The Book of Eli…

August 26, 2010

Before I get started, I need to mention that this is NOT a movie review. I will be talking about some parts of this movie, but will not be giving away any key points to the plot or ruining the ending of the film for you. My purpose with this is to relate some parts of the movie to serving God and doing ministry.

The Book of Eli

I have wanted to watch “The Book of Eli” for a few months now and the other day I finally decided to rent it. I loved every minute of it and would definitely recommend that people see it. I’ll more than likely watch it again. The movie takes place in a post-war ravaged world and is about a nomad named Eli who is on a mission to transport the last copy of the Bible to a place on the West Coast of the United States where it will be safe; a place where people will need it and know what to do with it.

On his journey, Eli encounters various thugs and rogue gangs who set traps to ambush people, kill them, steal their belongings, and eat them. However, Eli possesses an amazing ability to fight off and kill everyone that tries to deter him from completing his mission. Later on in the movie, we learn that Eli was told that he would be protected from anything or anyone that stands in his way. At first I just thought that Eli was tough as nails, but when I found out that God was on his side and was protecting him from everything that got in his way, I realized he was tougher than I had originally thought; he was tougher than nails!

This morning, I watched an online sermon from Elevation Church (in North Carolina) by Pastor Steven Furtick. His message was about betrayal and keeping your head up. He preached from Psalms 3:1-8, but the primary focus was on verse 3. And this is where I am going to tie this in to this movie, in case you were wondering! 😉 As I just mentioned, God protected Eli on his journey across North America; He protected him on every side.

Psalm 3:3 says, “But you are a shield around me, O LORD; you bestow glory on me and lift up my head.

In “The Book of Eli,” God protected Eli (when He had the Bible) so much that even bullets that hit him did not hurt him. He provided him with amazing senses, and gave him incredible speed with his sword and amazing accuracy with his guns. If you watch the movie in its entirety, and pay close attention at the end, you will be even more amazed at these abilities that Eli possessed.

I believe that, to some extent, God provides the same amount of protection and guidance to us on our tasks, missions, and callings that He has called us to. I don’t know that He will prevent bullets from penetrating our skin when we are being shot at, but He certainly could if He wanted to. So maybe just don’t go trying to get shot at! I have heard a saying before that says, “You are safer deep in the jungles of Africa living inside of God’s will than you are in your own living room living outside of God’s will!” I firmly believe that we will be protected on every side when we are seeking God, following His leading, guidance, and direction, and living fully for Him. As Psalm 3:3 says, He is a shield around us!

Verse 4 goes on to say, “To the LORD I cry aloud, and he answers me from his holy hill.” If we sincerely cry out to God, He will hear us, He will answer us, and He WILL be a shield around us!

What about YOU?

Are you following God’s leading and going where He tells you to go, and doing what He tells you to do?

Have you ever experienced God’s hand of protection on your life?

I would love to hear some feedback on this…I would love to hear your stories!

– paulg

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Story, Experience, and Collaboration…

November 21, 2009

Wow, what a day! I won’t be writing about everything in this one post. That would be way too lengthy. So I have decided to break it up into a few separate posts.

Today was the official first day of the youth specialties convention in Atlanta. I have been here since Wednesday night though. I planned to arrive early so I could attend the pre-convention intensive training seminar that was offered. The one that I chose to attend was taught by Mike Novelli, Mark Novelli, and Kelly Dolan and was called “Story, Experience, and Collaboration.” It was a six hour course (split up in to two three hour courses), thus the term “intensive” before the training seminar! I chose this one because one of the presenters was the guy that wrote the book (Shaped by the Story) that I recently bought and started reading. This new method of teaching has intrigued me for some time now and I was continually told by many of my youth pastor friends to get the above-mentioned book. Whenever I found out the author of the book was leading the seminar, I knew that it was the one for me.

Mike and Mark are twins so half of the time I never knew which one was speaking, which is why I liked when Kelly spoke; it was easy to distinguish who he was! The seminar started off with Mike showing a clip of Louis CK from Conan O’Brien called “Everything’s Amazing and Nobody’s Happy.” The clip was a comedic one that basically stated that we live in a world where everything is amazing (we have everything at our fingertips/disposal) but no one is happy. He showed this to illustrate that this emergent generation are not idiots, but their expectations have changed. How we learn things, how we view the world, and how we interact with each other have all changed. Typical forms of worship, engagement, faith formation, and spiritual community do not work well with these students. As a result, this should change the way that we do ministry.

Mike told us a story of how he noticed that most of his students were very busy, but not very deep. To try to solve this, he tried his favorite method of inductive Bible study (an analytical method of looking at a specific text). In this method, you ask specific questions to learn. Mike then told us a story of one of his students that when asked what he thought about the new method of learning, said: “I like that we are learning the Bible, and I think that it is important that we do, but I don’t think that this is the way that I learn!” This blew Mike away and got him to start thinking: “Is the Bible intimidating, boring, or irrelevant?” and “when do they begin to experience, interact with, and enjoy this story (of the Bible) for themselves?”

At Mike’s next church, he tried a new form of teaching with them that he learned form a missionary in Uganda. He tried a method of teaching known as “storying.” In storying, learning is now the hearer’s responsibility. Storying is not about memorizing Bible stories, but it is about it becoming their own story! They can see themselves in the people in the story and how they should and shouldn’t live! One student’s comment about storying is as follows:

“It made me realize…I need to live for the author! God has a story for my life and I am excited to discover and I want to share it with others. God’s amazing story is what we’ve been waiting for our entire lives.” – Michelle (High School Junior)

Mike saw a breakthrough and that the story was really rooted in these students (like Michelle). The students knew where they fit in to the story and that they are a continuation of that story. Something changed in his students; something lasting…there was formation in it!

This idea of storying has really got me thinking and trying to find ways to incorporate it and use it in my youth ministry. One of the main reasons I want to try to implement this is because of the following statistics:

We retain:

  • 10% of what we read
  • 20% of what we hear
  • 30% of what we see
  • 50% of what we see and hear
  • 70% of what is discussed with others
  • 80% of what we experience personally
  • 95% of what we teach someone else

If our students can experience God’s story personally and then teach it to others, imagine how drastically different our youth ministries, churches, and world would be!

– paulg


Handling Distractions Well…

September 23, 2009

Last night (I wrote this on Monday) I had my youth group over for a football watching party and youth group lesson. I didn’t want to miss the Steelers game, and I definitely didn’t want to miss youth group, so I had the genius idea of combining the two and teaching the lesson at half-time! I had the game playing in my living room (on my 60-inch TV that was given to me for free) as well as in another room on one of my leaders 42-inch flat screen TV’s! It was a great event and everyone seemed to have a blast. I had the opportunity of teaching in front a wide spectrum of ages (from 9 months old to 50 years old). I got to teach in front of other people besides just my youth group kids. There were about 17 people there total. Good thing I have cool neighbors and they don’t mind the noise! The reason I am writing though, is to talk about distractions in youth ministry…

When I think about a distraction, the movie “Shooter” immediately pops into my mind. The part I think of is when Bob Lee Swagger (Mark Wahlberg) is training Nick Memphis (Michael Pena) to not be distracted while being a sniper. He tells him to look through the scope at his target and to never let anything distract him. Right before Pena’s character is about to pull the trigger, Wahlberg’s character sets off and explosive charge he has placed inside of a watermelon 20 feet from the target that Pena’s character is attempting to shoot. Pena’s character jumps off of the ground and gets distracted of course and Wahlberg reminds him that he is not supposed to let distractions distract him.  I guess that’s easier said than done when watermelons are exploding all around you!

shooter1

Anyway, back to my topic of distractions in youth ministry…

In the span of about an hour this afternoon I received two emails complimenting me on my ability to handle distractions well. The reason for this is because there were a few distractions at youth group last night. Some of those were: people arriving late and someone from my group needing to go down to let them in, a baby crying, some students talking and not paying attention, a student breaking my sliding blinds, etc… Although some of the distractions were, well…distracting, God took control and did what I asked him to in my prayer time before the lesson; to speak through me and accomplish what He would want accomplished that night! And I believe that God did that. He spoke through me and I felt 100% comfortable with teaching my lesson in front of all of the visitors that were there!

One of the emails I received was from my pastor and the other was from a parent that was in attendance at the event. They both had some really encouraging words for me, and they couldn’t have come at a better time. I have been feeling down and a bit discouraged as of late due to certain reasons that I will not be discussing publicly and these emails really lifted me up! One of them said:

“I was IMPRESSED with how you handle the youth….last night I got to sit in on a little bit…how you handle the word, the group, distractions, and go with flow! I told the folks at church that our youth are in GOOD HANDS with our Youth Pastor and sponsors….”

And the other said:

“You have a good group of kids to work with – and you handle the minor distractions that you seem to have every week very well.  : )  ”

I’m not writing this to brag or anything, but I am writing to let you know how awesome God is! I was in need of some encouragement, God saw that, and sent me two very uplifting emails…well, God didn’t actually send them, but you know what I mean! God has blessed me with patience beyond belief. Whenever things get out of hand or kids act up, it doesn’t bother me. God geared me that way and trained me by allowing me to be the pastor of a group of 30 crazy middle schoolers for a few years in New York!

I don’t have an amazing and powerful closing to this post, but I would like to hear from others on how you handle distractions in your youth ministries (or in your particular business setting)? Comment and let me know!

–          paulg


Texas Missions Trip: Day 5…

August 13, 2009

My mind is not working properly right now due to nearing the point of exhaustion. I don’t know how long or how good this post will be, but I’m going to try my best. I can’t speak for the girls, but I know that this was a very long and stressful day for the guys! It was our first full day with the campers, and was non-stop busyness going from activity to activity. We had breakfast, went swimming, went on the ropes course, had lunch, had a lesson/worship time, went to arts and crafts, and went to play ultimate Frisbee. After ultimate Frisbee, the scheduled plans changed for the day. Thunderstorms appeared out of nowhere and we were forced inside. My cabin got sent inside to watch a movie. I couldn’t tell you what movie they watched because I laid on the floor and fell asleep until we were allowed back outside again (about ¾ of the way through the movie). After that we went to our evening activity/dinner time (Mario Kart racing on the Nintendo Wii). Dinner was pretty good too (chicken strips, macaroni and cheese, corn, and salad). After that we had campfire songs inside (because it was raining again). Then we took the kids back to the cabin for devotions and bed time. Surprisingly, we were able to get everyone in bed and to sleep by 10:30 PM. That’s two hours quicker than we did it last night. We should have received a reward!

I saw nastiness and cruelty today amongst some of my campers, and it was not pretty. It’s sad that kids pick on people that are different than them. But I was glad that they seemed to stop after the other lead counselor and I had a serious talk with them and took some of their privileges away! I can’t put names on here, but I would like to ask all of you to pray for my campers this week…pray that the nastiness, name calling, bitterness, and cruelty would not resurface and that these kids would get along, learn, and show love to each other!

I didn’t have much to write about today, but there is one more thing that I would like to mention. For a while before this trip, and even the first day or two into it, I was wondering if this was really where God wanted us to come for our Missions Trip. I wasn’t sure if it actually was, or if it was forced because I thought that I had to find something to replace our Mexico trip. But God keeps confirming to me that this is where He wants us to be at this time! We’re building relationships with people and campers, we’re showing the love of Jesus to them through the way we live our lives, and we are making an impact here in Porter, Texas!

For the last few days, I have been thinking about the benefits and blessings that making this place a place where we come back every year, or every other year would bring, but I haven’t mentioned it to anyone yet. Tonight, before the inside campfire song session, the girls asked me if we would be coming back here again next year. I told them I didn’t know about next year because of LIFE. Then I asked them if they wanted to come back and they all immediately said “Yes!” This made my day! I think it would be great to come back to minister at this camp again, instead of just leaving this year and never looking back or finding out what’s going on in the lives of the kids we ministered to! We started building relationships this week, and it would be great to continue and strengthen those relationships again in the future.  Nothing is set in stone, and these are just the beginning stages of thinking about this possibility of coming back. God knows what He wants, and He will make it known to us in His timing!

Please continue to pray for us as we minister to these kids. Pray for safety, patience, gentleness, and understanding. These kids come from a background we know nothing about, so we need God’s help to know how to get through to them.

Until next time…

– paulg


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