12.15.14

12 Keys to a More Powerful Prayer Life  by Rick Warren

http://pastors.com/12-keys-powerful-prayer-life/

Years ago, an old saint shared with me twelve prayer principles from the life of Jesus Christ. It made such a difference in my personal prayer life. There are only 17 references to Jesus praying and most of them are in the book of Luke.

1.  The principle of ILLUMINATION.

Luke 3:21-22 says, “When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized too.  And as He was praying, heaven opened and the Holy Spirit descended upon Him in bodily form like a dove.  And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are My Son whom I love.  With You I am well pleased.”  The setting here was Jesus’ baptism and this is the first recorded example of Jesus’ praying and we see in the book of Luke three results of His praying.

  • Heaven opened up.
  • The Holy Spirit came down.
  • The Father spoke.

These are three results when we make contact with God in our prayers. Symbolically, heaven opens up and we receive God’s blessing. The Holy Spirit fills our lives afresh. And the Father speaks to us. If you’d like to know the Spirit’s power in your life, if you’d like God to speak to you, you must practice the prayer life of Jesus.

2.  The principle of ISOLATION.

Luke 5:16 says, “Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.” “Often” means it was His habit. He did it in places where He was all by Himself. I believe this is absolutely essential. We need to spend time alone with God everyday. Jesus returned again and again to a lonely place. Find that place where you can get alone with God, where you can be isolated and pray aloud and let God speak to you.

3.  The principle of CONCENTRATION. Continue reading

12.15.14

10 Facts About America’s Churchless  by Barna Group

https://www.barna.org/barna-update/culture/698-10-facts-about-america-s-churchless#.VIx0jsbeu2o

December 10, 2014—Fewer Americans are attending church. So, who are these new churchless Americans? Are there significant demographic or psychographic differences among those who attend church and those who don’t?

Since 1984, Barna Group has collected data and provided insight about the intersection of faith and culture, including exploring the behaviors and attitudes of those unconnected to churches. During the past three decades, Barna has conducted tens of thousands of interviews with unchurched people. Based on those interviews and the resulting “tracking data,” here are 10 facts about the “churchless” in America.

1. The number of unchurched people in America would make the 8th most populous country in the world.
As of 2014, the estimated number of people in the U.S. who Barna Group would define as “churchless”—meaning they have not attended a Christian church service, other than a special event such as a wedding or a funeral, at any time during the past six months—stands at 114 million. Add to that the roughly 42 million children and teenagers who are unchurched and you have 156 million U.S. residents who are not engaged with a Christian church. To put that in context, if all those unchurched people were a separate nation, it would be the eighth most populous country in the world, trailing only China, India, Indonesia, Brazil, Pakistan, Bangladesh and the remaining churched public of the United States (159 million).

2. In the past decade, more people in the U.S. have become churchless than live in Australia or Canada.
Barna tracking research has seen significant shifts in church involvement over the past decade. During that time, the number of adults who are unchurched has increased by more than 30%. This is an increase of 38 million individuals—that’s more people than live in Canada or Australia.

3. The vast majority of America’s churchless have attended a church.
Very few of America’s unchurched adults are purely unchurched—most of them, rather, are de-churched. Only about one-quarter of unchurched adults (23%) has never attended a Christian church at any time in his or her life, other than for a special service such as a wedding or funeral ceremony (though this number is on the rise; in 1993, only 15% of unchurched adults had never been connected to a church). The majority of unchurched individuals (76%) have firsthand experience with one or more Christian churches and, based on that sampling, have decided they can better use their time in other ways.

4. While the churchless are primarily men, the percentage of women in their ranks is on the rise.
It remains true that churchless people are somewhat more likely to be men than women (54% of the churched are men, compared to 46% of the churched), but the gap is not huge and has been steadily closing. For instance, in 1994, 58% of the unchurched were men. That percentage reached 60% in 2003 before it began consistently declining, until stabilizing the last few years around the current level. In other words, the gap between men and women has plummeted from 20 points in 2003 to just 8 points currently.

5. The unchurched in America tend to be less educated than the churched.
While it may seem counterintuitive to some, the unchurched tend to have completed fewer years of formal education. But again, the gap is not huge: 50% of the unchurched have gone no further than high school graduation, compared to 45% of the churched. Overall, 22% of the churchless have completed a four-year college degree, only slightly less than the 26% among the churched.

6. The Pacific Coast is home to the largest percentage of churchless per capita.
Geographically, there is a separation of just a few percentage points among the churched and unchurched. The biggest gap is found in the Pacific Coast states, where residents comprise 20 percent of the nation’s unchurched and 14 percent of the churched. The average gap between the churched and unchurched in all nine U.S. Census regions is only 2.5 percentage points.

7. The unchurched are more likely to be unmarried.
Among the unchurched, less than half (44%) are married, while the number is closer to six out of 10 among the churched. A greater proportion of the unchurched (29%) than the churched (22%) has never been married. Unchurched adults are also about four times more likely to be cohabiting than the churched (11% and 3%, respectively). Both groups are equally likely to be divorced, separated or widowed.

8. The younger a person is, the less likely he or she is to attend church.
While it’s true there is a generation gap among the churched and unchurched, the difference is not as dramatic as you might expect. Among the churched population, Millennials (born 1984-2002) make up 11%, Gen X-ers (1965-1983) are 33%, Boomers (1946-1964) make up 35%, and Elders (born in 1945 or earlier) make up 22%. Among the unchurched, the percentages skew slightly younger: Millennials make up 15%, Gen X-ers are 36%, Boomers are 33% and Elders are only 16%. However, the actual gap is only a few years (a median of 47 years among the unchurched, compared to 51 among the churched).

9. Unchurched adults are more likely to be white.
The ethnic and racial distinctions that once separated the churched and the unchurched are less substantial than they once were. However, it is still true that the unchurched are more likely to be white than are the churched. Overall, 70% of the unchurched in America are white, 12% are Hispanic, 10% are black and 6% are Asian. Among the churched population, 65% are white, 14% are Hispanic, 16% are black, and 4% are Asian.

10. The majority of the churchless in America claim Christianity as their faith.
When asked to identify their faith beliefs, 62% of unchurched adults consider themselves Christians. Most of the churchless in America—contrary to what one might believe—do not disdain Christianity nor desire to belittle it or tear it down. Many of them remain culturally tied to Christianity and are significantly interested in it. More than one-third (34%), for example, would describe themselves as “deeply spiritual.” Four in ten (41%) “strongly agree” that their religious faith is very important in their life today. More than half (51%) are actively seeking something better spiritually than they have experienced to date. One-third (33%) say they have an active relationship with God that influences their life and are most likely to describe that relationship as “important to me” (95%), “satisfying” (90%) and “growing deeper” (73%)—only one in six (16%) would describe it as “shallow.”

Behind the Trends
“Unchurched adults are very much like churched adults … except they don’t attend church,” says David Kinnaman, who served as a general editor alongside George Barna in the recent book Churchless, from which this data is taken. “While a few of the demographic differences between churched and unchurched are statistically significant, there is no such thing as a can’t-miss strategy for appealing to them. In fact, the data uncover so many similarities between churched and unchurched people that we have to conclude that a number of the stereotypes about both groups are not valid.

“The fact remains, though, that more Americans than ever are not attending church,” Kinnaman continues. “Most of them did at some point and, for one reason or another, decided not to continue. This fact should motivate church leaders and attenders to examine how to make appropriate changes—not for the sake of enhancing attendance numbers but to address the lack of life transformation that would attract more people to remain an active part.”

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12.15.14

Why College Campuses Need to Start a New Sexual Revolution  by John Stonestreet

To paraphrase the old professor in C. S. Lewis’s “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe,” what do they teach students in college these days?
We’re now seeing the consequences of the boozy, out-of control hook-up culture on college campuses. From wild allegations of gang rapes at the University of Virginia to Yale’s infamous “sex week,” to the kangaroo courts that can get students accused of rape booted off campus without due process, it seems like undergrads are learning more about “rape culture” and sexual consent than they are philosophy or mathematics.
All in all, according to David French, a senior counsel at the American Center for Law and Justice, “The only thing that’s truly clear about the raging sexual-assault controversies on campus is that it’s a royal mess.”
And that’s an understatement. Here’s what Heather Mac Donald, the Thomas W. Smith fellow at the Manhattan Institute, writing in The Weekly Standard, says: “Sexual liberation is having a nervous breakdown on college campuses.” She adds, “It is impossible to overstate the growing weirdness of the college sex scene.”

Continue reading

12.15.14

Roundtable Discussion on Issues Related to Sexuality  by Art Bramford (Fuller Youth Ministry – 4 Different Discussions)

Via Media X2: Responding to Pornography

Because the research on sex, social media, and young people is complicated, we’re tackling some of these tougher issues by asking several thoughtful ministry leaders to join us for a roundtable discussion (read their bios here). In this first installment of our roundtable, we’ll be discussing how to help parents and leaders address the issue of online pornography.

Fuller Youth Institute (FYI): In dealing with the issue of porn, a lot of the advice given to parents seems to lean towards either total prohibition (e.g. how to get your child to never view porn), or the need to accept it as inevitable—young men are doing this so we need to emphasize restricting their viewing as much as possible. We’re wondering how you negotiate between those two perspectives, and what advice you might share?

Mike Park: Part of the reality of having an adolescent is that it’s almost impossible to regulate all the content they might be viewing, particularly outside the home. Even if they don’t have access to porn at home, that doesn’t mean they’ll never be exposed to it. I encourage parents to create safeguards and boundaries inside the home (keep the computer in an open area, utilize Internet security software, etc.) but also to help their son or daughter to make good choices when (and not if) they get confronted with porn or anything else that is harmful or destructive.

Billy Jack Blankenship: Most of my interactions are with older teens and emerging adults on college campuses. I will say that the ease and multiple ways students can access pornography is simply overwhelming. We need to stop pretending that parental control is a true option—if a student wants to view porn, they can.

I think it is valid to acknowledge that it is a normal, natural thing to be drawn to such overt sexual content. But that being said, settling for “well, it is inevitable” is also falling short of our responsibility of raising healthy adults in this area of their lives. While teens have such easy and multifaceted ways to access porn, it doesn’t mean they have to look, or fixate on it, or even have to want to look.

Adam McLane: I wouldn’t say I fall in the inevitability category, but I do fall in the grace category. Even a casual user of the Internet is going to stumble upon (accidentally or purposefully) porn. In our house the rule is simple: no one, parents included, may use an Internet-connected device in a private space of the house.

Brad Howell: I like to suggest a different model of thinking along the lines of what Adam has described—that the Internet is public space. By embracing this mental model, connected devices do not belong in private spaces, such as bedrooms.

Of course this doesn’t solve everything, but the benefit to kids is that it helps them learn how to navigate in a world that desperately wants porn to be normative.

I think the claims of universal porn use among young men (and its growing acceptance and use among young women) primarily serves porn producers who want to normalize it, and organizations that profit from scaring parents. Neither serve our youth.

FYI: Regarding the ubiquitous nature of X-rated content, one of the popular solutions we hear about are content filters and blockers. The effectiveness of these is debatable and they can raise trust issues between parents and teens. Weigh the pros and cons for us based on your experience with teens and parents.

Matt: I think you could say that much of the role for parents is knowing how, what, and when to “filter” and “content block” the world on behalf of our children. I’m not sure why doing this electronically would be a different issue. However, if buying a filter is a way for parents to feel like they’ve addressed a problem while avoiding actually talking about sex and sexuality with their children, then filters and blockers are much less helpful.

Adam: Filters are useful for one thing and one thing only: accidentally stumbling upon porn. That being said, we don’t use them in our house and I discourage others to because when a person buys a tool to parent for them or instead of them, it never works. If your teenager (or an adult) wants to look at porn, a filter isn’t going to stop them.

Mike: Like most preventative measures, filters and blockers work best when introduced early so that they become a regular part of a child’s Internet experience at home. Young people are naturally going to be curious and resist boundaries and guardrails, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be in place. If Internet filters create a tension due to lack of trust, it may be symptomatic of a deeper issue that goes beyond just Internet use. But a filter can’t be seen as the end-all-be-all solution. It’s a safeguard, but it can only do so much.

Brad: As awkward as it is, families need to talk through what protections make sense for your household. Unilaterally slapping teens with blockers frustrates teens and reduces family solidarity.

FYI: Good point. We assume that young people are happy to stumble upon some of this content, but researchers have found that many do not like it at all. It makes them extremely uncomfortable.

Brad: It is easy for adults to fail to realize how many Internet-enabled devices young people actually own. As kids get older, the importance of negotiating any filters and devices increases for all of us. 

Stay tuned for our next post in which our guests will talk specifically about how to include young women when we talk as families and ministries about porn and how it affects the Body of Christ.

http://fulleryouthinstitute.org/blog/viamedia-x2#sthash.IluqP6J3.dpuf

Continue reading

12.08.14

5 Tools Needed to Reach Today’s Teens  by Cameron Cole

http://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/5-tools-needed-to-reach-todays-teens

I have ministered to adolescents for eleven years, eight of them as a youth minister. Based on my conversations with kids and observations in the culture, I consider these five theological tools essential for parents, pastors, and youth ministers hoping to minister effectively to today’s teens. Continue reading

12.08.14

Inside the Teenage Mind: Sex, School and Social Media  by A. Polowski

http://www.today.com/parents/inside-teenage-mind-sex-school-social-media-2D11687778

The transition from childhood to adulthood has never been easy. This is the time to rebel, discover love, ponder the future and watch your body change.

But today’s teenagers are facing many issues their parents couldn’t imagine, with social media changing the game in dramatic ways.

Imagine never asking someone out or being asked out on a date in person, with all the invitations coming via Facebook or texts on your phone.

Think about going to school in a world where everything is public, so finding out who is doing drugs, who is having sex and who is the target of bullies is just a matter of logging on to your favorite social network.

In TODAY’s special series, “Inside the Teenage Mind,” which kicked off on Tuesday, correspondent Jenna Bush Hager sat down with 10 teens, ranging in age from 13 to 17, to find out how they navigate peer pressure, drugs, alcohol and sex. TODAY is withholding their last names.

“Teens face issues that are a lot different from 20 or 30 years ago and our lives are a lot different from our parents,” Luis said.

Cyberbullying was on the minds of many teens. Some of them noted there’s no escape from the mean comments, with hurtful messages arriving on their phones whether they were at school or at home.

“If someone said, like, ‘Go kill yourself,’ you can just read those words over and over,” one of the girls explained.

But some things never change. Many of the kids said they feel pressure to have sex, do drugs and fit in – issues that would sound familiar to previous generations.

When Hager asked the teens whether they have ever been offered drugs, all of them raised their hands. Some of their peers even post photos of themselves online while “smoking weed,” Carter said.

Meanwhile, there’s lots of emphasis on wearing the right clothes and looking a certain way if you want to be popular, especially for girls.

“To be, like, super-skinny and have big boobs and have this and have that. Or have straight hair or wear UGG boots and skinny jeans,” Camille noted.

“Girls are supposed to have a thigh gap… everyone’s obsessed with the thigh gap.”

Then, there’s pressure from schools and parents to do well academically.

“I feel like schools are so obsessed with the grade and not what kids are actually learning,” Luis said.

“People feel so much pressure to cheat these days,” Jeremy added.

The TODAY anchors called the conversation eye-opening, with new mom Hager proclaiming she has many years to get ready for her baby’s teen years… but is already scared about what’s to come.

Here is a link to the 6 minute video: http://www.today.com/parents/inside-teenage-mind-sex-school-social-media-2D11687778

12.08.14

No Time for Youth Group  by Doug Franklin

https://www.leadertreks.org/no-time-youth-group/

“My students don’t have time for youth group.” I hear this everywhere I go. Students are so busy these days with athletics or music or student office or some other extracurricular, they feel like they don’t have time to go to church and connect with other students who love Christ.

A high school student’s calendar isn’t like a menu at a fine restaurant, with a limited selection of appetizers, entrées, and desserts: “Okay, I have three blocks of time during my week. How will I fill each slot of time?” It’s more like a food court, with venders fighting for exclusive ownership of each student’s commitment. When students enter high school as freshmen, they choose a single extracurricular that will drain the bulk of their free time. At that point, all other activities are thrown out the window. A few overachievers will pick multiple extracurriculars, but as they get older and each commitment demands more, they will drop their secondary activities one by one.

Where does youth group fit in? For many, youth group just can’t keep up with the competition. It doesn’t offer the camaraderie or popularity of sports. It doesn’t look as good on a resume as student government. And it doesn’t lead to college scholarships like theater, band, orchestra, or choir. So youth group ends up on the cutting room floor. How can youth group compete in this food court battleground? How can you convince students to cram youth group into overstuffed schedules? At the most basic level, this is an issue of prioritization—for parents, for students, and for you. Here are a few practical ways to make youth group a priority. Continue reading

12.08.14

7 Reasons Your Teenagers Are Not Sharing Their Faith More Often  by Greg Stier

http://pastors.com/7-reasons-teenagers-arent-sharing-faith-often/

1. Because you’re doing it for them.

Think “outreach” in youth ministry and we automatically think “event.” The words go together like “dodge” and “ball“. The challenge is that our teenagers themselves are our biggest outreach “event“. Because the average teenager has around 400 online and face-to-face friends they must be inspired, equipped and unleashed to engage them in Gospel conversations. Think about that for a moment, the average teenager has more friends than the average youth room can hold! But we have an almost irrepressible appetite for doing outreach events instead of mobilizing our teenagers to be the outreach event.

To make the switch we must turn from quarterbacks to coaches. Instead of just “Hey kids bring your friends out and watch me throw the touchdown throw of salvation in their lives” we must equip them to bring the “J” word up with their own peers. Of course, outreach events are fine and good and needed from time to time. But if they are replacing, rather than enhancing, our teenagers’ personal evangelism efforts then they are limiting our true outreach effectiveness.

2. They don’t understand the urgency.

When’s the last time you talked about the reality of hell with your teenagers? Yes, that’s right, hell. Of the 12 times the word “hell” is mentioned in the New Testament 11 are mentioned by Jesus himself. Perhaps the scariest story in all of the Bible is the story of the rich man and Lazarus. In Luke 16:19-31 Jesus paints a picture of eternity in hell in terrifying colors. Was he using scare tactics? Of course he was! In the same way a dad uses scare tactics on their four year old child who is chasing a ball toward a busy street at rush hour.

It’s out of love that Jesus “scares” us with what is at stake for those who are lost. And, of course, we want to motivate teenagers to share the good news of Jesus to their lost friends, not just because of the hell they are headed to but because of the “hell” they are going through apart from Jesus Christ. Jesus himself was clearly motivated by this himself in Matthew 9:36, “When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” Continue reading

12.01.14

7 Reasons to Practice Your Sermon Verbally  by Nicholas McDonald

http://scribblepreach.com/2014/12/01/7-reasons-to-practice-your-sermon-verbally/

Before about a year ago, I used to practice my sermons verbally about half the time. For whatever reason, “practicing” a sermon seemed somehow less spiritual than going with the flow on Sunday morning.

But now, I do it every week.

Why? Because I’ve simply found that it’s an act of love toward those who will listen on Sunday morning. Here’s why: Continue reading

12.01.14

Why We Need the Whole Counsel of Scripture by Randy Alcorn

http://www.epm.org/blog/2014/Dec/1/whole-counsel-scripture#ixzz3Kfy7NemL

I once spoke to eighty college students about a sensitive theological question: “Can true Christians lose their salvation?” First, I asked them to commit themselves to a yes or no answer. I separated them, according to their answers, on opposite sides of the room, breaking them up into small groups.

Next I gave everyone a handout featuring twenty passages of Scripture. After reading these aloud, the students were to discuss in their groups and decide: “If these were the only Scripture passages I had, would I answer the question yes or no?”

Tensions rose. On both sides of the room, students looked confused, and some were angry. Continue reading