This Week’s Top 3 (May 13, 2020)

Here is a heart-wrenching story about a father who had to watch his daughter fight Covid-19 from a distance. His thoughts on trusting the faithfulness of God challenged me as I read it. This one is well worth your time!


As church’s are finding creative ways to gather as the nation opens once again, some may wonder why it’s so important to come together. This article provides a great answer.


Here’s an older Tim Challies article that sheds a positive light on parenting teenagers. Sometimes, we can get so caught up on the negatives and miss the positives which come with this stage of life. I love this encouragement!

The Danger of Being Desensitized

I open Facebook and begin to scroll down the page. Conspiracy theories, outrage over the virus situation, passive aggressive memes fill the page. On and on the links and videos go, eventually blurring together into a thread of expressed frustrations. In mere moments, I’m told to be angry about a variety of issues. “The opening of state governments is costing the lives of thousands,” the headline says. “Keeping everything closed is going to cost even more lives,” reads the next. The negativity continues for as far as I’m willing to go. Installing infinite scrolling was a brilliant move for app developers, though the ones without self-control (like myself) often pay the price.

It’s not that I want to take sides on issues. This isn’t the place for opinions on complex political matters. Instead, I want to call to mind something greater- the heart issue behind it all. As I spend time in the Word and seek to pursue what God calls His people to, I’m reminded that I need to spend time searching for the heart issue behind my outward sins. The time I lose each and every week to social media is a problem rooted in something deeper- a mind-numbing desensitization to what’s around me.

If I had to summarize a large majority of my experience online, I’d unfortunately have to summarize it as negative. Sure, there are positive videos (John Krasinski’s “Some Good News” comes to mind), but when I give my heart and mind over to mindless scrolling, I’m giving myself over to be taught what to feel on nearly every big issue we’re facing today. With each scroll, there’s someone or something new I’m told to direct anger and frustration, and before long, I’m numb. I don’t feel angry. I’m desensitized.

This isn’t new to humanity. As I’ve been reading through the Old Testament, God has been giving instructions so the nation of Israel might guard themselves against this very issue. “Remember,” God says over and over. “Don’t forsake the law.” Yet, even after accepting and entering into a covenant with God as outlined by the law, that they forget the very commandments they ratified and begin worshipping the golden calf (Exodus 20-32).

Then, after the reign of King Solomon and the nation splitting, the northern kingdom forgets once again, becoming desensitized to the sin of the nations around them. Eventually sacrificing their own children on an altar to a false god, a command God explicitly prohibited. Sin was no longer vile and disgusting. It became something they thought would bring satisfaction.

These are the two concerns of being desensitized: the inward straying of our own hearts and an outward compromise of our witness to others. These two concerns are intrinsically connected.

In our personal struggles, we allow small compromises until we’ve gone farther than we ever thought possible. First, we begin to compromise by not pursuing God as we once used to. The compromises pile up. Slowly, but surely, we begin to stray. With this foundational pursuit of God eroding, something else must begin to take its place. When the trials and difficulties of life come, the missing foundation begins to show. Instead of being at peace and rooted in the eternal Word of God, we grow anxious, worried, fearful as the situation changes virtually every second. If we aren’t careful, these feelings can grow leading to anger at any given situation and towards others.

Social media serves as a megaphone: amplifying every emotion until nearly everything we post and express is at its loudest level. The anger, frustration, discontentment marks every post and comment until it blends together in an endless wave of white noise. These frustrations and fears become commonplace and normal to us. Again, we become desensitized. Soon, we begin to duplicate these same attitudes. Our foundation of peace has been replaced by fear, anxiety, and anger.

I write this as an examination of my own heart. I’m typing these very words because they are the tendencies I see in me. Especially during quarantine, my hands reach for my phone like a reflex. I catch myself scrolling, losing minutes of precious time. I turn away from the screen only to realize the white noise is beginning to take root. Maybe I’m overreacting, I think. I don’t want to give in to the stereotypes, missing the good things that can come from the connections social media brings. For a while, I just remained silent, liking posts from time to time, but not contributing anything of my own.

Then, this week, it all seemed to reach a tipping point. An innocent man in Georgia lost his life in February, his story lost in the wave of virus information. Finally, it gained traction and began to be shared. The issue behind it all? A story worth being angry about- a story of injustice, prejudice, and racism- was lost in the shuffle of things not worth being angry about. We’ve lost the righteous anger this story deserves because we’ve used it on trivial matters of division.

Through our compromises, we’ve lost our ability to disagree without being angry. We’ve lost our ability to process complex matters with time to think. We give quick responses out of a position of compromised hearts and desensitized feelings. We all end up paying the price. Let’s spend this time considering what we give our voice to and why. Let’s engage in conversations in love and seeking to make peace. Let’s save our voices, not screaming into the list of posts that never end, but joyfully reflecting and standing for the character of God to a world around us.

Coronavirus and Community

Forty-five days. This is how long I have been working from home. Forty-five days, most of them with a “work or home” order in place. Over forty-five days of not being able to gather in person with our church or with the students in the student ministry.

By God’s grace, it seems we’re reaching the point where restrictions are beginning to loosen, with the hope that the virus is abating. At the same time, it also seems the restrictions are being loosened because quarantine fatigue is beginning to have an effect on those abiding by these orders. A recent article shared many experts’ anxiety over this fatigue, as data showed people leaving their homes more and more despite the orders put in place by state and federal governments.

The effects that come from a lack of social interaction include an increase in depression and anxiety. To help fill in what’s missing a large number of people have turned to the use of technology designed to connect people virtually. Companies like Zoom, which was previously only used by a small percentage of the population, is now commonly used among a large number of American households. The virus, and measures introduced to slow its spread, have drastically simplified life in our culture, pulling the curtain back to reveal universal truths about who we are and how we were created.

One of God’s gifts of common grace to the world is the desire for community. He’s wired each and every one of us with a longing for a place where we belong. Deep within us, we all desire interaction with others. We desire interaction with one another, and deep relationships where we can be known and loved. While the intensity of this desire may change depending on the person, the age of social distancing has shown just how ubiquitous the desire is.

Community is an essential component in our growth as Believers in the Lord Jesus Christ. This is one of the reasons why “receiving Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior” is an issue. While salvation involves taking responsibility for one’s own sin, repenting, and trusting Christ for forgiveness on a personal level, the Bible is clear that we have been redeemed to a community of believers.

Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

1 Peter 2:10

During the birth of the church in the beginning of the book of Acts, those who repented and trusted in Christ immediately came together as a community:

And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common.

Acts 2:42-44

As society begins to slowly return to the way things were before, now is the time for us to take an honest look at what we’ve prioritized and return back to what God has called us to be: a community of believers built on the foundation of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Now is the time to simplify. Now is the time to push back against the idea of church as an experience. Now is the time to encourage others to trust Jesus for salvation and come into the community of God’s people. Then- and only then- will we find the deep community our souls long for.

Youth Ministry in a Time of Urgency Part 3: The Gathering

Last night, we had a successful test run of our YouTube Live event: Youth Night Live. As I evaluated our options for platforms on which we could reach our students, I felt like YouTube would be our best bet. Most of our kids aren’t yet on Instagram, despite its 1 billion users. Instead, you can find them on YouTube. For perspective, YouTube has twice the number of users that Instagram has, including a staggering 81% of 15-25 year olds in the United States.

At some point, most students have shared a YouTube video they enjoyed with me. And if they haven’t directly showed it to me on their device, they’ve spoken about one in our conversations. I knew YouTube would be our best bet to connect with them. Furthermore, hosting a YouTube Live event meant our video could easily be saved on our channel and shared at a later time (something Instagram live can’t do as easily, if at all). To help protect the chat section, I invited a couple adults to moderate our account while we streamed. They could take down any inappropriate comments, as needed. Thankfully, it all went well!

Having chosen our platform, I began to think about how we could best fulfill the purpose our normal Wednesday Night gathering served. Namely, we wanted to connect students and families around the Word of God. To do this, we had to be intentional with our approach. I recognize a shortened attention span is an obstacle we all face as we look at engaging students through screens. This is why we planned for different segments, each no longer than ten minutes.

I promoted as much as I could, through every medium available to us. I used an Instagram post and stories on our Student Ministry page, Facebook (both personal and the church account), sent emails to parents and volunteers, and used our church connection software: Realm.

It all started by showing a countdown video created by Download Youth Ministry. Then, we played a Bible Trivia game, encouraging everyone to comment their answer. Once we finished the game, we showed a funny video made by some hilarious volunteers to help lighten the mood, before ending our time with ten minutes together in the Word. The success of Youth Night Live can only be attributed to my incredible team of volunteers. They subscribed to the YouTube account I made and were ready to interact with students. It was a joy to see!

This is where I have to encourage you to invite as many people as possible in to help. With everyone being at home and so spread out, we need a team now more than ever. We need to find people to bounce around ideas, interact with students in the comments, and check in with families. Use the gifts of your adult leaders to help customize your times to their skill set!

I also want to encourage you to find ways to be as interactive as possible. I understand that we’re all working with different amounts of technology and ability, but I consider last night a success because I was able to interact with students as I was teaching. Maybe for you it looks more like prerecording a video or teaching session, then interacting in the comments once its uploaded. However you meet the need, don’t neglect to find ways to gather together and connect with one another.

So, I’m curious: what did your group do to meet together this week? Feel free to share with me below! I would love to hear more about what others are doing!

Youth Ministry in a Time of Urgency Part 2: Resources

At this point, many of us have had a couple of days to think through how we’re going to adjust our normal gathering times. I know that Wednesdays are a popular time for student ministries. At my church, Wednesday night is our main worship gathering. As we are considering how to find new ways to accomplish the purposes of this gathering, I wanted to take some time today to compile some of the resources I’ve been looking at to help make decisions for my group.

If you don’t know where to start, I would encourage you to start here. Doug Fields and his team at Download Youth Ministry created this webpage last Friday, and they’ve been updating it with a steady stream of resources ever since. There are free interactive games, social media graphics to help you interact with students, and even lessons you can use in a pinch. You can also check out their blog post with great ideas here.

This video is from a gaming perspective, I believe; however, the principles still apply. His explanation is clear, and the software he discusses is completely free. If you’re looking to start with YouTube streaming, watch this video! (As a side note, we’re looking at streaming on YouTube this evening, so I’ll share more about how it goes and why we chose this platform tomorrow.)

So, how does all of this play out on the most practical level? I’ve attached the link to our Covid-19 page on our church website. Here, we’re updating our people on the latest information regarding service times and posting resources for families to use in their homes. This page is going to be updated often, so feel free to check back from time to time to see how our strategy changes.

What about you? What resources have you found useful? Feel free to share them below! Remember, we’re in this together!