It’s About the Call – Mark 1:16-20

It has been almost a year since I started working at Harvest Time, and recently I was thinking back to where I was a year ago. I’ve come a long way! A year ago, I was working at a daycare, I wasn’t in ministry, and I was living in a low-income based apartment with two of my friends from college. I remember when I talked with Pastor Glenn for the first time about ministry and about the college age students at the church, and I remember preparing to visit the Northeast.

It is weird to think that it has been almost a year since I left that life I knew behind.

It has been quite an interesting year. Not only did I start a ministry from scratch, but I also had issues concerning my personal life right after I moved here… oh yeah, did I mention I moved across the country? I packed up everything I owned and went to a place I had only experienced in a weekend. It was stressful and one of the most nerve-racking moments of my life. I just remember in the fall having a constant feeling of stress and anxiety because of everything I was going through.

New ministry. New friends. A new life.

Sometimes I forget that following Jesus has a cost. I know that I am where God wants me to be, but sometimes it is hard. Sometimes I don’t want to be in Connecticut. I want to be in Ohio or Oklahoma with my family, or in Missouri with my friends.

Sometimes following Jesus has a cost, and when we are down or feeling worn out, we need to remember that we are called by God.

Mark 1:16-20 – “16 Passing alongside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew the brother of Simon casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. 17 And Jesus said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men.” 18 And immediately they left their nets and followed him. 19 And going on a little farther, he saw James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, who were in their boat mending the nets. 20 And immediately he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants and followed him.”

Jesus was revolutionary in how different his calling was, and he is extraordinary in how different his calling still is.

Jesus’ call is different in who he calls.

I don’t think it is happenstance that Mark positions this section and the next section of his gospel together. I find it strange that Jesus would go to the Sea of Galilee to find disciples, and then in his first miracle, he is seen expelling a demon from a man in the synagogue. But Mark is trying to show that Jesus is unlike any other teacher or rabbi that the reader has ever seen or heard before!

While rabbis would gain disciples from frequent attendees at the synagogue, Jesus went to tradesman. I think there is an echo here of when Samuel was trying to find the successor of Saul in the Old Testament. God said, “You look at outward appearances, but God looks at the heart.” The fact that Jesus Christ found his followers who would change the world from everyday tradesman is not only revolutionary, but it is inspiring.

Is there someone who you once thought was a lost cause that is now serving at the church? It is so amazing to see how God can take broken and messed up people and restore them and use them to further his kingdom. Let us remember that no one is too hopeless and that the calling of God can meet a person anywhere in any situation. Jesus’ call isn’t only different in who he calls, but…

Jesus’ call is different in how he calls.

Like I said, Jesus went to fisherman to find his first disciples. Not only is his location for disciples strange, but it is also strange because Jesus was the one pursuing these men. He was asking THEM to follow him. Wouldn’t you think it would be the other way around? What kind of teacher finds his own pupils?

This isn’t like high school honors students or star athletes getting recruited by different colleges. This is like an Ivy League school going to a sweatshop or a construction site and finding random people of age to go to their school.

Do we wait for people to come to us who want to grow spiritually, or do we try to find people who we can pour into? If we only reach towards those who are reaching towards us, we might miss an opportunity to disciple and help people grow who wouldn’t have been discipled otherwise. But Jesus’ call isn’t just different in how he calls, but…

Jesus’ call is different in what his call costs.

I know what you are thinking. You are thinking that I am going to say that it costs nothing to follow Jesus. While it is true that our salvation is a gift from God and we can’t do anything to earn it, here Jesus isn’t offering salvation – he is offering men to follow him on his mission. There was a cost for Andrew, Peter, James, and John.

James and John are seen leaving their father, their helping hands, their boat, and their business in order to follow Jesus. In the future, all of the disciples will be seen giving their time and their energy. By following Jesus, they were offering their lives to God, and ultimately, all of the disciples besides John gave their lives for the cause of Christ.

It was rough leaving the world I knew behind. There were days I wanted to give up. There were days I wanted to be home. There were days I felt uneasy. But I knew that Christ had called me. He brought me here, and by His strength I pressed on.

Maybe you have given up something in order to follow God’s call. Maybe you gave up a career or time with your family. Maybe you are still giving up things like days off and going on vacation in order to serve Christ and build his kingdom. Just remember who called you. This calling isn’t your own. You were sought after. And it is worth it to follow the call.

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Living in an Era of Technology

It is always funny when you are with a group of people and then realize everyone is on their cell phone. You or someone else points out that all of you aren’t really together; you all chuckle, and then go back to what you were doing. Then there are those who make a big deal out of it. Like, by not talking and being on your phones, you aren’t really hanging out. You are all still alone – just alone while being together.

There are good and bad things about living in this age of technology. Many people seem to tilt one way or the other and that makes sense – different people use technology and are involved in social media differently. Those who are more involved will obviously see a lot of the benefits, while those who are less involved will see a lot of the deficits.

Social media is good in that it links people. Same with cell phones and other technology. I love that I can Skype or Facetime with people on the other side of the country! I love that instead of talking to one friend at a time, I can multi-task and text several friends throughout the day. Social media is good at that. It is so good, that technology has linked cultures where there once was a divide.

People across America used to be divided by their different regions. Different people in different areas of the U.S. had some things in common, but there were a lot of differences. With the growth of technology, many people who were raised with social media seem closer linked with their generation. Trends now aren’t regional. Trends now go national. This makes it easier to communicate and market audiences. It also takes away a lot of individualism.

A lot of these individuals struggle with an identity crisis. They want to be different yet belong, and with so many different unoriginal outlets, the chase becomes tiresome. Many individuals can be in a group of people but feel alone. They do not know how to verbally socialize with others, because they are so used to being able to edit what they write through texting and social media. They are used to writing without seeing the emotions they are causing others, and the shift from private “social media” to public interaction can become overwhelming.

Many people don’t know how to be alone. Or they don’t know what it is like to miss someone.

If you are dating someone, I am pretty sure you text constantly. Surprisingly, that wasn’t always the case. You couldn’t keep tabs on people. You simply had to trust them. You hoped they would meet you at the restaurant or the movies when they said they would. Even parties with friends were a risk. How would you know if any of your friends would be there? You didn’t, and if they weren’t, you would be there and would have to make new friends.

Many teenagers and young adults don’t know what it is like to make new friends. Instead of going to an event and meeting new people, if their friends text them and tell them they aren’t going, then chances will be slim they will go themselves. They can just stay home and “connect” with their friends online or do something else – something that is comfortable.

Social media has its good qualities. Because of it, I can connect with anyone in the U.S. I can just ask them about what so-and-so said on Twitter or ask them what they thought of a certain YouTube video. I can keep in contact with them regardless of where they live, because they most likely live in a place where there is Internet connection. Unfortunately, there are also negative sides to social media and technology. There is never a sense of longing – it can always be fulfilled with some Facebook creeping and a text message. There might be unity, but at the cost of individuality.

And technology prevents us from taking risks. At my job, I put on a lot of events. I’m not going to lie… I think some of them are pretty cool. It becomes disheartening though to know that if a couple college students decide they can’t come or they don’t want to come, that the rest will follow their lead. They are afraid to branch out. They are afraid of awkward silences. They are afraid of meeting new people. They might not say it. They might not even realize it. But it is true.

Does social media and technology run your life? Do you need a GPS to figure out where you are going? Do you text all of your friends before deciding if you want to go to an event or party? Do you always have to know what your love interest is doing? Technology is a great tool, but it fails when people completely rely on it for everything. It fails if we use it as an excuse not to grow socially. It fails when we can’t live in reality.

Becoming The Abstract: The Start of a Beautiful Journey.

Recently I moved to Greenwich, CT from Springfield, MO to start a College-Age Ministry at Harvest Time Church. The past few weeks have been crazy. I traveled across country, then halfway around the world with my boss, then I moved into an apartment, all while writing and developing stuff for this ministry I am creating ex nihilo. This is my reveal. It isn’t official. This isn’t like a junior high Facebook official romance. This is my heart and my passion for those in transition. It is to reach a demographic that has been overlooked for too long. Introducing: The Abstract.

The Abstract Large Logo

The Abstract College-Age Ministry:
John 14:6 – “Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life.’”

The Purpose:

Too often the world tries to put God in a box. “The Abstract” is about coloring outside the lines. It is about taking a journey in discovering what “truth” really is. It is about teaching rather than telling, listening rather than talking, and experiencing rather than spectating. “The Abstract” is about finding the Constant in an ever-changing world.

The Process:

The mission is three-fold yet inter-connected.
1) Be Abstract: This is the process of pursuing the Truth, that is, Jesus Christ.
2) Live Abstract: This is the process of allowing God to transform your inner character.
3) Act Abstract: This is the process of allowing God to transform the expressions and actions in your every day life.

The Point:

Amidst the impressionist era there was an artist named Georges Seurat. His art was unlike any of his contemporaries. All of his paintings were done completely with dots. This type of art is called “pointillism.” If one stared at his paintings up close, it would appear to only be polka dots. But it isn’t until one takes a step back that they see the full canvas, and the full beauty of the painting is seen.

Many times in life it seems like the world is crashing down around us. It isn’t until later when we take a step back and see the big picture that we understand the purpose of all the events of the past. The Abstract is meant to help college students at their spot in life to take a step back and see the big picture of Salvation History and their place within the story.

Join the Journey and follow us on Twitter: @TheAbstractMin

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The Passion. The Plan. The Purpose.

Pray Hard, Love Hard, Work Hard.

That is Jeanne Mayo’s three-point plan to a successful ministry.

I had the pleasure of seeing Jeanne Mayo work her magic at Oklahoma A/G youth camp this past month. She is an internationally known youth evangelist. But more specifically she is known for her electrifying sermons, her incredible love and compassion, and her sometimes off-putting candor. And fortunately for the people at the youth camp, this was the first camp she spoke at in over 30 years!

It was at one of our staff meetings where Jeanne said her “three-point plan” for ministry. Among a myriad of youth pastors, leaders, and lay people, this very successful pastor, leader, and speaker shared that she didn’t really have a laid out plan of leadership. Her plan was based on passion. It was her passion for God and her passion for people that drove her to success in ministry.

Through the past few months, God has been reminding me that people don’t gravitate towards plans, but they gravitate towards a passion. This idea isn’t my own. I read it first in John Acuff’s book, “Quitter.” In his book on how to achieve one’s dream, Acuff explains that it is easier to sell people to your passion rather than try to sell people to a plan.

I am reminded this even more when I read the bible: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35, the words of Jesus himself).

Many times in my own life I start on a plan, and I get so focused on that plan that I end up forcing things and settling. If I start with a passion though, the plan seems to easily flow from what is in my heart. This is true when I organize lessons for my small group, when I evangelize to people, and even when I write new songs for the album I want to record. It is easier to plan with a purpose and passion than find passion and purpose from a plan.

Plain and simple.

What do you have a passion in? Can you use it for God in an innovative or creative way? Many times God uses our passions and natural talents, and with them, He uses them to further expand His kingdom. Don’t be afraid to live passionately, pursue the extraordinary, and from it to plan purposefully. Love Hard, Pray Hard, Work Hard.

Egalitarianism and the Jim Crow Laws of the Church, Part One.

Rosa Parks sat unmoved in her seat. A woman known to be so soft-spoken had apparently had enough. One can imagine how so humbly and quietly she would explain to the driver of the bus that she was not going to move from the seat she was in. What those in Montgomery might have called “separate but equal” was only separate. It surely was not equal. And Rosa knew that it was her right to stand up for what she believed in by staying seated where she was. When she was arrested that day, she probably didn’t realize the impact that she would have on her community and throughout the country. From the day of her arrest for over a year after, the Montgomery Bus Boycott took place, and momentum was building in what we now know as the Civil Rights Movement.

The problem with the Jim Crow Laws was that being separate wasn’t really being equal. The laws were taxing on all people in the African American community. Children were forced sometimes to walk to schools further away because the schools closest to them were for whites only. Some were refused jobs and services merely because the color of their skin. And it took the quiet yet unmoved voice of a meek woman in Alabama to stir the hearts of the people to finally say that enough was enough.

Today, in the church, I feel like there is a spirit of the Jim Crow Laws still alive but manifested within another group within society – women. Complementarianism believes that men and women are equal, but that God created them separately, and, with that, they have separate roles. With this they make sense of passages like that in Colossians and Ephesians where wives are told to submit to their husbands, and passages like that in Corinthians and Timothy where women are told not to speak in church, teach, or be in a spiritual position over a man.

But are men and women really equal if we force different roles on them?

How do we decide what these roles are?

Are they birthed within us or oppressed on us by centuries of conditioning?

And what does the Bible really say about the roles of men and women?

There are many passages in the Bible that can be taken as being for complementarianism or for egalitarianism. I will address important women throughout Salvation History before going into Paul’s letters, where things get more controversial. In this post I will specifically look into the Old and New Covenants. I apologize if I leave anything out, but for time’s sake, I can only write so much. I will try not to sound too scholarly or come across as condescending. Feel free to comment if you want to add to anything I address whether it is positive or negative.

The Old Testament:

In Genesis both man and woman are said to reflect the image of God (Gen 1:27-28). And though Eve was the one who ate the apple, Adam is seen as the type or the personification of sin within the world (see Romans 5) – a man once made in glory contrastingly seen as the carrier of sin in the world. This is seen more theological here rather than historical, but truth be told, I think that about most of Genesis. Genesis is written in the form of a myth – meaning that though many of the things said are true in some aspects, they aren’t meant to be literal or historical (especially the Creation story) so to make doctrinal statements on gender roles solely based on this passage would not suffice for either camp.

Rahab and Ruth are both women of importance in the Old Testament for a couple reasons. The fact that they are women mentioned in the Bible for helping bring along Salvation History is of importance, the higher importance being that neither of them were Israelites. The fact that God would use non-Israelite women to tell the story of how He was working within His Covenant people is phenomenal when considering all its implications theologically. Later, these women will even be included in the genealogy of Jesus in the Gospels.

There are also many other notable women worth mentioning in the Old Testament. There are too many for me to mention them all, but here are a few. Deborah is both a judge and a prophetess, and she delivers the Israelites in a way equal to Gideon and Samson and others (Judges 4). Along with that, the prophesy in Joel 2 considering the outpouring of the Holy Spirit talks about it being imparted on both male and female. Esther is another woman of some notoriety, being used by God as a vessel – playing out further the story of Salvation History. There are more women who are of prominence in the Old Testament, but to say much of many of them would be speculation at best.

The Gospels:

The Gospels, believe it or not, have some pretty interesting things to say about women and their potential role in society. In Matthew chapter 1, like mentioned above, there are several women mentioned in Christ’s genealogy – Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, Bathsheba (though not by name), and Jesus’ mother, Mary. Luke’s gospel is especially full of instances where Jesus treats women (any person marginalized in society actually) differently in terms of the norm of his day. Luke 8 talks about Mary Magdalene traveling with the disciples. This is enhanced even more in Luke 10, when Mary is sitting with the apostles learning at the feet of Jesus. In this specific reference, Martha, her sister, gets rebuked for getting mad at Mary for not doing what was “assumed” of her by hosting and helping Martha serve the guests.

Also, in Luke 24, Mary and other women are attested as being the first women to witness the resurrected Lord. At the time, women’s testimonies were seen to be of low value (they couldn’t even hold testimony in court!). So, the fact that the Gospel writers include women testimonies in their letters is astounding. These are not only mentioned in Luke, but there are references of women in the other resurrection accounts as well.

The only other Gospel account of relatively high prominence is the Samaritan woman in John 4. In this passage, Jesus talks to a woman who is living in adultery. In this pericope, Jesus tells her that worshipers of God won’t be judged by the nationality they were born in or what Temple they worshiped at, but that God is now looking for people who will worship in Spirit and in truth. In all of the Gospels, this is the most plainly Jesus ever speaks of who he is as Christ and Lord. For him to say that to a woman is again crazy to contemplate!

Marks of the New Covenant:

Some people look at what Paul says in 1Corinthians 14 and 1Timothy 2 to say that women should never speak in church or be in a role of leadership, but Joel’s prophesy that is fulfilled in the New Testament at Pentecost seems to differ. At Pentecost, the Baptism in the Holy Spirit was given as a mark of the New Covenant – God’s Spirit now dwelling within each believer. God’s Spirit isn’t just given to men but also to women, and both were expected to exercise those gifts (Acts 2). Acts 21 mentions women who were known for prophesying. Women were seen as an integral part in the early church and were expected to exercise in spiritual gifts, some of which I will specifically note in my next post.

Another mark of the New Covenant was baptism. Baptism at the surface doesn’t seem to be equalizing men and women, but I think that it is a minor theological point that God was putting across at the New Covenant. Let me explain. The people of God in the Old Testament were the Israelites. To be a part of the people of God one had to be born in. The mark to show that one was an Israelite, a follower of God, was specifically circumcision. The mark of circumcision was started in Genesis 15 when Abraham made his covenant with God. God said He would bless the whole world through Abraham. A mild problem with circumcision though was that it was a sign that only the men had within the community.

The sign that a person is now part of the people of God, the church, is baptism. Baptism is an outward symbol of an inward change of status within believers. And all believers, man and woman, Jew and Gentile, rich and poor, were all linked in water baptism and by the baptism in the Holy Spirit. The sign was no longer only something that Israelite men could possess, but it was an act that all people could willfully participate in! To be a believer meant to break the tradition of the former practices that separated the people of God from the outside world, and to now embrace the old and “new” traditions which are now to bring all people together in Christ. This is at the heart of the Gospel and almost every other book of the New Testament.

The church today doesn’t have a problem having a woman in an unpaid position. They just don’t call her a pastor but a “pastor’s wife.” But as soon as she is officially recognized and given a salary, the gloves come off. Many within the church also don’t have a problem if a woman works as a children’s pastor (in some churches it is expected!), but they have a problem when a woman is put in a position over men who are her own age. This is inconsistent if one is using 1Corinthians or 1Timothy as a basis for their “complementarian” claim.

Just as Rosa Parks opened the door for the Civil Rights Movement, there are many women who recently have opened the door for women’s rights and women in ministry within the church. Some of the first people to start the Pentecostal Movement in the early 1900’s were women. Aimee Semple McPherson is another woman evangelist who reached prominence in the 1920’s and 1930’s. There are also many women missionaries throughout the years who should not be forgotten either.

There are so many women who have not only impacted the church, but they have impacted Salvation History and the history of the world at large. I don’t think that God has a problem with women in ministry; if he doesn’t have a problem then neither should we. And even though this is only half of the argument, I encourage you to study the subject yourself. Dig into the Scriptures. Study them for yourself. There are so many questions that need answered theologically, philosophically, and psychologically. But let’s not be afraid to push the door open. Things will never change for the better if we don’t question the norm.