Serving in Colville, Washington

By Monday, May 4, 2015 0 0
Last weekend we had the privilege of serving at an event near Colville called Bonfire. The founders of Singing Waters Ministries host Bonfire each year as a way to introduce teenagers to vocational ministry. On their large property they set up 8 challenge courses. After registering and getting organized in the lodge, the kids eat their sack lunch and get ready to start the challenges, which take the rest of the day. In teams, the teens go through the courses, practicing team building and working together to accomplish each challenge. At a few of the challenges, the teens sit down to hear from a missionary. Chris camped out at a friendship chain, cheering teams on as they linked arms one by one and tried to walk on a wire from a platform to a tree and then to another tree. When a student lost his balance, he had to go back to the end of the line and the teammates had to fix the connect their chain.

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Sometimes it feels like our testimonies are unique among missionaries. We came to the game kind of late, we don’t have seminary in our background, and we weren’t involved in church planting prior to the call to missions. But as Chris shared his story, or God’s story in his life, with the teenagers, it struck me that God may be using our unique stories to call others to ministry. The fact is, we weren’t walking the path. Nobody, least of all us, expected this path. And even as we walk it, so many unexpected things have happened. But we were willing, which is what Bonfire is all about – reminding students that if they are a true disciple of Jesus Christ, they will be willing to consider how God wants to use them to advance His kingdom. It might not be full time ministry, but it absolutely will involve supporting missionaries, evangelism, and sacrificial living of some kind. I can only hope we played a role in diminishing fears or doubts for students.

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After the challenge courses were completed, everyone went to the lodge for chili dog dinner and a speaker. Finally, the night ends with a bonfire bigger than a house (not kidding!).

Some MK perks our kids experienced on this trip included a family road trip, stopping at a rest stop near Blue Lake to study the map (homeschooling on the road!), exploring the beautiful property that belonged to our hosts, and making new friends everywhere they went.

Please Pray for Our Dear Friends

By Tuesday, February 25, 2014 1 0

Our dear friends and Chris’s former youth pastor and his wife, Randy and Debbie, are enduring a real trial right now. Debbie is being treated for a rare and aggressive cancer and doctors have made it clear Debbie may not have much time left. We have been praying boldly for healing, for peace and comfort in this time, and God has come through. Debbie has shown joy in her spirit even as her energy fades, Randy says that he is at peace, that he can see how God is at work. He and Debbie both believe this is “win-win” for Debbie. If God heals her this side of Heaven, she wins big time. If He heals her for eternity by bringing her home, she wins even bigger! And yet, this is a devastating tragedy. Please pray with us for these dear friends and their family (4 children and a brand new son-in-law!). Chris has written a little tribute to them here. -Rose

Chris's youth groupHigh school. The four years that we spend as “teens” or “high school kids” is always considered to be some of the most defining periods in our lives. We start making the transition into adulthood and taking on adult responsibilities and thinking about what our lives might look like as we move on.

I was always involved in my church growing up. I was a part of the youth group and was blessed to be in it while Randy and Debbie Lawrence were leading. I didn’t really think about it then but I sometimes wonder if they ever really knew the impact they had on the lives and, more importantly, the spiritual decisions of 20 to 30 kids.

Here are some of the good things I saw in action through Randy and Debbie: I observed how a man is supposed to love his wife and children. I saw a man who spent time with God on a regular basis. I saw two people who were very willing to hold a believer accountable to scripture even though that person might be upset with them at first. I saw a couple who were so compassionate towards the kids in their youth group that a late night visit or even a prank wasn’t discouraged.

Randy showed me that my faith meant more than just stating that I was a Christian and acting like it. Randy and Debbie showed me that following Christ is depending on Him to be everything; letting God change me and know that everything was about glorifying our Lord.

As I read regular updates about Debbie’s condition and what is going on I also see that they are not finished teaching us. They may not know it and they may say that they aren’t doing anything special but the eyes of their former youth group, many of us with families of our own, careers and homes, are still watching them. And their lives are consistent with what they had taught us when we were teens.

I have been and am blessed by the Lawrence family. I hope that we too were and are a blessing to them. Debbie and Randy know that life isn’t easy but they also know who their hope comes from. They worship and love the God of miracles and many mercies, the God of promises made and kept, the God of healing and the one who has defeated death and sorrow.

I believe I can speak on behalf of the youth group that was Randy and Debbie’s youth group at Eastgate by saying that we all love you guys. We thank you for the investment and sacrifices you made so you could invest in our lives at the calling of Jesus Christ. Your mark has been made with me. I will be one of those who, in Heaven, lines up in front of you to say “thank you for giving to the Lord. Mine was a life that was changed.”

5 Reasons We Keep Our Kids In Church

By Monday, October 28, 2013 6 0

This is how Susanna “sits” in church. See how still and calm she is?

Parenthood brings out the soul-searcher in everyone. Over the last year, we have done a lot of praying, reading and thinking about what God wants for families and how he uses them to accomplish his purposes. We’ve discovered that families are probably the most important vessel for carrying God’s word to the lost. To that end, we want our family to look as much like Christ as possible, and how we worship God as a family is a key part of that. Below, I’ve outlined 5 reasons we keep our kids in church with us, as opposed to sending them to their own class during the worship service. It’s counter-cultural, but we believe it’s the right thing for our family and what God has called us to do. I want to make very clear that I appreciate people who serve children in children’s church a great deal and we don’t want to offend anyone. In different circumstances, we might have made different choices. We are often guests in churches where we are speaking as we raise support, and at our home church, Susanna and Austin are usually the only kids their age. Those aren’t reasons to keep our kids with us, but they do make it easier.

1. There is no other Biblical model. From Deuteronomy (see Deuteronomy 31:12-13) to Ephesians, God’s people have always gathered to worship Him with children present. Jesus invited the little children (some say the word in Matthew 19:13-15 can be translated infants) to come to him. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians included instructions specifically for the children he knew would be in attendance when the letter was read before the assembly (see Ephesians 6:1-4).

2. We want our children to know that they are to be tailored for the Church; church is not tailored for them. As Susanna and Austin grow up, I want them to be as aware as possible how they can serve God’s people in church. I want them to belong to a church in order to best serve their community, not to hear messages that make them feel good or fit their season of life. In order to see the needs of the church, my children need to be in church, where some needs are shared and prayed for, where money is collected to be used to serve others, and where needy people gather. When we send them to children’s church, we’re sending the message that we’ve created church for them. I think this will be detrimental later. At worst, they’ll walk away from “irrevelant” church. At best, they’ll seek a church full of people their own age and miss out on the multi-generational community God designed church to be.

3. The Bible teaches that the primary role of parents is to disciple their children. Teaching my children to worship God is the most important element of discipling my children. Although I know that our children’s church teachers love my kids and want to see them grow up to know and love Jesus (and they do teach them to that end), I have to take full responsibility for this part of discipleship through hands-on training in the main service. It’s going to take a long, long time, with many years where the children might not learn a single thing except that Mama and Daddy get really mad when they make too much noise. But my prayer is that as they see us, as well as older folks, worshiping, tithing, praying, learning and taking communion, and over the years it will come naturally to them to do the same.

4. It’s sanctifying for us too. It isn’t easy to keep little ones in the service. It would be much easier to drop them off and enjoy the time to ourselves. But is church supposed to be “time to myself?” Every week, I have to practice self-control and model appropriate church behavior for my kids. This means I don’t look at my phone (I do try to bring my book Bible, but the Bible app is an exception to this rule), I don’t forget to tithe, I take notes, I sing a joyful song to the Lord, I greet others “with a holy kiss” (I take this to mean with genuine care and concern, since we’re on kiss-free turf in America), and, later in the week, I apply the word I receive from God to my life. That’s where the rubber meets the road on number 3 as well: my kids hear the same message I do and then they watch me obey (or disobey) God on a daily basis.

5. It takes the pressure off. This reason is sort of a hodge podge of a bunch of different reasons we like family-integrated church (where the kids stay in the main service). There’s no pressure for others to teach my kids about Jesus during a specific time slot. The teaching just happens as my kids interact with people who have a gift. I never want anyone to think we don’t appreciate the work children’s leaders do or the gifts they have for working with kids. I want to create a space where that happens organically, out of relationships we have with people from all stages of life.

Less pressure for the church to provide childcare; not to mention all the logistics that come with that: background checks, schedules, appropriate rooms, allergen-free snacks, diaper changers (or ways to communicate the need for a diaper change), curriculum, communication with parents, etc.

Less pressure on visitors to send their kids to strange places with strange people. For a Christian, it might be strange NOT to send one’s child to children’s church during the main service. But my concern regarding visitors is mainly how a non-Christian might feel, and I imagine it feels better to know that kids are welcome in the main service.

Less pressure on kids to do anything to be acceptable to God. They are welcome to worship with everyone in the body of Christ. This means we have to accept the way they worship, but I think this is valuable to the church, much like including our disabled brothers and sisters.

Resources on family-integrated ministry that have influenced our thinking:

 

Momentous Moments

By Friday, May 11, 2012 0 0

One of my students has a sweet, kind personality that seems to attract difficult-to-love people. I say difficult-to-love because I am trying to give grace to people who, in reality, are users. Selfish people who want to take advantage.

My student, who has spent the last year growing in her new-ish faith by leaps and bounds, endures these “friends” and tries to help them because it’s her nature. She supports them in their occasional efforts to improve (quit smoking, get better grades), but she also sets boundaries for her own sake. I am so proud of her, and I pray for her all the time. I pray that she would flee temptation, and instead have boldness to proclaim Christ to these people. They know there’s something different about her, and they think it’s weakness. I pray that God would show her how to put His strength in her on display for them.

Recently, she got some awful texts from one of these friends. Turns out they were meant for someone else. You should have seen me. I was so mad! I said, “you need to tell her off! Tell her if she’s going to write things like that she needs to be darn sure who she’s texting!” My friend was hurt, but she seems to brush it off. Later, though, she was telling me about how this girl talks.

I hate it when she says, ‘oh, God,’ or ‘Jesus,’ It’s not like she’s asking God for help or praying. It’s like she’s blaming God. That’s what she’s doing! She fails a class and she says ‘Jesus!’ like it’s his fault or something. She’s blaming God for something that is her fault!”

This was one of those moments. My friend gave sin a name not because she’d heard me say it but because the Spirit within her was offended. She is exactly right; taking the Lord’s name in vain is blaming God for something He didn’t do. It’s blasphemy! I don’t think she remembers the commandment. I don’t think she could define blasphemy in a test. But her heart was broken because the name of her savior was defamed, and that is worth so much more to God (and to me!) than obedience to His commands or knowledge of His ways.

Youth Ministry Refocused

By Wednesday, March 28, 2012 2 0

And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction. -Malachi 4:6

Picture me just over 10 years ago: I’m sitting on the couch in our high school room, stewing. And pouring my bitter heart out to my youth leader. Fighting with my parents is so exhausting! Why don’t they just trust me?

I pray constantly that I would not forget that feeling, because today it’s the same. Fads and certain problems come and go in the lives of teenagers, but the extreme emotions, the need for a caring adult to lend an ear, exerting independence, that never changes. Our response to it, however, must, because the circumstances have changed.

Our leadership team recently spent some time discussing the future of our youth ministry. The statistics are alarming, and point to a dire need for change in the way we minister to young people and to cross-generational churches in general (p.s. if you go to a church that doesn’t desire to be cross-generational… consider finding a new one).

  • 88% of children raised in Christian families leave church at the age of 18, never to return (SBC).
  • A majority of adults no longer consider Christianity America’s default faith (Barna).
  • 64% of decisions for Christ are made before the age of 18, and 77% are made before the age of 21 (Barna).

But more than that, the scriptures point to a flaw in age-segregated ministry in general: the Israelites didn’t do it, and Jesus didn’t do it. For example, a simple search for the term “little ones” in the ESV reveals the children of the people of Israel: they go along, they are sent, they are protected, they stand before the Lord along with their parents, they inherit blessing, they possess land.

Besides Jesus, it seems that Peter was the only adult among the apostles, in that he was required to pay a temple tax, which came with age. So, it could be said that Jesus led the first youth group. Maybe so. It became the foundation for the first church, which was not all young people (obviously).

I’m not arguing against bringing young people together regularly, but for refocusing on why we do that, and for doing what we can to ensure that kids who meet Jesus in middle school don’t abandon Him in college.