Is others’ spiritual growth your responsibility?

“Nothing is better for the soil than the farmer’s footprints.”
(4th Generation Farmer passing on wisdom from his grandfather)

I am learning that following Jesus, walking in His footsteps, is all about Him not me. Growing, succeeding, flourishing is dependent upon the presence of the farmer not all the effort I put in my misperceived role as the farmer. As a seminary graduate, I was well trained in “farming” techniques. I have spent most of my time learning how to farm and teaching others the same.

Truth be known, I am not the Farmer. That’s the Father. I’m not the Vine. That’s Jesus. I’m just the branch. When His first two children decided to go out on their own and enjoy a fruit salad from the wrong part of the garden, the Gardener walked the Garden to find where they were hiding. When all of His kids were lost and hopeless, the Gardener talked with His Son in the garden and agreed to buy us back even if the plan was not the Son’s preferred cup.

What about growth? Hard but relieving news… it’s not about me. Sure, I’m involved. I am integral. Fruit comes through me. But seed sprouting? The Master reminds us it is all from the Father. Three clear, simple words, “All by itself.” (Mark 4:28)

What does it mean for you and me today? What signs of growth do I see in me and others and how can I help? How hard is my soil?

To pass on some sage wisdom: Nothing is better for the soil of our souls than the Farmer’s footprints.

Guest Post: Doug Webster is a long-time youth worker, long-long pastor, long-time writer, long-time friend of Doug Fields (in each others’ weddings), long-time follower of Jesus…who is beginning to learn how to follow and not lead Jesus. Doug can be found hanging out with a small group of other followers in Irvine, CA called The Following.

Maybe cliques aren’t bad: Stop trying to make your youth group like each other

“What are you doing about the cliques in youth group?”

If you are in youth ministry, you’ve probably heard that question. It may have come from a tattle-telling teenager, a concerned parent or a critical church member. In each case, the assumption is this: Making teenagers get along is part of your job. I disagree.

C.S. Lewis writes in his book, The Four Loves, about the difference between lovers and friends. Lovers stand face to face but friends stand shoulder to shoulder, looking at the same thing. Friendship is built around a shared interest for something else and their shared gaze keeps the friends side by side.

D.A. Carson writes that the church is “a band of natural enemies who love one another for Jesus’ sake” (Love In Hard Places). What this means (I think) is that outside of Jesus, we Christians wouldn’t necessarily be pals. What makes us a part of God’s family is not how enamored we are with each other but how in love we are with Jesus!

We exert a lot of wasted energy in getting teenagers to like each other. The problem is that outside of Christ, you can only appeal to self-serving or self-preserving reasons to get teens to get along. The cruel twist is that the more a group grows to like each other for reasons other than a shared love for Jesus and His mission, the more likely they are to stop caring about both Jesus and His mission!

If you take Carson’s thought and combine it with Lewis’ thought then you begin to realize that what you really need to do is help teenagers see and appreciate the person and the work of Jesus. That alone will lead to true biblical community. No community is more powerful than a community made up of Christian friendships built around a shared love for the Savior.

The next time someone asks you what you’re doing about cliques maybe you should reply: “Nothing. But I’m doing everything I can to help those teenagers grow to love Jesus.”

Guest Post: David Hertweck served as senior associate pastor of Trinity A/G in Clay, NY for over eleven years. He served as the lead pastor of inside-out student ministries and element young adults ministries and as a worship leader. He is an ordained Assembly of God minister. He presently serves as the District Youth Ministries and Chi Alpha Director. He’s also the author of The Word: a 31 day devotional… buy one and make as many copies as you want.

What are you doing now?

This weekend I had the privilege of returning to speak at Saddleback Church (where I worked for 18+ years–been gone for 3.5 years) and the top 2 questions that I get asked by these loving people are:

1. “How are you?” Great! Marriage is wonderful. Our family is fun and healthy. Our oldest is working at Mariners Church in Irvine on the youth ministry staff. Our son is studying at Azusa Pacific University, and our “baby” graduates high school this week and will be attending Point Loma University in the fall. Cathy and I are looking forward to what might be during our next season of life as “empty-nesters.”

2. “What are you doing now?” This isn’t as simple as it once was when I was working full-time in the church. I’m doing several things that I really love. I’m not sure I’ve ever shared this complex part of my life.

1. I’m working with my dear friend Jim Burns at the HomeWord Center for Youth & Family. It’s a non-profit ministry that focuses on Strong Marriages, Confident Parents, Healthy Leaders, & Empowered Kids. I love it! It’s right up my alley.

2. I’m an advisor for Youth Specialities—one of the largest providers of youth ministry training events in the world. I’ve been speaking for them for 25+ years and now this is a more official consulting-type role.

3. I’m helping some very good buddies begin a little youth ministry resource company called It’s a total blast!

4. I’m doing some teaching and helping start a Masters’ (MA) program at Azusa Pacific University.

5. I’m speaking around the country on marriage, parenting and youth ministry related topics and guest-preaching in churches.

6. I’m assisting my dear friend Jeff Maguire (who used to be in my youth group) as he takes on the new role as lead pastor at Mariners’ Church in Mission Viejo. I usually teach there once every 4-6 weeks.

7. I’m still writing. I just co-authored a workbook called, “Can I SMASH my kids phone? How to help your kids develop responsibility and make good choices…without losing your mind.” And, I have 3 more book contracts that I’m currently working on: (a) Be her hero: how not to suck as a husband, (b) MarriedPeople: helping churches help marriages, and (c) Essential Jesus: 100 snapshots from the life of Jesus [not final title]

8. But, by far, I’m trying to do the most difficult thing I’ve ever done in my life… I’m trying to follow the person and teachings of Jesus and walk with Him in His Kingdom.

I’m loving my life and my friends and following Jesus into the next adventure. I don’t love email, not being able to get back to everyone, and asparagus.

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There it is!