Feeling a Little Lost?

When I was in high school, my friends and I played this game where we blindfolded a passenger and then drove them to an unfamiliar place. Once we arrived, the blindfold was removed, and that person now had to guide us back to where we started. I remember being the blindfolded person and having it removed only to see a big red barn right in from of me. I was utterly lost, and I had no clue how to get home.  

I think that every person in ministry can relate to being “lost” in some aspect of their work, at one time or another. For example, if you asked me to give feedback on how to start or strengthen a worship ministry, I would be quickly lost as to what to do. 

My greatest ministry passion is to see the next generation grow as followers of Christ and for them to take on leadership roles within the church. I know that I am not alone in this and, while I know there are many ministry leaders who feel competent in leading their churches toward effective youth ministry, I know there are also many who feel “lost” in getting organized for this special work.  

For the last twenty-five years, all my ministry roles have had a fundamental commitment to teenagers. Fifteen years ago, CLB North American Mission extended me a part time call to help build a youth ministry network, to provide resources to youth workers and to find ways to encourage youth workers.  

I have thoroughly enjoyed connecting with youth workers, providing them resources, and keeping them in the loop with opportunities within our church family. I’ve discovered that there are many who are eager to grow as youth workers. There are also many churches who don’t have a point person focused on youth ministry or they don’t have a focus on youth ministry at all. For those who might find themselves feeling a little “lost,” I hope that the rest of this post helps point you to what the CLBA is doing to encourage churches in this vital area of ministry.

Here are some of the resources that our national family of churches has made available to you and your congregation. Please take advantage of them in your work. 

As you hear about all of these opportunities, please know that I would love to hear more from you and I am available to help you navigate the world of youth ministry. If you are not receiving any of our digital communication, please contact me!   

I’d love to hear from you! 
Mark Johannesen  - CLB Youth Ministries Communications 

Mark 10:14b – “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God.…” 

You Gotta Pay Attention

When playing a certain card game, my friend Harley likes to remind me that it’s important to pay attention to what’s going on—what’s “trump” and what’s not. If I make a misplay (usually causing me to fall far behind or to lose completely) he’ll cheerily look at me across the table and announce, “Bruce! You gotta pay attention!!” 

Of course, he’s right. 

Paying attention is pretty much always a good thing to do. In games and in our walk with Jesus.  

You probably know Hebrews 12 but here you go, verses 1-3, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, 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, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. 

Through the years my wife and I have had dogs and one thing I’ve improved in is teaching a dog how to “heel.” I learned how to do this from a lady who wrote a book about how Hollywood animals are trained to perform on screen. It’s all about getting, and holding, their attention. If you are training a dog, you put them then on a leash with a collar, go for a walk and, when the dog runs off to the side or ahead of you, you turn quickly at a right angle to their desired route. If you do it correctly, it might take them right off the ground, or simply spin them a bit. Your intention isn’t to hurt them (and I never have with this maneuver) but what does happen is that dog starts paying attention and watches your every move. It works. Watch a TV show or a movie that has dogs; see if they are watching the actors or looking off to the side a bit at someone that you never see. You’ll see.  

Anyway, we need to keep our eyes on Jesus the same way a puppy needs to watch its master going out for a nice walk. We gotta pay attention! How do we do that? 

By reading and paying attention to His Word. Reading the Bible is the best way to fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith. Jesus wrote the book on faith. Let’s pay attention and not go running off after every distraction that might promise special knowledge, guidance, or power. Pay attention to Jesus. Let’s keep our eyes fixed on Him. You’ll see. 

Bruce Stumbo – North American Mission Ministry Lead

Ministry in a Culture of Fear

Sex still sells in our context, but I believe the prominent tool to get attention today has become FEAR. It sells, draws hits, and we seem to be drawn to it even though we claim we are tired of reading about it. We are fed it continuously from the vantage point with which we are aligned. We want to hear about the “others” that make us mad which drives us into a mindset of safety and security at all costs. It is as if we are addicted to fear. We almost crave it!

Guess what – Satan loves to feed this! He drives the wedges and creates the walls that make us look at each other as enemies instead of someone that God loves even with their junk. Just like He has chosen to love me with my junk. Fear that is misplaced is also a product of my sinful nature. Instead of a correct fear, that is first and foremost toward God Almighty, the prominent fears in our cultural context distract, dominate, and destroy our souls.

This fear explosion is also fed by our glorification of the individual over community, the superstar over the team, and “I’m good” over “let’s do life together.” We need help to deal with fear rightly, and God provides all that we need. The provision He has supplied is His Word and His Church!

Fear truly is a powerful emotion and force, but God repeatedly deals with it in Scripture. We are not left alone to deal with what causes our fears or what it does in our hearts and minds. We are lying when we deny fear – we do fear, but do we fear in the way God desires for His redeemed children?

What does the Word say about fear?

It is important to be aware that Scripture does not deny our fear. It just directs us what to do with it when it arrives. On a personal note, I have found that Scripture knows me and my world perfectly. No other book comes close! Here is just a small sampling of God’s Word addressing fear in our lives.

So do not fear, for I am with you;
    do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
    I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

Isaiah 41:10

When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.
In God, whose word I praise—
in God I trust and am not afraid.
    What can mere mortals do to me?

Psalm 56:3-4

Immediately Jesus spoke to them and said, “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” Then he climbed into the boat with them, and the wind died down. 

Mark 6:50-51

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 8:38-39

The Church and Fear

What an opportunity for us to provide a different perspective in our culture of fear. Our common experience from the time we are children is that fear is diminished when we are with others. I don’t remember experiencing fear in the arms of my parents and darkness didn’t seem nearly as ominous when my hand was held by my grandpa. Life’s fearful complexities are lessened when I am processing them with my wife Barb.

Simply being alone can make us feel vulnerable. When I am alone and fear wells up in me it can be difficult to put danger and fear in perspective. I need help! The Church was created by God to help me see and understand things rightly. Christians were never intended to view being disciples as a “solo and private” activity. The Church is a community for each other, as well as, a unified voice of truth and invitation to those on the outside.

Social isolation enhances a sense of insecurity. The culture of fear in North America is a culture of individuality and disconnect. The Church is called to provide a counter-cultural option that is grounded in Jesus to deal with loneliness and fear.

I propose that God calls us to live as His people in a courageous community. This is God’s design to shape and equip you to be a person of courage in a culture addicted to fear. Paul tells us to “bear one another’s burdens” (Gal. 6:2). In a fearful world, we fulfill this charge by creating a community where we can share our fears, our risks, and our resources in a shared confidence.

Courage isn’t a complete absence of fear. It is the refusal to let fear keep us from doing what is right, good, and necessary. It is trusting God. The virtue of courage is much easier to form in community. Sharing life with each other keeps fear from dominating our minds and our lives. We learn courage together.

We are to be communities of faith, not communities of “maintenance” and self-preservation. This stepping out in faith confronts fear that finds our security in wealth and worldly power. In a healthy faith community, we find confidence because we share everything – fears and resources – so that all “needs” are met (Acts 2:42-47).

What a great opportunity we have to “risk” reaching out into each other’s lives. Instead of being dominated by fear, what if we trusted Jesus to live our lives delivering grace and truth?

In John 16:33 Jesus said, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

What if we took Jesus at his word? How should this shape our churches in this culture of fear?

Nick Mundis - Director of North American Mission