Joshua 5:1-12 Sermon

Joshua 5:1-12 (10th October 2010, Banstead Community Church)

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We are in the land… but not yet a rest!

4 things we need to remember as we seek to follow Jesus:

1. Our God is victorious (v1)

2. Our God wants our commitment (v2-3, 8)

3. Our God has saved us (v9-10)

4. Our God is faithful (v11-12)

Making your Youth Ministry Family-Based

I have enjoyed reading Family-Based Youth Ministry by Mark DeVries.  Before writing one of my book recommendations I am posting a three part summary of the book.  The first part HERE dealt the need for family-based youth ministry.  The second part HERE deals with what family-based youth ministry actually is.  The third part below suggests 12 things (taken from the suggestions given at the end of each chapter) that you can practically do to make your youth ministry family-based.

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12 things to do to make your youth ministry family-based 

  1. Begin by being faithful in providing a ministry to the students God has given to your church.
  2. Keep accurate lists of the teenager’s names and addresses, and check in on them if you haven’t seen them recently.
  3. Look for ways of getting teenagers to spend time with adults.
  4. Make participation in weekly corporate worship with the entire church family a priority.
  5. Get teenagers serving in a ministry alongside an adult in the church.
  6. Have a prayer partner programme which matches teenagers to Christian adults.
  7. Have a prayer meeting for youth ministry / provide prayer newsletters.
  8. Make sure the pastors get to know the young people.
  9. Visit parents of teenagers personally.
  10. Find ways to equip parents (e.g. parenting seminars).
  11. Involve parents in a volunteer capacity of youth ministry.
  12. Do at least one thing a year to communicate to parents that they have a supportive partner in the church family.

What is Family-Based Youth Ministry?

I have enjoyed reading Family-Based Youth Ministry by Mark DeVries.  Before writing one of my book recommendations I am posting a three part summary of the book.  The first part HERE dealt with the need for family-based youth ministry.  The second part below deals with what family-based youth ministry actually is which is covered in the second half of the book, chapters 7 to 12.

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What is Family-Based Youth Ministry? 

Chapter 7: It only makes sense The Vision of Family-Based Youth Ministry

Researchers have discovered that young people who grew up in church attending the worship service and not Sunday School were much more likely to be involved in church as an adult than those young people who had attended only Sunday School without attending the worship service. 

The real power for faith formation is not in the youth programme but in the family and the extend family of the church.  Family-Based youth ministry recognises this, and these two things a priority. 

Priority 1: Empower Parents 

By supporting them and equip them to pass on their faith to their teenagers as effectively as possible. 

Priority 2: Equip the extended family of the church 

By providing the teenagers with extended Christian family, which is done by allowing them to experience the extended family of the church community.  This is especially beneficial for those who don’t come from Christian homes. 

These two principles can be implemented with any model of youth ministry.  Churches need to be intentional in choosing its youth ministry model and then undergirding it with family-based programming. 

The primary goal of family-based youth ministry is to equip young people to grow toward mature Christian adulthood. 

Chapter 8: Beyond the Cleaves The Challenge and Opportunity of Ministry to Nontraditional Families 

What every teenager needs in order to growing in Christ (faith nurturing family and extended faith nurturing family) is especially true for those from non-traditional families. 

There are many types of non-traditional families: Divorce, single parent, blended families and stepparents, with chemical dependency, with aging grandparents, in financial crisis, with both parents working. 

We are unlikely to be able to reach all these families and their needs specifically, but we can provide a consistent personal ministry to each teenager.  The extended family of the church can support for these families. 

Chapter 9: Walking the Tightrope Family-Based Youth Ministry and the Developmental Need for Independence 

There are two needs with regards to faith formation that teenagers have: 

Need for continuity – faith community to be involved in, a ‘family friendly’ youth ministry. 

Need for individuation – helping young people establish their own faith identities. 

Family-Based youth ministry is not about abandoning traditional forms of youth programming (which deals with the need for individuation) as much as it is about building the foundation of solid connections with mature Christian adults (which deals with the need for continuity). 

Chapter 10: A Different Gospel Youth Culture comes to Church 

Three of the dominant characteristics of our culture are in opposition to the Christian gospel.

1) Individualism – Christian discipleship happens in the context of Christian community.  Although we do want our teenagers to become independent in Christ, that is they stand on their own faith.  

2) Consumerism – Christian discipleship is not about seeking pleasure and avoiding pain and boredom.  Discipline is a key component.  If you build your youth ministry upon an entertainment model, the young people will be consumers and will move on when they get bored of it.  

3) Demand for success – Christian discipleship is not about treating God as the most efficient means to success in life.  It’s about learning to trust God during times of failure and suffering as well as times when everything is going well. 

Chapter 11: God Calling Thinking Theologically about Youth Ministry 

When dependence on God’s grace is excluded from our thinking we end up trusting in human strategies.  All our systems are not enough to lead us to repentance and faith.  We can only support teenagers in the growth that only God can bring.  This means the best we can do is to work with God’s design for faith formation. 

God’s first provision is the family (Deuteronomy 6:4-9).  Sunday School and youth group is not a substitute for the spiritual training in the home.  The Sunday School movement began originally as outreach to unchurched poor children.  

God’s second provision is the Christian community.  God wants people connected to the community of faith.  Ideally every young person who makes a commitment to Christ should be eager to become part of a specific church.  The parent’s commitment to the community of faith should also hold them accountable for their faithfulness in the home. 

The Christian family is a tool for building faith and character in God’s children, but the family is not God and without His work will not be able bring any growth. 

Chapter 12: Making it work Implementing a Family-Based Youth ministry 

There are two main approaches to family-based youth ministry. 

1) Family ministry model - this aims to empower families and support the ministry that rightly belongs to families.  So churches employ a ‘families pastor’ whose role is to empower and equip parents to nurture their children in the Christian faith.  Programmes under this model might include divorce recovery, marriage enrichment, and parenting seminars.  One problem will always be the parents who do not and will not take the initiative of doing Christian nurture in the home. 

2) Youth ministry model – this aims to help young people come to maturity in Christ by accessing their family and the extending family of the church.  

There are two types of family-based programming. 

1) Uniquely family based events – such as parent/youth Sunday School classes, retreats. 

2) Exfamized events – taking a programme already in place and infusing it with parents and extended Christian family of adults.  If an event worked with your young people, try it with young people and parents together.

The Need for Family-Based Youth Ministry

I have enjoyed reading Family-Based Youth Ministry by Mark DeVries.  Before writing one of my book recommendations I will post a three part summary of the book.  The first part below deals with what I’m calling the need for family-based youth ministry which covers the first 6 chapters of the book.

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The Need for Family-Based Youth Ministry 

Chapter 1: Something’s Wrong The Crisis in Traditional Youth Ministry

There is a crisis in youth ministry today.  The crisis is not getting teenagers to come to our youth meetings but rather that we have not been effective in leading our young people to mature Christian adulthood.  More teenagers are participating in our programs but they are not growing up into adults who participate in church.

One of the dangers in youth ministry is that youth workers and churches evaluate their success or failure by the wrong numbers.  They spend huge amounts of effect and energy getting more teenagers to participate while ignoring most of the ones that God has already given them.

Chapter 2: Is Anybody Out There? The Growth of Teenage Isolation

The main cause of this current crisis is the way that our culture and our churches have systematically isolated young people from the very relationships that are most likely to lead them to maturity.  Young people grow in maturity generally, and maturity in Christ particularly, by being around those who exhibit such maturity themselves.

9 cultural shifts have taken place which has increasingly separated children and young people from the world of adults (taken from Urie Bronfenbrenner). 

  1. Father’s vocational choices that remove them from the home for lengthy periods of time.
  2. An increase in the number of working mothers.
  3. A critical escalation in the divorce rate.
  4. A rapid increase in single-parent families.
  5. A steady decline in the extended family.
  6. The evolution of the physical environment of the home (family rooms, playrooms and master bedrooms).
  7. The replacement of adults by the peer group.
  8. The isolation of children from the work world.
  9. The insulation of schools from the rest of society.

There are now today, less opportunities for children and young people to be with adults in the neighbourhood, schools, social activities, families and church.  Hanging out with friends or partying in an adult-free home has become the norm for the teenager’s social life.

Church is possibly where youth are segregated the most from the world of adults.  Youth programmes keep them separate from the rest of the church.  Even when adults and young people do worship together, they sit in peer groups – adults with adults, youth with youth etc.

Chapter 3: The Developmental Disaster The Impact of Teenage Isolation

There are a number of things this isolation of teenagers from adults brings:

1) Teenagers won’t learn the skill required of mature adults.  Maturation occurs as less mature have repeated opportunities to observe, dialogue, and collaborate with the more mature.  This does not happen in a peer centred Sunday School class. 

Youth culture keeps young people in youth rather than moving them towards adulthood.  Young people who sit together in church tend to act like children.  Young people who sit with parents, or who are divided amongst the rest of the congregation imitate the behaviour of the adults they are with.

2) The media now plays a more powerful role in the formation of teenagers values .

3) Teenagers are severely limited in their ability to think critically, leaving them easily swayed by what feels right at the moment.

4) Peer influence correlates closely with the rise in rebellion, resistance, chemical abuse, and promiscuity. 

Chapter 4: Sitting on a Gold Mine The Power of the Nuclear Family

What happens in the youth group has miniscule impact compared to what children learn on a day to day basis as they do the everyday things of life in and with their families.  The best long term youth leaders are parents themselves because they ultimately have the greatest interests in their kids.

Research has found a number of things to support this: It’s found that parents remain the single most important influence in the development of a teenager’s personality.  It’s found that parents who talk about faith and invite their children in serving alongside them can double and sometimes triple their children’s chances of living out their faith as adults.

This shows how important it is to equip fathers and mothers to play a more active role in the religious education of their children.  Parents play a role second only to the Holy Spirit in building the spiritual foundation of their children’s lives.

However, it’s also important to remember that the parent’s power to build up is matched by their power to cause harm.

Chapter 5: The Critical Care Unit The Peculiar Crisis in Today’s Christian Family

There are some barriers to involving more parents in youth ministry.

Here are three of the biggest:

1) Parents are not mature Christian adults themselves.

2) Parents are feeling helpless when it comes to providing for the Christian nurture of their own children.

3) Parents are victims of their own schedule – they are too busy.

Chapter 6: Stacking the Stands The Power of the Extended Christian Family

Every teenager needs an extended family of Christian adults – adults who can be a part of the cloud of witnesses that cheers them on.  Church is where teenagers are exposed to these adults.  An extended Christian family is a community of believers who affirm and encourage growth toward Christian maturity.  Only church and family can provide Christian nurture from birth to old age – even death.

The extended Christian family can be equally as powerful in faith formation as parents, especially for those who come from non-Christian homes.  Research has found that when person reaches mature Christian adulthood they often will point to the influence of a godly parent or Christian adult who modelled what being an adult Christian was all about.  It’s important that teenagers are give opportunities to build connections with Christian adults.

When the church and family abandon their role of helping young people navigate passage to adulthood, the teenager becomes more susceptible to influence of friends, music and media.

Often it is the stronger youth programmes that weaken the chances that young people will remain in the church, because participation in the youth programme takes the place of participation in the church.

London Men’s Convention 2009 – He rose to rule

Here are my notes from Tim Keller’s second talk on John 20:1-3, 10-18 at the London Men’s Convention 2009.  This third session focused on Jesus, He rose to rule.

lmc

The connection between death and resurrection in John’s gospel has to do with faith.  The cross itself does not produce faith.  People looked at the cross and said God can’t bring good out of this.  But what triggered saving faith, faith in the cross, was the resurrection. 

Three marks of faith that the resurrection triggers: 

1) Faith rests in truth 

Jesus said He would rise again over and over again.  He said it so often that His enemies had heard it so they put guards next to the tomb.  You would have thought His disciples would have said: “It’s the third day, let’s have a look!” 

What evidence would your friends need to believe that Jesus was raised from the dead?  See Him, touch Him, see Him eat, see Him lots of times.  This is exactly what we’ve got in the Gospels.  Jesus gave the evidence that broke through these barriers. 

If you were making up a story about Jesus rising from the dead, you wouldn’t put women as the first eyewitnesses.  The reason why women were the first witnesses was because it happened that way.  Historical evidence is powerful.  Believe in Christianity because it’s true. 

2) Faith comes by grace 

All around Mary is evidence, the angels in front and the Lord behind, but she still thinks it’s a disaster.  Even if you don’t think Jesus is near you, He is.  Jesus breaks through and sends her as the first messenger.  How clear does Jesus make it that salvation is by grace.  He chooses a women not a man, a former mental health patient as the first messenger.  This salvation is as much hers as ours.  She was at the bottom of the pecking order but He chose her.  

3) Faith works through love 

Mary was grabbing hold of Jesus to never let Him go (v17).  But Jesus is saying once I’m ascended you’ll still have me.  I’m about to ascend to the Father and send the Holy Spirit and you’ll have me.  The Spirit brings my presence in your life.  Don’t be satisfied with just the objective side.  Jesus can come into your hear now. 

Be willing to pray and meditate on His Word so you get to a place where He touches you.  Let the resurrection not only convince your mind but let you have Him.

London Men’s Convention 2009 – Chairman’s Welcome

Here are my notes from Richard Coekin’s address from Acts 8:35 at the London Men’s Convention 2009.

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Be Men of Jesus 

In Acts 8 we read of an important man, the Ethiopian Chancellor of the Exchequer. 

“Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus.”  (Acts 8:35) 

Luke records how the Lord sent his evangelist to the Ethiopian to help him understand who the suffering servant is. 

a) We are men who want to learn from Scripture 

Like the Ethiopian we have come to learn from Scripture.  We haven’t come just to be entertained.  We haven’t come just to hear great orators.  We have travelled to an inconvenient part of London to hear the living Lord speak by His Spirit through His Word.  Jesus regarded the text itself where God speaks.  The Bible is the ruling, uniting Word of God.  We’re here to search in the text expecting to hear God speak. 

b) We are men who want to understand the gospel 

We want to understand the gospel for ourselves and the sake of unbelieving family and friends who need to hear it in language they understand.  The Gospel saves us from the God’s wrath to come.  The Gospel is found in the identity and mission of Jesus Christ our Lord.  He came as King, He died for sins, He rose to rule, and will return to judge.  Each part of His mission we see He is Lord.  The Gospel is the power of God for salvation and calls us to repentance and faith. 

c) We are men who want to worship Jesus 

We want to worship Jesus.  We want to know this wonderful man, who was led like a sheep to slaughter for us.  He is the man for all men.  We can’t know this man until we know the Gospel.  But we must not forget to worship and adore Him.  Biblical faith is both objective and subjective, both facts and feelings, understanding and affections; genuine spiritual affections for Jesus where mind and heart are combined like light and heat in a fire.  We want to return home as change men on fire with a devotion for Jesus. 

We want to be men of Jesus.

Rock Solid: 12 gospel truths to live by

A helpful book I’ve just finished reading is Rock Solid: 12 gospel truths to live by.  Originally written for the London Men’s Convention a few years back, it has now been repackaged for a wider audience. 

rocksolid

This book is definitely one to, as they say in the preface, be worked through in small groups “as a means of getting a hold on the truths that define who we are as followers of Christ”.

This book packs so much into every chapter.  As well as explaining and applying one of the 12 truths, there is also a short Bible study, some discussion questions, a real life story of how the truth has been used by God in a person’s life, and a brief account of someone who has contended for this doctrine in the history of the church.

The introduction is helpful because it explains why doctrine is so important, and also why these 12 truths have been selected and the relationship between each one of them.

The 12 gospel truths covered in this book are:

  • The unique supremacy of Christ
  • The depravity of sin
  • The penal substitution of Christ
  • Justification by faith alone
  • The sovereignty of God the Father
  • The regeneration of God the Holy Spirit
  • The reality of judgment
  • The priority of evangelism
  • The authority of the Bible
  • The centrality of Bible teaching
  • The importance of the local church
  • The necessity of holiness 

There are a number of reasons why I like this book:  

Firstly, it’s an easy read.  

Secondly, it gives a good overview of these important doctrines in a practical way.  For new Christians who may not be ready to delve in Grudem’s Systematic Theology, it’s a great introduction to what Christians believe.  

Thirdly, it defends the great truths of Christianity that have come under attack.  

Lastly, because of the multiple settings it could be used with: one to one discipleship, home groups, men’s groups, ladies groups, adult Sunday School, older youth group, basis for a sermon series.  I think it would also be possible to adopt this book for a series of children’s talks for church (now that’s an idea!) 

For an introduction to the doctrines of the Christian faith, you can’t get much better than this! 

Rock Solid: 12 gospel truths to live by is available to buy HERE

Also check out the special offer on this book at 10ofthose.com HERE.

Five reasons why Christians read so few good books

Five reasons why Christians read so few good books:

  • Sheer worldliness.
  • Lack of conviction that such reading strengthens faith and increases joy.
  • A disorderly life that cannot find time for the best things.
  • Preaching that does little to stimulate the mind or make us want to know more.
  • A diet of poor Christian books.

(from Neil Richards, The Cloak and the Books)

For we shall have a merry supper with the Lord this night!

John Bradford was the pastor of St Paul’s in London.  He was thrown into prison for refusing to deny his beliefs which were in opposition to those of the state church which was Roman Catholic during the reign of Queen Mary. 

In prison he continued to preach whether it be to the thieves and criminals or to the many of his congregation that visited him.  On a couple of occasion he was offered a pardon if he would deny his beliefs, but he wouldn’t.  He was then sentenced to death and on hearing the news that he would be burned at the stake the next day said: “I thank God for it.  I have waited for this for a long time.  Lord, make me worthy of this.” 

John Bradford was brought out to the stake with a teenager who also refused to deny his faith called John Leaf.  Before the fire was lit, he begged forgiveness of any he had wronged, and offered forgiveness to those who had wronged him. He subsequently turned to his fellow and said, “Be of good comfort brother; for we shall have a merry supper with the Lord this night!”

Four types of events to reach non-Christians

I like what Richard Perkins has done in his post on evangelistic events.  He has helpfully highlighted what the four main types of events that churches run to reach non-Christians are, and given two reasons why churches have a range of events in the first place.  Read the full post HERE.

Four types of events that a church can run:

1. Non gospel event – playing Frisbee in the park.

2. Cultural event – such as a quiz night with a short talk.

3. Apologetics event – where someone gives a talk to address a specific topic or objection to the Christian faith, like “Where’s God when bad things happen?”

4. Gospel event – an event at which a clear explanation of the implications of the death and resurrection of Christ takes place, with a call to repentance and faith.

Two reasons why churches put on a range of events:

a) They’re a concession to a lack of maturity as a church.

b) They’re a concession to a lack of interest in the world.

An incredible story – John Harper

Mark Dever tells this incredible story about John Harper in the opening chapter of ‘The Gospel and Personal Evangelism’:

“John Harper was born in a Christian home in Glasgow, Scotland, in 1872. When he was about fourteen years old, he became a Christian himself, and from that time on, he began to tell others about Christ. At seventeen years of age, he began to preach, going down the streets of his village and pouring out his soul in passionate pleading for men to be reconciled to God. 

After five or six years of toiling on street corners preaching the gospel and working in the mill during the day, Harper was taken in by the Reverend E. A. Carter of Baptist Pioneer Mission in London. This set Harper free to devote his whole time and energy to the work so dear to his heart-evangelism. 

Soon, in September 1896, Harper started his own church.  This church, which he began with just twenty-five members, numbered over five hundred by the time he left thirteen years later. During this time he had been both married and widowed. Before he lost his wife, God blessed Harper with a beautiful little girl named Nana.  

Harper’s life was an eventful one. He almost drowned several times. When he was two-and-a-half years of age, he fell into a well but was resuscitated by his mother. At the age of twenty-six, he was swept out to sea by a reverse current and barely survived. And at thirty-two he faced death on a leaking ship in the Mediterranean. If anything, these brushes with death simply seemed to confirm John Harper in his zeal for evangelism, which marked him out for the rest of the days of his life. 

While pastoring his church in London, Harper continued his fervent and faithful evangelism. In fact, he was such a zealous evangelist that the Moody Church in Chicago asked him to come over to America for a series of meetings. He did, and they went well. A few years later, Moody Church asked him if he would come back again. And so it was that Harper boarded a ship one day with a second-class ticket at Southampton, England, for the voyage to America. 

Harper’s wife had died just a few years before, and he had with him his only child, Nana, age six. What happened after this we know mainly from two sources. One is Nana, who died in 1986 at the age of eighty. She remembered being woken up by her father a few nights into their journey. It was about midnight, and he said that the ship they were on had struck an iceberg. Harper told Nana that another ship was

just about there to rescue them, but, as a precaution, he was going to put her in a lifeboat with an older cousin, who had accompanied them. As for Harper, he would wait until the other ship arrived. 

The rest of the story is a tragedy well known. Little Nana and her cousin were saved. But the ship they were on was the Titanic. The only way we know what happened to John Harper after is because, in a prayer meeting in Hamilton, Ontario, some months later, a young Scotsman stood up in tears and told the extraordinary story of how he was converted. 

He explained that he had been on the Titanic the night it struck the iceberg. He had clung to a piece of floating debris in the freezing waters. “Suddenly,” he said, “a wave brought a man near, John Harper. He, too, was holding a piece of wreckage.  “He called out, ‘Man, are you saved?’ “‘No, I am not,’ I replied.

“He shouted back, ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.’ 

“The waves bore [Harper] away, but a little later, he was washed back beside me again. ‘Are you saved now?’ he called out.  “‘No,’ I answered. ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved.’ “Then losing his hold on the wood, [Harper] sank. And there, alone in the night with two miles of water under me, I trusted Christ as my saviour. I am John Harper’s last convert.”1 

1 Moody Adams, The Titanic’s Last Hero: Story About John Harper(Columbia, SC: Olive Press, 1997), 24-25.

John Angell James on the aim of a Sunday School teacher

What is the ultimate aim for a Sunday School teacher? 

It’s not to teach the children to read and write.  If this was the case, they would be no different to ordinary school teachers. 

A worthy aim but not the ultimate aim is to teach the children good morals as this will benefit society (there would be more people will good characters around).  If teaching only good morals is your only aim, the children are still on the path to hell. 

“The ultimate object of a Sunday School teacher should be in humble dependence upon divine grace, to impart that religious knowledge; to produce those religious impressions; and to form those religious habits, in the minds of the children, which shall be crowned with the salvation of their immortal souls.  Or, in other words, to be instrumental in producing that conviction of sin; that repentance towards God; that faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; that habitual subjection in heart and life to the authority of the scriptures, which constitute at once the form and power of genuine godliness.” 

“Sunday Schools, to be contemplated in their true light, should be viewed as nurseries for the church of God.” 

(notes taken from ‘The Sunday School Teacher’s Guide’ by John Angell James)