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Almost Christian
Sep 14th, 2010 by Mike

An excerpt from “The Ivy Jungle Network Campus Ministry Update September 2010”:

Princeton Seminary Professor Kendra Creasy Dean shares what she considers some depressing news in her new book, Almost Christian. As a researcher in the National Study for Youth and Religion, she helped conduct in depth interviews with more than 3300 teenagers who call themselves Christians.  Her findings show that most “Christian” kids are indifferent and inarticulate about their faith. The faith they do discuss often boils down to what has been labeled “moralistic therapeutic deism” – a belief in a generally good God who exists primarily to help make people happy.   This “imposter” faith contributes to the massive departure of so many young people from the church during their high school and college years.  Too often parents and churches have low expectations for teenagers.  Too many youth groups are designed to keep students out of trouble and simply being nice – not truly exploring the faith.  However, she did find some who had a passion for their faith and an ability to talk about it in a meaningful way.  These committed teenagers most often came from Mormon or evangelical backgrounds.  She identified four common traits among this group: They have a personal story about God they can share, a deep connection to a faith community, a sense of purpose and a sense of hope about their future (CNN August 27, 2010)

Leaving Church Behind
Sep 6th, 2010 by Mike

According to Barna, only about 25% of teenagers are active in a youth group; a statistic that has remained relatively flat for the last decade. Lifeway Christian Resources reports that many students drop out around age 16. Their research indicates that many teens do not find church relevant or think it meets the needs of young people today. While in the past they may have come for free food and entertainment, today’s teens don’t want to be relegated to basement pizza parties. They are looking for significance and connections. Sadly, the numbers fall again when they leave for college. (USA Today August 11, 2010) 1published in the Ivy Jungle Network Newsletter, August 2010

Footnotes   [ + ]

1. published in the Ivy Jungle Network Newsletter, August 2010
Awesome Worship
Aug 2nd, 2009 by Mike

Our youth pastor is on vacation so last night, the interns ran the youth worship service. It was awesome. The music was inspirational and the message deep and inspiring. Good work David, Kyle, Luis, and Holly. You guys are awesome!

Awesome
Apr 29th, 2009 by Mike

I finished reading The Shack a few days ago. I’m still reeling from its reading. I’m not even sure how to review it.

From the jacket:

Mackenzie Allen Philips’s youngest daughter, Missy, has been abducted during a family vacation and evidence that she may have been brutally murdered is found in an abandoned shack deep in the Oregon wilderness. Four years later, in the midst of his Great Sadness, Mack receives a suspicious note, apparently from God, inviting him back to that shack for the weekend.

Against his better judgment he arrives at the shack on a wintry afternoon and walks back into his darkest nightmare. What he finds there will change Mack’s world forever.

I think it has changed my world, too. I’ve always wondered and imagined what the encounter with God will be like. 1Yes, I believe we will all encounter God eventually I pray that mine will be as wondrous and transformative as Mack’s. In fact, I suspect that Mack’s encounter, as he describes it, is only remotely as wondrous as an actual encounter will be.

When you read this book, you will ask yourself, “Is this really true? Is it factual?” I don’t know if it’s factual 2You’ll understand when you finish the book, but I believe it’s true. It left me craving to be with God on a minute-to-minute basis. I want to be more gracious with those around me. And I yearn for the time when God will reveal himself to me more fully.

I agree with Wynonna Judd when she says, “Reading THE SHACK…has blown the door wide open to my soul.”

Footnotes   [ + ]

1. Yes, I believe we will all encounter God eventually
2. You’ll understand when you finish the book
Inconsistent Religion
Jul 18th, 2008 by Mike

From The Ivy Jungle Network Campus Ministry Update Summer 2008

Although the US is one of the most religious nations in the world, a survey by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life shows many believe things which contradict their stated faith.70% of those who claim religious affiliation believe multiple religions can lead to salvation and 68% believe in multiple interpretations of their own religion.57% of self-identified evangelicals believe multiple religions can lead to salvation.21% of self-identified atheists believe that some kind of God exists.80% of respondents believe in moral standards of right and wrong, but only 29% claim their religious teachings help them determine those standards. A copy of the report can be read at www.pewforum.org(SFGate.com June 23, 2008)

Religious People Give More
Jan 29th, 2008 by Mike

From the “Campus Ministry Update 2008” published by the Ivy Jungle:

Religious People Give More:  Religious Americans give more money and time to charitable causes than their non-religious neighbors.   A new book by Arthur Brooks, Who Really Cares, analyzed ten data sets, concluding that religiosity is one of the best predictors of charitable giving.  Religious citizens give 3.5 times more money, volunteer with organizations twice as often, are 57% more likely to help the homeless, and 66% more likely to donate blood than those who are not religious.   The findings also paint an unexpected political picture as those who are more religious also tend to be more conservative in social and political issues.  In fact, of the 25 states with above average charitable giving, 24 voted for George Bush in the last election.  In Arkansas, citizens donate an average of 3.9% of their income, while in Massachusetts it is only 1.8%.   Good news for religion, however, among religious people, the data showed nothing distinctive about those who consider themselves evangelicals.  (Books and Culture January/February 2008 p. 11)

Why Would Jesus Not Waterboard?
Aug 7th, 2007 by Mike

In response to an earlier post, where I defended waterboarding as not being torture 1I was not addressing the moral issue of waterboarding, my sister-in-law, Georgette, asks Read the rest of this entry »

Footnotes   [ + ]

1. I was not addressing the moral issue of waterboarding
Sen Brownback’s Evolution Stance
Jun 3rd, 2007 by Mike

In the May 3 GOP Presidential debate, Sen Sam Brownback was one of three who raised their hands to the question, “Is there anybody on the stage that does not believe in evolution?” This caused an outcry among atheists and some consternation in the main stream media. The atheist article claims that, “It’s not an issue where thoughtful people can disagree. You either believe in scientific certainty or you don’t.” 1 Italics mine The exact same phrase the global warming alarmist use to kill debate on the subject.However, the debate is not closed. Sen Brownback offers one of the most lucid responses I’ve seen on the subject of faith and science.Thanks to John at The Daily Detour for raising the subject.

Footnotes   [ + ]

1. Italics mine
Dual Life Trend
Apr 22nd, 2007 by Mike

Here is some disturbing news from the Ivy Jungle:

The Dual Life Trend: At Urbana and two state youth conventions, the Youth Transition Network met with more than 500 high school students asking them why so many students fall away from church when they go off to college. One of the consistent top reasons among the two dozen given was hypocrisy among youth group members. Students said that many live an “intentionally deceptive” “dual life”. They believe that between 75% and 95% of the students in their groups lead such dual lives. (YTN Memo April 17, 2007)

This is especially disturbing to me. Charlene and I work with youth in our church and have worked with youth for around 20 years. We know hypocracy exists in the church youth community–just as it exists in the whole church body–but the notion that church youth are leading “intentionally deceptive” “dual lives” at the rate of 75-95% is hard to believe.

Really. Teens gravitate to people who are “real” in their walk with God. Most of the teens I have mentored are struggling with sin, just like I do. But to be intentionally leading a dual life deceptively is a rare occurance to me. I can think of several reasons for the survey results:

  1. I’ve been completely fooled by all the youth I’ve mentored over 20 years and they really are leading intentionally deceptive, dual lives.
  2. The youth surveyed have misinterpreted others’ struggles trying to reconcile their sin on the one hand with their desire to lead a life pleasing to God on the other. (I think all Christians struggle with their desired walk conflicting with their actual walk. Can someone really desire to act one way but actually act another? Absolutely!)
  3. Maybe I’ve gravitated to the teens who are the 5 to 25% of teens who do not live “intentionally deceptive” “dual lives”.

Regardless, the survey tells us that teens are human. We all want to protect our darkest secrets from the people whom we respect and admire. Thus, our focus in youth ministry–indeed any ministry–needs to be on God’s grace rather than God’s judgement. God’s grace, as disbursed through His ambassadors, allows people to shed their facade; reject their dual lives; live in the Light. When the threat of judgment is removed, people can become brutally honest.

I believe we spend too much time in ministry trying to “disciple” folks into a set of rules instead of encouraging people into a loving realtionship with God. God want’s to forgive. God wants to wrap His arms around everyone and give them love and peace. God wants to accept people the way they are.

When we communicate judgment, we force people to hide their real selves from us and try to hide their real selves from God. When we communicate grace, people are free to be themselves and to allow God to work in their lives…

Masters Champion
Apr 8th, 2007 by Mike

I’m watching The Masters tournament interview with Zach Johnson this year’s winner. It’s his first major tournament win and 2nd on the tour. He’s giving first credit to his Lord, Jesus Christ. Atta boy!

An Easter Thought
Apr 8th, 2007 by Mike

From Gary Varvel:

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