Journey

When was a time that I thought there was no reason to go on? Why?
Recently I had the privilege and opportunity to co-preach with one of our all-star high school graduates, Courtney McNeely, at Silver Lake Combo Camp. She told the story about her junior year at Bothell High School. Her softball season was a difficult one. It is really easy to commit to something when everything seems to be going our way. It is another thing all together when we are being unfairly treated, when things just are not going as planned, when we are stuck riding the pine.

What ensures that we keep the commitments that we have made in life?
Likewise, it takes little to no commitment towards Christ to follow him while at a camp or conference. Middle and high school students are surrounded by a band who leads them into worship, a speaker who challenges and corrects them, and a youth ministry who surrounds and supports them. What happens when all that is over? When the week is finished? When reality sets back in? That is where the comfort ends and the commitment begins.

Paul knew everything about commitment. After all, he was beaten, abused, imprisoned, and ultimately martyred. He wrote letters of commitment. He challenged his fellow Christ followers to keep theirs. He wrote his friends in Philippi while under house arrest in Rome. They were a people who prided themselves on being prosperous Roman citizens. Like many of us, they were a people caught between two worlds. On one hand they were obsessed with emulating the culture of the day and on the other end they gave generously and sacrificially to the mission. Paul took a moment to encourage them to face persecution with courage and exhorted them to exemplify humility and harmony.

The apostle compared the journey with Christ to a race. He wrote, “Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for(D) the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus (Phil. 3:13-14, ESV). He called them to devote themselves to a cause larger than themselves – to forget what is behind (their past) and to strain toward what is ahead (their future) – to be grateful for their indescribable relationship with Jesus Christ.

Make the journey worthy of the destination.
Paul called for the church to run on the right path – to grow on a daily basis. The passage reads, “Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. Only let us hold true to what we have attained” (vv. 15-16). The Philippian believers needed to take on a new attitude – the very perspective of Christ. After all, they had been given what they did not deserve. The only natural response would be to love God and love others. Paul was reminding them to take on actions of their Lord – new disciplines which would enable them to keep their commitments – to learn and listen to his leadership – to be about his message and mission (rather than our own.


He also challenged them to run with the right people – taking others with them for the ride. He used the words, “Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us. For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself” (vv. 17-21).

He was pointing their attention to the examples of others. Disciples of Christ are to take note of how their Master lived and even of how their leaders live. He also wrote these words with tears streaming down his face. His heart was broken for those who were running the wrong way. Their glory is in their shame. This is as good as it might get for them. What if the church was not satisfied with that? What if we had the mindset to not go on without taking them with us? What if our lives were invested in the mission of connecting others to the love of Christ? No matter the cost? No matter the disappointments? No matter the sacrifice?

We understand that this Empire is not all we have to look forward to. Our motivation and allegiance is with a new Kingdom. The best is yet to come. We eagerly await the return and reign of Christ. We believe that it is the same Spirit who rose Christ from the dead will also be powerful enough to give us new bodies and is empowering us even today to be his witnesses.

Are you taking steps to live up to what you have already been given?
The student ministries of the Northwest Ministry Network have a dream to eliminate obstacles together – those things that get in our way of keeping commitments. For example, it is time that we eliminate prayerlessness in this generation. We must pray for Holy Spirit to empower us, we must pray for our youth ministries and local church leadership, we must pray for our missionaries all across the world, and we must pray for our friends that we share life with.

We also must join together to eliminate apathy and excuses. It is this generation who believes in the mission enough to serve in the local church, lead on the school campus, and go on short-term mission trips. Likewise, they will give generously and sacrificially to the Kingdom through ministries such as Speed the Light.

We believe in the Bridger generation as the Apostle Paul believed in the Philippian church. We echo his words when he said, “Therefore, my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved” (Phil. 4:1). He was not referring to a king’s crown but instead a wreath which was placed on an athlete’s head. He was calling them champions. He was calling them finishers. He was calling them committed.

Journey

Seek

INTRODUCTION
Worldviews have drastically morphed socially, politically, economically, demographically, and philosophically over the past fifty years.
[1] Secularization, globalization, and pluralism have all contributed to gradually de-church the culture. The Biblical and practical theology of the church has largely failed to effectively communicate a message that propels believers into missional living that ultimately transforms individuals, families, communities and cultures. Some have settled for a syncretistic approach that compromises beliefs on behalf of the culture and results in a naive adaptation. Others have been guilty of a legalism that expects recipients to conform to norms, terms, and environments before being accepted into the community.[2]

Jesus chose instead to be reliant and transparent in sharing humanity’s necessities, difficulties, and meanings. The gospel’s essence is that God entered into the world with the intent of changing it and thus can never be reduced to mere words and concepts but rather to always be centered on the language and lifestyle of Jesus himself.
[3] Charles H. Kraft proposes that, “What we seek is the kind of Christianity that is equivalent in its dynamics in today’s society to the Christianity we see in the pages of the New Testament.”[4] The intent of this essay is articulate my personal communicational philosophy concerning culture, message, and ministry. I have come to realize that my personal mission statement is to fulfill Christ’s great commandment and commission by engaging seekers, enabling followers, entrusting ministers, and encouraging leaders.

PERSONAL PHILOSPHY OF CULTURE, MESSAGE, AND MINISTRY
Cross-cultural communication ought to be local and global in nature. The gospel is meant to be heard by the entire world. By participating in the mission, Christ followers are responding to their Master’s commission to reconcile all of humanity.
[5] Becoming missional starts with pursuing, adopting, and restoring the disconnected.[6] Those who once were unhealthy, unattractive, unworthy, and unholy are now transformed into the very dwelling places of Christ.[7] Each one brings and receives value from the corporate whole. Fellowship stands in stark contrast with the individualistic attitude that has infused much of Christianity where, according to the George Barna Group, nearly “ten million self-proclaimed believers have not attended church in the past six months.”[8]

Niebuhr defines a Christian as one who considered “himself belonging to that community of men for whom Jesus Christ – his life, words, deeds, and destiny – is of supreme importance as the key to the understanding of themselves and their world, the main source of the knowledge of God and man, good and evil, the constant companion of the conscience, and the expected deliverer of evil.”
[9] God embraces “the poor, the orphaned, and the widowed, the alien and sojourner, and dead and the good as dead.”[10] This goes beyond feeding the hungry but rather inviting them to identify into community.

Cross-cultural communication must include sharing and caring. Hunsberger has called the church to be missional by way of grace, humility, courage, creativity, and hope.
[11] A holy disconnect would swell up against all forms of consumption, domination, isolation, and immorality.[12] The church can respond with a Christ-centered perspective, to personal gratification with an unwavering devotion to God, to personal liberties with corporate responsibility, and to capitalism with service and generosity.[13] The gospel should always include, but no longer be limited to, the personal salvation of just one individual but rather permeate all areas of society. Sider proposes that the church has been guilty of “sometimes [translating] Romans without also translating Amos.”

Salvation should transform an individual who repents of his rebellion, dedicates his life to obedience, enjoys a renewed identity, and as a result confronts organizations of tyranny in the name of his Master.
[14] A humanitarian outlook is being rediscovered by way of feeding and clothing those who are homeless, being available to help those who are facing catastrophe of all sorts, and encouraging local improvements. The church ought to be equally intentional in not focusing upon the symptoms of sin rather than the sources of that sin. A transformational life will emerge out of personal conversion rather than out of a desire to merely question the corruption of culture. The hope of the world ultimately rests in the manifest power and presence of God. Just as he entered into the anguish and understanding of creation, so do his people have the opportunity to experience the sorrow and sting of the less fortunate.[15]

Cross-cultural communication should incorporate creativity and courage. Those who give and go must depend upon the empowerment of the Holy Spirit. Hesselgrave considers the command to be witnesses to “the uttermost parts of the world [as taking] on cultural as well as geographical significance. Numerous missionaries have entered their respondent cultures without any attention whatsoever to the social structures, evidently assuming that the new culture would be a carbon copy of their own or that the differences would prove to be unimportant.”[16] Macchia has proposed that “Spirit baptism gave rise to the global church and remains the very substance of the church’s life in the Spirit, including its charismatic life and mission.”[17] Methods must be fluid as changes and challenges arise but the essence and intent of the church must never be lost. The emphasis should never lie on the sign of tongues but instead on how that sign is a confirmation of the second work of empowerment for witnessing. Nonetheless, one ought to anticipate the sign will follow the indwelling of the Spirit. The motive behind the doctrine revolves around the belief that the baptism will further “a prophetic community called and empowered to bear witness to the world.”[18] As the Father has sent the Son, the Son has sent the Spirit, and the Spirit has now sent the church.

PERSONAL PHILOSPHY DISCUSSION
Throughout my spiritual formation, there have been four key elements that have arisen to become my core values. First, I see community as important to the health and effectiveness of my life. I am devoted to relating to God and with others in both truth and love. Second, I hold the commission as being a central premise of my life. I will strive to respond to Christ’s call to make more disciples. Third, I value communication by consistently reflecting Christ in all of my attitudes and actions. Finally, commitment, is as I aim to represent humility and longevity in all of my relationships.[19]

No matter my specific roles or responsibilities throughout life, I am committed to pastoring the Bridger generation. One study concludes that “more than two-thirds of young adults have dropped out between the ages of eighteen and twenty-two.”
[20] Nearly a quarter of the dropouts in today’s church occur between the ages of sixteen and twenty.[21] Attendance has continued to dwindle. Missional recruitment and financial support is decreasing.[22] A consumerism mentality has yet to be transformed into one of generosity. Leadership has to discover and design a strategy that honors the richness of the past while simultaneously envisioning a new future. The Rainers propose that “young adults are likely to stay in the church if they see church as essential to their lives.”[23]

My primary objective with my current youth ministry has been focused on realigning the department with the rest of the local church. I have come to understand that the mission of the church in its entirety must be a universal and unifying notion to which every ministry would cooperate and compliment with each other. My function is not to create vision as much as it is to interpret that vision to a generation so that they might relate to it and participate alongside it. Therefore, that mission must be understandable, straightforward, and consistent with the overall approach of the church. Every partner of the congregation should be invited and engaged in the process.
[24] Students are reaching up to God and out to people, building a committed community of Christ followers, and sending those Christ followers into service. Our church is devoted to building bridges to all generations by connecting people to Christ and to one another.

I absolutely enjoy and revel in where I have been placed but likewise am anticipating where I might be one day. There are natural moments where one begins to dream about what his church could be or what that church could accomplish. Specifically my dream is to one day be the lead pastor of a busy, programmatic, and attractional church and navigate the people through the transformation of becoming simple, intentional, and missional in their approach. The extended description of a simple church is one that “is designed around a straightforward and strategic process that moves people through the stages of spiritual growth. The leadership and the church have to be clear about the process and are equally committed to its execution. The process will have to flow logically and be implemented in each area of the church. The church will have to abandon everything that is not in the process.” The leadership ought to guide the church into clarity, movement, alignment, and focus.
[25] Such a church would be committed to the mission of connecting people to the love of Christ, the life of the church, and the need of the world. A gathering that was experiential in their worship, authentic in their relationship, and incarnational in their evangelism would be incredible.

The gospel will need to be conveyed in such a way that the message becomes an invitation for them to be challenged, an opportunity to participate in something larger than themselves, a possibility to personify greatness, a prospect to do something good, and to then transform the world as they know it. One reason why many people have shown a lack of commitment might be because the leadership has failed to call them to devote themselves to the correct mission. Too much time and attention has been invested in a building, in a budget, or in a specific ministry program and all the while the people have largely neglected Christ’s great commission and great commandment.

There must be a clear direction in which the congregation can participate. Leadership has to clarify everyone’s responsibility in shifting the culture. Churches must also constantly and honestly evaluate. Are the people playing church or are they actually becoming the church? Is the aim to increase the church or is the goal to bless the city? Is the church producing ministers within the building or propelling missionaries out in the community? Concerning discipleship, are the strategies in place making members of the church or are they truly mobilizing followers of Christ? The church has the opportunity not only to demonstrate the loving truth of Christ but also to invite the unchurched to join them on the journey. The leadership must assess if they are just scheduling more programs or getting ready for God’s upcoming potential. There is a definite difference between training personnel and launching a transformational community?[26] The leadership team has a continued responsibility to align and attach the vision to a biblical foundation. Transforming a church will demand a united and diverse team. Strategies must exist to recruit, retrain, and release individuals to partner together in ministry.

REFLECTIVE CONCLUSION
I have come to recognize that my personal mission statement is to fulfill Christ’s great commandment and commission by engaging seekers, enabling followers, entrusting ministers, and encouraging leaders. This personal philosophy essay has been a useful exercise in reflecting upon my biblical and theological convictions, considering my ministry philosophy, and clarifying my cross-cultural communicational methods. My natural response is to participate in his Kingdom coming to earth through the transformational work of his church. My love for Jesus ought to always be matched with an action. I understand that my effectiveness will continue only as I follow God in faith.

The ultimate goal of cross-cultural communication is not to build a kingdom of programs and people but instead to see lives transformed. The church has the privilege and responsibility to follow the apostles’ example of proclaiming and personifying a gospel that is “spiritual in its character (transforming the lives and values of its citizens), international in its membership (including Gentiles as well as Jews) and gradual in its expansion (beginning in Jerusalem, and then growing until it reaches the end of both time and earthly space).
[27] Amos Yong has suggested that the church simply regain the idea of “following after the footsteps of Jesus the Christ, the one anointed by the Spirit to herald the kingdom of God.”[28] After all, it was he who said, “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.”[29] Perhaps Ajith Fernando articulates the challenge best when he reminds the church “that [Christ’s] last command should be our first concern.”[30]

APPENDIX ONE: DISCUSSION QUESTIONS
1. This essay proposes that cross-cultural communication be local and global in ministry, sharing and caring in message, and courageous and creative in methodology. What are some examples of how your specific setting has or has not followed this philosophical approach? Why or why not?
2. One study concludes that nearly sixty-six percent of young adults have left the local church. Another source suggests that they would be more likely to stay connected if they perceived that the congregation was an essential aspect of their life. Do you agree or disagree? What can youth ministries do differently? How might the church leadership respond?
3. My dream is to one day be the lead pastor of a busy, programmatic, and attractional church and navigate the people through the transformation of becoming simple, intentional, and missional in their approach. How does transitioning an existing church differ from planting a new church? What are the pros and cons to each? Can both ways be effective in communicating the gospel?

WORKS CITED
Chiquete, Daniel. “Latin American Pentecostalism and Western Postmodernism:
Reflections on a Complex Relationship.” International Review of Mission 92, no. 364 (2003): 29-39. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials, EBSCOhost (accessed January 31, 2009).
Fernando, Ajith. The NIV Application Commentary: Acts. Grand Rapids, MI:
Zondervan Publishing House, 1998.
Hasselgrave, David. Communicating Christ Cross-Culturally. Grand Rapids, MI:
Zondervan Publishing House, 1991.
Hunsberger, George R. “The Mission of Public Theology: An Exploration.” Svensk
Missionstidskrift 93, no. 3 9 (2005): 315-324. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials, EBSCOhost (accessed January 31, 2009).
Kraft, Charles H. Communication Theory for Christian Witness. Rev. ed. Nashville,
TN: Abington Press, 1994.
Labovitz, George, and Victor Rosanksy. The Power of Alignment. New York: John
Wiley and Sons, 1997.
Macchia, Frank D. Baptized in the Spirit. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing
House, 2006.
McIntosh, Gary L. One Church, Four Generations: Understanding and Reaching All
Ages in Your Church. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2002.
McNeal, Reggie. Practicing Greatness. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2006.
Menzies, William W. and Robert P. Menzies. Spirit and Power. Grand Rapids, MI:
Zondervan Publishing House, 2000.
Miller, Donald E. “2006 SSSR Presidential Address–Progressive Pentecostals: The New
Face of Christian Social Engagement.” Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 46, no. 4 (2007): 435-445. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials, EBSCOhost (accessed January 31, 2009).
Niebuhr, H. Richard. Christ and Culture. San Francisco, CA: Harper Collins, 1996.
Oudshoorn, Daniel. “Speaking Christianly as a Missional Activity in the Midst of
Babel: Christian Living as the Exegesis of the Gospel Proclamation After the End of History.” Stimulus 14, no. 1 (2006): 14-24. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials, EBSCOhost (accessed January 31, 2009).
Pinnock, Clark H. 2006. “Church in the Power of the Holy Spirit: the Promise of
Pentecostal ecclesiology.” Journal of Pentecostal Theology 14, no. 2: 147-165. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials, EBSCOhost (accessed January 31, 2009).
Rainer, Thom S. and Eric Geiger. Simple Church. Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing
Group, 2006.
Rainer, Thom S. and Sam S. Rainer. Essential Church. Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing
Group, 2008.
Richie, Tony Lee. “Revamping Pentecostal Evangelism: Appropriating Walter J.
Hollenweger’s Radical Proposal.” International Review of Mission 96, no. 382-383 (2007): 343-354. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials, EBSCOhost (accessed January 31, 2009).
Rima, Samuel D. Leading from the Inside Out. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2000.
Sider, Ronald J. Good News and Good Works. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1999.
Stott, John R. W. The Message of Acts. Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press, 1994.
Willimon, William H. “Evangelism in the Twenty-First Century: Mainliners at the
Margins.” Journal for Preachers 30, no. 4 (2007): 3-10. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials, EBSCOhost (accessed January 31, 2009).
Yong, Amos. The Spirit Poured Out on All Flesh. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic,
2005.

[1] Daniel Oudshoorn. “Speaking Christianly as a Missional Activity in the Midst of Babel:
Christian Living as the Exegesis of the Gospel Proclamation after the End of History.” Stimulus 14, no. 1 (2006): 14. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials,
[2] Charles H. Kraft, Communication Theory for Christian Witness (Nashville: Abington Press, 1994), 16.
[3] Ibid, 40.
[4] Ibid, 172.
[5] Tony Richie, “Revamping Pentecostal Evangelism: Appropriating Walter J.
Hollenweger’s Radical Proposal.” International Review of Mission 96, no. 382-383 (2007): ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials, EBSCOhost (accessed January 31, 2009), 347.
[6] William H. Willimon. “Evangelism in the Twenty-First Century: Mainliners at the
Margins.” Journal for Preachers 30, no. 4 (2007): ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials, EBSCOhost (accessed January 31, 2009), 3.
[7] Daniel Chiquete. “Latin American Pentecostalism and Western Postmodernism:
Reflections on a Complex Relationship.” International Review of Mission 92, no. 364 (2003): 33. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials, EBSCOhost (accessed January 31, 2009).
[8] Clark Pinnock, “Church in the Power of the Holy Spirit: the Promise of
Pentecostal ecclesiology.” Journal of Pentecostal Theology 14, no. 2: ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials, EBSCOhost (accessed January 31, 2009), 149.
[9] H. Richard Niebuhr. Christ and Culture (New York: Harper Collins, 1996) 11.
[10] William H Willimon, 7.
[11] George R. Hunsberger. “The Mission of Public Theology: An Exploration.” Svensk
Missionstidskrift 93, no. 3 9 (2005): 318, 322. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials, EBSCOhost (accessed January 31, 2009).
[12] Daniel Oudshoorn, 21.
[13] Ronald Sider, Good News and Good Works (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1999, 174.
[14] Ibid, 175.
[15] Donald E. Miller. “2006 SSSR Presidential Address–Progressive Pentecostals:
The New Face of Christian Social Engagement.” Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 46, no. 4 (2007): 440, 444. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials, EBSCOhost (accessed January 31, 2009).
[16] David J. Hesselgrave. Communicating Christ Cross-Culturally (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1991), 454.
[17] Frank D. Macchia. Baptized in the Spirit (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing
House, 2006), 155.
[18] William W. Menzies and Robert P. Menzies, Spirit and Power (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House 2000), 130.
[19] Samuel D. Rima, Leading from the Inside Out (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2000), 53.
[20] Thom S. Rainer and Sam S. Rainer, Essential Church (Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 2008), 3.
[21] Ibid, 15.
[22] Gary L. McIntosh. One Church, Four Generations (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2002), 22.
[23] Thom S. Rainer and Sam S. Rainer, 5.
[24] George Labovitz and Victor Rosanksy. The Power of Alignment (New York: John Wiley and Sons, 1997) 43.
[25] Thom S. Rainer and Eric Geiger, Simple Church (Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing
Group, 2006), 135.
[26] Reggie McNeal, Practicing Greatness (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2006), 53.
[27] John R. W. Stott, The Message of Acts (Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press, 1994), 45.
[28] Amos Yong, The Spirit Poured Out on All Flesh (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2005), 152.
[29] Luke 19:10, New International Version.
[30] Ajith Fernando, The NIV Application Commentary: Acts (Grand Rapids, MI:
Zondervan Publishing House, 1998, 57.

Seek

Fathers

What is one of the most memorable moments with my father?
Much of our time as parents has been spent teaching the two oldest how to ride their bikes (my father was generous enough to buy both!). Jace received his Spider-Man bike in the mail just a couple days following his third birthday. There is nothing more challenging for a child than to transition from a tiny tricycle to a child-sized bicycle. Nevertheless, he is quickly learning how to peddle forward while simultaneously steering the handlebars. He seems to be slowly but surely gaining confidence in his own abilities. Julia is beginning to make some real progress as well. She started with her pink princess bike and lots of riding successfully bent the training wheels beyond repair – so much so that they have, unbeknownst to her, been useless for quite some time. I chuckled to myself watching her ride around our neighborhood . . . noticing that the wheels rarely, if ever, touched the sidewalk. In fact, they had become a hindrance rather than a help (adding weight to her humorous balancing act). Last September I finally mentioned to her that it was time for the wheels to come off. She struggled to get her balance . . . to get her feet off of the ground . . . to gain some momentum . . . but finally she got going (and has not looked back since).

I remember my humble beginnings as a bicyclist. My father, bless his heart, was not the most patient teacher. He decided to buy me a BMX bike instead of one of the smaller bikes (why purchase a bicycle that I will quickly outgrow – he has always been on the cheaper side)? The only problem was that I could barely touch the ground (even on my five year old tippy-toes). He also thought it to be a great idea to teach me on the street rather than on a sidewalk (he claimed that this would give us more room). Good intentions – bad ideas. Have you ever seen the roads in the Tri-Cities? If (and when) I fell on the gravel it would surely puncture my internal organs. He also refused to give me training wheels – how hard could it be to learn without them? Very. Here I was, riding a bike to big, with no training wheels, and in the middle of dangerous concrete. My own father setting me up for failure. He held on for a while . . . just long enough to pick up speed and let go (and by let go . . . I mean give me a good push). I fell. And I fell some more. By the end of the day I never learned to ride the bike . . . and I resembled one large walking scab. My mother was terrified and managed to convince my father to put on some training wheels. Now I had a BMX bicycle with training wheels.


Even better. I wish that was the end of the story . . . but it was not. My father then had the incredible idea to pick me up from school with the BMX bike (complete with training wheels). Hard to impress my friends when I am riding home from kindergarten (with my father) on a BMX bike (don’t forget the training wheels). My reputation took a long time to recover – I did not get my first girlfriend until at least fourth grade.


How do those moments shape our perspective on life? With God?
We have the tendency to perceive our Heavenly Father in similar terms as our earthly fathers (for good or for bad). For some, like myself, we have experienced a healthy relationship with our fathers. I will never forget getting up before school to see my dad reading his bible at the kitchen counter. While dropping me off at school or leaving for work, he would always take a moment to pray with me and for me. He would take the extra time to shoot free throws with me, take me to watch the Mariners lose, and go to all my events. Others of us wrestle with memories full of disappointment, dysfunction, destruction. We were avoided, abused, or abandoned. Even those with largely good experiences might have responded to our fathers incorrectly. We might have placed unrealistic pressures on ourselves to perform or appear a certain way. For example, for one reason or another, I developed a pretty serious fear of failure that stemmed from a larger fear of rejection. This thought process resulted in me being dishonest with him and only brought distance between us for a couple of years.

This is why we are taking May and June at Maltby Christian Assembly to talk about God’s crazy love. He is a God who loves us. He desires our best, deserves our best, and demands our best. In gratitude it is only natural for us to expresses our faith in God as a love for him and for others. We can learn a whole lot from the life, lessons, and leadership of Jesus Christ. He invested in the untouchables, the unlovables, and the unlikelies. He gave sight to the blind, legs to lame, and life to corpses. He talked with religious elite and the cultural outsiders. One of the things that astonishes me most about Chirst is his connection with the Father. He relied upon his power and always pointed towards his glory. All of his teaching was spoken on behalf of the Father’s authority. His mission was to seeking and to save the lost – to call crowds to love God and love others.

A father is a man who has replaced the money in wallet for pictures of his children.
Maybe our ideas of God are a bit skewed? Maybe he is the One who is generous towards us beyond description – because he loves us. With that in mind, Jesus challenged the people to be persistent in prayer. Jesus said, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened” (Matthew 7:7-8). He is in the midst of concluding what would be forever known as the greatest sermon to ever be shared. He raised the standard of what it meant to be a disciple and prepared them for impending persecution. He called his followers to display justice, honesty, humility, purity, and love. However, he also acknowledged that these commands were unnatural response and that his demands were nearly impossible. This is why he promised that his Heavenly Father would provide the impossible. They just have to ask, seek, and knock constantly and consistently. Like a good parent, God wishes to work on our sincerity, our diligence, and dependency. He is there to guide, provide, and protect.

Jesus was also aware of who he was talking to and of who would later read his words. He knew that much of the audience would have a difficult time trusting the Father. He took the truth a step further by using the illustration of an earthly parent. He went on to say, “Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? 11If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” (vv. 9-11). Just look at the willingness of parents to give good gifts. Becoming a parent changes everything. By nature, humans are pretty self-centered. We love to live life the way we want, where want, and how we want. Bringing home a baby from the hospital means that there is finally someone in our home that is more selfish than we are. Not only do we have to take care of them – we actually want to! We love them not for what they do – but because of who they are to us. When my son asks me for lunch, would I give him a rock? If he asks for a toy, would I give him a snake? Absolutely not! How much more does our loving and loyal Father in Heaven shower goodness upon us? We must re-frame the way we perceive and relate to God. He is not One who can be manipulated – so don’t name stuff and claim stuff. However, he is also not One who wishes to playing tricks on us with viciousness and delight. We have to begin to see him as One who simply wishes to share himself and his Kingdom with us.

Have you asked your Heavenly Father to give you ‘crazy love’? How so?
As fathers, we must reshape our children’s perspective of fatherhood. We are always real good to quote Paul’s instructions on honoring parents – and rightfully so considering that this is a principle which greatly shapes our destinies. However, Ephesian 6:4 instructs fathers to model the attitudes and actions of Christ and surrender our right to act egotistical or domineering. We must be honest with ourselves and admit this is not always the case. The good news is that Luke shares his perspective of Jesus’ sermon and specifically says, “How much more will your Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask” (Luke 11:12). In other words, our Father wishes to give us the fruit to reflect Christ. How many of us need to show more love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, goodness, faith, and humility? How many of us could use his gifts to represent Christ – such as wisdom, helps, teaching, leadership, giving, and administration?

How can we respond to our Heavenly Father’s gracious and willing love?
I saw the crazy love of Christ first hand with my stepfather. His alcoholism had haunted him for nearly fifty years – costing him several jobs, two marriages (almost three), and ten years of silence between he and his daughter. He finally had hit such a rock bottom that he was court-ordered to find an Alcoholics Anonymous. By coincidence, the closest group to his house was a Celebrate Recovery – a group dedicated to bringing wholeness and healing to people wrestling with hurts, habits, and hang-ups. It was there that he finally discovered the love and loyalty of his Heavenly Father. It was also during that time that he was diagnosed with the late stages of pancreatic cancer and told he would only have years, maybe months, to live.


I remember being called last Halloween by my mother who told me he had worsened and would only have weeks. My brother and I decided to meet my sister down in Clackamas to visit him. Nothing prepared me for what I was about to see – he was half the man he used to be, a shadow of himself, his tent falling a part. Even so, I would have not believed it had I not seen it myself, but he was a new man – there was a twinkly in his eye, a smile upon his face, and even though he was barely able to walk – a bounce in his step. He kept on saying, over and over, how happy he was that the whole family was together for the weekend. Before leaving the next day I asked him how I could pray for him. He just wanted to be forgiven – to know that God had forgiven him and that we understood how sorry he was for the things that he did. The last thing he said to me that day was that he wanted to play one more round of mini-golf with Troy and I – once the weather improved. The weather never improved. Denny died in late December.

Before passing he asked that I officiate the memorial. Due to all of the years that he wasted at the Elks Lodge, they had requested that he have his memorial there. Denny was very clear that he did not want to be made out to be anyone that he was not. He also wanted everyone to know about the forgiveness and freedom that he had experienced in the last eighteen months of his life. I had the opportunity to share the gospel of Jesus Christ in the Kelso Elks with the bar door wide open. There were well over one hundred people in attendance – less than twenty were Christ followers. I preached on the passage in Matthew that tells the story of the landowner who paid wages to laborers for a full day work and the same wage to those who had give just a couple of hours. God’s grace. The same is true for Denny. That is legacy – that God would empty his wallet and place Denny’s picture it. Many people need to be embraced, comforted, and restored for what their fathers did to them. Others need his Spirit to indwell his life so that they can be the fathers that they were destined to become. Still others need to finally admit that they are not able to lead their own lives and receive the reconciliation offered by the Father.

Fathers

Milk

I recently completed a reading critique of David J. Hesselgrave’s Communicating Christ Cross-Culturally. Here are a few of my observations:

1. The author’s main purpose in writing this book is to reconnect the message of Christ with the reality of the culture (Hesselgrave, 26). He recognizes that Christ followers have been entrusted with the mission of reaching out to the world, that they can reach out, that they must reach out, and that they will reach out. However, the issue rarely raised is how they will reach out and what the responses of the recipients will be (24). Any strategy ought to rely heavily upon an allegiance to Christ, include the truths of the bible, and embody one’s very call to cross-cultural communication.

2. The author’s instruction on the understanding of culture was helpful. He defines culture as methods of perception, emotion, and judgment. Mores are determined at birth and developed through childhood, held in common with others, incorporated into much of society, and morph over time (Hesselgrave, 100). Cultural categories include innovation, interaction, and ideas (101). One of the missionary’s greatest challenges is discovering the “deeper levels of values, beliefs, and worldviews” (102).

Another item of instruction that was appreciated was the teaching on Chinese perspectives which were influenced by Lao-Tzu’s stress upon the Tao and nature while Confucius’ teachings focus upon humanity and community (Hesselgrave, 259). They view the supernatural as “a variety of deities, devils, and spirits,” nature as the result “of the Tao acting through the principles of Yin and Yang,” and humanity “by nature good and kept that way by being in touch with the Tao and education” (263).

3. The most helpful part of the book was the instruction on assisting people on their search “for the pure spiritual milk, that by it [they] may grow up into salvation” (1 Peter 2:2, ESV). Every communicator has the responsibility to “speak that which must be heard, understood, and heeded” (Hesselgrave, 602). Each culture is looking for identity, leadership, purpose, and forgiveness (610). The ways in which given societies consistently and completely deal with each issue will vary greatly (604).

4. The quotation that seemed particularly important was the description of going into “the uttermost parts of the world [as taking] on cultural as well as geographical significance. Yet numerous missionaries have entered cultures without any attention whatsoever to the social structures, evidently assuming that the culture would be a carbon copy of their own or that differences would prove to be unimportant” (Hesselgrave, 454). Two main aspects of communication include one’s cultural worldviews and societal expectations. For example, the West has often mistaken their role with creation being that of domination rather that of dominion. Likewise, personal liberties have been overstressed at a great cost to corporate wellbeing (456).

Milk

Approach

I recently completed a reading critique of H. Richard Niebuhr’s Christ and Culture. Here are a few of my observations:

1. The author’s main purpose in writing this book was to rediscover healthy interaction between Christ and culture. Christians “[belong] to that community of men for whom Jesus Christ is of supreme importance as the key to the understanding of themselves and their world” while culture is the “total process of human activity” (Niebuhr, 11, 32). Approaches include opposition which demands a decision between the two, agreement which perceives Jesus as the peak of cultural accomplishment, syntheticism which alternates between the two, polarity which proposes different loyalties, and the conversionists which hold to Christ as transformational (39).

2. The author’s instruction concerning cross-cultural was helpful. Paul warns, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind” (Rom. 12:2). Jesus demands an allegiance to his Kingdom and love of others (Niebuhr, 47). However, the church is also instructed not to love the world – “a culture that is concerned with temporal and passing values” (48). Christ versus culture, in its separatist extreme, influences methods such as monasticism and sectarianism. This approach bans all government involvement but establishes new social structures (56).

Another item of instruction that was appreciated was the teaching of the Christ-of-culture method. The church has had to come to terms with “the universal meaning of the gospel, and the truth that Jesus is the savior, not of a selected little band of saints, but of the world” (105). He took great effort to express a holiness exemplified by action and a Kingdom with implications within government and religion (106). However, this approach does have the propensity to misrepresent the biblical Jesus. Proponents focus on sections, build upon them, and thus recreate an imaginary Messiah (109). Such doctrines affected are “sin, grace, and the Trinity” (110).

3. The most helpful part of the book was the teaching on the paradox between Christ and culture. Martin Luther dangerously “discerned the rules to be followed in cultural life were independent of Christian or church law” (174). Dualism has thus led to a compartmentalization in government, science, business and education (185)

4. The quotation that seemed particularly important was “In their understanding of sin the conversionists . . . note that [sin] is deeply rooted in the human soul, that it pervades all man’s work, and that there are no graduations of corruption, however various its symptoms” (191). This method holds to a Creator who is involved in creation, a humanity that has chosen to rebel against him and a history that is a result of an interaction between the two (194). Such a perspective suggests that “Jesus is the transformer of culture . . . he redirects, reinvigorates, and regenerates” (209).

Approach

Bridgers

INTRODUCTION
A generation is made up of people who have been interrelated by a historical time period, distinct limitations, and similar qualities. They tend to relate with those who have gone through the same domestic and international events, shared the same stylistic trends, and idolized like celebrities. Generations seem to hold to common convictions while simultaneously differentiating themselves from the perspectives and practices of those who have gone before or who have yet to follow.
[1] The North American landscape is made up of four major groups. In respect to their resiliency and stability, the sixty and over crowd are commonly referred to as Builders. The largest generation includes those in their forties and beyond, most commonly named Boomers, and who have prided themselves on individuality and liberality. There are Busters, made up of those in their mid-twenties and above, small in size, at times ostracized, and have sought simplicity.

Finally, the emerging generation has been labeled as the Bridgers or the Millennials in respect to their connection between two distinct time periods. The youngest generation is gifted in technology, seeking after belonging, and welcoming of change. Some refer to them as the Mosaics because “they are heterogeneous in views, tastes, beliefs, and ethnicity.”[2] Others prefer NetGen which highlights them as the first age group to be raised always with the capability of the World Wide Web at their fingertips. According to Thom S. Rainer and Sam S. Rainer III’s study compiled in Essential Church, “More than two-thirds of young adults have dropped out between the ages of eighteen and twenty-two.”[3] Nearly a quarter of the dropouts in today’s church occur between the ages of sixteen and twenty.[4] Attendance in local churches has continued to dwindle. Missional recruitment and financial support is decreasing.[5] A consumerism mentality has yet to be transformed into one of generosity. A Psalter once wrote, “I will cause your name to be remembered in all generations; therefore nations will praise you forever and ever.”[6] Leadership has to discover and design a strategy that honors the richness of the past while simultaneously envisioning a new future. The following essay proposes a cultural study of a cross-generational ministry to the Bridgers that includes a holistic doctrine, an incarnational community, and a missional mindset.

HISTORICAL PRESENTATION OF THE PEOPLE GROUP
The Bridgers have been raised in a technologically-reliant environment. In One Church, Four Generations, Gary McIntosh reveals that “computer cost-effectiveness rose one hundred million-fold from 1958 to 1997 [and] computers were 100,000 times more powerful and 1,000-fold less costly. At this rate, 79 percent [of people will be online] by 2010.”[7] In response, commerce is forced to produce and promote innovative designs in an instant. A member of the 21st Century Internet Venture Partners was recently quoted as saying, “If you have an idea, you have to act on it now. With the Internet, an item has no time to evolve. It has to happen now.”[8] Consequently, Bridgers are more inclined to reflect, arrange, and expand their thoughts by radically different methods than previous age groups. They are more comfortable in networking with things that surround them and can be misperceived as lacking commitment as they quickly shift between projects.[9]

No American generation has experienced such instability in the home. Stephanie Coonts writes, “Twenty-five percent of people polled in a recent national inquiry into American morality said that for $10 million they would abandon their entire family – a large number of people are evidently willing to do the same thing for free.”[10] Over half of the marriages initiated in the last thirty years have ended in divorce and about a third of every home is led by one parent. Rampant divorces and absentee parents have caused Millennials to doubt that families are able to stay together.[11] There also is pressures to be sexually active when “the average age for first-time intercourse for girls is fifteen; the boys’ average is fourteen. Three-fourths of Bridgers will have sex by the time they are high school seniors [and] forty percent of fourteen-year-old girls will become pregnant at least once before they turn twenty.”[12] Rainer states, “The most startling statistics are that, by the age of sixteen, one out of every four girls and one out of every ten boys will have been sexually abused.”[13] Most abuse will be committed by a parent or close relative.

CULTURAL PERSPECTIVE
Worldviews have drastically morphed socially, politically, economically, demographically, and philosophically over the past fifty years.[14] Secularization, globalization, and pluralism have all contributed to gradually de-church the culture. The Bridgers been raised with the perspectives that there are numerous accurate truths to one dilemma, that they are expected to accomplish several actions concurrently, and that two opposing facts can and do subsist.[15] The Postmodern perspective does not bestow worth to facts alone but only when that content is individualistically meaningful.[16] McIntosh points out that this is “the most diverse generation in United States history . . . [therefore] most Bridgers respect other people and their points of view. They believe it is important to be sensitive to other people’s feelings and to avoid hurting them.[17]

Uncertainty has tormented this generation with confusion, isolation, and anxiety. Emotions are hidden at all costs, relationships are commonly superficial, and acceptance has become the grand prize. There are gloomy and forlorn people who have yet to step away from their shallow compliance. Underneath the luster of popularity is the pressure to endure the intimidation of the culture.[18] Rainer warns that “in less than six years the number of Bridgers who feel stressed out about life has increased from 25 percent to nearly 40 percent. By 1991 the suicide frequency among the oldest Bridgers was 11.0 for every 100,000. The evidence is astounding – this is a generation that is in danger of being strangled by fear and hopelessness.[19] This is the generation that will grow up in a world forever marred by the attacks on the World Trade Center that killed thousands of American citizens. They will have to navigate the uncertain storms of terrorism and poverty.[20] Violence depicted in entertainment seems to have a contradictory outcome on the Millennials. The constant sights of brutal actions have deadened the intensity of their sympathy towards actual aggression. In the meantime, the surge of hostility produced in Hollywood has provoked a sense amongst Bridgers that they are in immense danger.[21]

BRIDGE-BUILDING METHODS TO COMMUNICATE CROSS-CULTURALLY
The twenty-first church has to take on the attitude of Jesus who chose to make “himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.[22] He was reliant and transparent in sharing humanity’s necessities, difficulties, and meanings. The gospel’s essence is that God entered into the world with the intent of changing it. Christ’s message can never be reduced to mere words and concepts but rather to always be centered on the language and lifestyle of Jesus himself. The Rainers propose that “young adults are likely to stay in the church if they see church as essential to their lives.”[23] Leadership has to assist Bridgers in discovering truth for themselves instead of merely forcing them to hold to the established doctrines of yesterday. They also need to be encouraged in that absolute truth can be discovered and that respectful debate between two viewpoints is healthy and necessary.[24] Bridgers should be challenged in their beliefs to the point where their behavior changes.[25] Charles H. Kraft proposes that, “What we seek is the kind of Christianity that is equivalent in its dynamics in today’s society to the Christianity we see in the pages of the New Testament.”[26] By drawing from Scripture, they might expand their knowledge of various situations, perceive how God has utilized these principles, and grow in the discipline of successful communication.[27]

In order to share Christ with the emerging generation, the pastoral leadership has the responsibility of taking existing busy, programmatic, and attractional churches and navigating the Bridgers through the transformation of becoming simple, intentional, and missional in their approach. The extended description of a simple church is one that “is designed around a straightforward and strategic process that moves people through the stages of spiritual growth. The leadership and the church have to be clear about the process and are equally committed to executing it. The process will have to flow logically and be implemented in each area of the church. The church will have to abandon everything that is not in the process.”[28] The leadership ought to guide the church into clarity, movement, alignment, and focus.[29] Such a church would be committed to the mission of connecting people to the love of Christ, the life of the church, and the need of the world. A gathering that was experiential in their worship, authentic in their relationship, and incarnational in their evangelism would be incredible.

WAYS AND MEANS OF SHARING CHRIST WITH THIS PEOPLE GROUP
One of the ways that the twenty-first century church can share the gospel with the Bridgers is by exemplifying a commitment to connecting people to the love of Christ through experiential worship. The story of Christ must be centered upon his teachings and actions which are intentionally centered on his Kingdom.[30] Doctrine must be complete in an age of religious inconsistencies. Holistic adoration includes commemoration, teaching, and repentance. Millennials are searching for a meaningful faith that is enveloped in experience. Many are reluctant to say they are religious (either because they have been hurt by alleged hypocrisy or convicted by the gospel) but embrace the image of a spiritual journey.[31] Gatherings should allow for an encounter and response to Christ’s presence through various expressions, experiences, and emotions.

There are specific characteristics that Bridgers would recognize as an authentic worship environment. Every individual has to be welcomed to participate. By no means does this value encourage individualism. Rather, every person is invited to be a recipient and candidate within the corporate identity. The propensity is to heighten the encounter through sound, lighting, and visual aids. While such mediums are not destructive in and of themselves, they must never receive equal footing with the transformational quality of Scripture.
[32] Less emphasis must be placed on drawing crowds with an applicable message that attract everyone but convict no one and more stress should be placed upon calling people to a whole new way of living under the leadership of Christ[33] The sermons must be narrative in nature and everything that takes place must be in submission to the revelation of the Bible. The Bridger generation is drawn to deep theological teaching. The pastoral leadership has to be committed to preparing and preaching messages that are biblically-based and culturally-relevant. Walt Mueller, in his book titled Engaging the Soul of Youth Culture, claims that “the emerging generations are especially curious about the relevance of the biblical story for today. We can help them realize that God is still redemptively active in the affairs of humankind . . . how God has changed our lives.”[34]

The manifestations of God must be audibly recognized, admired, and explained. The church must be careful not to compromise the significance of Jesus’ teachings. Leadership ought to ensure that their worship is articulated as a lifestyle rather than merely attending a weekend gathering. This will take purposefulness in integrating songs of praise into the corporate worship setting while still being careful in instructing the congregation that every element of the gathering (i.e. giving, friendship, and study) is all worship.[35] Spontaneity is also always encouraged. Alfonso Wyatt claims, “As long as young people are born, there will be creative tension to interpret the worship of God through the filter of young minds, hearts, talents, and experiences.”[36] Leadership must allow for liberty balanced with order. Guidance should be given to keep people’s attention upon Christ as they seek after the Spirit’s indwelling. The supernatural should be seen as more genuine than the natural. Though Christian spirituality must guard against escapism, Bridgers should never be encouraged to flee the actual world into “an unreality” but rather to participate in an ultimate reality.

The second characteristic of an effective cross-generational approach that transforms the Bridger culture would be in the area of connecting people to the life of the church through genuine relationships. Authentic community should be on full display. God functions in the context of the Trinity and chose to enter into a divine covenant partnership with humanity. Therefore, his people have the privilege and responsibility to exemplify that same equality and self-sacrifice.[37] Bridgers who were once measured as being unhealthy, unattractive, unworthy, and unholy can now be transformed into the very dwelling places of Christ – blessed in order to be a blessing.[38] Every individual brings and receives value from the corporate whole. The church offers Bridgers the reception, affection, protection, and identification they have been looking for.[39]

Fellowship stands in stark contrast with the individualism of past generations. This attitude has successfully infused much of Christianity where, according to the George Barna Group, nearly “ten million self-proclaimed believers have not attended church in the past six months (apart from Christmas and Easter).”[40] H. Richard Niebuhr defines a Christian as one who considers “himself belonging to that community of men for whom Jesus Christ – his life, words, deeds, and destiny – is of supreme importance as the key to the understanding of themselves and their world, the main source of the knowledge of God and man, good and evil, the constant companion of the conscience, and the expected deliverer of evil.”[41] The church ought to be known to enrich marriages, broaden the role of genders in society, and ordain women in church ministry.[42] The twenty-first century offers the opportunity to expand on this divine community. God has always extended an invitation to “the poor, the orphaned, and the widowed, the alien and sojourner, and dead and the good as dead.”[43] Christ instructed his disciples, “But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.”[44]

Connecting people to the life of the church goes far beyond feeding the marginalized but rather inviting them to identify with your Christ-centered and Spirit-dependent community. Churches must offer and encourage the Bridgers to be involved in small groups where they have the opportunity to discuss the sermon and foster the accountability in applying the principles to their lives. According to Christianity Today, the Barna Group has discovered that “leaders are realizing that it is not just that we need more catechism for youth but a different kind.”[45] A greater amount of tailored, cross-generational instruction for Bridgers is desperately needed so that the church steers clear of portraying that belief and behavior are unconnected. Resources have to be provided for individuals to develop spiritual habits such as daily prayer, reading, and journaling.[46]

The third way that the church can communicate the gospel with the Bridger generation is by authentically connecting people to the need of the world through the incarnational proclamation of Christ’s Kingdom. The Bridger generation is most effectively incorporated into the congregation by way of “service, giving, and missions.”[47] Hubert C. Noble suggests that “the effectiveness of this evangelism depends on the degree to which the living Christ is truly at the heart of it so that by the power of the Holy Spirit the community nourishes in warmth and depth the spiritual life of its members and gives evidence that Christ is the Lord of its own inner life and interpersonal relations.”[48] Rather than competing with the culture, George R. Hunsberger has called Christ followers to reintroduce themselves into the public square by way of grace, humility, courage, creativity, and hope.[49] Tony Richie, the bishop of the Church of God, has called his affiliation to consider a relationally-orientated evangelistic method (one which flows out of discussion).[50] Today’s church has spent too much time portraying a gospel soaked in judgment and not enough emphasis upon forgiveness – to bring reconciliation.[51]
For Bridgers, any and all conversation must flow out of a compassionate heart. Donald Miller, Professor of Religion and Sociology at the University of Southern California, advises that the gospel always include, but no longer be limited to, the personal salvation of just one individual. The gospel must permeate all areas of society – illustrating Jesus’ heart for the insolvent, the innocent, the ill, and the exiled.
[52] The Bridgers wish to be more humanitarian (feeding and clothing those who are homeless), caring for those facing catastrophe (recovery from marital difficulties, substance abuse, or medical emergencies) and encouraging local improvements (educational, economic, environmental, and political developments).[53] Ronald Sider suggests that the church has been guilty of translating “Romans without also translating Amos.” Salvation should transform an individual who repents of rebellion, dedicates his life to obedience, enjoys a renewed identity, and as a result confronts organizations of tyranny in the name Jesus.[54]

David Kinnaman proposes that, “Losing the theology and practice of common grace and focusing on conversion over discipleship has contributed greatly to Christianity’s perception problem. When we no longer know what it means (much less care) to be salt and light among those in our culture and to be an influence for good, we forfeit our role as agents of Christ’s kingdom.”[55] Bridgers would be attracted to a church that responds to personal gratification with an unwavering devotion to God, to personal liberties with corporate responsibility, and to capitalism with service and generosity.[56] God’s people must begin to declare allegiance to the heavenly Kingdom instead of an earthly empire. Bridgers tend to be guarded against a church that seems to share close association with any political ideology – such alliances have left much of the gospel feeble and ineffective. The outcome has been a message that rescues the lost without recreating the culture. Government procedures typically entice and ensnare Christianity with wealth, position, indictments, separation, and devastation. George R. Hunsberger has called the church to be missional by way of grace, humility, courage, creativity, and hope. [57] The natural response would be a church compelled with giving away instead of taking away – answering consumption, domination, isolation, and immorality.[58]

COMPARISON WITH THE NORTH AMERICAN CULTURE
In cross-generational communication, the principles are more important than the methods. There is a delicate balance between the desire to evangelize different age groups with the need to cooperate and sacrifice for one other. Each strategy offers obvious strengths and the possibility of great weaknesses. The seeker-driven model chooses to focus on demographics.[59] Target audiences do bring difficulty in bringing variety to their worship. Others have designed their gatherings around a multi-venue approach. This tactic attempts to offer various types of elements or even goes as far as to present different locations.[60] While generations might be somewhat satisfied with options, the result could be an inconsistency in vision. Others have planted churches out of existing ones in hopes of relating to new groups. Many are added but the long-term could be an inclination in them growing further apart. There are those who attempt to blend the desires of generations into one gathering.[61] The goal of this strategy is for the community to model cooperation and complementation. The typical outcome could be nothing more than disjointed services at best or power struggles at their worst.

Rainer advises that the Bridgers’ “primary spiritual struggle is about mattering to someone and about meaning something to self and to others and, ultimately, to God. If you feel empty, you may think that you do not matter very much.”[62] They must come to realize that they have the opportunity to “shape the attitudes, values, economics, and lifestyles of America.”[63] They will be the dominant adult population group for at least the first half of the next century. The Bridgers already make up well over a quarter of the nation and will be the dominant generation for most of the century. They are secure “in their academic ability, leadership ability, mathematical ability, popularity, and social skills but are no less likely to be altruistic in helping others and participating in community service [and] consider raising a family to be essential or very important.”[64]

EVALUATION OF THE CULTURE AND WORLDVIEWS
David J. Hesselgrave, Director of the School of World Mission and Evangelism at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, considers the command to be witnesses to “the uttermost parts of the world [as taking] on cultural as well as geographical significance. Yet numerous missionaries have entered cultures without any attention whatsoever to the social structures, evidently assuming that the culture would be a carbon copy of their own or that differences would prove to be unimportant.”[65] A dilution of bible instruction will cause the Millennials to believe that they are being deceived once they discover a significant disparity in what the Scripture teaches compared to what they are receiving from leadership.[66] The church has to foster and maintain devotion to Christ’s mission of making disciples by modeling an approach after the apostles who boldly proclaimed, “For we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.”[67] One cannot overemphasize discipleship and fellowship while disregarding evangelism and social action.[68]

That being said, the church has to promote cooperation amongst the different ages. Bridgers are hungry for mentors’ consideration and communication. The bible counsels the young to listen to the wisdom of the elders and the elders to “focus on the inherent values of Scripture rather than on the personal habits or stylistic differences . . . scriptural values, such as honestly, overcoming temptations, wise use of the tongue, and putting God first, are values all generations need to adopt.”
[69] Leadership has to intentionally correct the course of biblical illiteracy. Mentoring is a vital aspect because those who do not understand the bible will be the ones who continue to disobey it.[70]

REFLECTIVE CONCLUSION

This cultural study on Bridgers has suggested that the church take a cross-generational approach that includes a completeness of biblical practice, a unified fellowship of diverse people groups, and an intentional evangelistic strategy. This is a generation in the midst of a monumental transition – spiritually, socially, and technologically. With their size, the Bridgers have the capability to transform the direction of the church, nation, and world. Previous generations, especially the Boomers, have the responsibility to guide them to Christ in their most formative years. The challenge is to relate the unchanging gospel to an ever-shifting culture.
[71] The bible proclaims, “We will not hide them from their children; we will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord, his power, and the wonders he has done.”[72]

APPENDIX ONE: DISCUSSION QUESTIONS
1. Due partly to technological advances, Bridgers are more inclined to reflect, arrange, and expand their thoughts through radically different methods than previous age groups. They are more comfortable in networking with things that surround them and can be misperceived as lacking commitment as they quickly shift between projects. With that being considered, what are some ways that the church can utilize technology in cross-generational communication? What are some of the obvious challenges?
2. In order to share Christ with the emerging generation, the pastoral leadership has the responsibility of taking existing busy, programmatic, and attractional churches and navigating the Bridgers through the transformation of becoming simple, intentional, and missional in their approach. Do you agree or disagree? What other methods might cross-cultural communicators consider?
3. This essay proposes a cultural study of a cross-generational ministry to the Bridgers that includes a holistic doctrine, an incarnational community, and a missional mindset. Do you agree or disagree? What might those cross-cultural principles look like in your ministry situation?

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Pentecostalism.” Religious Studies Review 33, no. 4 (2007): 275-290. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials, EBSCOhost (accessed January 31, 2009).
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62-75. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials, EBSCOhost (accessed June 6, 2009).
Nydam, Ronald J. 2006. “The Relational Theology of Generation Y.” Calvin Theological
Journal 41, no. 2: 321-330. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials, EBSCOhost (accessed June 6, 2009).
Oudshoorn, Daniel. “Speaking Christianly as a Missional Activity in the Midst of
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Richie, Tony Lee. “Revamping Pentecostal Evangelism: Appropriating Walter J.
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[1] Gary L. McIntosh. One Church, Four Generations (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2002), 15.
[2] Ibid, 161.
[3] Thom S. Rainer and Sam S. Rainer, Essential Church (Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 2008), 3.
[4] Ibid, 15.
[5] Gary L. McIntosh, 22.
[6] Psalm 45:17, English Standard Version.
[7] Gary L. McIntosh, 165.
[8] Ibid, 168.
[9] Ibid, 172.
[10] Chap Clark. Hurt (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2004), 102
[11] Ibid, 120.
[12] Thom S. Rainer. The Bridger Generation (Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing, 2006), 127.
[13] Thom S. Rainer. The Bridger Generation, 57.
[14] Daniel Oudshoorn. “Speaking Christianly as a Missional Activity in the Midst of Babel:
Christian Living as the Exegesis of the Gospel Proclamation after the End of History.” Stimulus 14, no. 1 (2006): 14. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials,
[15] Gary L. McIntosh, 164.
[16] George Barna. Real Teens (Venture, CA: Regal Books, 2001), 95.
[17] Gary L. McIntosh, 174-5.
[18] Chap Clark, 19.
[19] Ibid, 117.
[20] Gary L. McIntosh, 169.
[21] Thom S. Rainer, 122.
[22] Philippians 2:7, English Standard Version.
[23] Thom S. Rainer and Sam S. Rainer, 5.
[24] Gary L. McIntosh, 180.
[25] Charles H. Kraft, Communication Theory for Christian Witness (Nashville: Abington Press, 1994), 40.
[26] Ibid, 172.
[27] Ibid, viii.
[28] Thom S. Rainer and Eric Geiger, Simple Church (Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing
Group, 2006), 68.
[29] Ibid, 135.
[30] Daniel Oudshoorn, 14.
[31] Rebecca Jaichandran and B D. Madhav. “Pentecostal Spirituality in a Postmodern
World.” Asian Journal of Pentecostal Studies 6, no. 1 (2003): 49. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials, EBSCOhost (accessed January 31, 2009).
[32] Rebecca Jaichandran and B D. Madhav, 42, 59-60.
[33] William H Willimon. “Evangelism in the Twenty-First Century: Mainliners at the
Margins.” Journal for Preachers 30, no. 4 (2007): 7. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials, EBSCOhost (accessed January 31, 2009).
[34] Walt Mueller. Engaging the Soul of Youth Culture (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2006), 194.
[35] Rebecca Jaichandran and B D. Madhav, 58.
[36] Alfonso Wyatt. “The “Flava” of Youth Worship.” Living Pulpit 12, no. 3: 44-44. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials, EBSCOhost (accessed June 6, 2009), 45.
[37] Daniel Oudshoorn, 20.
[38] Daniel Chiquete. “Latin American Pentecostalism and Western Postmodernism:
Reflections on a Complex Relationship.” International Review of Mission 92, no. 364 (2003): 33. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials, EBSCOhost (accessed January 31, 2009).
[39] Daniel Chiquete, 32.
[40] Clark Pinnock. “Church in the Power of the Holy Spirit: the Promise of
Pentecostal ecclesiology.” Journal of Pentecostal Theology 14 ed., ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials, EBSCOhost (accessed January 31, 2009). 149.
[41] H. Richard Niebuhr. Christ and Culture (New York: Harper Collins, 1996) 11.
[42] Michael J. McClymond. “We’re Not in Kansas Anymore: The Roots and Routes of World
Pentecostalism.” Religious Studies Review 33, no. 4 (2007): 277. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials, EBSCOhost (accessed January 31, 2009).
[43] William H Willimon, 7.
[44] Luke 14:13-14, English Standard Version.
[45] Christianity Today. “Who Do You Think You Are? The Global Church Needs to Ground Youth in Their True, Deepest Identity. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials, EBSCOhost (accessed June 6, 2009), 19.
[46] Thom S. Rainer and Sam S. Rainer, 199.
[47] Ibid, 86.
[48] Hubert C. Noble. “Evangelism on the College Campus.” Theology Today 11, no. 1: ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials, EBSCOhost (accessed June 6, 2009), 67.
[49] George R. Hunsberger. “The Mission of Public Theology: An Exploration.” Svensk
Missionstidskrift 93, no. 3 9 (2005): ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials, EBSCOhost (accessed January 31, 2009), 318.
[50] Tony Richie. “Revamping Pentecostal Evangelism: Appropriating Walter J. Hollenweger’s Radical Proposal.” International Review of Mission 96, no. 382 (2007): 343-354. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials, EBSCOhost (accessed January 31, 2009).
[51] Ibid, 347.
[52] Harvey G. Cox. “Global Pentecostalism: The New Face of Christian Social
Engagement.” International Bulletin of Missionary Research 32, no. 2 (2008): ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials, EBSCOhost (accessed January 31, 2009), 108.
[53] Donald E. Miller. “2006 SSSR Presidential Address–Progressive Pentecostals:
The New Face of Christian Social Engagement.” Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 46, no. 4 (2007): 440, 444. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials, EBSCOhost (accessed January 31, 2009).
[54] Ronald Sider, Good News and Good Works (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1999, 175.
[55] David Kinnaman. Unchristian (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2007), 224.
[56] Ronald Sider, 174.
[57] George R. Hunsberger, 322.
[58] Daniel Oudshoorn, 21.
[59] Gary L. McIntosh, 211.
[60] Ibid, 212.
[61] Ibid, 214.
[62] Ronald J. Nydam. “The Relational Theology of Generation Y.” Calvin Theological
Journal 41, no. 2: ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials, EBSCOhost (accessed June 6, 2009), 326.
[63] Thom S. Rainer. The Bridger Generation, 6.
[64] Ibid, 9.
[65] David J. Hesselgrave. Communicating Christ Cross-Culturally (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1991), 454.
[66] Thom S. Rainer and Sam S. Rainer, 16.
[67] Acts 4:20, English Standard Version.
[68] Ibid, 18.
[69] Gary L. McIntosh, 232.
[70] Thom S. Rainer and Sam S. Rainer, 19.
[71] Ibid, 18.
[72] Psalm 78:4

Bridgers

Excuses

When was a time that you were humiliated in front of a crowd?
Think of a moment when you were on the causing or receiving end of a painful loss of your pride, self-respect, or dignity. Many of us have said the wrong thing while publicly speaking, tripped on a chord or step while walking up on a platform, or even been bullied by someone in elementary school. Recently I had the privilege of co-preaching with my brother at Merge of MCA. He told the story of a time I embarrassed him in a front of is friends. I interned at local churches while going to college. For part of that time I had the privilege of being my brother’s middle school director. Sometimes that line between leader and brother happened to be blurry territory. There was a time when we had an out of school event for our junior highers at Oasis Waterworks in Kennewick, WA. While wrestling and kidding around, I chose that very moment to hold him down and reveal his armpit hair (both of them) to all of the onlookers (one of them being a girl he had a mad crush on). A junior higher’s nightmare to say the least.

Why do we care so much about what people think of us?
We can spend so much of our lives wanting so badly to impress others – to be accepted by them. We will do almost anything to avoid humiliation or rejection. We will even go as far as to place ourselves in dangerous situations or in the presence of destructive people. This is one reason why our student ministry is going through a series on Eliminate. Christ followers must cast off apathy and take part in something bigger than themselves. We must meet the needs of others – using things to help people instead of using people to acquire things. We can never risk underestimating sin but also should not underestimate the power of Christ’s forgiveness. In other words, we have to make sure that we rid ourselves of anything that gets in the way of our commitment to Christ and his mission – especially our worry of what others might think of us.

This search for significance is nothing new. One could just look at the first century Hebrews who had been under five hundred years of political oppression and four hundred years of prophetic silence. They were grasping for an identity in the midst of a corrupt Roman Empire and religious establishment. Herod wanted a position with the powerful, the Zealots wanted freedom from tyranny, the Pharisees held onto tradition in midst of terror, and all the while the outsiders settled for second-class status. It was in this environment that rumors began circulating of a Messiah – the Chosen One, the Christ, the King. This man named Jesus was incredibly devoted to caring for the untouchables, the unlovables, and the unlikelies. He spoke of seeking and saving the lost – calling crowds to love God and love others. He lived a life where nothing got in the way of pursuing God’s plans and purposes.

Brick walls are there for a reason – they give us a chance to show how badly we want something.
Jesus was leaving Jericho knowing full well that his days were numbered. His popularity was at an all-time high – but so was the gathering opposition. If anyone had an excuse to think of himself and nobody else – it was him. The bible reads, “Then they came to Jericho. As Jesus and his disciples, together with a large crowd, were leaving the city, a blind man, Bartimaeus (that is, the Son of Timaeus), was sitting by the roadside begging. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, ‘Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!’ Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, ‘Son of David, have mercy on me!’ (Mark 10:46-48).

Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem for the Passover. He was just fifteen miles away from the capitol and was surely entering into the longest and toughest week of his life. The group he was traveling in walked right by a man named Bartimaeus, a man who was begging alongside on the road. Here was a guy, due to his situation, who could have easily settled for being broken goods. However, for one reason or another he saw hope in Jesus and his ministry. He began screaming to gain his attention. During this time in history, while Jesus walked the earth, it was a common sight to see the blind beg. Jesus could have been like anyone else and keep on walking and no one would have thought anything about it. In fact, the crowd grew irritated at the man and chose to correct him, telling him to be silent. The blind man refused to relent – he was willing to stand out in a group and humble himself in asking Christ to help him.

Here is the good news – Jesus stopped. The screaming worked. The story goes on to say, “And Jesus stopped and said, ‘Call him.’ And they called the blind man, saying to him, ‘Take heart. Get up; he is calling you.’ And throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus” (vv. 49-50). Jesus actually asked the crowd to bring the beggar to him. This was the same crowd who took pride in the fact that they could see and he could not. Now they were being asked to serve him. Now they were being asked to place him in a position of honor. They were to retrieve him. They were to guide him. The crowd did exactly what Jesus had asked of them. They had no real values or convictions. Their motives were not pure. They did not obey Christ’s instructions because they loved the hurting and helpless but because they just wanted to impress the One they were with. Contrast that with Bartimaeus’ response. He jumped up immediately. He never hesitated to do what Jesus asked. Maybe he was not the blind man in the story after all? He was the one who had the faith to leave his mat – the spot where he begged for alms – his only source of income – for an uncertain situation to say the least (Jesus never said what he was going to do for him).

In fact, Jesus did not heal blind beggar right away. The passage ends with, “And Jesus said to him, ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ And the blind man said to him, ‘Rabbi, let me recover my sight.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Go your way; your faith has made you well.’ And immediately he recovered his sight and followed him on the way (vv. 51-52). I wonder why Jesus commonly asked people what they wanted? Can’t you tell a man is blind? Isn’t he the one who can peek into your heart and know your deepest need and desire? Maybe that is why he asks. He wants us to vocalize our troubles. He wants us to come to a place where we recognize, no matter how hard we try, we can’t fix everything. It does not matter that we spend the majority of our lives pretending that we are a god – that we can control our own little worlds – we aren’t and we never will be. Maybe Jesus questioned the man in order to strengthen his faith. He wanted to hear the request directly from him. Imagine, the Messiah wanted to take a moment alone with a lowly beggar. This makes me wonder if I am keeping company with the right kind of people – or the wrong kind of people for that matter?

Just for the record, Jesus did heal him – suddenly and completely. The man responded in gratitude by following him all the way to Jerusalem. Again, we don’t know why he decided to change his plans and go to the capitol. Maybe it was because he was excited about being allowed into the temple courts for the first time (now that he was not ‘unclean’). Maybe it was just that he was not done having a conversation with his Savior? All I do know for sure is this – the crowd is not mentioned again in the story. Nothing spectacular happened to them. It is not that Jesus didn’t want to – it is because they never asked. For one reason or another, they were content with their own brick walls. Either they did not want to give them up or they did not realize that they had any in the first place.

What is the brick wall in your life? What are you going to do about it?
My brother recently told me about a man by the name of Randy Pausch. He was a successful engineer and he and his wife had three young children. It was at this time that the doctors discovered that he had just months to live – his body was breaking down due to pancreatic cancer. How would I respond to that news? Pausch maximized the moment. He took the opportunity to share “his last lecture” He wrote a book to his children – leaving them a legacy. I have heard it said that “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” Maybe what could kill you is used by God to transform you?

I am hoping that this is the summer that students consider signing up for Catalyst Student Leadership in the Fall. There are some who must stop avoiding being influencers. They doubt that they are a “leader.” No more excuses – today is the day to stand up instead of always blending in. I am praying for students who will own the mission of Merge Ministries which is to connect their generation to the love of Christ. This could be the summer that they grow, give, and guide.

What would happen if we allowed God to breakdown those walls?
How can we get over our past and allow Christ to lead our future? Will we begin to deal with our own insecurities and inabilities? Will we stop making excuses for our hurts, habits, and hang-ups? Maybe our journey begins with crying out, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”

Excuses