Archives For Main Street News

Today marks my 8th year living and working in Springfield. My first Sunday was August 1, 2004 but I consider starting the day I arrived which was July 31st. Let’s break it down (Using

  • 2,923 days or,
  • 252,547,200 seconds or,
  • 4,209,120 minutes or,
  • 70,152 hours or,
  • 417 weeks (rounded down)

All that to say that it has been a long time at one church. I love the reactions I get from people when I tell them I have been working for the same church for 8 years and that it has been my only ministry gig. Part of the reason is that there is a high turnover rate for those in ministry but also people just tend to move from church to church. I have a few youth minister friends who have been in ministry less than I have yet have worked in 3 or 4 churches. That exhausts me. There is something to be said about longevity in ministry in one context that allows a minister to be effective more than someone else.

Maybe I will post next week about some lessons a young youth minister can learn from my 8 years but I wanted to take this time to get a little personal and share a little what’s on my heart. I wanted to share some lessons from working at Main Street that are simply true of my experience. I hope these will bless a lot of people but I hope these really bless those at Main Street. Disclaimer…try not to read into this.

Ministry is tough…

I wish they would have told me this at Freed but most of those guys are not in full-time local church ministry and it is tough. There is not a day that goes by where I feel completely and utterly inadequate and incapable of doing the job assigned to me. From teenagers coming up to me telling me they have been abused to parents who would rather me raise their child I must admit that this job is difficult. Couple all of this with the hidden (I might add unrealistic) expectations people place on you and your family it is almost too much for folks to bear.

Teenagers are great catalysts… but they are still just teenagers…

I love working with teenagers because they want to do something new and exciting and if they buy-in to something they will jump two feet in. Yet, they are so frustrating because of their innate inconsistency in how they deal with God and life. They are mad, they are sad, they are happy, they don’t care, they are passionate and they are apathetic, they are bored and they are busy. And that’s only on a trip to Gatlinburg! I have to remind myself that after it is all said and done they are still teenagers and growth does not happen overnight.

There are two things that will destroy this church and every other church…

Fear and complacency. Is it just me or does the church of Christ tend to be 10-15 years behind when it comes to creativity? I am not talking about technology I am talking about new ways of thinking and being. I have watched the way our church and other churches do things and when something new and exciting comes up there are always two questions that follow…

  1. What will so-and-so think? FEAR
  2. What is wrong with the way we have always done it? COMPLACENCY

It might be just the way God wired me but at what point do you say, “I am tired of being afraid and being complacent?” At what point do we just have the brass to say, “This is a God-thing and it since it is not a Scriptural issue then it really does not matter”?

Main Street is full of people who work really hard for the Lord

We have some serious workers. We only have a membership of about 300 but I would say that a majority of those people are involved in the church work. We work in the pantry, clothing room, visiting shut-ins, volunteering at a soup kitchen, women’s studies, men’s programs, bible studies, mission trips, service projects. When judgment comes I believe the Lord will be impressed with all the work Main Street is doing for the kingdom.

Potential energy is just that…

Have you ever heard about an athlete who never made it and someone who is telling their story says, “They had so much potential…”? We have so much potential in the church and in our community but potential energy is just that…potential. Oscar Wilde is famous for saying, “Youth is wasted on the young” and I believe in that quote. Those who are given an amazing gift are stewards of that gift yet so often we do not maximize our gifts to give God the glory.

It is very dangerous to go into eternity with possibilities which one has oneself prevented from becoming realities. A possibility is a hint from God. One must follow it. (Sören Kierkegaard)

Too often our gift is wasted. Jesus said, “Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more.” (Luke 12:48).

Ministry is not a concealer of my sin rather it is a magnifier of it…

They say that if you have a small issue of sin while dating someone that when you marry them your problems will not be concealed but magnified. If ever ministry has done anything to me it has revealed to me this one fact: I am broken and in need of God’s forgiveness through the atoning blood of Jesus just like everybody else. I would also add to this that works-based righteousness will fail a person every single time. We can do nothing to obtain favor with God for we are saved by faith alone through grace alone because of Christ alone. Period. Until I live in that grace and accept that my life is not about impressing God then everything I do for God is about me and not him.

A church, and any other organization, lives and dies by its leadership…

Helen Keller said, “The most pathetic person in the world is someone who has sight, but has no vision.”  For every great organization that is built to last I have noticed these things: humility, competence, vision, teamwork, persistence, failing forward (Maxwell term), creativity and teachability. Notice I did not say personality, dictatorship, charisma and other things one might expect. I have noticed that the church is either going to live by its leadership or die by it because sheep do one of two things: 1) Leave and find something else to follow or, 2) Follow their shepherd wherever the shepherd takes them (good OR bad).

“When your people see that you are not only competent to lead but also have a track record of successes, they will have confidence in following you, even when they don’t understand all the details” (John Maxwell).

Well that’s it. Below are some pictures for your enjoyment. I am blessed to have worked with some of the best people in the kingdom. We have laughed, cried, loved and lived. Thank you Main Street for believing in an incompetent rookie from college and turning him into… well… a semi-incompetent veteran. May God bless you and keep you.


Gratias 3 (Main Street)

November 17, 2011 — Leave a comment

I am thankful for Main Street for a lot of different reasons.  First, for believing in me 7 1/2 years ago and hiring a guy with no experience and only a college degree.  You took a chance on me (insert ABBA song here…) and I think we have grown from it.  I will always be indebted to your willingness to go by faith in your decision to hire me.  Secondly, I am thankful for the commitment you have to the church as your hours of service are unlike any I have ever seen.  I am also thankful for the parents in the youth group who seriously put up with me and my often unorganized ways.  You continue to believe in me and for that I am grateful.  I am also thankful for the friends we are close to at Main Street who have been there to support us in good times and even some really bad times.  I am thankful for Joe Rushing and his 20 years of service to Main Street and Linda Ballard (our secretary) for her almost 40 years of service.  You guys are amazing and I am grateful for your patience for being the guy who thinks differently at times.  Thank you.

Most of all, I am thankful for the youth group (past and present).  There have been times I have wanted to give up (any minister goes through these cycles) but you gave me energy, drive and vision to do things people thought we could never do.  You believed in me and my craziness and off-the-wall ideas and supported me even when some of those ideas were stupid (remember writing B.A.F. on the white-board?  Crazy!).  There have been difficult times as I have watched people make decisions God disapproves of and some of the youth have left God all-together.  It has been tough.  But, many of you have stuck with it and many of you are in love with Jesus in a way I could not have fathomed.  I am particularly thankful for the few of you whom I am really close to and have shared my heart with as you have shared yours with me.  Jesus had a ton of followers, twelve disciples and was really close to three.  Thank you for sharing your hearts with me as we figure out this thing called the “Christian journey.”

Thank you Main Street.

On July 31, 2011 I celebrated my 7th full year of youth ministry at Main Street in Springfield, Tennessee.  Seven quick lessons about my/our journey:

  1. Learn to say “no” – All ministers struggle with this as we want to do so much for people in the name of God.  We take on projects, speaking engagements, weddings, committees,  meetings, and a host of other things while our spiritual formation, family and our personal lives turn to shamble.  I read somewhere that every time you say “yes” to something you are always saying “no” to something else.
  2. Try to look for the big picture – A lot can happen in a youth ministry in a short time but also nothing can happen for a long time.  There are different seasons in youth ministry so staying focused and having an idea of what the big picture is will keep you from being distracted by a lot of the little things.
  3. Don’t get too full of yourself – I have blogged about this several times but no matter how great the youth minister is there is going to be something he is not good at and that is going to be painfully obvious to you and everyone else.  Learn to laugh at yourself and do it often letting others in on your laughter.  Have a ton of fun.  Go to Waffle House at 3am.  Laugh when one of your youth group guys goes through a wall at a hotel.  Laugh when a youth group girl passes gas on the bus and blames it on you as everyone writhes in agony at the smell.  Laugh when a youth group guy pronounces from the pulpit the word “Yahweh” as “Yah-hee” and instead of “wiles of the devil” he says, “willies of the devil.”  Learn to laugh and laugh often.
  4. Delegate and Empower – I am horrible at this.  I would rather do things on my own and wear myself out than asking someone to help.  The result…it almost burned me out of ministry completely.  Have a team of people who are your core leaders in the youth ministry who could lead the activities if you were gone.  Speaking of being gone…
  5. Try a slice of humility – This goes along with number three above but we need more humble servants who are John 13 ministers.  In youth ministry we get stepped on (clean the bus, babysit my kids, do the impossible), we get made fun of (second class ministers), we have impossible expectations placed on us by men who have not the slightest clue about youth ministry or teenagers for that matter, we are underpaid, we are overworked, we are extremely talented (cleaning the bus, writing the bulletin, etc.) and we are criticized by 40-60 people who “know” more about youth ministry than we do.  All of that happens to most youth ministers and all I can think about is this verse from Acts 5:41: “The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name.”  Some criticism needs to be addressed some people just need to be talked to in a reproved manner but sometimes we need to realize that we are simply humble agents of Christ suffering affliction to do something we love to do.
  6. Invest in people, not programs – It’s not uncommon for me to change programs in our ministry and I am currently in the process of completely revamping the youth group. One thing that I have not changed is getting to know people, investing in their lives and letting them know how much I love them.  I tell youth group kids that “I love them.”  Some of them are a little creeped-out about it but some of them respond with tears as if they have never heard someone tell them those three words and mean it.  I love them.  I love the parents and I let them know that I am here to come alongside of them.  This is important for when that youth group person is struggling with a situation at college or they have made by decisions in their life they come to me without reservation because they know, if anything else, I will at the very minimum love them.
  7. Don’t lose your soul – Youth ministry is tough.  It has been the most difficult seven years of my life.  I have watched people leave the church and never come back.  I have watched friends lose friends.  I have watched families become broken.  I have watched people who I thought would be soldiers of Christ become servants of idols.  But..I have watched visitors get baptized.  I have watched total reconstruction of lives based on Scripture.  I have watched youth group people find jobs based on their calling and I have seen many good things done in the name of Kingdom.  Friends, don’t lose your soul.  Keep your eyes focused, hang in there and love as you too have been loved.

Thank you Main Street for putting up with me and teaching me about ministry.  I dedicate this blog to seven sets of people in ascending order of importance:

  • Elders – thank you for sticking with me and for supporting me spiritually, mentally, and fiscally.  You have given me raises, bonuses, a van, health coverage, freedom to make good and bad decisions but most of all your encouragment.  Thank you.
  • Parents and Friends – I love all of you.  I know I am not perfect and I know I have done things wrong from time-to-time but you have supported me.  I love you all.
  • Joe and Linda – you are my “daily bread” when a minister does not want to go to the office you make it enjoyable.  Thanks for being a great team.
  • Youth Group Members Past and Present – Words cannot describe how thankful I am for you.  You have made the journey worth it.  Thanks for taking Jesus seriously and for doing radical things.  I love you all more than you know.
  • Kaleb, Amelia, Madelyn and Samuel – Kids you make me so proud.  You are my most important youth group and I want to thank you for making daddy laugh on those tough days and for keeping me going when I didn’t want to go anymore.  I love you so much and as long as I have air to breathe I will serve you with a passion unrivaled in this world.
  • Heather – What can I say?  You are perfect in every way.  Not only am I married to a hot wife but you are also so intelligent and understanding.  Your care for me exceeds the proverb wife in Proverbs 31.  You are a servant and the fuel to my fire.  I love you.
  • God – You have allowed a wretched, hypocritical, inconsistent, unorganized, lazy and unlovable person like me to be called a follower of Christ.  Thank you for your grace, for your daily assurance, for your providence, for your discipline, for your correction. for your providence and for your glorious return.  I love you!

Father in heaven there is a lot going on in my life that needs cleansing and healing.  First of all, allow me to accept those things which are new and embrace them with open arms.  It is difficult to think about what lies ahead but I understand that there is no guarantee for any of us.  Health is a blessing and I am always one heart attack, stroke or accident away from meeting you and so I am blessed to be where I am at right now.  Protect my kids and give me the knowledge to train them in loving you not by word only but in a relationship that interacts with you.  Father please be with the college students and help them to grow closer to you but allow them to do so in a way that is genuine.  Many of them are meeting potential spouses or are looking for potential spouses and I ask that you give them the knowledge to choose wisely.  Father the youth group needs your help as Satan is excellent at what he does.  There is too much temptation out there and I am afraid much of our youth are succumbing to this so please help them with the power of your Son.  Father help Main Street to have new life in 2011 and allow us to grow spiritually but even numerically.  We do not need to settle for second best as too much is at stake for us to simply be content and ride off in the sunset.  Father help us in this year to be ready for the deaths, the injuries, the accidents, the sins, the mistakes, the broken relationships and the foolish decisions we inevitably will make.  Also, Father, through your Spirit, allow us/me to accept the new possibilities and fully embrace them regardless of the consequences.  Deliver us O Lord, according to your ceaseless love.  Amen.

God Will Show Up

July 12, 2010 — 6 Comments

Main Street Youth Camp 2010 is over but the memories will dwell long in the deepest chambers of our minds.  We have many reasons to celebrate: fun times, laughter, new friends, challenging bible classes, stirring lessons.  But at the end of the day what matters most is that 7 people were baptized into Christ.  I am not sure what it is about camp that stirs people to get baptized.  I imagine it is a combination of prior longings, intense focus and being surrounded by a positive community.  I wonder if we play too much on emotion and if people get the wrong impression when they hear of 7 people getting baptized.  My response to that is that we are not the judge of people’s hearts and all we can do is make sure people understand the brevity of their decisions.  I talked with each one of them and each responded with such sincerity and clarity of their decision:

  • Robbie:  “Are you sure you want to do this?”  One person responded, “Oh yeah!  I am positive!” 
  • Robbie:  “Why do you want to do this?”  Another responded, “because I do not want to wonder where I am going to end up when I die.”
  • One young girl said, “Robbie, I want you to know that I am not doing this for anyone else and that this is my decision.”

It is hard to argue with that.  I want all youth ministers, preachers, elders, deacons and members alike to read this very carefully, “God will show up!”  If you pray about it, seek His word and surround yourself with Spirit-filled people then God will show up.  Period.  It was not some formula that I used or some pre-packaged kit ordered from Group Publishing, it was relationships and asking God to show up and trusting Him to do so.  That’s all.  That’s all.   Let these pictures speak for themselves…

“It’s raining, it’s pouring the old man is snoring…”  This week has been a good opportunity for us to do some mission work that requires us to get dirty, get physical and to push our mental limits as to how far we are willing to go to help others.  We started the week off at Denson Avenue in Madison, Tennessee at a rental house owned by a lady who lives in Springfield.  I discovered this house after a few phone calls to different churches in Nashville.  Rob Touchstone from Tuscumbia Church of Christ gave me a lead on this street and told me to go knock on some doors asking for help.  So I did.  The house we worked at did not have the sub-floors torn out so we spent the day doing just that.  The boards had mold on them and the crawl space was filled with debris that had to be removed (insulation, books, a marriage certificate, pictures and other items).  We finished the day at Dozier Boat Dock Road in between Ashland City and Charlotte Tennessee off of  HWY 49.  We picked up glass, siding, metal debris and other objects.  Yesterday we went to Bellevue to help a gentleman out who is associated with the churches of Christ.  His wife works at the Churches of Christ Disaster Relief.  IT was the anti-thesis of what we did on Monday.  Instead of deconstructing a sub-floor we actually constructed and installed a new sub-floor.  It was neat to see the process go from demolition to reconstruction and how it all turned out.  

Today…the Lord saw it fit for us to rest as it stormed all morning and they are calling for a 70% chance of rain all day.  So we will rest and meet tonight to eat together.  All-in-all we have had an excellent work day.  Tomorrow we will clean up the trails at Radnor Lake that were destroyed in the flood.  Friday we will either work in Bellevue or return to place in Ashland City.  Thanks to all for your prayers, leads, money and efforts.  They are all appreciated.

The picture below is taken of a house we went into a cleaned that we were not supposed to be in.  But we helped them I am sure anyways. 

This house below was just off of the Cumberland River (Dozier Boat Dock Rd.) and is condemed. 

As you well know I have had a temporary retreat from blogging.  It was due to a week-long class I took at Lipscomb and also I just wanted to step away for a little.  I decided not to continue the Living with and without campaign because I felt a little Pharasaical for doing it.  Like I wanted attention or something so I quit doing that. 

I am preaching a series of lessons each week surrounding the concept of helping each other and God helping us.  It has been both an eye-opening and ego-humbling experience.  It is for a class at Lipscomb and I have asked a few people to anonymously critique my sermon content, delivery, etc.  It is humbling what people say under the auspices of anonymity.  however, it is needed criticism as sometimes preachers think they know it all…just when you think you do…get critiqued. 

Samuel Edward is doing well but has been unusually fussy these few days.  Madelyn wakes up every night and comes in our bed and the night before Amelia wet her bed.  Life with 4 kids is challenging. 

I came across this verse for my daily devotional and how appropriate it is for perspective: “Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” (Job. 2:10).  Not that what is happening in my life is evil, but just challenging.  Adversity is the pill of those who triumph in Christ.

I am big on “lessons learned” so I thought about what lessons I have learned since being at Main Street.  I did this after my first year and now it seems to be a growing trend so instead of occupying the pulpit I thought I would share with you the lessons I have learned as a youth minister.  

  1. Teenagers are inconsistent.  This is both good and bad.  One minute a teenager’s life is about to end because they broke up with so-and-so and then the next minute they are excited because the man of their dreams just text them.   Sometimes I wish the inconsistency would go away when they struggle with their faith and go up and down with their relationship with God.  But a relationship is about a journey and sometimes the journey is on some tough paths. 
  2. Teenagers are products of parenting.  This, too, is good and bad.  We are blessed at Main Street with amazing parents but all of them are not great.  Sometimes I wonder why students act the way that they do and I have to look no further than mom or dad.  But parents are the greatest assets to a ministry.  I could not thrive without them.  Utilizing parents is the difference between a ministry that thrives and a ministry that survives.   
  3. Plans are meant to be broken.  Let’s face it….I have gone through no-shows, broken down buses, speakers that did not show up in time, or any other plan that could fail (Read a post about this by clicking here).  Plans fail but somehow God works in spite (because of) those plans.  I have learned to roll with the punches. 
  4. My ministry suffers when my personal spiritual formation suffers.  If I am not in God’s Word and quick in prayer then my ministry suffers.  I think you would be surprised if I polled youth ministers to see how much they study on a daily basis.  There have been some weeks in my career where I have not even picked up a bible to read (sad….I know…this is confession) because I have been so busy doing “ministry.”  When I am in God’s Word and meditating on it I find myself ready to do the work and to help in my day-to-day ministry tasks. 
  5. Communication is essential.  Be it to the parents, to the staff or to your eldership, every one needs to be on the same page.  This is more than simply informing people about times and money.  It is about letting parents know when their child has done something amazing with their spirituality.  Letting the elders know of a situation you had to deal with while at camp.  It also means confronting students in a tough conversation when all you want to do is put it on the back-burner.  Or maybe confronting a parent who has an issue with you when all you want to do is ignore them.  Communication is so important. 
  6. Church splits are the worst thing that can happen.  In the Fall of 2006 Main Street had a split and many of the brethren left and started a new church (Hillcrest church of Christ).  Three years later there is still a lot of hurt and pain experienced on both sides of the issue.  A lot of fingers are pointed as to who was wrong and who is more Biblically correct on the issue.  When it comes down to it, I think (myself included) all were wrong.  God is not honored in dissension and when there is no communication and tempers flare the worst thing imaginable usually happens.  The sad part of it is that we have two churches of the Lord that both believe in the same things yet do absolutely nothing together.  Very painful. 
  7. The Church needs more long-term youth ministers.  My commitment to Main Street when I arrived was that I would be here for 5 years because I did not want the students shuffling youth ministers every 2 years.  I have been the longest paid youth minister in Main Street’s long history.  Something to brag about I guess.  The problem is that youth ministry is seen as a stepping-stone to pulpit ministry or other types of ministry.  The people who suffer are the kids and there is a loss of continuity from group-to-group.  We need more men who are trained specifically to be youth ministers.  It is the hardest job in the world but yields some of the greatest benefits. 
  8. Focus on what’s most important.  Relationships.  Students need to know that they are loved and they need to learn how to love.  That simple.  You don’t have to come up with cute names for your ministry (like A.C.T.S., UTH4CHRIST) or have huge marketing slogans.  Just love the kids and serve them and teach them how to do the same. 
  9. Where you will change lives is in the bible class.  I think we underestimate the positive effect a bible class can have on a teen.  Most teenagers will tell you a class they loved in their youth years but few will tell you about that devo you spoke at 3 years ago. 
  10. Be Prepared!  That means study, study, study (see #4).  I am tired of going to youth functions and listening to classes or lessons done by people who sound like they threw it all together 10 minutes before they got up there.  I love my students because they see right through this.  We attended a function one time and there was this speaker who everyone thought was so funny but when it comes down to the meat there was not much of anything.  I would hear teens say, “That guy was so awesome!  He made me laugh the entire time!”  My response was, “But what did he say that had any value whatsoever?”  No response.  My teens (most of them) see right through this and usually (because they are like me) are irritated at these types of speakers.  Men, we must come prepared.  That doesn’t mean we speak like it is a college lecture on Exegesis and Hermeneutics but we must do our homework.  We must learn what to say but also how to say it.  Practice and be prepared. 
  11. Favoritism is inevitable.  I have read so much material how favoritism must and should be avoided.  I agree with it to an extent.  Jesus seem to really “favor” Peter, James and John as you do not hear much about Bartholomew do you?  Not that he was any less in the kingdom but it was different.  I love all my students with a passion but because of personalities there will be a few you just naturally mesh with.  You cannot avoid it.  But what you can do is not show that favoritism to the neglect of others.  That is wrong.  
  12. Listen.  How can a 28 year old married weirdo become best friends with a high-school student?  By listening to them and letting them know you are there.  Listening is not about judging them.  We are quick to point out what we would do in that situation but the truth is…YOU ARE NOT IN THAT SITUATION!!  All you can do is listen, pray and walk with them.  
  13. Speak the truth in love (Eph. 4:15).  I think there is a need to correct overt sinful behavior.  Such should be done but should not be done to their embarrassment.  If you love them you will say something but you will also make sure that they know you love them and are willing to be confidential. 
  14. Learn from your mistakes.  I have made plenty.  But I have learned even more from the mistakes.  From not finding enough chaperones to saying the wrong thing at the wrong time I have made my mistakes.  Own up to them and take the high road and confess.  
  15. Become a member of the body instead of a minister.  Ministry is holistic so sometimes I minister to old people as well as young people.  I make friends with people my age that have really kept me at Main Street for these 5 years.  We cannot isolate ourselves from the rest of the congregation.  We must be a member of the body. 

Just 15 lessons!  I have more but these will suffice.  If you are reading this and are a parent at Main Street I thank you for sticking with me.  If you are a member at Main Street I thank you for praying for me.  If you are a youth minister my encouragement to you is to hang in there because God is doing something amazing with you.  If you are or ever have been a youth group member at Main Street I want to let you know that it is because of you why I am even alive.  I confess that I was a horrible youth minister at first and to that I apologize.  I am getting better.  But without your prayers and help I would not have been able to do it all!  Go with God and let him guide you as sheep in his pasture.  I guarantee that we will meet again and will all sit at the table where there will be no tears and no sorrow.  I love you all.