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Several years ago, Dr. Paul Hill and Dr. David Anderson wrote the book “Frogs Without Legs Can’t Hear,” in it they challenged the church to return to its roots of making disciples—they began with the following story:
A mad scientist wanted to do an experiment to learn about the leaping abilities of a frog and he carefully placed the frog on the laboratory table and shouted, “Jump Frog Jump.” The frog jumped and then the scientist measured the distance, but because he was mad he surgically removed one of the legs and then placed the frog on the table again and once again shouted, “Jump Frog Jump.” Measuring the new distance he then repeated the whole process until the frog no longer had any legs. Carefully placing the legless frog on the laboratory table our mad scientist shouted, “Jump Frog Jump,” the frog didn’t move an inch this time. The mad scientist examining his data concluded, “Frogs without legs can’t hear,” never mind that the very ability to jump was taken away by each passing moment our mad scientist conducted his experiment!

Today 20% of our country is what USA TODAY calls the “nones,” they believe in nothing at all when it comes to God. They are missing out on the greatest news in all of history. In another study we learn that among men in their twenties 90% never step inside a church, and among twenty something women that number is slightly ‘better’ with 75% staying away. Too often we conclude the answer is better programs instead of noticing the glaring truth right in front of us, our frog has no legs!

In other words, Jesus commands the church—that’s you and me in our homes, places of work, in our spheres of influence and beyond—to make disciples by teaching and proclaiming the good news of Jesus. Frogs were designed by our creator to jump, you and I are designed by that same creator to tell the world about a Savior that loves us so much. The greatest gift you can give those around you this Christmas is the good news that, “For God so loved the world he gave his only Son and whoever should believe in him will have eternal life.” (John 3:16) People of God, our creator is shouting to us, “Go” and He promises to be with us! Merry Christmas!


In an age when how we have always done youth ministry just doesn’t cut it my friend Matt Cleaver pushes us. He is a man of God, a theologian, and a passionate youth minister. Youth ministers, his recent post is worth your time, it may disturb or challenge you but I encourage you to be part of the conversation.

Shine Shalom Choir Tour 2010

Posted: June 27, 2010 in Uncategorized

Shine Shalom Choir Tour 2010.

“The Lord opened her heart to listen eagerly to what was said by Paul. When she and her household were baptized, she urged us, saying, ‘If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come and stay at my home.’ And she prevailed upon us….Then he brought them outside and said, ‘Sirs, what must I do to be saved?’ They answered, ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.’ They spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house.” Acts 16

It should come as no surprise that the type of relational didache or teaching that the Great Commission demands of us happens in our most fundamental relationships – our families. The apostle Paul recognizes the intimacy of family so much that he often uses marriage as the closest human imagery of what our relationship with God is like. I think Kenda Creasy Dean in Practicing Passion puts it best when she says, “Belonging precedes Believing.” Her example is poignant, “For teenagers, true love is bound to the promise that they are “to die for,” whether that promise enacted by the Crips or the Bloods or their parents.” (Dean, pg. 178) Therefore any practical theology of Youth & Family ministry but be live and breath in the heart of the relationships where teenagers find their most significant belonging.

Acts 16 give us two examples (representative of many in the New Testament) of evangelism, the power of family ministry, and what I think is a theological foundation for the dynamic of nurture vs. evangelism in faith formation. These texts and others like it outline how we are called to share the Gospel with those who have yet to hear the story and how that message quickly infects the whole household. They eliminate the dichotomy between nurture and evangelism and remind us that both are needed. They affirm the household as faith formative, or as Luther points out in the Large Catechism, “Surely Parents are the apostles, priests, bishops and teachers for their children.” These texts prioritize the role of the household in the Pastoral Epistles in places like Titus 1:6 we are told that the criteria for an elder include passing on the faith to their own children. Deuteronomy gives us the clearest command to pass on our faith through our families and it provides a long history to remind us to remember this essential discipline of faith.

Andrew Root noted that “Education often happens in community of faith and not in class rooms” and at its best family is our first and most frequent experience of community.. So if ministry precedes theology like Root suggests and belonging precedes belief then the family sits at the center of the theological formation of the Church as affirmed by both the Scriptures and our Confessions.

HOWEVER, as I re-read what I wrote 3 years ago in a coffee shop on the last day of March…maybe you are asking what I’m think…yeah that’s all true…but…so what?!! Remember when Josiah rediscovered the book of Deuteronomy and realized how off the mark Israel was from God’s vision? After generations of asking families to drop them off with us instead being the central location for faith formation we are asking them to make the same kind of radical shift that Josiah led. God’s Word just like Josiah certainly provides the blueprints but it seems to me we also need to equip folks how to understand. Holy Spirit help us answer the so what questions for our ministries, for our families, our churches, and for your glory!

NOTE: I first wrote this (along with part 1, part 2) in 2007 parts of which are included in my thoughts on the Great Emergence: intro, part 1, part 2, part 3, & part 4 (more…)

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20

I believe the theology of the cross teaches us that God’s suffering that leads to hope is the ultimate form of ex niliho. “Karl Barth has suggested that the structure of these opening verses [in Genesis] deliberately create the condition of a void in order to show that only when God speaks is there a response. The word of God creates the response. The void – the ex nihilo – is the necessary condition for the Word to bring for God’s creation. “ (from The Soul of Ministry by Ray. S Anderson pg. 38) If Karl Barth is right and the void is necessary then in-between gap of adolescence is a void that God’s word is ready fill today. The great commission gives a perfect example of a “with us” God who speaks into the void by empowering us to GO and be with others. In these great words of promise we see relationship, and presence born out of Christ’s suffering and all of humanity are invited to be with God and with others to be a part of it. Mike Yaconelli said shortly before his death, “the mark of the church in the 21st in America will be that they will have time for people.” This type of this presence is a radical response to our great commission in a world truncated text message world.

Douglas John Hall worries that these verses endorse or are at least can be misinterpreted for overly expansionist views of Christianity versus one that focuses on sacrifice and God’s concern for all. I would argue that here Bill Easum, church growth author is at least partially right when he asserts while it’s not about numbers, reaching out to the nations reaches out to people not statistics. The fatal flaw is when our goal is to create tally marks instead of doing what the great commission invites, to go and be with as Jesus says, “behold I am with you.” When we see the great commission as a vocation that involves sacrificing with and an invitation for us to invite others to see how God’s suffering has produced hope then we can really begin to reach out to a generation that feels abandoned.

Hall reminds us that that “Christianity makes the astonishing claim that God, who is preeminent in the only unqualified sense of the word, for the sake of the creature’s shalom suffered-suffers-the loss precisely of that preeminence.” (Hall pg. 83) This type of theological lens on the great commission gives of sense of the theology of the cross even in the great commission. So the triune formula for baptism is more than just simple ritual, it’s a reminder about the communion with God that we are being invited to. This type of perichoresis (inter-relational nature of the Trinity) that Hall describes denotes deep relationships where community was broken by suffering for our sake and is now replaced by the fullness of community. Or as Andrew Root put it, “The cross is the godforsakenness of ultimate aloneness, it is the betrayal of God to Godself.” I submit this type of lens on the great commission gives us a call for outreach that is both far reaching and deeply connected to a community born out of suffering. So the thin tradition works it way into the call of the Great Commission and into the lives of teenagers today.

NOTE: I first wrote this (along with part 1) in 2007 parts of which are included in my thoughts on the Great Emergence: intro, part 1, part 2, part 3, & part 4 (more…)

Please check out my lastest post on the Exemplary Youth Ministry site:

Love to hear your thoughts, THANKS!

NOTE: I first wrote this in 2007 parts of which are included in my thoughts on the Great Emergence: intro, part 1, part 2, part 3, & part 4 (more…)