Finding Success in our Identity

Quotation-Timothy-Keller-failure-work-success-identity-Meetville-Quotes-39615The life of a youth pastor can often be very grueling and exhausting. I have asked myself several times, ‘What is the point to all of this?’ Many churches expect youth pastors to perform and produce tons of success!

But, does success in ministry come out of what you do or who are you? How do you view success? How do define success? Is it based on a number, a positive emotion, or through your identity? If you do not meet expectations do you deem yourself a failure? Is success measured by how much attention or positive feedback you receive after accomplishing a task?

It is easy to get caught up in the unrealistic expectations that are placed on our lives and ministries. Church leaders place high expectations on our ability to grow numbers and see lives changed that often times expand beyond our capabilities and control. Those closest to us often expect us to be able to drop anything and everything to meet their needs. Parents expect us to raise their students in the admonition of the Lord. They place the majority of spiritual responsibility on our shoulders. Students expect us to be the father they never had, the best friend they wish they could have, and their spiritual replacement for God.

Attempting to fully meet these expectations will often lead us to living out of fear and guilt, which then leads us to completing a whole bunch of tasks to seek the approval of others. Nobody wants to be in bad standing with his or her boss. Nobody wants to disappoint close family or friends. No youth pastor desires to have a parent upset or angry because his or her child has not received enough personal attention. The majority of youth ministry leaders are naturally people pleasers who want to maintain a sense of happiness and peace in every area of life.

Fulfilling tasks can easily lead to growth, which deems us as ‘successful.’ Our ministries are growing numerically. Our families seem happy to somebody on the outside. We might even get a raise or promotion!

But instead of finding success as numerical growth or happiness, we must base our success on our identity in Christ! Are we living a life worth imitating? Are we producing disciples and leaders who truly care for people? Are our families living on mission for the cause of Christ? Do the parents within our ministry truly understand what it means to be the pastors of their home?

We often get caught up in unrealistic or unhealthy expectations. We strive to be great and work overtime, but fail to actually abide in Christ and find our identity in Him. Ultimately, we miss the opportunity to produce spiritual fruit based on a relationship with Christ. I have spent quite a bit wrestling through what it looks like to be successful in ministry and to live a life on mission for God.

Matthew 6:21 – For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

Proverbs 4:23 – Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”

Luke 6:45 – A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.”

The heart contains our identity. It is what gives us life, purpose, meaning, and value. It is where we find the well-being of our lives. What if we viewed success out of who we are, not out of what we do? What if we truly found our identity in a relationship with Christ and not our position or title? Would our ministries look different? Would our calendars be affected? Would our priorities change as we reflect on who God truly is?

What if we looked at our lives and said, ‘I am not a pastor; I am a follower of Christ. I am not a son or daughter with messed up parents, but a child of God! I am not required to achieve the approval of man, because God has already bought me with a price, stamped His loving approval on my life, and has filled me with His grace and mercy! I am not just a husband or father, but I have been hand-picked by God to be the spiritual leader of my home!’

Imagine the fruit, not growth, we would see if we served, lived, and abided out of our identity in Christ! The ultimate success story is to leave a legacy worth imitating and to have Jesus look at us and say, ‘Well done good and faithful servant!’

At the center of every fruitful story is a heart that finds its identity in a relationship with Christ! An increase in numbers does not equate to success. But increased desires to live like Jesus lived and do as Jesus did will always produce spiritual fruit! Above everything else, we must seek God first! As we pour our heart into a growing relationship with Him, we must seek His approval. Don’t live out of fear of what may be. Prioritize family and develop a culture of accountability through authentic community. Never be afraid to stand up for what is most important!

As followers of Christ, we must trust that His voice is louder than anyone around us! Trust that He has a plan that is greater than you could ever imagine. Ultimately, find success in who you are in Christ, not out of what you can accomplish!

What Teenagers Need from a Local Church

Great article on what our students need from the local church!

DANIELKINKADE.ME

Student ministry is an incredible world to be in. Its fun, its engaging, it keeps you young and on your toes, but most importantly you have the privilege to reach the next generation with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Sadly, more than ever, we are seeing a new generation that wants nothing to do with the local church. We can’t give up on them. Students and families need to be reached with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It can be hard and it can be messy but, we must persevere in this.

Having this in mind, here are five things I believe teenagers need from a local church…

1. Teenagers need to know the Word of God. Whether its Sunday morning, Sunday night, a midweek environment, or small groups throughout the week, students need a specific time each week that they are taught the Word of God. It needs to be fun, engaging, and relational…

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Baseball, Barbecue, and Bonding with my Boys

photo2Whether or not I want to admit it, there is a good chance my boys will one day have kids of their own. Landon, Elijah, and Everett will have the opportunity to impress the truth of God’s Word on the hearts of their children. The life I am living in front of boys today not only affects them, but also will impact my grandchildren and great-grandchildren. What am I doing to intentionally set aside time for my family? Am I creating space to teach and train my kids in the admonition of the Lord? Do my boys look and say, ‘I want to be like dad when I grow up

A couple of weeks ago, I took my 2 oldest boys, to Atlanta for a weekend of baseball, barbecue, and bonding. My wife and I discussed this opportunity several months ago, and we intentionally set aside time, money, and resources to further my relationship with my boys. It was an incredible experience! After driving 8.5 hours we went to a baseball game Friday night, hung out at the hotel pool on Saturday, watched Captain America 2, and went to another game on Sunday afternoon. On Saturday evening went to Fox Bros Barbecue, one of the highest rated barbecue joints in America.

We were able to let loose the entire weekend. Music was blaring in the car every chance we got. More important than any activity we did or restaurant we ate at was the memories that will last a lifetime. We intentionally had conversations with people at the baseball field, a homeless man outside of the hotel, our waitress at the barbecue restaurant, and the front desk employee at the hotel.

Our laughter was contagious throughout the entire trip! Whether it was in the car, the hotel room, or around the pool, my two boys laughed nonstop all weekend. Even shortly after Elijah got a little bothered by the hot sun during Sunday’s game, he saw the crazy mascots running around the field and laughed hysterically. I realized the importance of letting loose with my boys and showing them what it looks like to experience an exciting, memorable moment!

photo5My boys know how to ask questions! Are we there yet? Why are we not there yet? When are we going to be there? What type of cows are those? Why is that building so tall? How did he miss that ball? How was that not a strike? What is that person eating? Why are they yelling at the umpires? But the one that struck me the most was… Why doesn’t that man have a home? Whether or not they are intentional, my boys look at me as a wealth of information, knowledge, and wisdom! It made me think – what am I filling their minds with? I do not want to brainwash my boys (unless it is about creepy county fairs or cheap all-you-can-eat buffets), but I do desire to raise them in the admonition of the Lord! Am I filling their minds with Scripture? Am I living a life that they would want to imitate?

This weekend made me realize the responsibility God has placed before me! Whether good or bad, I am setting an example to my boys of how I think they should live. How I treat my wife will affect how they treat their future spouse. How I view God will impact their personal relationship with the Father. How I react to circumstances will influence my boys’ reactive responses to issues they face.

photoAs a father, there is a huge weight on my shoulders to live a life worth imitating for the cause of Christ! Fortunately, I have a Heavenly Father who walks me through every step of my life. He has provided the greatest example of what it looks like to be a father of grace, love, forgiveness, and truth! I pray my boys experience those same characteristics in and through the legacy I am leaving them!

Proverbs 4:20-27

“20 My son, pay attention to what I say;
turn your ear to my words.
21 Do not let them out of your sight,
keep them within your heart;
22 for they are life to those who find them
and health to one’s whole body.
23 Above all else, guard your heart,
for everything you do flows from it.
24 Keep your mouth free of perversity;
keep corrupt talk far from your lips.
25 Let your eyes look straight ahead;
fix your gaze directly before you.
26 Give careful thought to the[a] paths for your feet
and be steadfast in all your ways.
27 Do not turn to the right or the left;
keep your foot from evil.”