Book Review: The Briarpatch Gospel

The Briarpatch Gospel: Fearlessly Following Jesus into the Thorny Places By Shayne Wheeler, Tyndale Momentum, 2013, 272 pp., $14.99 paperback.

Briarpatch Gospel coverIt was a bad sign that I found myself echoing the Preacher’s lament that “there is nothing new under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 1:9) very early in Shayne Wheeler’s The Briarpatch Gospel: Fearlessly Following Jesus into the Thorny Places, the latest book in the Hipster-Christian genre of publishing (where authors condemn “Holier Than Thou” Christianity only to replace it with “Cooler Than Thou” and “More Tolerant Than Thou” versions). I know absolutely nothing about Wheeler or his church so I have tried to constrain my critique to his book, without extrapolating it to his person or ministry, but I must admit that it is difficult to judge the latter without assuming that the former must logically be influenced by the views the book betrays. Continue reading Book Review: The Briarpatch Gospel

Consider the Cost

Jesus answered, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am to drink?” They said to him, “We are able.” He said to them, “You will drink my cup, but to sit at my right hand and at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.” And when the ten heard it, they were indignant at the two brothers. (Matthew 20:22-24)

Almost 5 years ago, I was in Barnes & Noble, looking through the history and current events section, when I saw a book that was written by an ex-soldier who deserted the army and fled to Canada. The summary on the inside cover told how this man had enlisted in the military as a way to make a living and that he thought he would not be deployed unless World War III broke out. When George W. Bush ordered the invasion of Iraq, he was deployed there and eventually deserted. As a history teacher, it was unfathomable to me that anyone actually thought this way. By a conservative count, America has spent more than 1/4 of its history at war and averaged at least one major war every generation. And this doesn’t even count the various other military conflicts (Indian Wars, the invasion of Grenada, U.N. police actions in Kosovo and Somalia, etc.) in between those bigger wars. The idea that someone would enlist in the military as a way to get a free education, a good salary and benefits package, and a comfortable career, yet not expect to see combat at some point is just stupid. Someone wasn’t paying attention in history class. This guy wanted all the benefit of being part of the U.S. military without any of the risk. He enlisted without considering the cost.

I remembered that book as I read this passage in Matthew because really that’s exactly what’s happening here with James and John. In the preceding verses, they had their mother ask Jesus to give them a place of honor in his kingdom. Jesus, like an ethical army recruiter, tried to warn them of what they were asking. “Are you able to drink the cup that I am to drink?” is a loaded question that went back to what he had taught the disciples a few verses earlier: Continue reading Consider the Cost

Forming Intergenerational Connections, Part 3

This is part 3 of a 3-part series on helping the younger and older generations form relationships within the church. For why these relationships are needed and who they should be formed with, read Part 1 and Part 2 of the series.

Forming new relationships can be intimidating, especially for those of us who aren’t very outgoing (I, for one, am extremely introverted). There is always a risk of rejection (or just plain awkwardness) when you put yourself out there. But hopefully these tips for forming relationships between teens/young adults and those who are middle-aged or AARP members will be simple enough to avoid some of that awkwardness. For those of you who are outgoing and have no problem just walking up to someone and starting a relationship, feel free to jump right in and let us know how it goes. Continue reading Forming Intergenerational Connections, Part 3

Forming Intergenerational Connections, Part 2

In my previous post, I detailed why it is important for young people to form relationships with older believers in the church. Today I want to briefly describe who they should form relationships with. Because of the subject matter, instead of addressing parents, I’d like to directly address those who will be used by God to speak into the lives of our youth.

I suspect that one of the reasons why older people fail to mentor or shepherd the younger generation is because they feel like they don’t have much to offer or that the younger generation wouldn’t be interested in what they have to offer. While this is an understandable fear, the fact remains that whether the older generation wants to mentor the younger one or not, today’s young people need to be mentored (reread part 1 of this series if you need a reminder why). And it doesn’t need to be done by some super saint, corporate CEO, or athletic superstar. It just needs to be done, by anyone who is willing. Continue reading Forming Intergenerational Connections, Part 2

Forming Intergenerational Connections, Part 1

Earlier today I read an article in Leadership Journal on how intergenerational connections help young people develop a faith that endures the transition from living at home to going to college or entering the workforce. Because this is something I would love to see characterize our church, I thought it might be helpful for me to elaborate on the subject. So over the next few days, I’m going to write up a 3-part series looking at why we should help our children build these connections, who we should help them connect with, and finally, how we go about initiating those connections.

I know how important connecting with other generations can be because I benefited from those types of relationships when I was a teenager and young adult. I love my parents, and I had (and still have) a good relationship with them, but as important as that relationship was in terms of helping me come to and mature in my faith, my relationships with other adults were also a vital part of that process.

Adults that influenced my life (both spiritually and otherwise) ranged from the youth pastor (just a few years older than I was) who poured his life into those of us in youth group to the senior citizens group that seemed to adopt me as a surrogate grandson, praying for me, supporting my missions trips, and becoming teary-eyed when I left New Jersey to move to Louisiana. (In fact, the seniors invited me to speak at their monthly meeting while I was still in college, giving me one of my first experiences in intergenerational ministry.) Relationships with those closer to my parents’ age also were important in my development, whether it was the pastors at church or those with whom I served in various ministries.

I think you see something similar in Scripture with Paul and Timothy. The foundation of Timothy’s faith was laid at home, apparently by his mother and grandmother (2 Timothy 1:5), but the relationship and ministry experience that he shared with Paul were what developed him into a pastor and leader. Paul became a spiritual father to Timothy, to the point that he refers to him as his “child” (1 Timothy 1:2, 18; 2 Timothy 1:2, 2:1). 1 and 2 Timothy are essentially Paul continuing to speak into Timothy’s life and ministry through the means of epistles.

So what makes these intergenerational relationships so valuable? Why should we help our children form them? Continue reading Forming Intergenerational Connections, Part 1