Wednesday, October 19, 2011

To my friends in "The Occupy" movement

I want to stand with you.

So many of you are angry. So many wounded. So many want better jobs and higher wages. Where there is injustice, where there is pain, where there is no hope, I want to stand with you, as one Occupier texted me, “for your children’s sake.”

Amongst the most direct of the biblical injunctions is Micah 6:8:

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.

“Act justly, love mercy, walk humbly with your God.” Three strands so intrinsically interwoven that to emphasize one at the expense of the others diminishes their effect, and sometimes causes more harm than good. 

Act justly. To right wrongs. To replace self-interest with the commitment to care about and for the needs and rights of my fellow human beings. To stand up for the oppressed at the risk of my own comfort, power or position. To seek change where darkness reigns. To develop the art of listening, and to seek truth and wisdom and insight, and then to act in accordance with the justice I value.

Love mercy (kindness). No man or woman, then, is an enemy, for all carry the burden of navigating this highly complex and precarious world we occupy together. It is the systems we have constructed, and the structures we have relied on, that enable and even empower our brothers and sisters the power to tear down, to hurt, to break. It is the structures, and systems, and ways that history so easily brings out the worst in us that need correction. People need compassion.
People are gifts. All people. Those who agree with us, and those who disagree. We belong to each other, and we need each other to get us through the mess we leave behind. The majestic power of the US civil rights movement was an unshakable commitment to non-violence, and the love for others – all others, oppressor and oppressed alike. At its core, loving kindness and mercy is to respect my neighbor – my neighbor’s rights, my neighbor’s livelihood, my neighbor’s property, my neighbor’s role in society and my neighbor’s perspective on issues. To love kindness and mercy is to see that banker, that activist, that child, that addict, that cop, that veteran, that Republican, that Democrat, that homeless brother and that business owner sister as my family.

Walk humbly with my God. To me, God’s reign is unquestioned, and unshakable. Our interpretation of and partnership with that reign is what is to be held lightly. It is God who reigns, and we who serve.

“To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”

Three strands, woven together, one message, one mandate, one lifestyle, one calling.

To my friends in the “Occupy” movement: as you hold these strands together, I stand with you; ignore or deny any of these, even in the service of “the cause,” and life is out of balance, and ultimately people are hurt.

History has proven that civil disobedience rooted in social justice and bounded by unfiltered mercy is a noble cause that changes nations. History has also shown that civil disobedience driven by self interest, unfair labeling, irresponsible rhetoric or blind ignorance spawns the seeds of anarchy where no one wins.

As Lynne K. Varner wrote in the Seattle Times today, "Anger needs a home but don't let this outburst fizzle. Let it morph into a slow burn of political consciousness...After we march, we vote."

May the Occupy movement be marked by those who act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with God.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Loving God

“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

To love God is “the first and greatest commandment,” so one would think that this is would be, alongside loving others, the most important priority we have in youth ministry.

But what does it actually mean?

When I met Christ, and was starting to grow in my understanding of what that actually looked like, I remember singing songs and even memorizing verses about loving God. And, frankly, I don’t remember feeling very comforted by much of it.
I wanted to love God, but I didn’t know how. I loved my parents (especially in retrospect), and I (kind of) loved my siblings. But that was sort of under the radar of the “supposed to” kind of love I was learning about in church.
What I did know is I loved my dog, I loved to play drums and basketball. I loved the feeling I got when a girl paid attention to me, or when a coach noticed that I had done something right for a change. I also loved driving fast with John Tuttle (and, truth be told, I loved my friend John, but, again, it wasn’t something I thought about… it just felt good to hang out).

But “love the Lord with all your heart, soul and mind?” Although I wasn’t that great at English, I knew that this was something it was my job to do.

As I’ve gotten older I have a little more understanding of what love is and means and looks like (I’ve been married to my only love for 31 years, and that’s been a great theological laboratory). And I also have come to recognize that my loving God is actually as organic and natural as breathing, as we seek to know and trust Jesus. It is not so much about me and us loving him, but that he has first loved me, and us. Perhaps we need to help kids to see this, and to learn what it means to rest in this truth.

I am so glad we’re talking about loving God in this issue of Youthworker Journal (coming out in January, 2012). I hope you will be, too.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Sept 22 Bellevue Family Ministry training event power point slides

This is the power point in movie format from the September 22, 2011, Bellevue family ministry training at 1st Presbyterian Bellevue. Let me know if it doesn't work for you, or you need an outline, or anything else.

To see Chap Clark's bio and publications go to

Monday, October 3, 2011

Youth Specialties Convention San Diego 2011 Chap Clark, "Conflicting voices, needy kids, Gospel call:

This is the seminar I presented at the Youth Specialties National Youth Worker Convention, San Diego, 2011 entitled "“Conflicting Voices, Needy Kids, Gospel Call: What Everybody’s Saying, What It Means, and How Can I Make Sense of It All”. This seminar was intended to make sure that influencers in youth ministry - academics, writers, speakers, bloggers, programming gurus, speakers - are walking together with one mission as we share our insights and convictions with those who are doing the actual work with kids. I, admittedly, am a chief sinner as I seek to help people understand what I believe and teach/write. Yet, as with all of my colleagues out there, I do not have the final, only, or even authoritative word. I am, like them, one voice of many. My calling, therefore, must reside in a spirit of love, teachability and commitment to God's Spirit leading us all. That is the intent of this seminar.

You can get the audio of this from Youth Specialties.

To see Chap Clark's bio and publications go to

Youth Specialties Convention San Diego 2011 Chap Clark, "Hurt 2.0"

This is the seminar I presented at the Youth Specialties National Youth Worker Convention, San Diego, 2011 of the title based on the new book, Hurt 2.0: Inside the World of Today's Teenagers.

To see Chap Clark's bio and publications go to

AACC 2011 Chap Clark Seminar: 6 New Realities of Today's Adolescents

This is the power point presentation from the American Association of Christian Counselors International Conference, 2011, of the seminar, "Counseling and serving today's adolescent: 6 new realities that impact our work with kids"

To see Chap Clark's bio and publications go to

AACC 2011 Chap Clark Seminar: HURT 2.0

This is the power point presentation I gave at the American Association of Christian Counselors (AACC) 2011 International Conference based on the new book of the same title, "Hurt 2.0: Inside the world of today's teenagers"

To see Chap Clark's bio and publications go to

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Diversity and the Call of the Kingdom

[For the next few months, my blog comes from my Page 1 comments in my role as Senior Editor of Youthworker Journal. Check it out at]


It’s about time.
For all the years I have been involved as a ministry leader, many of us have treated the notion of diversity with kid gloves. We have generally made it mostly about race, or sometimes gender. But it is so much bigger, so much more central to a life of faith. And yet on the list of what being a disciple means, most of us barely have it on our radar screen. And at best it is a low-priority issue.
Looking around today, however, more and more followers of Jesus are finally beginning to read what the Bible actually says, instead of finding ways to mold it into what we want it to say.  
Diversity: different people who have been called to the same family. We are called to be one, those of us from different ages, ethnicities, political parties, communities, nations, tribes and tongues. Perhaps it is time that we who believe that Jesus’ life and message matters need to step front and center and live and teach the Truth that the Scriptures consistently proclaim: all men and women are God’s children, and our differences make us stronger, more grateful, for the magnificence of the God of Creation.
In a world torn apart by convictions and perspectives, where the rich and the poor, the privileged and the vulnerable, the downcast and the encouraged all scramble to find a community where they can love and serve and contribute, the words of the Bible remain our constant guide:
“With your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation” (Revelation 5:9);
“When you spread out your hands in prayer, I will hide my eyes from you; even if you offer many prayers, I will not listen. Your hands are full of blood. Wash and make yourselves clean. Take your evil deeds out of my sight! Stop doing wrong, learn to do right! Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow” (Isaiah 1:15-17).

The time has come to recognize that the heart of “discipleship” is aligning ourselves with God’s purpose and work in the world. Isaiah’s prophecy is a wakeup call for every believer, and especially for every Christian leader. We need to help men and women, and boys and girls, to understand that God’s invitation to follow him is so much more than what Dallas Willard calls “the Gospel of sin management.” Being a disciple, or a “learner/follower,” is about the call to do right, seek justice, encouraged the oppressed, and defend the cause and plead the case of those who need our help.
Diversity goes far beyond debates about race and gender. It is at the heart of Jesus’ work and message. Whether it involves learning how to follow Jesus in how we consider the different, the meek, the deaf, the jailed, the dirty, the mean, or the sad, Jesus has gone before us, bringing his message of hope and reconciliation, and we are compelled to follow.
It’s about time!

Pop Culture, The Eagles and Pet Peeves

[For the next few months, my blog comes from my Page 1 comments in my role as Senior Editor of Youthworker Journal. Check it out at]

Pop Culture, The Eagles and Pet Peeves

The encounter happened when I served as an interim preacher. After one sermon, a kind, elderly woman approached me and asked, “What music feeds your soul?”
I answered her honestly. “The Eagles,” I said, “especially the early years.”
            She looked ready to faint. Instead she walked away mumbling to herself.
I was her senior pastor by the time the 2004 presidential elections came around. In one sermon I said I believed it was my job to help members of the congregation think theologically about their political choices rather than fall for ideological rhetoric or sweeping generalizations.
“I will not tell you who I am going to vote for,” I said. “Instead, I want to explain how I am going to make my decision.”
            After this sermon my elderly friend approached me again. “I know exactly who you are going to vote for,” she said, “because there is only one way a Christian CAN vote!” 
She stared at me, daring me to disagree.
I smiled, put my hand on her arm and tried to create a safe middle ground where we could talk. “All I am asking is that we step back, ask good questions about the candidates and their positions, and make sure we are fighting God’s battles–not our own.”
“How dare you?” she stammered before storming off.
            I thought about this encounter June, 2008, as I attended a candidate forum on faith and values featuring the three leading Democratic candidates.
            Culture has divided believers for centuries, whether it’s politics or pop culture. At times we all cling so tightly to our pet peeves and personal agendas that we miss God's call for how to engage the world he loves. 
            Whether it’s burning Beatles albums or insisting that God can only work through one political party, we get stuck and the Kingdom passes us by.
            Meanwhile, I still get fired up when I hear “Life in the Fast Lane.” And I’m still not telling who I’m voting for.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Questioning Sports’ Game Book for Life

[For the next few months, my blog comes from my Page 1 comments in my role as Senior Editor of Youthworker Journal. Check it out at]

We’ve all heard the mantra that “sports builds character.” But I wonder what kinds of character lessons our unquenchable cultural fixation with sports is passing on to young people.
            A century and an ocean away, British prep schools operated on the assumption that elite young men could learn through athletic competition much of what they needed as future military, government and business leaders. The theory was that cricket, rowing and other sporting activities could teach tomorrow’s ruling class about moral authority, courage, dignity, fair play, and the importance of teamwork.
            That was then—where are we now? Sociologists agree that sports are a training ground that reinforces the driving values of our culture. Unfortunately, one of the primary lessons is that the number-one goal—both on the field and in life—is to win at all costs regardless of whether it requires cheating, performance-enhancing substances, or dirty play.
As I argue in my book Hurt: Inside the World of Today’s Teenagers (Baker, 2005), for many young people, sports does more harm than good. But as soon as I say this, many will write me off for being sacrilegious toward one of our culture’s major sacred cows. Even in the church, many have blindly baptized sports, accentuating its perceived benefits and ignoring its darker side. In many churches, pastors joke about the primacy people place on sports (“Don’t worry, the service will be over before kickoff!”).
There are hundreds of ministries, parachurch organizations, and sports camps targeting modern gladiators or their young progeny. And where would our youth ministry programming be without basketball or soccer tournaments?
            Many of these activities accomplish much good, as we see in the roundtable discussion of sports ministry leaders in this issue. But too often we forget to ask the hard questions. Questions such as:
• What kinds of lessons does sports really teach kids about life?
• What kind of character are we developing in kids when we endorse competitive T-ball, paid trainers for Little Leaguers, and child cheerleaders for pee-wee football?
• What impact does our fixation on money and celebrity in pro sports—one example being the growing number of broadcasts of high school sporting events—have on impressionable young people?
• And what does God think about the behaviors, language, and attitudes that characterize our modern equivalent of ancient gladiatorial events?
            This issue of YouthWorker Journal is trying to challenge you to develop a theology of sports. We hope the articles help you do that. I would like to say more about this, but I can’t right now. I have to throw on my jersey and heat the cheese sauce. The Notre Dame-Stanford game is about to start.