Archive for the ‘Youth Ministry’ Tag

Living In and Through Your Impossibilities!

Impossible with man

Everywhere I turn lately, and I mean everywhere, I am seeing and experiencing impossibilities! On a national level, I see the impossibility of our trying to permanently solve domestic abuse issues. I see the impossibility of our laws and courts to legislate racial harmony.

Locally and personally, I experience the impossibility of seeing the issues and biting problems of communities, families, and bad relationships issues solved by people participating in the Good News of God: Father, Son and Spirit. I have learned the impossibility of trying to use apologetics and healing to prove and convince people of God. I know the impossibility of  trying to solve some of my thorniest and bone-weary problems, including getting a house sold and rented properly for more than 18 years after moving from it for the sake of Jesus calling me into His practical pastoral ministry in another state! hmpf! And being middle-aged, I am learning the impossibility of so much more than that “small stuff” I just mentioned…hahaha… (anyone 40 and above feeling me?!)

AND, in God’s good grace, I am learning that this is REALLY all Good News! Ha!


Well, as Andrew Root writes about in his book entitled “Taking Theology to Youth Ministry”:

“The Church has often confessed that creation itself is ex nihilo, “out of nothingness”….The God of the burning bush [God: Father, Son and Spirit] reveals Godself out of human impossibility. Sarah is ninety, Abraham is impotent, Moses is a stutterer, and David is too young and small to be considered. God reveals Godself next to nothingness and impossibility; the breaking in of God often happens next to human weakness and yearning, in the backward and hidden (1 Corinthians 1:18). It is here that God moves; it is here that God is revealed; it is here that Gospel and mission are linked. God’s mission is to enter our impossibilities with the goodness that from the act of God a new reality in the love of God is breaking forth.

So, when we ask…’What is God up to in your life, where is God moving?'” we are compelled to look for God’s action in the kinds of places God is revealed. We look for God in places of brokenness, yearning, and suffering, places where God takes these deaths upon Godself for the sake of life. God is active at the places of our raw humanity. It is here, in our raw humanity, that we enter gospel and mission, that gospel and mission are held together. For the God of creation, the God [Father, Son and Spirit], the God who hears the groaning of God’s people, acts where there is the scent of nothingness. The God of exodus acts in those places where we are held captive, revealing Godself so death might be overcome with life.” pp.87-88

Footnoting the late Ray Anderson on this topic, Andrew quotes Ray who writes, “Why did the Lord wait until Moses was eighty years old, a failure and fugitive, with no possibilities? Because the element of human possibility must be removed. The people were powerless and helpless. They cried out to the Lord. Moses was chosen to be the redeemer because he was also without power on the human level. Moses understood that this “powerlessness” is itself a necessary ingredient in the chemistry of divine grace.” The Soul of Ministry, 45.

\May this Advent season for the Church, or season of focusing on the Coming of God: Father, Son and Spirit, in Jesus Christ, be a reminder and encouragement to you that God comes to us in our nothingness; our sin, death and hells. Our impossibilities. And He comes not at our initiative (our initiative is long dead and broken in sin!), but in his own initiative to bring forth his own future by His own Coming.

So as you and I believers enter into and participate in the suffering and death of this world with Father, through Jesus, and by the Spirit, no matter our age or circumstance,

“…we embody the promise that God is acting to bring forth God’s kingdom. Our hope is not that our efforts can make the world a better place. Our hope is in the action of God to open our eyes to see the small-but-sure ways God’s new reality is breaking forth.” – Andrew Root, Taking Theology To Youth Ministry, p.69

“[The end times and last things]…has finally not to do with the best that we can hope for in this world, but with a new world which will be brought into being only when God wills and acts to do so.” Richard Bauckham and Trevor Hart, Hope Against Hope: Christian Eschatology at the Turn of the Millennium, p.174

(In a related thought, though many people have been have been MISUNDERSTANDING and making fun of Janay Rice’s comment that she and NFL husband Ray Rice’s recent domestic violence incident was “God’s Plan!”, I suspect God: Father, Son and Spirit has shown up, and out, and IN the Rice’s impossibility. He loves creating possibilities out of our nothingness!)

– tjbrassell



Group Hug

Higher Ground LodgeRecently I had the privilege of serving as Chaplain at Higher Ground Summer Camp in the beautiful mountains of North Carolina. Throughout the camp each dorm is given multiple opportunities to sit and chat about whatever is on their minds. I have attended many of these chats over the past decade and I have to say they are never boring and to my perpetual amazement young people seem to be far more tuned in to the world around them than we might think. Teens and preteens are concerned about many of the same things that matter to adults. What is so different is that teens and preteens often feel powerless to control their circumstances. They often feel unequipped and unprepared to handle the myriad of challenges that they face.

So there I was with boys’ dorm 3B fielding questions and facilitating discussion about everything from whether we should stomp on little beetles just for fun to why bad things happen to good people. Well, during the course of our time together a young man named Jared asked me a very serious question.  His demeanor in asking the question told me how important this was for him. He leaned forward placing his elbows on his knees and clasping his hands in nervous anticipation of how his question would be received. Clearing his throat he managed, “How do I get closer to God?”

Now the me in me tends to answer right away and the answers tend to be less than stellar when that happens but on this occasion I waited to hear from Holy Spirit. What she gave me was worth sharing with the readers of Trinity and Humanity.

As I waited for Holy Spirit she gave me two words and a picture. I looked at Jared and said the two words , “You can’t.” Fear overcame his expression so I asked him to stand up. Now we were going to build the picture. I then asked permission to give him a hug. He agreed and right in front of the whole dorm I embraced him. As I held him tight in my arms I said to him, “Jared, Jesus has embraced you. But this is not a clear enough picture.” I motioned to a staff member named Linn. Linn came over and he wrapped Jared and I in his arms. I then repeated to Jared, “Jared, Jesus has embraced you in the fellowship of the Holy Spirit but this is not a clear enough picture.” I motioned for one of the counselors to come over and Jonathan embraced the three of us. I repeated again, “Jared, Jesus has embraced you in the fellowship of the Holy Spirit with the Father’s embrace.” Then I whispered to him, “Now you tell me how you get closer to this?” Jared was over-joyed to the near point of tears.

You see, Jesus has embraced us in the Holy Spirit with the Father’s embrace. We are in Jesus and He is in us. (Jn 14:20) We may sense a separation we may sense an estrangement but we can never be any closer to Triune God and we can never escape this all-inclusive embrace.

Lord show us and help us feel the group hug that surrounds us all! In Jesus name! Amen.

~ Bill Winn

On Step-Fathering

Traditionally, the second week of the Christmas season focuses on ‘the holy family’—Jesus with Mary and Joseph.  If there is a patron saint of step-dads, it should certainly be Joseph.  He did the holy work of fathering another guy’s kid.  Joseph was not the father who gave little Jesus his origin or his destiny.  I like to think he understood that it was important that he not impose his own agenda on this boy he was tasked with raising.

That makes me think of how I raise my sons.  I am their biological father, so it’s not the same, but it’s not entirely different, either.  I am not their ultimate Father.  My boys do not belong to me in the way they belong to Father.  I have begotten them, but I have not in any sense created them.  My status as ‘Dad’ to them is about stewardship rather than ownership.  Father has granted me the opportunity to ‘play dad’ to two of HIS beloved sons.

Step-fathering requires a certain restraint that comes from knowing ‘This kid is not MINE, and I must not treat him as such.’  As I grow to identify more with Joseph, I am learning to adopt that mantra as my own.

As spiritual stepfather to my biological sons, it is not my place to have an agenda for them.  Whatever my unfulfilled dreams are, woe to me if I foist them onto my spiritual stepsons.  Their destiny does not belong to me, not even a little.  Their True Father has his own agenda for them, an agenda for their glorious freedom and joy, an agenda He has sworn to accomplish.

Thank you, Father, for giving me to share in your work of parenting your sons.  Help my lingering foolishness not to get in the way too much.

~ John Stonecypher

Encouraging Words You Could (and Should) Share With Others!

You may come from the school of thought that it is better to feed the hungry than to say “Be well fed!” and then leave the scene without feeding them.

Though I don’t completely disagree with this principle from scripture, I don’t believe it is really an either/or situation. I believe you should not only feed them but relate with them in the feeding by speaking words of encouragement, too! Maybe something really encouraging like “Be well fed!” Ha-Ha!

Do you see my point?! God the Father, Son and Spirit do not just do for each other and never speak to each other!

“Proof” of this is that Jesus is the WORD of God made flesh! Within the Triune Godhead there is a Word and communication going on! Is that communication different than the Being and Doing of the Trinity, or is it Congruent with it?

The main point I want to make in this post is that it is not enough simply to do good to others, we must speak good things too! Most wives do not simply want a home, money and a few flowers. They also want to HEAR that you love them! Your kids do not just want to be fed, sheltered and clothed. They want to hear you say that you love them, and even that you like them, while looking them in the eye!!!

I have lived long enough and had enough experiences to know that if you take this seriously and begin to try it with your family, friends and neighbors, you should be ready for a few tears along with the awkwardness, even if you are a man!

We are so meant to HEAR the love, and it is neglected in so many of our relationships, people literally cannot help but cry for the joy of a deep desire finally being met when hearing the love! It will also choke your throat and threaten to nail your eyes to the floor in shame and embarrassment, so hang in there, choke the words out and force your eyes to look into theirs when you say it! I promise, it will get easier and you’ll all start to appreciate it! We’re made for it!

Ever wonder what you could, or should, say to others? Here are some things I have said to others along with participating with Jesus in His doing for them:

“God the Father loves you so much, and has embraced you so tightly and in such a unique way in Jesus Christ, that he will NEVER let you go!”

“You are good with the Goodness of the Father, Son and Spirit, and I sure appreciate it!”

“Did you know you are the son (or daughter) God the Father always wanted? He has always wanted a son/daughter just like you!” (Thanks for that one Dr. Kruger!)

Every morning my youngest daughter and I are in a contest to be the first one to blurt out “God the Father, Son and Spirit Love and Like You Very, Very MUCH!” This is one of the positive family contests I recommend! Ha-Ha!

This evening after family prayer I grabbed the faces of each of my family members and told them distinctly, “God the Father, Son and Spirit does not know how not to love you, and neither do I in His grace!”

What creative things could you (should you) SAY to others in the magnificent truth of all of humanity’s inclusion into the life of the Trinity in Jesus, as you also participate in His doing?

Remember my post “Fake it till you make it”? You don’t have to feel it or even mean it at first, in order for you to practice being who you really are in Jesus, or to baptize others in the assurance they were meant to hear! Just saying it will facilitate your “doing it” and “being it” in the grace of Jesus! After all, speaking is doing something too!

Because you belong to God the Trinity, you are not going to be able to get away forever without also SAYING Gospel to others!!!

~ by Timothy Brassell

P.S. I almost forgot! Not only will the tears start flowing, but the pearly whites will start beaming so brightly and WIDELY that the entire bunch of you who are speaking and hearing such things will be able to start eating bananas sideways! Ha-Ha!

Camp Ministry – the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

I just got back from a week of Christian summer camp. Here are some thoughts in the light of who Jesus is as the union of humanity and the Trinity:

The Good: Camp Higher Ground, where I took eight kids from my church and served on staff, is definitely a camp that is focused on telling kids the good news of who they are in Jesus: children of the Father baptized in the Holy Spirit.

Camp is also a lot of fun – especially for those who love camp ministry. I often find when I talk to people who love camp ministry – the ones who come back to serve year after year – that they talk about the impact it has on kids’ lives. But when I watch them doing camp ministry I can see that they are having a blast. Camp ministry folks enjoy chapel, swimming, and crafts as much (or more!) than the campers do.

Sometimes I wish we could be more honest with ourselves about the fun of ministry. Yes, we serve others in the gospel because it helps them but we also do it because that it is what we want to do. Our Daddy in heaven is okay with that. He has given us the freedom in Jesus to choose the ministries we like and to do them because we enjoy them. Take this blog for instance. I hope what I write here helps others, but even if it doesn’t I would still do it because I enjoy it! I think camp ministry people would have camp even if no kids showed up – and that’s good.

The Bad: Camp is only a few days in the lives of the kids who participate.

As much as we focus on telling them the truth of who they are in Jesus, and as much fun as it is, it still takes incarnational ministry to really change lives and help people grow up in Jesus. By incarnational ministry I mean living in relationship with people day in and day out, week in and week out, for years – the way the Son of God lives forever with humanity through his incarnation as the human being Jesus Christ.

This is why the Church is infinitely more valuable and important than camp ministry – or any other event ministry. Camp ministry is the icing on the cake, but if there’s no cake then all you have is icing – which isn’t very substantive. If I really care about helping kids grow up to trust Jesus then I have to live in relationship with them, in the name and power of the Trinity, day in and day out for years.

The Church is also far more efficient than camp ministry. My congregation of 50 people spent $3,000 in tuition and transportation costs to get me and eight kids to camp. I personally drove 1100 miles and spent a week away from family, church, and my community. In contrast, the Monday night kids’ group that we do with these same eight kids costs us about $700 a year. I drive 1 mile from my house to the church building every Monday night.

And which of these two has the greater impact on the kids’ lives? It’s the time they spend together every Monday night, praying, reading the Bible, and playing with each other and the adults who are committed to them for the long term.

Sometimes I wish that more of the creativity, money, time, and energy of Christians was spent trying to strengthen Churches and not so much on trying to create intense spiritual experiences at once-a-year events like camp.

The Ugly: Anyway you slice it, camp ministry is never a neat, simple experience (but then again, no ministry is ever neat and simple.)

Maybe “ugly” is too strong a word, but I don’t think “messy” is too strong a word. People are complicated and life is not lived in black and white, it’s lived in color, with all the shades and colors of human experience overlapping, clashing, and (sometimes) harmonizing.

That’s another thing I like about Higher Ground. Most of the people who minister there aren’t trying to force people into boxes and categories and they’re not trying to wrap the week up in a package at the end with a nice little bow on top. Camp ministry helps us see that Jesus has included humanity in the life he shares with the Father and the Spirit and that is never going to change. As messy and difficult as life can get we know that we have all eternity – not just a week, a year, or a lifespan – to keep being baptized in the assurance of who we are in Jesus and to keep healing from the broken results of our fallenness.

~ Jonathan Stepp

What’s Right with the Church

What’s wrong with the Church?

It seems like everywhere I go in Christianity that’s the question I hear pastors, denominational leaders, and church consultants asking.

Why won’t people do personal evangelism? Why aren’t pastors working harder to make disciples and grow their churches? Why aren’t people excited about planting new churches? Why is the Church in North America in decline by almost every measurement: membership, brand loyalty, finances, new churches planted, etc.?

The question itself exposes the answer.

When we look at people and say “what’s wrong with you?” it’s only normal for them to answer “I don’t know what’s wrong with me, I guess I’ll just give up.” After decades of being told that they’re not working hard enough for Jesus, that they haven’t tried the right program – or having tried the right program they haven’t executed it correctly – after decades of being lectured to about what they need to do to follow Jesus’ example and build the Kingdom, the people of the Church are voting with their feet and their wallets. The vote says this: “You tell us we’re worthless and not doing enough and we agree. Since we’re failing anyway we’re just going to go ahead and quit.”

It’s time for the leadership of North American Christianity to believe the gospel and trust Jesus.

The fact is that, in Christ, there is nothing wrong with the Church. That’s why I’ve titled this post “What’s Right with the Church.” The blessed Trinity has swept up the whole human race into its life in Jesus Christ. We are everyone one of us the children the Father always wanted and when his Son became human like us, as the man Jesus, the Father adopted his beloved children into the life of joy he shares with Jesus and the Spirit.

Jesus has made us good. Jesus has made us loved, liked, and acceptable. Our Daddy isn’t wondering when we’re going to get busy doing his work anymore than I’m wondering when my 5 year-old is going to get busy pulling his weight around my house. Our Daddy is wondering when we older kids – pastors, ministry leaders, etc. – are going to stop beating up on our brothers and sisters and start telling them how much they are loved and accepted.

Unfortunately the vast majority of North American Christian leaders have not believed this gospel. We have believed and preached a gospel that says “you can be liked and loved, if you will get yourself saved by your belief and then work real hard for the rest of your life to do the Lord’s work.”

We’ve preached this false gospel because we’re afraid. We’re afraid to tell people “your Daddy likes you in Jesus and always will, even if you never work hard for his Kingdom.” We’re afraid that if we tell people this good news that they won’t come to church, won’t give money, and won’t do evangelism. And if that happens then the Church will decline and we’ll look like failures.

Well I’ve got news for all my fellow Church leaders:

The Church is in decline and we look like failures! We haven’t told people how they are the children their Daddy always wanted and our worst fears have come true!

So, what’s the harm in stopping our programs, stopping our grandiose planning, stopping our incessant guilt trips, and simply trusting Jesus? What if all we did – all we ever did – is keep telling people the good news of who they are in Jesus? Maybe Christ himself will inspire and lead them to do all the stuff we’ve been trying to get them to do through guilt. Trying such a radical experiment as trusting Jesus and proclaiming him alone certainly couldn’t produce any worse results than what we’ve produced by our programs and guilt trips.

The Holy Spirit is all about helping us learn to live loved in the Father’s embrace.

That’s where the fruit of evangelism, discipleship, and church planting comes from. It comes from us being baptized in the good news of how much our Daddy loves us and how much he likes us. It comes from being baptized in the truth of how – in Christ – we are right and good. Keeping in step with the Spirit means that it’s time for us to get on board with his program of baptizing people in the assurance of who they are in Christ.

~ Jonathan Stepp

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