. Engage in conversations with those of other races, build friendships with them and overcome evil with good.
As Ephesians 2:14-16 reminds us, “For Christ himself has brought peace to us. He united Jews and Gentiles into one people when, in his own body on the cross, he broke down the wall of hostility that separated us. He did this by ending the system of law with its commandments and regulations. He made peace between Jews and Gentiles by creating in himself one new people from the two groups. Together as one body, Christ reconciled both groups to God by means of his death on the cross, and our hostility toward each other was put to death.”
As my buddy Derwin Gray wrote, “In all of human history, there has never been so much animosity, hatred, and violence between two groups of people as there has been between the Jew and the Gentile. But God birthed a group of people on the planet who He recreated in His eternal Son Jesus to transcend this racial hostility, injustice, and oppression. He did this by means of Jesus’ death on the cross so that our hostility toward each other was put to death.”
If God can heal the racial divide between Jew and Gentile he can heal the divide between black and white.
5. Use this as an opportunity to share the hope of Jesus with others.
There has never been a greater injustice than the death of Jesus Christ. He never sinned, always loved and brought healing where others brought hate…and he was crucified for it. Jesus relates to injustice in ways none of us ever could. But through the injustice of Jesus’ death we have access to forgiveness, hope and eternal life.
Jesus unjust death gives us just cause to love everyone. He did and, through his power, we can. And the best way we can love others is to offer them the free gift of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ.
This terrible situation is both a temptation and an opportunity. It’s a temptation if we give into the racism latent in our depraved hearts. It’s an opportunity if we say “yes” to the Holy Spirit by bringing hope where there is hate. This horrific situation is a huge opportunity for believers in Ferguson, St.Louis and the rest of America to engage in Gospel conversations that can change the situation. As Thoreau said, “For every thousand hacking at the leaves of evil one strikes at the root.” Only the gospel can strike at the root.
Let us all be praying for the believers in and around St Louis and Ferguson to be beacons of hope in a seemingly hopeless situation. And may the youth leaders and teenagers lead the way.