Monday, December 8, 2014

Top 10 Mayward Blog Posts of 2014

Photo Credit: Andrew Sorensen (Creative Commons)
Looking back of 2014, it's been a year marked by joy, pain, perseverance, and unexpected movements of the Holy Spirit. Much of the past year has been recorded here, at my personal blog. As the year comes to a close, I think it's important to look back and remember the highlights from the journey, the significant moments and the writing that accompanied them.

Here are the ten most-read, most-shared blog posts of 2014 for The Mayward Blog:

10. Youth Ministry Soapbox: Stop Trying to Build Your Platform
"Yes, I am questioning your motives. I am also questioning mine. I've seen the log jammed in my own eye, the mixed motives of my own heart when it comes to social media. I know the brief euphoric rush of getting a few hundred "likes" or "clicks" or "favorites" for a blog post. As an author, I know the tension of wanting to promote my books because I genuinely believe in their message and content, but also not wanting to become a salesman. I recognize the irony of sharing this post on Facebook and Twitter in the hopes that it exhorts and stirs up some conversation. Yet any platform I have in the youth ministry tribe is simply God's grace; it's a gift that I want to steward well, to be a voice of encouragement and wisdom and hope for our tribe. This soapbox moment is simply meant to question our focus in youth ministry and draw us to what matters most: making disciples of the emerging generation."

9. VIFF Reviews: Wild; Foxcatcher. 
"While God isn't a central figure in Wild, he's quietly present in the midst of Cheryl's pain. In one scene, Cheryl and her younger brother pray for their mother's health, with Cheryl taking on the classic prayer posture of closed eyes and folded hands. Her brother chides her for her attempts at spirituality. Neither seems to take the prayers too seriously at first. Yet in a few moments, both are quietly offering their prayers and hopes into the atmosphere, hoping their wishes for a miracle will be answered. When that miracle never happens, Cheryl's response to God is one of rage, screaming a hearty "f**k you" into the heavens. There are a lot of these middle-finger moments with Cheryl; she's got quite the vocabulary for expressing her pain and frustration, shifting from poetry to cuss words with seamless ease. Take caution: Wild is difficult film to watch sometimes, and Cheryl's downward spiral involves addictions to sex and drugs."

8. 6 Predictions for the Future of Youth Ministry
"3. Youth ministry resourcing organizations will become entirely online and regional. With the advent of the Internet and blogging/tweeting/Facebooking world, the age of the huge youth ministry convention will be over, and the one-size-fits-all curriculum and training that comes from many organizations will go by the wayside. What works in a Catholic setting in Seattle simply doesn't work the same for a Baptist in Nashville. This regional emphasis will clear the way for smaller contextual gatherings and giving voice to a wider variety of youth workers. It will also mean having to discern and sort through the mass of content being created--anyone can create their own website, start a consulting/coaching program, or publish their own book and curriculum, meaning there will simply be more resources (good and not-so-good) to choose from."

7. Ministry Like Jeremiah (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4)
"God has recently prompted me to read through the book of Jeremiah. I'll admit, I wasn't too excited about the idea. This lengthy prophetic tome is filled with blistering passages about God's wrath for the sinful nations, as well as Jeremiah's suffering at the hands of his own people. Yet as I read, I am reminded over and over again of God's faithfulness, His covenantal love for His people, and the nature of ministry. It is this latter point--the nature of ministry--that I wish to unpack here more fully."

6. I Want to Be An Unbusy Pastor.
I want to be a pastor who prays. I want to be reflective and responsive and relaxed in the presence of God so that I can be reflective and responsive and relaxed in your presence. I can't do that on the run. It takes a lot of time. I started out doing that with you, but now I feel too crowded. 
I want to be a pastor who reads and studies. This culture in which we live squeezes all the God sense out of us. I want to be observant and informed enough to help this congregation understand what we are up against, the temptations of the devil to get us thinking we can all be our own gods. This is subtle stuff. It demands some detachment and perspective. I can't do this just by trying harder. 
5. On Turning 30
"So what will the next ten years look like? I have no idea. When I look back upon the life I've lived thus far, it's full of unexpected blessings and beautiful surprises. I never planned any of this. Oh, I had plans. But not these ones. These turned out far better, and were usually in spite of me and directly connected to Jesus and his guidance.

Even though I'm unsure what the next decade will look like, I'm still going to set some goals and see where they lead. I'm publicly posting 30 goals for my 30s, right here and now. This isn't an exhaustive list--I have unspoken dreams for my life that aren't ready to be posted on a blog yet--but it's a pretty full one. So if the Internet and blogs still exist in ten years, this will be a public record of what I was aiming for."

4. On Christian Tabloids, or YOU'LL BE SHOCKED BY WHAT I SAY NEXT
"Tabloid journalism tends to emphasize scandalous crime/legal stories and gossip about the personal lives of celebrities. They use aggressive tactics and volatile story-of-the-week moments to get more readers to indulge. With the advent of social media and instant information, the innate human desire To Know More About Everything is piqued. We read about Driscoll being asked to step down from Mars Hill, or about Gungor not believing in a literal Genesis, or about John Piper bidding farewell to Rob Bell and we feed on those links like it's Shark Week.

Twitter and Facebook have become online Christian tabloid sources, increasingly becoming more volatile, reactionary, and temporary."

3. Movie Review: Noah
"In the end, Noah isn't a perfect film, but it's certainly a fantastic film, in both senses of the word--extraordinarily good and imaginative and fanciful. For those who are hesitant about Noah--particularly those who claim it isn't "biblical" enough--I would invite them to watch again with open minds and hearts, seeking truth and beauty in the flood of this tale. Noah reminds us that we are broken and beautiful, depraved and good, bearing the weight of our sin and the image of God in our souls. It calls us back to Eden, recognizing that we cannot create or enter paradise on our own--we need a Savior who looks upon us with favor, one who will carry us through the waters out of death and into life."

2. Confession: I Am In Burnout. 
"The only way to heal from burnout is to slow the pace, lessen the burden, and lean into Jesus and community for healing and strength. If I keep running in the marathon with a significant wound, I'm likely to ultimately wound others. So, I'm taking some significant action steps to recover, including stepping away from my current youth pastor position at my church in Langley, BC. Along with this resignation, our family will be moving from Canada back to the Portland, OR area to be closer to family, for me to pursue graduate studies, and to take a season to discern and heal. By this Christmas, the chapter of our lives in Canada will come to a close.

I'm recognizing that what got me here was my own pride, choosing to trust in my strength and try to tell myself things will get better. As Carey Nieuwhof writes in his post about recovering from burnout"Only humility will get you out of what pride got you into." I just quit my job so I could be a better pastor, husband, and father. I'm not saying everyone has to do this, but it's my act of faith and obedience."

1. Top 25 Movies Every High School Student Should See
"What are the movies teenagers should be watching? Most modern movies marketed to high schoolers aren't particularly enriching or well-crafted, and often placate to the basest of impulses and tastes. So what are some better options? What are films that young people can and should consume, films that inspire and enrich and expand horizons, films that high school teens would truly love if they only knew they were worthwhile?

In 2005, the British Film Institute created a list of the 50 films you should see by age 14. Inspired by this list, and a conversation thread at Arts and Faith, I've listed 25 films that every movie-loving high school student should see before graduation. Some of these films could be viewed in the earlier teenage years (e.g. The Wizard of Oz, Star Wars, Singing in the Rain). Some should only be viewed by more mature and discerning viewers who can handle the content, including The Godfather, Amelie, Schindler's List, The Kid with a Bike,and The Thin Red LineWith any film, teens need to use wisdom, discernment, and caution before consuming it, looking at movies through the lens of Scripture and prudence. Be a sieve, not a sponge or a funnel."

Thanks for reading, sharing, linking, and commenting this past year. It means so much to me that you read The Mayward Blog, and I hope this next year of 2015 will be even more fruitful and encouraging than the last.

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