I was at a Christian business conference when the question caught me off guard.
Asking for clarification was pointless. I knew exactly what this grizzly man in his 60s meant.
Millennials have earned the reputation of being entitled, lazy, unmotivated, and technology addicted. Business owners try to keep us around, but we move jobs every few years. Pastors try to get us to Sunday service, but we want it on our iPhones. Parents are confused about how to motivate us to grow up and get a real job.
As a 25-year-old, I started a company to help explain to business leaders how to work with this generation. Speaking across the country to hundreds of employee groups, I’ve heard nearly every complaint and concern possible. Here’s one of the many things I’ve learned: The question of “what’s wrong with millennials” plagues ministry leaders as much as it does business professionals.
We don’t want to be put in a box and categorized as “single,” “student,” “married,” “married with young children” or whatever other small group label you create.
It’s no mystery that the Church is facing a millennial crisis. According to Barna, six out of 10 in this generation walk away from their faith, despite a majority being raised in religious households.
So what can we do about it? We need what I call gender reconciliation. Considering the statistics, there’s no better place to start that than in the church. Here are six characteristics of millennials and how the church can adapt to embrace them:
Individualistic – We may be the largest generation on the planet, but we still want to be recognized as unique individuals. The church must realize that a one-size-fits-all approach to this generation isn’t going to work. We don’t want to be put in a box and categorized as “single,” “student,” “married,” “married with young children” or whatever other small group label you create. millennials customize our viewer experience on Netflix and our shopping preferences on Amazon. Why can’t we customize our community experience at church?
Disruptive – You read that right. But trust me, it’s a good thing. Millennials love to disrupt the status quo. We invented social networking with Facebook, revolutionized family photos with Instagram, and reimagined hotels with Airbnb. This generation wants to change how we participate in church. We want to access sermon notes from our smartphones, communicate with other congregants in live forums, and tweet questions to our pastor on stage. The millennial tendency toward disruption is misinterpreted as disrespect. I would be more concerned if the millennials in your church weren’t changing things. Participation means ownership for millennials.
Skeptical – Millennials have been raised in the post-Christian era. Religious pluralism is everywhere: Declaring that there is only one way to God is considered hate speech. Pastors shouldn’t be discouraged, though. Millennials have the same faith capacity as other generations. They just have their own hurdles to overcome. Help this generation understand the spiritual and intellectual proof for Jesus, God, and the Bible. Empower us with the facts that bring confidence and conviction.
Flexible – We move around… a lot. Whether it is changing jobs, apartments or cities, this generation gets bored sitting still. We want a church that allows us to maintain a dynamic lifestyle. Some weekends we are out of town—so we want to catch the Sunday sermon online. We may be busy with family on Sunday. A Saturday night option is great. Constant and convenient access to church resources and community is important to us. Even if your lights are turned off, the 21st century church can be ministering 24/7.
Diverse – Millennials love diversity. I’m not simply talking about racial diversity either. We want to work, live, and participate in communities that have different ages, genders, and experiences. Millennials want to attend churches that embrace variety and won’t put up with judgment. We want places of worship that allow us to be ourselves. Churches that celebrate diversity in community rather than pressure conformity will keep more millennials.
Authentic – Stop trying to sell to us! Millennials are tired of being sold. We have been marketed to since we were in utero. Flashy ads aren’t going to get us to come to your church. We don’t go to church expecting to be entertained, but educated and enlightened. Millennials want leaders that are open about their own brokenness to help us feel accepted for who we are.
Looking back, I should have spent more time answering that grizzly old man’s question. No, sir, there is nothing “wrong” with this generation. We are compassionate, passionate, and creative. A generation eager to make our mark on the world. We face our own challenges with the church, just like your generation did.
On a very basic level, millennials are the future of the church. Rather than pushing us away, embrace us for who we are while constantly pushing us back to Christ.
Gabrielle Jackson is a millennial expert, author and CEO of The Millennial Solution. She speaks internationally on generational reconciliation. Click here to download her limited time offer for the “Christian Leader’s Guide to Millennials.“
Do Christians need to avoid certain types of music? Should they read lyrics before they start humming a catching tune in the shower? What about Justin Bieber talking about the Christian faith? Is it different for different people?
Those are a few of the questions we tackled in our first-ever I Am Second podcast. Joe Hamm, Lucy Allen, and I sat down to talk it out. Give it a listen, and if you have questions, thoughts, or suggestions for other topics use #secondpodcast on Twitter to reach us.
Tim Adriany and his wife, Crystal. (Source: Facebook)
Tim Adriany lived in the eastern North Carolina town of Parkton. He couldn’t drive any more. The cancer spreading throughout his body made sure of that. That didn’t change his love of classic cars, though. While recently visiting with his neighbor, he mentioned a final wish: to ride in his dream car – an El Camino – one last time. He never dreamed what would come of that conversation, and what friends and strangers were about to do.
Adriany’s cancer came as a surprise when having a scan done on his back after a car accident in December 2014. It progressed rapidly, with radiation and chemotherapy treatments unable to help.
Raised in church, he was a man of deep faith and lived second his whole life. When asked about Heaven, he said he looks forward to “whatever God has in store for me.”
He and his wife have two small children with another on the way. Life is precious, in other words. But the possibility of death loomed. How did such a grim cancer prognosis affect his optimistic outlook on life?
“It all depends on how much you want to believe in doctors,” he told I Am Second. “I’m not giving up. My faith in the Lord is strong. He is number one. I know am number two right behind that. We’re going to keep trying. Take it day-by-day.”
Every day Adriany reminded himself of his commitment to live second through the black and white I Am Second bracelet he wore. It was given to him at a prayer meeting. The main color of the bracelet, black, held special significance: Adriany’s original cancer diagnosis was melanoma, which is signified in awareness campaigns by a black ribbon.
Adriany’s beliefs weren’t just some far-away religion or a Sunday school lesson for him. Consider the story of how he ended up letting his entire community know about his faith.
The night Adriany clued his neighbor, Jo Coe, into his dying wish involving the El Camino, what he said weighed heavily on her heart. Coe is an elementary school social worker and a woman of profound faith herself. She knew God was calling her to help her friend in any way she could.
“I went to bed that night and could not go to sleep. It was like Jacob wrestling with the angel. I just could not get that thing off my mind all day Monday,” she said.
“That day was awesome. It was a total surprise.”
She wanted to make that dream come true. So she emailed her childhood friend, James Locklear. Locklear’s connections with the newspaper community and social media helped her idea of an El Camino ride for Adriany explode into a full classic car show in just a few days. By Thursday, August 20, they had an overwhelming response, and it was all supposed to take place at their two houses. But that didn’t happen.
The event was so popular they couldn’t fit all of the cars in Coe and Adriany’s driveways. They instead paraded the antique automobiles by Adriany’s house and gave him a ride to the local ballpark where the rest of the cars were displayed. Unfortunately, not one El Camino could make it that day due to mechanical issues. (He did get his El Camino ride a few days later, however, when owners of a 1984, a 1970 and a 1971 model were all able to fulfill his dream.)
In total, Coe said 126 classic cars and one motorcycle attracted 300 people from the surrounding communities – up to 100 miles away. And get this: Adriany only lived in the community around a year and a half.
When asked to describe the look on Adriany’s face when he saw the cars that Thursday, Coe said she couldn’t. It’s unexplainable. He could hardly believe it was all in his honor.
“That day was awesome,” Adriany told I Am Second. “It was a total surprise. I had no idea that that was going to happen.”
Locklear told the Robesonian newspaper Adriany “was like a kid in a candy store” and noted an inspiring aspect of the event for those discouraged by the state of the country: “Those who think Americans don’t have love for one another should’ve been there among this diverse crowd of all races from all walks of life.”
It was at that event that a local news station showed up. Not only had strangers taken notice, but so had the media. When they asked him about it, that’s when Adriany revealed his message for the community.
“I appreciate everything that everyone has done for this but I am Second,” he told WRAL. “This is still truly for the Lord, that’s the only statement I got. It’s still for the Lord.”
“I appreciate everything that everyone has done for this, but I am Second.”
Critics might point to the professions of faith and publicity as ways to garner sympathy. But Coe strongly refutes those accusations, pointing to the way Adriany lived his life in the midst of great trials.
“He is what he says he is. He is a child of God. He’s taken care of his family,” she said. “In all that he was and all that he has become, in all that he is, the Lord is still first. He has remained constant in the Lord.”
Coe said that Adriany wasn’t the only one affected by the classic car event. One attendee related her own story of healing from a blockage in her pancreas and noted that the size of the event led to connections between attendees in need.
“She said there were people in their car club that didn’t have places to live that now have places to live because they came that night,” Coe shared. “There were people that didn’t have jobs that came that night that now have jobs. It was amazing.”
A day before publishing this story, I Am Second received news that Adriany died around 11 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 26, 2015 in hospice care.
One only has to read his public Facebook statuses to see how his faithfulness inspired those around him to live second. His posts are not what you would expect from a man who was battling cancer. They are full of gratitude and praise to God, especially for the small moments. Even activities as ordinary as going outside for the first time in a week and spending time with his preschool-age daughter are transformed into extraordinary blessings in his perspective.
Adriany wearing his I Am Second bracelet. (Source: Facebook)
“As I sit here this morning I think about how, with all the hustle and bustle going on around us it [is] easy take simple things for granted,” reads his post from September 15. “Yesterday I got to color a couple pictures with Ashley to add to our wall of art. It was the highlight of my day.”
Adriany’s recent adoption of Ashley, his wife’s daughter, is just one more example of the way he cares for and protects others in the midst of his own struggle.
“Good morning FB world! For those who have followed my story you are well aware that not only have I been battling with cancer, but I have been battling to adopt Ashley,” reads his final Facebok post, four days before his death. “I would like to announce that as of yesterday, Sept 21st I became successful! God is good!
It’s hard not to see his life as a reflection of 2 Corinthians 4:7-9 and 16-18:
“We have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. … Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”
That’s Adriany. He wasn’t wealthy, famous, or prestigious in the traditional sense. But he was faithful, especially while walking through the dark valley of cancer. He put himself second every day. That’s how he will be remembered by all those who knew him.
I never thought I’d say this: Justin Bieber understands Christianity better than a lot of people I know. And there’s a lot about Justin Bieber’s Christianity that I want.
I’m sure the comments section is about to go nuts. Understandable. I still struggle with the Justin Bieber of a couple years ago. The one that went after photographers, was a bad neighbor, and acted more entitled than a hedge fund child in the Hamptons. I don’t really listen to his music. I couldn’t really see us being good friends. But man, he’s spitting out some truth.
“We have the greatest healer of all and his name is Jesus Christ. And he really heals. This is it.”
“Science makes a lot of sense. Then I start thinking—wait, the ‘big bang.’ For a ‘big bang’ to create all this is more wild to think about than thinking about there being a God. Imagine putting a bunch of gold into a box, shaking up the box, and out comes a Rolex. It’s so preposterous once people start saying it. At this point, my faith has gotten me to where I am. My faith has brought me to a whole other level. I love talking about my faith. I think that with Christians, they’ve left such a bad taste in people’s mouths. Just like, overly pushy with the subject, overly churchy and religious.”
“There’s a lot of really weird stuff going on at churches. You ever flicked on a channel and a late-night church show is on? Sometimes it’s like, ‘You better do this or you gon’ die and you gon’ burn in hell!’ And you’re like, I don’t want anything to do with this. I’m the same way. I’m not religious. I, personally, love Jesus and that was my salvation. I want to share what I’m going through and what I’m feeling and I think it shouldn’t be ostracized.”
“I think that people, as soon as they start hearing me saying I’m a Christian, they’re like, ‘Whoa Justin, back up, take a step back.’ Also, I do not want to shove this down anyone’s throat. I just wanna honestly live like Jesus. Not be Jesus—I could never—I don’t want that to come across weird. He created a pretty awesome template of how to love people and how to be gracious and kind. If you believe it, he died for our sins. Sometimes when I don’t feel like doing something, but I know it’s right, I remember, I’m pretty sure Jesus didn’t feel like going to the cross and dying so that we don’t have to feel what we should have to feel. What Jesus did when he came to the cross was basically say, ‘You don’t have to feel any of that stuff.’ We could take out all of our insecurities, we could take away all of the hurt, all the pain, all the fear, all the trauma. That doesn’t need to be there. So all this healing that you’re trying to do, it’s unnecessary. We have the greatest healer of all and his name is Jesus Christ. And he really heals. This is it. It’s time that we all share our voice. Whatever you believe. Share it. I’m at a point where I’m not going to hold this in.”
“It’s like with God: The whole thing with religion is you present yourself holy and bring your offerings so that God can bless you, when the whole point of the relationship [should be], ‘No, I’m gonna do this because he loves me. I’m gonna do this because he’s amazing and not because [I] have to, [but] because [I] want to.’ That’s the whole thing with religion that’s been throwing off the people. It’s not a ‘have to.’ It should be just like a personal relationship. Like, ‘Hey, I love you because you first loved me.'”
“If we can understand that we’re all imperfect, let’s come to God and come for his help. You’re not weak by doing that. I think that’s a common misperception of Christians, that you’re being weak because you can’t handle it. None of us can handle this world, dude! It’s eating us alive.”
Sure, he’s still on a journey. He’s still making mistakes. He’s going to continue to make mistakes. There’s room for some skepticism, as his lifestyle choices are still confusing to many. And I pray that God has placed or is placing people in his life that can speak to that. I’m not suggesting he be the speaker at the next Passion conference. But guys, there’s a lot that he gets. And we should be celebrating that.
Listen, I don’t know where Bieber stands on Arminianism vs. Calvinism, spiritual gifts, or church discipline. And frankly, I don’t care. What I do know is that Justin Bieber believes the core tenets of what I believe: That Christ died to offer a way out of the brokenness that our stupid selves keep leading us into; that God loves us; that He’s the only way to find true, lasting fulfillment; and that He always has been and always will be.
And he’s saying all that in way that I wish I could. It’s raw. It’s real. It’s restorative.
Bieber and I will likely never agree on every aspect of Christian lifestyle. We’ll probably never be best friends. Tula Current time But we can be fellow Christians. And in that sense, I guess you can call me a belieber.
To see other people who, like Bieber, have decided that it’s time to tell the world about their faith, you can visit our films page and hear from the likes of Jason Witten, Ryan Ries, Sean Lowe, and Lecrae.
Ronald Reagan once quipped that the trouble with his political opponents, “is not that they are ignorant. It’s just that they know so much that isn’t so.”
Well, I’ve had a bee in my bonnet for years over something that far too many of my fellow Christians believe in that just isn’t so. I speak, gentle listener, of the whole “soul mate” nonsense, especially when it comes to finding a husband or wife.
Let me be perfectly clear: No matter how many ads for Christian dating services you hear or trendy books you read, we simply don’t have “soul mates,” at least as our confused culture understands that term. Does this surprise you? It shouldn’t. Look for that concept, by the way, in the Bible, and the only thing you can find remotely close to it is the fierce friendship of David and Jonathan. “Jonathan made a covenant with David,” Scripture says, “because he loved him as his own soul.”
Let me be perfectly clear: No matter how many ads for Christian dating services you hear or trendy books you read, we simply don’t have “soul mates.”
Now those are soul mates, friends. But the Bible knows nothing of romantic “soul mates.” This concept is more New Age than Christian. The Huffington Post gives nine signs that you’ve found your soul mate, the first one being: “You communicate without speaking.” Okay. One New Age website, however, gives three signs you’ve “definitely” found your soul mate: “You just connect without trying,” “Your level of communication is unmatched,” and “You create your own world together.”
That’s cute, it’s nice, maybe it’s even romantic . . . but it’s certainly not biblical.
Now all of this confusion might be kind of funny if it weren’t so harmful to naïve Christians and others who’ve fallen for this idea. Because this idea implies that somewhere out there is that “perfect person” for you, and if your marriage is not exploding with intense communication, romance, and a great sex life, well then maybe it’s because your spouse is not your “soul mate.”
Men who are a little bored with their wives, or vice versa, might be tempted by a co-worker who “understands me so well and is my soul mate, or could be my soul mate.” But frankly, this is a recipe for adultery and divorce, and families end up getting dropped for “soul mates.”
Once I wrote a tribute to C.S. Lewis’s “The Screwtape Letters” called “Screwtape Proposes a Divorce,” in which Wasphead, my invented senior devil, says the following to Gallstone, the junior devil: “That [soul mates] do not exist is to be kept TOP SECRET. … Let’s be blunt: these humans are scouring the globe for someone with whom a relationship will require absolutely no work or compromise. … Many adult humans who have long ago dismissed Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny as myths somehow persist in believing this person to exist.”
The “soul mate” concept is unworkable and completely unfair to the real other person in your life.
The “soul mate” concept is unworkable and completely unfair to the real other person in your life. It puts enormous pressure on him or her to perform, to meet our impossible expectations. As Jerry Root and Stan Guthrie point out in “The Sacrament of Evangelism,” putting others in God’s place—expecting them to give us what only He can—is a naked form of idolatry and will only lead to deep disappointment.
Here’s another thing. The “soul mate” idea suggests that marriage is all about me, that I need to find someone who understands me perfectly, who makes me happy. Marriage should be about finding someone you can make happy. In the great teaching on marriage in Ephesians, for example, husbands are told to lay down their lives for their wives, as Christ did for the church.
As J. R. R. Tolkien once wrote to his son, “No man, however truly he loved his betrothed and bride as a young man has lived faithful to her as a wife in mind and body without deliberate conscious exercise of the will, without self-denial.”
So folks, let’s drop the whole “soul mate” talk, shall we? Marriage can be wonderfully satisfying, but that’s the result of God’s grace, hard work, and self-sacrificial love. And that is the truth.
Eric Metaxas is the New York Times #1 bestselling author of “Bonhoeffer,” “Miracles,” “Seven Women,” “Seven Men,” and “Amazing Grace.” He has written more than 30 children’s books, including the bestsellers “Squanto and the Miracle of Thanksgiving” and “It’s Time to Sleep, My Love,” illustrated by Nancy Tillman. His books have been translated into more than 20 languages. He is the host of the Eric Metaxas Show, a nationally syndicated radio program heard in more than 120 cities around the U.S. He’s also a Second. You can view his I Am Second film here.
Rachel Hallmark was getting ready to bring her four children to Six Flags in Arlington, Texas. She just had to take care of one quick thing first. Her eldest child, Ethan, had a nagging ache in his stomach recently. Medicine didn’t really help. So she packed up all four kids and brought them to the doctor so Ethan could get a CT scan.
It wouldn’t take long, she thought. At least not long enough to derail her plans for a fun day with the kids, whom she had already lathered up with sunscreen.
She couldn’t have been more wrong.
When the pediatrician made her sit down, she realized it. Ethan had a massive tumor in his abdomen. Later tests would reveal it was neuroblastoma, a rare form of childhood cancer that was routinely fatal.
The baseball-loving 9-year-old was about to have anything but a normal childhood.
Pictures of Ethan line the home of the Hallmarks in Midlothian, Texas. (Source: I Am Second)
July 16, 2010
We started our clinic visits this week. He goes two to three times a week in between chemo to the oncology clinic. I was dreading our first visit as I didn’t know what to expect. I was afraid to be honest. As we turn the corner to enter the parking garage, a song came on the Christian radio station. It goes, ‘This is where the healing begins.” God couldn’t have spoken much clearer to me. Our family has definitely been turned upside down and all focus is on healing our son. I don’t know how we could do this without our faith in Jesus Christ. Because of Him, we can continue on day to day.
That’s part of the first post Rachel ever wrote on CaringBridge, a place where people going through medical difficulty can update friends, family, and supporters. There are 93 pages worth of updates on Ethan’s site.
Ninety-three pages of raw honesty. Hurt. Pain. Fight. Love. Faith.
If you’ve been to that site or this one before, you know how Ethan’s story ends. He battled the disease for four years as it ravaged his body, going into remission once but then spreading to his bone marrow and colonizing in his arm, leg, knee, and behind his heart. All the while he had an attitude that’s almost unfathomable.
“Obviously I want to beat this disease, but I’m not going to be that sad if I don’t,” he said in a film made about his life. “Of course I want to live a long life, who doesn’t? I want to watch my sister and brothers go to middle school with me, go to high school, watch them graduate. Even I want to graduate. It’s not really my plan though.”
On September 26, 2014, he died at age 13.
But while you may know how Ethan’s story ends, his family is part of a larger one that’s just beginning.
Let’s be real for a second. I think the best way to start is to be blunt: Stop being so freaking offended.
I spend a lot of time reading social media and web comments. I try to keep my pulse on what people are saying, thinking, and wanting. I did it for five years in the news business, and it continues here. Here’s my big takeaway: We are way too focused on being wronged.
I see it so much: One person disagrees with someone or something, and it becomes some knock-out-drag-out literary battle, using words and arguments taken from a fifth-grade playground. Oh, and of course there is some scripture thrown in there.
“We live in a culture of offense. In both public and private, people are always on the watch for some statement or group — somewhere — whose ideas might possibly run counter to their own,” writes Lucy Schouten.
Preach it, Lucy.
Christianity is countercultural in its DNA.
I hope I’m not the first one to say this to you, but here it goes: As Christians, we should expect that there are going to be a lot of ideas that run counter to our own. Christianity is countercultural in its DNA. We need to be uncomfortable in a society that tells us comfort is the ultimate goal.
Well, that’s exactly why I need to tell this person that what they’re doing is wrong! Their sin is so offensive to me! I’m showing them I’m different!
Are you, though? Ask yourself this question, “Have I earned the right to speak into this person’s life?”
Jesus could have been “offended” by a cheating woman’s actions, taken up a stone, and joined the mob who just couldn’t stand what she did. But he didn’t. He bent down, wrote in the sand, and told her to be on her way — and by the way, stop doing what you’re doing. Obviously his approach took care of what the mob’s didn’t.
Talk about countercultural.
But even Jesus overturned the tables in the temple! He got angry at sin!
Yeah, you’re right, he did. But take a look at that story. Who was Jesus angry at? It was those who were using faith to benefit themselves. Those who were taking advantage of the temple instead of using it for its true purpose.
“Survey those to whom Jesus directed His strongest, most severe words,” write Leonard Sweet and Frank Viola. “It was the self-righteous, judgmental Pharisees and Sadducees—those who didn’t see themselves as sinners but who leveled that charge against everyone else.”
Allow me to contextualize that: Those who see themselves as the Christianity police, always on the prowl to point out how everyone else isn’t living up to their standards. And technology makes that so easy and accessible. Think about it, 20 years ago you never would have known what Jason S. was thinking or doing 2,000 miles away. Now you see it the moment he hits enter on his keyboard.
You may not be able to convince someone Christ is the answer right away, but your words and actions can quickly and easily convince them that he’s not.
In our lives, our attitude shouldn’t be looking for wrongs, it should be looking for ways we can make things right in the world. How can we restore brokenness? How can I be different in this situation? We need to stop focusing on beingright and start thinking about how to make things right. We need to stop focusing on how to win arguments, and start focusing on how to win people.
So ask yourself this, “Is writing this snarky comment really going to be the one thing that changes this person’s mind? Is sending this Tweet and attaching #truth really the best representation of it?”
The early church was focused on relationships, on “how to stir up one another to love and good works.” People were selling their possessions and giving the money away. Can you really convey that Christianity in 140 angry characters?
Think about it this way: You may not be able to convince someone Christ is the answer right away, but your words and actions can quickly and easily convince them that he’s not.
And you know what? I don’t care if that offends you.
The last time I thought about hooking up was yesterday.
I sometimes go through these seasons where I feel my flesh trying to get the best of me. It’s those days that “Submit to God, resist the devil and he will flee” just doesn’t seem real. I kept thinking of whom I could contact. My old stopping ground was Craigslist, but that was not easy anymore. It held too many barriers and with each barrier was a conviction. It was a lie I was telling myself that said I would just befriend someone and see where it goes. In the back of my mind, I wanted a hookup.
I prayed that this moment would pass.
I was thinking of different angles — thinking of girls I hadn’t had any relations with. The girls who I could tell by their eyes and body language that if put in a compromising situation, they would give in. I was looking for those girls and a reason I could call them or meet up one-on-one. Did I have anything of theirs I needed to return?Did they have a job opportunity I was interested in? Anything so we could meet up.
It’s been years since I cleaned house. I deleted all the numbers of the girls I knew were bad news. I had to be real with myself and stop using the excuse that, Well, there may be a legit reason I would need to call them, so I should keep those numbers around. I did the same thing with Facebook friends who I had crossed boundaries with in the past. At times I had even thought, If they see the change in me, maybe that will bring them to Christ. But that too was a lie. I couldn’t trust myself with them. All those might have been legit reasons — but I had to be wise and protect myself.
A Quick Prayer
I prayed that this moment would pass. I prayed that I couldn’t find a Facebook friend of that nature. I prayed that I would have the courage to text my trusted brothers in Christ and not just ask them to pray but specifically tell them what I’m battling in my mind — that I’m looking to hook up. I prayed for strength to stop going through my friends list … I needed to get busy with something else.
The Last Time
The last time I hooked up was June 2012. I remember how broken I was at that moment.
Prior to that day I had a couple of months of sobriety. Those few months were the tangible indication that I was healing, and yet it was all lost in the one weekend I was out of town. It only took minutes to throw away the victory. A few email exchanges and we’d set up a time. I picked her up, it happened and I took her home. I had reached the point where I was very aware of what I was doing and I couldn’t go on any longer with the evening. I was crushed and I cried.
I contemplated not telling anybody from my 12-step group. But I’ve been down that path before. It would just be easier for me to do it again. It took all the strength I had, but I called my Celebrate Recovery leader. I hoped he wouldn’t answer. He did. I told him in detail what happened. He reminded me who I was in Christ and he said that we just have to go forward from here. And then I remembered what my mentor once told me: “Ivan, this is just another opportunity to fall into God’s grace.” He asked me if it was better for me to feel shame and guilt and render myself useless for the Kingdom for the rest of the week, or to accept God’s grace and continue on producing fruit.
Was it better for me to feel shame and guilt, or to accept God’s grace and continue on?
I thought, That’s not fair! Why should Christ be crucified for my foolishness? But that’s exactly why He died. He knew we couldn’t be righteous so He created a way for us to be righteous through Him. That was the day the cost of Christ’s death became real to me. Up to that point, I understood the concept, but at that moment I was very aware of the cost. I wept and wept. I was humbled by a God who loved me so much that He knew this would happen and He said, “Forgiven.”
That was the day something changed. I didn’t struggle as much as I had in the past. I had more victory. His glory and grace were so much bigger. And although it didn’t get easier for me, He made me stronger.
So what do I do in those moments where that grace is a distant memory? When I’m not feeling it? I trust Him. I remember that I can’t make permanent decisions based on temporary feelings. I have to remember that this moment shall pass.
God knows what’s best for me, and although waiting for this moment to pass isn’t pleasant, I am reminded:
“But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint. But those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength” (Isaiah 40:31).
The Lord has renewed my strength time and time again. And as I take a step of faith in this moment … I will trust that He will do so again.
Ivan has his B.S. degree from Texas A&M University. He likes to run and has completed several half marathons and two full marathons. He also has a passion for singles to lead Christ-centered lives. In addition, Ivan disciples men in regard to porn and sex addiction. He currently resides in the DFW area.
This post originally appeared on Single Matters®, a free online magazine for singles discussing matters of faith, singleness, relationships, and life. Originally posted on May 12, 2015. Republished with permission.
As a professional filmmaker, there’s a question I get asked a lot that’s tough: “What is it like to be a Christian working in the film industry?” Especially since I live in New York City.
It’s tough because it’s not honestly something I dwell on. Here’s what I mean: God has given me the ability to do what I do, so my work flows freely from that. It’s a joyful process of doing what I believe my purpose is. It’s not about doing my work or being a Christian. They’re one in the same.
But when I force myself to answer the question, there is something that stands out.
Ever since I was a child, my brother and I would take our parents’ video camera to the fields behind our home. There was a railroad track that cut directly between them. It was the perfect location for a couple pre-teens to create epic short films.
So we did.
All of our friends would come over, we’d assign roles, and we’d start filming. When I think about that, I’m reminded of something. You know what stands out? How different our skills and equipment were back then.
That, I think, is what being a Christian and a filmmaker is about. We’re always striving for excellence, but in a way that’s different. No shortcuts. No excuses. And no taking advantage of people.
Let me put it like this: It’s no different and yet all about being different.
How could it be any different if I’ve truly allowed what I believe to infuse into my work?
At We Are Films, we’ve worked with major clients like Sufjan Stevens, Squarespace, and Microsoft. Time and time again we’re told that there is something different about working on set with my brother and me. The film industry has a reputation for being cutthroat, backstabbing, and grueling. It’s true — especially in NYC.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. And we don’t have to be that way.
We create videos while treating others with kindness. We work as a team. Yes, we celebrate God as our motivator and our inspiration, but that doesn’t mean we are passing out Bibles on set or demanding people talk or act a certain way around us.
Instead, we work very, very hard, we treat others with respect, and we focus on creating an excellent product. That all flows naturally from God’s gift and, in the end, impacts people in our industry more than anything I’ve seen.
Aaron Craig, right, and his brother, Alex. (Source: WeAreFilmsNY.com)
Think about it this way: Everyone is influenced in one way or another by others on set. Many months or even years are spent with people creating the final product. These people become your closest friends. It’s intense. And it’s one of the most beautiful parts of being a filmmaker. We are able to use that time spent together to show people that there is a better way, that there’s something different out there.
Being Second is not just about checking a box of things to say on set or to friends. It’s about living a lifestyle. Since I am Second, I am different. And people notice.
So being a “Christian filmmaker” isn’t something I constantly think or talk about, instead it’s just a part of who I am. It’s reflected in the life I live and in the way I create art.
I’m still just a kid running around with a video camera on the railroad tracks trying to do the best I can every step of the way.
So, what’s it like being a Christian in the film industry? It’s no different than being a Christian in a lot of other industries.
Let me put it like this: It’s no different and yet all about being different.
Aaron Craig is the co-founder, along with his brother Alex, of We Are Films, a professional film company in New York City. He’s worked on music videos with Sufjan Stevens and Cold War Kids, filmed documentaries in Ireland and Alaska, and is the producer of an upcoming feature film entitled “Rapid Eye Movement” that gets underway in October 2015. You can see his work at wearefilmsny.com.
I had just spent a week in the most beautiful place I had ever been: Alaska. Words can’t really sum up the grandeur of the mountains or the vibrancy of the tidal inlets. It just is. And it was breathtaking.
But when I got back and started looked at the pictures, it wasn’t the beauty that stood out most: It was me. I had become unhealthy. I gave into food in the previous three years in a way that was physically defeating.
I decided it was time for change.
This wasn’t a vain, “I want abs” type thing. It was a, “I can’t climb steps like a normal person.” I had become a slave to my stomach. Heart problems and diabetes were rolling over the horizon like storm clouds.
But let me admit something: I’m cheap. Not frugal. Cheap. Always have been. My wife has helped me become a more generous person, but it’s something I have to work on. So my decision to change wasn’t going to come by filling up a gallon of water, hitting weights, and paying Sven money to yell at me while I became a sweating circus act in the middle of some gym floor.
No, I was going to do this the cheap way: Running. It doesn’t cost anything. I can do it on my schedule. And if I picked the right path, no one would see me.
The first day, I barely made it a mile. I took my dog and, I’m not making this up, he passed me walking while I “ran.” He’s part Basset Hound, so his legs are about the height of popsicle sticks. I thought to myself, What a joke.
But I kept going. Day after day, I kept going. I ran in the Texas heat. I ran in the wind. I ran in the rain. I ran on consecutive days. I ran on Thanksgiving.
I logged all my calories. All of them. Every last stinking bite, I logged it. Even when I ate bad.
Something started happening. My clothes started fitting better. People started commenting not on my weight, but on how healthy I looked. I lost 12 pounds in the first month, 33 pounds in six months, and by a year I was down 50 pounds.
What I looked like before, and what I looked like after. (Source: Jonathon M. Seidl)
It was hard. So hard. I wasn’t losing weight, I was changing my lifestyle. My habits. My comforts.
But it all started one day, with one decision. And then a series of similar decisions. I remember the first day I said enough was enough. I had to tell myself out loud that I was going to put on my running shoes and shorts and go. Out loud. Talking to myself. I literally had to motivate myself to take those steps. Small, deliberate steps.
Yup, I totally just pulled that card. You’ve probably heard it a million times.
One foot in front of the other.
Take your time.
Don’t focus on the insurmountable.
How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.
Doesn’t that all just tick you off sometimes, though? We just want to know the exact plan that will produce the exact results, how long it will take, and what it’s going to be like along the way.
But that’s not how it works. It takes baby steps. A series of good decisions outweighing the bad ones.
Ryan Hall is an Olympic runner. He runs distances that are greater than my age. I found something recently that he wrote that puts it well:
It’s not exciting to make baby steps. I’m a dreamer. I always envision making giant leaps in training, but this has never been the case. The key to becoming great at anything is consistency over a long period of time. So this has become my goal. Constantly train year round, not trying to hit mega-miles or crazy workouts, just simple hard, smart, training that leads to gradual improvement rather than taking big risks in training for immediate gains.
In our culture today, myself included, we are constantly looking for the quick-fix or how to fast forward the process. We are high-achievers that want to climb the ladder faster and skip rungs if we have to, which leads to us slipping and falling down the ladder at times. I’ve learned not to rush the process, not to be greedy, but to keep my head down and baby step along towards big goals.
You know why I found that? Because even though I changed my lifestyle three years ago, I’ve again needed to be reminded how to do it. See, after I got healthy in 2012, it lasted about a year. Then I had shoulder surgery, which got me off my running routine. Slowly, gradually, I started reverting back to who I was in the pictures in Alaska.
The way left picture is what I looked like when I decided to get healthy the first time. The middle is what I looked like at the peak of my healthy living. And the right, that’s what I’m back to now.
It’s hard to climb stairs again.
I got rid of all my “big” clothes. I’m buying those same sizes again.
I feel lethargic.
I find myself eating when I’m not hungry.
I’m back to that person I swore I’d never become. And now I need to remember how to change. How to make sure I’m around and healthy for my new, baby girl.
How exactly do I do that? Baby steps.
And you know what? Those two words apply to all types of lifestyle changes. Maybe you struggle with porn, maybe you battle alcoholism, or maybe it’s anger. Whatever it is, start changing. Now. Today. Not tomorrow. Not next week.
Take that first step.
If you’re ready to make a change that involves your eating and exercise habits like me, there are two great resources. First, join me in taking the I Am Second running challenge. It’s four days. We can do that. It can be found in our app. That will ultimately lead to taking part in our I Am Second Run Series. I’m doing the Dallas ru , but there are plenty of options.
Second, I signed up for Calamity Gym, a way to do some workouts using my phone. I explained how it works last week in a post. It’s pretty cool. And it supports some great causes at the same time.
Let me know of your successes and your failures. That’s part of the walk. And remember, you have to get the walk down before you can run.