After the first few months of being in Arizona, I’ve made it a priority to ask a lot of questions. When people ask about my vision for the youth of Arizona, I honestly tell them that I don’t know. This early on, it would be ignorant for me to believe I have all the answers or should ever expect that I will.
Not having a clear vision will not hinder me from seeking God and addressing the burdens He’s compelled me with. I am keeping my ear to the ground, listening to each conversation with a sensitivity to what the Holy Spirit is speaking.
I’m encouraged by the quality our leaders, leaving each conversation thankful that we have leaders who sincerely care about their students and desire to honor God. When God works, He operates in unity. God is already working and stirring hearts of students in the presence of God. I’ve seen a thirst for revival in the Church and a much-needed awakening of this generation.
With much opportunity comes much opposition. My heart breaks for three key issues in the Arizona youth culture, but I offer three focused prayers that I’m inviting those reading this to pray with me. I’m careful to note that before I share my concerns, I’m not writing out of fear, but a conviction in my spirit of what I feel God is showing me. I write in broad generalities within our district and not to any specific leader or church in mind. I’m writing with the understanding that what disheartens us today can become tomorrow’s greatest opportunity. God is building His Church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it. (Matthew 16:18 paraphrased)
1. This generation is biblically illiterate.
A recent study showed that Phoenix was the 8th-worst “Bible-minded” city in the country, and only 17 percent of residents know their Bible well. A seasoned theology professor at one of our Assemblies of God universities said he’s concerned each year by the biblical ignorance of incoming freshmen. We’re living in a day when God’s Word is unfamiliar, much like that before the reign of Saul. 1 Samuel 3:1b “And the word of the Lord was rare in those days; there was no frequent vision.” When God spoke to Samuel, as a young man, it was Eli that taught him God’s voice. We need more Eli’s in Arizona. Despite his weakness as a leader, God used Eli to point a young man in a direction that would change the course of history. I pray for leaders who commit to preach God’s Word and live it out with integrity.
2. Satan has the largest youth ministry.
I’m reminded of Jesus in Matthew 9, when He sees the crowds. His heart is filled with compassion, seeing they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Jesus says to His disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few, therefore, pray for to the Lord of the harvest, for Him to send out workers to the harvest field.” (v. 38) Today, Assemblies of God churches have 25% paid youth leaders, 50% volunteer youth leaders, and 25% have no youth leaders at all. Is it fair to say we need to raise up more leaders? Please pray with me for God to send more workers.
3. We’re running out of time.
Though we do not know the hour of Christ’s return, we know creation and culture is revealing signs of the end times. Jesus is coming back for His Church, and we must have a sense of urgency and passion for the mission of seeing lost people saved. Our prayer should model that of Paul in Romans 10:1, “My heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved.” It is God’s will that none should perish, but people perish every day without hearing the gospel message of Christ’s love and plan for salvation.
We are stronger together as the body of Christ to accomplish His mission. If we are to see revival happen in our churches and communities, then we must commit to serve together. You will hear me say my life calling more than once, but I’m compelled with a vision to activate disciples. I desire to serve the youth leaders of Arizona so that we can continue to build upon the rich legacy we have. This is why I’m passionate about Fine Arts: helping students discover, develop, and deploy their ministry gifts. This is why I’m passionate about camp and convention: giving students opportunities to encounter their Heavenly Father with friends. And this is why I’m passionate about giving to Speed the Light and sending students on AIM trips: challenging students to impact eternity by serving the heart of God in His global mission. This is a cause-driven generation, and we need to equip them with the cause of Christ, raising up the next generation of missionaries.
I believe in transparent, authentic leadership. I hesitated sharing this at first, but I feel in my heart I need to be transparent with what Bethany and I are giving to Speed the Light this year. We feel compelled by God to step out in faith as we challenge and encourage you and your students to give generously and sacrificially to Speed the Light. I say this with humility and faith that we pledge to personally give $10,000 in 2013 to get the gospel where it needs to go through Speed the Light. This will not be easy for us, but we believe in what God is doing through our missionaries and we are excited to celebrate in offering our fish and loaves to the King and watch in awe as He works wonders in our midst. He is faithful every time.
We’re praying and believing God for creative ideas and divine obedience. We felt God wants us to set an ambitious goal of $300,000 as a district in 2013. Our missionaries need the youth of Arizona to rise to the challenge and believe God for big things. I believe, with God’s help, we will equip our missionaries to preach the Gospel to a lost and hurting world.
Will you pray with me and join this challenge to equip our missionaries whom God’s entrusted to us?
Romans 10:14-15 “How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news.’”
Bethany and I will be moving in January 2013 to become the next District Youth Directors of Arizona. This is a move God has been orchestrating for years.
During our time in Missouri at Evangel University and James River Assembly, God has molded us and equipped us for the days ahead, as we continue our dependence on Him to start this next chapter in our young lives.
The support we’ve received already has been incredible. We are so very grateful for the people God has positioned in our lives over the past few years who have encouraged us, challenged us, and journeyed with us.
We’re humbled at the opportunity to even be considered among such spiritual giants in the faith. Tim and Ann Black built a foundation for us to build skyscrapers on, and the legacy my father and others left before us is seemingly insurmountable.
This burden on our heart for the youth of Arizona has been a growing conviction for over three years. I remember sharing my heart with Scotty Gibbons, the Student Ministries Director at James River Assembly, during my internship at the church. I said, “I have a huge passion on my heart for Arizona, and I feel like I will be part of a movement of young people rising up to fulfill God’s call on their lives – a mobile and active generation.”
Bethany and I couldn’t be more excited to serve in this great district. We’ve never felt such a peace about any other opportunity, and it’s undeniable that God is in this 100%. We welcome your prayers and encouragement, as this will not be a move without challenges. We understand that God’s thoughts and His ways are much higher than ours, and we know that this appointment is just the start of what God has in store.
Of course, we’ll find it difficult to leave our family, friends, students, leaders, and all the amazing people in Springfield, MO. We’ve made a lot of memories and friendships that we hope to build upon in the future. I’m so excited for the Black family and what God has in store for them. We’re believing that the best is yet to come for Arizona youth!
#KONY2012 only reaffirms this generation’s desire to be a part of a cause bigger than themselves.
Social media shapes our culture. What’s #trending is ‘relevant’, but what’s relevant may not even be current. For a crime that has been going on for nearly a decade, we now have millions of ‘informed’ advocates who watched a 30-minute video and read a few compelling articles.
With the impact of culture today, it’s important for followers of Christ to fix our eyes on Him and His promises.
Jesus warned, “When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come.” (Mark 13:7)
Here are a couple things I’m learning through #Kony2012:
1. We need to be better informed.
“It is not good to have zeal without knowledge, nor to be hasty and miss the way.” (Proverbs 19:2)
My challenge is not for us to be more informed of this world, but be more informed of God’s Word. His purpose gives us knowledge and direction for the mission He has called us to here on this earth.
Ask yourself this question: “How can God use me to have the most impact for His Kingdom?” Explore the answer to that question, and devote your life to study your mission field. If God is calling you to stop the terrors of Joseph Kony, then educate yourself in how to make the most impact in doing so. If retweeting has the most impact, by all means stop reading this and start tweeting.
2. We need to take action.
As we gain understanding of God’s mission for us and the people He has called us to reach, we must develop a course of action.
I admire the passion Invisible Children has to develop and implement a strategic plan to stop Joseph Kony. Christians should take notice and be inspired to not only be analysts but activists. Christians are very good at talking about changing the world. There are few who have the faith to do it.
I pray for a generation that desires the cause of Christ and becomes active in His commission. Will you commit to pray with me for God to send out workers into the harvest field?
Before heading full throttle into this naturally fast-paced season, I can’t help but brag on God and reflect on the incredible things He has allowed me to be a part of already this year.
I am so grateful to be learning from amazing leadership and experiencing first-hand ministry at James River Assembly. God has unleashed His blessing on our student ministry, compelling us to emphasize on rescuing lost people this year (Proverbs 24:11-12). Between our three spring outreaches, three spring retreats, four summer camps, and our weekly services, God has already drawn over 500 students to make decisions for Him.
In His grace, God has opened the front door for these students, but we humbly accept the responsibility to close the back door and keep these students. It’s a difficult task, but God is helping us with creativity and strategic thought to help with the retention of students.
God has given me the opportunity to grow in my public communication this year. At age 16, God told me I would speak, and this year, He confirmed His call. It’s not easy keeping the attention of a couple hundred Jr. Highers on Sunday mornings and giving them a word that is tangible for their young lives, but God is helping me. I also spoke at my first youth camp in Arizona, and preached five times with a translator in Nicaragua. My most difficult message was a Wednesday night service at Realife. My dependence was completely on Him as I attempted to teach on the rapture and tribulation to nearly 600 Jr. High and High School students. God showed up, and 20 students gave their hearts to Christ that night. Now, that is humbling!
Through Speed the Light, our students have already raised over $30k, and we’re about to start our eleven-week fall drive. Last week, over 200 students signed up to be campus missionaries through Youth Alive, and we’re believing for God to bring in a harvest of souls this fall. Through much prayer and dependence on Him, we’re believing the best days are ahead of us.
I still don’t know what next year holds for Bethany and me, but I know that right now, we are completely in His will. We continue to be patient for the right door to open, but we will surely be active in what we know He’s called us for today.
It’s been seven years now since my dad died. I feel like so much has happened since then.
I went on my first mission trip without him, and I wasn’t able to tell him that I was baptized in the Holy Spirit. He would have loved to hear when God told me at an altar that I was going to speak, so I decided to major in communications, just like him. When I graduated high school, I received a baseball scholarship. He would have gone to my games. When I hurt my back and wasn’t able to play again, he would have assured me that it would all work out.
I wish he could have seen Bethany in her beautiful dress on our wedding day, and told me I married well. He would have cheered, “That’s my boy!,”when I walked the line for my college graduation. I took my first youth pastor position at James River Assembly, and he would have heard me preach my first sermon.
There are many moments I wish I could have shared with my dad. I often think about what he would do or what he would say. Although my dad couldn’t be there for me, I know my heavenly Father always was and always will be. There are times I wish so badly I could ask my dad a question, but I’m reminded of a God that is omniscient and loves to give good gifts to His children.
Seven years later, I’m understanding that my dad left me everything I ever needed, his legacy. It was perspective on life, and a decision to live each day to the fullest. My dad chose to create a new legacy for his family; a legacy fully committed to Jesus Christ. That’s the legacy I chose to live seven years ago, and that’s the legacy I choose today.