Thursday, April 25, 2013

Passion and the Honey Badger

Tonight is the NFL draft. The night when 32 teams pick players they think truly benefit their ball clubs. However, the draft always involves a risk. You don't know exactly how a player will perform on the field. You also don't know exactly how a player will perform off the field either. Or for a drug test.

One intriguing prospect is former Heisman candidate Tyrann Matthieu, known to many, and especially to play-by-play man Brent Musberger, as "The Honey Badger."

Jim Rome interviewed The Honey Badger and I missed it. But as fascinating as a Jim Rome interview is, his reflection on the interview isn't too shabby. And I did catch that. Apparently Matthieu sounded quite sincere, though as many pointed out, so did Ryan Leaf several months before he got busted for breaking and entering someone's house looking for drugs. Still, Rome wasn't exactly sure how to think about Tyrann Matthieu. This was the same guy who failed multiple (and that's probably not fair to the word "multiple") drug tests. And at times, just didn't seem to care about football.

Would he care about "the cron" (marijuana for those who aren't as hip and down with the times) or would he care about football? Which would it be? Finally Rome pointed out a very simple and biblical truth: he would follow whatever he was most passionate about. If football was a greater passion, he wouldn't puff the magic dragon (maybe a little more apropos marijuana allusion). If football was his sole and utmost passion, he would have no problem with the weed, pot, reefer, hippy lettuce, etc...

In other words, he needed to replace his less worthy passion with a passion of much greater worth. His passion would drive him toward good things like practice and away from bad things like drugs.

I've never heard Jim Rome sound so much like Thomas Chalmers, who spoke of "the expulsive power of a new affection." Passion, affection, pretty much the same principle. You can't change a habit or any sin pattern (for any lasting period) in life simply by inserting rules or will-power; instead what we need is a redirecting of your passions/affections. When someone is willing to repent of a less worthy passion, it can then be replaced by a greater passion.

Matthieu needs to be reminded of the benefits of a career in the NFL verses the benefits of the "chronic." And he needs to be reminded over and over.

If I were convinced (which I'm not-but then again, I've seen former Buc's defensive back Tanard Jackson for the Bucs go back again and again to the weed, and even did so after being suspended a year, getting another chance, and doing it again when he played for another team) that Matthieu indeed had replaced that lesser passion, I'd draft him.

Fortunately there is a place for those of us like the The Honey Badger. In local churches, people of misplaced passions who chase after pleasure, comfort, power, or drugs, gather and fight for the only solution to their problems: Jesus. In Jesus they find not only forgiveness, but someone who is worthy of our passion throughout the week. They find Someone whom they can think about and in whom t they can delight. In Him there is not only gracious pardon but life transforming power.

Matthieu's problem is one of passion. We can all relate.


Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Fund Raising Thoughts: Show me the present and past cheerful givers

One of my greatest fears and hesitations in entering into the whole realm of church planting was raising money. But over time, it has become less of a fear and more of an adventure. Of course what adventure doesn't involve some fear, right? It would then become a romantic comedy! And I don't think that life is supposed to be a "rom-com (I like that designation better)." Anyhow, here are some initial thoughts after a little less than a month of support raising.

1.) Cheerful giving. Paul reminds us that God is honored with cheerful giving (II Cor 9:7). So I'm thinking that's probably a good standard for fundraisers to follow. So far, everyone who has committed money to the West Bradenton Project has done so cheerfully. Either that, or they are very good actors; but I will go with the former rather than the latter. Needless to say, I'm not resorting to Jerry McGuire "show me the money" tactics. I pray every day for God to show me the cheerful giver.

2.) Church planting is not the only thing worth giving to. My passion is church planting, and I agree with Tim Keller and many other missiologists like Ed Stetzer (yes there are such folks who study missions/church planting and have PHD's), that church planting is the most effective way to reach non-Christians and impact a city. However, throughout this process, I've been reminded of other equally worthy recipients such as missionaries and campus ministries like R.U.F. God gives different people different passions, and he gives people a heart and opportunity to financially partner with folks who share those same passions. And I'm obviously very glad for those supporting foreign missions and campus ministries, regardless of how it limits giving to our church plant.

3.) It's hard to ask people to do what you're not willing to do yourself. I felt weird about asking folks to give to our church plant if I were not giving to church planting (in another words-money that would not help me directly). I needed to put my money where my mouth was. If my heart is really into church planting, I need to be giving as well as going. And since money reveals what is important in our lives, we've gladly started giving to a dear friend laboring in the Boston area.

4.) If you are involved with/giving to a local church (which at one time was a church plant), it is important to realize that other folks first had to give in order for you to be able to give. In other words, many people who would never personally benefit from your church joyfully sacrificed so that you and others could hear the gospel preached each week. And that is a beautiful act of love: giving that only benefits others. The same act of love happens with foreign missions giving and campus ministries. But missionaries and campus ministers know that they are there BECAUSE others have given to them. And those being ministered to don't usually give (can you blame poor college students and indigenous unbelievers!). But I doubt this same type of thinking is as prevalent in the membership/visitorship of a local church-and I can see why since the person in the "pew" is giving and didn't ask for money! Yet their very presence and opportunity to give/tithe in a church plant/former church plant is only made possible because people, whom they will never meet until heaven, have loved them enough to pray and give. Others have first given to a distant church so that they can give to their local church. Those who recognize they are recipients of such prior gracious giving often want to give to church planting. At least that has been my experience so far at Redeemer. No one has said, "Well I think its silly to give to church planting," because they recognize many gracious people before them didn't think like that. 

5.) Churches recently planted tend to give to plant churches. An old established church, Scherer Memorial in South Carolina, gave a good bit of money to help plant Redeemer in Hurricane, WV. After having funded a church in Morgantown, WV, Redeemer will now help us start our church in Bradenton, FL. How cool is that? Paying it forward across state lines. Recently planted churches remember that they were once supported and because so, want to support others. If you want to go back even father, consider that an old established church in South Carolina, has really had a hand in planting two churches in WV and one in FL. Even cooler. And when the West Bradenton Project (not our final name) gets going, we'll be funding church planting as well. Probably in FL, but if I have an assistant from WV, then we'll send some dough up this way for sure.

These are just some preliminary thoughts, and this post is already probably too long...Thanks for making it this far if you did.

Friday, April 19, 2013

How to respond: Shail Linne vs. Paula White Ministries

I wouldn't say that I'm late to the Christian Reformed hip-hop scene, because I don't know if I qualify as actually having arrived at the scene. However I do appreciate this genre, and I have enjoyed some stuff by "Propaganda" and "Beautiful Eulogy." Strangely enough, Reformed rappers have really started to rise to the top of the overall Christian Hip-Hop scene. Some will rap about life, Reformed theology, and one named Shai Linne has actually made a good bit of noise with his song "Fal$e Teacher$." This song points the finger at health and wealth preachers, calling their names out one-by-one and labeling them "False Teacher."

Now I'm not super familiar with every name on the list, but I certainly would agree with his take on the teachers I know. These "preachers" preach a prosperity gospel equating the atonement of Jesus with guaranteeing riches and health in this life. The lack of health/wealth comes from lack of faith.

Of course if my name had been called out in such a song, I might be moved to offer a response. Such was the case with the son of prosperity preacher Paula White. If interested, you can read that here.

And then Shai Linne responded back here. I would recommend reading this because in it you will see a good example of how to respond to critics. Regardless of whether you agree with Shai on this matter, I think this dialog gives us all a solid blue-print for HOW to respond. I'll highlight several things I found helpful.

It's not a race.

Shai had tweeted three days earlier that prayer and guidance would precede his reply. He wrote the response while traveling on Clear Sight Music’s Black Out Circuit Tour which has been on the road since April 5. The unedited letter is below.

I've found with most people (including myself), we run to our own defense as if it were a race. The early bird does not catch the worm. Time is needed to respond, listen, digest, absorb, pray (James 1:19). I can't tell you how many times I wish I would have applied this! But I'm thankful for the examples of others and hope we all can learn as much as possible from them. Three days is usually enough time to calm down, absorb, pray, and learn.

Begin with affirmation

Before I directly address the substance of your open letter, I first want to commend you for a few things that encouraged me as I read it.....

I was encouraged to hear of your mother praying for your salvation, as well as teaching you the faith. Again, I can relate. I myself am the result of a praying mother. In fact, I once told my mom that I would never become a Christian. Even as I entered adulthood while continuing in rebellion against God, she never stopped praying for me. I am eternally grateful to her for crying out to God on my behalf when I was dead in my sins! So I was glad to hear you mention what you did about your mother. It’s a good model for other mothers to emulate.

If Paul commended the Corinthians before getting into some of their issues, there is not only biblical precedence but also opportunity to do the same thing with our critics today. Shai does a good job of celebrating their common ground, which he no doubt found much easier than the issues going on at Corinth.

Deal with what the person has actually said

I want to address a few of the false teachings themselves. I went straight to the Paula White Ministries website and your Youtube page so I could hear what you have released as representative of Paula White’s teaching. There are many things I could speak on, but I’ll highlight three here.

It is easy to deal with implications of what others have actually and by-pass what he/she has actually said. That takes time. It is also easier to deal with what you have heard others say about a teacher/critic/enemy than dealing with what he/she has actually said. Perhaps what I appreciated most about Linne's response was his diligence in documentation. Look how specific he gets! He's shown love by taking the time to really understand and articulate his opponent's viewpoint. He's articulating a view point that his opponent can say, "Yes that is my position." Or the opponent can say, "That is what I said, but you've misunderstood what I meant by what I said." Either way, there is something concrete you can discuss without talking past each other. This would have taken a lot of time, but time is what it takes to properly deal with criticism or false teaching.

Paula White did a series called 8 Promises of the Atonement, that at the time of my writing this, is currently featured on your ministry website. In it, she states that physical healing and financial abundance in this life are provided for in the atonement of Christ. See the following video at the 25:00 mark where Paula White teaches “salvation includes healing.” She says it again at 28:30. But then she goes even further. If you keep listening, she talks about commanding her body not to be sick because of the blood of Christ. She ends this section by boldly declaring around 29:40:
“You are not going to die of sickness. When you go, it’s going to be because of your appointed time of old age and full of life”

Invitation to further dialog

And those who follow her must be warned. And just so you know, I have your email address and will gladly take this conversation offline with you if you’d like.

Some internet dialog is a waste of time. The opponent is probably not going to change his/her views and you will not be changing yours. But the invitation to further dialog is a way to show love and just may open the doors for real change down the road. Paula White's son may be never be convinced of the heresy of the prosperity gospel. Yet he has had the opportunity to explore why Shai Linne believes she is a false teacher. And he has the opportunity to further explore should he choose.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Lessons from Lions not named Aslan

I like good stories. Most people do. And when they are true, that makes those stories only that much better. Relevant magazine reported a story of a young Ethiopian gal abducted from her home and forced to marry some crazy dude from another village.

The girl, who had been missing for a week, was the captive of seven men who had beat her and intended to marry her. But before they could seriously harm her, three lions appeared and—holy moly, can you even believe it?—stood guard over the girl until she was found by police. Government authorities suspect that the girl's crying reminded the lions of mewing cubs and they took her under their incredible golden paws until they were certain she was safe.“They stood guard until we found her and then they just left her like a gift and went back into the forest,” Sgt. Wondimu Wedajo said. “If the lions had not come to her rescue, then it could have been much worse. Often these young girls are raped and severely beaten to force them to accept the marriage.”

This story is quite amazing, and amazing for a number of reasons.

First of all, Lions and humans are literally enemies. 

Despite a recent crackdown, hunters kill the animals for their skins, which can fetch $1,000. Williams estimates that only 1,000 Ethiopian lions remain in the wild. 

There obviously aren't many lions left because people have killed them. You wouldn't be surprised for Lions to return the favor. And obviously they have. While The Grey depicted inaccurate repeated wolf on human predations (glad for the opportunity to use that word!), The Ghost and the Darkness actually told the true story of two lions regularly killing numerous railroad workers in Africa.

Next, because there aren't too many lions left, what are the "chances," of lions, much less three friendly lions, happening upon this crying gal?

Here are some more thoughts on this amazing story.

1.) My parents visited South Africa and learned of another group of three lions killing prey and bringing it to their crippled brother lion to eat. These top notch predators didn't not actually believe in "survival of the fittest." Darwin must have been ticked. So these Ethiopian trio of lions are not the first "thoughtful" (can we say that in regards to animals?) lions out there. Who knows how many of them are forgetting what they are supposed to do, and are saving rather than killing?

2.) Obviously this is amazing because wild animals, outside of dolphins don't tend to intervene and protect folks. The wolf will always chase the lamb. And so will the lion, although at this point I'm beginning to hold that with less certainty. Regardless, this present order of things will not always be present. And that is God's present to us, and to Himself, for His glory. The old order will pass away and the new will come. Indeed in Revelation 21:5, at the onset of this completed heavenly order coming down to earth we see John explain 

He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

The newness has already begun, and will be completed one day. In addition, Paul also reminds us in II Cor 5:17

 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!

The ministry of Jesus through his life/death/resurrection and his concomitant ministry through His disciples is evidence that the new order has already broken into to the old order. Now we experience the overlap. But such an intrusion from of this "new creation" should encourage us that things will not always be the way they are. The devastation of bombing and accidental explosions is not the way things will one day be. While I'm still hesitant to allow my 2 1/2 year old to go up and pet a lion the way he would a big yellow lab, I recognize that day is coming. Indeed, there is evidence even now, albeit small, that the new order of things has already impacted even the animal world. I think these two trios of lions "testify" to the presence of this new order, again in seed form, having already broken through.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

When in Rome....don't tolerate the intolerant

Many people have blogged, spoken, or written about the intolerance of tolerance. D.A. Carson actually wrote a book titled The Intolerance of Tolerance. Now I'm not totally sure how Carson uses the phrase-though I'm inclined to agree with him since I love him as an author-but how I use it is as follows: all views are accepted as valid with the lone exception of a view that doesn't recognize all views as equally valid. In other words, you can believe whatever you want on any issue, so long as you don't consider your view as the exclusive correct, valid, moral, right, view. Practically speaking, if you hold to any exclusive view on Jesus, or marriage, you are not tolerated. Your voice is not a welcomed voice in the cultural, personal, facebook, or most any other kind of dialog. 

I first tasted this intolerance of tolerance while in college on foreign study in Italy in 1999. And it was the ironic juxtaposition, or maybe even overlap of the same worldview 2000 years apart that really opened my eyes. According to our professor Richard Prior (no relation to the comedian/actor), the Romans were a very religiously tolerant people. When they conquered folks, they brought with them some Roman decor like bathhouses and public amphitheaters to spruce up the place. Privately they  put Emperor "bobble-heads" in each home (ok I don't have documentation on that one, but its possible...). But religiously, folks were allowed to worship their own personal gods. Maybe even their own personal Jesus too. Yet there was a limitation on this tolerance. They didn't tolerate in the intolerant Christians when Jesus wasn't so personal. Christians recognized the Emperor as the head of the government, but not Lord, and certainly not God. And that's where they got into trouble. Many refused to offer this "emperor worship" or make a sacrifices to him. They would be tolerated if they went against their consciences and worshiped some yahoo one day a year.

The "intolerant" Christians were then persecuted for such "intolerance." If they were tolerant like the rest of Roman society, then they too would be tolerated. Yet Dr. Prior never recognized his own hypocrisy, since he embraced the same view 2000 years later. If you claim to hold to an exclusive truth of any variety, you will not be welcomed 'round these parts. And we weren't. And in Rome, 2000 years later, the attitude, at least among our group, hadn't changed too much. What had changed instead was their opportunity and authority to act on such intolerance. 

Dr. Prior didn't come up with this view, nor did it arise with post-modernity; he simply bought into the Roman view of tolerance and intolerance toward Christians or others with an exclusive truth claim. When in Rome....

There is nothing new, not even the intolerance of tolerance, under the sun.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Not as free as a bird: Reflections on a dove stuck in my garage

This weekend a bird flew into our garage. That's OK with me. I'm happy for birds to come and go as they please. As long as they go. But this one stayed for a while. Both garage doors were up, but he kept flying around in circles and continued to come back to where the garage doors lay when they are in the up position. It didn't make sense. He kept trying and trying and trying, but would not fly low enough to go free. And then he just gave up. After I discerned him to be out of the garage, he showed up again the next day when the property appraiser showed up (I'm assuming wildlife ups the home value a bit, right?). Again he did the same thing. It flew around in a circle, but never low enough to actually fly out of the garage. He was stuck yet again.
Then the property appraiser led me to the real identity of the bird. What I had thought was a pigeon was in fact a dove. And then it all made sense. I confess I don't know much about doves, but the word on the street is that they fly erratically. They don't fly straight, but are pretty much all over the place. Silly and senseless. They don't go from here to there, but from here to there and then back to here. This bird ended up going nowhere, flying all over the place, but never to the right place (the huge opening), and so ended up in the wrong place. 

It reminded me of the story of Jonah, at least a little bit.

Jonah's name means "dove." That's no accident. Jonah is all over the place. He heads to Spain but ends up near northern Iraq, the very place he was trying to avoid. In some ways, Jonah was like that bird. Even though he may have sensed and tasted some sort of faux freedom, all he was ultimately doing was flying all over the garage. It seemed like freedom but in the end, it was slavery.

I really wanted this bird to experience the freedom a bird should experience. The freedom that a bird is created for: to fly in the sky. Birds aren't made for garages. But this bird just didn't get it. Just like Jonah. And it kind of made me sad (I'm not a dove hunter). Freedom awaited it, but freedom it refused. It wasn't a free bird. Just like Jonah. 

Freedom for the bird is flying where it has been created to go. Freedom for man/woman is not absent of restraint but presence of opportunity. Now that's not all that freedom is, but I think that's the part that James brings to the conversation.
But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do. 

Properly understood in the context of belief in the gospel, the law offers freedom, not slavery. Slavery is flying around senseless in a garage like a dove, but freedom is following Jesus experiencing the life he designed for us.

And it was also a good reminder to consider non-Christians like doves trapped in a garage. While not dismissing their culpability, I should be quick to remember how sorry I felt for this silly and senseless bird. Many people are flying around in circles going nowhere, not tasting true freedom. May we be saddened before we become angry with them. Sadness leads to prayer and moving towards them in love. Anger leads to judgment and separation.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Some thoughts on processing depression, medicine, and the gospel

Saturday I received the terrible news on my twitter feed that Rick Warren's beloved 27 year-old son took his own life. Hopefully most of us will never know that the feels like; hopefully we can only empathize from a distance and speculate. Yet such tragedies happen to children who may truly believe the gospel and to parents who may truly believe the gospel. Tony Dungy, I would imagine, has probably tried to reach out to Warren, since he knows exactly what it is like to lose a son to suicide.

There will probably be a plethora of thoughts and blogs coming out today. So I'll just consider this my contribution, as someone who has battled with depression.

State vs. Trait Depression/Anxiety

Warren's own words are that his own son struggled with depression almost from birth. Sometimes there are easily observable situations which can trigger such depression. Sometimes these aren't so easily observable, but nevertheless are there. This is "state"depression/anxiety. Something, some event, person, crises, or series of events/crises/persons have led to such depression. It seems from Warren's opinion, that this was more of "trait" depression/anxiety. For such folks, no true joyous event or circumstance shakes you out of it. There is nothing which triggers it. It is just there.

Power of the Gospel?

I believe the gospel has power to deliver us from the punishment of sin, enslaving power of sin, and one day the total presence of sin. There are undoubtedly folks who end up experiencing bi-polar depression who through faith experience very few debilitating affects. But I feel it is dangerous to assume this to always be normative. There are many others who will battle with debilitating depression their entire lives. Some may succumb to ending their lives. Some may go seriously insane. 

One well known hymn writer William Cowper went insane while trying to compile a hymn collection with his friend John Newton.

Did he not believe the very words in his own hymns which have offered Christians today such comfort? Why should we sing them if he didn't?

Was there something wrong with the gospel or his faith? Obviously, in a black and white world, those are the only two conclusions. But obviously we don't live in a black and white world. We live in a world stained with sin, which only makes things more complicated. Sin muddies the water. And even though we (us today) didn't start the fire technically, we live in a world still ablaze with the curse of sin. 

Folks do die of hunger. Christians do. Proverbs is not life's little promise book, that guarantees if you have faith, then _______ will happen. Even training up your child.... Folks commit suicide even though when they believe the gospel. Do they believe it fully? No, but thank God he doesn't require perfect faith (Mark 9:24). Mental illness is real, and Christians are not immune to it. We live in the fallen world as well, even as we experience redemption living under the Kingdom and reign of God.

Ed Stetzer used to live in a black/white world until his first pastorate. He writes

The first time I dealt with mental illness in church was with a man named Jim. I was young and idealistic - a new pastor serving in upstate New York. Jim was a godsend to us. He wanted to help, and his energy was immeasurable. He'd visit with me, sing spontaneously, pray regularly and was always ready to help.

Until he was gone.

For days and sometimes weeks at a time, he would struggle with darkness and depression. During this time, he would withdraw from societal interaction and do practically nothing but read Psalms and pray for hours on end. I later learned that this behavior is symptomatic of what is often called bipolar disorder or, in years before, manic depression.

I prayed with Jim. We talked often about the need for him to take his medicine, but he kept asking God to fix him. Eventually, at his lowest point and filled with despair, he took his own life.

Medicine isn't necessarily evil

Just because people have been over-prescribed drugs to numb pain doesn't mean that all medication is bad. Sometimes it may be helpful for a season of life. Sometimes it be helpful and needed one's entire life. Because the church (and this is a good thing) is willing to reject the world's first solution for all pain, it can sometimes throw the baby out with the bathwater. In every season, turn, turn, turn, I think there is a time where medicine can be helpful. It has helped me. Not as a first resort but as a last resort, I believe there may be a season. Turn, turn, turn....

Medicine isn't THE cure

Medicine isn't THE cure. In fact it may not even be A cure. I would imagine Rick's son was on medication. But medicine can help some of the chemical issues, at least for a season, SO THAT one can focus on the liberating truths of the gospel and comfort it provides. The world views medicine as THE solution. If it doesn't work, go find another medicine. But I think a more responsible form of action is the option of potentially supplementing the real hard work of gospel dynamics (believing/applying the gospel to your specific situation) with medicine. Supplementing and not replacing. Medicine cannot replace regular repentance and belief but must serve to aid it.


There are thought patterns that many folks often develop which are simply unhealthy. But you might not recognize these thought patterns by simply reading your bible and hearing good sermons. Trained Christian counselors/psychiatrists/psychologists can sometimes bring these things to light. And in turn, folks can see real change.

For instance, from a very young age, I always assumed the worst would happen, and then hope to be surprised by a better outcome. If not, could the question then turned to, "Well, can I deal with it?" That is why I was sick before every track meet even though I was virtually guaranteed of winning my almost every 800 meter race my senior year in high school. But this coping mechanism doesn't work with things more important than track meets. Can one deal with Hell? Nope. That type of thinking needed to be jettisoned. That type of thinking cannot be jettisoned overnight but it takes community, and sometimes professional community.

Link betwixt depression and creativity

There seems to be a connection with creative brains and depression. I don't have stats to prove this, but simply examples of people I know. Very creative comedians like Robin Williams deal with mental illness, and in fact, such " manic states" can often be times when their best "material" comes to them. In additions, numbers of artists I've interacted with have also been folks one could recognize as "depressive." Think about or check here to read about the aforementioned William Cowper.  It's by no means a one-to-one, but it seems to me there is probably some connection betwixt the two.

Don't wast your depression/anxiety
I've alluded from the pulpit, on my blog, and in one-to-one settings (that's how the Aussies' speak instead of saying "one-on-one") to struggling with depression. You'd be surprised how many people have gone through the same thing but aren't willing, confident, or just won't  come forward until you take the first step. Not only that, but if you struggle in this area, you have wisdom that others who haven't struggled in this area, frankly, will never have. That doesn't mean they have nothing to offer, but you have more. They may possess a "normative" perspective on depression (what they may gather by searching the scriptures and studies). They may have possess a "situational" perspective of depression (what they can see and observe in the world). But they lack the "existential" perspective (how one experiences depression). You have much to offer.

Jesus experienced a despair of which depression is only a foretaste

All Christians have a Savior who has experienced the ultimate gut wrenching sense of the world crashing down upon Him. It might be that most people don't know the trouble you've seen, but Jesus does.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Why I think we need more Christian coaches

Redeemer will be making its bi-annual trek to the Modgnik (Kingdom spelled backwards) retreat in a week and half. I'm thankful for the few students attending and for our two leaders willing to sacrifice their time and sanity for a weekend of discipleship, fellowship, fun, and shared experiences with some teens.

I'm a little saddened that we we don't have more youth going. The culprit is not apathy. The culprit is athletics, at least in part. Now retreat attendance isn't mandated from Mt Sinai. I get that. Christian parents of athletically involved children may never be able (although that's probably getting loose with the language) to send their youth on retreats simply because of year-round sports. Now they may raise their child to fear the Lord and use their athletics to bring honor to Jesus. I get that (I wonder how many retreats Tim Tebow went on..?) and have seen people do it.
But I really don't see this athletic issue going away. If anything it will get worse, as coaches demand more and more. And parents demand more and more, hoping for scholarships to reward their investments.

Yet I do think there is a solution, or maybe just a band-aid. But band-aids still help stop the bleeding. I think we need more Christian coaches.

Several of my youth couldn't go on this fantastic retreat because the coach wouldn't let or want them miss a game or a track meet. At the least, the youth didn't want to disappoint their coach. That was simply not an option.

Yet what if the coach would simply say, "Go on that retreat, as that is actually more important than you running or playing baseball." What if he would be counter-cultural and say such a thing? Wouldn't that be amazing? Since kids and parents either are not willing or don't feel such a conviction, this is probably the only way kids in athletics will be able to participate in such "extra-curricular" activities.

Now compare this with a Christian friend of mine, a track coach. He has prayed for his "trackers" to approach him with gospel-centered questions and the Lord has opened the door for good conversations. What would happen if a kid requested to miss one track meet or one baseball practice in a season?

We really do need more Christian coaches. I'm thankful for those out there and hope to see more.