by Pastor Sam Schuldheisz
I’d like to take a brief moment to write something positive about the entertainment industry. I know what you’re thinking, can anything good come from Hollywood? Believe me; I know. I live in Southern California. We know crazy (Britney Spears, Miley Cyrus, and the beat goes on). Hardly a week goes by without some kind of celebrity shenanigans (serious or just plain silly) making headline news. After all, we’re still talking about Harrison Ford’s Kessel Run into a local golf course.
But once in a while the entertainment industry surprises you and gets it right. Perhaps it’s even more shocking when the “it” happens to be Christianity.
I mentioned in a previous article (Sundays are for the Walking Dead…INSERT LINK) that I enjoy watching The Walking Dead because it is a good story, and frequently . . .
The Office of the Stated Clerk of the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) has received numerous emails regarding the recent action of the mainline Presbyterian Church (USA) in redefining marriage. On March 17, 2015 the Presbyterian Church (USA) approved language that allows its ministers to officiate at same-sex marriages in its churches. The change comes after the General Assembly and a majority of that denomination’s 171 presbyteries approved an amendment to their Book of Order that describes marriage as “a unique relationship between two people, traditionally a man and a woman.”
There are several Presbyterian denominations in the United States. The Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), formed in 1973 as an evangelical denomination in the Reformed theological tradition, is the . . .
“You are really and truly and completely free. There is no kicker. There is no if, and, or but. You are free. You can do it right or wrong. You can obey or disobey. You can run from Christ or run to Christ. You can choose to become a faithful Christian or an unfaithful Christian. You can cry, cuss, and spit, or laugh, sing, and dance. You can read a novel or the Bible. You can watch television or pray. You’re free…really free.” ~ Steve Brown
Over the next few weeks, all of my posts will be covering preaching to students. Some will focus directly on youth ministry preaching, others will discuss preaching in general with application for youth ministry. I’ve already written a few things about preaching but there is still a lot I have yet to cover. I must make something clear from the beginning, because I don’t want to cause any confusion. I am not a very good preacher. In fact, I’m probably pretty bad. I’m still learning and I think I’ve improved a lot, specifically in the last few years. I want that to be clear, not because I want everyone to see how humble I can be, but rather to remind them that I am no authority on preaching (or anything else for that matter). There are plenty of men who are fantastic preachers who can explain how to preach far better than I ever could but I haven’t had much interaction with anyone writing on the topic of preaching in youth ministry. As I stated before, I’m no expert but I’ll gladly share my thoughts until someone else comes along.
This week, I’m going to give three reasons why preaching is both necessary and important for youth ministries. You are likely familiar with some of the reasons why some youth ministries are moving away from having a sermon in the youth group to focus more on small groups and time for kids to ask questions. From the argument that kids lose attention after a few minutes to sermons are no longer an effective method of teaching, the reasons for scrapping preaching are plentiful, but are they valid? By that, I mean, should we get rid of youth preaching for those (and other) reasons?
I believe that preaching in youth group time is important and should not only be valued but also celebrated. Here are three reasons for having preaching in youth groups:
Preaching in youth prepares kids for real church
I’ve noticed a youth ministry culture trend where kids don’t move on to “big church” after turning 18. They kind of linger around in the youth group, hoping to not get kicked out. For whatever reason, recent high school graduates are not as excited about moving up as the 11 year olds are about leaving the kids ministry. The time a person spends in youth ministry is only a few years – small when compared to the rest of their lives spent in church. This means that our efforts as youth pastors are simple: preach the gospel, shepherd the sheep (and their families), and prepare teenagers for the rest of their lives as Christian adults.
Preaching in commanded in scripture . . .
“A public-school system, if it means the providing of free education for those who desire it, is a noteworthy and beneficent achievement of modern times; but when once it becomes monopolistic it is the most perfect instrument for tyranny which has yet been devised. Freedom of thought in the middle ages was combated by the Inquisition, but the modern method is far more effective.’”
Father, we confess that we are sinners and that we have sinned. We are guilty of having itching ears. We have failed to receive and proclaim the truth; we have wandered off into myths; we have listened to and preached a false a gospel of self-improvement, self-reliance, and self-righteousness because it suited our passions. We cry to you now for mercy and forgiveness. Fill our hearts and minds with a passion for the gospel of redemption through Christ alone. Teach us to be faithful witnesses of your grace and to serve each other humbly, compassionately and faithfully. In the name of our crucified and risen Savior. AMEN.
The above is from a corporate confession of sins that is a part of my church’s worship service that we recite on occasion. Every time I recite this confession in worship I always think how it is fitting for us “flag-waving” “American” Christian.
For the most part, our country is a country of churches made up with heretics, and Joel Osteen fits this persona well. My prayer is that true Christians in this nations would cry out to God for mercy and forgiveness.
Below is a hook to a post by Matt Walsh, which is brilliant, brilliant, brilliant on Americans and we love heretics. Enjoy:
Joel Osteen and his wife are heretics, and that’s why America loves them
Sidebar: I’m only one sentence into this post and already I’ve been forced to use sarcastic quotes three times. For simplicity’s sake, I will, from here on out, drop the quotes with the understanding that the quotes are implied. Joel Osteen is only a pastor because anyone can call themselves a pastor these days, and his church is only a church because anything can call itself a church these days. I happen to be of the old fashioned school of thought that believes a pastor should be, in some ways, distinguishable from Tony Robbins or Oprah, and a church should be, in some ways, distinguishable from a basketball arena on game day. I’m not saying that all churches need to be adorned with stained glass windows and incense (although I’m a fan of both), but I am saying that maybe all churches should have, like, a cross or something somewhere, maybe. God forbid a house of worship be arranged in such a way as to make it clear that we are specifically worshipping Jesus Christ and not the smiley fellow on stage giving the vaguely spiritual pep talk.
In the clip, Mrs. Osteen implores the audience to “realize that when we obey God, we’re not doing it for God… we’re doing it for ourselves.” As her proud husband nods approvingly, Osteen continues. “Do good for your own self. Do it because God wants you to be happy. When you come to church, when you worship Him, you’re not doing it for God, really — you’re doing it for yourself, because that’s what makes God happy. Amen?”
Amen! What wonderful blasphemy! Worship God for yourself. Do good works for yourself. Take up your cross, suffer the slings and arrows of the Enemy, and die with Christ for yourself. (OK, she didn’t say that last part, but only because the Osteens have a strict “don’t talk about Jesus” preaching policy).
In more primitive times they burned heretics at the stake. Now we greet the blasphemers with . . .
Time to rethink the difference between worship and ‘National Holidays’
Proving that my grandfather was right when he told me I don’t have the sense God gave baby chickens, I’d like to say a few words on the slightly controversial subject of flags in the sanctuary. Three words, to be precise: take them out. Or, leave them out. Whichever you prefer.
Having perhaps won that bid for your attention, allow me to elaborate. Many churches believe that displaying the American and Christian flags in the sanctuary honors both God and our country, placing love of country within the context of love of God. Flags in the sanctuary can also represent the freedom we enjoy to worship as we feel led, and they can help us remember those who died in defense of that and our other freedoms. All of these are unequivocally good and worthy goals. I want to be entirely clear on that point: when Christians display their country’s flag in the sanctuary, it is because they want to say things that we as Christians need to say.
We just need to find another way to say them.
Why? Because the sanctuary is where worship takes place, and we need to remember the reason we come together for Christian worship in the first place. Worship is that moment when we devote our whole selves to God, when we set aside the distractions of the week and focus our attention solely on God. For that period we seek God and God alone, forgetting all the other things that compromise our mindfulness of God’s presence the rest of our time.
When we decide what symbols to place in the sanctuary, we ask whether they will contribute to that mindfulness. Actually, the church has had a majority and a minority opinion on this question. The majority point of view—embodied in the great Gothic cathedrals of medieval Europe—says that we place symbols of Christian faith in the sanctuary to help focus our minds and hearts on God. Elements like crosses, doves, and the various Trinitarian symbols serve as visual and tactile reminders of God’s presence in our midst.
The Church in general and Christians in particular have made many mistakes. But if you are going to criticize Christianity, stick to the facts. Here are eight myths about Christianity that are common.
Religious wars have killed more people than any other cause.
Christianity is anti-science.
Christianity is anti-reason.
Christians interpret the Bible literally.
Christians hate all non-Christians.
Christians want to force everyone to live a Christian lifestyle.
All Christians are hypocrites.
Christians do good deeds because they are afraid of hell.