Tuesday, December 16, 2008

imagine immerse ... 2009's coming

IMAGINE … a 17 year old student in Adelaide coming to his first ever Christian camp … a young man coming to a new understanding of brokenness and forgiveness … “I looked at the red paint on my hand, and a wave of guilt and sorrow washed over me. My hand was tainted. My hand was covered in blatantly obvious sin. It broke my heart. The next station was a tub of water, that we washed our hands in. it was an ordinary tub of water, and ordinary red paint, but I got it. I got it and it felt amazing. Jesus forgives sins. Like the water washing away the paint on my hand, the power of Jesus washed away my sin. I got it and it felt good. That night was the start of something amazing.”

IMAGINE … a 15 year old girl in Sydney, who, after being deeply impacted by God’s broken heart after sin entered creation in the story, shares with the rest of her youth group… “We’ve been learning how God continuously does things, because His intensity for us … the intensity and longing for us to get it right with Him. He keeps doing stuff like the flood and raising up Moses and Noah and all those sorts of people, and it’s still happening today. And I just really want to encourage you that you do have hope now (we’re allowed to have hope now!) … we have hope in God and His love is intense.”

IMAGINE … a shy 14 year old in Melbourne who had never been to any type of Christian event before … “the whole journey of Immerse was amazing. Thanks to you God is now officially apart of my life.”

IMAGINE … a new paradigm for a local church’s youth easter camp, for an inner-city church’s youth camp, for a denomination’s teen camp … where the students are invited to discover the whole story of God … in seven episodes … at their own pace … experientially ..

IMAGINE … God calling a family who have seen these students, are learning new ways to communicate God’s story, and are experiencing God’s provision to move them from fulltime local church youth ministry so they can devote their time to providing young people everywhere with the opportunity to engage with the whole story of God. … IMAGINE Travis & Pixi Johnson and their four boys, Thomas, Bradley, Jackson & Frederick.

IMAGINE … a team of people spending a weekend together in December 2008 imagining how they can plan and work and influence to see God bring more movement in the lives of young people throughout Australia and beyond … IMAGINE God gathering a core team to implement more of this ministry.


Saturday, September 20, 2008

$50 in Ararat ... sept 08

There are times when "pure luck" is just never a good enough explanation for stuff that happens ...

Since we've made the decision as a family to change our means of income by gathering a team of financial partners/sponsors around us, we've been blown away by the response we've received and the stories that are gathering that point to a greater heart and mind who is orchestrating details in ways we never thought possible.

There's a community of Jesus' followers in Western Australia who don't know us at all, but have given a significant contribution ... there's a bunch of young people in Adelaide who ran an auction on our behalf raising another amount in the thousands ... there's a heap of friends in places like Brisbane, Perth, Melbourne, Adelaide - who have been incredibly enthusiastic in becoming partners with us in serving young people here in Australia ...

But when you find a $50 note sitting on the tarmac of a petrol station which you dropped 15 minutes before hand .. that's more than random as far as I'm concerned.

We are incredibly grateful to individuals and families who have "signed on" to partner with us as we journey towards financial viability in order to serve with Youth Ministries Australia ... but our gratefulness can never be limited to the generosity of those people. There is One who is far more generous than any of us can hope to be ... yet He chooses to use people like us to express His generosity ... and it's incredibly humbling to be the recipient of His generous heart.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

gideon and resigning ...

Today our senior pastor announced my resignation at our home church ... which was kind of big ... big not only because of how sad it is to not be as focused in ministry in the local church... big not only because of the opportunity we have to be involved with an organisation I love in the next season of our life (Youth Ministries Australia), but big because of what God's been teaching us in the process of decision-making.

Two things stand out ... 1. a greater understanding of God usually only comes in the context of sacrifice ... 2. God knows exactly what we need to hear when we need to hear it, and sometimes uses the most expected ways to say it.

1. Gideon's offering in Judges 6:19 blows me away ... living at a time when his enemies, the Midianites, controlled his fields and killed his stock - He offers what little food he has to God (the angel of the Lord) as an act of worship ... He gives up that which would most likely feed his family in obedience to God. Hearing of this recently and studying up on it helped put into perspective my decision to resign from my current role as a step of faith, obedience, worship - whatever you want to call it - has reminded me that the only way I can provide for my family is through God's hand anyway ... and if I want to come to a greater understanding of Him, then I need to be willing to sacrifice ... thanks Gideon.

2. The announcement of my resignation today prompted a lady in our church community to approach Pix and I after the meeting ... she was teary and pretty nervous ... saying, "I've never done this before, but I really believe that God wants me to tell you both that you've been faithful and successful with the young people here, and what you're about to enter into is going to be much bigger." It truly was a word from God ... partly because of the encouragement regarding what the future holds, but moreso because this lady was very clear on this being a message for both Pix and I ... and we're increasingly excited about serving young people together as a team. God knew we needed to hear that, and it came from someone who never would have expected she'd say that ... thanks God!

If you're reading this and wanting to know more about what we'll be entering into from now, check out www.yma.com.au and read up on "immerse".

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

History Revisited...

It's been a while since I threw myself into the history of Christianity, but a birthday voucher for a bookstore had me invest in the latest history publication by Lion's. Maybe it's a sign of sentimentality as I gather age, but my attitude toward history has changed in a big way ... once a subject I had to cover for marks at Bible College, now a growing interest as I seek to interpret my own time in light of the story of history.

I've just been slowly working through the work so I could get a chronological feel for the journey of the church throughout the centuries ... there's a couple of things that have really stood out to me ...
1. the people were pretty normal - those who had influence are remembered for their shortcomings as well as their contribution ... I like that ... if my contribution is ever celebrated in any way I hope it points to God's grace rather than my slick maneuvering.
2. the "right" label didn't always mean a positive influence - time and time again it seems that those who held onto a label that was associated with a positive change in history in the past were susceptible to blowing it in the present ... I like that too ... the advancement of God's kingdom does not seem to be dependent on the labels we choose to use for nuances in doctrine or seasons or leaders
3. "even catholics" could study at John Calvin's school - he saw the opportunity to influence in a much larger circle by welcoming those with whom he differed ... this intrigues me ... I wonder whether we limit the spread of God's truth by assuming He can't overcome distinctions - I wonder whether sometimes we can afford to operate with confidence in the realm that God leads us into rather than with fear over whether others might corrupt our "purity".

There's lots more I'm learning from history ... but those are a few thoughts!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

easter camp 08

easter camp is big for our youth ministry ... big like, if you miss it you may be grieving for the next 12 months...which may tend to reveal a slight strain of event-itus, but the reality is that folks have so much fun it's hard to avoid the status camp holds in our local culture..

Not only does easter camp shape a significant part of ebcyouth's identity, but it is an incredible tool for the work of God among our young people. We again had some significant response spiritually among the youth, but there were also some other stand out elements for me ...

1. This year we used some experiential learning processes that took the campers through the whole story of God, and judging by some of the content of dialogue with campers at the end of the weekend, a big number of our people benefited far more than other times of a more lecture-type approach with a stronger emphasis on a guest speaker. eg. "at last i get it"

2. I saw a significant shift in the culture of camp this year that had me doing internal cartwheels. We intentionally focused our attention on seeing the small group leaders trained, equipped, and encouraged to "be present" amongst their small group - the impact on the campers was noticable, and the community feel among the small groups was also very positive. From what i saw, our leaders really owned the whole learning process and genuinely loved the people they were leading ... I'm pretty happy about that.

3. Those who had leadership responsibility in this event really stepped up in their areas and helped provide an environment where we were much more intentional than we ever have been in the past ... I'm pretty happy about that too.

This weekend has caused me to be thinking how God might use some of what we did on a larger scale, and with a broader influence ... praying that the pathway opens up for that to happen ... developing a real heart for young people in Australia to engage with God's story.