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29Nov

5 Reasons You Need to Read Fiction

I read nine novels this month. 3,565 pages.

Until this month fiction has always seemed like such a waste of time. When I’ve tried to read novels before I can’t stop thinking about the 1,638 other things I could be doing that are more important. Most of the books that fill my shelves are about following Jesus, church ministry, marriage, and leadership. See: Reading Proverbs

Even though I’m new to the fiction fan club, I’ve always loved reading. When I was a kid I was the reason nobody else brought home reading point prizes. That’s right, I used to brag about how good I was at reading. No wonder junior high was rough.

I wanted to force myself to read five novels in November. Reading fiction makes you more creative, a better story-teller, etc. Well, five novels turned into nine novels because I got hooked.

After nine novels (3,565 pages) here’s what I learned.

1. TV is overrated.

We haven’t had cable in years but you can watch a lot of TV with Netflix and Hulu, which we do have…along with MLB.tv…which thrills my wife to no end. We don’t really binge watch stuff – I can’t sit still for that long doing nothing. But somehow the TV just always seemed to be on in the background as we were working on other things or eating dinner, etc.

I have a few shows that I enjoy watching every week on Hulu (Blacklist and Scandal are my current favorites) but outside of catching up on those on my day off, I read all month. My wife and I ate dinner at the table – sometimes with our books! I didn’t miss a thing, especially not the constant barrage of commercials. (If at this point you want to be a snob and brag about your DVR fast forwarding skills, allow me to compare my TV bill to yours).

2. Trying new stuff is good for you, especially if that’s not your thing (me!).

I love routine. I dislike change.

If I find something I like to eat at a restaurant, I’ll hardly ever order anything else.

For me it was fiction. What is it for you? What new thing(s) do you need to try this month?

3. Women are awesome.

My full reading list is at the bottom of this article but I especially enjoyed the newer novels I read written by women where the protagonist or main character was a woman. I was telling a friend about such a novel when I caught myself using the phrase “strong female character” which is like white people describing an African American woman as a “nice black lady.” Why shouldn’t black women be nice and why shouldn’t female characters be strong? If it were a white woman would she be a nice white lady? If it were a strong male character would I have said that?

From my place of privilege (I’m a middle class white American man – Donald Trump‘s dream citizen) I don’t often thing about the obstacles others have had to overcome. Minorities, women, the poor, etc. Two of my top three novels were written by women and the best character development I read this month came was penned by females.

I’m grateful for the women in my life and want to spend the rest of my life fighting for them to have every chance and opportunity that a man has to succeed.

4. Reading every day is easy.

I spent $0 to read nine novels in 30 days. The public library system in my city is tremendous. They have four library locations and offer e-book borrowing options as well as tons of audio books on CD (every car ride adds up).

All it cost me was time. I rarely sat down and read for much more than an hour at a time. Most sessions were 15-20 minutes at a time. I carried a book with me everywhere I went and anytime I had to wait on anyone or anything I read. Instead of watching TV at the end of the day, I read for 20 minutes. It all adds up. You and I make time for what we care about most. Anytime you find yourself saying, “I don’t have time” just replace it with “I’m just choosing to do other stuff.” See: I’m So Glad I’m Failing

5. You can spend a LOT less time on social media and still not miss stuff.

I basically eliminated the scrolling aimlessly through Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, etc. over the last month.

I still checked everything everyday and I found that I didn’t miss anything significant. I saw all the babies, engagements, weddings, football games (shut-up about Baylor), basically all the stuff that makes social media awesome.

I love social media. I love the influence it can have for good and I love how it connects and shrinks the world. I also loved having something much more exciting to look forward to every day.

Last Month’s Fiction Reading List

  1. The Book of Joe by Jonathan Tropper (my #2 Tropper next to This is Where I Leave You)
  2. The Martian by Andy Weir (if you’re remotely interested in science this book is incredible. If you’re not, go see the movie. It’s actually almost as good as the book).
  3. How to Talk to a Widower by Jonathan Tropper (love, lust, the suburbs, and manhood)
  4. Saturn Run by John Sandford and Ctein (I got on a space kick after Martian – this was about 150 pages too long but an excellent story).
  5. Juliet, Naked by Nick Hornby (the “naked” refers to an acoustic album…just throwing that out there)
  6. The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins (probably my favorite of the month) – audiobook was great
  7. Sick Puppy by Carl Hiassan (I love Hiassan – dark humor, satire, poetic justice, all things Florida)
  8. Pretty Girls by Karin Slaughter (The plot twists in this book are unreal but there’s some sexual sadism I could have done without).
  9. Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng (Amazon’s best book of 2015 – excellent novel exploring themes of race, gender, family, and identity).

Do you read fiction? What’s the last great novel you read?

 

 

 

 

29Apr

Tough Text Tuesday: Matthew 7:21-23

21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ – Matthew 7:21-23

In today’s tough text, Jesus is a just a few verses away from wrapping up the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus’ words can seem confusing and deeply troubling, especially if we find ourselves in the wrong group. There are in fact two distinct groups on this judgment day Jesus warns us about. And while we’re not quite sure yet what separates them notice what unites them: They all call Jesus “Lord.”

The Greek word for Lord is “kurios.” It literally means: master, boss, lord, savior. Sometimes we miss out on the true power of this word. Every time we call Jesus LORD, we’re saying he is the boss. He is the master and we are the servants. He has that kind of authority over our life, and all he wants is the same thing for each one of us: to realize that we are known and loved by God, solely by grace through faith, and by no works of our own.

So of all those that come to Jesus and call him Lord, why do some enter the kingdom of heaven and others don’t?

The answer might be too simple for the present way we view ourselves: Saying Jesus is Lord isn’t enough. We must believe that we’re bad enough to need saving and that God loves us enough to do just that.

  • Simply saying Jesus is Lord of your life doesn’t save you.
  • Religious activity doesn’t save you.
  • Church attendance doesn’t save you.
  • The faith of your parents doesn’t save you.
  • Baptism doesn’t save you.
  • Walking a church aisle doesn’t save you.

Faith in JESUS to be good enough because we know we’re nothing on our own saves us.

There must be CHANGE. There must be TRANSFORMATION.

Notice what those who ultimately don’t enter the kingdom of heaven say as they try and negotiate their way in…”Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’

Notice what they’re hanging their hat on: their own good works.They come before Jesus in bold arrogance claiming that they don’t need a Savior because they have this running list of all their good deeds they’ve done for Jesus. Tragically, they claim they don’t need the accomplished work of Jesus in his life, death, and resurrection because they mistakenly believe they’ve already accomplished enough themselves.

Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg illustrated this thought process so clearly in a recent interview with the New York Times. At the end of the interview Bloomberg addressed his work with gun control, smoking cessation, and obesity curbing programs:

“I am telling you if there is a God, when I get to heaven I’m not stopping to be interviewed. I am heading straight in. I have earned my place in heaven. It’s not even close.”

While Bloomberg’s comments may have been made somewhat in jest (I’m trying to give him the benefit of the doubt), they echo an intrinsic belief crouching at the door of the hearts of all who claim Jesus as Lord: Sometimes we want to be our own Savior. Sometimes, if we’re honest, instead of admitting our own desperate need for grace, we want to rely on our own accomplishments and morality as functional saviors because then we don’t have to let other know we’re not okay apart from Jesus.

So how do you ensure you’re not one to which Jesus declares, “I never knew you, depart from me”?

How do we do the will of the Father in heaven? Repent and believe in Jesus. There’s no checklist. No moral to do list. We change because we’re saved not so that we can be saved.

I’m not sure what you’re hanging your eternal hat on today, but if it’s anything but the grace of Christ you’re foolishly clinging to yourself. I did that for a long time and it’s exhausting. Instead, cling to the good news of the gospel:

“We can say that we are more wicked than we ever dared believe, but more loved and accepted in Christ than we ever dared hope — at the very same time.” – Timothy Keller
19Mar

Chop Wood & Carry Water

Chop wood and carry water.

It’s an old Chinese proverb that has the potential to save marriages, careers, relationships, and livelihoods.
I spent a month in China when I was in college and one of my favorite parts of the trip was the week we spent in this small village way up in the mountains. It was a very rural, almost primitive community. There were two things they had to do everyday:

Chop wood and carry water.

The cold always came so the fire always needed to be maintained.
Food always needed preparing and thirst always needed quenching so water was needed everyday. They didn’t have running water so someone always had to carry it.

It didn’t matter what happened that day, whether there were good experiences or bad. Chop wood and carry water.

Hall of Fame basketball coach Phil Jackson told Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant the same thing before, during, and after winning 6 and 5 championships, respectively. It kept them motivated, focused, and grounded.

You want to know how to be truly successful? – Chop wood and carry water.
You want to know how to have a thriving marriage? – Chop wood and carry water.
You want to know how to cultivate and maintain a positive reputation? – Chop wood and carry water.

This philosophy isn’t too idealistic. It’s not overly simplistic.

Adopt a “chop wood and carry water” attitude at work, at home, and in the community for the next 30 days and see if you’re not pleased with the results.

You’ll find yourself…

  1. Working harder
  2. Staying humble
  3. Appreciating others
  4. Doing the little things right
  5. Growing in discipline
  6. Staying focused before, during, and after success

Emotionally healthy people adopt a Chop Wood Carry Water mentality. They know that normal tasks need to get done every day.

It doesn’t matter if you’re a lawyer or a sanitation worker.
It doesn’t matter if you’re an executive or a stay-at-home Mom.
It doesn’t matter if you’re a college student or a grandparent.

Rise and shine. It’s time to chop wood and carry water. Who’s in?

3Mar

Tough Text Tuesday: Philippians 4:13

This weeks marks a bit of a re-visioning process for the blog. If you were around yesterday you read the first article in a recurring series, “Marriage Monday.” I don’t pretend to have years of experience or wisdom about marriage but what I do have I learned from a little bit of experience and a lot of wisdom from couples who have successfully navigated decades of marriage.

Today marks another new recurring series, “Tough Text Tuesday.” I promise that’s as far as the alliteration goes. I think. Each Tuesday I’ll post about a verse or passage of Scripture that is easily misinterpreted, controversial, or simply difficult to understand. I hope to explain the text in such a way that shows Christians what interpretative options are available as well as distinguish between essential issues of the faith and non-essential issues. Non-essential issues may very well be important but they don’t deny a core aspect of the Gospel or nature of God. In other words, it’s okay to disagree about these things with people. Essential issues are non-negotiable (Jesus is God. Jesus died for our sins. God is love, etc).

Our first Tough Text Tuesday takes us to an extremely popular verse:

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” – Philippians 4:13

tebowThis verse has been used most-often in Christian circles as athletic motivation. I remember going to FCA meetings in high school (side note: FCA is an INCREDIBLE organization) and we would talk about this verse within the context of succeeding on the athletic field.

An obvious problem arose when I asked myself, “What happens when I believe this verse and use it as athletic motivation for me while competing against someone doing the same?” When this verse is misinterpreted in this way, one is forced to conclude that God simply loves the winner more.

So, now what? How IS this verse to be interpreted and applied? There are a couple of truths that are always important to remember when interpreting any part of Scripture. One of those that will help us today is that every passage of Scripture must be first interpreted in the culture/time to which it was originally intended.

Paul pens these prolific (alliteration again..I knew I wasn’t done!) words in a difficult time in his life, to say the least. He was not facing an athletic opponent. He was literally on death row, awaiting his potential execution while under house arrest chained to a Roman guard 24/7. This was after he had already been shipwrecked, arrested, and ran out of several different cities.

When interpreting Scripture, context is HUGE. Let’s check out the two verses that immediately precedes v. 13,

11 I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. 12 I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. 13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” – Philippians 4:11-13

Another HUGE problem we run into when we interpret this verse as God fundamentally blessing whatever we set our minds to is that we leave zero room for suffering to be a part of God’s plan for us. This is a dangerous assumption about God’s will, one that Paul never made. He knows how to be brought low. Do we?

Conclusion

I pray you gain a deeper appreciation for this verse in particular and Scripture in general. I hope you can echo the claim of Paul that whether you have little or much, hunger or abundance, grief or happiness, that no matter what you have the capacity to obey whatever God commands you to do. This is the ultimate take-away for me with this passage. It’s a question we must ask of God instead of demands we get to make of Him…

God,

What would you have us do for you today? Whatever it is, we know we can do it, but not because of us. It’s all about YOU.

Amen.

20Feb

You May Never Get Married

“There is no more lovely, friendly or charming relationship, communion or company, than a good marriage.” – Martin Luther

“Love is a deep unity, maintained by the will and deliberately strengthened by habit…”- C.S. Lewis

“Ladies, a real man does more than pay for you, he prays for you.” -Jarrid Wilson

While all these quotes contain various degrees of truth, they can also help foster an incredibly harmful thought process among single Christians, one that I have recently heard more and more frequently.

The thought process is seemingly logical and goes like this:

  • Premise A: God loves me and wants me to be happy.
  • Premise B: Marriage would make me happy.
  • Conclusion: God wants me to be married.

This thought process is affirmed with one verse more than any other in all of Scripture:

“Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” – Psalm 37:4

At first glance, this seems to completely validate the thought process formula mentioned above…except in Scripture God gives us a new benchmark by which we measure our happiness. 

A Biblical Thought Process of our Happiness

  • Premise A: God loves me and wants me to be happy.
  • Premise B: The way I get “the desires of my heart” is by delighting myself in God above all else.
  • Conclusion: When I truly delight myself in God, I want more of HIM than anything else (marriage, etc). In other words, GOD becomes the truest and highest desire of my heart and he promises to satisfy our longing to know him and to BE known BY him.

 This thought process changes things for married and single Christians alike:

To the married Christian: This means your spouse does not complete you. They do not make you whole and your life would go on without them (as hard as that would be) because Jesus alone makes you whole and completes you. To claim otherwise would be to claim your spouse is a functional Savior.

To the single Christian: This means you may never get married. It may not be God’s will for you, or it may just never happen for an infinite number of reasons or circumstances. You may never get married, but you’ll always be loved. You’ll always be radically loved by a God wants to open your eyes to his grace. He really is all you need. Grace really is that good.

I don’t know if you’re single, dating, engaged, or married. But no matter what your relationship status is, Jesus is enough. It’s JESUS ALONE that saves us and JESUS ALONE that sustains us in the abundant life he offers (John 10:10) by giving us the desires of our heart as we delight in JESUS above all else.

18Feb

Fight Club Decision-Making

 

There’s this great scene in the movie Fight Club where the unnamed Narrator/protagonist (played by Edward Norton) meets Tyler Durden (played by Brad Pitt).

Durden is opposed to the typical airline chit-chat the Narrator is offering until Norton’s character cracks a joke about Durden being the most interesting “single serving friend I’ve ever meet…you know, cause everything on a plane is single-serving.”

Durden responds simply, “No I get it. It’s clever…How’s that working out for you? Being clever. Good? Well keep it up!

“How’s that working for you?”

That question is brilliant…and it’s one of two questions you should ask yourself before making any decision.

1.) How will this work for me?

How will it affect me and my life? How will this change my present-day circumstances as well as my future possibilities in life? Far too often people end up making decisions they quickly regret simply because they acted rashly instead of slowing down and thinking through how this decision will actually affect them.

Yet another question is necessary in wise decision-making. Scripture commands us in Philippians 2:4,

Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.

2.) How will this work for others?

It’s important to think about how this decision will potentially impact those around you, specifically the following two groups of people:

  • Loved ones – family and friends that you deeply care about. These are the people we have the highest potential to help or harm with our decisions.
  • Those who don’t know Jesus – Cards on the table…this assumes you’re a follower of Jesus. If you’re not, you already know the following to be true. An unbelieving world needs to see Christians become wise decision-makers. The world needs to see Christians live their lives fully aware of how it affects those around them, not just their immediate circle of loved ones but all people they encounter, especially those who are not believers.

You can also use these questions to evaluate a past decision’s present effectiveness to determine if a new course is needed or if you simply need to plow ahead.

Imagine what the Church could accomplish all over the world if all Christians would ask these two questions before, or while, making a decision…no matter how big or small!

 

 

 

 

13Feb

Nobody Wants Us Today

Today, everyone seems wanted….except us.

Today, it seems like everyone is being showered with love and attention. Except us.

No candy. No flowers. No love letters. Not for us. We’re the unwanted.

We’re the unlovable. Broken by the world, others, and our own bad decisions.

Watch the 2-minute video below for the only hope we have today:

Share this with a friend who needs hope today.

9Feb

6 Questions Every Christian Needs to Answer

I’m a pastor and I’m crazy about the local church.

I love how messy, beautiful, broken, and encouraging life is when messed up, imperfect people attempt to point other messed up, imperfect people to an eternally perfect Savior, JESUS.

But I wonder if we as the Church have somewhat lost our way.

So much of our concern seems to be wrapped up into “buildings, bodies, and bucks.”

Yet Jesus went around making disciples out of a small group of people who he then unleashed to change the world.

For so long in church life I was told to make disciples. Make disciples. It was even the mission statement of the church I worked at in college, plastered on the side of church vehicles. “Make disciples.”

Yet we never really knew HOW or WHERE to start. When pursuing new people with the Gospel, our end goal seemed to be salvation and then you were kinda on your own.

Growing up in the church myself, I remember being saved by God, then being told to read my Bible, pray, and go to church. But nobody ever TAUGHT me how to do those things until later in life. Furthermore, nobody ever taught me WHY we do those things or WHY it was so important that we pass them on to the next generation, as we’re commanded by God to do!

So…are you making disciples? Do you even know what that means?

If you don’t have an intentional plan on how you’re obeying the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20), let me suggest a starting point. Find someone who’s trying to follow Jesus. They don’t need to be a seasoned believer that has books of the Bible memorized but they also don’t have to still be wet from the baptistry, or the trough if you go to my church.

Share these 6 statements/questions with them. Give them time to work on their answers and you do the same. Then, meet for coffee. Or lunch. Or Facetime. Or whatever works for you both.

And SHARE. Be honest and vulnerable and watch what God does. You’ll be amazed at what God has done in the life of someone you know only casually at church. This little practice will help break down the barriers of complacency and false senses of community and possibly lay the groundwork for beginning a discipleship relationship down the road.

These 6 statements form the Spiritual Journey Inventory from Robert Gallaty’s discipleship book, Growing Up: How to be a Disciple that Makes Disciples.

1.) After coming to the Lord, I finally understood _____________________________.

2.) The closest I have felt to God in my life was ______________________________.

3.) The farthest I felt from God was _________________________________.

4.) If I could change one incident in my life it would be _________________. Why?

5.) One incident in my life I would never change would be _______________. Why?

6.) The turning point in my relationship with God was __________________. Why?

I hope these questions help you grow deeper in your relationship with a friend, but more importantly, I pray God uses them in YOUR life to allow you to reflect on your own spiritual journey.

Would you mind leaving a comment or sending me an e-mail and let me know how you used these questions?

I’d love to hear from you: hillcsteven@gmail.com

 

 

4Feb

If Christians Cared More: Facebook and the Gospel

Facebook turned 10 years old yesterday.

In 10 years Facebook has grown from a fledgling website meant to connect Harvard students across campus to a global social media network with 1.23 billion users.

In 10 years Mark Zuckerberg went from a Harvard dropout to the chairman/CEO of a company worth more than $134 billion with his personal net worth estimated at over $19 billion.

To commemorate the 10th anniversary, Zuckerberg posted a letter on Facebook detailing his perspective on the incredible and surprising of Facebook. His reflections were compelling:

When I reflect on the last 10 years, one question I ask myself is: why were we the ones to build this? We were just students. We had way fewer resources than big companies. If they had focused on this problem, they could have done it.

The only answer I can think of is: we just cared more.

We just cared more about connecting the world than anyone else. And we still do today.

That phrase leaped off the screen, we just cared more.”

When nobody thought what they were doing was possible, “we just cared more.”                                                  When nobody wanted to join up in their cause, “we just cared more.”                                                                                 When people wrote off their lofty goals as youthful naivete, “we just cared more.”

Mark Zuckerberg and his team were willing to risk time, money, and social status to see if their dream could become a reality…and it made me wonder why we as Christians frequently aren’t willing to risk that much to live out the Gospel. And I do mean “we” myself included.

Except there’s a MAJOR difference in Zuckerberg’s riskiness and ours. His dream was just that…a dream. An idea. A ludicrous concept. Yet OUR dream…to live out our faith in such a real way that people come to know and grow in Jesus because of how we spend our time, money, and social status…or to borrow a more succinct mission statement from my church, “transformed lives transforming the world” comes with a guaranteed success rate.

Jesus doesn’t suggest or hope that we’ll make an impact if we live “transformed lives transforming the world.” He GUARANTEES it. PROMISES it.

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” – John 13:34-35

Jesus promises if we live our lives with a Zuckerberg boldness the world WILL know we’re on his team. They WILL see and take notice. Our risk WILL equal others’ reward as they find and follow Jesus.

But it takes risk. It takes us caring more than we currently do, if we’re honest.

3 Ways to Care More

1.) Do a heart inventory.

Before you can act outward, you need to see what’s going on in your own life first. Often we get blinded by our own pride or bad habits. King David knew this feeling as well. Yet he still prayed for God to show him what needed to be changed in his own life before he could better care for others,
“Search me, O God, and know my heart!
Try me and know my thoughts![c]
24 And see if there be any grievous way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting! – Psalm 139:23-24
2.) Make one small financial change this week.
Can you even imagine what an incredible impact the Church could make if it were full of people who were debt-free? People, unlike me for a lot of my life, who refused to paid for today with tomorrow. Maybe you need to stop the credit cards from snowballing out of control. Your small change could be cutting up one card and signing up for Financial Peace University to learn how to manage money God’s way. 
– Maybe your one small change is to start giving to your local church. – Maybe your one small change is giving a $5 Starbucks/Sonic gift card to someone you appreciate.
– Maybe your one small change is taking someone out to lunch because they really just need someone to listen.
3.) Share your Jesus story with someone. 
I know it’s scary. And historically, Christians have manufactured some really creative ways to get around verbally telling someone about the hope we have in Christ. We have misquoted St. Francis of Assisi as once saying, “Preach the gospel at all times. Use words if necessary…” That’s like saying, “Be fit all the time. Go to the gym if necessary…”
                                                                                                                                                                                                                     While we definitely need to live out our faith with actions, we’re also called to be ready with an answer for the hope we have in Jesus. That takes words. Not eloquent words. Not a lot of words. Not even necessary Bible words. Just YOUR words about what Jesus has done in YOUR life. Share your story. Because you CARE.
Christians, we need to care more. When people think you’re weird because you have a financial plan that glorifies God, just look at them and say, “We just cared more.” About people. About God. About advancing the kingdom. We just cared more about that than about our own desires.
When people seem turned off at your outspoken joy for what Christ has done, just say, “We just cared more.” About people. About God. About the incredible Gospel story. We just cared more about using every breath we had to tell as many people about the only thing that really matters than we did about our own desires for comfort or our social status.
Will you care more today?

 

30Jan

What the Church Can Learn from Facebook

Earlier this month Facebook announced a massive exodus of 3 million teenagers who have left Facebook because they felt it’s overrun by adults and no longer cool. That’s over 25% of their teenage population base, a loss that is obviously significant yet caused only a minimal hit to Facebook’s overall stock price.

Facebook also announced another 3 million member loss in the 18-24 age range.

Even with all this loss, Facebook’s overall membership numbers have risen with more and more older adults joining Facebook.

Church of FB

The Church has been facing a similar problem for years. And the response to the young exodus from the Church has been tragically similar to that of Facebook.

Facebook, and to an extent the Church, have unfortunately concluded that teenagers don’t really matter enough to try and keep around.

For Facebook, teenagers leaving for Twitter doesn’t matter because they don’t produce any revenue. For the Church, teenagers are often incorrectly viewed as nothing more than chair warmers as they generally don’t contribute financially to the Church.

And we wonder why so many Christians approach the Church from a consumer-mindset, which eventually stops being fulfilling, causing them to leave and consume elsewhere.

What the Church Can Learn from Facebook’s Failures

  • Teenagers leave when they’re not valued. You want to know what Facebook’s response to the 3-million teenager exodus? Nothing. They haven’t made an effort to change because their overall adult numbers are rising and they’re the ones that sell the creepy sidebar ads that somehow know everything about your life. The Church needs to see teenagers as more than a missing tithe and a drain on the budget. While it’s true that teenagers don’t normally contribute to the “bottom line” of the Church, that’s not their job! Their job is to grow in Christ and serve. It’s the Church’s job to realize that in many ways, we are investing in someone else’s church as many teenagers will group up and make their own life somewhere else. That’s the beauty of being kingdom-minded instead of my-specific-local-church-minded.
  • Teenagers who leave turn into adults who don’t come back. (I’m not sure what Facebook’s long-term strategy is for regaining these lost consumers but if they don’t figure it out, they’re just like the Church…only a generation away from extinction).
  • Teenagers respect relevancy. There’s a reason Twitter, Snapchat, Kik, and ask.fm are so popular among teenagers in the post-Facebook world of social media: they’ve all made a significant effort to adapt to the changing adolescent landscape without altering their original identity. The Church will do well to continue adapting and changing ministry methods while refusing to alter its original identity as the body of Christ.

I loved my time in youth group as a student. I’ve been a Student Pastor since I began seminary but am currently in the middle of a transition. I will begin serving as the Pastor to our Greenwood campus on Sunday where I’ll still have a leadership role in the student ministry. Long story short, I love teenagers and their families.

While I can proudly say that our Church believes in, equips, and empowers teenagers to be fully devoted followers of Jesus, I know plenty of churches that treat teenagers like Facebook does, which will only lead to a bigger, faster mass exit.

Don’t allow this to happen. Plug in and serve in your local church’s student ministry. Seek out a teenager you normally look past. Be a part of the changing the perception. The Church can learn from Facebook and you can be a part of that change…or else they’re both only a generation away from becoming extinct.

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