Violent Silence: Jesus Would’ve Gone to The Tap

I was walking around on campus at Texas A&M today and it’s obviously no secret that the Christian bubble reigns supreme in these parts, with the t-shirts and the cafeteria cliques and the screaming preachers that post up on campus. The reality is, the Bible belt is still on nice and tight in east Texas.

As I walked around the Memorial Student Center, I couldn’t help but overhear a conversation as I walked past a group of girls in the hallway.

“I just don’t want to lose my witness by inviting them to Breakaway [an on-campus Bible study] on Tuesday and then saying, ‘Hey come to The Tap [a local bar/grill] with us on Wednesday for piano bar!'”

What have we done?

Now don’t get me wrong, I have friends on staff at Breakaway and I love much of what they do. This isn’t a post about Breakaway.

Somewhere along the line in the rise of white evangelicalism in America, we’ve forgotten that the invitation we are commanded to give lost people isn’t first an invitation to church or Bible study. If that winds up happening then fantastic! But it’s not T.A’s job to share the gospel with your lost friends. It’s not Matt Chandler’s job to invite your lost friends into the Kingdom of God. It’s not your local pastor’s job to know which parts of the gospel your friends don’t believe.

It’s your job.

And somewhere along the way the Church has greatly cheapened the buy-in of following Jesus to “Hey just invite them to church and God might save them without you having to share the gospel with them”. And trust me, I’m well aware that the Lord has saved probably tens of thousands of lost people in spite of Christians copping out of their commission. But the Lord has also probably saved thousands of people who hear a false gospel every week at Lakewood Church in Houston, so does that make it acceptable to preach the prosperity gospel? By no means!

So I write this piece to the Church, specifically the Bible-belted American Church — and let me be clear, I greatly include myself in the audience for this piece.

Why don’t we stop avoiding spending time with lost people in their spaces? Let’s not forget that Jesus was called a glutton and a drunkard by church people for a reason.

Why don’t we lay off inviting people to church before we invite them into the Kingdom? The goal of the early church wasn’t to save people to church; it was to save people to life.

Why don’t we put more focus on lost people intimately knowing the love of God instead of hiding behind superficial and hyper-comfortable non-conversations? At some point demonstrating the Gospel is not going to suffice. You’ve gotta use words, too.

Instead of having an internal “moral” crisis about whether to invite someone to Breakaway or The Tap, why don’t we skip Breakaway and go buy a drink at The Tap and sit and figure out what holes are in our friend’s gospel that we can engage and fill in?

If you’re a believer, then you’re more than equipped just as you are to share the Gospel. You don’t need to “know more” about the Bible before you do anything. You don’t need to get the “lingo” down before you do anything.

 

The Kingdom of God is advancing with or without you. So Church, let’s get back to work and see lost people become sons and daughters of the Creator of the universe. It’s gonna be worth it, I can 100% promise.

 

 

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Violent Silence: The Church and Social Injustice

Let’s not beat around the bush: I’m trying to be part of a church youth ministry that will talk about the hard stuff and be confused about it together, and I hate that I feel like I’m in the minority of church leadership in the U.S. when it comes to wanting to engage hard topics from the stage. (pardon my cynicism)

Maybe I’m wrong, but I feel like many of my friends grew up in youth ministries that were more concerned with their students having fun than they were about their students knowing how the Gospel gives full hope in the midst of what was going on in the culture around them. Many of my friends were sheltered from the realities of racism, sexism, abortion, sex trafficking, porn, and homosexuality by glaring into bright lights and big production and games on games on games; OR they were taught to ignore it by doing yet another book study with their vastly homogenous friend group.

(I don’t blame them, just so we’re clear. They were just doing what those before them had done. They didn’t know any different. I don’t think it was malicious, but that doesn’t change the reality of the current situation.)

I don’t think that’s all bad. I don’t think middle schoolers need to be as caught up on all the politics that adults have to deal with on a daily basis. That would be a detestable thing to do to students — to strip away their emotional adolescence. However, I think it’s yet another social injustice to force our students into ignorance and to send them off into adulthood having no earthly idea what the world around them looks like.

(Let’s be honest, if my parents hadn’t been straight up with me about the culture in which we live, I think when I got to college, I would’ve given a rude finger and some harsh words to church-people for living in augmented reality and never stepping out of their prim-and-proper Christian bubble.)

But there lies the challenge: how do you protect the emotional innocence of students while still equipping them and sending them into the culture?

Grace. Grace and patience. And I’m bad at those things.

Personally, I think in such a black-and-white manner and my natural expectation for people is to get concepts objectively and be able to think critically about them immediately. But that’s not even how most people work, much less middle schoolers and high schoolers. So it takes being able to take a deep breath and chip away slowly at pre-conceived notions. It takes chronic honesty and a willingness to not know the answers. It takes a willingness to hurt when their hearts begin to hurt for someone who faces injustice. It takes a whole lot of patience and it takes a whole lot of empathy.

We are talking about the Sanctity of Human Life in youth this week, and specifically in that conversation is a dialogue on abortion. My hope for our students is not that they would learn all the stats and have a cold, hard opinion on the policies and legislation that our country has on the matter.

My hope is so much more for our students!

I want them have a deeper valuation of all human life.

When they hear their friends quoting our president about other cultures, I want our students to know that all humans have inherent value apart from their economic states.

When their friends devalue movements such as Black Lives Matter, I want our students to confidently know that Black lives DO matter, because our African-American brothers and sisters are also made in the image of God.

When they hear arguments back and forth about whether it’s okay to kill an unborn baby, I want our students to think about the inherent value of that unborn child and for their hearts to break that it would even be a question to kill the child. Because contrary to what the Left thinks, the child has more value than any human could attribute.

But I don’t want another generation that is baby rights vs. momma rights. I want their hearts to shatter at the injustices that have been done to women for centuries. I want them to raise their voices for the voices of unheard women. I want them to value, protect, and fight on the front lines for women. Because contrary to what Right thinks, the momma has more value than any human could ever attribute.

Jesus valued the economically impoverished (the “shithole countries” if you will) by first inviting the shepherds to his birth scene before anyone else in Luke 2.

Jesus valued the invalids who couldn’t perform and make themselves look all prettied up and perfect before they came to him by healing the paralyzed man in Mark 2.

Jesus valued women by protecting the woman caught in adultery in John 8 (who, for you classic conservatives out there, had “already made her choice” to sleep with the man), and by raising the little girl back to life in Mark 5, and by letting the women be the first to see him after he raised himself from the dead in Mark 16.

Jesus valued other cultures by going out of his way and giving up his time and emotional energy to sit and converse with the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4.

Jesus values sinners. He valued us before the world began when the Father chose us in Christ to be set holy and blameless before him (Ephesians 1). He valued us when we were DEAD IN OUR SIN, unable to perform and earn the right to be valued (Ephesians 2).

We like to play this game of valuation as if we are all a bunch of estimators for a contractor. But the valuation of human life is not up to us! Our value is solely in the fact that we are made in the image of God (Genesis 1-2). Humans never lose their value because they did nothing to earn it in the first place.

You are loved and you are valued.

When In Bryan (Month Five)

Well, it’s been a minute since I made myself sit down and reflect on what life has been lately. Mainly because sitting down and reflecting means processing and processing means time and I’d rather not give myself time out of some pseudo-humble mindset thinking that’s the most selfless and servant-hearted thing to do. It’s funny that I perpetually think this way after so many times of realizing that the most selfish thing I could possibly do is not deal with what’s going on with me and the way I feel and what has been great and what has sucked.

 

Don’t worry, the point of this post isn’t to list out all of those things, just wanted to let you know that’s why I didn’t have a blogpost about December and why this one about January is so late!

 

Some things I learned in December/January:

  1. I can’t change who the Lord says that I am. (see this, this, and this)
  2. People really can care about you. It’s O.K to believe them.
  3. It’s O.K for goodbye’s to be hard. It’s actually really normal. So I shouldn’t act like it’s not hard.
  4. “True peacemakers love God, others, and themselves enough to disrupt false peace.” – EHS
  5. Everyone is different from me. So let them be different. Different is wonderful.

 

I’ve been chronically bad at praying for myself for the past I don’t even know how long. My most consistent prayer in the past couple weeks is for the Lord to teach me 1) to recognize my need and 2) to humble myself and just ask for help (because it’s not like I stand a fighting chance of satisfying my needs anyways, honestly.)

 

So that’s the quick and easy version of where my mind has been the past couple months.

 


 

As for work, my job has been a lot of reading, which I love.

We’ve still been going through “Emotionally Healthy Spirituality” as a staff and it, of course, has continually be kicking me in the gut and making me realize that I am not nearly as put together as I would’ve said in August (or December, honestly). So I highly recommend it for anyone. Find some pals, get the book, be honest with each other, and delve up all of the fun things you didn’t even know you were suppressing! It’ll be fun, I promise, you just may have to wait until the end of the book to see how fun it is…

 

The other book I’ve been reading is specifically for “worship” leadership, and it’s called “Doxology & Theology“. I’ve been going through it with a couple of friends and am about to teach through it with some of our band members at church. It does an incredible job of teaching the whys and the hows of worship leadership, and it’s also incredibly readable.

 

My team is still incredible. We’re excited to have Blake back from Sabbatical tomorrow and to finally be a full team again. I couldn’t have asked for a better team and family in this season of life. (The people’s faces that are covered are like so because I am not about to potentially compromise their ability to get into certain countries because they are linked to a church).IMG_5093.JPG

When In Bryan (Month Three)

If you know me in any capacity, you know that I love kids. As a matter of fact, kids aged      1½ to about 8 years old may be my favorite demographic of human being on the face of the planet. They teach me so much about living life to the full and having fun and laughing a lot and being an adventurer.

One of the highlights of November was going to watch my pal Jett at his first soccer skills showcase (try saying that 10 times fast…). While it obviously wasn’t the best soccer I had ever seen, it was unbelievably incredible to see how much he lit up when Drew, Marissa, and myself all showed up just to watch him! (It was also incredible to watch his mom play goalie against his dad and hope that he didn’t kick her in the face and also hope that she didn’t beat him up for kicking her in the face).

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There were a few other things that happened in November, as well:

-The Aggies’ football program spontaneously combusted.

-I’ve begun to practice the art of task delegation. Which means I get to actually equip and train people in areas instead of doing jobs myself.

-I turned 22.

-My niece, Zoey (check out the #zoeywatch on Instagram, if you’d like) who is three years old will finally snuggle with me for more than ten seconds.

 

This month has been far lighter than the last couple months and I am so incredible thankful for that. In my last blog, I wrote about how the Lord was growing me in emotional health and that has absolutely continued. But it has been wonderful to live in the kind of freedom that is offered by living in the light. I’m learning how to communicate with my co-workers, friends, and girlfriend better and better. I’m learning that I don’t have to hold in my emotions or how I’m feeling and that it is OK to externally process the good and the bad with my people. However, this month has not been quite as much of a punch in the face as last month was (praise the Lord).

 

The Lord has also been growing me in thankfulness. Maybe it’s just the season, or maybe I’m just growing up, but I wake up most mornings more thankful than the day before. Thankful for my breath, thankful for the ability to move and walk and run and lift things, thankful for people that care, thankful for means of transportation, and ultimately thankful for the fact that Jesus came and took my place, lived a life I had no shot at living and died a death I absolutely deserved. And Jesus did all of this so that I could live with the Father forever? Dang. That thought breeds thankfulness.

 

It’s been a good month and I’m thankful for the breath of fresh-air with which the Lord has gifted me in this season. BRING ON THE HOLIDAYS!

When In Bryan (Month Two)

I can’t even believe it is already November. I feel like October would’ve been nearly non-existent had the LORD not totally began to demolish a bunch of the walls I’ve been building up in my heart and soul for the past five years. This past month has been a lot more emotionally taxing than physically taxing (as September was).

We as a church staff have started reading a book together and spending a good chunk of our staff meeting processing through it together. The book is called “Emotionally Healthy Spirituality” by Peter Scazzero. This book has been a consistent kick in the teeth for the past few weeks. Here’s a few things the Lord has been revealing to me about myself (some of which I may write about as the month goes on, but this isn’t the time to go in to detail about all of this).

 

  • I am not good at submitting to leadership.
  • I am not even close to as humble as I thought.
  • I am afraid of being known because really anyone who has truly known me in the past has pretty much dropped me at some point (with a few exceptions).
    • This has led to me choosing to live in the dark on a lot of stuff and let me tell you, I wish everyone would live in the light. It is far healthier and far more bearable and joyful of a life. It far more closely reflects the life Jesus describes in John 10:10.
  • I have an inherent lack of trust for people within the Church.
    • I also generally have unrealistic expectations of people in the church, I think.
  • Love doesn’t hinge on clarity and clarity doesn’t bring forgiveness.
    • Love breeds forgiveness regardless of clarity.

 

And in the midst of all of this demolition of my synthetic inner walls, I’ve realized this as well: I am far less important than I thought I was, but I am far more loved and cared for than I could ever imagine.

I’ve had so many conversations in the past two weeks of repentance and forgiveness. Not because I am fully healed from things that have happened or the lies people have fed me or the abandonment that I’ve faced from people who have used me. No. Those things still hurt. But what’s different now is that I’m not pouring the salt of bitterness and resentment into those wounds while the Lord is trying to bind up my broken heart and heal my wounds. Now I get to sit and be taken care of by the Lord and by my friends and I don’t feel resentment anymore. I can sit and be bandaged and not rip the bandage off to pour in more dirt and salt. My wounds aren’t infected anymore and that is the first step of being emotionally and spiritually healthy.

Please don’t get me wrong, it has been really terrible and exhausting for the Lord to come in like a bull in a china shop and demolish all of my walls. But it has also been so good because I’ve gotten to taste, see, and feel the goodness of God the Father because while he’s come in swinging, he sits there with me while HE builds everything back up and speaks life and speaks identity over me.

“You’re my son.” He says. “Of course I’d fight off all of these lies that have surrounded you.”

October was crazy and tiring, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world.

When In Bryan (Month One)

Well. I’m officially one month into my Residency program at Declaration Church in Bryan, Texas. And let me just say, it was nothing short of exciting! I want to just highlight a few of things to give you the gist of my first month.

 

 

  • Not only did I reach my financial goal for my year of residency, but the Lord exceeded my goal and He did it through the most unexpected of means!! A HUGE thank you to all of you that are supporting me financially. I obviously could not be doing it had you not been obedient to where the Lord was asking you to give. I so appreciate you.

 

  • We had an overflow room! (kinda…). The first three weeks were absolutely crazy and our seating capacity was beyond maxed out. So, to counteract this so people could come and sit and hear and respond to the Gospel, we worked our tails off to create an overflow space in the back of the building.

 

  • We have interns and they are freaking stellar at their jobs! One of them is specifically our worship intern and he has been an unbelievable asset by helping me shepherd our band members and auditioning new instruments and singers and helping me cast our vision for our worship ministry. It has allowed me to breath a little more. And then our other intern is specifically focused on production. He has been so key in helping me drive up the quality of our worship services so that our excellence will point people to the excellence that is the person of Jesus.

 

  • We had baptism service on the 25th and it was SO INCREDIBLE. Kids were getting baptized, students were getting baptized, adults were getting baptized. The Gospel is advancing in Bryan/College Station and the trajectories of people’s lives and their family’s lives are beginning to radically change!

 

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The bulk of the past month has involved learning that I can’t do everything. And even if I somehow could do everything, I shouldn’t; because then others can’t have a stake in the kingdom advancing.

I’ve learned a lot about delegation and leadership of leaders.

I’ve been starting to learn again that I don’t always have the most important thing to say and that my opinion isn’t always the best one.

I’ve gotten to have incredible Gospel-centric conversations with kids and with students and with adults.

The Lord has been super gracious and kind as He always is and I’ve been growing more and more thankful for all of the gifts He’s lavished on me.

The Biggest Thing I Learned in College

I learned a lot in college (I think…); but to me, college became a space where I finally learned to love learning. This love for learning led to so many life lessons, because I didn’t just want to be a better student in my classes; I wanted to learn how to be a better human. I wanted to learn how to be a higher quality man. I wanted to learn what it really looks like to be an adopted son. And I wanted to learn how to make people feel noticed and valued.

Well, at least I scratched the surface a little bit, right?

In hindsight, the last three years have been a freaking whirlwind. Dickens was right, it really was the best of times and it was the worst of times (he was talking about college, right?).

To sum college up, I never wanted to come to A&M, but I came anyways. I made a lot of really stellar friends. I pushed all of those friends away because dating seemed way cooler than friends at the time (a-whoops). I lived with guys that I didn’t gel with at all. I almost quit on College Station and moved to Nashville. Spoiler: I ended up not moving to Nashville. Then, I made some of the best friends I’ve ever known.rectangle love shack

I got connected with a few super incredible families that treated me as if we shared blood. IMG_3782.JPG

I went on a crazy, 7-week road trip.IMG_1487.PNG

I started an unbelievably awesome job with co-workers that are more fantastic than I could even ever explain to you.IMG_2102.JPG

There has been losses and gains of friends and community and houses and rats (long story). But in all of it — the really crappy and the really wonderful — there was the Lord. And he wasn’t just there, but he was the one brainstorming, planning, strategizing, and executing the adventure with absolutely no help at all from me, because I don’t have the attention span to help him plan something super awesome, crazy, fun, and growing.

 

All that to say, I came into college thinking I knew quite a lot about how to live life both on my own and with people. I now know that I knew very very little, if anything at all, about anything at all. I don’t mean any of this to be self-deprecating; it drives me crazy when people pull that. I mean all of this to say that I’ve learned that I have more than a lot of room to grow in humility. But I know that growth has happened and is happening because of something that C.S. Lewis said,

“If anyone would like to acquire humility, I can, I think, tell him the first step. The first step is to realize that one is proud.”

It’s comforting to me that I’ve gained the self-awareness over the last few years to assess myself as being depraved. If I weren’t depraved, then Jesus would not have died in my place to make me an eternal heir to the Kingdom of Heaven, for he would not have needed to do so.

*****

“I am far less important than I thought; but I am far more valued than I thought.”

These words have been stuck in my head like duct tape for the past couple of weeks as I’ve reflected on the past few years. I think it was so important for me to realize that I am not irreplaceable in any way, shape, or form. I am not the only one who can do my job or be a friend to those around me. People are not dependent on my presence for joy and satisfaction in life. But here’s the deal, even though I am not as important and irreplaceable as I thought I was three years ago, I am far more valued than I thought I was three years ago. Far more valued by the Lord; far more valued by my friends; far more valued by my co-workers.

In short, the biggest thing I learned in college is that life is not about me.