Serving Millennials on the Journey Toward Significant Life
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Hinneh: a three-part series on vocation and calling

 

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All throughout our lives the question, “Lord what would you have me do?” is continually asked. This question is asked of life’s biggest and smallest steps, but the answer is often difficult to come by.

Whether deciding on a career, a college degree program, a marriage, a place to live, or who to share a meal with next Friday night, life is chock-full of questions needing God’s help and direction.

Despite having found a career, a wife, and a home, I still find myself asking the question “Lord, what would you have me do?” nearly every day. It’s a question I can’t seem to run away from. And as I’ve read the Scriptures, it seems this question is meant to linger deep within my soul, asking the God who calls what He might have me do moment by moment.

As I’ve shared with others about my personal struggles on God’s calling, I realized these are questions nearly everyone has wrestled with and are wrestling with. And as I’ve considered how I could come around helping others process their own questions, the idea for this three-part series on vocation and calling came to fruition.

Part One: the blog series

A blog series, featuring eleven different writers, far more capable than myself, sharing their own thoughts and perspective, theologically, biblically, and personally, on the intersection of vocation and calling. The schedule for this series is on the bottom of this post. It starts next week.

Part Two: the ebook

Rather than making you wait weeks to read all of these posts, we’ve put together a compilation ebook of all the posts. You can download it today, for free. We aren’t even asking for your email address. No strings attached. Just a bunch of writers looking to bless, challenge, and encourage you. Here’s the formats that you can download the book:

PDF (computer, tablets)

Epub (non-Kindle tablets)

Mobi (for Kindle readers)

Part Three: a one-night event on vocation and calling

I’ve met with several community leaders in my area over the past few months and have been greatly encouraged by my conversations with them. And even better, they’ve all agreed to come out for a one-night event, in Salem, Oregon, in a couple weeks.

The event is free. You don’t want to miss it. For all the details, head to the Facebook event page. Here’s the basic details:

When: Tuesday night, April 28th.

Time: 7pm

Where: New Harvest Church (4290 Portland Rd. NE, Salem, OR 97301)

Speakers: Sam Baker (Corban University), Ron Marrs (Western Seminary), Tiffany Bulgin (Ike Box and Isaac’s Room), Chad Harvey (Paramount Real Estate and Salem Missional Communities).


The Blog Series Schedule

April 21st The Two Pitfalls of a Calling From God — Tyler Braun

April 23rd Form and Function — Hannah Anderson

April 27th The Playground Parable — Natasha Metzler

April 29th Confronting the Chaos — Brett McCracken

May 1st By Design — Lore Ferguson

May 5th An Incarnational Call — Ryan J. Pemberton

May 7th Vocation in Stages — Kyle Reed

May 11th Your Will Be Done — Arleen Spenceley

May 13th Calling is a Verb — Cara Strickland

May 15th When You Aren’t Gifted, God Equips the Called — Jonathan Pearson

May 19th On (A)vocation — Jenelle D’Alessandro

May 21st A Prayer for the Work of God and Humanity — Paul J. Pastor

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Dear Church, Old People Matter

In the process of watching hundreds of music videos of church songs for worshipsongs.me, I realized that the overwhelming majority of the people in the videos are 35 years old and younger. Here’s just a few different examples.

Church-Pew-with-WorshippersThe church has long had an obsession with youth culture in its attempt to stay “relevant,” and in the process the people deemed by each church to be “old” are relegated to nursing home status—we’ll visit you a few times a year, but otherwise just stay out of the way.

I can think of a number of issues with this, chief among them is how Scripture teaches the older to pass on their faith to the younger. Psalm 71:18 and Psalm 145:4 speak to this directly, and the idea of older passing on to the younger is an idea exemplified all throughout the Scriptures in story form. So in churches where the only people present are younger, how is this possible?

What these videos and the larger church’s focus on youth culture subliminally teach is that if you’re deemed to be too old, the church is done with you. You’re forced out to the peripheral.

Now, of course, this is a two-way street. Many churches devalue the importance of those who are deemed to be “young.” They don’t get an opportunity to lead. Their opinions are rarely, if ever, considered for important decisions on direction of the church. In fact, many of these churches with a strong focus on youth culture are full of people who left churches where they were devalued due to their age.

What must be brought back into view is providing an answer to these questions:

  • What is the church?
  • What does a healthy church look like?

The local church is meant to be a unique expression of the universal church, comprising all followers of Christ. It’s more than a gathering once a week, the church is a people who have placed Jesus at their center. With that in view, a healthy church represents the diversity of the universal church. When it comes to age, it means all ages are present and all ages are valued. It also means providing space for the older to impart their wisdom to the younger.

This is much more difficult than just placing a 20 year old and an 80 year old in the same room, but that is the starting point. The life of Jesus centrally teaches us to live sacrificially. In this instance that means laying aside our own desires for what church should be to consider how we might connect with those generations gone before. They matter too.

I do not reject the movement toward youth culture by many churches, but it must be questioned whether it is ostracizing the older and wiser church members. Sure these churches may look full and alive, but they certainly cannot have the wisdom Scripture speaks of if it is not passed on to them by those who have gone before.

I’m all for helping churches connect with my generation, and even those younger, but please remember, those who have gone before are not to be passed by. Your churches will suffer without them.

 (Image: Van Gogh’s Church Pew with Worshippers)

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Transformed Not Performed

One of the over-arching themes in my book Why Holiness Matters is the idea that holiness is not something we attain, it is a gift imparted to us through the work of Christ. In the book I described holiness as the outward reality of an inward affection. Meaning holiness isn’t first new behaviors, it’s a transformed heart.

Taking this a step further, it is the purity of Jesus which is extended to those who choose to follow Him. Often I hear people describe holiness in terms of behavior, but holiness is primarily something of God, a perfect purity. And if this is true then holiness is not a possible reality in any human life separated from God.

To put it another way, we are holy through the transformative work of Jesus. We are transformed, rather being excellent behavioral performers.

This is a fitting way to focus our thoughts during Holy Week. Life achievements and personal accomplishments in life and in connection to God, come through God, and his gift-giving to us. Paul gives great emphasis to this in saying, “You are not your own; you were bought at a price” (1 Cor. 6:19-20). 

Holiness is rarely framed in this way. More often holiness is brought up in terms of human action and decision-making. Keeping all this in mind I was surprised when The Bible Project released their latest video, this one on “holiness.” In the video, they describe holiness in a way that was similar to how I came to understand it and then emphasized it in my book. They nailed some critical ideas surrounding holiness.

Check out the video and support this wonderful ministry. Tim and Jon do incredible work. I use their videos all the time.

(if you cannot see or play the video, head here to watch it)

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Please Pray For Me

prayerMy Facebook feed is full of people asking for prayer. I know plenty of people who ask for prayer regarding every life event. I know others who share a few new prayer requests every time they come to their small group.

“My brother is looking for a job. Please pray for him.” Or,

“Our dog has been ill for a few days, please pray for her.” Or,

“I can tell I have a cold coming on, please pray for me.”

You’re already anticipating my banter and angst against this. Let me slow your roll.

The Good

I’m not one of these kinds of people. I ask for prayer publicly about twice a year. This is 80% about pride. I don’t want to appear weak. Asking for prayer conveys the need for help. “I don’t need help,” or so I think. But this is also because I’m a pastor. I feel a responsibility to be a strong shepherd to support the flock. Yes, I realize that isn’t always a helpful mentality.

Scripture tells us to present our requests to the Lord, and this same Scripture is largely speaking to communities of people, meaning we should present our requests to the Lord in the context of connection with others. Whether this be on Facebook, or in a small group, or on your church’s comment card, we must be people who are open enough with each other to present our petitions and praises to the Lord, together, forgoing isolation.

We would do well to learn from brothers and sisters who readily ask others for prayer.

The Bad

I must also mention that sometimes it is godly to keep our prayer requests to ourselves, especially in overly public settings, such as online social sites. Prudence often comes from wisdom.

What I notice is these same people who are seeking prayer support for a myriad of issues tend not to pursue prayer for others with the same zeal. It is this insular prayer framework that exemplifies the prayer life of many a Christian. “God I’m thankful for this. God I need your help with this. God I need a miracle here. Amen.” It’s all focused on self.

In all this, the mindset Paul writes about in Philippians 2:3 seems helpful: “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves.” If prayer is primarily first about ourselves and making sure we are the ones being supported by others, we’ve turned prayer into a conceited act.

The Conclusion

Of course, you could come to the conclusion that it’s just easier to never present prayer requests with others—avoid the drama, sort of thing. But that would miss out on the importance of bearing our burdens with one another (Galatians 6:2).

I’m not sure what the exact conclusion to all this should be, but I would hope your desire in prayer is first to establish intimacy with God, and then to care for others. Please, tell others how to pray for you, but first take the initiative to ask them how you can pray for and support them.

(Image: kevron2001 via Getty Images)

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Empowering the Church For Faith at Work

redeeming work portlandI’m spending the day at Redeeming Work in Portland, a conversation hosted by Christianity Today and Leadership Journal, focused on the intersection of faith and work. I’m excited to announce (in a few weeks) a few things that will be happening here next month in a similar vein as this. Subscribe here to be notified about that.

Check out my post from earlier today if you’d like to see notes from sessions 1 and 2. Here’s sessions 3 and 4:

AJ Sherrill Equipping the Saints: Empowering the Church For Faith at Work

Focus passage: 2nd Corinthians 5:17-20, the ministry of reconciliation.

When it comes to moving forward, begin with the end in mind and work backward.

Influence involves three separate areas: people, products, policies.

People

“God must like ordinary folk—he made so many of us.” Abraham Lincoln

Never grumble, never gossip, choose to glorify God. When we commit to these things, over-time we become trustworthy. This isn’t spectacular, but it is faithful. And doing faithful things is always the beginning for something spectacular.

The ministry of reconciliation is not just for the elite and powerful.

Products

Example: mid-level management, one step above the bottom, a place of greater influence

Think through the questions: what impact on culture is your work having? What are we saying about human dignity? What are we saying about “the good life”?

Policies

The words used to shape the direction of the future. Upper level management, executive management.

There is no work environment that is culturally or socially neutral. Organizations and cultures are dynamic, not static. They change based on who is in the room.

Connecting and Collaborating

Trinity Grace Church example:

  • Industry Renewal Nights: various sectors of industry are given opportunity to connect at events, twice a year.
  • Industry Roundtables: focus one specific industry, staff organized and served but lay led, invite trusted industry leaders to engage other industry workers on collaboration ideas.

We get easily tired of talk and conversations. When it comes to connecting and collaboration, conversations are never the end goal but they always the beginning. Genesis 1 and John 1 begin with a conversation. Conversations get things moving.

Kevin Palau “The Life of the Church: Learning to Work With the Community”

Seasons of Service: leverage churches and organizations to serve the communities around them.

What have they learned in the past decade?

  • The need for a long term vision and commitment to serving the city (20+ years…). The problems took decades to develop, so the work of service will take decades for trust to be built.
  • The utmost importance of establishing relationships. Their work of getting churches to collaborate is key to extending reach and relationships for the common good.
  • The significance of celebrating and accelerating what God is already doing in the city. It’s so easy to overlook and move past what God is already doing. Just doing the work of telling the story of how God is moving gives space for people to catch the vision for the future. Help tell the stories of what others are doing, rather than finding ways to take credit.
  • The value of embracing unlikely partnerships and being willing to set aside our differences both inside and outside the church in order to serve.
  • The importance of truly believing that the “Good News” is good news for our city. If it hasn’t been a transformative Good News for us, it can’t be Good News for them.
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Identity Expressed Through Work, Not Achieved Through Work

redeeming work portland

I’m spending the day at Redeeming Work in Portland. A conversation hosted by Christianity Today and Leadership Journal, focused on the intersection of faith and work. This is a subject of passion for me after meeting with so many who hate their jobs and see no kingdom fulfillment in them. But I’m also here in preparation for a few things that will be happening here next month, subscribe here to be notified about that.

I’ll be sharing a few posts throughout the day, as I’m able. Check out Leadership Journal’s page for more resources on these subjects.

Sessions 1 and 2:

Skye Jethani “The Evolution of Faith and Work

“As a pastor I was too preoccupied with my calling instead of their calling.”

“There’s a gap between our functional Bibles and the actual Bible.”

This causes 3 blindspots:

Creation

  • In our functional Bible creation starts in Genesis 3. We miss the good of what God created.
  • The cultural creation mandate comes before the marriage mandate.

Calling

  • “I didn’t have a theology of calling.”
  • False dichotomy between the work of heaven (clergy) vs. the work of earth (laborers).
  • Puritan theology of calling
    • highest: union with God
    • common: commands to all people
    • specific: unique to the individual

Consummation

  • We focus on the idea of discontinuity, i.e. “Nothing on earth has an enduring presence.”
  • Instead, the reality is “what we do now actually matters.”
  • Our false focus discredits callings aside from evangelism, work of heaven.

Summary:

  • Recognize your blind spots
  • Avoid sacred/secular divide
  • Embrace the full scope of God’s redemption

AJ Sherrill “Equipping the Saint: Shaping Vocational Imagination

In the late 1800s the best/most desired answer to the question “what do you do?” was “Nothing.”

In today’s world the best/most desired answer to the question “what do you do?” is always connected to work.

Identity is provided through work.

We put a disproportionate weight on occupation as it relates to vocation.

Cultivate a new focus in these areas:

Identity

  • Genesis 1 presents God as the creative one, one who acts, does.
  • “God didn’t achieve identity through work. God expressed identity through work.”

Imagination

  • “Whether your occupation is great or little…do you dare to think of it together with the responsibility of eternity.” -Kierkegaard
  • The Empire State Building was originally designed with the secondary focus of being a blimp dock for sightseers.
  • “A mature imagination discerns what is not, but longs to be.”
  • Pastor as curator, not controller.

Eucharist

  • A practice to be formed through
  • A reminder that matter, matters.
  • A reminder that God loves moving through the ordinary, mundane.

Summary: weekly church gatherings are one of the last remaining places gathering people from all sectors of life, we must inspire something from them.

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