Books I’ve Read Recently

gospelGospel by JD Greear. This book has been on my reading list for a while. I decided to go ahead and read it in preparation for a teaching series I was doing with my students on the gospel. What I found was not only a helpful book for shaping and writing that series, but a book that challenged me personally and helped me go deeper in my love and understanding of the gospel. Greear says, “The gospel is the announcement that God has reconciled us to Himself by sending His Son Jesus to die as a substitute for our sins, and that all who repent and believe have eternal life in Him. I want you to see the gospel not only as a means by which you get into heaven, but as the driving force behind every single moment of your life” (page 5). This books helps Christians understand that the gospel is everything. “The gospel is not merely the diving board off which you jumped into the pool of Christianity,” says Greear, “the gospel is the pool itself” (page 248). The book is centered around what Geear calls “The Gospel Prayer.” It’s a tool Geear says helps him saturate himself in the gospel. He spends the majority of the book walking the reader through that prayer and helping them understand the implications of the gospel on their life. I really enjoyed chapter 8, which was on generosity. Geear does an excellent job at explaining what the relationship should be like between a gospel-centered believer and money. It was both a challenging and refreshing chapter to read. I’ve always enjoyed Greear books and would recommend this one to everyone who wants to go deeper in their love and understanding of the gospel.

HoleInHolinessBookCoverThe Hole in Our Holiness by Kevin DeYoung. I read my first book by DeYoung not long ago so I was excited to grab a copy of this book and give it a read. I also really enjoy reading, discussing, and studying the topic of personal holiness in the Christian life, which is what this book is about.  DeYoung spends the first chapter of this book surveying the landscape of holiness within Christianity today. He states there is a “gap between our love for the gospel and our love for godliness” (page 21). At first, I wasn’t sure if I agreed with DeYoung or not. But the deeper I got into this book the more I saw what he was pointing to. An intentional, disciplined pursuit of holiness is not a major theme in Christianity today. I have even seen this tread in my own Christian life at times. In this book, DeYoung urges the Christian to pursue holiness and make it a priority in their life. DeYoung keeps the gospel and Biblical teaching at the center of this encouragement. This was a short, easy to read book and God used it to help give me a better understanding of my relationship with holiness as a Christian.

41N8edp473L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_The Other Preacher in Lynchburg by John KillingerI have always been fascinated with reading and researching the life and ministry of Jerry Falwell Sr. Even though I don’t agree with all the things he did, I have great respect for his love for God and his boldness to do great things for God while he was on this earth. His legacy can been clearly seen in Liberty University and Thomas Road Baptist Church, both located in Lynchburg, VA. I ran across this book a few years ago on amazon and just now got around to reading it. I was excited to read a book about Falwell and his endeavors in Lynchburg through the eyes of another pastor that was in town during Fallwell’s prime. If you do any research on Killinger, you will quickly find him and Falwell were on very different sides of major issues regarding Christianity. However, this book isn’t necessarily focused on the theological differences of Killinger and Falwell, even though that obviously came up a few times, but more on what it was like for Killinger as a pastor doing ministry in the same town as Falwell. The book covers Killinger’s time both in Lynchburg and his time after moving away from Lynchburg to take another ministry position in Los Angles. This was very interesting book that made me appreciate Falwell even more, but at the same time scratch my head and wonder why he did some of the things he did.

Doing Student Ministry in a Shared Space

chairstackNot all student ministries have their own space to meet. If you’re a student pastor that serves in a ministry that has their own space this post is not for you. Instead, this is a post for those of us who meet in a shared space. In my current position, our student ministries, both middle school and high school, meet in a shared space. Our facility has a room called the “Big Room” (we didn’t get too creative obviously) that is specificity designed for our Sunday worship services. However, it is also designed to be easily used for other events and things including our mid-week student ministry gatherings.

Not only in my current ministry, but in many of the ministries I have served in previously were ministries that met in shared spaces. Because of this I have learned a thing or two about doing student ministry in a shared space. It’s not just about making the space appropriate for your students, it’s also about respecting other ministries and doing what you can with what you have been given. Here are three important things to remember when doing student ministry in a shared space.

1. Make your stuff portable. I have met a lot of student pastors that don’t purchase or use certain things in their ministries because they meet in a shared space. Don’t let meeting in a shared space keep you from getting stuff that makes your student ministry effective and attractive. All you need to do is make sure your stuff is portable. For example, we have a ping-pong table, flat screen TV with a Wii, check in station, and more that is all portable. When we are not using the space, all our stuff it is all in a storage area. I have also been involved in ministries that have had portables stages, sound equipment, and other media/tech stuff. Meeting in a shared space doesn’t mean you can’t have certain things (big or small) that help make your ministry attractive and effective, it just means you need to think “portable.”

2. Make sure to do a good job cleaning up. One of the best things you can do as a student pastor who uses a shared space is to make sure you clean up after your ministry uses that space. Don’t be the student guy who leaves a mess hoping the facilities guy will clean it up. Don’t hold back when your using the space. Use it to the best of your abilities and make a rocking space for your students. However, put in the same amount of energy cleaning up as you do making the space “your own.” Coach up your leaders (and student leaders) in this area. Have them help you clean up after your program is over. Whatever you do, excel in this area. Your pastor will appreciate it, the facilities guy will appreciate it, and God will appreciate it as strive to be a good steward of the space He has allowed you to do ministry.

3. Compromise with other ministries. For me this is the hardest part about doing student ministry in a shared space. It’s tough at times to not be able to do certain things because it might interfere or mess with the space too much, which will affect other ministries. But remember other ministries are having to do the same for you. For example, our student ministry meets in the same space we have our Sunday worship services. There is a ton of expensive things in that room. From multiple projectors, audio equipment, and stage lights, there are a lot of things in that room that can be broken and will cost our church a ton of money to fix or replace. Because of that, there are certain games I’d love to do with our students (especially the middle school students) that I can’t do. At first I didn’t like that, but after talking to other leaders in other ministries that use that space and oversee much of that equipment that is in that room, I have come to be ok with compromise. I’ve also learned the things you usually have to compromise on with a shared space are not the most important things. It’s usually things like games and how the area is set up. All good stuff that is important to effective student ministry, but they are not deal breakers. Effective student ministry can still be done. The important things like community and Biblical teaching can be done no matter what the space is like and no matter what you can or cannot do. Learn to compromise with the other ministries that may use that space.

These are just some simple things I have learned with doing student ministry in a shared space. I am planning to do a follow-up post with pictures of our shared space and how tweak it to make it fit our student ministry. Look for that post soon.

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.