At YWAM – Day 2

Today started out really difficult, and ended up really sweet.  I really had a hard time dragging myself to prayer, and to be honest I didn’t feel like I got that much out of it.  I went back afterward to take a nap (which was great).

This afternoon I got to tour the base, meet a lot of awesome people, and see many of the amazing ministries that are packed into this little city.  I can’t believe how many world-changing ministries are right here almost within walking distance.  Part of teen challenge is here, one of the biggest YWAM bases, Mercy Ships, Teen Mania, Keith Green’s ministry was here, and probably some others I am forgetting.  YWAM’s facility here is huuuge.

Then I got to meet with Chad, Jeff, Jack, and Andy Adam who are a part of the SSL SST program.  For any Grace Revolution people who read this, you will get to know the SSL SST program very, very well.  It was an amazing plan of God to meet with these guys.  I hope he has a lot in store for this.  It is my great prayer that He does.

Just now my fire alarm started going off.  I have no idea why.  It wasn’t any other rooms, just mine.  I had just gotten out of the shower, and it must’ve been the heat.  Scotty ended up coming over here, and he happened to be one of the bigwigs in YWAM over church planting.  He is in charge of the church planting in a whole slew of South Asian countries.  We had a chance to talk and pray.  His good friend was there and he is a member of the Tyler Vineyard.

Here is some video from the day.

My apologies to Adam and SST for getting the names wrong.  I was pretty tired when I wrote that.

At YWAM

I am spending part of this week at Youth With A Mission (YWAM) in Tyler, Texas. I was invited by The Thorstad family, who moved here to work with YWAM from our church. I am going to be blogging (both text and video) about my experience. As always, I blog for me, and any of you who’d like to come along are welcome to. 🙂

Yesterday was awesome. I got to spend some great time with Dean and Cecilia (and their girls) both hanging out and talking about things related to our relationships, both with people and with God. It was a great time.

But just as great was the worship service last night. Dr. Lee spoke. He is a Korean who is the Vice President at Mongolia University in (you guessed it) Mongolia.

This soft spoken man told many stories that were very powerful. One in particular told of how he was really seeking the Lord on what to do about a situation. He heard a sound like a terrible groaning and weeping. He said, “God, you are too great and powerful to weep, why would you do this?” (He said this in a raised accusatory fashion)

He heard the Lord’s answer, “Weep with me.” That was his answer. That is all God wanted him to do. Weep. If he could get the Lord’s heart for these people and their brokenness, then he would understand. It was very powerful to me.

The whole thing was really about following the will of God. He asked the question, which was very impacting to me, “Is there anything in your life which seems bigger than the will of God?” Hmmm. He also talked about how the American Church seems so fat and happy, and yet, we are often missing the true will of God. He told about a church in Indonesia that is praying 24/7 (literally) for revival in the American Church.

I was really left with the feeling that we (myself included) miss the will of God so often. We don’t see Him do powerful things because we are not truly looking, not truly seeking.

Here is some video from the day

A Great Communicator -part 4

This is the fourth and final part in a brief series on communication as part of the very quality of God and His Kingdom. It is also a clarion call to that Kingdom to become excellent at this vital issue, the very thing we were made for. You can find part one in the series here.

When people don’t see what we are doing as vital in their lives (and I mean everything from a church picnic to a Sunday sermon) then they begin to look at church services and events as religious duties performed by the faithful, but having little real meaning or import.  They actually begin to view these times as something that must be endured, often primarily in order to maintain their fellowship with the people in the church.

This premise is held up by statistics.  Our young adults are leaving the Church in record numbers.  The reason that they list for this boils down to the fact that they don’t see Church as being something vital and essential in their lives.  These statistics are addressed in both The Essential Church by Thom and Sam Rainer, and Simple Church by Thom Rainer and Eric Geiger.  These 18-30 year-olds are not leaving randomly.  They are leaving after fellowship in their church is interrupted by going off to college, graduating youth group, and a change in job schedule.  Put simply, people are leaving Church when they are unable to maintain fellowship with the people they are close to in their church, because they don’t see the other functions of the Church as being important to their lives.

We cannot believe that the other functions of Church are not essential, but maybe we are making it seem that way.  Our fellowship seems to be very good.  In all of this, I am suggesting a deep examination of our communication styles, methods, and practice.  Then based on that, we should endeavor to be the world’s foremost experts in communicating.  Our pulpits should be studied and taught as the model of how to best share, motivate, and inspire.  It is not just a good idea, it is our mandate. –Ryan

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Thoughts from my Birthday

Yesterday was my birthday.  Typically, people enjoy their birthdays, I think.  In recent years I have been increasingly becoming quite the birthday party-pooper.  I can’t exactly put my finger on what it is that makes me feel so un-festive on October 1st.  There could be a bunch of reasons, and perhaps many of them work together to make me a little bit gloomy and highly introspective.  I feel a combination of wanting to huddle up in a ball behind the washer and dryer like some sickly cat, and wanting people to gather around me and make me feel loved.  I endure it with a relatively normal look on my face.  I do enjoy the love that people show me, for sure though.

One of the things I’ve dealt with over the last couple years is the knowledge that I’m not getting any younger.  When I was younger I dreamed that I would accomplish all manner of amazing things.  These weren’t just selfish ambitions, but godly Kingdom goals too.  But now the older I get, I see people around me who are my role models, and I realize that by my age, they had already accomplished much more than I.  Some of them are now even younger than I am.  It is starting to feel like that moment in a football game where you realize that there just isn’t enough time to score the three touchdowns you need in order to win, even if you keep the other side from doing anything.  You start to have those thoughts of forced turnovers and onside kicks, but you also really wonder if it is all possible.  Yeah, I know that I’m being overly dramatic, but I already told you that I’m in that sort of mood.  It is my birthday.  Indulge me a little.

When I got home from Barnes and Noble, Peichi was waiting for me with some dinner and a mixed drink that she had made, and cupcakes she had just baked to top it all off.  She is very good to me sometimes.  I felt loved.

As I was eating, she pulled out a milk carton.  I’m lactose intolerant, which means that I can only drink lactose-free milk that just happens to cost twice as much as regular milk.  She showed me the expiration date, a day in late August, a whole month ago.  I’m bad with those kinds of things.  I’ll be in the grocery store and see something on sale, and thinking that my frugal spouse will be proud of me, I’ll buy two.  The problem starts when I forget to actually eat or drink said product.  I’ll put it in the fridge.  It will slowly move to the back as I reach for other things and just put them in front.  Two months later, she’ll pull out an expired milk carton, half full of milk, half full of a green ecosystem complete with Greenpeace activists demanding it be declared a protected environment.

I smiled nonchalantly and continued to eat.  The date stared back at me, boring a hole in my forehead.  As I ate, I realize that sometimes I feel a bit like that milk carton.  I look back on my year and realize that some of who I am has just sat on the shelf.  Some of my gifts have just not been used.

Just like that milk, I have an expiration date.  We all do.  It isn’t known, but it is definitely stamped on our foreheads in some ink we can’t see, but it is indelible.  We are also filled up with gifts, dreams, passions, and all manner of good stuff.   When we can’t use these in the way God intended, they just sit there and slosh around inside of us.  I think that is why Proverbs 13:12 says “hope deferred makes the heart grow sick, but longing fulfilled is a tree of life.”  I was meant for those hopes, gifts, and passions to be used for God and His kingdom.

I don’t believe that I’m sitting on the shelf, but as I sat on my birthday I realized that I have so much more to give.  God put things in me that I want to be used for Him this year.  I can’t put the blame for this on anyone but myself.  The possibilities are endless, and ultimately any blame for my shelf-ishness (see I just made a ridiculous pun) is my own.  But I know I don’t want things in me to sit on the shelf for another year turning green.  I never know when time for me, just like it did for that milk, may have passed. -Ryan

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The Vineyard Southwest Church Planting Conference

I just wanted to share a bit about the conference I spent most of the weekend at.  Pastor Bob, Andy Rodriguez, and I went down to the Houston area.  Like a lot of these things, there was some really good “watermellon” to eat, and a bit of seeds to spit out, if you catch my metaphor.  It did help me, in that it really illuminated the road blocks that still stand in my way of making a church plant happen.  My prayer is that God would show me the answer to these roadblocks and clarify.

Here is a little bit of what Bert Waggoner (Vineyard USA National Director) had to say on Friday night.  It was a really great message.

A Brief Update

I’ve taken a brief hiatus from blogging, due to the two craziest weeks in recent memory. After the conference in Galveston, I have had a house guest, a Mother’s Day sermon, the biggest youth event of the year, some big changes to our church program, a house guest, twice as much work for the youth group, a coffee house at church, and did I mention a house guest?

There were other things too, but these were the most pressing.

In the middle of all of this, I decided that blogging was just one of those activities that I had to put on hold. I also have a mountain of laundry (some still packed from my Galveston trip). Next week things will slow down again, and it will be back to the regularly scheduled program.

In the meantime, enjoy this Video Infection:

Semi-Liveblogging the VNC (Session 3)

Tonight I have to admit that I wasn’t expecting too much.  Don Williams was speaking, and I’ve heard him quite a bit in VLI.  Don’t get me wrong, I love Don Williams.  He is obviously brilliant.  He has an amazing heart for God.  My experience has been that he rambles a bit, and it is sometimes hard to follow him.

He blew my expectations out of the water.

He spoke about the Holy Spirit.  He showed how the ministry of the Holy Spirit to us and in our ministry is biblical, indespensible, and powerful.  He told his testimony of encountering the Holy Spirit.  He read the testimonies of famous modern Christian leaders in the same regard.  He was funny.  He was clear.  He was short.  Yes, that is right.  He didn’t talk for an hour.

Then he asked us for the people under 35 to come forward to receive a filling of the Holy Spirit.  They did a similar thing at the last conference.  I went forward.

Just as an aside, I don’t know what it is due to, but there is a huge difference in the age demographics between this conference and the last one in Anaheim.  Last time the building was full of rapidly graying hair, bald spots, Hawaiian shirts, and creatively secured Bermuda shorts.  There was a smattering of under 40’s, but it was clear who was in charge.

This time was clearly different.  It was trendy shirts, spiked hair, and tattoos.  The under 40’s were large and in charge.  We are energized.  We are networking.  The Hawaaian shirts are smiling, but I suspect that is from fear (j/k).  There is a definite sense of passing the baton.  This was my big prayer last time.  Now, we just need to not forget that the Hawaiian shirts have a lot of wisdom and experience.  They are godly men and women we can learn a lot from.  The tattoos bug me a bit though, I must admit.

So back to Tuesday night: I stood there for a long time, just waiting on God.  I really felt the Holy Spirit early on, and I was bursting with laughter.  Not the kind of laughter that is at something funny, just a bubbling up from joy kind of thing.  I can’t really explain it.  What I do know is that everyone around me was weeping, and I was laughing…that is so me.  But then I realized that people could feel that I was laughing at them.  So I tried to stifle the laugh.  I stood there shaking as I held it in.  But I knew God wasn’t done with me.

As I stood there I had the growing sense of being totally alone.  I am not going to go too much into this (I’m probably sharing too much anyway), but this is a feeling beneath the surface that I’ve always had.  Sometimes I feel totally alone no matter who is around me and what they say.  Other times, it is not so bad.  Lately I think I am in a season where this is more of a reality anyway, so I think it has been bubbling under the surface for quite some time.  I can’t always identify it, but it has been there.

I began to weep.  People prayed for me.  I wept harder.  More people prayed.  I wept harder still.  Finally, a pastor from Philadelphia named Paul came, and he asked me what I was feeling.  I told him.  He prayed for me with power.  I felt the Holy Spirit ministering to me, and touching my soul in a way I haven’t felt in a while.  I am very thankful for him.

I’d like to say I spoke in tongues as I rolled on the floor in the Spirit (OK, maybe I wouldn’t like that, really) but I didn’t.  I think last night was just a time for God to minister to my heart.

Semi-Liveblogging the VNC 2:00

I just attended the seminar on Growing Your Chruch in Times of Change.  Here are my thoughts:

His stuff was really good, except for a mathmatically flawed example about triangles.

He started by saying that it was important to settle the issue that God wants your church to grow.  This is a real issue, and one that I feel we don’t focus on enough.  God wants us to multiply.  I really feel that we need to set a goal at Grace to multiply our Sunday morning service.  He intimated that this was a good thing to do.  Frankly, as long as there is anyone in Arlington who isn’t in a vital and growing relationship with Jesus, we shouldn’t stop growing.

He said that statistically most people only have 60 relationships within their church.  If the church is only 60 people, then they know everybody.  If the church is over 60, they might say this, but in reality they don’t know any less people.  They might say “I don’t know anybody anymore,” but in reality what they mean is “I don’t know everyone anymore.”  There could be two reasons for this:
1- They don’t have the influence within the church that they used to have.
2- They are looking for meaningful relationships.  In this case they need to be connected to a vital small group.

Never use the word “divide.”  Always use the word “multiply.”  Oops!

This was a big one for me, and one I will be instituting even more:  “Never do any ministry without bringing someone with you to learn how to do what you are doing!”  In the past, I have often said, always ask “What am I doing that someone else could do?”  I think this is better, and is my new paradigm for youth ministry.

As an aside, he said that they have recently asked the question, “What does it mean to be a follower of Christ?”  This has led them to formulate 3 commitments that someone at their church should have: 1-A commitment to Christ; 2-A commitment to the Church; 3-A commitment to the cause [of the Church].

I think that last one may be the topic for my sermon on Sunday.  I’ll know better as the week progresses.