Well I’ve spent the last couple of weeks settling in. I’ve brought in books that the pastors will love to see on my shelf, hung records on my wall that I’m sure the parents will appreciate more than their kids, found spots for my favorite Star Wars stuff and my guitar, and done lots of reading and more paperwork than you’d be interested in. I’ve survived my first Youth Banquet and the 13-hour day that went with it — and loved every second of it — and met tons of awesome people (although I’ll apologize in advance if I’ve forgotten your name). I’ve spent time in meetings, doing research, writing lessons, and staring at a blank page trying to figure out how to start this blog post. So I guess I’ll start by saying hello.
I’m a kid from Rapid City, South Dakota that took a weird route to get here. I grew up as part of Rapid City First United Methodist Church and spent a good chunk of my childhood outside — going hiking and camping, playing football and basketball, golfing and frolfing (frisbee golfing), and running around semi-unsupervised in the Black Hills. I have a deep-seeded love of classic rock, all things Star Wars, classic video games, coffee and anything sweet. I was part of a great youth group that has given me some life-long friends and mentors and was fortunate enough to be part of the Dakota’s Conference Council on Youth Ministries for a couple years while I was in high school. I went to undergrad at Dakota Wesleyan University and got a degree in Christian Leadership with emphases in Church Growth and Renewal and Youth and Young Adult Ministry (which is way too long to say every time someone asks) but spent two and a half years after graduating as a bartender while my wife went through grad school (which is a really fun way to spend a couple years). Then my wife and I decided to move away from the snow and buffalo to the land of heat and longhorns. Seriously — I don’t know how I’m going to survive the summer.
My dad, John (who is a pastor at Winner United Methodist Church and who you can thank for my beard and sense of humor) and my mom, Kristin (who works as a paraprofessional with special needs students at Winner’s middle school and who you can thank for my musical talents and love of reading) are both amazing, inspirational, wonderful, and supportive people that truly shaped me into the man I am today. My brother, Sam (a mathematics major at South Dakota School of Mines and Technology and basically a younger, smarter, nerdier version of me) and my sister, Abby (an undeclared student at the University of — Twin Cities and as brave and loving of a sister as an older brother could hope for) both are crazy and awesome and I don’t know what I would do without them. My beautiful and adorable wife, Alex (who is a physician assistant with Baylor Scott and White and loves puppies, children, and old people), pushes me to do and be more than I could ever imagine.
This week I’m going to talk with our youth about who I am and what drives me — not only in ministry but in my life. Over this last week I’ve been thinking a lot about the words of Kaj Munk, a Danish playwright and Lutheran pastor known for his role as the center of moral and intellectual resistance to the Nazi occupation of Denmark during World War II. In the midst of the largest conflict in human history, he wrote these words for a community newsletter shortly before he was kidnapped and executed by the Gestapo on January 4, 1944:
“What is, therefore, our task today? . . . Our task today is recklessness. . . . To restlessly seek recklessness that will challenge and seek to change human history until it conforms with the norms of the Kingdom of God.”
But being reckless isn’t usually something that is said in a positive way — so what does it mean to be reckless in our faith? The dictionary definition of reckless is “having or showing no regard to danger or consequences.” The Apostle Paul is a great example of living recklessly in his faith. Paul walked away from a very comfortable life as a member of the Pharisees to go out and spread the Gospel. He was mocked, beaten, imprisoned, and eventually executed — he had no regard for the danger or consequences of his faith, but restlessly and recklessly lived out his call. In Philippians 1:20, Paul says, “For I fully expect and hope that I will never be ashamed, but that I will continue to be bold for Christ, as I have been in the past.”
Missions have always been a huge part of my life and they hold a place close to my heart. I’ve gotten to serve all over the country and internationally, and in each place and on each trip, I’ve learned something new. I’ve learned that God talks to me through my sense of humor and through the little things. I’ve learned that some of the people that need our help the most are close to home. I’ve learned that my heart breaks for all the people that get forgotten and are left to suffer on their own. I’ve learned that youth have the capacity to do wonderful and inspiring things that most adults wouldn’t have the courage for.
“To restlessly seek recklessness” is some calling — one that teenagers are uniquely suited for. It awakens our imagination, inspiring us to find new ways to have real impact in the world around us. It asks us to be more and do more — to more closely follow Jesus in our everyday lives. I am so thankful to have landed here with First United Methodist Church of Fort Worth — a church that is already touching the lives of so many in the world around us. “Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into our home. I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me” (Matthew 25:34a-36). I am inspired by all you already do, and I am so excited that I get to be a part of your mission — going out and being God’s people in the world.
Associate Director of Youth Ministries