One of the hardest things to do in life is to take action against something you see that needs to happen, and in doing so you know it will not be a popular decision. Yet a decision you know God is telling you to act upon, even if it is against His Church.
In Matt Brown’s new book, Revolutionaries, you can be reminded of such people through out Church history who followed in the footsteps of Jesus and His radical band of disciples in not being willing to conform to a religion that had grown stagnate, stale, and inward focused. Some were praised from the start of their ministries while others were branded a heretic and were excommunicated from The Church.
The book is a great read that motivates you to be willing to do great things for God, even if it means you will be hated for doing so. As it covered every century since the beginning of the Church, I couldn’t wait to get to the next chapter to see what revolutionary would be mentioned next. Some names were famous and obvious (Martin Luther) while I was baffled by the fact I hadn’t heard of some of the work others had done (St. Vincent).
After reading this book, I was anxious to seek out and listen for the voice of God, hoping and praying that I could be as bold and radical as the revolutionaries mentioned in this book.
Great read done in plain language. Highly encourage you to pick it up.
Order your copy of Revolutionaries at RevolutionariesBook.com or get the Stocking Stuffer Special (2 books for price of 1) through midnight Christmas Day. You can also buy the book on Amazon.com and download a free chapter or the whole book for the Amazon Kindle or through the free Kindle app on the iPod Touch and iPhone. This book was provided for review by Skyline Book Publishers.
Tuesday, December 8, 2009
Posted by Jo-Jo Spencer at 3:05 PM
Friday, November 20, 2009
There are messy games, group games, up-front games, circle games, relay games, etc…. When you’re involved with youth ministries, there is no limit to what kind of game you can play. Just Google “youth group games” and you can find millions of games to play in your program. It’s pretty sweet to be able to have a budget with the church you work at that allows you to purchase whatever materials you need to make a night of chaos (a gang of teenagers in one big room) into a night to remember because of crazy, awesome, fun games.
I put my neck out there the other day at youth group when I gave the kids a disclaimer. Before the night got started, I gathered all the youth, old faces as well as a handful of new, and I told them how awesome the other youth programs in our community are. In these other programs, they can get an insightful bible teaching AFTER they had a tremendous amount of fun. I told them that if it’s fun games they want, I could point them to the church program they should go to. Just talk to me after. I then informed them that the reason I promoted other programs so tenaciously was because I don’t know if we will be playing games for the next 6 or 7 weeks. The reason is because we are going through a series of teachings that are focused on different injustices in the world and I want to make the night as serious as possible. It’s hard to discuss child trafficking, and get the full scope of the teaching if we start or end the night playing Sardines (a sweet game that involves the leaders doing nothing or buying anything). I told them my heart on this series and how I desire to get these kids angry about what is happening in this world and how I dream of seeing a generation rise up and make Christianity about serving “the least of these”. After my tremendously awesome and powerful speech, I knew exactly what William Wallace (or at least Mel Gibson) felt like riling up his freedom fighters before they went into battle. I saw the passion and determination in the eyes of the youth. I new I just helped create a band of radicals that were determined to buck the system of a stagnant Christianity because they’ve finally got it: faith without works is truly dead.
After a great night of dialogue, one particular youth approached me. He told me his heart on some of these issues. He looked hungry for Righteousness and Justice. After talking to him for about 5 minutes, he closes his conversation with me by saying, “Oh yeah, Jo-Jo? From what it sounds like to me, you just lost half of your kids because they want to have fun and you’re not gonna provide that for them.” In an instant, I went from William Wallace to Seymour Krelborn (Rick Moranis on Little Shop of Horrors).
Ultimately, we will see who decides to come or not come. I’ve learned to be excited about seeing ANY youth being willing to take on injustices that surround us daily. I’m praying we have the whole band of (potential) radicals come back in the weeks that follow. Time will tell.
The point is this; what will it take to get kids angry instead of complacent on issues that clearly break the heart of God? If I’m to teach the kids the heart of God, or at least guide them into His direction to have them experience His Love and Compassion, what will it take on my behalf to get them to rebel against the systems we’ve all taken part in without even knowing there had always been a steep cost of injustice? How can we raise up a generation that is willing to set aside fun for the sake of righteousness?
Posted by Jo-Jo Spencer at 1:55 PM
Thursday, September 10, 2009
When I was in high school, I don’t recall ever being asked to attend a youth group. I don’t think I even knew they existed. Whether I was too intimidating, too nerdy, or too cool (I would think it’s that one ;) ), no one ever invited me to attend their church. I find that peculiar because I lived in a pretty small town with several churches.
I did have two friends though that weren’t anything like the rest of my friends. I knew they attended church. I knew they had Christian activities in their lives. I knew one of my friend’s dad was a Pastor at a local church. These two friends were the closest thing I had to Jesus in my teenage years. But they never invited me to go to their church, which in part, I’m thankful for. They did except me for who I was. They would try influencing me in the opposite direction that I was being influence. If ever I had a question about God, they would try and break it down for me. They truly taught me that as individuals, they wanted to show me they loved me by being a friend rather than leaving me at the doorstep of the church to be a project while they fled away from the opportunity to partake in the Great Commission.
How beautiful could it be if the Christian youth of our communities could learn how to be friends rather than project managers? How effective would their lives be if they learned to make friends with no strings attached? How great would it feel to see them loving the person, sins and all?
The youths of our communities are in a daily battle of influence. And I think it’s a battle that the Church is losing. I think the kids that don’t know their identity in God’s eyes will have nothing to do with a friendship that has strings attached. I’ve heard church kids get upset because their non-Christian friends won’t give church a try because they think it’s boring. I had to bite my lip to not tell them that I’ve been to some churches that I didn’t even bother trying to stay awake because it was so boring.
If we can teach the youth that understand the beauty of God that a loving friendship is about THEM showing their friends God’s love by THEIR actions and THEIR words rather then trying to uproot them from their life and having them partake in a church culture they are totally unfamiliar with and most of the time is complete nonsense to them. I think the influence of today’s youth could potentially swing towards the Church if we can learn to love unconditionally, rather than with strings attached.
Posted by Jo-Jo Spencer at 12:25 PM
Saturday, August 22, 2009
The beautiful stress of raising children. My wife and I spend plenty of time with parents who tell us their struggles of raising teenagers and how they really couldn’t prepare for it. It’s become so difficult. We try to teach our child to see life as beautiful yet tell them to keep their ears and eyes closed. Today’s culture is such a mega shift away from children raised in the 70’s. The biggest influence: media.
In a recent survey by Teen People magazine, 27% of the girls felt that the media pressures them to have a perfect body.
By the time a young person is 17 years old, they have received over 250,000 commercial messages through the media. Eating disorders have grown 400% since 1970. And this isn’t just with females. Many males are becoming insecure about their physical appearance as advertising and other media images raise the standard and idealize well-built men.
What can be done about this? I don’t want to be the parent that has their child wear a helmet wherever they go. I don’t want to have my kids watch the Princess Bride 10,000 times and tell everyone that it’s the greatest movie ever because that’s the only movie they’ve ever seen. How can we have our kids see culture as beautiful and be able to participate in it and learn from it without having them turn into blood-sucking monsters (please notice the sarcasm….they really won’t suck blood)? The youth really need to see beauty and learn to walk in it. They need to understand how beautiful life is when they understand who they are in the eyes of God. They miss out on so much when we isolate them from God’s gift to man to be able to create culture.
So how can you raise a child to understand that our image in God and to God is where our value comes from, yet not have them walk through life isolated from experiencing the art of created culture because we don’t want them to turn into blood sucking monsters?
When you find out, please let the Church know,because Lord knows, we don’t have the answer.
Posted by Jo-Jo Spencer at 11:33 AM
Thursday, July 23, 2009
Despite our sincerity and best motives, preachers like me mess people up. It’s unintentional, believe me; we’re just trying to protect people. But we damage people nonetheless. We want to protect folks from alcoholism and drunkenness, so we tell them to not drink any alcoholic beverages. To protect them from alcohol, we recommend they avoid establishments that serve it. To be on the safe side, we tell them to avoid people who drink alcohol…and to avoid excessive laughter as you’d hear from tipsy people…and, in fact, to avoid parties in general except boring ones.
We want to protect folks from extramarital sex, so we create so much tension around the subject that we make people uncomfortable not only with the opposite sex, but with their own sexuality, too. Okay, we preachers admit, maybe we’ll create a little sexual anxiety, maybe some of our hearers will become a tad nerdy, weird, uptight-but at least they won’t get into overt sexual trouble. We hope.
We want to protect people from following the crowd and succumbing to peer pressure, so we imply-or outright assert-that good Christians don’t go to R rated movies (or any movies at all), don’t listen to rap music (or any popular music at all). We discourage them from making non-Christian friends. We approve of them spending all their time in church services, church meetings, church activities-safe rabbit holes, a protective Christian ghetto.
We want to protect them from losing their faith, so we warn them against reading philosophy, from participating in culture and the arts, from dealing with tough questions and controversial issues. We exhort them to avoid the sciences (they might accept evolution!) avoid the social sciences (they might sympathize with liberals, criminals, and homosexuals!), avoid the arts (they might have to look at the nudes!). We recite pat answers and platitudes, even when it makes us feel dishonest, shallow, trite, tortured. We feel justified, though, convincing ourselves that even a bad faith is better than a lost faith.
In short, wanting to protect our congregations from becoming the world, we preachers tell them, “don’t be in it.” There’s only one problem: in trying to save people from the world, we miss the point. We actually ruin people (and ourselves) as disciples, and probably damage them as human beings, too. What’s amazing is how patient our parishioners are with us, in light of the damage we do to them. It’s amazing how patient the Lord is with us too, in light of the damage we do to His people and his cause.
Posted by Jo-Jo Spencer at 12:50 PM
Thursday, June 18, 2009
Whenever I talk to my dad, he seems to bring up how he use to beat me in basketball when I was a kid (which I remember kicking his old butt all the time). Or he always reminds me of how he would out fish me whenever we would go fishing together (I remember him always getting snagged). He boasts about if we were in high school together he would have been able to kick my butt (all 150 pounds of pure stick against 235 pounds of studliness). I don’t know if he’s crazy or if he's just losing his mind more and more as he's getting older. Regardless, I love my father.
With Fathers Day right around the corner, I’m asking myself what kind of dad am I going to be when I reach the very old age of 40 (10 years from now). My oldest daughter will be 13. Someone once told me that they can’t wait for me to face the teenage drama of relationships when my daughter becomes a teenager. Truthfully, I don’t think they’re gonna come. I trust there will be issues. But for some reason, I’m confident in how my wife has been raising her(I mention her and not me so she can be blamed if anything goes wrong, but I’ll take the credit if she turns out awesome). How can we fail? Candy if she’s good, the rod if she’s bad (don’t call social services, I’m joking……..). In all honesty, I don’t have many fears for her.
I can’t help but to think of all the youth I know who are fatherless in our community. Or kids who have a dad, but he’s a drunk and he makes sure to let his child know how worthless they are. I pray that this Fathers Day we are able to show the ones who don’t have a nice image of what a father is that they do have a Father that is so enthralled by who they are. I hope all fathers can find time on Fathers Day to shed some love to someone who is fatherless. Make it an effort to be the love of the Father to a child who doesn’t know they’re true identity from the eyes of their true Father.
Posted by Jo-Jo Spencer at 2:11 PM
Thursday, May 28, 2009
This morning I went to my favorite local coffee shop. Like every morning, I was greeted with the Cheers-like friendly hellos from the staff. After I ordered my mug of joe, I asked the young teenage gal how things were with her and her boyfriend. She said “We’re great. He’s sleeping in my bed right now.” After she said that, she answered the question that was running through my mind. “My parents are gonna be surprised when they see him there.” So I was thinking, “Oh boy, he’s a dead man.” But after I thought that, she said “But he spends the night often so it won’t be a big deal.” After that dialogue between her and my mind, I went to my table and my mind starting screaming “SINNER! GUILTY! BUSTED! THE WAGES OF SIN IS DEATH! OFF WITH HER HEAD!”
After I caught my breath and was able to compose myself, my mind start to clear and than the first thing that popped in my mind was Judge Judy. I don’t know if you watch that show, but if you haven’t, she is one angry woman. If I were in a bar fight, I would want her on my side. But I think her problem is that she gets so riled up she doesn’t hear the other side of the story. She’s not a fair judge if you ask me.
So it made me think of how I had been so quick to judge this teenage girl because her boyfriend was in her bed. Who knows? Maybe he ran 15 miles this morning and was passing her house at 5:30am and decided to crash at her house after she left for work. Or maybe he forgot about the toast he was cooking this morning and it burned his house down and he needed a place to sleep because he was exhausted from fighting the fire and saving his cat.
Whether he being over there was right or wrong, I don’t really know. And even if I did see it as wrong, if she wasn’t taught the same standards of truth that I live by because her parents, or even myself, haven’t taught them to her, than am I not to be blamed for that as well? I don’t know. But I do know that there was a log in my eye as I was looking at the saw dust in hers.
Posted by Jo-Jo Spencer at 10:46 AM