A few weeks ago Mars Hill Church released a free ebook called Puff or Pass: Should Christians Smoke Pot or Not? by Mark Driscoll (click here to read the introduction and download the entire ebook). I don’t remember how I ran across this ebook, but I’m glad I did. With marijuana being legalized in a few states and the probability that we will see that happen in other states as well, I believe it’s important for Christians, especially those of us in church leadership, to have a handle on this issue and be ready to give a solid answer on marijuana. For instance, if marijuana becomes legal in your state, how will you respond when someone ask you what does the Bible say about marijuana? If your answer is “because the Bible says doing marijuana is a sin” than you need to read this ebook. That’s not the best answer and doesn’t address the issue in a way that communicates Biblical principles to someone.
What I loved about this short ebook is the way Driscoll addresses the issue. He doesn’t try to give a quick Bible answer and run from the complexity of questions that may come next, like should it be used for medical purposes. Instead, he addresses the issue with Bible principles, such as drugs harm your body which is the temple of the Holy Spirit and believers shouldn’t be controlled by anything other than the Spirit. However, Driscoll does feel that medical use of marijuana may be permissible (page 36). I personally I’m not sure where I stand on the medical use of marijuana. I believe the recreational use of it is wrong, but need to do more research and thinking before I come to a conclusion on it’s medical use. I appreciate Driscoll’s humility in this book as he explains he is not a medical doctor so he doesn’t feel comfortable discussing the medical benefits.
Two things stood out to me as I read this ebook that make it a book that I highly recommend. First, Driscoll did his research. The whole first part of this book is statistics. Driscoll shares the stats on marijuana from about every angle possible. When we are discussing a topic like this, it’s important to know the facts and Driscoll make sure those are communicated upfront. Second, Driscoll doesn’t just give an answer and run, but he shares multiple viewpoints that exists among evangelicals when it comes to this issue of marijuana. He basically asks two questions: Should marijuana be legal (the legal question) and should Christians use marijuana (the morality question)? To each of these questions Driscoll shares three options most evangelicals take.
I recommend this ebook to every Christian, especially pastors, student pastors, and anyone in church or para-church ministry. It’s a short, easy to read book that you can get through in one setting. To download this ebook for free just go to this post on the Resurgence website.
We are relational beings. We see this in Genesis 2:18 when God says, “It is not good for man to be alone.” We have always been creatures who crave and thrive on relationships. Even in our culture today, we still place relationships as a high priority. This is why relationships are huge in student ministry as well as any other ministry in the church. A student pastor will be foolish to forsake relationships for any other area of ministry. Often times we allow the busyness and work of ministry to keep us from building relationships with those we are in ministry to and with. The more I grow and learn as a leader, I am seeing that there are five major relationships a student pastor MUST work to maintain and grow:
1. His relationship with God. The first relationship a student pastor must maintain and grow is his personal relationship with God. A few weeks ago I wrote a blog post called “The Most Important Part of Student Ministry” that talks about this topic. In that post I said, “I believe, with all my heart, that the most important part of student ministry is the student pastor’s relationship with God.” One of the biggest struggles a student pastor will face is maintaining his relationship with God, but it’s a relationship we must keep number one.
2. His relationship with his family. The second relationship a student pastor must maintain and grow is his relationship with his wife and children. No where in the Bible will you find where God says to put ministry before your family. So many student pastors sacrifice their families on the altar of ministry. Student pastors are called to be pastors at home before the church. I remember watching a Mark Driscoll leadership coaching video awhile back where he talked about famous preachers in the past who neglected their families and where “famous” in the church, but no so famous at home. I would rather be famous at home before I am famous in ministry.
3. His relationship with his leaders. Now we are getting to the student ministry relationships. I purposely put a student pastors relationship with God and family before any ministry relationships because that is the way it should be! Another important relationship a student pastor must maintain and grow is his relationship with his volunteer leaders. A student ministry will not grow and be effective without a group of Godly volunteer leaders to serve alongside the student pastor. Student pastors need to pour into their leaders relationally as much as they can. This will encourage and motivate them as they serve in your ministry. I recently wrote a post about mentoring your leaders that would be worth checking out on this topic (click here to view that post).
4. His relationship with the parents. Being a student pastor is more than just hanging out with teenagers. A student pastor is someone who should come alongside the parents to support, encourage, and equip them as they disciple their children. A student pastor must serve the parents as well as the students. That is why one of the key relationships a student pastor must maintain and grow is his relationship with the parents.
5. His relationship with his students. And then comes the relationship many student pastors put first, which is not a good idea, is his relationship with his students. Building relationships with students if huge! It’s one of the most important parts of being a student pastor. It’s easy as a student pastor to miss this because we are so focused on teaching and building an effective student ministry. Those things are important, but teaching and having an awesome ministry will just allow you to speak at the students. Building a relationship with them will allow you to speak into the students. Students pastors must maintain and grow relationships with their students so their teaching and ministry will truly reach into the hearts of the students.
There may be a few more you could add to this list, but these are the relationships I believe are the most important for students pastors to maintain and grow. Chris Wesley has written a series of blogs on this very same subject. Much of what I have said in this post can be found in his blogs. His blog series on relationships is defiantly something worth checking out (click here to view that blog series).
Yesterday I was able to attend a live streaming of The Elephant Room at Christ Community Chapel in Hudson, OH. If you have never heard of The Elephant Room it is simply where a group of well-known pastors from different backgrounds and church styles come together to talk about the things most church leaders are debating behind closed doors. Elephant Room Round 1 took place last year and I was able to watch the DVD set when it came out. This year I was able to go watch The Elephant Room Round 2 live through a live stream. I cam away from the event yesterday encouraged, convicted, and challenged. It was simple a great event where men who love Jesus and the Gospel came together and put aside their differences to have the conversations we usually have behind closed doors. The amount of unity, love, and respect that was demonstrated by these men was amazing! I wanted to share a few of my favorite quotes and points these men made throughout the day. Before I share the quotes and points, here is a quick run down on the pastors that were a part of the event.
Jack Graham-Pastor of Prestonwood Baptist Church. Has served two terms as president of the Southern Baptist Convention.
Mark Driscoll-Preaching pastor at Mars Hill Church in Seattle.
Steven Furtick-Pastor of Elevation Church in Charlotte, NC.
Crawford Lorritts-Senior Pastor of Fellowship Bible Church in Roswell, GA.
Wayne Cordeiro-Founding Pastor of New Hope Christian Fellowship in Honolulu, Hawaii.
James MacDonald-Pastor of Harvest Bible Chapel and started The Elephant Room.
T.D. Jakes-Senior Pastor of The Potter’s House.
Conversation #1: With a Little Help From My Friend
What is the future of denominations.
“Denominations that do not do missions should go away.” JG
“A denomination is a para church ministry, it should come along side local churches.” JG
“A lot of money is being given, but is work being done?” MD
“Are we going to be kingdom builders or empire builders?” WC
“Don’t take overseas what you are not doing locally.” JG
“We are not trying to be Calvinists, we are trying to be evangelists.” MD
Conversation #2: Can’t Buy Me Love
What essentials should be part of the Gospel presentation.
“Sharing the message creatively is not watering it down.” SF
“God has called me to preach the Gospel, not critique it.” SF
“Preaching is sharing truth through personality.” JM
“If people meet Jesus, is there a wrong way to do that?” MD
“It’s easier to be a critic than a preacher.” MD
Conversation #3: A Hards Day Night
How can a pastor handle the pressures of ministry and burnout.
“Everyone is susceptible to burnout.” WC
“What fuels you on the inside can destroy you on the outside.” WC
“Pastors dont forget their pastors, they forget they are human.” WC
“The Devil cannot steal your ministry so he steals the joy of your ministry.” WC
“The Devil cant push you off the ledge, but he will try to do something that will make you jump.” WC
“You cannot critique what you have not seen.” TJ
“I try and have relationships that complete me not compete with me.” TJ
“Your wife should be your number one accountability person.” JG
“Your identity is not your ministry.” MD
Conversation #4: Ticket to Ride
What are the “majors” of Christian doctrine that we must agree on.
“The nature of God is a mystery.” MD
“None of our books on the Godhead will be on sale in heaven.” TJ
“Stumbling to explain God is worship.” TJ
“If we dont do a better job at communicating we will not survive.” TJ
Conversation #5: Come Together
How do we pursue racial harmony in the church.
“The way to get the walls down is to tear off the roof” JG
“I believe some churches are dead, and should be dead, because they are full of hate.” JG
“When I know you, I can love you.” JG
“You can’t integrate your ministry until you integrate your life.” TJ
“The church is not doing as good as the world is doing with integration.” TJ
“We serve a God who challenges us to be uncomfortable.” TJ
“The lack of moral courage in the church is appalling.” CL
“If you are serious about being used by God, you must understand God is bigger than you.” TJ
Conversation #6: Help
What do we do when a pastor or church leader fails morally?
“I’m a steward of the integrity of the church and the message.” CL
“When we confront others over sin, there should be tears in our soul.” CL
“It’s not only confession that heals, but repentance.” WC
“A mans marriage will go silent before it goes south” JM
“You can tell a lot about a mans marriage from the countenance of his wife.” JM
“Restoration to fellowship is different than restoration to leadership.” JM
“I have never talked to someone who has failed morally that was not consistent in his time with the Lord.” CL
“Ministry is not a right, it is a privilege.” JM
“It’s not about the messenger, its about the message.” JM
Conversation #7: We Can Work on It
What responsibilities do we have to local pastors who exist outside our theological boundaries, but within the body of Christ?
“I’m still fired up about the doctrines, I’m just not angry about it.” JM
“People say they are defending the Gospel, but they really are just being crappy friends.” SF
Recently my fiancee and I traveled from Ohio down to North Carolina to spend this Christmas with my family. One of the things we always do on long trips is listen to sermons from preachers we both like. On this trip we decided to listen to a Perry Noble sermon and a Matt Chandler sermon. Both were great, but the sermon from Matt Chandler was just what I needed! I want to share with you the main points of the sermon and hope it ministers to you as it did me.
The sermon was called “Dealing with Doubt.” If we were all honest, we would admit that sometime in our Christian life we have struggled with doubt. Either something has caused us to question the reality of our salvation or the assurance of it. To be honest, this is one of the “thorns in my flesh.” Doubt is an issue that from time to time I struggle with and if I am not careful, it becomes a sin that the enemy uses to distract me. I was encouraged by Matt Chandler’s honesty in this sermon as he shared that he struggles with doubt from time to time as well.
In this sermon, Matt Chandler addresses three areas where doubt comes from. He then ends the sermon with some principles to examine if you truly have saving faith or not. I want to share the three areas then give my own principle that will help us examine if we have saving faith or not.
1. You really are not Christian. One reason a person may doubt is simply because they are not truly a born-again Christian. They may “profess” to being a Christian, but that is not enough! Matthew 7:22-23 says that many will stand before God one day and profess His name and even say they did things in His name, but sadly God will tell them He never really knew them. There is a big different between knowing about God and personally knowing Him in a relationship. James 2:19 tells us that even the demons believe there is a God! One reason many doubt their salvation is because they profess it, but do not truly possess it.
2. Uncertainty of God’s affection for you. Many Christians struggle with doubt because they forget that God loves them unconditionally. We received Christ’s righteousness at the point of salvation, but we start to live the Christian life in our own righteousness. So we start to see the Christian life as a checklist and a list of things we can do and things we cannot do. The problem is we are sinners, and we still sin and do those things we shouldn’t do. So what happens is that we start to doubt and every time we sin we doubt if God really loves us. When we doubt that God loves us and if we are truly saved, we are looking at the cross of Christ and telling God He must show us something better for us to believe He loves us. God showed His love for us by sending Jesus to die for us (Romans 5:8). Not only did He die for us, but we have been given His righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:21). We now stand justified before God (Romans 3:24).
3. You are walking in sin. I believe this is the main reason Christians struggle with doubt. Many struggle with doubt because the are walking in unconfessed, unrepentant sin. When a Christian is walking in unconfessed sin they are miserable! Just read Psalm 32 and see how David felt when he did not confess his sin. When we are walking in unconfessed we cant see God clearly and we cant see His love clearly. Because of this we doubt our salvation. The good thing about this is that God has given us a way out of this situation. Because Christ already paid for all of our sin on the cross, we can confess and repent when we do sin which restores our fellowship with God (1 John 1:9). Many people doubt their salvation because they are out of fellowship with God, they are not confessing and repenting of sin. In his book, Doctrine, Mark Driscoll reminds us that repentance is a gift to the Christian. Christians, don’t forsake the gift of repentance. When you sin, confess and repent quickly!
I want to take a step away from Matt Chandler’s sermon now and share with you one simple idea that I believe can help us identify if we truly have saving faith or not. I believe your life indicates whether or not you have true saving faith. What I mean by this is that your life, since you became a Christian, should tell you that your are a true Christian. There should be spiritual growth, changes, and conviction of sin. If things like this are not seen in your life it is probably an indication that you are not a true Christian. I’m not talking about perfection. As a Christian, you will sin and may have times when you turn your back on God, but the overall picture of your life will be growth, change, and God working in your life.
Matt Chandler is lead pastor of The Village Church in TX. You can download their preaching podcast here and listen to all of Matt Chandler’s sermons. I would encourage you to listen Matt Chandler’s sermons as well as the other pastors at The Village Church.
Nearly three quarters of students (72%) have consumed alcohol (more than just a few sips) by the end of high school, and more than a third (37%) have done so by eighth grade.
Among underage drinkers (ages 12-20), 30.8% paid for the alcohol the last time they drank – including 8.3% who purchased the alcohol themselves and 22.3% who gave money to someone else to purchase it. Among those who did not pay for the alcohol they drank, 37.4% got it from an unrelated person of legal drinking age; 21.1% received it from a parent, guardian, or other adult family member.
High school students, and Jr. high students, are involved in alcohol. If you are a student pastor than you have students in your youth group that are faced with the pressure to drink or are currently drinking. Parents, your children are either faced with the pressure to drink or are currently drinking. In many churches, and families, the method we use to keep students away from alcohol is this: don’t drink, it’s sin! I, personally, do not drink and believe it is best to stay away from it. But just telling students to not drink because it is sin does not work! In his book, Youth Ministry by the Book, Roger Glidewell correctly states that “We cannot just lay down ironclad rules and expect that to suffice. Young people need to be equipped with principles behind the rules that will guide them in the gray areas of life.” So how should we teach our students about alcohol?
Teach students that underage drinking is breaking the law. Even if you are on the social drinking side of this issue, we all know that if you are under the age 21 it is against the law for you to drink. We need to teach our students that God expects us, and commands us, to obey the laws. In Romans 13:1-7, the Bible makes it clear that God has placed governing authorities over us to in force laws. In that passage it says that if we disobey those laws we are actually disobeying God. Students don’t need to learn that underage drinking is against the law and disobeying that law is actually disobedience towards God.
Teach students that in most circumstances it is not wise. I personally abstain from drinking not because I believe it’s a sin to drink, but because I believe it is not wise. I believe this is the approach we need to take when teaching students. Throughout the Bible we see that leaders are told to abstain from alcohol because it is not wise and we see that we should abstain if it will cause a fellow believer to stumble. Students will be better equipped to deal with the pressure to drink if we teach that it is not wise instead of jumping the gun and telling them to not do it because it’s sin. John Piper said, “Alcohol is deadly in our culture.” I agree with Piper and believe students need to know it is simply not wise.
Be careful teaching students it is a sin. Through study, research, and thinking I do not believe drinking is a sin. I don’t see anywhere in Scripture we drinking is called sin. I do see where Scripture makes it clear being drunk is a sin. I don’t believe drinking is a “deal breaker” and should cause division between Christians. I do ministry alongside many who believe drinking is ok in moderation and I do ministry along side people who think it is straight up sin. If your study of Scripture and research leads you to believing drinking is a sin than you should hold to that conviction. But do not hold that conviction on others. Don’t teach students your conviction, teach students the Scriptures!
My aim in this post is not to cause controversy or division. All I am saying is that telling students “Don’t drink, it’s sin” does not work well. We must teach and equip them with principles that will guide them to their own personal conviction based on Scripture. Here is a helpful video where John Piper explains how drinking can be wrong, but is not sin in and of itself.
Helpful links on this subject: Mark Driscoll on Alcohol, John Piper on Total Abstinence and Church Membership, and another great John Piper video on this subject.