i am the church // i am the family

Tag Archives: testimony

First off, I am completely aware that I am posting something about Father’s day September.  That may be an indication of how crazy my summer has been…

This past Father’s Day, my church had father’s come up on stage with one of their kids and a little cardboard sign.  On the cardboard sign was a number– a number signifying how many more weekends that dad had left to be the primary influence in his kid’s life (before they went off to college).  It was a powerful moment.  I’ve written about the concept before here.  Also, my header (for now) on my FB fan page is a picture of all the dads.

This video followed.  These are the dads who were “at zero.”  In other words, these were the dads whose sons and daughters were graduating and heading off to community college or college.  Just being a part of the filming process with these men was humbling, and it really made me think about the time that I have with Evie.  Thank you Jon, Mark, Paul, and Brian for sharing you heart in this:

I’ve been talking a lot about this idea of “widening the circle” amongst youth group parents and with anyone I can talk to– it’s the idea of having other, committed, non-parental adults in the life of your kid as they are growing up.  You want to have people who would say what you would say to your kid (but with a different, possibly more effective, voice).

In preparation for our “Orange” series (which starts this Sunday morning), Pastor Mitch asked the Family Ministry team to talk about their people– the ones who invested in them when they were younger.  It was great to hear about the people who invested in my team mates.

I laughed to myself during the meeting, “Well, this would be a good blog post…”

The Celtics have KG, Pierce, and Ray.  Here are my “Big Three”…

Sister Bernadette is a nun from Ireland who invested in me and my brothers when I was in elementary school.  She was probably in her 40’s (it goes without saying that she wasn’t married or a mom), and she was just a fixture at St. Francis Catholic Church in Mocksville, NC.  Did I constantly impersonate the Irish trill in her voice?  Maybe.  But she was always patient with me.  I think you had to have a sense of humor to love me with my mullet and hyperactive personality.  She would take us on trips to go see the Christmas lights and preside over church picnics and the like.  I remember that she would let me be myself in church plays, and I always had a sense that she believed in me.  I can still hear her encouraging me to settle down.

I walked away from church when I was in middle school.  I got a gig working at the Holiday Inn bussing tables and washing dishes.  The cold, hard cash was tempting for a young guy with a baseball card addiction.

But, years later, when I was sifting through the wreckage of an ugly divorce between my mom and my stepdad, trying to figure out who I was in high school, I went to Young Life for the first time.  There, I met two more of my Big Three.

Hunter French was a Wake Forest junior when I started coming to Young Life.  He led my “campaigner” Bible study.  He was a vegetarian.  I’d never met one of those.  I remember the first time I came to his group.  He said to open up the book of Ephesians, and I thought that an “ephesian” sounded more like a foot disease.  I was lost, but he helped me to map my way towards God’s truth.  He loved teenagers.  Our small group was a motley crew, and he loved us all the same.  The Waffle House ended up becoming a sacred space on Thursday nights when we would meet and talk about who Jesus is.  I loved him so much that I ended up taking my first road trip with another campaigner buddy to Bethesda, MD to be at his wedding.

Mark Hogan was a guy in his 40’s who is kind of cloaked in mystery for me.  He was never around that much with Young Life.  I think he was on the committee, more of a behind-the-scenes kind of guy.  I know he worked in finance.  I’m not even sure if he had a family.  But he was there when I needed him.  When I needed him was when I went to Frontier Ranch in July of 1995.  There, the Gospel penetrated my heart; and, for the first time in my life, I surrendered my life to Jesus.  It was great to have a father-figure on that trip because I was seeing for the first time how much my heavenly Father loves me.  I remember the night I surrendered my life to Jesus hugging him and weeping like a little baby because I had just “gotten” a glimpse of how much God loved me.

Mark and the rest of my cabin. I’m upper left. He’s got a sweet mustache.

Those are my three.  They probably don’t even know they are.  There are three questions here.  Answer any or all:

Who are your people?

Who are you positioning in the life of your kid(s) to be those people?

Where do you serve the next generation?

I smell orange moments. I see them. Something jerks at my heartstrings during those times, and I usually weep because it’s beautiful. Yesterday there were a bunch of those moments on a Sunday morning in church.

It was baptism Sunday, and some special things happened. First, we got to hear the story of a young man who gave his life to Christ after being a meth addict. The part that was highlighted, italicized, and bolded in his testimony (for me), though, was that he ended up sharing his faith with his boy. Orange Dad.

After the “scheduled” baptisms, Pastor Mitch invited those up who felt like it was the time for them to be baptized too. Many came forward, but there were two situations that stuck out to me.

One, the mother of a small, small child came up. Now, of course, I’m nervously thinking, “Uh oh, this kid is a little too young to even comprehend baptism,” but it turned into a beautiful moment. In a “let the children come” mindset, Mitch instead took the opportunity to have a spontaneous child dedication in which the church body raised their hands as a sign of blessing towards this young boy and the young mom who had brought him up there. All I could see in this moment was a mom wanting what’s best for her son and a church wanting what’s best for a family. Orange Mom. Orange Pastor.

Finally, and this is the one where the tears started to flow out of my eyes. Keep in mind that I was already a little misty because I had been holding Evie in the back and whispering to her about Jesus throughout the baptisms and worship. Anyway, I see a younger (but not too young) boy pop up; and head towards the stage with his mom and dad. I love this family. As the parents of a tweenager, I have seen them work alongside the middle school ministry in helping their daughter grow in the areas of wonder, discovery, and passion. Implanted in my mind is when we played a modification of “The Newlywed Game” on a Sunday night in which a parent was matched up with their teenager to answer questions about how well they knew one another. Anyway, this dad won with his daughter; and it was hilarious. So…this was fun to watch.

To see my friend fight through tears as he stood in the baptismal (ok…fine, we use a horse trough) and affirmed his son’s faith in Jesus, well, it was awesome. The church created the moment, but my friend has walked with his son through his faith journey enough to know that his son was ready to go. Orange Church. Orange Dad.

After they dried off, they passed me in the back of the sanctuary. First, I gave the little guy manly “knucks” to tell him that he was a wise young guy. Then my friend whispered to me, “Yeah, the last time we had spontaneous baptisms [his daughter and older son] wanted to go forward; but we didn’t know if they were ready. Two months later they were baptized. [My wife] and I wondered why we waited. So, this time around, when [our youngest] said ‘I want to go up,’ we knew it was time.”

I love the way that we do baptism at New Harvest. We do it all kinds of ways. Sometimes it’s planned. We get to hear stories of life-change. I love it. Sometimes it’s spontaneous, and you get to see amazing things that you weren’t expecting. I love that not just the pastor can baptize in our church. Any dad (or mom, for that matter), as long as they are a believer in Jesus, can dunk their child.

I love baptizing teenagers; but, you know, I was thinking about an orange resolution for 2012. As much as I like to wear a Jedi robe and dunk a kid, I think I’m going to ask my teenage “candidates” this year if they would want to share this moment with their mom or dad. Some may say no, but some may have not even thought about the role that their parents have played in their coming to faith in Jesus. I say let’s do more Orange Baptisms.

Here in the lovely Central Valley of California, we are going to be having an event called: Meet Me at Chick-Fil-A. Members of the family ministry team and I were able to attend the Meet Me at Chick-Fil-A when we went to the Orange Tour down in So-Cal this fall, and it was an awesome experience. Why is it cool? Here’s my top ten reasons:

1. The people who work there have to say, “My Pleasure” when you say, “Thank you.” C’mon. That’s fun to experiment with.

2. You get to meet with other Orange thinkers from your area and bounce ideas about the application of the Orange strategy in the local church. This is what it’s all about.

3. The Original Chicken Sandwich. Seriously, there isn’t a fast food place that I get excited to be at more than Chick-Fil-A.

4. When I went, I was convicted by the questions of other people; and I had the encouragement to do something!

5. You get to wear orange (which just so happened to be my favorite color before the philosophy was even invented).

6. You get to see how other people can take the same curriculum, books, and ideas and put them into practice in totally different, creative ways.

7. Texas Pete hot sauce packets. They’re made in the town I grew up in (Winston-Salem, NC), and they’re vinegary bombness.

8. You can talk to an Orange Specialist. We’ve got one with us in Fresno (Stephanie Porter), and she’s a great resource for when you’ve got questions or are wondering if something has ever been done before.

9. Sweet tea. Cravin’ Mellon (a South Carolina band) wrote a song about the merits of sweet tea. “On the eighth day, God made sweet tea.” It stimulates the mind.

10. Networking. The conversation doesn’t end at Chick-Fil-A. Through Facebook, Twitter, and all that other dinosaur stuff, you can stay in touch with other people who are trying their best to partner with families to incite wonder, provoke discovery, and fuel passion in the next generation.

Find out where there’s a “Meet Me at Chick-Fil-A” Event close to you. As for you Central Valley people, it’s going to be at Chick-Fil-A on Blackstone (near River Park and right off of 41) on Thursday, February 9th at 2 PM.

I’ll be wearing orange.

When I was in high school, I worked the triple crown of fast food restaurants. I worked at McDonald’s, Taco Bell, and Subway. So I am going to say what I’m about to say with a little bit of fast food credibility. Very few (except for Chick-Fil-A) workers at fast food restaurants actually greet anymore. I used to do this as a social experiment (and don’t recommend it for mature Christians). I would walk into a fast food restaurant and stare at the person working there until they greeted me. Sometimes it would be an awkward few seconds, and they would impatiently look at me as if I was doing something wrong. I just remember in all the training videos that they used to tell you that you were supposed to welcome someone to the restaurant and ask, “How can I help you?”

This might not be a dad issue, per se; but I think one of the greatest things a dad can do is love his wife. And, in that vein, I have to wonder, “Do we really ask our wives ‘how can I help you’ enough?”

I had one of these tough conversations recently. This may be a semi-universal issue in that we all want people to know what we want without having to say it, but we also wish that people would tip us off on what they want. And this isn’t a selfish thing– it’s just literally that I think we sometimes forget how limited our point-of-view really is.

So…when was the last time you, husband dad-type, have asked how you can help your wife? I’m not talking about the “ok-do-I-have-all-my-bases-covered-so-I-can-watch-the-game-in-peace” kind of asking, but the “I-value-you-so-much-that-I-want-to-make-sure-that-you’re-doing-ok” kind. The second kind is a lot more difficult, but it goes a long way. This may affect things that you enjoy. This may affect how you go about doing something. You might not “like” the answer. Chances are, since you defaulted to doing something else in the first place, your wife’s answer might not even seem natural for you to do or against your nature. But here’s what the Apostle Paul says in Philippians 2:3-5 (in the Bible):

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus…”

Paul goes on to explain that Jesus was able to take on the nature of a servant when He deserved so much more. Maybe we feel like we “deserve” our me-time around the house when we’ve had a hard day of solving the world’s problems, but our “deserving” doesn’t even compare to Jesus’ deserving. He served. We should too. The wife. The kids. Others. Orange Dad’s serve. We are called to be servant-leaders.

Back to the main point– I’ve also found that the more “how-can-I-help-you” conversations that I have with Mary Kate, the more I can sense what she wants without even asking. When you’re not asking those questions regularly, that may sound like an impossible mind-game. When you are, though, I think you become in step with her heart. There’s honor in that.

You’ve heard it said a million times: “If mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.” So be like a Chick-Fil-A employee and ask, “How can I help you?” And when she thanks you, say, “My pleasure.”

So, yesterday I officially became an “orange” dad. All this orange jive comes from the book “Think Orange: Imagine the Impact When Church and Family Collide…” by Reggie Joiner. It’s an awesome read that I’m reading in small chunks because it’s so, so rich with wisdom of WHY it’s so critical for the family and the church to partner together. In the book, Reggie says:

There are two powerful influences on the planet–
the church and the home.

They both exist because God initiated them.

They both exist because God desires to use them
to demonstrate His plan of redemption and restoration.

If they work together they can potentially
make a greater impact than if they work alone.

They need each other.

Too much is at stake for either one to fail.

Their primary task is to build God’s kingdom
in the hearts and minds of men and women, sons and daughters.


And yesterday was a great first day because MK and I actually got to drop Evie off in our pre-K ministry, which New Harvest calls “Starting Line.”

I wasn’t even remotely nervous because I know how competent the volunteers are, and I know that this is God’s plan for Evie. It was awesome to go to the front desk and have one of the volunteers, Ken, snap a picture of the “drop off” for posterity. [I wanted to bring my camera, but I didn’t want to be “that guy” who brings his camera to everything. Thanks, Ken, for helping me have what I wanted!] Here’s that pic:

Then we dropped Evie off with Holly and Sam. It was really cool that Sam, one of our high school girls, was in there that morning! It just felt right. I know Jocelyn (our Starting Line Coordinator) probably made a few visits into the baby room to “see how Evie was doing” too. Evie was surrounded by love. :-)

I love the aim of Starting Line. No, the aim isn’t just, “Survive crying, change diapers, and give them goldfish to eat.” Instead, they are going to do their best before she even enters kindergarten to help her realize that:

Jesus Wants to be My FRIEND Forever

Awesome, awesome. The circle has officially widened beyond just family. Evie had some church up on Sunday. And it felt delightfully orange.

Oh, and she was fine. And so were we. After her day, full of Starting Line, “big church,” and Family Life Live, Evie actually slept through the whole night last night. A first. Awesome.

My friends from Orange sent me a book that I’ve been wanting to grab ever since it came out: “The Slow Fade” by Reggie Joiner, Chuck Bomar, and Abbie Smith. I was thumbing through it in the resource area at the Orange Tour but just didn’t buy it.

And then they sent it to me. I’m glad I waited, but I don’t think having two copies would be a bad thing (one to keep, one to share).

I was fascinated by how the Orange Philosophy fits into college/young-adult ministry. I mean, isn’t the whole idea of the Orange Philosophy for parents and the church to unite to raise up the next generation? College ministry has constraints. Sure, some of their parents are around their parents still or even still living at home; but, for the most part, college/young-adult ministry is about kids transitioning to adulthood (sans parents). So how does the Orange crew address it?

In two words: SIMPLY yet PROFOUNDLY.

In this quick read (I read it in two sittings), the three authors combine their voices to present a case of a relationship-driven (not program-driven college/young-adult ministry experience). The book progresses through the notion that, in most churches, this age group is pretty ghostly (almost invisible); but it’s not that hard to connect them to older people in the local church and help them “rematerialize” before the church’s very eyes.

I’ve got a bunch of ideas that I want to explore from this book (in no particular order):

* Abbie talks about the “mentors” she had when she was in college. Who were mine? Who were yours?

* Is it really that hard to find common ground with this age group? Here’s a hint: NO!

* An adult mentor can subtly turn the dials of WONDER at who God is, DISCOVERY of who they are in Christ, and PASSION for the world through a “mentor”-like relationship. And it’s not as hard as it sounds.

* There is a great template for how to connect adults in the church at large to people in this critical age group. I personally became convicted that, in order for the college/young-adult ministry at New Harvest (Reaction), to thrive and be sustainable, I’ve got to widen the circle of influence beyond me and Mary Kate.

* Once an older adult makes a connection with a person in this age group, it makes it that much easier to connect them to other people in the church who they glean maturity from.

* People in this age group want to not only be involved– they want to serve in a meaningful way. (Phew…at least I already knew one thing in this book. :-) )

* The thing that works best in these mentor/mentee relationships is that there has to be humility on the part of the mentor to realize that both sides of the relationship are in a process of maturation– and they can grow and learn together.

* Chuck Bomar’s charge to ministry leaders should be a post in and of itself because of the richness of the challenges.

* “Old people” can say a lot of things that are unintentionally (but still have the effect of being) discouraging to college students and young adults. I love that the book provides some basic perspective shifts on some typical conversation points with this age group. Again, another post for another day. Rich (and kind of funny).

All in all, I think I have my marching orders. I’ve got to widen this net. There have to be more people involved in the lives of this “invisible” age group, otherwise we should not be surprised that our churches are aging out. We make a false assumption when we think that “Oh, this is just a phase. They’ll come back when they have kids.” Will they?

I’d rather keep them connected if it’s all the same and not throw up a white flag at the slow fade.


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