Capos and Campus ministers

I’m a huge fan of comedy. When it comes to movies and television shows 9/10 times I’ll choose comedy over drama. I think it’s simple why I choose comedies, it’s because I enjoy laughing and feeling good. One of my favorite forms of comedy is parody. A parody acts to imitate or comment on another work. I think what makes a parody so enjoyable is that it gives us a chance to laugh at a subject and admit flaws. I think that’s cool and I think it’s healthy. “Weird Al” Yankovic has made a career out of taking songs that are hits or have deep meanings, and putting a hilarious spin on them. However some do not agree with what Weird Al does, they find it offensive that he’d poke fun at their favorite artist or that he’d shed light on something that was obviously ridiculous. Even though Weird Al isn’t maliciously attacking the artist or message, these folks are angry at the mere idea that Weird Al would criticize something these folks hold so near and dear.

As a Christian I see this a lot in Christianity and even more so, up close and personal. At college there’s been more than a few times where I’ll be chatting with someone and they’ll bring up worship music and I’ll make one joke about it and suddenly their smile vanishes and is replaced by something ranging from a fake smile to a disgusted look. After their face makes this transition, they’ll respond to my joke with a fake chuckle or a criticism of my joke. Other times I’ll make a joke about the campus minister and it’ll be met with a horrified look (usually they’ll hold their opinions until there alone with friends, because it’s easier to talk behind a person’s back than to their face). In both instances my joke wasn’t a lie, it wasn’t saying that I hate the person/thing, and it certainly wasn’t criticizing God or the bible. All the joke did was shed light on something obvious.

I think there’s a problem when we can’t laugh at ourselves, especially when the flaws are obvious. As humans we are going to make mistakes and when we do we need to admit them, not pretend they do not exist. When we do this, we advocate an un-healthy perspective. We turn flawed humans, into perfect beings that are not to be questioned and we turn corruptible things into things that are incorruptible. Along with putting extra importance on people and things, this mindset also ends up taking away importance from God. Instead of singing to God, we make sure the masses are enjoying the music, instead of seeking out God during the week we sit in a pew/chair on a Sunday and wait for our pastor to tell what God has been telling him. We make sure we have all of our bases covered with humans first, then we shift our focus to God. And that’s not good.

As Christians we can have our music preferences, we can have our opinions, and we can have people that we go to with questions, or who help to mentor us, but we cannot turn these things into idols.

My picks for the best albums and songs of 2014

After a year of music, deliberating over, over 150 albums, and over a thousand songs here’s the best of 2014!

Albums
1. Goliath by Steve Taylor and the Perfect Foil
2. Lazaretto by Jack White
3. Rivers in The Wasteland by NEEDTOBREATHE
4. VA by The Last Bison
5. Time Stands Still by Family Force 5
6. Sun and Shield by Peter Furler Band
7. If We’re Honest by Francesca Battistelli
8. Mandatory Fun by Weird Al
9. Neon Steeples by Crowder/ Welcome to the New by MercyMe
10. Ready To Fly by Jamie Grace

Songs
1. “Comedian” by Steve Taylor and the Perfect Foil
2. “A Fire Only We Know” by House of Heroes
3. Difference Maker” by NEEDTOBREATHE
4. “Not My Name” by Jenny Simmons/ “Shame” by Peter Furler Shame
5. “The Beautiful Unseen” by Copperlily
6. “Lazaretto” by Jack White
7. “In L.A.” by LA Symphony
8. “Death In His Grave” by Audrey Assad
9. “Governor’s Son” by The Last Bison/ “In Layers” by Steve Taylor and the Perfect Foil
10. “No Man is an Island” by Tenth Avenue North/ “Word Crimes” by Weird Al

I usually do not include ep’s in my list, but this year there were so many quality ep’s that I decided to make a list of em as well.
1. Smoke ep by House of Heroes
2. To Be Well ep by Jenny Simmons
3. Love Is a Legend ep by Copperlily
4. Death Be Not Proud ep by Audrey Assad
5. The Beautiful Unseen ep by Copperlily

The Christian entertainment Dilemma

Each year I create a “top 10” list of that year’s albums and songs. The process (because it’d be too simple just to choose albums without using a scientific method) involves taking over a 100 albums and judging how catchy they are, how many songs are on the album, the music, how original the album is, the lyrical content (not necessarily the message, more so how a message is conveyed), things such as album artwork or sales (sorry Taylor Swift) aren’t taken into account. Each year there are albums that surprise me, both in a negative way and a positive way and each year it amazes me how many christian albums end up in the “Ehhh” or “Wow it took months and this is what they chose to release?” category. It’s not that these albums sneak in drug references or anything un-christian, the albums are obviously about God, but the way in which they are produced is done in a horrible way. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve listened to a secular band up against a christian band and thought “Wow the secular band sold drugs, sex, and fame, better than the christians sold Jesus!”. Why is this? Are drugs, sex, and fame really king? Is Jesus or the idea of a God just ignorant to begin with? Of course not! But then, why is the opposite being found in the artistry?

If you’ve ever had a discussion with me about music or entertainment, chances are when we got to the christian genre, I had some harsh things to say. My reasoning is: if you’re creating something to reflect the most creative Being to ever live, why not make something of substance? Whether it’s film, music, or literature, christians have a bad habit of producing subpar stuff. Movies that have horrible writing, music that is filled with words, yet says nothing, books that take 300 pages to convey a message that could be said and explained in a sentence. All of these things are frustrating, but how do we combat it? That is where I come to a crossroads. The three ways I’ve come to combat it are: Saying sarcastic things about the works, trying to create my own works, and lastly, just accepting it. The problem is, all three have drawbacks. I can say every sarcastic and negative thing I want about the christian entertainment culture, but at the end where does it get me? Sure it gets laughs, but chances are no one is going to take time to hear out the guy who’s just bashing their products. Creating my own is fun, until I look around at the obstacles. The three writers who shaped my style of writing the most are: Tim Skipper, John Reuben, and Aaron Weiss, all three are fantastic and embody what honest and passionate lyrics should be and I look at their works and think “if people that talented cannot overcome the obstacles, how can the random guy from Neeses, overcome em’?”. And just accepting it is all fine until one day, you realize you’re just lying to yourself and that’s a feeling that is hard to keep bearing. When I stand back and look at the solutions it’s kind of obvious that there is not just one simple solution and I think that’s the point.

I think at the end it’s not just looking at fixing the problem with just one tool to momentarily fix the problem, but rather, using multiple tools to correctly fix the problem. I think sharing opinions, when done right, can really help. I believe that doing our part to produce an alternative style can help. I believe that meeting artists half way can help as well. When it comes down to it the point isn’t the music or film, it’s about God and the Son He sent for us and we cannot make it all about the music, but at the same time though why would want to bring a cheap offering to Him?

When Honesty Defeats Stupidity

This week was my first week as a legit youth pastor. I’d been a volunteer youth worker at my own church, but this week marked the first time I was a legit, employed youth worker (I even have the paycheck to prove it). My first assignment was heading up the youth program for VBS week. Given that I knew the teens would range from card carrying members of a Sunday School Class, to never having stepped foot inside of a church, teens who have a great home life, to teens who lack any kind of decent home life, I tried my best to put together lessons that could be understood by them all. So how does one approach a situation like this? With honesty. Every night I got up to speak, I spoke honestly to them. I didn’t sugarcoat anything, sing any stupid songs (you know the ones), or tell them any stupid saying (breaking news: a nifty saying doesn’t magically make life better). On every subject I was honest, because I don’t think that deception really has a place in ministry.

When I look at the state of the church today, I don’t blame atheists and I don’t believe God has stopped working, I believe christians have gotten in the way. We are so focused on finding the right formula for outreach, that we don’t let God work. We desire results and stories that are huge, and fail to accept that perhaps God wants us focused on quality rather than quantity. I see it in many churches and I even see it on my own college campus. Instead of being genuine with people, christians try to put their own spin on God and replace a loving Savior who isn’t a coward nor a kill joy, into some mystical being that only delights in horrible music, approves of sloppily made movies,  accepts you only if you’re the right type. OR they get soo focused on getting someone saved that they’ll do anything to get them saved, they’ll promise them complete happiness, a perfect relationship, or absolutely anything just so they can say “I was responsible, for that guy coming to Christ”. If you notice though, they’ll never ever take responsibility for the person slipping in their faith. Basically they become used car salesmen of faith, and although they give you a nice product, they wont teach you how to maintain it,because once you’re off the lot, it’s your problem.

So after that rant, you may still wonder how exactly the whole “honesty” thing, worked out. Well to put it simply….it worked incredibly. After the second night, one of the teens texted me for some advice. After we talked for a little bit, they thanked me for listening and I told them “You’re absolutely welcome, I am glad you opened up to me”. Her response was “Well after you got up and were so honest about life and your faith, I felt like I could open up to you. You’re the first person in church to be honest with me”. You see, she didn’t open up because I sang a corny song, she didn’t open up because I tricked her, and she didn’t open up because of “Brandon’s Gospel Experience”, she opened up because I approached her with honesty and to her that was the difference between, once again walking away from a church without seeing anything different, and leaving a church and seeing something different.

Pizza, Wrestling, and Ministry

During my involvement with ministries, I’ve been able to create a lot of friendships with some awesome youth, many of which have come about from one thing. Singing a corny song? Nope. Reciting chapters of the Bible? Negatory. They’ve come from wrestling t-shirts. From the classic CM Punk fist and lightning bolt shirt, to a Zack Ryder tee, to the Daniel Bryan “Yes!, Yes!, Yes!” shirt, they’ve started soo many conversations with youth who otherwise wouldn’t have said a single word to me. Is it because wrestling is the greatest thing on earth? Probably not. The reason the shirt meant so much, was because it showed them that I was just another person, I wasn’t some boring Christian who hates everything that they like. It bridged the gap between us and allowed me to develop a friendship with them and when the time came, to share my testimony and faith with them, whether they got saved or not, they all listened, because they weren’t listening to some youth worker, they were talking to a friend.

While attending a Christian college, it saddens me to see how many future youth workers just don’t get it. You can sing all of the worship songs you want, you can quote all the Scripture you want, and you can say all of the corny phrases you desire, but they’ll fall on deaf ears if you haven’t built a friendship with the kids. Too many times I see workers blame the kids for not responding, when in reality the workers have made zero effort to get to know the kids and learn about them, where they come from, what they like, and what they believe. And that’s wrong.

A few years ago, at WinterJam, I got to hear Matthew West speak on youth ministry. He said that when he was younger he asked his dad what the key to an effective ministry was. Expecting to hear about certain songs to sing, or a great Bible study curriculum, Matthew West was confused when his dad said “Lots and lots of Pizza”. West’s father would go on to explain that before you can expect someone to share their heart with you, they have to share a pizza with you, before they can cry with you, they have to laugh with you. And that’s true, we have to stop viewing the world as “wretched sinners” and idiots, and realize they’re people, just like you and me.

So as you go and minister, find out what your “Pizza” or “Daniel Bryan” shirt may be! And look at the opportunities to share the Gospel appear more and more. Perhaps you may find out that ministering is a lot more fun and easy, than the thing you’ve been calling “ministry”.

 

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“Ehh how about you just shut up, do you think that is possible?”

is the feeling I sense from some people that I talk to, and I especially sensed it growing up. Growing up I was the kid who always had a question to ask, I do not doubt that I was the cause of more than one schoolteacher’s migraine (if one of you happen to be reading this, then I sincerely apologize). It wasn’t that I was trying to be annoying, I was just really curios. It was never enough to have someone just tell me something, I wanted to know “why?”, why I was being told this, why I should accept it, and why the person believed what they were saying, especially when it came to religious things. When I asked, sometimes the answer I received was kind and was informative, others times the answer wasn’t kind, it didn’t answer my question, and sort of made me feel stupid for even asking. And as a 21 year old, many things have changed, yet that isn’t one of them.

I don’t believe it can be pin pointed to one sole reason, that people do not like their opinions to be questioned, especially when it comes to their faith. I think a few stand out though

  • They’re giving you the response that they were given.
  • They’ve never really thought about it
  • They know their opinion is wrong
  • They’re offended that you’d even question them

None of those are good. The first one just shows a vicious cycle, someone responds sarcastically/ hatefully/pridefully to someone who will do the same to the next person, and so on. The second one is ignorance and laziness. It sounded nice enough to them, for them to believe it, so why can’t you just believe it. The third and fourth come from selfishness and pride, they’re either gaining from said belief and they don’t enjoy you making them feel bad or knowing, or they can’t believe that you’d think you know better than they do. All of these do nothing to help the cause that they’re fighting for.

Personally I find it funny how the church deals with different topics. There’s many subjects the church is quick to develop a dialogue on,but others not so much. When it comes to gay marriage churches either are quick to throw out the Bible verses that are against it, or quick to condemn it, but when either position is questioned, both sides look at the person inquiring and sort of ask “How about you just go along with what we’re saying”. The same goes for alcohol. Many churches are quick to condemn any consumption of alcohol, while others are just as quick to say drunkenness is the sin and not drinking alcohol itself and once either position is questioned, yep you guessed it. And the same goes for many other topics.

I believe this is very harmful, as a young christian it seems like a lot of times I’m being given an opinion, but no reason or evidence to support it and when it’s questioned, I am the one who is wrong (I’d ask them why, but that’d just lead to more why’s). And this wouldn’t be so bad if it wasn’t for the whole part of having to defend my beliefs to others. A college professor of mine, Dr. Pearson once said “It doesn’t matter what you believe, if you can’t defend it, your belief is worthless” and I agree. It doesn’t matter what my opinion on gay marriage, alcohol, evil, abortion, or even my opinion on God Himself is, if I can’t defend them, what good do they do in the grand scheme of things?

The solution is the church equipping believers with proofs, instead of just catchy phrases or ideas that easily gel with believers. And as believers it’s our job to know what we believe and why we believe it and to be patient with those who question us. Whether we are being questioned by someone who sincerely is curios, or being questioned by someone who just wants to make us look bad, our testimony is still on display.

“I’m Tired” (Song)

“I’m Tired” is basically a song written out of honesty. Whether we want to admit it or not, I think all christians struggle with their faith at times. The speaker in the song is contemplating his faith and at first he questions if God really has kept His promises and admits that he’s struggling, but then he realizes that perhaps his perception is wrong. Slowly he starts to realize he’s sitting their questioning God, but what has he himself done to be the hands and feet of God? Then the bridge is basically him admitting to and letting go of all the laziness, lies, shortcomings, and complacency that he’s held onto for years.

 

Where’s the hope? Where’s the love? Has it bid bon voyage?

Oh God, Your promises, were they just mirages?

I’m strugglin’, worryin’, everyday

but then, in a whisper, I hear You say

 

chorus-I love you more than you can imagine

My plans for you, are better than you can fathom

I am with you, do not fear

please follow the direction I steer

 

could it be, happiness, is not a guarantee

but rather, happiness, is actually a journey

and the change, I’m looking for, starts with I

instead of just, looking to, looking to the other guy

 

chorus-I love you more than you can imagine

My plans for you, are better than you can fathom

I am with you, do not fear

please follow the direction I steer

 

I’m tired of just waiting

for things to get better

I’m tired of just haiting

my fellow sinner

I’m tired of just saying

that I’m alright

I’m tired of delaying

walking in Your light

I’m aware of my misses

but I’m trustin’ Your promises

as I start and end my day

I wanna hear You say

 

chorus-

I love you more than you can imagine

My plans for you, are better than you can fathom

I am with you, do not fear

please follow the direction I steer