BY COREY WADE
With my degree in Bible and almost a decade of experience teaching Sunday School, I feel it is my solemn duty to tell you that the Church has been doing small groups wrong for the last 2000 years. All those Godly men and women sadly missed the mark for over a couple millennia. But do not fear, this 29-year-old has finally figured out the secret to church growth that has eluded all our forefathers. I have laid out before you a plan to make new visitors feel most welcome when they come into your small group. Do the following steps and no one will EVER leave your small group. Since I’m hoping to turn these timeless tips into a book deal, I have broken these steps into a catching and life affirming acronym:
BY KENT BUSH
Sheep are dumb.
They will eat themselves to death if someone doesn’t stop them. Honestly though, I’ve been at a Golden Corral a few times when I wondered if we were going to need a good shepherd to use his crook to pull some folks away from the roast beef.
I saw a modern day shepherd one night when I was going to cover a small-school basketball game for my newspaper.
In more than 45 years of life I had never seen a scene like this. I looked on the side of the road and saw a young man walking two sheep down the shoulder of the highway.
I think it is an Oklahoma law that you have to change lanes to allow livestock plenty of room to roam. I had no problem making room for a young man and his sheep.
They seemed rather content to be enjoying the evening breeze. You could say they had a great “relationsheep.” You probably wouldn’t, but you could.
I couldn’t help but think what would happen if something changed that peaceful scene. What if a dog barked at them or something else spooked one of them? What if one stayed with him and the other bolted into the southbound lanes of the highway?
What would this young shepherd do?
Kent Bush | @KentBush
Kids these days.
They get on their Youtubes and iTunes and have access to really good music with a Christian perspective. I remember walking through three miles of snow-packed roads uphill both ways to merely purchase one of the four “pop” music cassette tapes at the local Christian bookstore.
We didn’t have it as good as kids these days.
We had Petra. They were good – compared to everything else.
We had Stryper. “To Hell With the Devil” was interesting. But 1980s Christian rap included the Rapsures spitting rhymes like “We’re the Rapsures and we’re rap rap rappin’ about the rapture.” Get it rap-sure, rapture? I dare you to try to find 1980s Christian cultural assimilation that is any better. The Rapsures made the 1985 Chicago Bears’ Super Bowl shuffle sound like rap gold.
They also had a song about Jonah featuring some radical synthesizer solos. It was awesome in a truly satirical sense. “Jonah and the whale. Somebody get me out of this jail. Lord don’t get uptight. So dark in here I can’t see the light.”
It was a long and difficult road between 1986 and 2016 for contemporary Christian music. That road was paved with Michael W. Smith’s “Friends” and Amy Grant’s “Fat Baby” as well as heavy metal groups like White Cross, Ruscha, and Petra. The rap side had the Grits, and D.C. Talk. But we listened to it because we believed in Psalm 150:
James Daman | @jdaman04
As I mentioned in Ministry Buzztrends - Acronyms and Acrostics, I love self-deprecating humor, probably because there is so much I can laugh at myself about. I love being involved in ministries that are authentic and I especially love it when people in ministry don't take themselves so seriously.
In this part two, I'd like to look at how ministries use assessments. Churches are increasingly using assessment tools to help people identify their spiritual giftings and to determine where people should serve.
I recently took a seminary class called Assessing Life and Ministry and I took five assessments on my spiritual life. I was analyzing my thoughts, spiritual experience, likes and dislikes. My first thought was how bad a test taker I was and I was prepared to be the first person to fail one of these assessments. I expected the teacher to look at my results and say, we knew you weren't supposed to be here and ask me to leave.
But, then I realized something, we all fail any assessment that compares us to Christ, because we have all sinned. But, he has died for us, Jesus gave the ultimate spiritual assessment test that no one could pass when he said 'Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone'.
Since we all fail that assessment, let's take a lighthearted look at assessments by coming up with the first ever Back Row Assessment Tool!
Robert Stevenson | @ap_527
Due: February 7th; to post: February 9th.
This was the mandate for my first contribution to BackRowOnline and I was not looking to disappoint. Other ministry commitments demanded that I have the article in earlier than the due date, so I got to work as soon as I could. I wrestled over which type of article to write, decided upon a Twitter Spotlight, and then spent more hours combing through tweets than a Spaceball with a broken afro pick. It was not until the night I ultimately submitted the article that I realized *I* would have the last humor piece posted before the Lenten season began. There are many Christians who would forego social media and/or pinch down their web browsing altogether during the next forty days; I would get to be one of the last voices they read before turning the faucet down or off completely. Looking to backtrack my missed opportunity, I thought to myself, “I should write something profound, yet laughter-producing. Deep, yet dedicated to a smile. Soul-searching, yet side-splitting.”
“Nuts to that. I’m almost done with this article and I ain’t startin’ over. I haven’t even finished my Sunday School lesson yet!” **SEND**
I am not discounting the Twitter Spotlight, nor the hilarious The Sarcastic Pastor (@RevSarcasm) who we showcased. But I was stuck with this question: How did Lent slip by me?
As my wife is fond of saying about holidays in general, “It comes at the same time every year!” Our church has done a forty-day corporate “Daniel-fast” every year for the past nine or ten years. From the beginning of Ash Wednesday till the end of Easter Sunday, we are in God Mode. No… no, not “God Mode” like invincible, code-bending, unlimited power-up having… no. Like, “focused-on-God” Mode. Dedicated-to-the-Lord Mode. Jesus-take-the-wheel Mode.
The pastor had already prepped us about fasting from the pulpit. I had discussed Lent season sacrifices at length during a Bible study not even a week prior. My body is already pre-trained to say “so long, lasagna; praise the Lord, cantaloupe!” Yet, and still, the fast seemed to sneak up on me. I was still pondering these things after the fast started when the answer became loud and clear while going through Francis Chan’s “Crazy Love” audiobook.
You’re lukewarm, homie.
You are not hotly, fervently seeking God during this time. You are religiously box checking. You are not cold either. You did not say “I ain’t doin’ the fast this year.” You said “eh… I’ll think about it.” It was kind of a given, but not given much thought. “Yeah, I guess I’ma do it. I mean, everyone else is too, right? The guys at work know I’m Christian, so shouldn’t I be walking in the cafeteria with cashews and a veggie burrito bowl? I mean, if wifey’s fasting I guess I will too. She does the grocery shopping after all, right?”
Lukewarm people ride the fence, but I have yet to meet a man that can comfortably straddle a picket fence. Lukewarm Christians make Jesus want to puke (Revelation 3:16). Do you know what IS lukewarm? Boiled hot dog water that has that film over it because it has been sitting on the stove for six hours. Now picture yourself drinking a 20oz. bottle of that (my apologies if you hurled all over your device).** Gross, right? If we would not drink that, why would we expect God to drink that?