Former New Tribes Mission (Ethnos360) mk’s speak out on alleged sex abuse

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I’m proud of these former missionary kids from Ethnos360 (formerly known as New Tribes Mission) having the courage to bring painful truth to the light. Ethnos360 has not done all they can to protect victims and future victims; particularly in light of their refusal to disclose names of abusers they discovered through their recent investigations. Perhaps more public pressure like this will encourage the mission to do the right thing and reveal the names of abusers they have discovered and investigated.
Click here to watch the video.

Song of Songs series available now!

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Over the last year or so I’ve been creating youth ministry resources for the Download Youth Ministry website; they’re starting to trickle out (you can see what else is on the way here)! The first one to be published is a three week teaching series on the Song of Songs! I had a lot of fun working on this one; hopefully it can be a strong resource for other youth ministries. You can purchase the resource here. Here’s the description:

Song of Songs is a three-week series taking a close look at the Bible’s most explicit book. It’s not just erotic poetry, though; it communicates powerful messages about God’s view of love, sex, and wisdom. Over the centuries, Song of Songs has been a controversial yet important book with important lessons for young people.

Week 1 – “Solomon”
Series kickoff on the Song of Songs with a closer look at the life of Solomon and how God uses Song of Songs to powerfully communicate what God intends love and sexuality to be; a beautiful thing that couples enjoy, builds marriages, and builds families.

Week 2 – “Love”
The series continues with a closer look at chapter 1 and exploring the use of the word “love” throughout the book, emphasizing the three Hebrew words that are translated as “love” and what that tells us about God’s heart for the marriage relationship.

Week 3 – “Wisdom”
The series concludes with a look at a reoccurring phrase throughout the book of Song of Songs; a challenge to “not awaken love until the time is right.” Through a closer look at chapter 2, as well as passages from Proverbs and Ecclesiastes, students will be challenged to have wisdom when it comes to love, friendship, and sex in a culture that points them in a different direction.

While the series includes comments based on current scholarly research portraying Song of Songs as a collection of poetry collected by Solomon (some written by him, others collected by him), for teachers who hold to a traditional view that Song of Songs is one poem written entirely by Solomon, it is possible to teach the series from that perspective without changing the lessons or main teaching points.

This Resource Includes:
• 3 message manuscripts
• 3 PowerPoint presentations
• 3 fill-in-the-blank handouts
• Title and Blank graphics (jpg)

Spiritual Grit & Suicide

spiritual gritSome thought provoking words on suicide from Rick Lawrence in his book, Spiritual Grit:

We live in the most affluent society in the history of the world, and one deadly (and counterintuitive) side effect of affluence is suicide. A 2012 study by the U.S. government found that the richer the neighborhood, the higher the risk of suicide. Arizona State psychology professor Suniya Luthar studies resilience in teenagers, and her work reveals that affluent kids are among the most emotionally distressed in America. “These kids are incredibly anxious and perfectionistic,” she says, but there’s “contempt and scorn for the idea that kids who have it all might be hurting.”

If we have the means to make life easier for our kids, we will extract hardship from their path as often as it seems reasonable. It’s just the way things work. And when we systematically make things easier for our kids, they don’t develop the perseverance they need to keep moving through their inevitable seasons of disappointment, conflict, and depression. Spiritual grit is not merely a catalyst fueling our determined response to challenges, setbacks, and opportunities in our lives—it’s a core strength that can mean the difference between life and death. (Kindle location 3261, chapter 7)

We prioritize so many things; tutoring for school, camps for sports, special classes for SAT prep. But what do we do to prioritize faith development? To help young people develop a long lasting faith that will serve them in all areas of life? How are we developing spiritual grit in our own lives, modeling to the young people around us the importance of this?

Highs and Lows of Ministry

MAD Man 2009

This photo was taken almost ten years ago on a service weekend in Philadelphia. I stumbled across it last week; it has a lot of emotions tied up in it.

It was a fun moment. I love Rocky, I loved getting my picture at the statue, loved having fun with these students, loved seeing them serve. I was their new youth pastor and excited about the future.

A few years ago I attended the funeral for one of them. A few weeks ago, I performed a wedding for one, and a week ago I officiated at the funeral for another. One of the best moments followed by one of the worst moments.

Ministry is full of joy and heartbreak. A long youth ministry tenure only heightens that. It is a gift to involved in people’s lives, to be invited into their best and worst moments. It is energizing and exhausting. It’s often times overwhelming, but I’m thankful for the calling.

Ten Years at Brandywine Valley Baptist Church

Melissa and Zach pulled off a massive surprise for Heather and I at the fall retreat this year; we had no idea they had been collecting videos, notes and pictures from current and former students and leaders to put together a video (see above) and a memory book to honor our ten years at Brandywine Valley Baptist Church (August 24th marked the official ten years since I had started). It’s not often that I am that caught off guard or speechless!

All that to say, I really, REALLY appreciate everyone who contributed to it and a huge thank you to Melissa and Zach for making it happen!

Apologetics Summer Series

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The summer series on Apologetics is a wrap! I enjoyed putting together this adult class and am really happy with how it all turned out. Overall, I hope it was a great resource for people, and ultimately, helped those who attended have a greater understanding of the scriptures and their calling to be a part of God’s plan for reaching the world. The audio and powerpoint/handouts are all available for those who want to revisit the series, or dive into weeks they missed:

Here is the outline for the ten weeks:

  • July 1: Introduction to Apologetics, Dr. David Lamb
  • July 8: Existence of God, Dr. David Lamb
  • July 15: The Problem of Evil, Dr. Bo Matthews
  • July 22: Reliability of Scripture, Dr. Marilyn Button
  • July 29: The Resurrection, Dr. Bo Matthews
  • Aug 5: Postmodernism and Culture, Dr. David Hard
  • Aug 12: Postmodernism & Defending the Faith, Dr. David Hard
  • Aug 19: Journalism: A Search for Truth, Dick Lawyer
  • Aug 26: Journalism: Connecting the Dots, Dick Lawyer
  • Sept 2: World Religions, Rev. Matthew McNutt

I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness

still hereI’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness, by Austin Channing Brown, is a powerful book. From her opening sentence to the close of the book, Brown writes a provocative, challenging call to not just awareness, but action. She shines the light not just on the blatant ways in which American culture reveals its racism; she also highlights the more subtle, insidious racism that often times goes unnoticed by those exhibiting it.

“White supremacy is a tradition that must be named and a religion that must be renounced. When this work has not been done, those who live in whiteness become oppressive, whether intentional or not.” (p.22)

For me, this book is a call to action for the church. If we’re really honest with ourselves, “white churches” largely ignore this topic, or periodically give it token acknowledgement, but for the most part ignore it because it’s easy. And it’s uncomfortable to actually acknowledge.

I loved her story of a fellow classmate beginning to get it;

“‘I don’t know what to do with what I’ve learned,’ she said. ‘I can’t fix your pain, and I can’t take it away, but I can see it. And I can work for the rest of my life to make sure your children don’t have to experience the pain of racism.’ And then she said nine words that I’ve never forgotten: ‘Doing nothing is no longer an option for me.'” (p.58)

I’ll be honest, it’s hard to capture the book in a short blog post. It’s powerful. It’s important. Christians need to read it, but not just pat themselves on the back for reading it – it needs to provoke change, not just awareness. The challenge of doing nothing no longer being an option rings loud and clear through every page.