7 reasons I’m pumped about Lead THE Cause University!
Lead THE Cause University is Dare 2 Share’s week-long intensive training for teenagers and youth leaders. During this week students will get extensive training in evangelism, leadership skills, intercessory prayer, strategic planning and relationship building. They will leave equipped and ready to reach the teenagers in their communities with the good news of Jesus. And their youth leaders will leave with a plan to “get ‘er done!”
Here are 7 reasons I’m pumped about LTCU this week (starting Sunday night and going through Saturday morning)
1. It unites youth leaders with an uncommon passion.
The youth leaders who are a part of LTCU have hearts that burn with passion for this lost generation. There’s something about the youth leader sessions during this week that are more mature, strategic and exciting. These youth leaders are serious about advancing God’s kingdom in amazing ways.
2. I get to spend time with teenagers!
At the Dare 2 Share conferences it’s tougher to actually hang with teenagers. At Dare 2 Share there are thousands of teens. At LTCU there are hundreds. D2S lasts a weekend. LTCU lasts a week. It’s great to have meals together, talk in the warm Colorado sun or chat it up after a session.
3. It’s a week of holy conspiracy with some of my best friends.
For a week Doug Holliday, Zane Black and I get to room together and conspire together for kingdom advancement. The late night convos combined with the “Hey what about this…” unofficial brainstorming sessions can lead to some powerful ideas that will fuel gospel advancement in youth ministries across the nation. Plus, hanging with them is a ton of fun!
4. We get to identify future leaders of the movement.
LTCU is like a farm club in many ways. We get to meet teenagers and youth leaders who are “killing it” when it comes to spreading the good news and leading THE Cause in their communities. And it’s going to take next-level leadership to start a movement of Gospel advancement from coast-to-coast. It’s this brand of leader who pops to the top at Lead THE Cause University.
5. We get to do some unbelievable “field trips” that really impact the teenagers.
From a half-day away at Columbine High School (for intercessory prayer) to time in the mountains to make our personal plans for transformation to outreaches in the very unchurched, very liberal city of Denver this week is packed and stacked with activities that are designed to seal and steel what these teenagers have been learning. It’s what moves this week from theoretical to transformational.
6. It brings back old memories.
Because Lead THE Cause is on the campus of my alma mater, Colorado Christian University, it brings back a flood of old memories. It’s where I met some of my life long friends. It’s where I met my amazing wife. I love CCU and it will be great to be back on campus for a week.
7. It’s where I’m convinced something historic can take place.
I’m not overstating when I say that I believe God can spark a true and lasting awakening that will reach and transform a generation. Wouldn’t it be great if this were the week, our generation’s version of The Haystack Prayer Meeting? Wouldn’t it be exciting if this Lead THE Cause University 2014 became the epicenter for a spiritual earthquake that shook down spiritual strongholds across the nation and ushered in an unparalleled move of God?
That’s my prayer.
Join me in praying for the same.
By the way, stay tuned for a special announcement after this week concerning Lead THE Cause University. I can’t tell you now but suffice it to say…big things are happening for his glory!
To Lead THE Cause,
3 BIG challenges every youth leader must take
In his last letter to Timothy Paul penned his own epitaph, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7.) In doing this Paul gave his younger protege penetrating insights into his heart before being beheaded by Nero.
Paul’s bold claim gives us three challenges as youth leaders to take both in our lives and ministries. Let’s take a look at each and how they apply to us.
1. Fight the good fight.
It’s interesting that when Paul refers to the good fight in Ephesians 6:10 he is referring to spiritual warfare. He wrote, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.”
I personally believe that this was Paul’s personal “good fight.” It was how Satan attacked him in his private life. Maybe it was a battle with lust (2 Corinthians 11:29.) Maybe it was jealousy over those who preached the gospel more eloquently than he did (2 Corinthians 11:6..) Perhaps it was a battle with a physical ailment that made him struggle with the Lord in frustration (Galatians 4:15.) Or maybe, just maybe, it was a combo platter of the things listed above.
Satan used one/some/all of these (or something else) to attack the great Apostle and try to bring him down. Paul wrote, “Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you….’” 2 Corinthians 12:7-9.
This was Paul’s good fight. He fought against sin and Satan and came out victorious through Christ!
Whatever set of struggles you are facing right now just know that they are part of your “good fight” package. Satan wants to use these to destroy you. Jesus wants to use these to transform you. From lust to pride to grumpiness to greed God can use these struggles to make you fully dependent on Him. As you fight the good fight in the power of Christ you’ll be able to experience increasing victory in these challenging areas.
Personally, I believe Satan especially to target youth leaders in these areas of temptation because teenagers are a key demographic. 85% of those who trust in Jesus do so by the age of 18. Strike the shepherd and the sheep will scatter. Bring down the youth leader and the teens will scatter. Youth leaders take heed, gird up and fight the good fight!
2. Finish the race.
Paul had a race to win. He made this clear in his words to the spiritual leaders of Ephesus in Acts 20:24, “However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.”
Paul’s race was specific (he was focused primarily on reaching Gentiles.)
Paul’s race was strategic (it centered on planting thriving churches in ever widening swaths across the ancient world.)
Paul’s race was strenuous (it took every ounce of his strength and eventually cost him his life.)
You have a race to run too. The writer of Hebrews makes this clear, “…let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us” Hebrews 12:1.
The race marked out for you is specific, should be strategic and will be strenuous. And it should have as it’s epicenter “the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace” to and through your target audience…teenagers.
3. Keep the faith.
Paul challenged Timothy to do what he had been doing for decades…to keep the faith. He wrote, “What you heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus. Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you—guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us” 2 Timothy 1:13,14.
We have a Biblical responsibility as youth leaders to “guard the good deposit” of sound theology that has been delivered to us through the Holy Spirit via godly men and women over the centuries.
To guard it we have to have it. To have it we need to engage with it. So, with this in mind, let me ask you a few questions:
-Are you reading Scripture both devotionally and theologically?
-Are you a student of the Bible and theology?
-Could you spot out false doctrine if it were being taught to your teenagers?
-If so, would you be able to take your students to specific Scriptures to win them back to a sound faith?
As shepherds sometimes we need to fight off wolves. To do that we must learn how to wield a staff effectively. Paul knew how to do that when some of the Galatians started accepting a “yes, it’s by faith but you must also ______________” gospel. In the same way, we must keep the faith and help our teenagers to as well.
May we all, along with Paul, be able to proclaim at the end of our lives, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith.”
The key to catching fish (both literally and spiritually)
I’m not much of a fisherman (in the literal sense) but this last week I think I discovered the key…Go to where the fish are!
The truck (in the video below) pulled up next to me, my boy and little girl as we were fishing in the beautiful mountains of Colorado just a few days ago. When it pulled up we inched closer, took this video and then caught the fish you see in the picture above (and about four more “big ‘uns”!)
Jesus said in Matthew 4:19, “Follow me and I will make you fishers of people…” And the key to fishing for fish is the same key to fishing for people…proximity! If we don’t get out of our Bible bubbles and get to the places where God is “stocking the pond” we’ll never catch our limit (or more!)
How do you do get to where the fish are?
Take a co-worker out to lunch.
Talk to a neighbor.
Strike up a conversation at the shopping mall.
Bring it up on Facebook with that old high school friend.
Inch closer to where the fish are, make the cast and pray that they are hungry for the truth of the Gospel!
“Improvise, adapt and overcome” in life and ministry
I love the Army motto of “Improvise, adapt and overcome.” It’s something that we, who are in the battle with Satan for the souls of teenagers, can learn from. Sometimes plans fail and strategies fall short so what do we do? Do we give up? No! We keep our eyes on the end goal and prayerfully adjust our strategies and keep moving forward.
Yesterday something happened at the Dare 2 Share offices that reminded me of the need to improvise, adapt and overcome. And, yes, it’s a little embarrassing. I locked my dog in my office accidentally and there was no key to unlock it. So I had to find an unconventional way to break in to my own office. Here’s what happened…
Make some GREAT goals this Summer!
What is a GREAT goal? Its a goal that can focus you in life and ministry. It’s big enough to require faith but realistic enough to avoid being truly foolish. It should be a GREAT goal with great outcomes.
A few months ago I made some goals that sounded GREAT at the time but then I totally failed to accomplish them. Unforeseen circumstances (ranging from an extreme case of bronchitis to massive house-related emergencies) combined with a crazy busy travel schedule resulted in a worn down attitude of “just forget it!” The last two months my goal accomplishing hashtag could have been #EpicFail.
So when you fail to accomplish a goal do you just give up? No! You prayerfully and thoughtfully make another GREAT goal to go for. The very process of “failing forward” is progress. And if you fail do you live under the burden and guilt of not succeeding completely? No! No! No! Seeking and striving to accomplish GREAT Goals in the power of God should be a blast not a burden! Because as believers we should operate on the fuel of grace not guilt!
So, with that in mind, what exactly is a GREAT goal?
God-honoring (Does it bring maximum glory to God?)
Radical (Is it big enough to require some amount of divine intervention?)
Exact (Is it specific and measurable?)
Achievable (Has it crossed the line to foolishness?)
Time-sensitive (Does it have a deadline?)
With this in mind I’m compiling a short list of GREAT goals for this summer. It all kicks off Monday morning and ends the last day of August. I will have 3 GREAT goals in various areas of my life to seek to accomplish. Once I finish my list I’m going to recruit 3 people to pray for me and encourage me as I seek to accomplish them.
Join me and make some GREAT goals for this summer. They can relate to physical fitness, finances, spiritual disciplines, relational health, ministry impact, whatever God leads. Pray about what they should be. Write them down. Then go for it!
If you, like me, have failed to fully accomplish some goals you have set for yourself in the past (for whatever reason) don’t let that discourage you. Like Army soldiers we can learn to “improvise, adapt and overcome.” Like the early disciples we can do it all in the power of the Spirit and for the glory of God.
Viva LA Cause!
Vampire churches among us!!!
Yes, vampire churches are among us!
I’m not talking about churches full of red-lipped, pale-skinned Draculas (that would be creepy!) No, I’m talking about churches that live off the lifeblood of other churches (well, I guess that’s creepy too.)
This breed of church flies into town and announces their arrival with a flashy marketing campaign and an entrancing stare (Lights! Camera! Action!) Then they steadily, and probably unintentionally, sink their fangs into the necks of the smaller churches in that community and drain them dry. The results are church members, offerings and involvement sucked away from these smaller churches and the vampire churches increasing their own size, budget and strength.
Unfortunately the explosive growth of many new church plants is not due to the lost being reached but the saved being lured. Of course many of these churches claim to be evangelistic but a quick survey of their members would most likely find that the majority of their church growth is due to discontented and consumeristic church goers who were growing bored with their current congregations and looking for a new place to go and grow.
Drawn in by better bands, hipper preachers and a stronger children’s program many believers attending less flashy churches become entranced by the pizzaz so they break free from their current congregations to join the cool Christian “Cullen” clan.
Too many of these vampire empires leave a pile of church corpses in their wake. These church plants may seem like they’re making a great impact in their cities but some of them may actually be weakening the overall kingdom of God by turning medium-sized churches into small ones and small ones into closed ones.
Of course on the other side of this argument is the stark reality that a vibrant church can’t help but attract other believers in a city, especially if the churches they are attending are not delivering results. When my buddy Rick Long and I planted Grace Church in Arvada, Colorado 25 years ago we had some other believers from other churches attend…and we didn’t turn them away. There are sometimes legitimate reasons to leave a church to join another one. But the vast majority of our church growth was due to new disciples being added to our membership, not discontented church members coming from other congregations.
And, yes, there are some church plants that are killing it (in a good way) when it comes to growing in the right ways. I think of Transformation Church, led by my good buddy Derwin Gray in Charlotte, North Carolina. TC is one of the fastest growing churches in the nation and they are growing as a result of the people of that church reaching their friends, neighbors, classmates, teammates and co-workers for Christ!
As a matter of fact just a few minutes ago I took a 10 minute break from writing to say hello to a local pastor at a church plant (Novation Church) in my own city whose church is blowing up with new believers. He told me that he has a conversation with everyone who comes to visit his church who is already a believer and tells them that they are welcome to come but he is going to work to turn them into missionaries in their sphere of influence!
These are the kinds of churches that grow in the right ways. These vibrant congregations are not parasitic in nature but are both creative and creating new disciples.
May God increase their tribe!
As for Vampire Churches…they suck.
9 ways to ruin a sermon
1. Make it about you, not Jesus.
2. Force Scripture to fit to your outline, instead of the other way around.
3. Preach like a Texas Steer, “a point here, a point there and a lot of bull in-between”
4. Exegete the meaning of the text without exegeting the needs of the audience.
5. Don’t fess’ up your mess ups in areas you personally struggle with.
6. Stop giving meaningful ways to apply the text practically.
7. Make it political, not Biblical.
8. Become the “anti guy” by always preaching about theological views that are wrong.
9. Refuse to “take your text and make a beeline for the cross.” (HT Charles Spurgeon)
Outside the Camp (the sermon)
Here’s a sermon I preached at a great church called Cherry Hills Community Church in Highlands Ranch, Colorado almost two years ago. It’s based on Hebrews 13:11-15 and challenges believers to, like Jesus, go outside the camp to get in the grit to reach the lost.
5 signs of an excellent youth leader
As I travel down the youth ministry highway I get the privilege of encountering a lot of excellent youth leaders along the way. As I speed along it’s hard not to notice the signs of youth leaders who are truly making a difference:
Youth leaders who are excellent are fully yielded to God in their own personal lives. For them their personal consecration to God is their top priority. They take the challenge of Paul in Romans 6:13 personally, “Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness.”
Sure these youth leaders are working hard to produce talks that are impacting, small groups that are effective and a youth ministry model that rocks. But their top priority is their own walk with God. These youth leaders know that they can only lead their students as deep as they are willing to go personally.
“Then they came to Jericho. As Jesus and his disciples, together with a large crowd, were leaving the city, a blind man, Bartimaeus (which means ‘son of Timaeus’), was sitting by the roadside begging. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, ‘Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!’ Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, ‘Son of David, have mercy on me!’ Jesus stopped and said, ‘Call him.’ So they called to the blind man, ‘Cheer up! On your feet! He’s calling you.’ Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus. ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ Jesus asked him. The blind man said, ‘Rabbi, I want to see.’ ‘Go,’ said Jesus, ‘your faith has healed you.’ Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road.”
Jesus took detours from walking down the ministry road before him to help those who needed it. Great youth leaders do the same. They keep their eyes and ears open to the silent cries of the hurting teenagers they encounter along the way. They make the time to love the unloveable and introduce them to the life-transforming power of Jesus.
3. One Way
Youth leaders worth their salt teach an unpopular message in a culturally effective way. They preach Jesus as “the way and the truth and the life” (John 14:6.) This brand of youth leaders share an exclusive message (Jesus is the only way) in an inclusive way (all are welcome to believe in Him!)
This exclusive message is unpacked in Acts 4:12, “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.” The inclusive way is seen in Colossians 3:11, “Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.”
Youth leaders lovingly, strategically and boldly preach faith in Jesus based on his death, burial and resurrection as the one and only way of salvation. But they do it in a way that welcomes all who accept him through faith.
4. Rest Stop
Excellent youth leaders make time to rest, relax and reset. During these seasons they can have time to pray unhindered and seek the direction God wants them to go without a multitude of distractions vying for their attention.
Jesus took time to get away to pray. He took several “rest stops” on his ministry journey to get refueled by the Father. This is clearly demonstrated in Luke 5:16, “But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.”
When’s the last time you took a DAWG Day (Day Alone With God) or just went on a prayer walk at a nearby park (leaving your cell phone in the car of course) just to rest a bit in the loving arms of your Heavenly Father? To be a youth leader who is effective you need to be affected by the reenergizing power of your Heavenly Daddy.
5. School Zone
The youth leaders I know who are getting it done have a heart for the schools that their students attend. They know that this is the mission field that God has placed their students on and are relentlessly equipping them to be missionaries there.
Some youth leaders become assistant coaches, teacher’s aides and tutors just to be in proximity with their students, all the while encouraging them to live out their faith and reach other students for Jesus. By the way if you need some great resourcing in mobilizing your teenagers to reach their schools for Jesus check out www.everyschool.com. It has a ton of great tools (including many from Dare 2 Share.)
These are five of the signs of excellent youth leaders. What are some other signs that should be added to the list and why?