2016 ELECTION: What I shared with our Youth Ministry

It’s a weird day we live in.

As a youth pastor, the struggle is constantly growing: how do I guide our youth ministry through these times? Racial tensions. Identity issues. The Presidential Election. My plan on Election Day (Tuesday, the day before our youth ministry meets) was to preach a message, regardless of who would by then be known as the “President Elect.” Had it been a different result, my message would have been the same. *click here to listen to the message*

I preached out of 1 Peter 2:11-17 – Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul. 12 Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us. 13 Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority: whether to the emperor, as the supreme authority, 14 or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. 15 For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people. 16 Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves. 17 Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor.

I think this passage gives us some great insights on how to respond in times where not everything makes sense. So we talked through a few things I think we should always remember, not just during election season.

1. We’re always Christians first, so our opinion comes second. We never want our opinions to become so important that it gives those against us ammo to throw. Too many Christians (even people I know and love) are so loud with their opinion that they’ve completely lost the respect of those who are different than them. They got to be “right,” but at what cost?

2. We always show respect to everyone. We don’t show people respect because they deserve it. We show respect because it’s what we do as Jesus people. When respect becomes our default, we take away any ammo that our “enemies” might’ve tried to throw. In our conversation, in our attitudes, in our disposition, in our intention, we show respect. Jesus loves people, and people are valuable. That includes those who literally hate everything we stand for.

3. We always stick together. As much as it’s important that our lives reflect Jesus to “outsiders,” it’s just as important that we stick together as followers of Jesus. We can’t do it alone. We’re a family, and in these days, family needs to stick together. This season has tried to divide, and in some cases has worked. I won’t let that happen in our community, because being together is more important than being the same.

4. We always honor God. This is the ultimate goal: that God would be honored in what we say in conversation, in what we tweet, in how we treat others, in how we see the world.

5. We always honor authority. It’s interesting that Peter didn’t conclude this letter with, “Honor the emperor, fear God.” Instead, he concludes it with, “Fear God, honor the emperor.” It was as if to say that how we treat our earthly authority – whether good or bad (the emperor here murdered Christians, often covering them in tar and setting them on fire as a source of light) – is a reflection of how we see God. Our earthly authorities, from our President to our pastors to our parents, are flawed. God still placed them there, so we honor them. We can disagree and still honor. We can feel unfairly treated and still be kind. Always honor.

Ultimately, we always lead with hope. This is what sets us apart. When many are freaking out, wanting to move to Canada, leading with fear, we cling to the very thing that will never disappoint: our hope because of Jesus.

 

 

*I didn’t plan to blog this, so my points here do not go as deep or connect as well as they did in my message… just felt like sharing.

Late Night Thoughts: A Year Later

I kind of went the whole day today not really thinking about it… Today was Wednesday, so a lot of my day is focused on meeting with interns and preparing for youth. I mean, I thought about it a bit, looked at some pictures, shared my wife’s post… but it wasn’t until about 12:30am that it really hit me. I’m currently up late preparing for our Youth Pastors Lunch that we’re hosting (about 10 hours from the time I’m writing this), so naturally I’m thinking back to the one we did last April – the one where, just days before, we tragically lost some of our best friends, Josh & Vanessa Ellis, along with their baby Hudson.

A year ago today.

I guess I’m more vulnerable late at night… Suddenly I’m flooded with so many memories. The time Noelle and I preached some of our first messages ever at their camp 8 years ago (a camp at which they were both single – maybe I can take some of the credit for bringing them together? Maybe…). The time they told us at our house that they were pregnant. The time Noelle and I drove to their house – against their wishes – and told them we were pregnant. The many times we’d eat barely-decent happy hour and talk about our frustrations and joys with our youth ministries. So many good memories.

It sucks that we don’t get to have any more of these. No more Gibby whining that Hudson won’t play with him. No more hearing Vanessa’s super loud laugh. No more hearing Josh’s Homestar Runner voice.

But as much as Josh & Vanessa left us too early, they also left us with a lot. Every good thing about them was more than just a front, it was who they were. It was a disposition. As I’m reflecting on their lives and on this last year, here are a few dispositions they had that I’m reminded *again* to live by. Continue reading

RESOLVES

So one of my goals coming into 2016 was to blog more-ish.

Every new year, I kind of set goals. Sometimes I write down (or think about writing down) things like, “I want to get healthier,” or “I want to be a better husband,” or “I want to be a better leader,” or “I want to get closer to God.” But these things don’t really happen to the level that I know that they could. If I’m being honest, I’ve probably allowed myself to be a bit too unintentional, and even year after year.

But I wanted to approach this new year a bit differently and actually resolve to grow. The word resolve means to decide firmly on a course of action. I don’t want to repeat another so-awesome-that-I-can’t-even-articulate-what-was-so-awesome-about-it kind of year. I’m beginning this year with resolve, and I’m going to look back on this year and be able to say that what I resolved to grow in, I grew in.

So this morning Noelle and I sat down and set some goals resolved to make some changes this year. Individual goals, family goals, ministry goals. Together we came up with a ton, but I wanted to share my top three… and I give you all permission to hold me to them!

1. Ignore the small stuff. If you’ve been around me, you know that I *sometimes* have the tendency to get frustrated at really annoying things. Bad parking jobs, BECU commercials, bad smells, fruit flies, crooked chairs at church, things in UNDIVIDED not working the way I wanted them to, things out of my control. And that’s the thing. I’m coming to realize (with the help of Noelle) that I need to be okay with things that are out of my control. The more I let these little things get to me, the more little things I see. The more I ignore them, the more I realize that they really don’t matter.

2. Empower people. As a leader, this is really important. The longer I’m in youth ministry, the more I realize that I can’t sustain the growth we’ve seen. This year I’m resolving to empower people to do what I used to do, so that I can do what only I can do. This is where the first point comes in… I have to be okay ignoring the small stuff. I’m thankful that my youth pastor empowered me as a 20 year-old youth leader to plan a junior high event. And I’m thankful that when he found out the event was to an arcade that had been shut down and a pizza place that was closed, with 5-too-little van seats available, he let it slide and encouraged me. I’m going to remember to do the same this year.

3. Encourage. A lot. Both my mom and my wife are really good at finding opportunities to encourage people any chance they get. My mom sends what she calls “love notes” to people all the time, just because. Noelle leads the funnest team with the least “turnover” in our church, mostly because she’s so encouraging and uplifting. I want the same to be said about me. I want people to not quit because they serve with me. I want people to be great because they know I believe in them. That’s going to be me this year!

Honorable Mention: Make another baby.

What’s the Big Deal about CAMP?

I wrote this post last year before our Summer Camp, and I thought it would be appropriate to share it again, as we have camp coming up this Sunday!

It’s camp season right now for us, and it’s a huge part of what we build towards all year. Not only is it so much fun, but it is truly a life-changing experience. Those who’ve attended or served at a camp know this, because they’ve seen it firsthand. Every year we see students commit to Jesus, make new friends, have fun, and come home with a renewed passion to pursue God’s purpose for their lives.

That’s why it’s funny to me that year after year we encounter resistance from students and parents alike when it comes to camp. For whatever reason, they’ve chosen to not see the value of camp. Or, they say they can’t afford it because of the $$$ they just spent on new J’s, baseball camp, etc.

So, I figured I’d write a few reminders about Why CAMP is so Awesome:

1. It’s a BREAK from normal.
A lot of people say things like, “I shouldn’t have to go away to camp to connect with God…” The funny thing is, most of the people who say that are the ones who are stuck in routine, without purpose and completely disconnected from God. Something special happens when you break from your routine, turn off your phone (there’s no reception anyways) and take an extended period of time to awaken your physical and spiritual senses. This happens at camp.

2. It’s NOT convenient.
Camp costs money. It requires time off of work and time away from family. It takes planning and sacrifice. It’s not convenient, and it shouldn’t be. If church always has to be convenient, it’s going to translate down the road to a very weak faith. The reason we prioritize certain things is because we know that if we don’t, they’ll fall to a lower place where they shouldn’t be. If we’re not careful, we’ll make the things of God an afterthought rather than a priority. Placing something at a high priority shows that – though it may be difficult to maintain – it’s worth prioritizing. Make camp a priority!

P.S. Parents – Please know that a passive approach to the things of God will often translate to your kids becoming passive Christians (if they even keep their faith at all). It’s not about camp, but what camp is about. I do know that there are times where your student will miss things like camp. IT’S OKAY! Just be careful that you’re not consistently sending a message that sports/friends/fun/etc is MORE important than God. It’s not.

3. FRIENDSHIPS are made.
Great friends usually aren’t made overnight. The reason we have games, swimming, competitions, all while sharing small rooms for 5 days is to foster relationships. Students who come to camp lonely usually end up coming home with many new friends.

4. Lasting MEMORIES are made.
I still remember the nights where all of us guys stayed up til 2am farting and telling stories about farting. I also remember how those talks led to us talking about life and what God was doing in us. I remember getting duck-taped to several other 7th graders by all the 8th graders (don’t worry that wont happen at our camp). I remember playing the most intense games of ultimate frisbee. I remember having to guzzle a can of grass jelly juice (so gross) so my team would win. I proposed to my wife twice at camp (long story)! I’ll never forget the memories made at camp, and neither will you.

5. JESUS does stuff.

Ultimately, this is truly the why behind camp. All of the planning, fundraising, tweeting, coordinating – it’s all to create an environment where God can do great things. Talk about making memories… It was at camp where God gave me glimpses and visions of who He was calling me to be. Every year students are marked by God in ways they’ll never forget. Many students come closed off, but by the last night (having spent several days away from their phones and the harsh realities of life, all in a safe environment with friends having fun) their guard is down and God ends up changing their lives forever.

6. It’s a great way to LAUNCH into the Fall.
We strategically plan camp to be just before the school year starts and life gets busy. Camp is a great way to allow God to give you a vision for what he wants to do through you (or your student) this year! Before you go off to camp this year, talk to God about what you want to see him do in/through you this year.

6.
It’s a BLAST.
It’s really fun. Duh.

While there are plenty more, I ain’t tryna write a novel. Also, please know that I am NOT calling anyone out, and that I do NOT think you’re a bad Christian if you don’t value camp! I just really believe in what Camp is all about!

Peace,
Taylor.

In Response to Cosby’s Response to Victoria Osteen

Ephesians 4:1-4 Therefore I, a prisoner for serving the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of your calling, for you have been called by God. Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love. Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace. For there is one body and one Spirit, just as you have been called to one glorious hope for the future.

So you’ve probably seen the video going around lately of “Cosby’s reaction” to Victoria Osteen’s short exhortation at their church. Some guy thought he was doing Christians everywhere a great service by adding an old clip of Cosby saying, “That is the studpidest thing I have ever heard” to the end of the video. And the response has been pretty overwhelming in favor of Cosby’s side. YouTube comments have ranged from “That IS the dumbest thing I’ve heard in my life” to “I need a paper bag,” etc.

What’s most alarming to me is not the poor choice of words of Victoria Osteen (yes, just a poor choice of words – NOT heresy as some want to call it), but the haste in which many Christians shared this video. I’ve had bible college friends, pastor friends, people from high school, etc. share this video, all thinking that they were somehow helping people in their walks with Christ by doing so. In reality, though, they were causing great damage and disunity in the Body of Christ.

I have a few thoughts on this that I hope you’ll consider before being quick to side with Cosby (I’d actually love to hear Cosby’s actual thoughts on this). Continue reading

What’s the big deal about CAMP?

It’s camp season right now for us, and it’s a huge part of what we build towards all year. Not only is it so much fun, but it is truly a life-changing experience. Those who’ve attended or served at a camp know this, because they’ve seen it firsthand. Every year we see students commit to Jesus, make new friends, have fun, and come home with a renewed passion to pursue God’s purpose for their lives.

That’s why it’s funny to me that year after year we encounter resistance from students and parents alike when it comes to camp. For whatever reason, they’ve chosen to not see the value of camp. Or, they say they can’t afford it because of the $$$ they just spent on new J’s, baseball camp, etc.

So, I figured I’d write a few reminders about Why CAMP is so Awesome:

1. It’s a BREAK from normal.
A lot of people say things like, “I shouldn’t have to go away to camp to connect with God…” The funny thing is, most of the people who say that are the ones who are stuck in routine, without purpose and completely disconnected from God. Something special happens when you break from your routine, turn off your phone (there’s no reception anyways) and take an extended period of time to awaken your physical and spiritual senses. This happens at camp.

2. It’s NOT convenient.
Camp costs money. It requires time off of work and time away from family. It takes planning and sacrifice. It’s not convenient, and it shouldn’t be. If church always has to be convenient, it’s going to translate down the road to a very weak faith. The reason we prioritize certain things is because we know that if we don’t, they’ll fall to a lower place where they shouldn’t be. If we’re not careful, we’ll make the things of God an afterthought rather than a priority. Placing something at a high priority shows that – though it may be difficult to maintain – it’s worth prioritizing. Make camp a priority! Continue reading