4.12.2007

Crucible Preparations

I'm getting so pumped about our Crucible weekend. We're 8 days away now.
Crucible is our 8th grade guys rite of passage event, and it is amazing. I would stack it up against any manhood program that I've ever seen.
I just looked at one called Men Of Issachar and while it is definitely more complete (it takes 7 years) I hated it, especially compared to the Crucible. I hate military/battle references in Christianity, and MOI is loaded with them. Plus, the whole thing just had this dorky D&D feel to it.
Crucible is awesome. I'll post some more about it this week. JM

4 comments:

Mark Webb said...

Josh,

I was reading your recent blog comments about the Men of Issachar (MOI) discipleship program and as one of the leaders in that effort, considered it beneficial to add another perspective. Please allow me to start by saying that it is obvious that you love kids and are committed to serving Christ in ministry to youth. I absolutely agree that middle-schoolers are “awesome” with tremendous opportunity for influence. Too many churches are content to “baby-sit” that group which is a sad mistake. There is great potential in their lives, and if properly challenged, as you well know, they will respond with enthusiasm and action. Your goal in ministry “to help students understand what a Christian teenager is, to help them live that out in their daily lives, and to hold them accountable to that standard” is no different than that of MOI.

For someone with such a love for kids and desire for discipleship, I was surprised that you so quickly and negatively judged the MOI program. More than ever we need Christians like the men of Issachar who understand the times and have the courage and faith to respond with action. You know as well as I do that Christianity and moral values are under assault in our world (nothing new, but perhaps more blatant), and ignorance or complacency about spiritual battle is not the solution. You are obviously a man of action because you have stepped to the front line and are trying to make a difference. So are we.

I can understand that the MOI program may not be for everyone and you are certainly entitled to your opinion about effectiveness in your ministry. But to say that you “hate” MOI contradicts what you claim to stand for. Ephesians 5:10 directs us to “find out what pleases the Lord.” The objective is His pleasure, not ours. You do not know our hearts, you have not examined the MOI materials, and you have not witnessed the transformation that God has brought to many boys and adult men through MOI over the past 5 years. We have, and are therefore convinced that this is a movement of God that He is using to change lives for His glory and pleasure. Perhaps you have heard the saying, “I hate judgments that only crush and don’t transform.” (Elias Canetti, 1973). Be careful about rushing to critical judgment, Josh. There is way too much of that in the church already. It is one of our enemy’s greatest weapons.

Finally, let me say that I appreciate the sincerity of your comments but strongly disagree with your position on “military and battle” references in Christianity. Battle imagery is deliberate and abundant in the New Testament from the words of Jesus in the gospels all the way through to those of John in Revelation. We do have a spiritual enemy. We are warned of his tactics. We are given the spiritual armor and weapons to fight. We tried to make it very clear on the MOI website in the Training section that the battle theme is intentional and has meaning and purpose (please read it again). The battle is not about “us and them” in the physical world – we agree that seeing people as the enemy does not serve the message of Christ – that is divisive and destructive to our witness. But we are fools to ignore the warning found in Ephesians 6:12-13: “For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places. Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm.” (NLT) You can choose to ignore this truth, but that does not change it. Until we can see the battle we will never fight it effectively.

On a side note, it is both interesting and ironic that you use the term “Crucible” to identify your rite of passage program for 8th graders. This sounds like a fantastic event and I would like to learn more about it if you are willing to share that information. I assume you are aware, however, that this is the same term that the Marine Corps uses for their final test (or rite of passage) at the end of their basic training.

Again, I applaud your commitment to ministry to young teens and acknowledge that you are entitled to your opinions, but felt another perspective was needed since you chose to present those opinions in a public forum. It would be a great privilege to have the opportunity to discuss any questions or further thoughts you may have about the MOI program, Josh. We are always looking for and open to new ideas to become more effective. We may have different methods, but the same desire. We are simply responding to the fire God has placed within our bones to build spiritual men of influence in this revolution of faith that God calls each of us to.

Stand firm, Josh.

Mark Webb
Men of Issachar
mwebb@moihq.com
MOIHQ.com

Mike Bauman said...

Josh,
Thank you for viewing the Men of Issachar website. It appears from your bio we have a lot in common, a heart for middle school students. Although you have only seen briefly the MOI site as it pertains to young men, there is also a program in development for middle and high school girls called “Queen Ester’s Court”. The focus of the two programs is to spiritually develop young men and woman through discipleship and parallel learning paths that promote spiritual growth by acknowledging that men and woman learn differently. We simply try to deliver the information in way that each gender finds interesting and fun, but in the end delivering the same truth, Biblical truth. While the MOI curriculum does use military terminology in aspects of the curriculum layout, the QEC curriculum takes a softer and feminine approach, but for both men and woman we diligently focus on illustrating and developing the understanding that a spiritual battle is raging around them. Satan’s goal is to negatively impact all of those who choose to follow Jesus Christ, as described in Revelation 12. Our job, as we see it, is to prepare them for battle.
There is an interesting history in the development of the Men of Issachar program. Approximately five years ago Mark Webb was asked to teach middle school boys Sunday school. His class consisted of approximately 14-20 sixth and seventh grade boys. In an effort to not be chewed up and spit out each Sunday, and the fact that he could not find enough interesting material to present each week, he started writing his own curriculum that was solid in its biblical content, but as I believe you stated, had a military feel, to create a differentiation to anything the boys had been use to in the past, adding a little competition between the boys in the form of points for memory verses, bringing Bibles to class, as well as bringing friends, and before long he created a structure the boys looked forward to coming every Sunday to participate. Low and behold five years later the process has shifted from survival of Sunday mornings to five years of solid programming, with two more years of development, and approximately 80 participants, including approximately 25 adult mentors.
The amazing thing about the program is that it is student driven from the point of development. What I mean by this statement is to say that originally it was developed to the point that by the time the original sixth grade group was leaving the eighth grade there wasn’t anything programmed beyond that point. They were to move onto the high school programming, which was not progressive, did not challenge them as young men, and did not identify them for what they stood for; in other words everything they were working for together ended. Unanimously they requested that the program be further developed, which brings us to where we are today and a path for future development.
Statistically speaking, the ages we are trying to disciple are prime for hearing and understanding the truth about Jesus Christ. The Men of Issachar facilitates that with the help of concerned adult role models. This program provides a vehicle to keep young men interested in Christ and interested in participation in church. As we all know, most men leave church never to return once they graduate high school. The goal is to have them become mentors and positive influencers after they graduate from high school and keep their church involvement alive and beat the odds and battle the negative statistics associated with their age and men in general.
The associated benefit to the program’s theme is that it is also interesting to adult men. Since Mark began on a solo mission 5 years ago; there have been approximately twenty five adult mentors that have recommitted themselves to ministry, creation of a “Dads of The Men of Issachar” study group, an adult men’s group that meets separately on a week day morning before work, and again Queen Esther’s Court for the young ladies.
The motto of the Men of Issachar is to “Build Spiritual Men of Influence.” If you consider the adult involvement and programs that have developed as a result of the enthusiasm these young men come to church with each week, I think you could truly agree they have been influential. Truthfully we would expect more of the same as we see no end. It is a life long process to spiritual growth and a life long battle that we participate in: “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the evil forces in the heavenly realms.” Ephesians 6:11-12. This is what we have been preparing them for and they have responded. Hooray for them! If they can remain consistent and maintain accountability, and continue influencing people positively, then
MISSION ACCOMPLISHED!
In closing and in response to your perceptions of the program on your blog:
Yes, you are correct in that there is a military feel, although it is more in the form of terminology and very subtle the more you understand the program. Any military requires discipline to create order, so we associate the discipline to spiritual growth and the ability to resist temptation, but we don’t make any apologies for the battle theme. The Bible is a battle strategy and field manual.
As far as a D & D feel, I have never been around that so I can’t comment on that but what I assume you may be referring to is the feel of the home page of the MOI website. We thought that at the top the illustration would reflect the spiritual battle and at the bottom at either corner is armor of today and armor as described in the Bible to illustrate that while they may look different depending on the time, they are still needed because the battle goes on.
As far as your opinion of “hating the program”, I’m sorry you feel that way as it seems we are striving for the same outcomes with our youth work. With that in mind we as brothers in Christ should be admiring anybody with the desire to have an impact for Christ on anybody and do what we can to help facilitate it as long as it is doctrinally sound. That is what the Men of Issachar and Queen Ester’s Court is all about, creating a vehicle to facilitate ministry and build camaraderie and spiritual growth in all people. Maybe it doesn’t fit a need of yours, but “hate” is a strong word for anyone or anything that is trying to serve The Great Commission.
As a dad of one of the original sixth graders and as a person that has been involved in the program and watched it grow over the past five years, I can truly give my testimony on how MOI has impacted my son’s life and my life, which in turn has impacted my daughter and my wife through QEC. We strive as a family “to set an example for the believers to follow in speech, life, love, faith, and purity.” 1 Timothy 4:12
As for Mark, this is a man who has two daughters, one married and one in college, awesome women that are truly a reflection of his and his wife’s character and love for Jesus. He does not have a son in the program, but a heart for youth and their spiritual growth and development. He is truly leading a life of positive impact and one worthy of praise for his hard work and devotion to a cause.
I hope this sheds a little more light on the program and clears up any misconceptions you had about the program. I say these things out of love and an admiration for what you wish to accomplish in your ministry, and ask that you call us for more detailed information on the application of the program.
Stand Firm,
Mike Bauman
The Men of Issachar

Josh Mc Alister said...

Mark & Mike -
Thank you for taking the time to share with me your thoughts on MOI and how it is impacting students in your ministry.
First let me apologize for saying that I hated it. I am obviously ignorant of the entire program at large and my judgement of it was based on a quick glance through the site. Rather than saying that I hated it I should have said that it didn't grab my interest.
Mark, as far as the term Crucible is concerned, we use it more in the definition sense of "a very trying ordeal", but I am aware of the military reference. I'll post more later about it, but it does have a military feel in some aspects of it. This is largely due to the background of my 8th grade guys teachers who are both retired army.
As far as why I so quickly dismissed the program as one that I "hate" basically comes down to a rash judgment based off of the site. I receive tons of promotional materials from organizations selling their program/event. Most don't interest me at all. When my boss mentioned this program to me, I did my usual glance at the site, made a quick judgment as to whether I should explore more, decided not to, and moved on.
As I said earlier, I'll post more about how the crucible works a little bit later on.
Thank you for your comments explaining more about MOI. From what I've seen of it, I do love the completeness of it and the mentoring aspect of it as well.
Anyway, I know this has just been rambling because I don't have much time right now, but I felt that I needed to reply quickly to apologize.
JM

Josh Mc Alister said...

Mark -
Again thank you for your thought-provoking comment to my post. I sat here pondering the question of why I dislike military/war imagery in youth ministry for quite a while. I certainly agree with what you said that the NT is loaded with references between spirituality and battle. I don't think anyone would deny that.
I feel that the prevalence of this type of reference in scripture is because it related quickly to what people experienced every day. Roman soldiers were everywhere, especially in occupied areas. Because of that, it was natural for Paul to reference something that people saw everyday.
I don't see that same connection in today's culture. While the military still has a strong presence in our lives and media, there are many other references that I would rather use. War is ugly. We see that every night on the news. I certainly believe that it is necessary and will always be part of life, but see no compelling reason why we need to bring war into the spiritual realm needlessly.
I personally would rather associate the Christian life with something less confrontational. This is not saying that Christians will not face struggles, but I would simply rather compare them with something other than war.
I'm sure we disagree on this, but I am glad that there are different ministries out there to reach different focus groups.
In looking over my earlier comment, I failed to truly get across how deeply regretful I am for the way i said what I meant.
I know you took great offense to the "hate" comment, but I personally feel more guilt about calling it "dorky". There is nothing dorky about life change or impacting students with the truth of the gospel. I pray that I have not mitigated in any way the impact that this program will have upon the kingdom of God. May God bless you as we continue to find better ways to minister effectively in our setting. JM