Monday, July 7, 2008

My last words

This is it world. This is probably my final note. My ability to stay connected with and meet with the people I so desperately desire to be connected with cannot happen. Atleast not here, not the way I want. So I think this is it. I don't think I can stand it in this place anymore.

I know I'm leaving here to go to a better place.

I leave knowing that I have the love of my wife and the love of my Savior.

I hope to see you when you all get there. Atleast, hopefully I see you.

But after today, I'll REALLY know if its a better place.

I know this will seem random to some, but I really don't think I can take it here anymore. I mean, its not all bad. There's definately some good here. But the bad is too much for me to bare.

So, I'm going to Wordpress.

From here on out, you can check me out at czarthoughts.wordpress.com

What did you think I was talking about?

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Todd Bentley anyone?

So, I've heard lots of rumblings about the Lakeland Revival. Maybe you haven't. That's not a bad thing if you haven't heard of it. But, its host Todd Bentley has been on every major media news outlet talking about what "God is doing" in the revivals.

Some have compared what he is doing to the Toronto Revivals. I'm not really sure. I've heard some people stand in support of Todd Bentley, I've heard some call him a false prophet. I've personally tried to not have an opinion about this but...its getting REALLY hard to stay nuetral.

This blog WILL NOT become the home of the anti-Todd Bentley rants. But I would love to hear your thoughts on this video.



Thoughts?

Monday, June 30, 2008

Thursday, June 26, 2008

June 26th Should Be A National Holiday

Why? Because the nation should have the day off to celebrate my birthday! It should be a day of cheer a celebration throughout the nation. Well...maybe just my house then. :-)

Thanks for all of your Facebook, Myspace, Phone Call and text messages to wish me a happy birthday. It means WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAYYYYYY more to me than you know.

It still feels a little weird to celebrate your birthday 2 days after your own wife's birthday - but that just makes the celebration last longer!

So, on behalf of the Patton family - thank you for your birthday wishes.

We both turned 28 this week.

p.s. All of the "old man" jokes can stop now. LOL! The best one so far was the AARP application placed on my computer monitor this morning. Good stuff.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Where are the black people?

I have more "leadership myths" I will blog about, and I'll get to those, but this is a question that has been getting me going for quite a while and I have to ask it.

As I look at some of my favorite leaders and their leadership organizations - Andy Stanley and Catalyst, Ed Stetzer, Mark Batterson, Erwin McManus just to name a few I VERY SELDOMLY see black leaders speaking at these conferences. Catalyst, Purpose Driven, Awaken and MANY others rarely feature black voices in church leadership. Occasionally, a black guy will speak about "Urban ministry" or "Hip-hop and the church" in a workshop setting but those are generally it. Or they'll get TD Jakes or Eddie Long and that'll be the extent of it. Yet, many of these places talk about "multi-cultural ministry."

Where are the black people?

Is the African-American church too far behind to be considered leaders in the current move happening in the American church? Are the voices coming from the church too irrelevant to white America? Do the voices of black leaders not reach the needs of Gen-X and Millenials - the target age groups of the more modern church movements?

Where are the black people?

It seems like the only way I get to hear the voice of black church leaders is in one of the following ways:

1. An outrageous statement made at a church Barak Obama went to
2. Al Sharpton
3. TD Jakes
4. At a Charismatic/Faith Movement Prosperity conference

Only one of the four are sources I'm okay with (that being TD Jakes). The other 3 are NOT sources that resonate with me nor do they generally represent my views on faith and leadership.

This isn't a blog pointing fingers nor is it a blog to say that anyone is racist. I genuinely want to know WHERE ARE THE BLACK PEOPLE?

So, if you could, could you ask Perry Noble, Andy Stanley, Dave Ferguson, Ben Arment, Scott Hodge, Erwin McManus, Mark Batterson and the rest of the modern American church leaders - where are the black people?

I'm GENUINELY curious. Are you?

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Leadership Myth #1 - Multi-tasking

Since I'm in the process of recruiting for my leadership team and doing some interviewing to fill positions at my job, I get to hear people laud themselves about their abilities pretty frequently. I keep hearing about this mythical quality that people say that they excell in. This mythical gift people claim to hold that helps them be better leaders and better employees. This mythical gift is called - x-ray vision! Wait...not quite, but its pretty close. This mythical gift is called - "multi-tasking."

Multi-tasking belongs in the same boat as levitating, x-ray vision, Big Foot and other cultural phenomenons that have ZERO proof of existance.

Allow me to explain. People say that they can multi-task, or do multiple tasks at once. If that's true, then why do we turn the music down in the car when we are looking for an address? Since when did our ears affect our sight? Or why do we tell STOP talking to someone in person to send a text message? Our speech either slows down or stops completely when we start typing on our Blackberry's and iPhones.

Similarly, I don't believe you when you say you can multi-task in a employment or ministry setting. For example, if you are responsible for 3 projects that run concurrently, you cannnot do them all at the sametime. Let's say you are responsible for small group development, multi-media and youth ministry. You CANNOT do the three of them at once. You'll work on one at a time, quickly moving from one to the next. You'll make your reports for media, write your message for youth ministry and then write an outline for small groups - ONE AT A TIME. You would need three hands to write all three things simultaneously. You aren't multitasking, you're moving from one thing to the next. See the difference?

Multi-tasking is a myth. You can't do multiple tasks at once, so stop telling people "I'm a great multitasker." Tell them "I can move very quickly from one task to the next." Its not as pretty as multi-tasking, but quick and effecient is a fantastic quality to have.

Now, stop and re-read this post because you were probably trying catch-up on sports highlights, listen to the new Coldplay release and read this blog all at the same time and didn't really understand what I was saying.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Start Spreading the News - Album Recording COMPLETE!!

I'm excited to announce that the recording for Life Support Vol.1 is FINALLY finished! My first official solo release and the first in the "Life Support" series is done with the recording phase. All that's left is to get it mixed and then voila - the release.

In case you've forgotten, here's a reminder of what "Life Support" is all about.

So, for those of you who plan to be in attendance for the Generation Conference - you'll get to be one of the first people to get your hands on it.

I'm really pleased with the way it came out. Here is the OFFICIAL tracklisting.

1. Pump Ya Fist
2. Masses
3. U Already Know
4. After The Pain
5. Hope
6. My Prayer

Vol 2 is set to come out by mid fall. The writing phase is already underway for that one, but until then - get ready to order your copy because they will go FAST!

Website, album art and details on how to order are coming soon.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Celtics raise banner #17!! YEAH!!!


On 6/17, Celtics win Game 6 of the NBA Finals to win their 17th Title. In attendance were Celtics greats Bill Russell (He wore #6) and John Havlicek (He wore #17) FREAKY! But exciting none the less.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

This will make them think

Have you ever been asked something to the effect of: "If God is real, why is there so much bad in the world?"

Here's a great response to get them to think: "Why is there so much GOOD in the world?"

Monday, June 16, 2008

The Name Change

I was REALLY excited about this weekend. This weekend we announced the new name of the church. We've had the name New Beginnings for nearly nine years and the name fit where we were and are, but it doesn't fit where we are going. So it had been impressed on pastor's heart a long time ago that a name change was coming.

Well, this weekend it was announced. My friend Randy and I put together a video compiled of pictures and videos showing a history of our church put to the song "God Of This City." IT WAS AWESOME! People who've been at our church for a while seemed to excited by what we've done and people new to the church seemed inspired by what happened before they got there. All the while being reminded by the song that "greater things are yet to come!" Very moving.

Then Pastor Steve announced the new name of the church. Its with great privilege that I share with you the new name of the church formerly known as New Beginnings Praise & Worship Center: Crosspoint Church.

We won't OFFICIALLY change the name until we move into the new building at the end of July.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Celtics vs Lakers Game 4 - A lesson in leadership

Okay, first of all last nights game was INSANE!! In case you missed it allow me to give you the important parts. The Lakers ended the first quarter with a 21 point lead - the most ANY team has EVER lead by at the end of the first quarter in the NBA Finals. Facing the largest lead of its kind, and falling down by 24 points during the 2nd quarter, the Celtics rally back to WIN THE GAME to pull of the single biggest comeback in NBA Finals history. So if you missed it, you literally missed HISTORY!

Ok, on to the leadership lessons. Watching the game, I enjoyed watching Celtics head coach Doc Rivers during this great comeback. Lesson #1, make the impossible success seem possible by showing the small steps. When they went down by 24, he said "Let's get it down to 18." They did that by halftime. When it got down to 18 he said "Let's get it down to 10." Then he said "Let's get it down to 7." Well by the end of the 3rd quarter, the Laker lead was 2. He showed them the small steps to accomplish something that had never been done before. Something that seemed impossible. In the church world, when you talk to people about the possibility of living a Christ-centered life, that may seem impossible to them because they see the seemingly insurmountable defecit their life seems to be. We should show them small steps from Jesus' invitational words "Come and see" to his dedicated words of "Carry your cross."

Lesson #2, say the vision often. He started the motivation of his tell by asking them to believe. Believe that the comeback was possible. So during every timeout, every huddle, every substitution, to every player he high fived or slapped on the butt he echoed that one message - BELIEVE. If you listened you heard it over and over - "Do you believe?" or "You believe it?" or "Believe!" And the more he said it, the more they believed. The more they believed, the more they accomplished. If we are going to lead people to change, a more indepth relationship and equip people to do God's work we have to say the vision often. Do YOU believe?

Lesson 3, leaders lead by humility and serving. During the post game interviews, Celtic forward Kevin Garnett talked about leading by example and that he's still learning. He just wanted to motivate his teammates by doing the right things and keeping them positive. Paul Pierce said something similar. Lakers star and NBA MVP Kobe Bryant was asked "what was (coach) Phil Jackson's message to the team after such a devastating loss?" Kobe's response: "Don't worry about what Phil said, I yelled at all of them and now they're back there crying." He went on to make excuses about being triple teamed as soon as he touched the ball and nobody helped. The game I watched was a little different - he was defended one on one most of the 2nd half! Complaints and excuses vs encouraging and setting the example. I wonder why they lost. Hmmmmm....

Fantastic life examples of principles working to bring success.

Happy father's day to all you fathers out there.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Am I doing my job?

What a question! So simple yet so profound - "Am I doing my job"? I think its a question EVERY minister should ask themselves. I know MANY churches have developed short term matrices to determine if ministers are doing their jobs. We may measure things like attendance, giving, # of people answering alter calls, number of small groups, etc. But what about our REAL jobs? Are we measuring the effectiveness of our REAL job?

Some may say "If the church [or youth group] is growing and people are getting saved, what else am I suppose to measure? Isn't that what my job is?" My answer to that question is NO. The Bible gives us our job description in Ephesians 4. Check this out:

11 Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. 12 Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ.


I know there are MANY other gifts God gives for the betterment of the Church (notice the capital "C"), some of which are covered in 1 Corinthians and in Romans. But, if you are an evangelist, prophet, apostle, pastor or teacher our ultimate responsibility "is to equip God's people to do His work AND to build up the church."

Now, I'm sure the "build up the church" part could be HOTLY contested in terms of its meaning. Does it mean to "edify and encourage" or does it mean to "add to numerically"? I'm not sure, but I think whatever definition you choose would be a good answer for what many church leaders focus on. It gives us short term goals.

But wouldn't it be better to ask ourselves "are people under my care being equipped to do the work of God?" I think that's the tougher and more realistic question we need to be asking ourselves. Its a question we can't answer during our weekly or monthly meetings. Its a question we can't answer on our quarterly review sessions. Its a question we really won't know the answer to for a year or even a decade. Although its a question that won't stroke our egos with the quick gratification of an instant answer, but I think its the real answer we should be asking ourselves.

So are you doing your job? Thoughts?

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

New Chapter In Our Church's History Today!

Today will mark a new chapter in the history of our church. Today we sign the papers to take ownership of a new property in Newport, RI! Some of you might be thinking, "Big deal, Steve." Allow me to enlighten you a bit.

New Beginnings Praise & Worship Center started as a brand new church in September 1999. The first service was held in a local community center and the only people in attendance LITERALLY was the pastor, his wife, his 4 year old son and a blind man. (I didn't come until June '02) During that time we endured tattered chairs, the phone to community center ringing DURING the service, fake ghosts the local kids made hanging from the ceiling, toys stacked in the back of the room, power outages and MUCH more. Children's church was held in a food pantry and youth minsitry was at the pastor's house in the family room. Oh yeah, the equipment for the church (some we used and some was a purchase for our future facitlity. A facility we didn't have or even know when we were going to have) was ALSO in the pastor's family room.

After being there for FOUR YEARS we moved into and renovated an old synagogue that was being used as a coat making shop. Literal blood, sweat and tears went into renovating that building. And some how, with only 5 parking spots in a building tucked away on a street that was only one block long behind a junior high school and a large Catholic church bordered by 2 one way streets - we grew to a multi-ethnic, multi-cultural church of about 150 people. That's right FIVE parking spots on a hidden street that's only one block long bordered by 2 one way streets!

Having outgrown the current building and no realistic way to go to multiple services without creating a SERIOUS traffic problem, we searched for a new building. And after much prayer and a one year long process, today we sign the papers on a building that has been a fixture in our community for over 120 years. It's an old Episcopal church that gives us the opportunity to marry the traditional and modern elements of a church in one building. It's on the main road, its about 4 times bigger than our current space and has PLENTY of parking! And FINALLY, the youth get a dedicated space. Oh yeah, NO MORE RENTING! We are purchasing the building. From the proverbial "mudhuts" to the "promised land."

So that's the "big deal" just in case you didn't know. We sign today. Rejoice with us! For New Beginnings - history is being made!

Monday, June 9, 2008

Just speaking my mind

- If the Celtics win the NBA title (which is what I want since the Pistons can't have it), Doc Rivers would become only the 3rd African American head coach to win the title. The others Bill Russell and KC Jones...of the Boston Celtics! So the Celtics will be the ONLY franchise to win with African American head coaches.

- Still sick of the poligion - that's my new word for what's happening in many churches today: politics + religion = poligion. Did Jesus die for a democratic government or people? Just a thought...

- How come all the mega churches write all the materials about doing church well? What about the 150-400 size churches? Are they not healthy? I mean, how can a church with a $6million a year budget tell me I should be hiring this person, buying this thing or doing that thing when most churches lack the human and financial resources to do what they did? Can the average church REALLY afford to buy 10 Xbox 360's for the "relevant" youth room?

- Myspace has become real life. Everyone is no longer human, we are all now niches and demographics - just like on Myspace. How many ways can CNN break down the American public into subcategories for voting, movies and whatever else they want me consume? Listening to them break down America sounds like they are ordering from Starbucks.

- ITS FRIGGIN HOT OUTSIDE!!!

- I love the fact that our church is moving! Buying this old Episcopal church and merging the old with the new is going to be AWESOME! Plus, the youth ministry FINALLY gets its own space. Minus the Xbox 360's....

- Do we REALLY need ANOTHER iPhone? Didn't the first one have terrible coverage? So more things to do, same crappy coverage. Gotta love consumerism.

- Its friggin HOT outside!!

- If art imitates life, Obama's presidency COULD mean the end of the world. Why? Because in EVERY movie that has a black president, its the end of world. I think Republicans should use that as part of the campain...they'll probably use this as well as other fear-based tactics to try to win.

Friday, June 6, 2008

"Gospel" Hip-Hop Music topping Secular Radio Chart?


Sounds odd huh? Well, its true and its happening! My dude Fedelity is taking his brand of hip-hop infused with the Good News and taking over local radio stations. In his resident city of Tulsa, OK the community has embraced his song called "Tell A Friend" and voted it #1 for TWO CONSECUTIVE WEEKS on the local secular urban station.

The truly amazing part about this feat is he did all of this with ZERO push from him. He encourage NO ONE to call in and vote for the song. In fact, he didn't even tell people he sent it to the local station!

I'm EXTREMELY happy for my dude. I've known him for YEARS and I'm proud that he's getting this type of exposure. I just wish he would give me a spot on his album :-)

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

A job has never made me this mad!!!



Okay, as most of you know I am bivocational. For those who don't know -I am bivocational, meaning I work a full time job and I do ministry. I've been at my current job for 1 year now, making me one of the most tenured people here since I was in the initial training class that started our rapid growth here.

I've been in talks with my team leader and the regional sales director about me being a team leader - a sales manager. They know I'm qualified, I can do the job, etc. So recently a position becomes available in the most PLUSH department in our sales organization. Probably the best opportunity to make the most money in that position. Not to mention I get to develop, train and grow more sales people - my strong suit.

They didn't offer me the position.

It was such an odd snub that people who I barely talk to asked other people "Why didn't Steve get that spot?" And did I lose out to someone more qualified, with more experience and a proven leader? NOPE!!!! I lost out to someone with ZERO experience, fresh out of school.

And before you think "I'm sure there is a good reason you didn't get the position Steve," allow me to tell you that I had a meeting with my manager later yesterday afternoon and I asked him flat out "Why didn't I get the job?" He didn't have a reason. All he could say was basically she asked first. Not "we felt she was more qualified" or "she was better suited for that team" or even "It was a close call and we feel you two are evenly talented" but simply "we knew that she wanted to be in management longer than we knew you wanted to be in management."

WHAT?!?!?!?!??!?!?!?!

Oh, and then after the meeting with my boss, he basically said "we made a mistake with that decision."

So I'm pissed. So now I have to wait until some kind of outrageous situation happens that opens up a new spot for me to get a management position.

Be ye angry and sin not...

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

36Parables.com - You saw it here first!

Okay, first off this weekend was spectacular. 2 good friends of Nichole and I got married this weekend and we were both in the wedding. Nichole and I met through the bride so it was cool to see her get married to a great guy. Jamie and Erica - congratulations! (I'll post pics as soon as I get them)

One of the groomsmen was Stewart Redwine. He runs a company called 36 Parables. The gist of the company is this: 36 videos that illustrate the 36 Parables that Jesus taught. Sounds good, huh? It looks even better than they sound!

Currently, its available directly through the website but will soon be coming via a major distributor. I won't say who or when simply because I don't think I'm allowed to. BUT, you can go check them out RIGHT NOW and purchase them. The first 15 are already completed with the other 21 soon to follow. If you use video during your messages or just during your service times, buy this product NOW!

This will definately be talked about all of the big boy blogs by the end of this year. Catalyst will cover it, Collide's definately going to get their hands on it and I wouldn't even be surprised if Swerve covers this stuff. And keeping in the tradition of breaking the big talks first (remember you heard about Expelled here and the new Gnarls Barkley here first) - remember you heard about 36Parables.com here...FIRST!

Be the first to own the videos, too. They have every format available for download or on DVD.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Speak on it - "I Kissed A Girl"

Hey blogosphere! Okay, since I seem to find out these interesting things in culture to speak about (like 11yr olds and the Pussycat Dolls), I figured I'd start a new segment here on Collision Course called "Speak On It." Since this is the 3rd official segment here (along with "Scriptures That Rocked My World" and "Christians Say The Darnedest Things") I figured I'd kick this one off with a bang.

I may be behind, but I just heard this song for the first time this weekend while driving up to Boston. Its called "I Kissed A Girl" by Katy Perry. Wow...

So what do you think? Is this part of the alleged "gay agenda?" Has sexual experimentation become "cool?" Or is this the natural positive progression of human sexuality?

Speak on it!

i kissed a girl


*Edit: Okay...don't know why you are only getting a 30 second snippet. Anywho...for the entire song, go here

Again, Speak On It

Monday, May 19, 2008

Authority - A hard subject


In today's landscape, authority is a hard subject to preach. I look forward to challenges like this but God hasn't released me to teach this as a topic yet. As I've been giving some thought to the issue, respect for authority is hard!

Its tough to teach respect for authority when public school teachers as well as some parents degrade and disrespect the youth without a second thought. Its tought to teach it, with hopes of having someone actually following it, when police brutality is so public and people see police abuse their authority all of the time. Its tough to teach when I live in New England under the shadow of Catholic priests abusing their authority to sexually abuse children. When it seems like the under priviliged don't get a fair shake at justice.

This current generation has seen more footage and images of corrupt leaders, politicians, teachers, police and every authoritative figure in the span of the last 10 years than most anyone else.

Youth (atleast in my community) generally don't feel respected BY authority - teachers, parents, police or anyone else - so they struggle to have...wait, scratch that...the reject having respect FOR authority.

Its a tough subject, but I'm looking forward to teaching it...as soon as I get the release to do it.

How have some of you other leaders discussed this issue?

Friday, May 16, 2008

Please, let's welcome...

...my pastor and father-in-law Steve Robinson to the blogworld. This man has been a big inspiration, teacher, motivator and overall great man to me.

I'm REALLY excited to see him FINALLY blogging. We all get to see his thoughts on unity in the church, leadership, God and family.

You need to add him to your blog roll NOW and just swing by to say "welcome!"

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

TOYM part 2 - If you said it once, you didn't say it

Another thought on youth ministry is this: If you said it once, you didn't say it. Let's face it, as communicators and spiritual leaders we want our listeners to change into spiritual giants based on the one talk we did. We do! We think based on the message we teach tonight, its going to form spiritual giants by the time our talk is over. We think because we just taught on purity, they will now live purely. We taught about honoring authority, so they will be the most respectful people in the world. We think because we teach about prayer, next week the prayer times will be power packed!

But in reality, that's RARELY the case. We teach about purity on Wednesday and by Thursday evening, we're counseling people about their porn addictions. We teach about anger and self-control on Wednesday and we're at their homes with their parents on Friday discussing why they just got suspended from school for fighting. If you said it once, you didn't say it yet.

The generation we lead is the most advertised to generation in the history of the world. Marketers say that you have to hear their brand name 5 times before it registers. So in the minds of the people we lead, you have to say it atleast 5 times to say it once. This is part of the reason why we teach in series and not just one-hitter quitter messages. If we can drive the point home over the course of a few weeks with verbal, visual and written cues (preaching, bulletins and videos is how we do it), then I can say what I have to say ONE time.

So I've learned to be patient and say the point alot. Eventually it registers. But if I only said it once, I didn't say it.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Thoughts On Youth Ministry - Remember - Its YOUTH ministry

This week, I'm going to share some of my thoughts on youth ministry. Some stuff I've learned during the last 5 or so years of doing this beautiful task of reaching a new generation during their prime years of dedication to Christ.

My first thought about youth ministry SHOULD be obvious, but we generally don't think about it in this regard. As youth pastors, we do YOUTH ministry. I know what you're thinking - "Duh Steve!" But is it really a duh thought? If so, then why are we trying to make Christian teenagers behave like Christian adults?

Teenagers do teenager things. They are trying to figure out who they are. They are trying to figure out how this whole friend thing works. They are curious about relationships and dating. They are trying to figure out themselves sexually. Too many times we force them to behave like adults, better yet we want them to act like US when it comes to these matters instead of teaching them what the Bible says about the issue and then letting them look at their lives through the lens of scripture.

I remember being a teenager in the youth ministry I came to know the Lord in. It was some great Holy Ghost stuff happening! It was awesome. But every year, we would take a few months and cover the subject of dating. Then, the youth pastor (whom I respect greatly to this day) shared that he was on the journey of finding his wife. He talked about not dating anyone that wouldn't potentially be his wife. That's a GREAT idea for a 28 year old man who was promiscuous in college because he was basketball star and his previous experiences with women were mostly sexual. He went on to say that ultimately, dating was outside of God's will - and anything outside of God's will is sin.

So let me get this straight - I'm trying to figure out this whole relationship thing (I was 17 at the time) and you're telling me that dating is sin (because breaking up and dating and breaking up is "practicing divorce." Aye Carumba!)? I wasn't saying I wanted to have sex, I know what the Bible says about that and I don't need a girlfriend to do it either. I was just trying to do what all healthy, attractive 17 year old boys do - try to figure this whole dating thing.

So, secretly I had a "girlfriend." Well, more like a "special friend." That was our way of saying we had a girlfriend without being in sin. My relationship was STRAINED at points because we were trying to explore our relationship but at the same we were told our teenage curiousity was a sin.

Now, I see some of the people who were in the youth minsitry at the time and in regards to relationships, many of them went crazy because they were relationally stunted. They were forced think like adults (and instead of dating prepare for marriage) while we were teenagers and when they became adults, relationally they were teenagers. So they went wild and it took a few years for their relational IQ to catch up. Now don't get me wrong, I don't think a 12 year old should date. But I don't think we should give the same advice to 12 year olds that we give 18 year olds about dating.

That's just one of MANY examples I could use. Listen, we pastor YOUTH. So let's pastor them where they are. Let's teach them to navigate teenage issues as teenagers equipped with scripture. "Train up a child in the way that he should go so that when he GETS older he won't depart from it." Notice when he GETS older, not when we make him older.

Thoughts?

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Some great non-ministry/ ministry resources

I figured I'd share some resources I use that help me in ministry. These aren't the usual ministry resources like Youversion or BibleGateway or any church blogs.

These resources are non-ministry related that have a great use for me in ministry. I hope they help you like they help me. Check it out.

Want to keep a finger on the pulse of youth culture and youth trends? Check out
Ypulse. Its a hot spot for marketers. Apparently, its also a hot spot for librarians and youth ministers!

Want to improve your communication presentations? Check our PresentationZen.
Make your presentations better. Its not how to "preach" better, just how to use things like Powerpoint or Keynote more effectively.

What non-ministry resources do you use for ministry?

Monday, May 5, 2008

Church - How can we help here?

Check this out. A catastophe on the other side of the globe:

http://www.cnn.com/2008/WORLD/asiapcf/05/05/myanmar.cyclone/index.html

How can the American part of the Body help?

More specifically, can anyone point me to how me and my church can help?

Friday, May 2, 2008

The Czar hits Youtube

One of my songs that I did at the Awakening Conference hit Youtube. The song is called "After The Pain." Its one of my favorite songs that I've ever written.

*Note, the people are sitting down because I asked them to, not because they were bored. FYI

Enjoy

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

I'm going to write a book!

Yes, that's right folks - I'm going to write a book. Well, we - my wife Nichole and I, are going to write a book. Its going to take a WHILE to write the book because the idea that I have is going to take about a year to gather all of the info, merge our notes and put it in an understandable format.

I believe this book is the missing link as far writings about youth ministry is concerned. I have NEVER seen a book like this done, specifically in the realm of youth ministry.

What's it about? Well, the rules of book writing say I'm not supposed to talk about it yet. But you can guess at it...

What's your guess?

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Enough with the church and politics!

Am I the only one who feels like the line between Church and state is becoming increasingly blurred and almost invisible? What does Obama's FORMER pastor have to do with his presidency? Its funny to me that the people who always scream about church and state separations are harping on this issue.

I'm soooooooo tired of the politics, the media and Western church. Jesus' response to people wanting societal overhaul will SHOCK many people. Have you read Acts 1 lately? Watch this:

Acts 1:
6 So when the apostles were with Jesus, they kept asking him, “Lord, has the time come for you to free Israel and restore our kingdom?”
7 He replied, “The Father alone has the authority to set those dates and times, and they are not for you to know. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”


So the disciples asked about the politics of their time being changed (vs 6) and Jesus responded basically by saying "that's for the Father to know and for you not to worry about." THEN He talks about receiving the Holy Spirit and being a witness for Him! WOW!

You want politics? You want to know "when will become that Judeo Christian nation so that His kingdom will be restored?" Jesus has a very political response - DON'T WORRY ABOUT THAT! You just be a witness for Him.

I think that's a great point for the Body to take hold of.

Your thoughts?

Monday, April 28, 2008

Pastors - We've done humanity a disservice

Something that has been on my mind ALOT lately is the way we - church leaders and Christians as a whole - communicate the reality of who God is. I think the American church has done the planet a disservice. NO THIS NOT A "BE GREEN" POST. When I talk about the planet, I mean the people in it.

For a long time, the Western presentation of the gospel has been "God can fix your problems." Even to the point we as leaders talk about a "perceived need" that needs to be met. But that idea is only fit for people who have a perceived problem. That idea doesn't encompass the fullness of who God is. How does that translate to the person who has a good paying job, a healthy family, a generally happy family and has no drug or emotional addictions? Does this type of person not need the gospel?

I also believe this type of "God can fix your problems" gospel has caused more people to be like the 9 lepers that didn't return and give thanks. We present God to be the "always there for you problem solver" and not the life changer. God doesn't want to fix your problems, He wants to change your life.

I encounter so many peopl who say "yeah I tried that and it didn't work" when it comes to the gospel. It didn't work? What does that mean? Your sins weren't forgiven? You weren't translated from the kingdom of darkeness to the kingdom of light? Your past wasn't washed clean? You weren't reconciled to the true and living God? What do you mean it work? Or were they convinced to try God to fix their marriage and it still ended in divorce? Were they convinced to try God so that their parents wouldn't be abusive anymore and they still were?

I do believe that we should "taste and see that the Lord is good." I believe that God does have the ability to fix our problems, heal our bodies and break our addictions. I believe that fully. But I don't believe that's what God wants to be His complete message. Jesus died so that our sins could be forgiven, so that our soul can be free and so that we can be reconciled to our heavenly Father.

Problem solving, physical healing and addiction breaking is something I'm praying for so that God can show Himself powerful in my community and that people will live for Him. "Christ died so that those that live would live for Him."

Leaders, lets go beyond "problem solving, always there for you" gospel - and let's talk about the "life never the same, sin forgiving soul redeeming God." Let's touch the perceived needs, but let's move to the REAL needs of humanity - sin forgiving.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Quote of the day

"People who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are usually the ones who do."

Thursday, April 24, 2008

The Awakening Conference Final Day

So, the final day of the Awakening Conference was unbelievable. The day kicked off with some amazing, heartfelt worship that could have gone on for hours - literally. Then, the leaders went into a leadership session that was led by Mike Servello where he just took some time and encouraged youth leaders. I sawy youth leaders in TEARS during this segment. Very encouraging stuff. He then started talking about the idea of youth church, but he ran out of time because he spent so much time encouraging us. Both very much needed. Good stuff. During that session we missed hearing from Jordan Boyce, but all of my youth say that it was INCREDIBLE. Many of them say it was the best part of the conference.

Then, we had the pleasure of being in a leadership session with Darren Whitehead of Willow Creek. For me, the session wasn't necessarily "eye opening" but very encouraging personally. He spoke about some of the modern adjustments we need to make as youth ministers and youth ministries. The ideas were concepts I've been speaking to some of my leaders about, but it was REALLY encouraging for both me and my leaders to see that I'm not COMPLETELY crazy for thinking about these concepts. Awesome stuff.

Then DW spoke in the afternoon session. Emmensly encouraging! Hearing an Aussie preach gives a very interesting perspective on the North American view of Christianity that I have (and I am trying VERY hard to KILL that view). His message was impacting but the part that did it for me was when he said "Is this what you want to give your ONE AND ONLY life for?" WHOA! One and only life...I honestly don't remember much of that message because that concept captivated my mind for a while.

Lastly, conference host Marco DeBarros closed out the conference. He's a good friend of mine, but I had never heard him preach before then. We talk. He preaches to me (when he doesn't know it) when we chat on the phone or in person, but I had never heard him do his do. Incredible and challenging. This was the most impacting of them all. He asked the youth leaders to come and pray for their people at the end and WHOA! God moved something mighty that night. I heard people stayed around until 1 AM just talking and praying. 1 AM!

Powerful stuff.

So that's it. That's the cliff's notes of the Awakening. If you live in the NorthEast, TAKE YOUR YOUTH MINISTRY TO THIS CONFERENCE!!! Its incredible. I'd even suggest going to this over some of the more well known events (that I will not name for the sake of not sounding like I'm bashing the others.)

The only other conference I would recommend NorthEastern ministries attend is the Generation Conference.

Now, I'm done being reporter for the events, I can get sharing some of the new ideas I've been having. Can't wait to share.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Selah...

If it was a crime to be a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you of being one?

WOW!!

Awakening - Jesus Christ Superstar!

Thursday night's session was for the hardcore Christian. Not necessarily hardcore about their beliefs, just being into hardcore rock. This Beautiful Republic kicked off the night with some fantastic rock music. The cover of Gnarls Barkley's hit song "Crazy" was excellently done...COMPLETELY unexpected, but excellently done. They went on to discuss their love for Christ and play some truely Jesus centered songs. When Ben, the lead singer, started swinging his mic around Aerosmith style, I thought someone was going to lose a tooth! But they didn't. Praise God for that. I enjoy music when its good - rock, rap, soul even country (as long as Carrie Underwood is considered country).

Then, the night was capped off with a wonderful message from Underoath/The Almost star Aaron Gillespie. I must say, not bad for his first time speaking. Engaging and insightful for many of the people there. I don't have the official numbers but I do believe that the night session was the peak in attendance since MANY people showed up to hear the guy. At the conclusion of his session, he closed out with some awesome acoustic tunes. It was fantastic. He invited the crowd on stage with him as he played. Needless to say, he had to ask people to "back-up a little bit, yes?"

Great night from people with a great heart.

I got the chance to speak to Ben from TBR because we stayed in the same hotel. He sparked a great convo about the balance of grace and discipline. The guy has a great heart. I look forward to hearing some BIG stuff from these guys.

1 day of coverage remaining. Tune in here to Collision Course for the most comprehensive recap of the Awakening COnference. Tomorrow we'll conclude with the sessions from Willow Creek's Darren Whitehead, Mike Servello and Marco DeBarros.

Cheers!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Awakening - Marco, Mike and Me

Day 2 of the Awakening Conference built on the momentum of the 1st day. While the youth heard from pastor Bobby Perry in the first session, the youth pastors and youth leaders got to sit in a leadership session from my friend and conference host Marco DeBarros. Marco took over the reigns as youth pastor at New Life less than 2 years ago. Prior to that, he was youth pastor at a church of 250 - the youth ministry was 100 strong! So needless to say, he knows a bit about healthy youth minsitry. His session was awesome. He talked about the philosophy, methodology and attitude that every youth pastor needs to take inventory of doing youth ministry. Incredible stuff!

In the afternoon session, Marco and I took the stage to do a song together with the GroundZero band. BANANAS! After that song, I went into my set. I decided to go all out with set so I included lots of video and visuals in the set to really get the message across. I did the songs "Masses", "After The Pain" and "Hope" and WHAT AN EXPERIENCE! The kicker during the set to me came at the end of "After The Pain" when everyone joined together as we sang "How Great Is Our God." Yes, we went into full blown worship in the middle of a HIP-HOP set. It was indescribable. Honestly, I think it was my best set yet. But when you have a crowd as engaged and energetic as this crowd was, you can't miss.

I got to conclude my set with an introduction of the next speaker - another good friend of mine Mike Servello, Jr. His message about our words and being instruments of encouragement was timeless. Great message. Check out some pics and video from my set.



video

Monday, April 21, 2008

Awakening - Chris Hill

Okay, night one of the Awakening Conference was the perfect kick-off to the event. Worship was led by Bobby Perry & Rain. WHOA! They came last year and blew everyone away, this year was no different. The energy of this group not to mention the musical excellence is uncanny. Most, if not all of the singers and musicians, are Berkley School of Music graduates/students. You add all of that up with the desire to worship God and...wowzers! You get an unbelievable experience.

Then Chris Hill came up and almost made me quit preaching. The message - undeniably impacting. He preached from the book of Kings with the recalling of how Elijah was taken up and how Elisha took his mantle. We've all heard that one before, right? Right. Then, he broke down how Elisha tore off his outer garment and put on Elijah's mantle. From that he began to break down how God has some of us in a new season and the garments from our old season won't fit anymore so they need to be torn off so that we can put on our new mantle. Sound encouraging? I'm doing it ZERO justice because it was delivered in a way that only Chris Hill (and MAYBE his pastor TD Jakes) could do it. He spent about 30-40 minutes pulling out absolute GEMS from these scriptures. When he gave a call for prayer concerning the message - most of the youth LEADERS in the place were face down on the alter.

Why did this almost make me quit preaching? Because this message was pure excellence in exegesis, a perfect harmony of homily, a symphony of scripture searching - and he wrote it THAT MORNING! It takes me a MINIMUM of a day to pull out half of the stuff he did. That message would have taken me a LONG time to write - IF that message would have come to me at all. Chris Hill, writes it THAT MORNING!

Fantastic message and DEFINATELY some stuff to chew on from it. Then, once we closed in worship - service didn't end until well after 10pm. And that was just day ONE.

Tomorrow, I'll highlight the leadership session with Marco DeBarros (conference host), the afternoon session where I got to rock the mic and the message from Mike Servello.

The Awakening Conference (part 1)


WHOA!! The Awakening Conference, held in Smithfield, RI, is the best youth conference I've attended. I've been to some of the said "best" ministry conferences for youth - nothing against them - but this is DEFINATELY the best one going in the NorthEast and maybe the best one in the country (I haven't been to the Generation Conference yet so the jury is still out.) Either way, its a great conference.

So, we'll spend the next few posts highlighting the the last few days of my life.

First of all - before we get into the speakers - to see that many young people with their hearts wide open for Christ in RI was a beautiful sight. I don't know exactly how many but I'd venture to guess around 800. Hearts open and hands high worshiping God with everything in them.

Next, the diversity of the event was incredible. They had musicians that covered the gammut of soul, hip-hop and rock. They had speakers from diverse backgrounds and preaching styles. I mean Chris Hill, Mike Servello, Jr. , 17 year old Jordan Boyce (conference visionary) and Underoath/The Almost star Aaron Gillespie. WHOA! Diverse!

If you were there, I'd love to hear from you. Tomorrow, I'll cover how awesome the team that lead worship was and how Chris Hill almost made me quit preaching.

Until then,
Cheers!

Monday, April 14, 2008

Bummer...

Well, good news - I got more recording done for the album. The session went pretty good, too. Songs "After The Pain" and "Hope" fit the quality of "Masses."

The bad news, the songs aren't mixed and therefore Life Support Vol.1 suffers another setback.

BUT, for those in attendance at The Awakening Conference, they'll get the chance to sign up for the first wave of the release along with another small surprise I'll be announcing that day.

So for those of you waiting, the additional wait won't be for too much longer.

Extreme Witnessing?



Wow...that's all I can say...wow...

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Shout to the Lord on American Idol

Here it is folks! The first blog to show the vid! American Idol finalists sing "Shout to the Lord!"



Thoughts?

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

The Global Crisis


There is a global crisis. The crisis is obvious but yet the crisis is going ignored. The church is turning away from the #1 crisis facing our planet that has TRULY put our planet in peril. That crisis - SIN.

Why is the church turning away from this MAJOR crisis? A crisis so major, God sent His only son to deal with it. Don't get me wrong - I think poverty, under-education, sickness, AIDS and global warming are problems our planet faces that the church needs to be front and center in addressing. BUT, our message is centered around the death, burial, resurrection and Lordship of Jesus. The Bible doesn't say "he who believes poverty is a problem will be saved." Scripture teaches that belief in Jesus' death and resurrection and our confession of Him as Lord is our key to salvation.

I read today that Emerging leaders are telling people that the focus of the Church should be the issues like global warming, overpopulation, etc. and not scriptural and spiritual issues. If sin, forgiveness, redemption and repentance aren't at the core of our message - then let's shut the church doors and let's join the Peace Corpse.

Again, I think we truly should be in the fight for justice, global warming, poverty, famine and the like - but not at the expense of the TRUE message of the cross.

The problem I'm having with the way the discussion goes is that leaders make us think the two have to be mutually exclusive. I don't think the issues are mutually exclusive.

What do you think? (Or did I just COMPLETELY confuse you?)

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

My social networking sites and 3 reasons why I don't use Twitter

So, I tend to use my blog as my internet "homebase." Why? Because I like to :-)

But you can find me in other places of the net. You can find me here on Myspace, right here on Virb and even here at Facebook.

I JUST started the Facebook page as a test. A test to see 1) If I like it and 2) If I have the desire to keep up with it. But I figure if I have enough people hitting me up there, then I'll keep up with it more.

While I see the benefits of the whole social networking scene, I REFUSE to use Twitter. I know, I know, some of you will no longer read my blog because of that or just plain old call me uncool. That's okay, I'm from Detroit. I can handle the name calling.

But I have my reasons why I won't do it. Here are my main 3.

1. I don't have the time. Between ministry, working a full time job, doing music, being married and just living I don't have time.

2. I really don't think you care that much. I mean really, do you care that the person in front of me in Starbucks is listening to One Republic too loudly? No? I didn't think so.

3. I don't care that much. Sometimes, I hate it when people call and they don't have anything to talk about. So I don't care if they just got your order wrong at Dunkin Donuts. Just have them remake it and let's move on with life. Blog, email, myspace, virb, facebook, text message or call me when you have something to say to me. Keep your time in line at the drive-thru to yourself.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Expelled: No Intellegence Allowed!

Check out this movie trailer:



Finally, a movie that challenges Darwinism. This will be good!

Also check out the blog associated with the movie

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Is the process personal?

So, as I've mentioned before, our church is going through a major overhaul. Location change, name change, process change - lots of change. Change is a good thing. I dig change. Before we started this change, I started to think about what types of changes we need to make in our youth ministry. I started to picture a youth church that didn't focus on how "we" do things, but a focus on how things are done. Creating a culture that breeds a long lasting life change, not just something that creates spiritual turn around. You what that is, right? All youth ministries see it. Its the "I'm a Christian in youth group, but after I graduate I'm done."

So I wanted to build something that gives life lasting impact. Then, I started to read the church all-star resource "Simple Church." It really confirmed some stuff that I thought about the process of making disciples. But I started to think "Why do limit our processes the church's role in creating disciples?" We have great church processes, but what about our PERSONAL process for growth? How do our church processes translate into a personal growth process? Better still, do we personally use those processes in our own lives? How do they translate in different stages of our own spiritual development?

These are questions I am having a blast answering and yet feeling convicted at the same time. We have developed a process in our youth ministry and its a process that translates into a personal path for spiritual growth.


So leaders, how do you live out your own church's process? Or do you have your own?

Monday, March 31, 2008

Pray for me

Please friends and fellow bloggers, pray for me. I am 18 days away from my deadline for my album release and I still have a few things that need to be done. Joe Rooster is working on the album cover but I still need to get my vocals mixed and I STILL need to record 2 more songs - they're written and produced I just need them recorded.

April 17th is approaching - Pray for me. I want to have the first installment of "Life Support" completed in time for The Awakening Conference.

So please, pray for God's divine favor and literal Godspeed.

Thanks in advance and I can't wait to share the testimony of the completion of the album - on time.

Monday, March 24, 2008

F.A.M.E. - The Cultural Intersections

Recently I read a quote by Tommy Hilfiger that he believes "F.A.M.E. - Fashion, Art, Music and Entertainment makes the world go around." I think he may have been better stated by saying that these things are cultural intersections. Culture, a group of people's way of thinking, intersects at these four places.

So this got me thinking, what can we do to reach culture with the gospel at these four levels? What can we do both individually and as the Church to reach people at one of these cross roads? The big church leadership buzzword is "culture" but I believe - specifically in the area of youth ministry - that we can extend our impact with the use of these four elements to reach people for God.

What I am NOT saying is to go to the outsiders and be the stop signs and traffic signals at the intersection. The Church is already doing that. Currently, we meet people at the intersections and act as traffic cops by saying "this style of music is of the devil. That style of clothing is of the devil. You can't watch movies because they are of the devil. Christians do skateboard because its of the devil." Our roles as traffic cops have kept people from passing through to the Kingdom.

I rap. That's one way that I use music to reach people at the intersection. I can honestly say I've seen hundreds of people give or rededicate their lives to Christ through my music ministry.

But how else can we use Fashion, Arts, Music and Entertainment to reach people for Christ? This question will be a BIG one for me as my church and youth ministry progress through our current season of change.

How do you use F.A.M.E. to reach peole?

Friday, March 21, 2008

Help me write my 100th post


Okay friends, I'm approaching my 100th post. I'm taking requests as to what that post should be about. Its a monumental occasion and I want your help.

So sound off, I'm takin ALL ideas. No idea is a bad one so ALL suggestions will be taken.

Thanks.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Lots of Crying

Wow, lots of crying in the last month of our ministry at The Mix. Lots. And its not just the girls. Males and females alike. People have been really touched by God's presence and His word. And I'm not preaching to make people cry. I'm not praying to move people emotionally to tears. I'm just passionately asking God to move and purposefully preaching His word. And its been waterworks! It literally got to the point where someone asked my wife Nichole, "Am I going to be crying again next week? I don't cry a lot so this isn't cool for me. I mean, its fine but will it be something that makes me cry again?"

Last night we did a talk about The Resurrection. The night started with laughter when I killed a Easter Bunny with a giant sword and a pair of scissors. It wasn't a REAL rabbit, don't worry. "But why demolish a stuffed toy with a SWORD" you ask? I wanted to demolish the idea of the link between furry rabbits and colored eggs to The Resurrection. in order destroy that mental connection, we destroyed a bunny rabbit and left it up on the stage impaled for all to see. Then we focused the attention to the 8 foot tall cross on stage and put up some stills from "The Passion of the Christ." Tie in those stills, a 10 minute speech about the sin problem that faces humanity and then read Isaiah 53:1-9 - the waterworks begins! I thought they would stop once we hit the part about the resurrection, but nooooooo. Once we talked about the life changing hope of the resurrection - the dam broke and the waterworks REALLY started!

To all who read this blog, I don't try to make people cry when I preach. Really, I don't. But I guess when hurting people and lost people connect with the hope giving message of the gospel and the gentle presence of God, people start crying.

Next 3 weeks is our Sex Talk. Might be more crying. Will be more repenting and hope giving. Guaranteed!

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Pussy Cat Dolls #1 Audience...11yr old Girls!

For a little while now, I've been called things like "prude" or "puritan" because I don't believe people (especially young people) should watch whatever they want JUST BECAUSE ITS ON. I see what every major research company sees, there is a correlation between what's seen on TV and in the rest of the media and what people think, say and do. YES, studies have shown that there is a correlation between teens and tweens WATCHING sex on TV and HAVING sex before they should.

So, I was reading some of youth trend materials today - yes I read stuff about youth trends because I'm not just a youth minister, I am a youth specialist - and I saw that the #1 audience for the Pussycat Dolls are TWEEN GIRLS! Yes, the Pussycat Dolls are most viewed by girls ages 9-12. No, the PD's are not group of mutant felines in fighting an evil race of mice and dogs in outer space on Saturday morning cartoons. They are the Las Vegas burlesque show turned pop sensation with their own show on CW Network. I would post a video of these women, but I know some people struggle with sexual sin and I don't want to be a stumbling block to anyone. But just figure this - they are a VEGAS BURLESQUE SHOW being looked up to by your average 11 year old girl.

Am I the only one having a problem with an 11 year being taught that "sexuality is power and that's how we express our independence and strength?" I WISH that the PD's didn't say that kind of stuff publically, but that's their mentality and their message. Really, the creator said it. Am I the only thinking that 10 year old girls should not be asking the question "Don't cha wish your girlfriend was hot like me?"

What are your thoughts on this?

ps. The Pussycat Dolls just launched their own line of lingerie. Even The LA Times writer was bothered by this....

Thursday, March 13, 2008

God is STILL healing...AGAIN!!

So, the last few weeks of our youth ministry has just been purely a time of prayer. Its been awesome. God's done A LOT during these last few weeks. I believe that God is really preparing preparing for great use and great impact in our community.

Last week, one of our young ladies, Faith, was really troubled about what has been happening to her baby sister. See, her baby sister has had eczema since birth. But not just a mild case. A case so bad that he skin bas been splitting all over her body creating sores all over her body. Its caused various forms of discoloration in her skin and overall discomfort. I mean, imagine your skin is so dry that is splits cause you to bleed and have sores all over your body. So imagine that happening to an infant. Get the picture?

So, seeing her sister in this much pain has troubled her. "Why us?" "Why my sister?" "Why does she have to go through this?" "What is God doing?" Its been troubling her soul to say the least. So, she asked us to pray for her sister (we haven't been the only people praying, the family is a believing family). So at the end of last week's service, we prayed with her for her sister. Then my wife encouraged her with a story about how God healed her. We prayed, she felt encouraged because she believed that God would do something. Well, He did.

Last night, she and her mom told us how last week her sister had been healed. The ecxema was going away, the dry spots, the cracked skin, the sores all of it was miraculously just going away! The doctors had no hope for the baby. But God did.

He healed her sister and she is doing much better. God is great and is STILL in the miracle business.

Be encouraged. Be blessed. Be healed.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Jump Start Your Heart


In this life we live for God, the condition of our hearts are critical in order for us to reach people with the gospel of Christ. The "main event" we live for is to love God, others and yourself. So, if the main thing is to love these 3 things, how are our love levels?

Do we really love God or are we cool with just working for Him? Do we really love poeple or do we just tolerate them? Do we really love ourselves or are we just concerned about what others think about us?

If you can't answer yes to a real love for God, yourself and others - then jump start your heart! Its too important of an issue to ignore. Pray and fast for a week spending unprecedented amounts of time reading the Bible to jumpstart your heart for God. Forgive people who've hurt you, rid yourself of the influence of the judgement of others and remind yourself of who God made you to be to rekindle your proper love of self. Go to spend time with hurting people and put yourself in their shoes, go to a homeless shelter, go to a 3rd world country - even go to funeral of someone you know wasn't a believer if you have to! DO SOMETHING to jumpstart your love for people.

Loving God, others and ourselves - its the main thing.

What do you do to keep your heart full of love for God, others and yourself?

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Update about my upcoming CD release

I've got some BRAND NEW NEWS about what's going down with the Life Support album due out this year. I'm changing the direction of the WAY the project is being released. This new way allows the music to impact more than just the listener. This new way gives the you an opportunity to impact not just your own life with some great music with a greater message. This new way empowers you to impact the globe SIMPLY by doing something you wanted to do anyway - purchase good music.

Here's the plan:
Life Support will be released in 3-4 volumes smaller volumes instead one long release. Each volume will be themed with an issue that is necessary to support life: food, water, clothing and education. $1 from each unit sold will go to support life via a local church and an organization that supports the theme of the CD.

For example: "Life Support Vol.1 Home Cooking" would have proceeds go to a local church (because God is the 1 thing necessary to support life) and an organization that works to get rid of hunger. Hence the name soul "food". You get it?

This way, the music blesses and encourages YOU the listener and then contributions reach far around the world to help others. So in total the music touches you, the local church and the poor.
Galatians 2:9-10 says "In fact, James, Peter and John, who were known as pillars of the church, recognized the gift God had given me, and they accepted Barnabas and me as their co-workers. They encouraged us to keep preaching to the Gentiles, while they continued their work with the Jews. Their only suggestion was that we keep on helping the poor, which I have always been eager to do."

So I plan to carry that same approach in my ability to reach people through music and I will "keep on helping the poor."
I look forward to releasing these volumes of Life Support and I look forward to your support continually pouring in.

So, Life Support Vol 1: Home Cooking drops Friday April 18th.

I'll have preorders available soon

Monday, March 3, 2008

Last Week

Last week was INTENSE! I watched God move something CRAZY last week. As you can see from my previous post, prayer has been a focal point for me lately. I can honestly say I have had a prayer "burden" lately. I've heard people say that they have had a "burden" to pray, but I never really knew what that meant. Atleast not until last week.

So I spent a lot of time in prayer about our youth ministry and when Wednesday came -God wasn't just PRESENT (He's always present) but that night He was visibly ACTIVE. Some of the kids encountered God's presence for the first time. WOW!

Then, my friends up at Ground Zero had a benefit concert for 30Hour Famine and asked me to rap up there. Good times. I used some visuals to go along with my songs for extra emphasis. WOW! God really connected with people hearts during the songs. ESPECIALLY during the song I wrote called "After The Pain." It was exciting stuff. There was a first for me, though. When I went up on stage for a small encore at the end of the night, there were a few kids throwing up the Roc-a-fella sign for me. That was a bit odd, yet I appreciated the sentiment. The Roc is like the new icon of quality hip-hop, so for them to throw the sign up is an honor. its a VERY high form of respect.

Anywho, I watched God show up HUGE there too and people were genuinely connected with God in their worship expression - through hip-hop and rock and roll. It was great. But these guys at Ground Zero SATURATE what they do in prayer. So to see what happened Friday night was not a surprise because God was involved from the beginning.

Good stuff happened this passed week. Hopefully, I'll have some pics to post up soon.

Were you there either Wednesday or Friday? If so drop me comment.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

The forgotten factor - GOD!

If you've been in ministry for ANY period of time, you've probably been exposed to the megachurch methodologies of ministry. There are conferences EVERY MONTH that basically say "If you want to reach people, do church this way. Its God's way of doing church." There are books and books and seminars and blogs and more books and seminars about how to do church God's way.

The thing that I find ironic about these books and seminars - AND ThEY ARE NEEDED - is that they don't talk a lot about PRAYER. I hear the need to be "seeker sensitive" or "outward focused" or "relevant" or "purpose driven" and I even hear about the need for evangelism. I hear about the need for small groups and good worship teams and good leadership - and all of those a EXTRAORDINARILY important to a healthy ministry. But where is the emphasis on prayer and the rightly divided word of God?

Experience has shown me that when we get caught up in the hoopla and best practices, we neglect the BASICS. I'm not saying that these churches and ministries don't have a HEAVY prayer element to what they do on a regular bassis, I'm confident that they do. But WE rarely get to hear about it. We hear about their best practices, but we rarely hear about THE BEST practice - prayer.

So please let me remind you - PRAYER IS ESSENTIAL TO A HEALTHY, GROWING CHURCH. I've been the person focusing so much on strategies and best practices that I forgot to SHOWER everything in prayer. Well, I went back to that and MAN - God showed up HUGE! He did a lot of freeing, confirming and empowering last night. No games, no videos, just a night of prayer and worship to God - HE TOOK OVER! It was awesome that God reminded me that HE is building HIS church.

I love the best practices stuff. One of the books I'm reading is Simple Church. But let us not neglect prayer - its the gas that moves God's motion.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Go visit Mark Schilling


This weekend I got the chance to meet Mark Schilling. (Why does nearly EVERYONE I connect with in ministry names' start with "M"? Mike, Marco D, Marco P, Maurice and now Mark! Joel K, is the only person in ministry who I've linked with in the last few years who's name doesn't start with M!)

Anywho, Mark is the youth pastor at Mt Zion Ministries in Utica, NY - home of the Generation Conference. This guy is INTENSE! His passion for God, people and his family is truly remarkable. His vision for his time in youth ministry outstanding. I hope he blogs about his "Maker-Mission-Mate" vision for his time in youth ministry. Its incredible. And he has a passion to reach, disciple and develop young people for a LIFE of Godliness. Most youth pastors I meet just want kids to be good while they have them, he's thinking about what will happen in their lives 20 years from now. SWEET!

His fashion sense is pretty good too. I mean, he did the announcements and prayer on Sunday morning with camouflage Chuck Taylor's with a camoflage belt on and khaki's. He perfectly plays the line of business casual (the adopted Sunday morning American church code. When did we officially decide on that?) and casual dress. Yes, I notice stuff like that - cuz I dig good fashion. Don't make that face at the computer screen, you notice stuff like that too! I just have the courage to admit it and blog about it!

The dude's blog is GREAT. Some great insight on his blog. If you like my blog (and you know you do!) link to Mark's blog. And LEAVE A COMMENT and tell him Steve sent cha.

Monday, February 25, 2008

THIS IS FUNNY!

DISCLAIMER: THIS IS IN NO WAY, SHAPE OR FORM A JUDGEMENT ON THIS MAN'S MINISTRY. I AM NOT DISCOUNTING HIS ACCOMPLISHMENTS NOR AM I ENDORSING ANYONE TO JUDGE HIS WORKS. BUT THIS IS FUNNY!!!




Welcome to Utica, NY















Well, I'm back from my weekend excursion to the mighty Utica, NY. The trip was absolutely fantastic. First of all, it was only God that we even got there safely since we drop 5 and a half hours on a COMPLETELY bald tire in the snow across RI, MA and NY. We took care of that bald tire though while in NY. Anywho...

My wife Nichole and I hung out with my guy Mike and his wife Melissa Servello and their two beautiful daughters Guilia and Daniella.

Friday night we went to this restaurant called Rodizio. Here's how it works. They put rocks -yes actual rocks - on your table with a green stamp on one side and red stamp on the other side. Red means stop, green means go. But stop and go for what you might ask? If you have the green side showing, it means - KEEP BRINGING THE MEAT! And did they bring the MEAT. There was beef cooked in wine and ginger, beef slow cooked, steak tips, scallops and bacon, turkey cooked in banana leaves, chicken wrapped in bacon, ribs and salmon. They put it on a skewer and they just keep on bringing it! They had some sides that were good - but the meat was GREAT! I'm a carnivore.

The night was going smooth, then Mike turned a weird shade of green and stopped eating. It wasn't the food. It was (what I think was) the flu! So we took a tour of the BEAUTIFUL casino and hotel Turning Stone and Mike got us a tour of the rooms and spa. WOW! They were BOSS! Big Fella style stuff in the rooms. And given the luxury in the room, and given the fact I see prices through a Newport eye, the prices were PRETTY reasonable.

The next day Mike feeling worse AND having to speak at 3 weekend services in 2 days STILL muscled it out and took me to the Baseball Hall of Fame. WOW! I don't know if I was more impressed with Mike's willingness to press through his sickness and drive an hour to Cooperstown or with the HOF itself. It was great though.

(this is getting long so I'm going to abbreviate)


Since Mike was sick, we hung out with Mark Schilling (no relation to Curt) on Saturday night. One of the most intense people I've met in a long time. And coming from ME, that's saying something.

We ate some REALLY good food and Mike and Melissa were some of the most giving and gracious hosts we've ever had. They were more concerned about US having a good time than they were about Mike feeling better. Talk about putting others first!

I'll talk more about my trip later to prevent this from becoming a novel. I'll talk about what I learned, who I met and how I almost ruined my friendship with Mike (he REALLY hates the Red Sox :0) )

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Inconvenient Inspiration

Sometimes God's inspiration comes at inconvenient times. I just had a HEAVY prayer burden hit me about an hour ago that I couldn't ignore. And that's awesome, I really love those times of intense prayer. The problem - I'm at my desk at work! I'm trying to make sales and here's God tugging on my heart something heavy!

Well, its quite alright. I love it. I asked God to use me WHENEVER and I got what I asked for.

When was a time God pulled on you for something at a VERY inconvenient time?

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Look like the solution

I heard this quote today and I figured I'd share. Definately some thought snacks.

"If you want to be involved of the lives of people who have been given up on, you have to look like the solution and not the problem."
-Bill Strickland

Friday, February 15, 2008

Move of the Spirit or Societal Shift?

In the 60's, we saw the rise of the independant charismatic churches that focused on Jesus as a "personal savior" and looked to give individuals hope. At the same time, we saw the decline of mainline denominational churches that focused on societal change and helping those less fortunate. This created a great split in the American church.

Today, as we see the rise of "missional" and "emergent/emerging" churches focusing on helping those less fortunate and not as much talk of personal hope - but more talk of a unified hope. Parachurch organizations like Feed The Children, Companssion International and World Hunger Fund are seeing more help in recent years than ever before. The Bible says TONS about helping the poor and people are now being reconnected to that truth.

Is this the next "move of the Spirit" or is it a generationally driven societal shift?

I say its the latter. Allow me to explain. In 1993 William Strauss and Neil Howe said in their book Generations that western society swings on a pendulum of an idealistic outlook (selfish, me first outlook) to a Civic outlook (needs of others, group first) every 40 years. These swings, according to them, take 6 years to complete. The last Idealistic swing began in 1963 and ended in 1968. According to their prediction, the Civic outlook swing would have started in 2003 and will conclude this year - 2008. Were they accurate? We'll let's take a look:

Every major corporation is focusing more on how they "care" (i.e. CBS Cares, NBA Cares, etc) than how they are #1 in what they do.

Every major corporation is focusing on helping others in their campaign (Target's "Do Good" campaign where they give 5% of their profits to cahrity, Always tampon's campaign to give tampon's to girls in Africa, Starbucks'...well...have you been to Starbuck's lately?)

PSA's about giving to the poor or being a big brother(when was the last time you saw a "Say No To Drugs" PSA?)

During the writer's strike, we actually CARED more for the writers than the studios and we blamed the studios! We cared for the group and our personal satisfaction. In 1999 during the NBA strike, we said the NBA players were "greedy" for wanting a fair cut of their profits. We sided with the filthy stinking rich NBA OWNERS because we just wanted our NBA back on. Remember how long it took for us to forgive MLB for their strike. Hockey fans STILL haven't recovered from the NHL strike. Attendance is still not what it used to be.

When was the last time we saw an "I want my MTV" type of ad?

People who will NEVER be homosexual care about the possiblity of their civic "right" to be married.

Judging from those things alone, we are definately looking like a civic society and less like an idealistic society. So how does this effect my church? It effects it TREMENDOUSLY! It makes teaching authority a bit tougher. It makes teaching on loving others a lot easier. It makes your church's inability to respond to the needs of others the reason why your church will be ineffective for the next 40 years! It makes your church's superiority complex look like the pride it really is - even to the spiritualy inept.

If we are going to reach people where they are, it helps to know how they think. We have wonderful opportunities to connect our society's civic outlook with the power of the Gospel and make a GIGANTIC difference in the world. Are you rallying the troops around a God-centered cause or are you rallying the troops around their self-centered needs? I hope its the former because that's our lane to reach the people of our communities for the next 40 years.

The pendulum is swinging, are you ready?

Thursday, February 14, 2008

The Love Month


I'm into the 2nd month of my newly created yearly teaching schedule and its been GREAT! So, what would any good youth pastor talk about in the month of February? LOVE of course! But, we've taken it from a different angle. We've already discussed the love of God in messages leading up to this year. God's love for us is important and we've covered that leading up to Feb. This month, we've covered love from a different perspective. A traditional topic in a slight untraditional way.

Week 1 - We talked about loving God. But how do we love God? We always hear "Love God" - Jesus said it was one of the most important things. BUT HOW? Jesus said "if you love me, keep my commandments." That was a fun message and we had 10 people answer the altar call on that one. It was INCREDIBLE!

Week 2 - "Love U" Do you love...you? The Bible says that we should "love our neighbors as ourselves." In fact Jesus said its the OTHER most important thing we should do. But what if we don't love ourselves? How can we love others if we don't love ourselves? So we took the issue of loving ourselves and spoke to it. We spoke about the things that cause us to love ourselves less and limit our views of self. Then we looked at what scripture had to say about it. WOW!! I've NEVER seen our group take THAT many notes during one of my talks.

Week 3 - "What About Them?" Now that we've covered loving ourselves, NOW we can talk about loving others. But not just talking about loving them, but ACTUALLY showing how we can love others and putting some feet to what we do about it. I'm looking forward to this one.

Week 4 - "Tattoo" Jesus said that they will know us by the love we have for one another. Love is our defining mark. Love is our TATTOO. To illustrate the point, I'm trying to find a temporary tattoo to cover my entire arm. I would preach while getting a real tattoo, but I can't think of anything I would want for the rest of my life.

That's our February. Thought I'd share.

Leaders, what are YOU teaching about this year?

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Stuff To Experience in 2008

2008 is full of stuff you can do and enjoy. Here's a shortlist:

The Awakening Conference - YOUTH PASTORS - If you live in Southern New England you need to take your youth to this outstanding event. I took our youth church last year and it was life changing. If you're tired of going to youth conferences that create a great atmosphere but all you get when you return are just stories of how "cool" it was - then this is the conference for you! The speakers are dynamic, the worship is great and the leadership sessions are top notch. That's right, there are sessions specifically to further train and develop your ministry team and team leaders. Go to the website and register TODAY! Yes Rhode Island, good stuff in ministry happens here!

Urban Missionaries - If you like hip-hop music, then you need to download this mixtape. Artists from various Christian hip-hop circles contributed music for this FREE mixtape. It was started by my Sungate Records label mates to have a ministry resource for people. Here is their goal - get some God centered music and distribute it FOR FREE to as many people as possible for the sake of piercing their hearts with the gospel. This is volume 2 they are releasing now. Volume One had over 22,000 downloads in 1 week! That's right, ONE WEEK! And they have many testimonies about the people who were inspired to go after God because of what they've heard. It wasn't just in the states - they had hits from ALL OVER THE WORLD! Vol. 2 looks to be even better than volume 1. Head over to the site and download the mixtape pronto.

Generation Conference - If you live in Northern New England, NY, NJ or Uzbekestan - you need to SERIOUSLY consider this conference. Name another youth conference that has already had the likes of Ed Young and Joyce Meyer then follow that up with Craig Goeschel and Steven Furtick. Go ahead, name one...I'll wait .... YOU CAN'T do it. The GenCon is a fanstatic experience for youth and youth leaders and if you can get there, get there. The hosts are humble and care about people. When the core of the conference is God and then people - then the outcome is always lifechanging.

Life Support - My CD called "Life Support" will be out THIS APRIL 2008. You are going to love it! Honestly, the songs that I have leaked on this blog aren't even the best songs on the album. Those songs are to jabs. You haven't heard the knockout punches yet. When you hear songs like My Prayer, Hope, After The Pain, Fight To The Wire, Forevermore, Set It Off, Can It Be as well as some of the others - you will be blessed beyond belief.

Just a few things you need to experience in 2008. I hope you will.

Friday, February 8, 2008

STRMW part 3

Here is another scripture that has rocked my world recently. 1st Thessalonians 2:19-20 - Check it out. Paul wrote this to the Thessalonian church about a trip he was prevented from making to see them. Because his trip was stopped (by Satan according to verse 18), he wanted to express how he felt for them in the letter he wrote them. But check out what he says:

19 After all, what gives us hope and joy, and what will be our
proud reward and crown
as we stand before our Lord Jesus when he
returns? It is you! 20 Yes, you are our pride and joy.

WHOA! This scritpure shows me that the people that God has entrusted us with aren't just people. As leaders in God's service, the people God has entrusted us with, they are our REWARD! They are our crowns. They are our heavenly jewels.

So to all of you pastors and leaders out there, remember the people under your care are your reward. Not the salary you receive (or don't receive), not the "excellence awards" you receive, not the magazine covers, not the newspaper articles and not the referals you receive from other pastors. The people are you reward.

So how will you treat your reward? Is your reward currently being treated like the
10th place ribbon you received from Little League Baseball 20 years ago? Or are you treating your reward like the highest thing you can receive? When the kids in your youth ministry act up, do you just say "Well, its their parents problem"? Or do you say "They are my reward and I must do what I can to work with their parents (if possible) to help them lead the full life God intends"?

The people under my care are my rewards from God. That truth, rocked my world.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

FINALLY - NEW MUSIC FOR YOUR EARS!!!

So, I have a few songs recorded for my upcoming album "Life Support" dropping April 18th. I need your opinions on some of my new stuff. So here it is. Be brutally honest with me. If it sucks, then say so. If you dig it, then say so.

Here are two of the songs called "Masses" and "Pump Ya Fist." They aren't mixed and mastered yet so they are a little rough sounding. You might want to set the volume a little lower in the imeem play window for best results. Enjoy





Thoughts?

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Super Bowl Depression is over...

Okay, so my SBD - SuperBowl Depression - is gone now. I can say this and mean it now - congrats to the New York Football Giants. I don't know which one felt worse, losing to Peyton or Eli Manning but they BOTH were wretched times.

The Giants played well, stayed level headed - no mistakes by Eli - and were coached well. YEs that's right ladies and gents, Tom Coughlin and staff OUTCOACHED a Bill Billicheck staff. That's 2 years in a row that Big Bill has just flat out been outcoached when it counted.

You may be wondering why we have SBD right now. Allow me to explain - WE AREN'T USED TO LOSING ANYMORE! This is the first year since 2002 that a Boston team has gone to the championship game and DIDN'T win. SuperBowl 35,37 and 38 -we went, we won. 2004 and 2007 World Series - Sox went, Sox won. And if you throw in my hometown Detroit Pistons championship in 2004, I've seen 6 championships in 6 years! THEN you throw in the fact that the Patriots haven't lost a game ALL YEAR, we've forgotten what losing feels like. Lastly, you throw in the fact that HISTORY was almost made and we were robbed from that experience - the experience to see something that hasn't been done in 35 years - we were a bit bummed.

But alas, I'm better now. Basketball season is well underway and the Celtics and Pistons are on a collision course for the Eastern Conference Finals - can't wait!

And like any good New Englander would say after not winning the SuperBowl - 49 Days until baseball season begins! Go Sox and go Tigers! Down with the Stankees!