why a book written in 1962 might be the most relevant resource for youth ministries TODAY.

based off an indirect recommendation from a friend of mine, i recently read David Wilkerson‘s The Cross and the Switchblade.  written in 1962, TCATSB is Rev. Wilkerson’s personal account of how he went from pastoring a small congregation in rural Pennsylvania to ministering to violent teenage gangs, drug addicts, and prostitutes in the slums of New York City.  reading this book reminded me of the book of Acts in the New Testament.  there are stories and God-moments that leave you scratching your head and secretly lamenting that such signs and wonders aren’t as visible today.   i am convinced that this is the one book every youth pastor must read for (at least) these three reasons:

1. incisive cultural commentary

speaking of the boys he was trying to reach with the love and message of Jesus Christ, Rev. Wilkerson noted:

The boys in this particular gang – were they all like this? – were bored, lonely and smolderingly angry.  They craved excitement, and they took it where they could find it.  They craved companionship, and they took that where they could find it. (sorry, i can’t cite page numbers b/c i read this on my kindle).

did you catch his simple, but accurate, description of these gang members?  bored, lonely and smolderingly angry.  that sounds like the typical description of a youth kid today.  in fact, it sounds like many adults i know as well.  in fact (#2), it sounds like many youth and adults i know in church.  ouch, somebody give me a band-aid cuz i just cut myself.

it seems that many of our precious youth today are misguided but more importantly, many of our ministry methods are painfully ineffective and foolish.  we spend so much time working on behavior modification but we do not address the heart issues of boredom, loneliness and angst.

outward change, unless it is accompanied by an inward transformation of the heart, is ultimately an inferior goal for any church or youth ministry.  in fact, such superficial discipleship might actually be anti-Christ.  Church, our vision and standards of youth ministry must rise to match the testimony of Scripture.  there is no curriculum or conference currently available that will remedy spiritually bankrupt ministries.  we must return to the Gospel message for the Gospel alone has the power to transform us and enable us to live godly, God-honoring lives.

2. don’t blame the TV, video games or Facebook

there is a lot of junk being piped into our youth who indiscriminately ingest any and all forms of entertainment.  there are a lot of hours being wasted on kids responding to the Call of Duty, adults flinging angry birds at disembodied pigs, and everyone and their moms updating their statuses on Facebook.

TV Execs Admit in Interviews (and forthcoming book) that Hollywood has pushed a liberal agenda (in other news, Captain Obvious strikes again.)

The flood of filth and the waste of time should trouble us, I admit.  however, could the moral outrage and protests being raised by evangelicals actually be a subtle cover-up to our own lukewarm discipleship?  i mean, somebody once taught that it’s easier to see the speck of sawdust in someone else’s eye but fail to see the logjam in your own.

On how to reach people for Christ, David Wilkerson’s grandfather (also a pastor) developed this very contrarian view of reaching the lost.  He called it the Lamb Chop method.

“You win over people just like you win over a dog,” he used to say.  “You see a dog passing down the street with an old bone in his mouth.  You don’t just grab the bone from him and tell him it’s not good for him.  He’ll growl at you.  It’s the only thing he has.  But you throw a big fat lamb chop down in front of him, and he’s going to drop that bone and pick up the lamb chop, his tail wagging to beat the band.  And you’ve got a friend.  Instead of going around grabbing bones from people, or cutting feathers off them (he is referring to another method of bringing conviction to sinners – cutting ostentatious feathers off of lady’s hats as they walked down the aisle to the altar call) I’m going to throw them some lamb chops.  Something with real meat and life in it.  I’m going to tell them about New Beginnings.”

Today, most youth pastors are more likely to design and wear t-shirts that’ll say “Call of Discipleship” instead of Call of Duty….or “Face(His)Book” in Facebook font thinking that they are being cool, hip and relevant.  I think those t-shirt ideas are lame.  The Gospel isn’t about mimicking popular culture or tricking kids into buying a t-shirt because they think it’s from Abercrombie and Fitch, only to discover that it’s a knock-off.

this has lamesauce (and lawsuit) written all over it.
Christ came to give us a Spirit-filled, Abundant life.  He came to give us a new heart so that we would love God with all of our souls.  We must return to the place of heart & soulful God-centered loving and living, friends.

Loving God with all of our minds: a recap of last night’s college group

Last night’s college group was good for my soul.  Scott and Jean Kim hosted us, a small group of 8 people, with terrific food & intimate storytelling.  Some notable takeaways:

  • marriage (don’t expect your spouse to “complete you” that is a lie.  the only one who can truly fulfill you is God.)
  • become a better person and make a good life.
  • Life is messy, like the back of a tapestry, but when the tapestry if finished and flipped over, it is revealed to be a beautiful work of art.  
  • The quality of the questions you ask will determine the quality of your life.
  • “The glory of God is man fully alive.” – St. Irenaeus (one of Jean’s favorite quotes…and from an early church father! )
  • Regarding your career/vocation: Discover, Develop and Deploy.
  • Cultivate the image of God (Imago Dei) within you.

I especially enjoyed Scott/Jean’s testimony about starting The Cambridge School.  What a powerful story of a family courageously pursuing God-sized dreams!!!

Shameless plug of the day: If you own a Kindle or other e-ink reading device and are in need of a reading light, buy the Kandle!!! (Scott’s company makes this device which is, in my opinion, the best reading light for the Kindle, hands-down).

An open letter to Angry, Vindictive Asians who Happen to wear Jesus t-shirts

Today, I lament over Asians (especially my Christian brothers and sisters) who chose to use their time, energy and means to shame, berate and threaten an already-shamed, berated and threatened young woman.

Check out this news story: Alexandra Wallace leaving UCLA

Friends, she made a great error in judgment.  Because her rant was posted on youtube, her 3-minutes of viral fame will make her infamous for the rest of her life.  Any future prospective employer will google her name and see this unfortunate lapse in judgment.  But more than the eyes of her peers or future bosses, my prayer is that she will discover the piercing gaze of Jesus who alone can deliver her from her sins.  Disclaimer: I don’t know this young woman and I do not go to UCLA.  I’ve just witnessed 6 days of utter madness being played out on my Facebook newsfeed and I’m fed up.

Some Questions:

To those saying she got what she deserved, let me ask you: Do YOU wish to be known/labeled/identified for the rest of your life by your worst mistake ever?  I didn’t think so.  Shall we give her a break?  Amen.

To those who produced/shared/laughed at all the internet responses (especially the countless youtube counter-rants), I humbly ask: But did her rant deserve “eye for an eye” treatment?  Did ridiculing her and mocking her make you feel better?

To those who cranked it up a notch and called her home to deliver death threats, I am wondering aloud, “OK, not just eye for an eye but death threats?  Really?  Because in her frustration, ignorance and lack of judgment she said some mean-spirited things, she is deserving of death?”

Are we seriously going to make this young woman the lightning rod for all things racist and derogatory that Asians have endured?

Return to the Cross

Brothers and sisters in CHRIST, where is the love, the grace, the mercy, the pardon?  The psalmist writes, “If you, O LORD, kept a record of sins, O LORD, who could stand?  But with you there is forgiveness; therefore you are feared” (Psalm 130:3-4).

Fellow Christ-followers, let us embody the grace that was so richly lavished on us when we came to the Cross.  What was it that Paul himself confessed to his disciple Timothy as Paul neared the end of his life?

Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners – of whom I am the worst. – 1 Timothy 1:15

Maybe it feels good to beat the living dookie out of a person but I’m not feeling too good right now.  Normally, I’m better with my words but I just feel dirty and sick over what has transpired.  Today, I am NOT proud of my heritage.  I must run to the Cross and cling to the sweet mercies of the One who has loved me and called me and freed me.  I know that I must repent or else I will end up being guilty of some kind of bizarro reverse racism by hating Koreans (some of us need to repent of this, too, but I digress).

Fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, will you join me in running to the Cross?

it’s official: i’m as sick as a 원숭이

so, my body’s been fighting off a cold for the past week and this morning, the cold virus won.  i am now in bed after making myself some amazing shin cup ramen for breakfast.  i upgraded it with an egg but the water wasn’t hot enough to cook the yolk – it’s all good, i put some rice in that bad boy and finished it off.

i couldn’t make it out to staff meeting this morning.  many of you ask me, “what do you do during the week?”  this is a fair question to ask of pastors.
bankers………. bank.
students………. study.
dry cleaners………. dry clean.
analysts………. analyze.
pastors……….pasteurize?  are we secretly responsible for producing quality milk for this nation?

what the heck do we do????

some questions i’ve received in the past –
do i read the Bible all day and pray?
– no, i do not.  i do have set times to do both on a daily basis – they are early in the morning and at night before i sleep.  but that’s still not accounting for, like, 16 hours.

do i wear a suit everyday?
– no.  i have normal human clothing that’s actually comfortable and wearable.  i just like punishing myself on the Lord’s Day.

do i prepare sermons all week long?
– no.  (if i answered “yes” you would probably think, then why do your messages suck eggs? hahaha!!!)
– i prepare my messages on wednesday nights and thursday.

other things i do:
– i attend staff meetings every tuesday, usually from 9:30am up until lunch time.
– i try to meet with at least one adult leader in the youth ministry, one youth council member, and one student every week – that’s a minimum of 3 meetings per week.  i do this so i can find out ways to encourage and equip everyone to serve God more faithfully.
– i send out 70-100 emails a week.  they range from quick one-liners to epic sagas but they usually all have a point.
– i read – and not just the stuff i agree with.  i love reading books and magazines on theology, history, current events.  i also read blogs….lots of blogs.  some of the blogs i read are created by psychotic anti-Christ bozos but hey, i gotta keep up with the movers and shakers, right?

things i don’t do:
– with the exception of wii fit, i no longer play video games – just a mature, respectful agreement arranged between my wife and my scared inner child.

things i try not to do:

– get sick.