Raising the Bar

I recently wrote a book review of John Piper’s new book Bloodlines and in that review I said it was a book that changed the way I view how the Gospel relates to all areas of life, especially racism. After reading Bloodlines I decided to read Raising the Bar by Alvin Reid. This book also changed my thinking, but about student ministry. I got this book awhile back, but have not been able to read it. There hasn’t been many student ministry books that have impacted me like this book did! After reading this book, my excitement and passion for student ministry as grown and I feel more prepared to disciple and reach students with the Gospel.

It is no surprise that modern student ministry has failed to produce life-long disciples of Christ. Sadly, most students leave the church and their faith after they graduate high school and leave our youth groups. In Raising the Bar, Reid pleads with student pastors and parents to raise the bar for our students. Kristin, age 17, says, “We know how to be teenagers. We want the church to show us how to be adults.” This quote is mentioned numerous times throughout the book and it sums up the basis on this book. It is time for students pastors to raise the bar and start training students to be adults who own their faith and become life-long followers of Christ.

Reid breaks this book down into two parts: Test Time: Does Youth Ministry Pass? and Reinventing Youth Ministry. In part one, Reid begins by explaining who modern student ministry is reaching: the millennials. Then he spends a few chapters talking about how we should expect more from students and from history, especially Biblical history, we know that students are capable of doing great things for God! In a recent blog post I shared about how God usually chooses younger people to be leaders and do great things for Him (Click here to see that post). Reid then ends part one with a discussion on the Jesus movement that swept our nation in the 70’s. This was my favorite part of the first part of this book. I never really learned about the Jesus movement and Reid helped me understand how most modern ministry finds its roots in the movement. Throughout part one, Reid doesn’t bash student ministry all together, but he does point out how it has failed. That is why it is time to raise the bar in student ministry.

In part two, Reid talks about how we should raise the bar and what do we raise it to. Reid gives four main areas were we must raise the bar in student ministry: prayer, Bible knowledge, evangelism, and worship. Instead of going through each of these and sharing Reid’s thoughts, I want to point out the two that was most helpful to me. First, evangelism is one area I personally struggle with. Because of that, I need to be intentional and push myself to grow in this area so my students can learn from me. Reid talks about how evangelism is exciting for students! Students want to share their faith, but they need instruction and an example from the adults above them. Second, I was extremely encouraged by the Bible knowledge part. For far too long, student ministry has been about “behavior modification” rather than teaching theology from God’s Word that changes belief. Right belief based on God’s Word, will bring about right behavior. Reid talks about how student pastors need to be well-trained in Biblical history, language, and theology so we can train students to be life-long followers of Christ! Student pastors should be trained just as well as a senior pastor!

I encourage anyone involved in student ministry to read as much student ministry related books possible. But if there is a book you MUST read it is this one! This book will help you understand why student ministry needs to raise the bar and do better than what we have done in the past. It’s a great read that will challenge you personally and the ministry God has put you over. Go on over to Amazon and grab you a copy of Raising the Bar by Alvin Reid.

Book Review: Bloodlines

Recently I wrote a blog post called “My Thoughts on Interracial Marriage” which created some great feedback. In that post, I recommended John Piper’s new book Bloodlines. At the time I had not read it, but was hoping to get it for Christmas so I could read it and review it here on my blog. I did end up getting it for Christmas and just finished reading it.

Growing up in the South I heard my far share of racism and I am guilty being pretty racist myself growing up. I was told interracial marriage is sin and God does not intend for whites to marry blacks. Whenever you saw a black person your mind automatically went prejudice and stereotyped them of being “up to know good.” I am grateful that over the years as I have grown in my faith and have a greater understanding of the Gospel, God has rid my of this mindset. I know do not believe interracial is sin because the Bible says nothing against it. Honestly, I believe we should promote interracial because it shows the Gospel and I believe living in diversity is honoring to Christ. My fear is that many Christians, especially in the South, still struggle with racism deep down and even though they might not say it outwardly, they still need the Gospel to rid them of any prejudice they might have deep down.

In Bloodlines, Piper breaks the book down to two parts: Our World: The Need for the Gospel and God’s Word: The Power of the Gospel. He spends the first part of the book sharing his story of growing up in the South and how he has gotten past the racism of his younger years. He also talks about how his church, Bethlehem Baptist, is in the middle of extreme cultural diversity and how he wants his church to be diverse. Then he spends some time dealing with how we have tried to bring racial harmony and how there is only one thing that will bring it about: the Gospel of Jesus Christ!

The second part of the book is where it gets really good! Now that Piper has stated the only thing that will bring racial harmony is the Gospel, he spends the rest of the book explaining the Gospel and how the blood of Christ goes beyond races. God sent His son to save souls and bring about one race: those who have accepted Jesus. If you have a bone to pick with Calvinists and the TULIP theology than this part of the book might not be fun for you. I, personally, lean heavily towards reformed theology so have no problem with this. I believe Piper does a great job, through reformed theology, to show how the Gospel should destroy racism in our life’s and how we are one in Christ. Apart of the Gospel, we cannot and will not have racial harmony!

I think everyone who embraces the Gospel of Christ should read this book. Piper shows us how a correct understanding and out working of the Gospel brings change to social issues, like racism, that we fight in our world. This book will change the way you view social issues in light of the Gospel and will help you understand why pursuing racial harmony is glorifying to God. It will be worth your time and money to pick up a copy of this book and read it.

Other John Piper books I have read and would recommend: Don’t Waste Your Life, Think, and Spectacular Sins.

My Thoughts on the Church and Interracial Marriage

The other day I was scrolling through Facebook and saw this status posted by one of my friends:

A church banned inter-racial couples……hmmm, and we wonder why so many non-christians look at ‘christians’ the way they do….so sad.

I wanted to see what all this was about for myself so I googled it and found that in fact a church in Kentucky did ban interracial couples from being a part of their church. I would recommend you read that article entitled “Small Kentucky Church Bans Interracial Couples” so you know where I’m coming from in this post (just click the article title and it will take you to it). Also, click here to read another article on this same situation. After reading the article and thinking about the whole issue I want to share my thoughts on it.

No where in the Bible does God say interracial marriage is wrong. The people who are against interracial marriage will go to several passages in the Old Testament where God tells people not to marry others in different countries or people groups. It is a huge leap to go from these verses and then say interracial marriage is wrong. Nowhere in the New Testament does God say couples cannot marriage other races. I’m not saying the Old Testament is not profitable for us today. I believe the whole Bible (Old and New Testament) are profitable and God’s inspired Word for us today. What I am saying is that there are things in the Old Testament that does not apply to us in this dispensation. It is dangerous when the church starts to set standards and rules in place that are found nowhere in Scripture. Some other popular issues that people stand against and say are “sin” when it’s not taught that way in Scripture is dancing, drinking, Bible translation, and styles of worship. Don’t make things wrong or a sin if the Bible doesn’t.

The Gospel is seen in interracial marriage. God loves diversity! We serve a God who loves diversity because it shows how marvelous and awesome He is! I believe an interracial couple shows the Gospel very well. In God’s eyes there are no races, just humans that He loves and desires to have a relationship with through His Son Jesus. I believe God sees humans in only two groups: His children and His enemies. The Bible is clear that a unsaved person is an enemy of God (Romans 5:10), but once they accept the free gift of salvation they become a child of God (John 1:12). In Christ there are no racial, ethnic, or social distinctions, the ground is level at the foot of the cross. In Galatians 3:28 Paul says it this way:

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus (ESV)

In Christ we are all the same! So why can’t a white Christian man marry a black Christian women? It’s unbiblical and stupid to say they cannot! The Bible doesn’t say it’s wrong! The only kind of marriage God makes clear through the Scripture we should not support is marriage between a believer and a non-believer (2 Corinthians 6:14).

I have been blessed to be around many Christians who are interracial couples and when I look at the love between them I see the Gospel. It’s encouraging and I wish more Christians we see that interracial marriage is not unbiblical and because our God is a diverse God it shows His unmatchless love and the wonder of the Gospel!

Here is a quick video that is worth watching on this subject. In this video John Piper explains why pastors should bless interracial marriages. If your not a pastor, still watch this and learn why you should bless interracial marriages as well.

Recommended things on this subject: John Piper’s book Bloodlines, “Racial Harmony and Interracial Marriage” sermon by John Piper, and “Can’t Afford to be Color Blind” video with John Piper.