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CONTRIBUTORS

BEN CATFORD

lives in Copenhagen, Denmark. He works in Public Relations & is excited to be a part of a church community that loves the city.

A note from the Editor Welcome to the first edition of YVzine for 2011.

ANDREW SHAMY

works with Compass in Auckland, NZ. He passionately supports Compass’ vision for knowing the gospel, knowing the culture & translating well.

SARAH DEUTSCHER

is the Director of Über & on team at Red Church, Box Hill. She is passionate about contemporary mission to the West.

Here in the Youth Vision office we are all about resourcing youth and young adult ministries. We are always hearing stories from on the ground, reading journals, shaing coffees, and brainstorming ideas. This magazine is an attempt to collate some of the best resources, ideas, studies and stories to help build up ministries, and put excellent material in the hands of youth and young adult leaders. It is our hope that within the pages of YVzine you will find fodder for teaching, group study, inspiration, challenge, and encouragement. This edition’s feature article is written by Andrew Shamy, co-author of ‘The Insect and the Buffalo’. It is a privilege to publish an article by Andrew - he is a talented young writer and speaker, and a brilliant thinker in the areas of theology and culture. Andrew is a top graduate of Regent College’s Master of Christian Studies program and a man with tremendous integrity. He is passionate about helping people understand the fullness of the Bible’s narrative so they can live out the biblical story in their culture in ways which redeem all of life. This is my first edition as editor of YVzine and I am excited about you reading it. If you have any feedback about the magazine we would love to hear from you. Thanks for being part of the story of what God is doing amongst youth & young adults,

DAVE BENSON

is Pastor of Evangelism & Community Outreach at Kenmore Baptist Church, Brisbane. His heart is for the Church to connect to Australian culture.

Amy Stephenson

SIMON ALBURY

YOUTH VISION VIC/TAS 1st Floor, 582 Heidelburg Road, Fairfield VIC 3078 (P) 03 9488 8800 (F) 03 9481 8543

is an Associate Minister for Youth & Young Adults at Doncaster COC. His passion is walking the discipleship journey with people.

www.vic.youthvision.org.au yv@churchesofchrist.org.au BRENTON KILLEEN

is Young Adults Pastor at One Comunity Church, Director of Youth Vision VIC/TAS and Director of NYMC

CHEE FAH

Youth Vision is the youth ministry arm of Mission and Ministry Inc. a partner department of the Conference of Churches of Christ in Victoria and Tasmania

Produced By-

Design By-

is Youth & Young Adults Pastor at Clayton Fellowship. He loves equipping young people to make disciples & hear the voice of the spirit.

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19/04/11 4:40 PM


The Social Net-Worth

by Ben Catford

Blur frontman Damon Albarn once sang, ‘London loves the way people just fall apart’. At the time, undoubtedly a reference to his life on the celebrity A-list during the height of the Brit-Pop movement in the 90s, but today Blur’s song could just as easily serve as the soundtrack for the life of Mr. Charlie Sheen. Over the past few weeks we have watched as Sheen has become increasingly erratic in the public eye, using every media channel known to man, to capture and maintain the spotlight. It appears that people love nothing more than a celebrity meltdown – as evidenced by Sheen’s rapid recruitment of 2.5 million Twitter followers, amassed within five days of joining the social media site. I’m not for a moment suggesting that this voyeurism is a new phenomenon, however for the first time Sheen has removed any fences shielding private life within the once ‘exclusive’ celebrity world. Facebook, Twitter and YouTube allow for the rapid share of information and glimpses in to Sheen’s shattered life are immediately accessible to almost anyone at anytime. If someone wanted to shadow Mr Sheen for a day, they could easily feel like a fly on the wall – from the excitement of him entering the CNN studio for an interview, to the mundane of him tweeting about drinking chocolate milk in his kitchen. Sheen has even gone to the trouble of broadcasting a live daily one-hour program from his lounge room that can be viewed

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openly online. From television interviews to private webcam rants, we have seen Sheen glorify heavy drug use, laugh off mental illness and claim he is both a ‘warlock’ and ‘messiah’. Surely this is suicide for his celebrity brand? I don’t think so. Pushing aside the moral implications of Sheen’s actions, or what the enormous interest in his debauchery says about our society, there’s a bigger issue at stake here. Charlie Sheen has simply taken all of the social media tools we use on a daily basis to update our friends on the quirky, mundane or otherwise and he’s turned the volume up to eleven. He’s living a life that our culture would view as worthy of constant attention. But how often are we guilty of carefully manicuring our own digital identity for our very own ‘captive audience’? Let’s face it, no holiday is complete without the obligatory upload of photos to Facebook. A boring afternoon in the office can be instantly improved by constructing a quirky tweet that is then responded to, or liked, by those in your network equally longing to be entertained. The loneliness of a quiet night at home can disappear, merely by posting a new music video and debating within the comments section as to whether the lead singer has gained weight. In a culture that thrives on ‘surface over depth’, it’s worth asking the question – are we just adding to the noise? Jesus’ ministry was predicated on meeting people physically where they were at and connecting in a meaningful way. I believe that the use of social media can be positive, but never has the temptation been greater to use these platforms to constantly distract ourselves, and our hundreds of ‘friends’, from the beauty of depth in relationship. Many commentators have piped up recently in the media and asked the question as to whether Charlie Sheen might one day wake up to himself and realize he has been living a false reality. I wonder if the same could be asked of us.

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Buffalo God didn’t write the wrong book. by Andrew Shamy

The BaMbuti people of the north-eastern Congo live in dense, forested valleys. Their way of life is deeply shaped by their forest home  and  their history is marked by geographical and cultural isolation. In the 1950s, a British anthropologist studying their culture formed a friendship with a BaMbuti tribesman called Kenge, who began to accompany him on his expeditions. Like most BaMbuti,  Kenge  had never before left the confines of the forest.   On one of these journeys the anthropologist took Kenge out onto the plains, where he’d never been before. As they drove out of the forest into grassland, Kenge was speechless. His language gave him no words to describe a land where you could see for miles around with no trees.   Pointing to a herd of buffalo, far in the distance, Kenge asked what kind of insects they were. Perplexed, the anthropologist explained that these were buffalo,  a common sight to the  BaMbuti,  only  they appeared smaller because of the distance.  Kenge’s  first  reaction left no doubt that he  thought this was  nonsense, but when they drove  closer  he saw  the anthropologist was right.  Due to the density of his forest he’d  never seen an object at a distance  before. He had no expectation that distance makes things look smaller.   Insects and buffalo. Anthropologists and tribesmen. So much of what we know depends on how we view the world.  This is a fact of human existence, like laughter or ageing.  Our deep convictions about the world  we live in - our worldview - shapes our  experience  of

the world.  This is as true for us as it was for Kenge. Is this a world where nothing exists but matter and energy? Is this a world where history repeats itself in endless cycles? Is this a world where everything is divine? Is human life primarily about love, sex, pleasure, owning things, expressing yourself, doing good to others, reaching your potential, or encountering god or gods? Is there any meaning in the world? Is the problem with the world greed, ignorance, sexual repression, social inequality, bigotry or sin?   How we answer these questions shapes  our experience of life, just as  Kenge’s  experience of distant buffalo was shaped by his assumption that  the entire  world is like his forest home.  If  we believe, for example,  that  nothing exists but  matter  and  energy,  what might be seen as miracle is nothing but  an  unexplained coincidence - a buffalo  seen as an insect.  Our implicit beliefs about the world are the lens through which we see the everything.   This is why stories matter. How else do we answer  the fundamental  questions  of life  but through the stories we tell about the way the world is?  As  Muriel Rukeyser has said, “The universe is made of stories, not atoms.”     Imagine  Kenge  back among the  BaMbuti  that evening, sitting around the campfire, trying to explain how his understanding of the world had changed. He couldn’t simply explain things with a  whiteboard and a  diagram, arguing for  a new principle to live by - small  objects may be large  objects  when seen at a distance. He would need to tell them a story, a  story about a journey into a land with

It is our conviction at Compass that we need to rediscover the fullness of God’s story - to not reduce the Bible to disconnected verses, a comfortable toolkit of rules, principles and promises, but to learn to live within its pages, to find our place in the great story it tells. This is what our short book The Insect and the Buffalo is about. The Insect and the Buffalo, by Andrew Shamy and Roshan Allpress, encourages us to take the Bible seriously as God actually wrote it. It explores the shape of the Biblical narrative, how to read the Bible well, and the challenge of living a life transformed by this Gospel. It was written for individuals and groups who want to explore the Biblical story and how it shapes our worldview. It is a short book, but it seeks to open a way into the greatest story ever written. Compass exists to encourage and equip people to know the gospel, know the culture, and translate well. Compass operates in both Australia and New Zealand. To find out more about the Compass Foundation and order copies of the The Insect and the Buffalo visit our website, www.compass.org.au. print_setup.indd 4

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no trees, where buffalo can  shrink to the size of insects. This  story  would  profoundly challenge  the worldview of a forest-dwelling people who have never seen buffalo at a distance – it invites them to see the world differently.   What’s all this got to do with the Bible? In storytelling, we humans embed our worldview assumptions in a form that can be communicated. Stories assume a vision of the way the world is and ask us to see the world on those terms.  Our very identities are caught up in these stories: stories of family holidays, national tragedies, and many other narratives that shape who we are as people and communities. It is from the beautifully complex way that this tapestry of stories comes  together in cultures and in  our individual lives that we get our worldviews.  Smaller stories piecing together into large, overarching  narratives.  In other words, to say  that everybody has a worldview  is to say that everybody lives out of a big story of the world.   This is where the Bible comes in. The Bible is this kind of story. It is a  story that claims to make sense of all the smaller stories of our lives.  Despite its diversity of books, genres, language  and authors, taken as a whole - from  Genesis to Revelation - the Bible tells a single overarching story. It is “relentlessly narratival� as Walter Brueggemann has put it taking us from Creation to New Creation - telling the story of what God is doing in the world to put things right. Even the non-narrative portions - the psalms, genealogies, letters and so on - are deliberately placed by their authors  in a narrative context. They make sense within the bigger story.   We often act as though God wrote the wrong book. We treat the Bible as  if  it is no more than a list of instructions for life, or a series of morality plays whose principles we can learn to live by, or  a systematic theology of doctrines that we must believe. The Bible does contain rules, principles and doctrine, but to reduce the Bible to these things is to offer ourselves as God’s editor, changing what he has given us.

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God did not write the wrong book. He told a story to people who  can’t  help but make sense of the world through story . The Bible isn’t just a nice story for Christians. It claims to be  the true story of the  whole  world.  This is one of the outrageous things about the Bible.  It invites us to see the world primarily through its lens, and to read it as the fundamental story of our lives. This is what it means to recognize the authority of Scripture. We see the Bible making this claim often.  Think about Genesis 1 and 2. There were many stories of  creation in the ancient world. Most of these in various ways portrayed the world as created out of a cosmic battle between gods,  an almost accidental  by-product.  Many gods  filled  the world. The sun was a god, so too the moon and many of the animals. In some of these ancient stories, humans were created to serve these gods  as slaves.   In this context, the Biblical account of creation is a deliberate  counter-narrative. One that depicts creation as the work of one God,  not many,  who  made the world  purposefully, not accidently, and declared it “very good�. This God created the sun and moon and animals. They are not gods. In this good world God placed humans  not  as  slaves, but stewards of Creation, God’s own image.   The opening of the Bible  tells  a story that  intentionally challenged  the dominant stories of the ancient world. It still challenges the dominant stories of our world today.   God did not write the wrong book. He told the world its true story and commanded us to see everything in light of  it:  to find the sense and meaning  of  our lives in its terms.   More than  principles or lists, stories pull us in, engage the whole of our being; they have the potential to shape our will and imagination, and change the way we live. True stories teach us to see the world  rightly - to distinguish insect and buffalo.

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You, Others and Changing the World by Sarah Deutscher

Jesus’ ministry was undeniably astounding. He confronted the powerful, confounded the wise, confused the rich; He healed people, performed miracles, and saved our souls. A lot of these things happened simply because He was God. And yet we, mere humans are now commissioned to complete the great work He started. It’s mind-boggling but there is a helpful passage tucked away in Luke 6 that provides a simple framework to put us in good stead for the task ahead. One night Jesus whisks himself away from the hustle and bustle and spends the night with God in prayer. The next day he selects and commissions his disciples. From there begins a powerful ministry that changes the world. Three disciplines can be highlighted here that create a natural rhythm for life and ministry. Let’s not cringe at the word disciplines but be reminded that disciplines aren’t harsh religious duty, rather disciplines are designed to create space for God to act in our lives in ways unanticipated.

1 SOLITUDE Before beginning Jesus spends the night alone with the Father. This solitude was a consistent in Jesus’ life and is something that God frequently beckons us towards. It is in silence and solitude that we are able to step away from all the voices that attempt to define us, and hear from God. It creates space for his truth and cleanses our perspective. Solitude is becoming increasingly difficult in a culture that bombards us with a never-ending stream of activity and noise,

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but without it we find ourselves spiritually stagnant. As Eugene Peterson says, without silence and stillness there is ‘no spirituality, no God attentive, God responsive life.’

2 COMMUNITY After spending time alone with his Father, Jesus selects 12 people he will do ministry with. This hints at a vital component of life, community. In a world marked by profound individualism it is hard for us to know what true community it is, but we know it echoes a call to truly know and be truly known. It is not about being ‘nice’ and patting each other on the back, and it is not about hanging out with people who are just like me. True community is about believing in who each other really are and what we are called to and keeping each other accountable to that. Similarly it is about rubbing shoulders with all-sorts of people being shaped by the ‘whole’ of Christ’s body, not just a part. Essentially community is the effort to create space among people where together we can be God’s people and continue the work He started.

3 MINISTRY Jesus goes from spending time alone, to gathering his disciples, to then partaking in His world changing ministry. You have a ministry. It involves your gifting and passions and who you are. But is more than about you. It is about the God you serve and the people He seeks to serve. Actually, it has very little to do with you (except your willingness and obedience). In a world that is about me, myself and I, and making a name for myself we can get all too easily stuck in the same machine and the same name making game. This is not ministry. We need to be reminded daily, that just as Jesus ministry lead to his death, we too need to die, daily, to our ego that seeks to push agenda and self-interest. This is virtually impossible if you are not a) spending time in silence with God and b) not engaging in true community. Adapted from a message spoken by Sarah Deutscher at Red Church in Box Hill, inspired by a thought by Henri Nouwen

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YV Band release lastest EP: Dawn Dawn: it occurs every day but is only captured by those awake to see it. The prophet Isaiah preached that a light would dawn on a people walking in darkness (Isaiah 9:2). This is our hope as we launch our new album: that people would be invited to draw closer to Jesus through honest, meaningful and vulnerable worship; that they would see darkness pierced by light, life and hope. In 2009 the YV band released their debut EP ‘Spirit’, leading 3000 young people in worship at State Youth Games in Warragul, Victoria. Two years on, the team are excited to be able to offer up eight new original songs. These include the energetic tracks such as ‘Will be Done’ and ‘Father’, and the more soulful, exposed ‘Psalm’ and ‘Light of the World’. Recorded and produced by YV worship leader, Andrew Backholer, the album’s arrangements have been carefully chosen to reinforce the messages of the songs and in turn add a unique flavour to the music. Elements of echoing guitars, melodic bass lines, driving beats and powerful vocals are combined to express the desire and desperation we have as worshippers. We hope that this release can be used as a resource for worship teams and youth groups and will bless young people across Australia. Heather Pitman – YV Band (VIC) If you are interested in finding out more about the YV Band or would like to purchase a copy of ‘Dawn’ please visit www.vic. youthvision.org.au or contact YV at yv@churchesofchrist.org.au.

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The Epic Story: Good News beyond the Pearly Gates by Dave Benson

“If you were to die tonight, do you know for sure that you are going to be with God in Heaven?” And if God were to ask, ‘Why should I let you into My Heaven?’ what would you say?” Sound familiar? These questions come from Pastor James Kennedy’s door-to-door outreach, Evangelism Explosion, launched in Florida back in the 1960s. It was simple, and effective. Thousands have been trained in this approach as a springboard to sharing the gospel, and hundreds of thousands responded. Some even got more creative: “If you find yourself standing at the Pearly Gates, and Peter asks, ‘Why should I let you in?’ what would you say?” (Sounds like a pop-quiz!) As I chatted about this with a university student last year, he was stunned to discover that this scenario was, shall we say, extra-Biblical! But more importantly, he was shattered to learn that his whole life he had wrongly pictured the substance of Christian hope as escape from this Earth to float on Heaven’s cloud-nine, dressed in a white gown, as part of an eternal worship-concert. It’s like our culture’s understanding of Christianity is entirely formed from Simpson’s re-runs: good people go to heaven to strum the harp in the sky, but don’t spit over the side of the divine escalator or you’ll slide down to Satan’s lair. Although, rather than The Simpson’s, I wonder if Christians are the main cause of confusion. Not to dis’ Evangelism Explosion, but oftentimes we are guilty of so emphasising getting someone across the line and ‘saved’ that we fail to draw them into the bigger salvation story. We forget that Jesus’ gospel never appealed to hopes of heaven when you die - however effective it may have been. And we forget that times have changed in the West. Questions about an untimely death and a pearly proposal might ‘work’ with lapsed Christians, but confuse Buddhists, New Agers, and New Atheists. I like what Einstein said: “Simplify as far as possible, but no further.” Simple is good. Simplistic, however, is dangerous. How do you share the ‘gospel’? The Roman Road, the Bridge Diagram, Do versus Done, the Four Spiritual Laws - each have a place. But each approach almost exclusively emphasises what will happen to me as an individual in the future, based upon a past, seemingly unrelated, historical event. For many people I talk with

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this sounds really ‘religious’ and distant from their everyday life. They’re wondering what difference this makes for today. And as good as it is to have God’s plan for my life, what about this hurting world around me - does it help there? The ‘ticket to heaven’ message can make for quick converts rather than devoted disciples. While the ‘gospel’ is relevant to every age, I suspect that we’ve perhaps gone beyond simple to simplistic, overlooking central gospel themes in Jesus’ own teaching: “Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand” (Mark 1:14-15). We need ‘good news’ for an age marked by environmental destruction, economic freefall, fundamentalist terrorism, and fractured families. We’ve got an important story to tell, and it calls for a response. And while people may question the truth of our message, if we tell it right, they shouldn’t question the relevance. Quoting N. T. Wright, “The Gospel is that the crucified and risen Jesus is the Lord [master, or boss] of the world. And that His death and resurrection transform the world, and that transformation can happen to you. You, in turn, can be part of the transforming work.” But how do we tell this kind of epic story to a sceptical age tired of spin? Perhaps you’ve come across an engaging book by James Choung: True Story: A Christianity Worth Believing In. Part story, part manual, his “four circles” aproach offers a great starting point for a simple but not simplistic telling of the gospel.

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I think he’s missing the end of the story, so here’s the basics for a tweaked version I use when sharing the bigger story of which we’re all a part (pathways.kbc.org.au/passing-it-on)

1 Designed for good

We were made to love God, love each other, and tend this garden planet.

2 Damaged by evil

Instead, we’ve despised God, abused others, and vandalized our world. ‘Sin’ pollutes, perverts and destroys life.

3 Restored for better

We’re forgiven, freed, healed, and transformed by Jesus’ sacrifice. God stepped into this world through Jesus: He paid for our wrongs, and defeated all the powers that lead to death. By rising again, he offers a new way forward to life. For those who admit their brokenness and sin, and align with God, a new chapter in life begins.

4 Sent together to heal

Jesus has empowered us with God’s Spirit to live the resurrection hope, to work with Him to redeem the world, as a foretaste of what will be fully established eventually.

5 Set everything right

We await the day Jesus returns to deal with all evil, rule fairly, and set everything right. Death, pain and injustice will be no more – the world is transformed, God dwells with us, and real peace is established.

So what is the good news of the gospel? The big story is that God designed us all for good, but through our bad choices we’ve been damaged by evil. But, through Jesus’ life, death on the cross, and resurrection, we’ve been restored for better. If you’re humble enough to admit to God that you fall short, and ask Him to forgive you for the wrong you’ve done, putting God first, then you can connect with life to the full - what God always intended for you. Then you can join other followers of Jesus, empowered by God’s Spirit, sent together to heal a hurting world, waiting for the day when God will set everything right by judging all the evil and restoring the whole universe. Obviously you need to find your own words so you can share this naturally. You can also tell your own ‘testimony’ as a mini-version of this big story - you were designed for good, but were damaged by evil before Jesus restored you for better. You now have a new purpose and hope. And as you prayerfully point someone to Jesus, listen carefully to his or her story for links into to the Big Story. This Gospel truly is God’s total answer to humanity’s total need, so every aspect of life - from a broken relationship, through collapsing economies, to a planet overwhelmed by natural disaster - offers a connection point for the gospel and is part of its story. There is good news beyond the pearly gates. So, give this approach a go. Next time a natural opportunty opens to share the gospel, try framing it around the five circles. And if it’s any help, check out a booklet version of the Epic Story at issuu.com/nikanddaveabroad/docs/epic_story. If you like what you see, my home church is distributing them not-for-profit at 60 cents a copy. Just shoot a request to church@kbc.org.au, or call 07-3378 3595. The world is desperate for genuinely good news, so let’s share this story freely. God bless you as you do.

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What’s cooler than being

by Simon Albury

cool?

Being involved in youth ministry over a number of years has been an enriching experience for me as a minister. I’ve shared my story, and God’s story, with many young people; journeying together towards a Spirit-filled experience of Christ - discipleship. Youth Ministry, for me, was never about graduating into ‘real’ ministry. Rather it was about recognising and receiving the ministry that I’d been given by God as a gift (to paraphrase Mike Yaconelli). However, one thing nags me in youth ministry, and maybe it bothers you too so I thought that I’d share an insight that I’ve only recently discovered. Perhaps you already know this reality, but for those who don’t I hope this helps you discover something significant in your ministry journey with young people.

There is light. There is hope. Do you know that Christians and Youth Ministries can be spaces of something more significant than fun? Our relevance isn’t determined by our ‘fun-factor’. No, our relevance is determined by the way we love. The measure of ministry is love; love is never irrelevant.

Your Youth ministry doesn’t have to compete to be the coolest and funnest group going around. Wow! What a relief. You probably knew that, but I feel like it needed to be said. Sometimes we’re convinced, by our insecurities, culture, uncertainty about ministry, that if our Youth Group isn’t crazy enough, cool enough or fun enough then kids won’t come, and our ministry will be irrelevant.

When will we say, “Oh, I’ve loved enough and I don’t need any more�? Never. Jesus points us to the way of love, and not a love of convenience, ease, or superficiality, which promotes one product or relationship over another1. Rather, Jesus guides us to sacrificial love, an emptying of ourselves in love for others, a love that will cost us something.2

I believed this for such a long time. So each time we gathered as a Youth Ministry we had to have the BEST stuff to DO! I did this under the guise of ‘building relationships’, but I wonder how much space was actually left for the relational time, once all the craziness had ceased. The reality we face, as Christian Youth Ministers, is that we cannot compete with the world around us when it comes to having fun and being entertained. I don’t know about you, but I have a lot more fun riding my bike or playing basketball with my mates. I’m far more entertained by film, music, and books than I am gathered at church. This is an important concept to identify; it’s the intersection where we’ve missed something significant about faith. Unfortunately we Youth Ministrers have commercialised a faith experience that reduces God to simply being ‘fun’ and ‘entertaining’, and if God is not those things then our faith is irrelevant and meaningless. Faith, and indeed Youth Ministry, becomes about having the best ‘experience’ with our friends through a whole range of activities to avoid being irrelevant to young people, so that we don’t ‘lose’ them to ‘culture’.

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As we are nurtured by Christ in love, we give out the love that we have received; kind of like breathing air. We breathe in Christ’s love, only to then breathe it out again as a gift to others. Breathe in... Breathe out... May the love of God define the way you minister; this kind of ministry will never be irrelevant. Breathe in‌ Breathe out‌ May your Youth Ministry be full of breathing with an excess of love. If it is, your ministry will never be irrelevant. 1. Jesus speaks about; in losing life will find it, Matt 16:25; the first shall be last, Matt 20:16; love neighbor as self, Mark 12:31 & Luke 10:25-37; take up cross and follow, Mark 8:34 2. Jesus tells his disciples to lay down life for friends John 15:13; Philippians speaks of Jesus relinquishing his God-ness to be emptied and serve, Phil 2:5-11. Image: milkstudios.tumblr.com

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“Martin Luther King Jr. said ‘I have a dream’ he did not say ‘I have an operational plan’…” 1

An essay by Brenton Killeen

Vision is a powerful motivator. It can unite a group of people toward a preferred future when it is clearly and carefully communicated. It can also divide and diminish a group if it is not developed from and reflective of the core DNA of the community. Vision can bring direction to the directionless, usher a sense of hope towards a better tomorrow, and even breathe life into the seemingly lifeless. Without a doubt vision also plays a crucial part in a leader’s likelihood to go the distance. Vision provides clear direction and focus, and also helps to establish important boundaries that protect people and the leader. It allows people to carefully manage their time, energy and resources in the direction God leads them. Vision matters… for ourselves and for those we lead. So, what vision do you have for your ministry? What is the God sized dream placed within you? Are you able to articulate it, communicate it, and plan for it? Or maybe you have never paused long enough to ask yourself these questions? Imagine for a moment just how the world would be different if each person and ministry were completely motivated in the way of God’s revealed dream for them – it’s an inspiring thought. It is important to recognise that vision does not exist independently of God and His people. The most inspiring visions are those that speak forward the very heart of God for the purpose of establishing further the kingdom of God. Vision comes from God but is always realised in the hearts and minds of people. Indeed, a vision must be embraced by a community of people if this is to occur.

So how do we begin to discern this dream or alternative reality? Quite simply, we listen. With intention, we seek the voice and wisdom of God through careful examination of the Word, through prayer, through honest appraisal of our current circumstances and of course through the people of God, the church of Jesus Christ.

Listening to God through His word 2 Any vision of God will reflect something of the greater story of God. As we read the Bible we not only see a consistent reflection of the nature and character of God, but we also are able to discern a ‘desired outcome’ for His people and His creation. Indeed the Bible reveals how the story is unfolding and invites us to be part of the bigger picture.3 When we are in the process of visioning we need to carefully consider whether or not our vision aligns with the greater story of God.

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r.

If it doesn’t it is possible that we are confusing God’s will with our own desires. Whilst details will vary, at the heart of any kingdom vision you will find echoes of the ‘great commandment’ and the ‘great commission’.4 Both of these passages inform our need to be embracing and living the love and grace of God in a way that invites others to do the same. This is a consistent theme right through scripture; it was personified by Christ, and also evident through the activity of the early church. Indeed, God’s word invites us to do the same.

What do you think God is inviting us to become?

Listening to God through His people 5

Where might this lead us into the future?

It is important to take the time to listen to the voice of God through the people that you are serving with. It is imperative for others to have a sense of ownership of a vision that they are called to serve, and what better way to do this than to invite them into the process of forming the vision! It is the leaders role to keep people centred on the Word at this stage of the process. This will create a common starting place as you begin to explore God’s vision for your ministry. It gives you an anchor point to come back to should discussions evolve in an unhelpful direction. Being carefully grounded in the Word can also provide a framework of safety and security for the leader, enabling them to really listen to people without fear of being manipulated by the whims of people’s bias. The tension between listening to God through the Word and listening to the people of God is very real. Indeed we may find ourselves stretching like elastic as we attempt to hold the two in tension. This tension however becomes an important part of the discernment process. If we are able to stay as ‘people in tension’ long enough, clarity will emerge and God’s revelation for our ministry will become clearer. As we stretch in all directions in search of God’s revelation through His people, we can find ourselves understanding better or discovering for the first time things such as key cultural influences, community needs, individual needs, emerging trends and opportunities to serve and connect with our local community. Hopefully we will also notice God’s presence and activity right in front of us. This is a pivotal discovery. As the people of God are encouraged to stretch beyond what is known, we will be in a better place to answer the questions, ‘What is God doing right now?’ and ‘How can we participate in that, now and into the future?’ It is difficult to answer these questions and not seek the voice of God. Listening to the response of these questions through the people of God will help us to discern God’s dream for the future of our ministry. It is easy to dream up the next biggest ministry program but it must resemble something of the heartbeat of God for His people, through His people as revealed in scripture6. Some common questions to ask (and keep asking) as you seek to listen to God through His word and His people are‌

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What makes you say that? How does it align with what God reveals to us in scripture? Can you see this happening right now? What would it mean for us to join in this work?

This part of the process can be quite energising! Part of the role of a leader is to frequently explore the bigger picture7. It is a trap to think that the leader is the only person who is capable of discerning God’s vision for the masses. As others are given the opportunity to dream through the lens of scripture and God’s current activity it is often surprising what can emerge. An effectiveleader can cultivate an environment whereby many are exploring a preferred future for the ministry they are part of. It then becomes the team leaders role to ‘join the dots’, or find the ‘common threads’ between what is heard through the Word, and the people - inevitably there are many common threads. At this early stage of the process information is being sought in order to discern God’s revelation for His people. This is different to simply giving people an opportunity to ‘have their say’. Hopefully, the outcome is less about our personal biases and self-serving motives, and more about the purpose of serving and together discovering the revelation of God for His people. 

This article was adapted from a six part resource designed to help readers discern and articulate a vision for their ministry. For a copy of the full resource email yv@churchesofchrist.org.au and we’d be glad to send you one!

1 Pierre Sane – Secretary General Amnesty International, 1998 2 Blackaby, H. T., & King, C. V., Experiencing God – knowing and doing the will of God, Nashville, Tennessee: Broadman & Holdman, 2001, pp 72-108 3 Folmsbee, C., A New Kind of Youth Ministry, Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2005, is an excellent text which outlines a narrative theology approach to youth ministry including a concise description of the greater story of God. 4 Matthew 22:34-40 and Matthew 28:18-20 5 See 2 6 See Hawkins, T., Fruit That Will Last, Castle Hill, NSW: Hawkins Ministry Resources, 1999, Ch. 7 for a thorough discourse on developing a biblical framework for youth ministry 7 Hybels, B., Courageous Leadership, Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2002, pp 29-51

19/04/11 4:45 PM


A Disciple Making Movement by Chee Fah

“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.� – Matthew 28:18-20 The Great Commission inspires us with the vision of the life transforming power of a disciple. A disciple who hears God through His Word by the Holy Spirit. A disciple who knows how to deny himself, take up his cross, and obey God in EVERYTHING. A disciple who goes into everyday life with the purpose of leading others into a life of obedience to Jesus. The authority for godly reform does not come through spectacular programs or preaching, but through the making of a disciple who hears and obeys God in EVERYTHING and leads others to do the same.

The Measure of Discipleship We all know that discipleship is about relationships.However far too often we measure the growth of a disciple by non-relational factors such as attendance, church involvement and disciplines. We assume a disciple is being made when they attend church and small groups regularly, tithe, reads their Bible, prays and serves. However, such measures prove incomplete for biblical discipleship. Jesus calls His disciples to ‘deny themselves, take up their cross and follow Him’ (Mt 16:24). Our love for God is not measured by our involvement in church or knowledge of God but by our obedience to Him (1 Jn 5:3). In fact the Great Commission measures the success of a church by whether its members are hearing and obeying God in everything and leading others to do the same. Some questions we can ask ourselves to measure our growth in discipleship:

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Can you hear God through His Word and the promptings of the Holy Spirit? Are you obeying God more this year compared to last year? Are you intentionally investing your life into relationships to make disciple-making-disciples?

Initiating a Disciple Making Movement Here are 5 steps you can take to initiate a disciple making movement:

1

Grow in your personal discipleship – model a life of hearing and obeying God in every aspect of your life (finances, relationship, character).

2

Journey deep with 3 other people – identify 3 other people who are willing to be discipled. They must themselves invest deeply into 3 other people. Journey deep and allow them into the classroom of your life where you expose your victories and struggles with God.

3

Empower them to hear God – teach them how to hear God through the Scriptures and the promptings of the Holy Spirit. This enables us to work with the Holy Spirit as He does His sanctifying work to transform individual lives.

4

Challenge them to obey God – loving people is caring but love also challenges people to obey God.

5

Exercise humility – journeying deep can open relationships to offense. Exercise humility and ask for forgiveness when we make mistakes or communicate love to people in a wrong way. The explosive growth of the early church did not come through programs but through a disciple making movement. Ordinary people who lived compelling lives of hearing and obeying God, and had a passion to leads others to do the same. Will you commit to becoming part of God’s movement?

19/04/11 4:45 PM


God, I like your new stuff better than your old stuff. Summary of a message given by Mark Sayers at Red Church in Box Hill, written by Amy Stephenson.

We can tend to separate God into two: the friendly, foot-washing, close-by Jesus of the New Testament and the fierce transcendent God of justice found in the Old. These two versions of God can seem incompatible. Our solution? To sensor both so as to give us a comfortable understanding of him. The danger with this edited perception of Do you relate more to the God of the OT or the NT? God is that control over his identity remains with us. In effect we create two idols, a near idol and a far idol, one transcendent and one imminent; neither of which are actually God but both which point to the real idol - us.

Because it can be so hard to get our heads around the person of God encompassing the wrath of the Old Testament and the grace of the New we can unconsciously split him in to two polar personalities. We skip between a transcendent creator God of brutal justice, whom isn’t part of our everyday life; and the genial, approachable Jesus who models to us how to relate to one-another. Once we have censored God to fit him in to a comfortable understanding Idols in pairs Idol-worshiping cultures have near gods and far we have put ourselves in control. No longer does he demonstrate gods. The nearby idol is an imminent, tangible, in his image to us but we dictate our perception of him. The biggest your face god that guides you in the day-to-day. tragedy in all of this is we miss out on WHO he is. The faraway idol is an over-arching conceptual god that provides a sense of meaning, purpose Near meets far and hope for all of life. We see this dichotomy in In coming to earth and giving himself up as a sacrifice on the cross, God Australia today where 75% of people profess to brings the faraway and the nearby crashing together. Hung bleeding, believe in a god (faraway idol) yet desperately alienated and dying on a cross God the Creator of the universe seek control over immediate areas of their demonstrates the marvel of his identity; He shows the unity of his lives, stuff that is concrete and tangible transcendence and his immanence with the utmost profundity and (nearby idols) like image, wealth and possessions. simplicity. Love and justice have been ultimately brought together; the near and far God is one. Unlike the appeal of idols we can’t control Jeremiah mocks this view of idols which are Him. We can’t dictate him. But He is not mute, He is not futile, under man’s control: He is not foolish. He is active. He is vibrant. He comes to bring life; “Do not act like the other nations, who try to awe, mystery, transcendence, wonder, love, compassion and mercy. read their future in the stars. Do not be afraid What would you prefer? An idol that is dead, but controllable, of their predictions, even though other nations or a God this is alive, but uncontrollable? The choice is yours. are terrified by them. Their ways are futile and foolish. They cut down a tree, and a craftsman Group questions carves an idol. They decorate it with gold and 1 What do you find hard to understand about the character and silver and then fasten it securely with hammer person of God? and nails so it won’t fall over. Their gods are like helpless scarecrows in a cucumber field! 2 Do you relate more to the representation of God found in the They cannot speak, and they need to be carried Old Testament or in the New Testament? because they cannot walk. Do not be afraid of such gods, for they can neither harm you 3 What are some things which can be idols in your life – giving you nor do you any good.� [Jeremiah 10:2-5 NLT] meaning, comfort, identity or guidance in place of God?

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19/04/11 4:46 PM


Victorian Youth Ministry Network Gathering  WHEN- Thurs 5th. 1pm-4pm. $10 for lunch (from 12pm). RSVP for catering ABOUT- VYMN exists to be a meeting ground to encourage and support those involved in youth ministry in Victoria. It exists to provide an opportunity for combined prayer and worship, profiling of events, resources and projects and to exist as a peak forum for relevant youth ministry discussion. RSVP- Jono Green (Alpha) P: 98998050 E: jono.green@alpha.org.au

YV.PD.2: ‘Asking the Unasked Questions’, with Craig Brown, Federal Coordinator COC Australia  WHEN- Thurs 12th. 10pm-5pm. Churches of Christ Centre, Fairfield. $30 (includes lunch). ABOUT- A chance for leaders in the YV network to be trained and resourced. This day will be examining how local churches and youth leaders can create environments that retain youth leaders and facilitate enduring and mission-shaped youth ministries. RSVP- Youth Vision P: 94888800 E: yv@churchesofchrist.org.au

State Youth Games 2011 - Game On!  WHEN- Fri 10th - Mon 13th. Warragul ABOUT- 4 days of camping, 33 sports, 3000 people.  State Youth Games is an action-packed weekend of sports and activities for young people with a massive night-life, including worship and input with guest speaker Mike Pilavachi (Soul Survivor, UK). MORE INFO- www.stateyouthgames.com or Youth Vision P: 94888800 E: yv@churchesofchrist.org.au

YV Connect Breakfast WHEN- Sat 23rd. 10:00am. Shine Café, 74-76 Kingsway, Glen Waverley.  Free, RSVP for catering essential. ABOUT- Youth & young adult leaders work hard, and we reckon you deserve some thanks and encouragement. YV Connect is a chance for COC Youth & Young Adult ministry leaders to connect with other people in the YV network; to share ideas, hear stories, eat, worship God and support each other in prayer. MORE INFO- Youth Vision P: 94888800  E: yv@churchesofchrist.org.au

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19/04/11 4:46 PM


Zine demo