Archive for February, 2008

The forgotten factor – GOD!

If you’ve been in ministry for ANY period of time, you’ve probably been exposed to the megachurch methodologies of ministry. There are conferences EVERY MONTH that basically say “If you want to reach people, do church this way. Its God’s way of doing church.” There are books and books and seminars and blogs and more books and seminars about how to do church God’s way.

The thing that I find ironic about these books and seminars – AND ThEY ARE NEEDED – is that they don’t talk a lot about PRAYER. I hear the need to be “seeker sensitive” or “outward focused” or “relevant” or “purpose driven” and I even hear about the need for evangelism. I hear about the need for small groups and good worship teams and good leadership – and all of those a EXTRAORDINARILY important to a healthy ministry. But where is the emphasis on prayer and the rightly divided word of God?

Experience has shown me that when we get caught up in the hoopla and best practices, we neglect the BASICS. I’m not saying that these churches and ministries don’t have a HEAVY prayer element to what they do on a regular bassis, I’m confident that they do. But WE rarely get to hear about it. We hear about their best practices, but we rarely hear about THE BEST practice – prayer.

So please let me remind you – PRAYER IS ESSENTIAL TO A HEALTHY, GROWING CHURCH. I’ve been the person focusing so much on strategies and best practices that I forgot to SHOWER everything in prayer. Well, I went back to that and MAN – God showed up HUGE! He did a lot of freeing, confirming and empowering last night. No games, no videos, just a night of prayer and worship to God – HE TOOK OVER! It was awesome that God reminded me that HE is building HIS church.

I love the best practices stuff. One of the books I’m reading is Simple Church. But let us not neglect prayer – its the gas that moves God’s motion.


Go visit Mark Schilling

This weekend I got the chance to meet Mark Schilling. (Why does nearly EVERYONE I connect with in ministry names’ start with “M”? Mike, Marco D, Marco P, Maurice and now Mark! Joel K, is the only person in ministry who I’ve linked with in the last few years who’s name doesn’t start with M!)

Anywho, Mark is the youth pastor at Mt Zion Ministries in Utica, NY – home of the Generation Conference. This guy is INTENSE! His passion for God, people and his family is truly remarkable. His vision for his time in youth ministry outstanding. I hope he blogs about his “Maker-Mission-Mate” vision for his time in youth ministry. Its incredible. And he has a passion to reach, disciple and develop young people for a LIFE of Godliness. Most youth pastors I meet just want kids to be good while they have them, he’s thinking about what will happen in their lives 20 years from now. SWEET!

His fashion sense is pretty good too. I mean, he did the announcements and prayer on Sunday morning with camouflage Chuck Taylor’s with a camoflage belt on and khaki’s. He perfectly plays the line of business casual (the adopted Sunday morning American church code. When did we officially decide on that?) and casual dress. Yes, I notice stuff like that – cuz I dig good fashion. Don’t make that face at the computer screen, you notice stuff like that too! I just have the courage to admit it and blog about it!

The dude’s blog is GREAT. Some great insight on his blog. If you like my blog (and you know you do!) link to Mark’s blog. And LEAVE A COMMENT and tell him Steve sent cha.



Welcome to Utica, NY

Well, I’m back from my weekend excursion to the mighty Utica, NY. The trip was absolutely fantastic. First of all, it was only God that we even got there safely since we drop 5 and a half hours on a COMPLETELY bald tire in the snow across RI, MA and NY. We took care of that bald tire though while in NY. Anywho…

My wife Nichole and I hung out with my guy Mike and his wife Melissa Servello and their two beautiful daughters Guilia and Daniella.

Friday night we went to this restaurant called Rodizio. Here’s how it works. They put rocks -yes actual rocks – on your table with a green stamp on one side and red stamp on the other side. Red means stop, green means go. But stop and go for what you might ask? If you have the green side showing, it means – KEEP BRINGING THE MEAT! And did they bring the MEAT. There was beef cooked in wine and ginger, beef slow cooked, steak tips, scallops and bacon, turkey cooked in banana leaves, chicken wrapped in bacon, ribs and salmon. They put it on a skewer and they just keep on bringing it! They had some sides that were good – but the meat was GREAT! I’m a carnivore.

The night was going smooth, then Mike turned a weird shade of green and stopped eating. It wasn’t the food. It was (what I think was) the flu! So we took a tour of the BEAUTIFUL casino and hotel Turning Stone and Mike got us a tour of the rooms and spa. WOW! They were BOSS! Big Fella style stuff in the rooms. And given the luxury in the room, and given the fact I see prices through a Newport eye, the prices were PRETTY reasonable.

The next day Mike feeling worse AND having to speak at 3 weekend services in 2 days STILL muscled it out and took me to the Baseball Hall of Fame. WOW! I don’t know if I was more impressed with Mike’s willingness to press through his sickness and drive an hour to Cooperstown or with the HOF itself. It was great though.

(this is getting long so I’m going to abbreviate)

Since Mike was sick, we hung out with Mark Schilling (no relation to Curt) on Saturday night. One of the most intense people I’ve met in a long time. And coming from ME, that’s saying something.

We ate some REALLY good food and Mike and Melissa were some of the most giving and gracious hosts we’ve ever had. They were more concerned about US having a good time than they were about Mike feeling better. Talk about putting others first!

I’ll talk more about my trip later to prevent this from becoming a novel. I’ll talk about what I learned, who I met and how I almost ruined my friendship with Mike (he REALLY hates the Red Sox :0) )

Inconvenient Inspiration

Sometimes God’s inspiration comes at inconvenient times. I just had a HEAVY prayer burden hit me about an hour ago that I couldn’t ignore. And that’s awesome, I really love those times of intense prayer. The problem – I’m at my desk at work! I’m trying to make sales and here’s God tugging on my heart something heavy!

Well, its quite alright. I love it. I asked God to use me WHENEVER and I got what I asked for.

When was a time God pulled on you for something at a VERY inconvenient time?

Look like the solution

I heard this quote today and I figured I’d share. Definately some thought snacks.

“If you want to be involved of the lives of people who have been given up on, you have to look like the solution and not the problem.”
-Bill Strickland

Move of the Spirit or Societal Shift?

In the 60’s, we saw the rise of the independant charismatic churches that focused on Jesus as a “personal savior” and looked to give individuals hope. At the same time, we saw the decline of mainline denominational churches that focused on societal change and helping those less fortunate. This created a great split in the American church.

Today, as we see the rise of “missional” and “emergent/emerging” churches focusing on helping those less fortunate and not as much talk of personal hope – but more talk of a unified hope. Parachurch organizations like Feed The Children, Companssion International and World Hunger Fund are seeing more help in recent years than ever before. The Bible says TONS about helping the poor and people are now being reconnected to that truth.

Is this the next “move of the Spirit” or is it a generationally driven societal shift?

I say its the latter. Allow me to explain. In 1993 William Strauss and Neil Howe said in their book Generations that western society swings on a pendulum of an idealistic outlook (selfish, me first outlook) to a Civic outlook (needs of others, group first) every 40 years. These swings, according to them, take 6 years to complete. The last Idealistic swing began in 1963 and ended in 1968. According to their prediction, the Civic outlook swing would have started in 2003 and will conclude this year – 2008. Were they accurate? We’ll let’s take a look:

Every major corporation is focusing more on how they “care” (i.e. CBS Cares, NBA Cares, etc) than how they are #1 in what they do.

Every major corporation is focusing on helping others in their campaign (Target’s “Do Good” campaign where they give 5% of their profits to cahrity, Always tampon’s campaign to give tampon’s to girls in Africa, Starbucks’…well…have you been to Starbuck’s lately?)

PSA’s about giving to the poor or being a big brother(when was the last time you saw a “Say No To Drugs” PSA?)

During the writer’s strike, we actually CARED more for the writers than the studios and we blamed the studios! We cared for the group and our personal satisfaction. In 1999 during the NBA strike, we said the NBA players were “greedy” for wanting a fair cut of their profits. We sided with the filthy stinking rich NBA OWNERS because we just wanted our NBA back on. Remember how long it took for us to forgive MLB for their strike. Hockey fans STILL haven’t recovered from the NHL strike. Attendance is still not what it used to be.

When was the last time we saw an “I want my MTV” type of ad?

People who will NEVER be homosexual care about the possiblity of their civic “right” to be married.

Judging from those things alone, we are definately looking like a civic society and less like an idealistic society. So how does this effect my church? It effects it TREMENDOUSLY! It makes teaching authority a bit tougher. It makes teaching on loving others a lot easier. It makes your church’s inability to respond to the needs of others the reason why your church will be ineffective for the next 40 years! It makes your church’s superiority complex look like the pride it really is – even to the spiritualy inept.

If we are going to reach people where they are, it helps to know how they think. We have wonderful opportunities to connect our society’s civic outlook with the power of the Gospel and make a GIGANTIC difference in the world. Are you rallying the troops around a God-centered cause or are you rallying the troops around their self-centered needs? I hope its the former because that’s our lane to reach the people of our communities for the next 40 years.

The pendulum is swinging, are you ready?

The Love Month

I’m into the 2nd month of my newly created yearly teaching schedule and its been GREAT! So, what would any good youth pastor talk about in the month of February? LOVE of course! But, we’ve taken it from a different angle. We’ve already discussed the love of God in messages leading up to this year. God’s love for us is important and we’ve covered that leading up to Feb. This month, we’ve covered love from a different perspective. A traditional topic in a slight untraditional way.

Week 1 – We talked about loving God. But how do we love God? We always hear “Love God” – Jesus said it was one of the most important things. BUT HOW? Jesus said “if you love me, keep my commandments.” That was a fun message and we had 10 people answer the altar call on that one. It was INCREDIBLE!

Week 2 – “Love U” Do you love…you? The Bible says that we should “love our neighbors as ourselves.” In fact Jesus said its the OTHER most important thing we should do. But what if we don’t love ourselves? How can we love others if we don’t love ourselves? So we took the issue of loving ourselves and spoke to it. We spoke about the things that cause us to love ourselves less and limit our views of self. Then we looked at what scripture had to say about it. WOW!! I’ve NEVER seen our group take THAT many notes during one of my talks.

Week 3 – “What About Them?” Now that we’ve covered loving ourselves, NOW we can talk about loving others. But not just talking about loving them, but ACTUALLY showing how we can love others and putting some feet to what we do about it. I’m looking forward to this one.

Week 4 – “Tattoo” Jesus said that they will know us by the love we have for one another. Love is our defining mark. Love is our TATTOO. To illustrate the point, I’m trying to find a temporary tattoo to cover my entire arm. I would preach while getting a real tattoo, but I can’t think of anything I would want for the rest of my life.

That’s our February. Thought I’d share.

Leaders, what are YOU teaching about this year?

Stuff To Experience in 2008

2008 is full of stuff you can do and enjoy. Here’s a shortlist:

The Awakening Conference – YOUTH PASTORS – If you live in Southern New England you need to take your youth to this outstanding event. I took our youth church last year and it was life changing. If you’re tired of going to youth conferences that create a great atmosphere but all you get when you return are just stories of how “cool” it was – then this is the conference for you! The speakers are dynamic, the worship is great and the leadership sessions are top notch. That’s right, there are sessions specifically to further train and develop your ministry team and team leaders. Go to the website and register TODAY! Yes Rhode Island, good stuff in ministry happens here!

Urban Missionaries – If you like hip-hop music, then you need to download this mixtape. Artists from various Christian hip-hop circles contributed music for this FREE mixtape. It was started by my Sungate Records label mates to have a ministry resource for people. Here is their goal – get some God centered music and distribute it FOR FREE to as many people as possible for the sake of piercing their hearts with the gospel. This is volume 2 they are releasing now. Volume One had over 22,000 downloads in 1 week! That’s right, ONE WEEK! And they have many testimonies about the people who were inspired to go after God because of what they’ve heard. It wasn’t just in the states – they had hits from ALL OVER THE WORLD! Vol. 2 looks to be even better than volume 1. Head over to the site and download the mixtape pronto.

Generation Conference – If you live in Northern New England, NY, NJ or Uzbekestan – you need to SERIOUSLY consider this conference. Name another youth conference that has already had the likes of Ed Young and Joyce Meyer then follow that up with Craig Goeschel and Steven Furtick. Go ahead, name one…I’ll wait …. YOU CAN’T do it. The GenCon is a fanstatic experience for youth and youth leaders and if you can get there, get there. The hosts are humble and care about people. When the core of the conference is God and then people – then the outcome is always lifechanging.

Life Support – My CD called “Life Support” will be out THIS APRIL 2008. You are going to love it! Honestly, the songs that I have leaked on this blog aren’t even the best songs on the album. Those songs are to jabs. You haven’t heard the knockout punches yet. When you hear songs like My Prayer, Hope, After The Pain, Fight To The Wire, Forevermore, Set It Off, Can It Be as well as some of the others – you will be blessed beyond belief.

Just a few things you need to experience in 2008. I hope you will.

STRMW part 3

Here is another scripture that has rocked my world recently. 1st Thessalonians 2:19-20 – Check it out. Paul wrote this to the Thessalonian church about a trip he was prevented from making to see them. Because his trip was stopped (by Satan according to verse 18), he wanted to express how he felt for them in the letter he wrote them. But check out what he says:

19 After all, what gives us hope and joy, and what will be our
proud reward and crown
as we stand before our Lord Jesus when he
returns? It is you! 20 Yes, you are our pride and joy.

WHOA! This scritpure shows me that the people that God has entrusted us with aren’t just people. As leaders in God’s service, the people God has entrusted us with, they are our REWARD! They are our crowns. They are our heavenly jewels.

So to all of you pastors and leaders out there, remember the people under your care are your reward. Not the salary you receive (or don’t receive), not the “excellence awards” you receive, not the magazine covers, not the newspaper articles and not the referals you receive from other pastors. The people are you reward.

So how will you treat your reward? Is your reward currently being treated like the
10th place ribbon you received from Little League Baseball 20 years ago? Or are you treating your reward like the highest thing you can receive? When the kids in your youth ministry act up, do you just say “Well, its their parents problem”? Or do you say “They are my reward and I must do what I can to work with their parents (if possible) to help them lead the full life God intends”?

The people under my care are my rewards from God. That truth, rocked my world.

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