Tag Archives: Jesus

Think like a Youth Pastor

It’s good to be your own target audience.

I am currently striving to market these custom LIFE Group shirts to youth pastors and group leaders who will be attending the massive 6000 person conference.  I need to understand their perspective.  I need to think like a youth pastor…..

Actually, that shouldn’t be all that difficult, as I peer up from my computer screen to see various junior high centric games, odd costumes, event posters, and countless shirts that remind me of my current position as youth pastor of Chippewa Alliance Church, a position I’ve held for 8 years now!

I am striving to make the often arduous task of getting custom shirts for groups a painless, easy affordable process.  Thus I’ve created various design templates and mockups of all difference genres and styles that will hopefully appeal to youth groups from the Pacific Northwest to the Heartland of America to the East Coast and everywhere in between.  It is incredibly simple to plug a name, church logo or anything else into the design!

I’ve wracked my brain for weeks, doing hours of research concerning design trends, apparel options and custom logo work.  I’m trying to prepare myself for the deluge of youth groups clamoring for unique shirts that will enhance their identity and become a keepsake of a fun filled journey that they will remember for years to come.

I know that youth pastors need an easy process when it comes to getting shirts (they are already pulled in too many different directions, T-shirt aesthetics should not have to be one of them).  They don’t want their kids to be embarrassed of the shirts that they order.  They want options and the ability to add their unique elements to the apparel.

They’ll have to see these shirts for years to come as their leaders and students wear them to youth group, retreats and all nighters (and eventually have them sewed into quilts reminding them of those wonderful high school years).

They might as well be really, really cool!

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A Plethora of Shirt Options

I’ve realized through my interaction with those taking their students to LIFE that there has arisen a misconception concerning the LIFE Merchandise (that will be sold physically in the store in Kansas City) and the custom shirts that LIFEMERCH is designing and printing for groups.  Many people believe that everything I’ve produced will only be available in the actual store, however that is not the case.

I had to find a way to convey that “Custom Group Shirts” means that I can create anything for the various groups headed to the LIFE Conference in July, it’s just a matter of preference for the leader as to what they want their shirt to look like.  It’s incredibly easy to make the name of the group stand or to make “LIFE 2016”  the focal point.   It all becomes a question of taste and desired outcome.

Thus I polled a few Facebook Youth Pastor Groups to find some current, catchy youth group names circulating through the broader spectrum of Christianity today. I then spent quite a bit of time doing potential mock ups with those designs to show the varying styles that we can tap.  I was trying to give a clear visual indication of the versatility that LIFEMERCH is capable of.

Hopefully this time investment pays off and the group leaders see the great shirts that their youth groups could be wearing to LIFE!

The enormity of the LIFEMERCH project is daunting….

6000 people at a conference with wildly varied tastes, differing backgrounds and sky high expectations of what the apparel ought to be.  There is an excitement buzzing around the project, many friends and leaders sending appreciated well wishes and encouraging words.

There is a pressure to deliver that builds day after day.

For the past few months I have been churning out designs (56 to this date), striving to find which firecrackers will go off and which ones will be smoldering duds.  I believe that I am finding my way, narrowing my search and refining my style through this process.

July has never seemed so close in January.   Seven months out I feel as if I am running out of time; the clock is ticking, hours chiming away as I struggle against sleep, entrenched in the earliest moments of the day and the quietest times of the night.

The potential behind this endeavor is staggering, the hours toiling away at a project of this magnitude have flown by and the dreams are unfolding.  Through the research and demand I have found myself growing as an artist, striving to work outside of my comfort zone, searching for a way to appeal to the vast majority instead of a solid niche (while still making all of the varied demographics happy).

It’s January, but July is coming.

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The Evils of Consumerism

I like to shop…… There I said it.

Now understand that I like to shop for MY things. Not drapes, microwaves or the trendiest, newest updated iGalaxydriod 3.0 thing.
I like the thrill of the hunt; finding a rare artifact, a great deal, forging a memory of a time and place, realizing a small benchmark on this journey that I trudge through.

This time of the year bombard social media with complaints about consumerism/capitalism. Facebook is a light with hate for personal greed and corporate avarice. Granted, much of that criticism is deserved; there is no iPad nor set of discounted dishtowels that is remotely worth the life of a human being ending as hundreds of Black Friday shoppers trample them to death in a mad rush. We can all agree to demonize that orgiastic, consumerist idolatry.

I understand that it gets overwhelming at times.  It seems as if western society might as well turn the entire months of November and December into “the Season” covering everything in tinsel, draping red all over so somebody can make some green.  It can feel suffocating.

Yet I wonder if we criticize the intent of system too harshly, allowing the accounts of zealots to paint our perspective with broad strokes.

Many of the hipster posts I read about hate for the holiday greed are angrily typed on the iPhones of those employed by the faceless corporate monsters they bemoan.

Do these people realize that if nobody bought anything that they would not have jobs?

This is a flagrant theory: I truly wonder if the American Economy as we know it would literally collapse without the Holiday shopping season? Perhaps businesses both large and small need this time to make a decent wage for the workers and even their industry.

Have they considered that it can be a very good thing to support artists, authors and markets that we enjoy, because without financial backing they would cease to exist? Before you complain about the ads during your favorite show, or the cost of your friend’s Netflix membership remember that without that “price”, the service you desire ceases to be. The free market is a fickle place; many are left destroyed and forgotten in her wake. Yet she may be a necessary mistress, providing sustenance in this symbiosis.

She needs us and we need her.

I have hundreds of books in my personal library, I never walk out of Barnes and Nobel empty handed. This may be a stretch: I believe that I am responsibly living out the golden rule when I make these purchases. “Do unto to others as you would them have do unto you.”

Subjectively, if I ever get something published would like you to buy my book (if it strikes your fancy). It brings joy to my heart and food to the mouths of my children when you buy one of my T-shirts. Buying things is not necessarily evil. It can be good.

I support the print industry. I support the collectible industry. I support the shrinking Christian heavy music scene (hang in there Project 86 and Demon Hunter!). They have enriched my life, they make me happy and I don’t want to see them go away.

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I also support a child in a third world country (his name is Davidson) and systematically, cheerfully give to local non profits.
I gleefully enjoy intentionally supporting markets that I believe in.

Am I a consumer? I guess.

I view myself as more of a supporter. May I be so bold as to deem myself a collaborator?

Can we find community among the consumerism? It may need to occur creatively and deserves thoughtful intentionality. Some distinct boundaries need be erected (in my opinion if you can’t buy it in cash, don’t buy it but that’s a topic for another time).

Support the market; cast your vote on who survives and who does not.

Be responsible and charitable.

It’s not all bad.

237

237 kids.

I run this unmanageably large youth event each year that continues to grow more sizable, encompassing students from all different walks of life, communities and contexts.

The event is an all nighter, running 12 hours, from 8pm-8am Friday into Saturday morning. We pack the kids into Buses, head off to Cosmic Bowling, then have a massive lock in at the church, filled with caffeine, video games, billiards and various other eclectic elements.

For the 8th year in a row everybody from our youth ministry comes out for it and they bring a friend. Kids mark the date on their calendars 6 months in advance, parents plan vacations and birthday parties around it. The excitement is electrifying and inspiring.

237 is the highest total that we’ve ever had at any single church event. Breaking records, making connections, seeking to do good in the lives of students and our community.

All night, among the mass of humanity (and distinct smell of what we call “Teen Spirit” I couldn’t shake a feeling of incompletion.

There was a void.

Despite the 237 I was haunted by the few who were not there. Faces missing from among the numbers.

I just kept replaying all the names of the kids who should have been there in my head, wondering why they weren’t present. Some of the explanations could have ranged from normative teenage apathy to the downright nefarious.

I am well aware of my psychosis and insatiable nature; yet I still wonder; is this how Jesus feels?

Being a shepherd, having 99 sheep yet obsessing over that one lost one; the one whose absence could be attributed to apostasy.

I know how a shepherd feels, sitting among the safe masses, yet wondering about that lost lamb out there isolated, alone and tired.

There are ravenous wolves outside, salivating at the mere thought of tender lamb-flesh.

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You ARE what you Fantasize About

In October we put the Masks on. Young and old alike slip into different costumes and attires, some more ornate than others yet all with the intent of becoming somebody who we are not for a brief moment of frivolity and escape. We laugh and giggle as we attend the parties, walk the streets and revel in the differentness of the moment. We get to be somebody else for a few seconds, appearing as another of our own choosing.

What if we weren’t becoming somebody else? What if we were more accurately expressing who we really are? What if the mask we put on was more of a complex portal peering into who we truly wanted to be?

I think back to my early Halloween costumes. Various super heroes, each year’s get up determined by the stage I was in and the feeble materials I could weave together to construct my disguise. I remember a year that I dressed up as Zorro, wearing a black garbage bag as a cape and my father’s black cowboy hat. I painted on a massive mustache and wrapped a piece of cloth around my head with two poorly placed eye holes cut into it (I could barely see out of that thing). I grabbed my plastic sword in my right hand and giant eagle bag in the left as I rushed out of the house to trick or treat in the cold of October (finding out that garbage bags do very little to insulate oneself against Western PA’s frigidity).

As I grew older, during tumultuous teenage years I would brandish a brown trench coat of my father’s, tie a piece of fabric around my head pushing the bowl cut flowing locks out of my eyes and carried a bo-staff I had broken off from the big sycamore in the front yard. I had whittled away at it with my pen knife making it as straight as I could, covering it with black electrical tape. A few playing cards later and I would be Gambit of the 90’s X-Men fame.

As I look back on those costumes I realize that they said something about my heart at the time; a thermometer dipped into my psyche. When I was very young I wanted to be a dashing hero, potent and wise, saving the day and disappearing into the night.  I was not very brave, in fact I was downright cowardly, I dreamt of being the opposite. During my tumultuous teenage years I wanted to be a smooth talking ladies man who was charming and confident. The mere thought of talking to girls put my stomach into knots, the acne, braces, thick rimmed glasses and deep lack of anything that resembled self esteem or confidence constantly reminded me I was indeed nothing like Remy LeBeau.

Gambit David

I desperately desired to be these symbols as I was hilariously lacking their attributes. On lonely bus rides to and from my prison known as school I would imagine myself to be these heroes, decimating my foes, winning the woman and righting all of the perceived wrongs in my tiny little world.

I believe on a heart level, what we dress up as, what we fantasize about is more real to who we are than almost any other factor. Consider how limited we all are by our genetics, environment and resources. Would Bruce Wayne be Batman if he wasn’t a Billionaire son of an ambitious doctor, who experienced the death of his parents at an early age? Who would Peter Parker be if he were not bitten by a radioactive spider? Even to some extent who would Peyton Manning be if he were not Archie Manning’s offspring, growing up immersed in every element of football. There is a sense of fate and destiny in all of those stories, fixed outcomes that many of us just don’t have the gifting to achieve.

But we can do anything in our minds. Any. Thing.

In our fantasy worlds we can be anybody we want to be, that is why it’s is so appealing. We can get utterly lost in it, burning through hours playing role playing games, reading comics and watching movies. But does that make it any less “real.”

There becomes this expectation that during our culture’s month long celebration of Halloween (or all year long at Comic Book Conventions) you can dress up as anything and it really has no bearings on who you are, you’re just having a little bit of fun. That is why if you head to a costume shop of any kind you will be assaulted by all of the sexy outfits that exist. Sexy Nurse, sexy fox, sexy cow, sexy serial killer……

There is a desire to be sexually adventurous at least for one night, at one event. It really doesn’t mean anything does it?

People think that they are dressing up as somebody who they are not; yet in reality they are probably showing us more of their true selves more than they realize. Just the selves they would be if it weren’t for those pesky societal norms and moral expectations levied against us.

It becomes scary when our true selves become obsessed with the dark, with vengeance with killing maiming and devouring (most of our first person shooter game). Let’s be honest our fantasies can take us to some chilling places. If I were to plug a flashdrive into your brain, download the content for a day and upload it to Vimeo (let’s be honest, there’s not way we’d get that stuff past Youtube’s filters) how would that make you feel?

Ask Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold if their fantasies ever became realities. Don’t know those names? Does the word “Columbine” stir up any memories?

Chilling thought huh?

From my understanding of Scripture, when Jesus tells us if we lust after a woman we are committing adultery with her in our hearts, or when we hate our brother we are guilty of murdering him he is not merely making life harder on us; heaping more archaic rules on our weary shoulders. Jesus is pulling back the veil and showing us the reality of the human soul. He is showing us that our true selves is that which we fantasize about, that which we would do if only we had the resources or if nobody else was looking.

No affair starts without a fantasy, no murder without hate. It doesn’t have to go that far to define us. May our heroes be true, may our true selves seek to do good. May the intent of our hearts be to strengthen and protect.

It says much of us if when we desire to be Spider-man giving it all, Superman swooping in and Captain American standing up for what he believes in.

God looks at the heart.

Our Masks are portals into our soul.

Mark Driscoll vs Rob Bell vs Francis Chan

Farewell Mark Driscoll.

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As a young and sometimes angry pastor I have been saddened with each toss and turn of the waves in the ocean that is the drama circulating Mark Driscoll’s demise. I really liked the guy. I was introduced to the testosterone filled, Seattle megachurch pastor by like minded friends about six years ago. Driscoll was raw, cutting edge, controversial and theologically conservative. He said many creatively hard things that I wished that I could blurt out to my congregation (yet never uttered due to fear of repercussion and reprimand by my authority).  He was the toughest pastor I had ever downloaded. He spoke difficult truths that I would grapple with like a UFC fighter caged with diligent, savvy opponent. There were however, moments listening to Mark’s tone and delivery where I thought to myself “Wow, it would be hard to work for Mark, it seems like he can be very mean at times……I bet he’s overly stubborn/opinionated.”

I knew that many people didn’t like Mark. That fact fueled my interest in him, as it did the thousands who were downloading his podcast and buying his books, not to mention attending his church, Mars Hill.

I watched the recent circus unfold online this year with bated breath. All I had to do was google Mark’s name and the floodgates would burst open with various articles published 5 hours ago, updated an hour ago with the latest news surrounding the scandals. With all of the attention Mark was receiving you would have thought that it was a “Ted Haggard” sort of scandal or worse.   The hits just kept coming. There were the plagiarism accusations, the use of church funds to inflate sales of his controversial new book, the unleashing of crude forum posts Mark had written 14 years ago and the various elders and staff who were crying out in unison that they had been personally bullied/verbally assaulted/ignored by Mark.

When Matt Chandler turned his back on Driscoll; kicking him out of the Acts 29 network I knew things were bad. Matt and Mark were friends.

It would seem that Mark’s “death” was one of a “thousand paper cuts.” It wasn’t one “big” sin such as adultery or murder, no it was a whole bunch of little ones, building over a lifetime, accentuated by Driscoll’s massive reach in contemporary culture and status as a “Rock Star Preacher.” Granted the bloggers and liberal and conservative social media that Mark had openly, creatively criticized so long finally found a way to chip away at his defenses, hit him when he was most vulnerable and bring the giant to his knees.

I can’t imagine the misery Mark is living in right now, watching his 14,000 person church shrink to 7000, having to lay off numerous pastors, his name and legacy indelibly stained and having to resign from the church that he loved so very much as his enemies, both Christian and Other laugh loudly as they watch the once proud pastor brought low. It’s not like Mark was spewing heresy or anything along those lines…..

Which brings us to one of Driscoll’s nemesis’s, a man who also ruled an entity known as Mars Hill (the two churches are so different it’s comical, yet the similarity of their leaders demises is deeply ironic) the bane of conservative Christianity: Rob Bell.

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I remember liking Bell in college, he was far cooler than I was, or ever would be. Everything thing about him screamed “I’m here to chill.” His voice passionate, his tone mesmerizing and his thoughts so deep and poignant, you could chew on his words for weeks. He verbally crafted pictures of Jesus that seemed so real, you thought the son of God was about the reach out and take your hand (then lead you to a Starbucks around the corner and passionately discuss social justice and the environment with you).

Yet Rob Bell flew too close to the sun and dreamed a bit too much. He asked some questions (which led to answers) that scared many people. “What if God’s love was so irresistible that everybody would turn to Him even after they are dead? What if nobody is in Hell? What if Love Wins regardless of what we believe in this life?” The one that haunted me was when Bell questioned the existence of a personal Devil, leading us to believe that Satan is a myth or at best a metaphor.

In the blink of an eye and the click of a mouse Christians were pulling his books off the shelves (to ban not buy), breaking their replica Rob Bell Hipster glasses and turning Bell into a Christian culture joke.

Rob has since made public declarations about his feelings and convictions concerning various subjects near and dear to conservative/orthodox Christianity’s heart. He’s just come down on the opposite side, causing himself to become more estranged and reviled. Rob resigned from his Mars Hill (he’d probably tell us that it was amicable and mutual, but nobody reading this article is that naïve, correct?)

Farewell Rob Bell.

All of this is sad. It would seem that there is a mysterious force assassinating our “Rock Star Preachers.” It used to be that you had to sleep with your secretary, or snort a line of coke to fall from your perch as one of Christianity’s biggest and brightest. Is there any way to keep ones legacy intact in the upper echelon of contemporary Christianity (Joel Osteen fans be thee warned!)?

Well…….let me introduce you to Francis Chan.*

*No really; once at a youth event I had the privilege of introducing Francis to over 2 thousand people. It was a great moment; he’s an awesome guy.

Hello Francis Chan.

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The author of “Crazy Love” a book so simple yet so profound there’s a real chance it may make a practical difference in your life.

A man who has made millions of dollars off of that book……..and he gave it away.

A pastor who had a huge church yet stepped down, of his own will, at his own time, with his legacy intact.

Do you know what he did?

He left to go serve in the inner city of San Francisco. To downsize and to radically give everything he has away, as he strives to live in true accord with the teachings of Scripture.

Francis isn’t perfect and I’m sure he has his faults that those close to him are deeply aware of, yet this guy just might be onto something. He may have realized that the fame, the status and the fortune would eventually devour him.

Perhaps Francis is on to something.

We are too frail to fly that high, the smallest errors can build and if we want to exist as heroes we must live among those we seek to serve. The “Rock Star Pastor” may share similarities with the Tyrannosaurs Rex; they are big, loud and deeply interesting yet ultimately their destiny is extinction.