Friday, December 30, 2011

What Is "Ministry" Anyway? - Part 2 of 2

Photo: Microsoft Images
God wants us to know what gifts of ministry He has given us (I Corinthians 12:1).  "There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit.  There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord. . . . it is the same God who works all in all" (I Corinthians 12:4-5).   Clearly, these gifts come from God.  As Christians, we are to be actively involved in doing God's work.  I Corinthians 12:11 tells us, "But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills."   It was with purposeful thought and divine wisdom that He gave us the spiritual gifts we possess.  Each of us have been gifted with a specific purpose of ministry in mind.

If we seek to glorify God, we must do so by using the gifts He has given us to minister to others.  "As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another.  If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God.  If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ.  To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever" (I Peter 4:10-11, NIV, NKJV).

God is not waiting for His Kingdom to be established before He uses the body of Christ.  In John 4:35, Jesus rebukes his disciples for the false belief that the work God wants them to do is sometime in the future.  He urges them to look around them and see the work that needs to be done.  God's expectation is that we minister to others in the here and now. 

Photo: AnnettVauteck
One of God's purposes in creating us is to be involved in His work.  "For we are God's handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do" (Ephesians 2:10).   What an amazing privilege and blessing that God wants us to actively participate in His ministry!

Let's take to heart the admonition given to Archippus, "Take heed to the ministry which you have received in the Lord and fulfill it" (Colossians 4:17).  In the end, "each of us will give account of ourselves to God" (Romans 14:12) whether we have fulfilled His will for our lives.  Are you ready to do the work that God has created you to do?  Will you hear Him say, "Well done, good and faithful servant.  You have been faithful over a few things; I will make you ruler over many things" (Matthew 25:21)? 

Thursday, December 22, 2011

What Is "Ministry" Anyway? - Part 1 of 2

Photo: Microsoft Images

Occasionally on this blog, I will use the term "family ministry."  What exactly does "ministry" mean anyway?  Often when we hear "ministry," we think about people who have been ordained to office and therefore have authority within the structure of a church organization.

But what is the Biblical definition of "ministry?"  Part of the confusion may be that there are different words translated as "ministry" or "ministering."  The most common meaning of "ministry" in the New Testament can be translated as "service" and is used in the context of helping others meet their spiritual or physical needs.  Indeed, Ephesians 4:11-13 tells us that the primary purpose for offices within the church is "for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry."  The Bible clearly assigns the work of ministry to the lay members of the church body as well as to those formally ordained into the ministry.

Photo: Microsoft Images

Ideally, there is a reciprocal relationship between those of rank and general members to encourage one another so their faith is mutually strengthened.  As Paul stated, "I want to encourage you in your faith, but I also want to be encouraged by yours" (Romans 1:11-12).  One of the purposes of the church is to "consider one another in order to stir up love and good works" (Hebrews 10:24).

Please stay tuned for Part 2 of "What Is 'Ministry' Anyway?"

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Movie Nights: A Technique For Teaching Biblical Worldview

How can we equip our children for adulthood?  What skills do they need to avoid being deceived and losing their faith?   How can we prepare them to recognize subtle spiritual attacks?  When Christianity requires that they swim against the tide of the rest of our culture, will they know and be ready to do so?

Photo:  Mitja Ribic
With each successive generation, young people are spending more time as consumers of media.  Their attraction to this form of communication makes them particularly vulnerable to its messages which shape and infuse the culture around us.   As George Barna states, "God's enemies have adopted the media as a means of exposing children to ideas and images that are harmful to their development as servants of God."  How can we mediate this powerful influence on our children?  Can discernment be taught?

A fun and effective way to teach Biblical worldview and critical thinking skills involves using movies, the form of media most likely to elicit a strong emotional reaction.  Movie Nights are mentioned as a technique in Revolutionary Parenting, a book which reveals extensive research into the common principles and methods used by parents who have raised spiritual champions.  Want to know more?  I highly, highly, highly recommend this entertaining and informative Movie Night Chats podcast by Kurt Bruner where explains how he has used Movie Nights with his own family.  (Did I mention that I highly recommend you listen to the podcast?--Yes, it's that helpful!)  Also included are some amusing video clips from interviews with other parents and kids who use Movie Nights.

Benefits of Movie Nights include:
  • Stimulating discussion about spiritual matters
  • Learning to perceive subtle messages or bias
  • Understanding the underlying belief system of writers
  • Strengthening Biblical worldview
  • Evaluating these influences in the light of eternal truths

The critical thinking skills that it hones can be applied to music, other forms of media, books, news coverage of current events, and lectures given by college professors.  Not only will your child gain clarity in their thought processes and reinforce their faith, they will also be learning how to communicate these beliefs to others.

Photo:  Bmaksym
The effort for these benefits is minimal--watching a movie with your family and talking with them!  If you feel you need some help getting started or just want a little more guidance, you may want to check out these resources.  Kurt Bruner hosts Movie Night Chat blog which gives a synopsis of suggested films, points for discussion, and relevant Bible scriptures.  He also shares some tips for screening offensive content.  Heritage Builders also has two books: Movie Nights for Kids and Movie Nights for Teens.  These books provide the same information as you will find on the Movie Night Chat blog but contain more detail and examine different movies.  I particularly appreciate the meticulous focus on "cautions" for each film where they describe anything in the movie that could be potentially scary or offensive.  In addition the books provide some follow-up activities and suggestions for making this an effective technique to use with your family.

Movie Nights can create wonderful family memories.  Through Movie Nights, you initiate dialogue about topics that are hard to discuss.  They can also provide a training ground for skills that will serve your child for years to come.  Some families do Movie Nights on their own.  Others have group Movie Nights with other families.  However you choose to do Movie Nights, have fun!

If you use this technique, please share your experiences.  I would love to hear about it!

Oh, and don't forget the popcorn!
Photo: Microsoft Images

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Why Family Is More Effective Than Children's Ministry

As a parent, I'm a little skeptical of these numbers.  For parents of school-age children, I'm pretty sure that some of those 3,000 hours are spent sleeping. :)  However, the basic principle is still solid.  Research confirms that parents are far more influential on their child's faith development than any church program.

But there's more than just numbers and time at work here.

I am a parent--and I am involved in children's ministry.  When I am working with a group of children at church, I don't know the personal fears of those children.  I don't know what sins they are struggling with.  I often don't know who has been fighting with their siblings that week or been disrespectful to their parents.  I may not know if they have been the subject of gossip or bullying at school.  Frankly, if I did know those things, it wouldn't be very wise to bring it up in a group of their peers.

But in the family, we already know these things about each another.  We can talk about them.  We can drive home the practical application of Biblical lessons to fit our children's personal lives.  We can make it real for them.  As a parent, I'm very aware of my child's character weaknesses and can foresee potential stumbling blocks.  As a parent, I can tailor our talks about God to specifically what my child needs to grow spiritually.  They can receive customized spiritual instruction and coaching in the home in addition to the lessons they are learning at church.

I love youth ministry.  There is no question that is extremely valuable and important.  My own involvement as a young person left a lasting and powerful impact on my future.  Nevertheless, we can't rely on church programs to pass the faith on to our children.  That's not the model of passing on the faith that God set forth in the Bible.

Here is a challenge for you!  If you can find a scripture that clearly states that the church has the primary responsibility for passing on the faith to the next generation, I would love for you to share it in the comments.  I've searched and haven't found it.  I have found numerous scriptures that lay this responsibility firmly at the feet of parents.  I'll share my favorite here:
   He commanded our ancestors
      to teach them to their children,
  so the next generation might know them—
      even the children not yet born—
      and they in turn will teach their own children.
  So each generation should set its hope anew on God,
      not forgetting his glorious miracles
      and obeying his commands.
Psalm 78:5-7

So the question becomes, what do our lives reflect?  Do our priorities reflect the belief that WE are God's primary tool for impressing the hearts of our children with a love for Him?  Do our actions reflect the belief that WE are responsible for planting seeds of faith in our children and nurturing those seeds as they blossom?