Marko, Youth Ministry 3.0

I’m reading 4 books with Aaron Swank this fall as we are looking at a complete re-tooling of The Grove’s ministry to middle and high school students.  The first one is Youth Ministry 3.0, by Mark Oestreicher.  The book puts itself out there as a manifesto of where we’ve been, where we are and where we need to go.  The fun part of this book is that I am quoted in it!  MarkO put ideas into blog posts and invited interaction that he would sift through to use as sidebars in the book – a  few of which come from me!

The book takes a look at the modern origins of youth ministry, the invention of the teenager, the growth and development of church based youth ministry and, later, the professionalization of youth ministry.  It then asks the question – what is happening culturally in western teenagers today and how must youth ministry respond?

Here’s some helpful material:

  • p.11, from Kenda Creasy-Dean’s foreword, Marko “names the elephant in the room of youth ministry: ‘The way we’re doing things is already not working.  We are failing at our calling.  And deep down, most of us know it.'”\
  • This Wendy’s commercial is referred to, as a visual metaphor of what seems to be happening in youth ministry in the western world:
  • p.29, “adolescence has been, and still is, a cultural phenomenon.”
  • p.58, “Youth workers clamored to develop youth-y churches-within-churches that were loosely attached to, but functionally separate (and autonomous) from, the church that housed and funded them.”
  • P.63, Another useful youtube is referred to, to describe how we need to learn to look at problems in new ways in order to find fresh descriptions and, eventually, fresh solutions:
  • p.72, “Once again, like good missionaries youth workers need to become contextual specialists.  Party planners, programming experts, youth preaching obsessors, growth and measurement gurus, and lowest common denominator systemizers are no longer needed.  What’s needed are cultural anthropologists with relational passion.”
  • p.107, on church youth ministries that are fully separate from the church ministry: “Isolated youth groups have done just as much hard as good.  Isolation might make things easier in some ways, but striving for the best is rarely easy.”

Rollins, How (not) to Speak of God

So, I recently re-read Peter Rollins book, How (not) to Speak of God after hearing him give a teaching at Mars Hill Church (Michigan).  I had read this little book a long time ago, but couldn’t wrap my head around it.  This time was much more successful!  Whether that was because I took it a little slower, or because I had heard Rollins speak and could imagine his Irish accent in my head as I read…

The book is about how our words can be natural limiters in our understanding of God, and how we cannot imagine ourselves fully capturing God with language – or even with our thoughts for that matter.  If God truly is infinite, then even a word like infinite cannot fully express the enormity of God (neither can the word enormity).

The book is only about 60 pages of theology, followed by several sample services from the church Rollins is involved with in Belfast.  It’s a very helpful book, but do read it slowly if you chose to read it.  And, I thought the last chapter pushed past deconstruction into nihilism, but that’s my take, and I bet if I read it again slower, I’ll understand it better.

Here’s some helpful material:

  • p.2, “I picture the emerging community as a significant part of a wider religious movement which rejects both absolutism and relativism as idolatrous positions which hide their human origins in the modern myth of pure reason.”
  • p.5, “There is a shared understanding that being a Christian always involves becoming a Christian.”
  • p.7, “Unlike those who would seek to offer a different set of answers to theological questions, those within the emerging conversations are offering a different way of understanding the answers that we already possess.  In other words, those involved in the conversation are not explicitly attempting to construct or unearth a different set of beliefs that would somehow be more appropriate in today’s context, but rather, they are looking at the way in which we hold the beliefs that we already have…in a sense, nothing changes and yet the shift is so radical that absolutely nothing will be left unchanged.”
  • p.10, “This has led to two dominant reactions by the Western Church. First…run back to the naivete that existed before…second…bite the bullet and forge a New Christianity… that is concerned with developing an ethical way of life based on the teachings of Jesus while rejecting the question of God as an irrelevant abstraction belonging to the past… both mistakenly agree that if one accepts the idea that all our theological constructions are deeply tainted by the limits of our intelligence, the influence of our culture and the unfathomable workings of our subconscious desires, then, on must necessarily give up on a meaningful faith.”
  • p.14, “the term ‘holiness’ has strong connotations fo a God who is beyond all finding out.”
  • p.27, “This a/theism is not then some temporary place of uncertainty on the way to spiritual maturity, but rather is something that operates within faith as a type of heat-inducing friction that prevents our liquid images of the divine from cooling and solidifying into idolatrous form.”
  • p.31, “This emerging a/theology can thus be described as a genuinely ecumenical device, for by unsettling and decentering any idea of a one, true interpretation held by one group over and against all the others, true interpretation held by one group over and against all the others, a network of bridges is formed between different interpretive communities who acknowledge that we are all engaged in an interpretive process which can never do justice to the revelation itself.”
  • p.37, “In a world where people believe they are not hungry, we must not offer food but rather an aroma that helps them desire the food that we cannot provide.  We are a people who are born from a response to hints of the divine.  Not only this, but we must embrace the idea that we are also called to be hints of the divine.”
  • p.44, “Christianity, following this deconstructive and subversive element in the life of Jesus, is then a religion which critiques its own religiosity.”
  • p.56, “While the Christian can make use of these other discourses, the prime notion of truth within Christianity is directly connected with liberation and transformation rather than with objective description.”
  • p.65, “we are affirming that Jesus came to teach us a way of life that is dictated by the radical excess of love rather than ethical rulebook.”

Higher Education needs a Revamping

On October 29th, Seth Godin posted this on his blog and I thought it was so spot on that I had to post the whole thing here:


College costs a fortune. It takes a lot of time and it takes a lot of money.

When a professor assigns you to send a blogger a list of vague and inane interview questions (“1. How did you get started in this field? 2. What type of training (education) does this field require? 3. What do you like best about your job? 4. what do you like least about your job?”) I think you have an obligation to say, “Sir, I’m going to be in debt for ten years because of this degree. Perhaps you could give us an assignment that actually pushes us to solve interesting problems, overcome our fear or learn something that I could learn in no other way…”

When a professor spends hours in class going over concepts that are clearly covered in the textbook, I think you have an obligation to repeat the part about the debt and say, “perhaps you could assign this as homework and we could have an actual conversation in class…”

When you discover that one class after another has so many people in a giant room watching a tenured professor far far in the distance, perhaps you could mention the debt part to the dean and ask if the class could be on video so you could spend your money on interactions that actually changed your life.

The vast majority of email I get from college students is filled with disgust, disdain and frustration at how backwards the system is. Professors who neither read nor write blogs or current books in their field. Professors who rely on marketing textbooks that are advertising-based, despite the fact that virtually no professional marketers build their careers solely around advertising any longer. And most of all, about professors who treat new ideas or innovative ways of teaching with contempt.

“This is costing me a fortune, prof! Push us! Push yourself!”

Angels and Demons: Origins and Destinies

On October 31st, 2010 I gave a teaching at The Grove (which you can listen to here).  This is the powerpoint from the teaching, kindly put in point form by Aaron.


God makes heavens and earth


Created, spiritual beings with free choice and intelligence, but without physical bodies.

“For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible ad invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him.” Col 1:16

“For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but sent them to hell, putting them into gloomy dungeons to be held for judgment.”  2 Peter 2:4

“The angels said to the women, Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified.” Matthew 28:5

“Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand upon then thousand.  They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders.  In a loud voice they sang: Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!”  Revelation 5:11,12

Throughout scriptures, angels sometimes are given bodies and in the old testament there are examples of people being able to see angels for a short time.

Other Names

Sons of God, holy ones, spirits, watchers, thrones, dominions, principalities, authorities, powers

Other Heavenly beings

1.     Cherubim- guards

2.     Seraphim- worshipper

3.     Living creatures:

And in the fire was what looked like four living creatures. In appearance their form was human, but each of them had four faces and four wings.  Their legs were straight; their feet were like those of a calf and gleamed like burnished bronze.  Under their wings on their four sides they had human hands. All four of them had faces and wings,  and the wings of one touched the wings of another. Each one went straight ahead; they did not turn as they moved.

Their faces looked like this: Each of the four had the face of a human being, and on the right side each had the face of a lion, and on the left the face of an ox; each also had the face of an eagle.  Such were their faces. They each had two wings spreading out upward, each wing touching that of the creature on either side; and each had two other wings covering its body.  Each one went straight ahead. Wherever the spirit would go, they would go, without turning as they went.  The appearance of the living creatures was like burning coals of fire or like torches. Fire moved back and forth among the creatures; it was bright, and lightning flashed out of it.  The creatures sped back and forth like flashes of lightning.”  Ezekiel 1:5-14

How many?

“Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders.”  Revelation 5:11

10,000 x 10,000= 100,000,000

2 angels are named:

1.     Gabriel, the messenger

2.     Michael, archangel, leader of the angel armies

What do they do?

Warriors- Michael

Messengers- Gabriel


They Protect, and Serve us.

“For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.”

Psalm 91:11-12

Our Relationship with Them.

Be thankful for their protection.

“For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.”

Psalm 91:11-12

Show hospitality to them.

“Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.” Hebrews 13:2

Take caution.

Do no worship, pray to, or seek angles

“At this I fell at his feet to worship him. But he said to me, “Don’t do that! I am a fellow servant with you and with your brothers and sisters who hold to the testimony of Jesus. Worship God! For it is the Spirit of prophecy who bears testimony to Jesus.”

Revelation 19:10

Beware of false doctrine from angels

“And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light.”

2 Corinthians 11:14



Demons are evil angels who sinned against God and now continually work evil in the world.


“God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the sixth day.”  Genesis 1:31


“Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”  Genesis 3:1


“For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but sent them to hell, putting them into gloomy dungeons to be held for judgment.”  2 Peter 2:4

“And the angels who did not keep their positions of authority but abandoned their own home—these he has kept in darkness, bound with everlasting chains for judgment on the Great Day.” Jude 6

“How you have fallen from heaven, morning star, son of the dawn! 
You have been cast down to the earth, you who once laid low the nations! 
You said in your heart, “I will ascend to the heavens; 
I will raise my throne above the stars of God; 
I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly, on the utmost heights of Mount Zaphon. I will ascend above the tops of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.”  But you are brought down to the realm of the dead, to the depths of the pit.”  Isaiah 14:12-15


Personal name of the head of demons

“You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.”
John 8:44

Satan and Demonic Activity
1. Lies
“You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.”
John 8:44

2. Deception
“The great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him.”  Revelation 12:9

3. Murder
“They sacrificed their sons and their daughters to false gods.”  Psalm 106:37

“The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.”  2 Corinthians 4:4

5.Slavery to sin
“Formerly, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those who by nature are not gods.” Galatians 4:4

…temptation, doubt, guilt, fear, confusion, sickness, envy, pride, slander, etc.

Demons’ Limitations
They cannot know the future
They cannot read minds and thoughts
(They can observe and inter-communicate)

At Final Judgment
“And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where they beast of the false prophet had been thrown.  The will be tormented day and night for ever and ever.”  Revelation 20:10

Our Relationship to Demons.
1. Recognize they are active.
2. Know not all evil is demonic.
3. The gospel does not submit to demonic power.
4. Beware that demonic influence exists in our world.
“O, but the sacrifices of pagans are offered to demons, not to God, and I do not want you to be participants with demons.” 1 Corinthians 10:20
“The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons.” 1 Timothy 4:1
5. Persistent sin gives opportunity to demonic influence.
“In your anger do not sin; Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry.”  Ephesians 4:26

Can a Christian be Demon Possessed?
1. Robotic control is rare in the Bible.
2. The word possessed is not in the scripture.

Christians cannot be demon possessed.
“You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.” 1 John 4:4

Christians can be under varying degrees of demonic attack.
“Be self-controlled and alert.  Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. “  1 Peter 5:8

How to Wage War.

1. Repentance
2. Movement
3. Prayer
4. Proclamation
5. Humility
6. Freedom
7. Fasting
8. Giving/generosity
9. Unity
10. Serving
11. Worship
12. Perserverance