Wilson Van Hooser

"What Is Calvinism?" Sunday School Class Recordings

Due to many people who are in and out during the Summer, I have decided to start recording and posting the “What Is Calvinism?” Sunday School class lectures onto the “Wilson Van Hooser Audio” podcast. The podcast episodes will be named, for example, “What Is Calvinism? (Week 2)”. The details of the class will be listed on the podcast episode as well.

To access the first episode of the podcast, click HERE.

For the entire list of podcast episodes, click HERE.

Why Be Passionate In Preaching?

Sometimes you read a quote that profoundly shapes your outlook of an entire area of life. For me, the following quote by John Angell James has mightily shaped my view of preaching.

This then was the earnestness of the apostle; one constant, uniform, and undeviating endeavor to save men’s souls by the truth as it is in Jesus…

Is it probable there can be any earnestness in the hearers, when there is none in the preacher? “How is it,” said a minister to an actor, “that your performances, which are but pictures of the imagination, produce so much more effect than our sermons, which are all realities?” “Because,” said the actor, “we represent fictions as though they realities, and you preach realities as though they were fictions.”

Why Study God?

Next week, we will be wrapping up our Youth Ministry Large Group sermon series in the Book of Exodus with a sermon on chapter 34 which is primarily about the attributes of God. In preparation for this sermon, I was reminded of one of the best books on the subject of the attributes of God. In J.I. Packer’s Knowing God, one is confronted with a God who is far beyond all eyes can see and minds can imagine. Packer has sold millions of copies of this book and for good reason. There are few books that explore the depths of the God of the Bible with so much simplicity. Packer begins his most famous book Knowing God with one of the best openings of any book ever although the opening is not his own words but rather someone else’s. Here is how the book begins:

[Packer begins] On January 7, 1855, the minister of New Park Street Chapel, Southwark, England, opened his morning sermon as follows:

“It has been said by someone that ‘the proper study of mankind is man.’ I will not oppose the idea, but I believe it is equally true that the proper study of God’s elect is God; the proper study of a Christian is the Godhead. The highest science, the loftiest speculation, the mightiest philosophy, which can ever engage the attention of a child of God, is the name, the nature, the person, the work, the doings, and the existence of the great God whom he calls his Father.

“There is something exceedingly improving to the mind in a contemplation of the Divinity. It is a subject so vast, that all our thoughts are lost in its immensity; so deep, that our pride is drowned in its infinity. Other subjects we can compass and grapple with; in them we feel a kind of self-content, and go our way with the thought, ‘Behold I am wise.’ But when we come to this master science, finding that our plumbline cannot sound its depth, and that our eagle eye cannot see its height, we turn away with the thought that vain man would be wise, but he is like a wild ass’s colt; and with solemn exclamation, ‘I am but of yesterday, and know nothing.’ No subject of contemplation will tend more to humble the mind, than thoughts of God….

“But while the subject humbles the mind, it also expands it. He who often thinks of God, will have a larger mind than the man who simply plods around this narrow globe….The most excellent study for expanding the soul, is the science of Christ, and Him crucified, and the knowledge of the Godhead in the glorious Trinity. Nothing will so enlarge the intellect, nothing so magnify the whole soul of man, as a devout, earnest, continued investigation of the great subject of the Deity.

“And, whilst humbling and expanding, this subject is eminently consolatory. Oh, there is, in contemplating Christ, a balm for every wound; in musing on the Father, there is a quietus for every grief; and in the influence of the Holy Ghost, there is a balsam for every sore. Would you lose your sorrow? Would you drown your cares? Then go, plunge yourself in the Godhead’s deepest sea; be lost in its immensity; and you shall come forth as from a couch of rest, refreshed and invigorated. I know nothing which can so comfort the soul; so calm the swelling billows of sorrow and grief; so speak peace to the winds of trial, as a devout musing upon the subject of the Godhead. It is to that subject that I invite you this morning.”

[Packer’s begins again] These words, spoken over a century ago by C.H. Spurgeon (at that time, incredibly, only twenty years old) were true then, and they are true now. They make a fitting preface to a series of studies on the nature and character of God.

Oh, may God raise up more Packers and Spurgeons who know a God like this and proclaim a God like this!

4 Ways RTS Jackson Has Shaped Me

Tomorrow night my wife and I will be attending an event hosted by RTS (Reformed Theological Seminary) where they have some students doing a panel discussion on their experiences at RTS Jackson. While thinking in anticipation for this, there have been many thoughts go through my mind about the different ways RTS has shaped me in my time there. Although I am not done until December, I have already seen several ways that my life has been changed because of my studies there. This list could be pages and pages long but I wanted to give just a few that might be helpful. Keep in mind, I transferred to RTS from another seminary because I knew that what RTS was doing at the moment was some of the best in the world and I could not afford to miss out on it.

  1. Big God Theology
    There is no replacement for sitting under teaching for four years while soaking in theology that drowns you (and I’m not talking about theology that you can’t understand because the terms are strange and the wording is complicated but rather the theology that a child can read but an adult is overwhelmed by). True theology “happens” not when people write or teach in a complicated way where only the academic elites understand but rather when they write and teach in an overly simple, relevant, and applicable way but the truth of it is so weighty that it knocks you on your spiritual back. We live in an overly man-centered age of the Church and RTS has battled against that by showing us a God who cannot tamed. If the foundation of sin is built upon pride then the best way to combat against sin is to look to an infinitely glorious God. RTS certainly done that. I cannot tell you how many days I have walked away from class thinking, “I know nothing. I am so small.” Hopefully, you’ll laugh at that thought because we have all been prideful in our thoughts about God and need to be humbled by how “big” He really is. Two of the professors I have to thank for this first reason are Derek Thomas and Bruce Baugus.

  2. Preaching a Big God in a Simple, Clear, and Applicable Style
    What good is it to know all the theology in the world if you can’t help others understand it? Christ has commanded that all Christians live on mission (shoutout to Dr. Elias Medeiros) and that means to present the gospel in word and deed. RTS has shown us that the depths of theology are for the Church. Theology is not left for the academic elites while the rest of the Church just focuses on “Christian living”. If salvation is to know God (John 17:3) and if the entirety of the Word is what sanctifies us (John 17:17) then that means that every Christian needs to understand the depths of theology. The primary way this happens is when a man learns to preach a “big” God in simple ways. One of the best pieces of advice I have gotten came from Reverend Patrick Curles (Associate Minister at Trinity Presbyterian Church in Montgomery, AL) when he told me, “If you can’t preach the gospel to the elementary kids then you can’t preach the gospel to adults.” His point was that if you don’t know the depths of the gospel so clearly that you cannot present it simply to those who can’t read then you don’t really know how to preach the gospel. RTS has put a big emphasis on this. There is no such thing as good preaching if it cannot be understood. There is also no such thing as preaching if you only explain the text. The Bible jumps out at us and redefines all of life and if the preacher does not “apply” the text to the real lives of his congregation then he is not preaching. I am very indebted to Dr. Charlie Wingard for giving us straightforward feedback on the seven sermons that we preach in front of him (and that he graciously sits through). I am also greatly indebted to Dr. Sean Michael Lucas for showing me what it was to proclaim Christ all the time.

  3. We Must Be Pastor-Scholars
    There is an unnecessary division between a pastor and a scholar. I believe it was Sinclair Ferguson who once said that this has only been a recent development in Church History. Through much of the church’s history the pastor has been the scholar and the scholar has been the pastor. RTS has sought to develop pastor-scholars rather than either/or. We make a wrong division when we say that the pastor shouldn’t be someone who studies more for the sake of shepherding the people or that the scholar shouldn’t be someone who relates his studies to the people. The pastor is the “local theologian” for the people and where the pastor is not a theologian then the people tend to be ignorant. Again, RTS has done a superb job of not just teaching us the truth but lighting a fire in us to keep pursuing a greater knowledge of the truth that applies to our people. My father is a long-time veterinarian in Montgomery and he told me once, “Vet school does make someone a veterinarian; it only gives someone a license to learn how to be a veterinarian.” In the same way, seminary doesn’t make a pastor-scholar. Seminary only gives someone the license to learn how to pursue to being a pastor-scholar. The pastor is someone who must always been studying and always learning. For this, I have a massive amount of thanks for Dr. Benjamin Gladd, Dr. Guy Waters, Dr. Miles Van Pelt, and Dr. Mike McKelvey. These four men have not merely convinced me that lifelong study is necessary but also have lit a fire in me to do so.

  4. No Other Way To Prepare Youth Workers
    Unfortunately, youth ministry is seen by many churches and pastors as a “practice round” for future pastors. Youth ministry is often treated as the “minor leagues” while the senior pastor is the “big leagues”. Here’s the problem: the students that I am leading today are the elders for tomorrow. The students I am preaching to tonight are the pastors and counselors for tomorrow. Working at Pear Orchard while pursuing my studies at RTS has been the best preparation for preaching to youth, counseling youth, and leading youth. The Church cannot afford to overlook youth ministry because where youth are neglected the Church is neglected. Our youth are growing up in a Church culture where there is much biblical illiteracy and this is greatly hurting not only the Church but the world. What we need now more than ever is better preaching to youth, better teaching to you, better counseling to youth (massive shoutout to Dr. John Kwasny—yes, the same John Kwasny who is at POPC!), and better discipling of youth. RTS has taught me that the big parts of theology are not left for the “big leagues” but rather they are of utmost necessity for the seventh grader who feels like they have no friends. The tenth grader who struggles with pornography doesn’t need just some web blockers or tips to not look at porn. What they need now more than ever is a “big” God who transforms their lives through the gospel of Jesus Christ. If our youth don’t have “big God preaching” then they will never be transformed. We have too many youth workers who give students fluff and lightweight lessons because they don’t think they can handle the more “weighty” matters of Scripture. I have seen from experience and word of others that when a “big” God is preached in simple, straightforward, relevant, and applicable ways that youth not only listen but are transformed by it. For this, I am forever indebted to RTS for training me in this way.

For all of this, I am forever grateful to Dr. Ligon Duncan for his leadership and passion for RTS and the training of future church leaders.

11 Reasons Why You Should Study John Calvin

This Summer I will be teaching one of the adult Sunday School classes on the Theology of John Calvin (formerly known as Calvinism). In light of this, I would like to offer 11 reasons why you should study John Calvin this Summer.

  1. John Calvin is the biggest influence on Western civilization.
    You cannot read the history of the Western civilization accurately without considering John Calvin. It is a shame that any history book would not mention the man who shaped the largest group of organized people in the Western world. Calvin was at the forefront of the Reformation and was one of the pioneers of bringing the gospel back to the Church and to the world. The Reformation did not just change the Church but changed the entire world. To take John Calvin out of our history books is like trying to take the light out of the Sun.

  2. John Calvin was very practical.
    First and foremost, Calvin was a pastor. Everything that Calvin wrote was for the purpose of application. He wrote for the church and for the people. Even when Calvin gets into the depths of theological arguments in The Institutes he is writing for the purpose of the truth changing our lives. Theology is meant for living and we “do” theology wrong if it is only an intellectual activity. Calvin didn’t fall into this trap of keeping theology only intellectual. In this class, we will be working out how each of the doctrines discussed applies to all of life.

  3. John Calvin’s “Big God” theology is the most needed theology today.
    We are living in an age that is plagued with self-centered theology, self-esteem movement, and raising the “Selfie Generation”. What we desperately need is someone like Calvin to speak loudly and clearly into our culture to show us how “big” God is. Calvin is completely and entirely God-centered in his theology. True Calvinism is God-centered and not man-centered. In an age that is filled with many self-help books and other books that some often consider to be “solid” Christian books are mostly man-centered writings that treat God like a reputation builder or self-esteem booster. Calvinism takes our eyes off of ourselves and rightly places them on Him.

  4. Calvinism Counsels
    Because Calvin’s “Big God” theology is also pastoral and practical, we can see that true Calvinism counsels the soul. In an age that is overly obsessed with psychological theories and self-esteem fixes, we need to have the answer to true heart change and we find it in true Calvinism. Calvin shows us that when we truly understand and grasp God’s gospel by faith we are changed. True life change happens after true heart change. In this Sunday school class on Calvinism, we will not only study his theology but we will see how it actually changes and counsels our souls.

  5. John Calvin is one of the biggest influences on the PCA.
    The PCA, and other Reformed denominations, owe deep gratitude to John Calvin. Without Calvin, and without Calvin’s Institutes, we would not have such lasting influence on the Church. The PCA is deeply influenced by Calvin and Calvinism at its core and to truly understand the PCA we must understand Calvin.

  6. John Calvin had a massive influence on the founding fathers of America.
    One historian has said, ““Calvin was virtually the founder of America.” Another has said, “[The] Earliest and most influential settlers...were Calvinists and brought with them the Bible and the Reformed confessions of faith.” We when forget Calvin we forget much of the values of the founding fathers.

  7. John Calvin and Calvinism is often misrepresented (even by “Calvinists” at times).
    We have often met self-proclaimed “Calvinists” who fail to proclaim what Calvinism really is. We often give lip service to the TULIP but this is not all of Calvinism. There is so much more to Calvinism and to being Reformed. This Sunday school class will explore more important themes such as the doctrine of Scripture, the Holy Spirit, the Church, the place of the Law, the person and work of Christ, and especially prayer. There are several people who say they are Calvinist but do not have a full awareness (and sometimes accurate perception) of what Calvinism is.

  8. Calvinism is Missions Minded.
    Calvin was very influential on developing and sending out missionaries. When someone grasps the depths of Reformed Calvinism they are propelled to proclaim this glorious God to the people. Doctrine doesn’t disrupt missions but rather empowers missions. The more we know the more we can show. As we will see in the first week, Calvin was a major influence on the men who transformed France, Scotland, America, Holland, and England.

  9. Calvinism restores the centrality of the Word.
    Calvinism moves us from our opinions about God to God’s Word. The Scripture index at the end of the Institutes is several pages long. There are around 3,000 Scripture references. Calvin “reformed” Europe to put the Bible back at the center of the Church and, therefore, also the pulpit. Preaching became central to not only worship but also even in the architecture of the buildings. Instead of the sacraments being in the center the pulpit was moved to the center. The Reformation is centrally a restoration of preaching God’s Word. For today, we need this now more than ever because of our emphasis on entertainment, seeker sensitive messages, and programmatic-centered churches. Where the truth of God is pushed to the side, God is pushed to the side.

  10. Calvinism shapes your entire worldview.
    John Calvin wholly embraced the theme of the Reformation which was “Soli Deo Gloria” (To God alone be the glory). Calvinism is not a theology that stays in the church but rather overflows into every area of life. The Bible should not only influence us on Sunday but rather should be our worldview for everything that we do. Whenever someone teaches on Calvinism they must never stop at merely what Calvin says but rather show how it changes the way we live. The Bible never gives us content that is simply meant to stay in our heads. That’s what the Pharisees did. True knowledge turns into true living.

  11. Calvinism changes the way you work.
    One of the specific ways Calvinism changed much of the European culture during the Reformation was in the area of work. When God is big, work becomes a way to worship God. Our work is not primarily for financial gain, social status, or self-fulfillment. All of work is for worship and Calvin applied his theology to the everyday workers.

What Is The Greatest Need Of The Church Today?

The following quote is from Martyn Lloyd-Jones in his sermon on Acts 2:42 which says, “And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” The following sermon was delivered in August 1969 in Pensacola, Florida.

They also continued in prayers. The old preachers always used to say that the way to test a church is to examine its prayer meeting. They said, '“That’s the powerhouse. The thermometer by which you can measure the warmth of the life of a church is the character of its prayer meeting.” What are the prayer meetings like in our churches? Are they powerhouses? Do you meet with others to pray? Pray for what? Pray for your preacher. Pray for your pastor. Here is a man weak in the flesh, as we are reminded by the apostle Paul: “We have this treasure in earthen vessels” (2 Cor. 4:7). Do you pray regularly week by week that the Holy Spirit may come upon him? I have a fear that the members of our churches are beginning to think that only certain people can evangelize. They will prepare only for some special effort. But do you pray daily and week by week for your own minister? The Spirit can come upon him at any moment. Do you pray that He may do so? That is the only hope. We need revival. We need the Holy Spirit’s power upon us. Nothing will avail until we get it. Are you praying for this?

Is Jordan Peterson the "Priest of the Secular Age"?

If you don’t know about Jordan Peterson then it’s a name that you should be aware of. His book 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos has sold more than 3 million copies. His YouTube channel has nearly 2 million subscribers. He is a clinical psychologist and professor at the University of Toronto. He is quickly becoming one of the most influential voices in the world. Whether directly or indirectly, the masses of popular culture are being influenced and challenged by what he says.

In light of this, Bruce Ashford wrote a helpful reflection on how evangelicals should view the influence of Peterson. Should we look out for him or look up to him? Should we draw away from his writings or draw near? These questions and more are answered in the blog post. Here is a brief excerpt:

In our secular age, Peterson’s status as a social scientist gives him the effectual status of a high priest. As religious authority has been diminished and decentered, social science has moved to the center. Economists, anthropologists, sociologists, psychologists—each uses “hard data” to draw their conclusions about human beings, personal identity, and social order. As a clinical psychologist, therefore, Peterson’s life-coaching combines the cultural authority of the social sciences with the spiritual appeal of vague religious intimations.

Peterson’s disposition adds to this mystique. He is a deep reader who is able to penetrate to the essence of ideologies such as Marxist intersectional identity politics or alt-right ethno-nationalism. But he is also a deep listener; his interviews and Q&A sessions reveal him as one who listens, sympathizes, and communicates in a way that often fosters genuine respect and dialogue. Indeed, commentators often note Peterson’s resemblance to a religious prophet, priest, or pastor.

Thus, it’s unsurprising to learn of Peterson’s popularity among 20-something males and other disaffected castaways of secular modernity. These are the people who hunger for the security of meaning and significance. And they seem to sense that Peterson has found it.

The irony in all this, however, is that unless Peterson buys wholesale into the Christian faith, his solution is insubstantial; metaphysically, it is little more than a banquet of crushed ice and vapor. Indeed, even though Peterson wisely taps into the power of the Judeo-Christian tradition in the West, he guts it of any real power when he treats it as functionally helpful rather than transcendentally true.

For the full article, click here.

Youth Ministry Sermons & Chapel Messages Now On Podcast

I have learned that there are fewer people who sit down to listen to sermons on their computer than there are people who download them on their phone to listen to them while they drive, walk, or workout. Knowing this, I have decided to start uploading all the youth sermons, chapel messages, FCA talks, and anything that is recorded onto this podcast. I have given the podcast an overly simplistic name to keep it simple and to make it distinct from Pear Orchard’s normal sermon podcast for the Sunday sermons. When you download the Apple “Podcast” app (which is free), you then can search for “Wilson Van Hooser” or “Wilson Van Hooser Audio” to find the audio recordings. Hopefully, this will make these recordings easier to access and also easier to pass along to others.

I will give a slight warning to all listeners: Since I am speaking primarily to youth, sometimes I make loud noises. Nevertheless, I hope you enjoy.

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Dear Local Church Member, What Can You Do To Support The Youth Ministry?

I was recently at a lunch with someone and he asked me a great question that not many people ask. “What can I do to support the youth ministry?” The interesting part was that this was not a youth parent who asked this question. This person was primarily asking as a church member on how to be a good fellow church member. Instead of asking him to volunteer, although we love volunteers, I gave him a quick two-fold answer that I will expand here. These answers are primarily a response to someone who would be a parent.

  1. To be a church member who supports the youth ministry, teach your family to love Jesus.
    This might sound obvious but I wonder if it is obvious to the people who are around us a lot. In other words, is Jesus our primary love? Yes, insert here all of our failures because we all mess up and we all ruin our witness at some point. Still, this should not deter us from pursuing this. If you want to support the youth ministry, love Jesus in such a way that people know this about you. Fire begets fire. Passion begets passion. Have you ever been around someone who cheered for a certain sports team too much that you were enticed to cheer for them too? Have you ever been tempted into peer pressure because someone tried passionately persuading you to do something with them? Peer pressure never works if the person “selling” the argument is boring or unpassionate. Eeyore would be a terrible “peer pressurer”. If passion tends to entice and persuade people, how much more so would our youth be enticed to love Jesus if they see what Jesus means to you, how Jesus has changed you, and what hope Jesus gives you (1 Peter 3:15)? Why would anyone want to become a Christian if all they know are people who only like Jesus on Sunday morning? Without a love for Jesus, how can we expect to send students off to college who won’t get sucked into the culture of binge drinking, constant sexual hook ups, temptations for unbelief amidst an atheistic world, and peer pressure for substance abuse? How can we really expect students to go to bed on a Saturday night to go to church Sunday morning if they don’t love Jesus? How can we encourage someone to keep pursuing holiness if they don’t love Jesus? We need to make sure we come back to the most basic of foundations. What our youth need now more than ever is not all the correct answers to every apologetic, philosophic, and theological questions they are asked (although we should keep pursuing these!). Rather, what they need is to be surrounding by a church who loves Jesus in such a way that they are wooed, enticed, and persuaded to love Jesus with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength. But, how can we expect our children to love Jesus if we look exactly like the culture? How can we expect our students to love Jesus if He isn’t a significant presence in our lives? How can we expect our students to love Jesus as He deserves to be loved if we don’t love Him the way He deserves? You fail. I fail. We all fail. I know that I have lived in such a way before where I was not the most attractive Christian and I made Jesus to look more ugly than more beautiful. We have all been like Peter before and epicly failed. But, here is the grace that Jesus gives us: He tells us to get back out there and keep pursuing Him and keep preaching Him. What a Savior! He isn’t looking for the healthy but for the sick who know how to keep running back to the doctor. Jesus didn’t call the rabbis and religious teachers of His day to follow Him. Jesus called the weirdos, the uneducated, and the ungifted. Jesus does not tell us to do this under our own strength but rather He empowers us to do this! If the almighty God empowers us to do this then why should we not pursue this? I briefly conclude with the first half of the answer by saying that if you want to support the youth ministry then love Jesus and teach your family to love Jesus. Without Him, there is no eternal life.

  2. To be a church member who supports the youth ministry, teach your family to love the church.
    One of the biggest growing statistics is that more and more students who grow up in the church are leaving the church when they go to college. Why do they leave the church? First, they leave the church because they don’t see the importance of the church. The church, for them, is another party competing for their schedule. As long as the church is seen as just another thing to do, why should they go to church when they have homework, fraternity and sorority parties, dates, campus ministries, friends to hang out with, and class to go to? If the church is just another thing that their family did “just because” then how can we expect them to go to church when they become in charge of their own schedules? This is even seen already when students are in middle school and high school. For the most part, they don’t show up on a regular basis to youth ministry because the church is not important to them. Besides, there are games, homework, practices, Netflix, projects, hobbies, friends to be with, video games to play, rest to catch up on, and even para-church ministries (as helpful as they can be!). Of course they won’t show up when they don’t think church is important because who wants to come listen to someone preach for 35 minutes, hang out with fellow believers, and support and be supported by others going through the same struggles as you? Sure, there is an argument that can be inserted about a past history with the church, bad relationships, bad youth workers, or because the preaching stinks. Nevertheless, this is the Bride of the Lord Jesus Christ, the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords. This is a community that is still learning to repent! But again, why would I want to come listen to someone talk to me about somebody name Jesus and about my soul for 35 minutes when I could be catching up on homework or staring at a screen playing Fortnite or watching another episode on Netflix if the church is not important and no one has shown me that the church is important? If my parents (or even other church members) don’t act like the church is important, why should I act like it? Secondly, they leave the church because they don’t have an accurate view of the church. The church is not important because they don’t rightly and biblically understand the church. It’s the same when students neglect youth ministry in their own local church. A lack of understanding of the what church really is shows in its being neglected. Parents, pastors, and youth workers should be teaching our children an accurate “ecclesiology” (the study of the church). You don’t have to teach an exhaustive doctrine of the church but we should teach them a robust and healthy doctrine of the church. Only when our students see the beauty, majesty, plan, purpose, identity, mission, and the worthiness of the church will they then prioritize church. The only reason why a student in college goes to class is because her teacher told her that if she doesn’t go to class then she will fail her class. In other words, the teacher showed her that there was a lot riding on her showing up to class. In much the same way, unless we show, teach, and remind (a good summary word for this is catechize which is a lost form of teaching in the Church today) our children and youth the importance and value of the church in this world, in our lives, and for the glory of God then they will not prioritize church. For the most part, our students will not go to church in college if they don’t love Jesus and if they don’t know the value of the church. The goal is not merely to go to church; the goal is to worship God in Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit as the Church which is expressed in the local church. In my own experience of being a college student and working for 5 years in youth ministry at some level, the children who grow up in a home that has not taught them the value of the church (no matter how many times they went to church or were apart of some ministry) are most likely not going to go to church when they go to college. This does not mean everyone who grows up in a family that undervalues church won’t go to church in college but there is typically a pattern. There are also children who grow up in a home where church is valued and parents love Jesus and yet they still don’t go to church. For the most part, this is my story and I am sensitive to the fact that this does happen. Nevertheless, when Proverbs 22:6 says, “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it”, it cannot mean anything less than these two answers. It certainly would imply more but it never implies less and never gets beyond this. Once again, Jesus is not calling the perfect parent who is also the perfect church member to produce the perfect child. Jesus is calling the repentant sinner who belongs to a community of worshippers of God to depend on the Spirit in order to faithfully raise up children to love Him and love His Bride. Jesus doesn’t want perfect parents; He wants repentant parents and a repentant church. You and I might have failed our entire lives up to this point but as long as He has given us His Spirit we can get back up and pursue this by His power. Dear church member, if you want to support the youth ministry, love the church in such a way where others are attracted to the church.

Some Recent Stats On Youth Culture

Stats are not everything but they are something. We should look at statistics with wisdom and discernment without over-relying upon them nor over-dismissing them. It is wrong to read this and go into a “hyper-worry” state of mind and it is also wrong to say, “Well, this is only true for those not in our church or not in our city.” Take these as they are and use them to look to our need for more of Jesus. The following stats are taken from recent works by Jean Twenge, James Emery White, and other recent surveys.

  • “There are more than four former Christians for every convert to Christianity.”

  • “The pattern is indisputable: The younger the generation, the more post-Christian it is.”

  • At 25.9%, Gen Z is the most populous generation. “By 2020, Gen Z will account for 40% of all consumers. They will not simply influence American culture; they will constitute the culture.”

  • The average teenager in Gen Z averages 9 hrs/day absorbing media.

  • 91% go to bed with the device that opens the whole world up to them.

  • Only 41% of Gen Z attend weekly religious services.

  • 70% struggle with anxiety and depression (highest by 15%).

  • This generation is also known as Gen “Me”; FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) Gen; iGen (compare to iPhone and iPad).

  • There is a considerable portion who are more afraid to live than to die.

  • Sexual fluidity is a standard for high morality.

  • Massive sleep deprivation is prevalent in many of Gen Z.

From an experiential standpoint of speaking with our youth, these seem very accurate and even too low at some points. The greatest need of this generation is for parents, pastors, mentors, coaches, teachers, leaders, and youth directors to overflow with a deep love for Jesus onto this generation so that they might love Him and follow Him. Without Jesus, there is no hope for change which means that if we seek to “fix” this generation with anything or anyone other than Jesus then we will only lead them astray even further.

Don't Waste Your Mind (CCS National Junior Honor Society 2019)

This morning, I had the privilege of speaking at the award ceremony for Christ Covenant’s inductees into the National Junior Honor Society. The audience was made up of upper elementary and middle schoolers plus several of the parents and faculty. This audio is only 11 minutes long which means that you could knock it out on a lunch break or on a car ride. Below the audio, I have included the manuscript that I tried to follow along but (as some of you might laugh at) I went “off script” at some points.

First off, I would like to say thank you to Cheri Creel for asking me to deliver this charge to those of you inducted into the National Junior Honor Society. Secondly, I want to congratulate those of you who are being inducted today and those of you who have been inducted already. Just to give you a fair warning, all of you have already achieved more academic awards than I have and I only know of there being one award which you have achieved.

But, what I do know is that those of you who have been inducted and are being inducted in the Society have done so mainly in two ways: Hard work and thoughtfulness. Interestingly enough, these are two of the biggest qualities that seem to be lacking in the world today. You are growing up in a society that no longer treasures wisdom and discretion but rather places value on what’s trending, following your heart, and finding your own inner peace.

Your generation, Generation Z, is the largest generation in America and in twenty years you will not just be the biggest influences in the country but you will control the ideals and values of the country. This could be tragic because the average teenager spends an average of 9 hours online every day. These 9 hours are not filled with much wisdom and discretion but rather they are filled with things like Fortnite videos, Kylie Jenner’s Instagram, sports highlights, Snapchat pictures, Spotify music, and more group texting than you can keep up with. If you lived for 60 more years and spent only an average of 5 hours online or on technology a day, you would spend 12 and a half years on your technology. If you stayed with the average hours of today then you would spend 24 years on technology. The problem with this is that very little of we look at today adds wisdom or discretion to your life.

Now, why do I say all that? You are all around 10-14 years old right now. The average American lives 78 years. If you lived to the average age, you would only have 65 or so years left. But none of you are guaranteed to live that long. Your clock is ticking and you only have a few years left to live this life before you meet your Maker at your death day. You will have to answer to God on that last day what you did between now and then. God has given you one life to live and that life is meant to be lived for His glory at all times and in all ways.

The fact that you are being inducted into this society shows us that God has given you a mind to think, a work ethic and drive to pursue more knowledge, and a desire to discover truth. What a tragedy it would be to spend 12 years or 24 years of your life wasting away before your phone looking at things that have no eternal value when the God of all glory and beauty and majesty offers you a life to glorify Him in the world He has made.

God created this world. He created your mind. He created your personality. He created the era and culture into which you were born and He purposefully put you in this age at this time for a specific purpose. Your ultimate purpose for being on this earth is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever. One of the ways you must pursue this is in the offering of your mind to God.

God has given us right thinking in order to produce right living. He has shown us His glory in the world and in the Word and given us minds to think about each one so that we might live out our purpose in our lifetime. When we waste these gifts that God has given us, we don’t just look bad in front of others. Rather, we reveal in our hearts that we could care less about glorifying God and we would rather ourselves get the glory. The fact that God would even allow you to receive this honor is for the purpose of reminding you that you have the capability and responsibility of pursuing Him with all your heart, soul, strength, and mind. For, we also need to remember this: What does it matter if you gain the entire world and yet lose your soul?

Wasting your academic gifts can happen in several ways. First, you can immerse yourself in all the studies in the world and yet never seek to know God. Second, you can go a little season of your life reading about God and staying in His Word to only then get busy with other things and go on as if your fine because of your past experiences. Third, you can even seek to know everything God says in His Word and yet never submit to Him in your heart. All of these are a tragedy and far too common in the world and the Church today.

Now, why do I say all that in this way? There have been few things that have discouraged me more than to see students grow up in the church and in solid Christian schools to only grow distant from God in high school, abandon the church in college, and deny the faith altogether. It is also a tragedy, and maybe even a bigger tragedy, to see students who have all the mental capabilities in the world and yet to never open their Bibles to dig into the deepest knowledge that the world has ever known.

God has given us logic for the sake of loving God and loving others. God has given us reasoning skills for the sake of rejoicing in His glory and His gospel. God has given us the ability for reflection and meditation for the sake of gazing upon His beauty. The head is meant to serve the heart. There is no subject so beautiful, so amazing, so majestic, so worthwhile, so jaw-dropping, so gripping, so astonishing, and so breathtaking as the good news that Jesus, very God of very God, became just like us in order to take God’s wrath so that we could actually live a life of glorifying and enjoying God. Jesus died so that He could redeem your mind and mental abilities in order to see and savor His infinite worth and glory. If you are a Christian, you don’t only have the entire world open to you to study but you have all of heaven opened up for you to study! Jesus died in order that you might think, meditate on, reflect on, be challenged by, have your worldview shaped by, and become convicted by the glory of God and your life in this world. You were meant for more than binge watching Netflix, endless Instagram scrolling, and Fortnite marathons.

What this world needs now more than ever is a generation of Christians who use their minds to become enamored by the glory of God. We need a generation who have some sense of the infinite weight of the glory of God and the brokenness of their own sin and the grace that is found in Jesus Christ. We need teenagers in this room to be known as people who are influenced by the greatness and majesty and the glory of God as He has revealed Himself in the Bible. We need people who use their minds to think about how God has revealed Himself to us in Jesus Christ and Him crucified. We need people who know how to think about Christ as the universal ruler over all creation. We need humble students who understand what it means to live all of life for the glory of God at all times. We need people who understand the weight of responding to God’s grace in Jesus Christ and that those who don’t respond will have to be banned from His presence forever. We need teenagers who would use their minds above all things to see that the brief little life that they live on this earth will either end in everlasting joy or everlasting pain based on their response to Jesus Christ in His gospel. We need teenagers who will turn this world upside down with the gospel-centered thinking. We need teenagers who will take this gospel into the homes, schools, neighborhoods, churches, and even to foreign countries. We need people who are passionate to use all their mind to pursue knowing God and making Him known.

I challenge you to be this. I challenge you to not take your life lightly. I challenge you to see that even in an award like this God is calling you to a greater life of devotion to Him and for you to go out and call others to devote their lives to HIm. This is what you’ve been made for.


Suffer From "Screen Addiction"?

Cal Newport. He’s an influential writer and researcher whose name is getting more and more popular. He is someone who you should at least be familiar with when you hear people talking about him or his works. He is most widely known as the author of Deep Work where he passionately makes the case that to accomplish the best work we can we must limit our distractions. Now, his newest title is about taking the next step to limiting the biggest distraction in our lives right now—our phones.

Here is an excerpt from a recent article that interacts more deeply with Newport’s newest book:

Newport’s case against digital maximalism is based on a familiar but important observation—many tech users feel anxious, distracted, and frustrated, but seem unable to do much about it. As he writes:

“The source of our unease . . . becomes visible only when confronting the thicker reality of how these technologies as a whole have managed to expand beyond the minor roles for which we initially adopted them. Increasingly, they dictate how we behave and how we feel, and somehow coerce us to use them more than we think is healthy, often at the expense of other activities we find more valuable. What’s making us uncomfortable, in other words, is this feeling of losing control—a feeling that instantiates itself in a dozen different ways each day, such as when we tune out with our phone during our child’s bath time, or lose our ability to enjoy a nice moment without a frantic urge to document it for a virtual audience.” (8)

If you see yourself in this paragraph, take a number and get in line behind me. Many of us know painfully well what it’s like to feel that our digital habits don’t even help or entertain us; they just exist, immovable, swallowing up time and attention as quickly and mysteriously as vanishing Christmas money . . .

In a world that is flooded with technology, including the technology that you’re using right now to graciously read this blog post, we need to learn how to steward our devices more faithfully. If the secular world is seeing a growing need for this, how much more so should the Christian world? In a recent survey, I saw that the average teenager spends 8-9 hours online every day. Seeing our youth up close, there are times when I think that number is too low. Newport has introduced his newest book at a time we need it most. I highly recommend you taking a look at it and the rest of this blog here.

The Most Overlooked Mission Field In America...It's In Our Backyard

The following is written by Dean Inserra concerning Christianity in the Southern “Bible belt”:

I felt like a sellout. It was time to leave seminary and begin pastoral ministry, and I was taking the easy road by moving back to my hometown in Northern Florida. My seminary neighbor, I thought, was the true missionary, heading to plant churches in Northern California. I had “missional insecurity,” the way Christians feel when they plan a spring break trip to some resort before learning their friends are going on mission trip. All of this good education and knowledge about the urgency of the gospel . . . and I was going to be a pastor in the Bible Belt?

I tried to make myself feel better by letting my neighbor know how much I admired his boldness. I threw in some self-deprecating jokes about sweet tea, but he quickly interrupted my pity party. “Where I am going,” he said, “people know they’re not Christians. The starting point is clear, whether unbelief, secularism, or some sort of humanistic spirituality. But where you’re going, everyone thinks they’re a Christian. It’s like you have to get people lost so they can see they need to be saved.”

That was all I needed to hear, and he was right.

My neighbor described the largest mission field where I live. It’s called cultural or nominal Christianity. This mission field is primarily made up of people who’d quickly answer “yes” if asked whether they are Christians. But ask any questions about their faith, and you’ll soon realize you’re hearing something other than the gospel of Jesus Christ. In fact, if you asked a nominal Christian why he is a Christian, Jesus Christ himself would likely have little bearing on the answer. For many people, good standing with God is related to heritage, rites of passage, or general morality. Jesus just happens to be a nice mascot.

This disparity requires our attention, because it isn’t unique to the American South. Across the nation, the most dominant religion doesn’t show up on a census, poll, or survey—it’s impossible to detect by those methods. The most common practiced religion in America today is a generic theism that mingles biblical concepts with a hope that one is a good person—all while maintaining autonomy over personal decisions and lifestyle. In this religion, good people go to a “better place” when they die. Going to this better place doesn’t depend on the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, yet somehow these beliefs still get classified as “Christian.”

In this way, thousands of people are overlooked in outreach efforts because they may already be sitting in pews. Yet their lives show no evidence of saving faith. Whether the disconnect is the result of poor gospel communication by churches, fear of telling the truth, or a general misunderstanding of what the Bible says, the need is there, and it’s urgent. It can be easy to conclude that cultural Christians just need to get more serious about their faith, and so problems with cultural Christianity are declared discipleship issues.

I don’t believe this to be the case. I believe cultural Christians need evangelism before they need discipleship, since they may be unsaved altogether.

Inserra is a rare bird making an obvious point in our day today in the Bible belt. I have seen by experience that many of the schools that I have been to are filled with “Christian” students who have tried to live a Christian life without any relationship to Jesus. Jesus is not a passion. Jesus is not a model. Jesus is a sidekick. Jesus is a means to a greater end.

This is certainly something that would be wise for us to reflect on in our church, parenting, work relationships, schools, and wherever we interact with others in our lives. Is our mission to bring other people to know the glory, majesty, grace, and love of Jesus and to be devoted to Him in every aspect of life (which is what it means to be “holy”)? Is our “gospel” detached from Jesus or is Jesus the gospel? Is heaven glorious to us because Jesus gives us all we want there or is heaven glorious because it is there where we experience Jesus to the full for eternity? When we ask these questions and more, we might begin to see more of a dividing line in our cultural Christianity and therefore evangelize and disciple more effectively.

For the full article from Inserra, click here.

God vs Pharaoh (Sermon by Dr. Mike McKelvey on Exodus 7-11)

Last month, the youth ministry had the privilege of having Dr. Mike McKelvey come to preach one of the sermons from this semester’s sermon series on the book of Exodus. Dr. McKelvey, Old Testament professor at RTS Jackson and a frequent favorite of seminary students, preached on Exodus 7-11 on the Ten Plagues. Some of the responses I received afterward from students were:

Best sermon I’ve ever heard.

That rocked me.

The Bible was so clear tonight.

I’ve never seen Jesus like that before.

I would encourage you to listen to this sermon on God vs Pharaoh.

TGC Blog Gives Good Response To A Bad Book

Recently, author and blogger Rachel Hollis has gotten very popular with her new books titled Girl, Wash Your Face and Girl, Stop Apologizing. Both of these books are, unfortunately, popular in evangelical circles. Both promote self-esteem and self-centeredness rather than Christ-esteem and God-centeredness. This may sound harsh but there are times when we must communicate in black and white what some authors say in a very persuasive way. Thankfully, people with more knowledge and writing ability than me have written about this. Here is what a recent article from The Gospel Coalition has said:

In her latest book, Girl, Stop Apologizing: A Shame-Free Plan for Embracing and Achieving Your Goals, Hollis has gained momentum. She wants you to believe in yourself, to take great pride in your hard work and accomplishments, and to do so without shame and with gusto. She wants you to go hard and unapologetically after your dreams.

Hollis’s message this time around is, “All that really matters is how bad you want those dreams and what you’re willing to do to make them happen” (83).

For a woman who claims Christ, I’m afraid this is in direct opposition to his words:

If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself? (Luke 9:23–25)

This article is very much worth your read especially since there might be several of us who have been influenced by Hollis or have friends who have been influenced by Hollis. Someone might ask, “Is this worth splitting hairs over?” I would wholeheartedly answer yes.

For the whole article, click here.

What Do You Pray For?

“Maintenance prayer meetings are short, mechanical and totally focused on physical needs inside the church or on personal needs of the people present.  But frontline prayer has three basic traits: a) a request for grace to confess sins and humble ourselves, b) a compassion and zeal for the flourishing of the church, and c) a yearning to know God, to see his face, to see his glory.”

Tim Keller, “Kingdom-centered Prayer,” Redeemer Report, January 2006.