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 Downloadyouthministry.com. 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.

You can follow me on Twitter.com/dougfields or Facebook.com/dougfields

There it is!


Are you teaching teenagers the Gospel or Moralism/Motivationalism?

But we refused to give in to them for a single moment. We wanted to preserve the truth of the gospel message for you.  Galatians 2:5 (NLT)

From the church’s beginning until today, there has waged a battle to preserve the truth of the gospel message. Every generation, every culture and every heart finds ways to pervert the Gospel. The Gospel is the proclamation that Jesus became man, lived perfect in our place and died shamed in our place. His life and work makes repentant sinners entirely accepted and approved (righteous) before a holy God. It’s a complete work of grace. Tim Keller says it this way: “we are sinful beyond belief but loved beyond hope.”

One of the constant threats to the Gospel message is the moralistic message and motivational message.

Moralistic messages begin and end with:You SHOULD!”
Motivational messages begin and end with: You CAN!”
But the Gospel message begins with You MUST but you CAN’T!”

Thankfully, it doesn’t end there.

In youth ministry there is undeniable pressure to get teenagers to behave. The problem is there is nothing more exhausting AND dangerous than convincing unconverted teenagers to behave like Christians. This problem is exacerbated by the truth that it is possible to leverage lesser motivations (fear, pride, guilt) to manufacture behavior change–even spiritual activity. You can build and grow a youth ministry on moralism and motivationalism!

There are so many reasons our hearts default to moralism.  It offers us control.  We can measure ourselves.  We can measure others.  We aren’t truly indebted to the grace of God – there’s a limit to what He can ask of us.

There are four primary responses in the mind and hearts of students when they hear moralistic/motivational preaching:

DEFIANT: “I never get this right and I don’t care.”

DESPAIR:“I never get this right and I never will.”

DETERMINED:“I never get this right but I will now.”

DESENSITIZED:“I never get this wrong/I always get this right.”

In each response, the teenager is focused on self. The radical call of Christianity is away from self-reliance and self-salvation of any kind. We must die to every last ounce of hope in ourselves that we have! The beauty of Jesus is seen when we recognize the full Gospel message:

“We MUST! We CAN’T! He DID! In Him, we CAN!”

Youth workers, let’s be careful in our teaching and preaching that we’re not simply giving GOOD ADVICE instead of sharing GOOD NEWS. Let’s remember the words of the Apostle Paul in Romans 1:16 – the gospel is the power of God at work, saving everyone who believes!

Question: Why do you think it’s so normal to give GOOD ADVICE rather than the GOOD NEWS? Share thoughts here and David will respond.

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.

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Honey Boo-Boo and the difficulty of message preparation, Part 2

For a recap of part 1, go here

I realize this post isn’t for everyone and many (even communicators who just “get up and preach”) won’t appreciate the element of “craft” that I’m suggesting is needed for effective communication.

Let’s pick up with the email I wrote to some friends on my “speaking team” (all volunteers, friends, people I’ve “gathered” over the years):

The email I sent: “I’m sending this email to a couple of my “funny” friends because I need better lines than what I currently have.

Here’s the context of the paragraph: I’m trying to communicate that saying “no” is easy when it’s said to the bad things in life. Anyone can say “no” to bad stuff! The difficult part of life is saying “no” to the opportunities that are really good, but don’t ultimately matter the most. I need better/funnier comments.”

Here’s what I’m planning on saying: “I realize it’s easy to say “no” to bad stuff. (1) “Hey, do you want to go for a swim to Catalina?” Easy no. (2) “Do you want to try my mother-in-laws three bean salad?” Again, easy no. (3) “Do you want to come over and watch Honey Do-Do?” Uh, no thanks. Friends, unfortunately our lives are not filled with easy choices like: (a) Do I pet a puppy? or (b) put Tabasco sauce in my eye? Our struggle lies in choosing between the good and great.

Brian: [He sent me several better options and then ended his email stating]: “In regards to the reference to Honey-Doo-Doo… the little pageant queen’s name is Honey Boo-Boo.”

Doug:Brian, great stuff as always! Thanks for your contribution to this message. BTW: I was going for the obvious mistake because I thought Honey-Do-Do would sound funny (as in doodoo—can’t escape the youth pastor in me and my love for cheap humor).

Brian: The Honey-Doo-Doo line breaks the “joke within a joke” rule. While you’re thinking the audience will get how clever it is to do a riff on Honey Boo-Boo, they’ll probably just think you don’t know the correct name of the show. The underlying joke is just the idea of having to watch Honey Boo-Boo, which is horrible enough… trying to get an extra satirical joke out of it is “gilding the lily.” It would have to be done as a secondary joke after the first joke scores. For instance, after the laugh from saying the initial “Honey-Doo-Doo” line, you play naive and add, “that’s her name right? The little beauty queen girl, little Honey-Doo-Doo… Little Doo-Doo.” You milk that a little bit until somebody corrects you with “Boo-Boo,” then you just play it straight and say “that’s not as funny as Doo-Doo” or something like that. Sorry if that’s a lot more than you’re asking for, but that’s just what 8 years in a half-hour comedy room taught me.

I love it! I’ve been teaching every week for 30 years and I love learning from people like Brian.

By the way, here’s how I ended up crafting that particular paragraph:

It’s easy to say “no” to bad stuff.

(1) Do you want to try my mother-in-laws 3 bean salad? No.

(2) You want to listen to my niece play the accordion? No.

(3) Do you want to come over and watch Honey Boo-Boo? No.

Life is not filled with easy choices like: Do I pet a puppy? or get a colonoscopy?

What about you? Who are you learning from? Who have you “invited” into your message preparation? Are you taking intentional steps to improve as a communicator?

Question: What do you think? Is word-choice really that important? Especially word choice that’s connected to humor or illustration? Share your thoughts here.

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