Books I’ve Read Recently

416dXgd3D-L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_A Call to Resurgence by Mark DriscollMark Driscoll is one of my favorite writers. I usually try and read his books when they come out so when I heard about this one awhile back I knew I needed to grab a copy. I’m very glad I did. A Call to Resurgence is an interesting book in that Driscoll covers a lot of ground. Everything from surveying modern culture, tribalism, sexuality, the Holy Spirit, and more. Much of what Driscoll writes is nothing new. It’s stuff he has been saying via speaking and writing for years. However, the timing of this book is perfect. Our culture is rapidly changing and become more and more anti-Christian. With that wave coming and coming fast, we as Christians need not to run in fear, but hold tight to what we believe and move forward with the life-changing truth of the Gospel. That is what Driscoll calls for in this book. He reminds us of where we have been as a culture and where we are going, but more importantly reminds Christians what we believe and what God calls us to be and do. In Driscoll words the book is “for those ready to dig in and hang on…this book is an unflinching look at what we’re up against and what it will take to not just survive but to thrive and accomplish the mission God has given us to extend a hand of rescue to those drowning all around us. It is a call not of retreat but to resurgence” (page 29).

51x7FWCw3GL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_The Judgment Seat of Christ by Samuel HoytOne of my favorite topics to study when it comes to eschatology (the study of end times) is the judgment seat of Christ. However, not many books have been written specifically on the judgment seat of Christ. Most of the time it is simply just given a section within a systematic theology book. Hoyt even points out that “the doctrine of the judgment seat of Christ often has been denied or relegated to minimal consideration under the subject of a general judgment” (page 13). He furthers explain this idea of a general judgment in chapter 2 of this book where he explains the proponents of this theory “believe that there will be one final judgement at the consummation of the world. At this time all people of all ages, both believers and unbelievers, will be simultaneously resurrected and judged. At this event the righteous will receive reward and the unrighteous will be condemned to eternal punishment” (page 17). However, the Bible speaks much about different future judgments and is clear that believers will one day stand at the judgment seat of Christ. Hoyt writes this book to support the judgment seat of Christ and give the reader a thorough understanding of what the Bible says about it. He does everything from explain the historical background of what was going on when Biblical writers like Paul mentioned the judgment seat of Christ. He also explains the nature, purpose, extent, and rewards of the judgment seat of Christ. The thesis that Hoyt sticks to throughout this book is “the judgment seat of Christ is a most solemn evaluation at which there will be no judicial condemnation, nor will there be any judicial punishment for the believer’s sins, whether confessed or unconfessed, but rather commendation according to the faithfulness of the Christian’s life” (page 15). Throughout this book Hoyt supports that thesis with solid Biblical research and exegesis. If you want to learn more about the judgment seat of Christ than I recommend this book.

51fCiUYnbiL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Disciples Are Made Not Born by Walter HenrichsenThis is a book that was originally published in 1974, but is still a very good read for Christians today. The whole idea of this book is discipleship. Henrichsen spends the first part of this book talking about what it means to be a disciple of Jesus. In the second part of the book Henrichsen talks about how Christians should share the Gospel and disciple others. He explains how Christians should practice evangelism and then help those they reach with the Gospel start to grow in their faith. Chapter by chapter, he goes through certain topics and things Christians needs to communicate to newer Christians in order to help them grow. This part of the book is extremely practical and contains a ton of great points on discipling new Christians. This is a short book that I recommend to anyone who is interested in becoming a more fully devoted follower of Jesus and want to help others follow Him as well.

Up next on my reading list is Gospel by J.D. Greear and Paul, the Spirit, and the People of God by Gordon Fee.

2014-2015 Student Ministry Calendar

I like creating calendars for my students and their parents. It gives them something to save on their computer or hang on their refrigerator to remind them of what’s happening in our student ministry. We always create one that covers the summer months (June-August) and one that covers the school year (September-May). I am also blessed to work at a church that has a great graphics team that can help put together good looking calendars. Below is the calendar for this coming school year.

2014-2015 Stow Student Min Calendar

Guest Post: Big Impact in a Small Ministry

10341619_10152567387914365_579703700949541727_nMost student ministries in America could accurately be classified as “small.” A small ministry always comes with a particular set of challenges. If you’re in a small ministry context, I’m sure you ask some of the same questions I do, “How will we afford this?” or “How will we have enough leaders for that event?” Some believe that a small ministry is destined to have a small impact, but I disagree. I believe with thoughtful planning, intentional networking, and above all the work of the Holy Spirit, a SMALL ministry is capable of having a BIG impact. Here are a few points I believe will help make this happen:

Plan strategically, instead of “on the fly.” Within a small ministry context, resources will be limited. This is a given. But just because resources are in limited supply doesn’t mean that you don’t have any! Whether that’s a budget, facilities, or workers, everyone has something and often times the pivotal question is, “What is the best way we can use what we have for what we want to accomplish?” One practical step to using resources wisely is planning ahead! Don’t settle by living on a week-to-week schedule, claiming your just “going with the flow” or that you’re just trying “to be led by the Holy Spirit.” Instead, think about what you want to do and why you want to do it months before you actually do it! This will give you time to develop a game plan of how you will effectively make an impact in the lives of your students.

Partner with other ministries, instead of doing it all by yourself. In our ministry, roughly half of our calendar events take place with other student ministries in our area. Partnering with other like-minded ministries is something we have found incredibly valuable. This allows you to expand your resources, provide larger (and often more affordable) events, as well as develop vital ministry partnerships. Through ministry partnerships, we do events we would never be able to do on our own! Seek to tap into a student ministry network in your area if you haven’t already, or if there isn’t one, maybe you should start one! Developing ministry partnerships provides leverage for everyone that is involved. Partner to help your ministry flourish, and to help the ministries you partner with flourish along with you.

Push through the obstacles, and get to work. When you’re in a small ministry context, it’s easy to get frustrated, complain, and quit striving for excellence. When you can’t get volunteers to sign-up, the youth room gets flooded, or some of your students randomly stop attending, it’s easy to get discouraged. I know this from experience, and the first couple of months of my current ministry were some of the most discouraging days I’d ever experienced. But when you feel this way, remember what God has called you to. Remember He has chosen you to be at this church with these students to impact their lives with the good news of Jesus Christ! That alone is worth pushing through the obstacles, and making your ministry the best it can be by the grace of God for the glory of God. If you’re doing something and it’s clearly not working, try something else! One of the advantages of a small ministry is flexibility. Make your ministry the best you can with what you have available. Don’t defeat yourself up-front by making excuses regarding your budget, youth workers, meeting space, exc. God is not limited to these kinds of factors, and He can choose to move in your ministry in ways you’ve never dreamed. I challenge you to believe that. Don’t just believe it about other ministries, but believe it about your ministry. Believe that in your youth group, students will have their lives changed forever. Believe you will see students meet Jesus, and students become more like Jesus because of God’s work in your ministry.

This is God’s work, not ours, and what a privilege it is that He would call us to such a ministry as He has. No matter the size of your ministry, give it every last thing you’ve got, because Jesus demands nothing less. There’s no time like the present to start making positive changes, and there’s no better time than right now to expect God will do great things in your student ministry.

Mark Etheridge is the Student Pastor of Mt. Olive Baptist Church in Pittsboro, NC. He is also a student at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, NC. Mark is passionate about reaching the next generation with the life-changing message of Jesus. He lives in Wake Forest, NC. You can connect with Mark on Twitter @MarkCEtheridge.

Sobrr – Another App Parents Need to Know About

Sobrr-Life-in-the-moment-598x326Parents need to know what apps their teens are using on their smartphones. One of the apps that I have been telling parents about is Snapchat. Snapchat is one of the most popular apps out there right now for teens and parents need to know how it works and what some of the dangers are with it (click here to read about Snapchat). By the way, the whole idea behind Snapchat is not good. If you don’t believe me, click here and read this helpful article.

But that’s enough about Snapchat. There is a new app that just came out called Sobrr, which may gain popularity with teens shortly. It’s an interesting app that to teenagers will sound fun and exciting, but in the long run is not very healthy.

Sobrr is an app that is built on the whole idea of “living in the moment.” Sobrr basically does three major things. First, Sobrr users “vibe in the moment.” Vibes are basically things you and others post (what they call “moments”). Then you scroll through the current vibes to see what others are posting and can either “cheer” (same idea as a “like” on Facebook) or “pass.” The catch though is everything expires in 24 hours. So what you post and what others are posting will be gone in 24 hours. Completely gone. Second, Sobrr users can have “24 hour friendships.” Yep, you read it right, temporary friendships that last for 24 hours. However, if both people enjoyed their “24 hour friendship” they can choose to stay friends, but only if they both choose to do so. Third, Sobrr users can have “ephermal conversations.” Sobrr chatting is a one-time chat experience. You must read it before it expires. What’s the point of this? Sobrr says it “keeps the conversations free and in the moment.” You can click here to check out the Sobrr website and read more about it as well as watch a short video about it.

Why do parents need to be aware of Sobrr? It seems fun and not harmful. However, when you really step back and think about what this app is all about it’s not really that healthy for teenagers. A few things stand out to me about this app parents need to think about. First, Sobrr (much like Snaptchat) opens the door for teens to get involved in sexting. Sexting has gained a lot of popularity among teens because of apps like Snapchat (and of course because of texting) and Sobrr will do the same thing in making sexting easier and more accessible for teens. Because of the one-time chat feature and the fact things you say will expire, teens will be more likely to say things they wouldn’t in person or even in a normal online chatting session. Second, Sobrr cheapens real community. We are designed to be in relationships with other people. Community is necessary for us in how we have been designed. Sobrr redefines what friendships look like by making them just a 24 hour experience. Third, Sobrr will give teens a false sense of no accountability. In their minds, things they say and do on Sobrr will disappear in 24 hours so why would they think about using discernment or even hold back in what they do. However, parents, especially Christian parents, should realize this is not true. Even though what they do may disappear in 24 hours they will still give an account for it before God one day. In Romans 14:12, Paul reminds us, “So then each of us will give an account of himself to God” (ESV).

Parents, check out Sobrr. Don’t just take my word for it. Research the app yourself and talk to your teen about it if it comes up. Don’t just let your teen use apps like Sobrr without knowing about it first or having a conversation with them. You may even decide to not let them use this app at all.

Guest Post: Reflecting on 10 Years in Youth Ministry

1937455_10152259120917467_914258351961040144_nIt’s hard to believe that it’s been 10 years already doing ministry with students. It does not really feel like it’s been that long, but certain things remind me that it’s been a while. I never would have dreamed that I would be hiring staff on my team that I had as a student in 7th grade (especially one I didn’t think would live to see 8th grade). There is also noticeably less hair on my head than 10 years ago (probably caused by that same 7th grade punk/now colleague).

I am still learning, but one thing I do know is that youth ministry is hard so I can understand why so many youth workers just do not last. To be honest, there are days I have wanted to quit…but that’s usually when I am focused on the wrong things. But I do know that when I focus on the right things, God has done inconceivably more than I could ask or imagine. Here are 3!

It’s About a Calling. Ministry is too hard to just see it as a job. It’s a calling from God. I sensed God’s call to youth ministry in high school, but that may have had more to do with how cool it sounded to get paid eat pizza, play dodge ball, and go on ski trips. The call became more clear about 2 years into actually doing the ministry. Someone in our church approached me and said, “It feels good, doesn’t it?” I said, “What feels good?” He said, “Doing exactly what God made you to do.” That was true. Don’t get me wrong, it doesn’t always feel warm and fuzzy. There are trouble kids that make you crazy, disappointed parents, all-nighters (not a fan), hurting families, dirty jobs, and so many reasons why youth pastors leave early. You know you are called when you face those challenging times and get up the next day wanting to keep going. God has put the gifts, passions, and personality in me to use me in this ministry. It’s not just a job, it’s a calling from God.

It’s About the Gospel. If it were not for my utter dependence on the truth of Jesus Christ found in the storyline of the Bible, I would never last. As a matter of fact, I would have never started. I was not evening looking for Jesus, but He was looking for me. You see, I understand that the debt I owe because of my sin is too great for me to possibly pay back on my own, but God loved me so much that He gave me Jesus, to pay the debt of my sin so that I could be in the relationship with God that He created me for. Believing that truth takes me from death to life. As a youth pastor, I need Jesus more than the air I breathe, and so I preach it to students like there is no tomorrow. The Gospel keeps me going. Without it, I am just a glorified church babysitter to keep students busy and entertained.

It’s About the Students. Since it’s all about the gospel, then it’s also about students knowing the gospel. To last, you need to love students. Students aren’t always likeable, but they can always be lovable. I have always tried to remember that Jesus thought each student was worth dying for. That’s love. Because I know the gospel, I try to see students not just for the mess that they are, but for who they can become in Christ. In 10 years, I have seen some pretty broken students do some amazing things for God because they grasped His love for them. It’s those stories that keep me going.

There are probably other little secrets and practical tips, but so far it boils down to those 3 things. My ministry has really just begun. I am only scratching the surface of what God can do, and I hope that I always feel that way.   God’s grace on my life is abundant to save me and even consider using me in ministry!

Todd Iannetta is the student ministries pastor at Christ Community Chapel, a multi-site church in Northeast Ohio. Todd oversees the student ministry and staff across all four campuses. Visit his blog or follow him on twitter.