The Doc File

The online journal of Luke Dockery

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Youth In Family Ministry Launches Today!

A couple of weeks ago I announced that my new ebook, Youth In Family Ministry: A Handbookwas available for preorder, and today is the day it releases! I have been honored and humbled that so many of you have bought it, and I greatly appreciate you for doing so.

It is nice to sell a few books, but more than that, what I am interested in is sharing the information that is contained within this book. I am not an alarmist, but research shows that youth ministry is in trouble in some pretty significant ways, and I have come to believe very deeply that there is a more biblical (and more effective) way of passing faith on to the next generation than what we have typically done. That is what this book is all about.

If you would be willing, I would greatly appreciate it if you would help me get the word out about this book. Towards that end, I have created the images below for you to share on social media. You should be able to just hover over the image and share it to the platform of your choice.

Thanks so much for your continued support!

Asleep In The Storm

There are a couple of different instances recorded in the gospels where Jesus and His disciples are caught up in a storm while on the Sea of Galilee. Both of these are fascinating stories, and they have a way of captivating the imagination.

Matthew 14 recounts the story of Jesus walking on the water and Peter’s stumbling efforts to walk towards Him. He succeeds for a moment, but then, overwhelmed by the waves and the wind around him, takes his eyes off of Jesus and begins to sink. Jesus rescues him, rebukes his faith, gets into the boat, and the storm ceases. It is a fascinating event from the life of Jesus, and one from which we can undoubtedly learn much, but it is actually the other “storm” story I want to focus on.

This one drawn from Luke 8/Matthew 8/Mark 4 is likely familiar to you as well. Jesus and His disciples are out on the sea when a storm arises. The disciples are alarmed, and seemingly with good reason—the waves were breaking into the boat so that it was filling (Mark 4.37), swamped (Matthew 8.24), and they were in danger (Luke 8.23).

But Jesus was unconcerned, even unaware (or so it seemed) of their plight—He was asleep on a cushion in the boat. Asleep in the storm.

In such circumstances, the apostles do what seems sensible to them in the moment. They awaken Jesus, and in the face of His seeming lack of concern, ask, “Do you not care that we are perishing?”

In light of the life, teachings, service, and, ultimately, the sacrifice of Jesus, it seems like a ludicrous question, but imprisoned in the circumstances of the moment, it seemed like a fair question to the disciples. Jesus was asleep; He didn’t seem to care. He seemed absent from their sufferingOf course, we know the truth: He was there all along.

•  •  •

If I am honest, I can identify with the apostles here more than I might like to admit. As I have written recently, this has been a tough year for my daughter. She has experienced seizures for most of her life, but this year they have gotten worse, and we have struggled to control them. What’s worse, the frequency of the seizures and/or the many medications she is on to try to control them has led to a lessening of her energy, a muting of her (delightful) personality, and even some regressions in the abilities she has worked so hard to develop over the last few years.

Some days are better, with fewer seizures, more energy, and more personality, but other days are really hard. The emotional roller coaster is exhausting. This has been our situation for several months, despite the constant prayers of Caroline and myself and the faithful intercession on her behalf from countless friends and family (both physical and spiritual). You could say that we are experiencing our own “storm” right now, and have been for a while.

At times, it feels like we are drowning with grief, about to capsize, and the question the apostles asked Jesus seems like an appropriate one: “Lord, do you not care that we are perishing?” It can seem that God is absent.

The other day, I read through Luke’s version of the story recorded above, and it struck me in a way I had never thought of before (which, by the way, is one of the remarkable things about Scripture—as you read it and reread it, new insights constantly avail themselves to us; it is a transformative book!). So often in life, when we are living through a storm, we ask God to take it away from us, and when He doesn’t, we are left to wonder whether He cares about us at all.

But I think Luke 8 offers us a different perspective—in the midst of the storm, Jesus is neither distant, nor uncaring. He is right there with us, in the boat, riding out the storm. His seeming absence obscures His glorious presence. And while He certainly has the power to take the storm away (and we earnestly pray that He does so!), He asks us for faith, faith that His presence will protect us from being overwhelmed by the storms of life.

New eBook: Youth In Family Ministry: A Handbook

I am excited to announce the completion of a project that I have worked on for the last couple of years. Youth In Family Ministry: A Handbook is the culmination of years of research and personal experience, and sets forth a model of youth ministry that, I believe, is both biblical and effective.

Research shows that a lot of our young people walk away from their faith after high school, and what’s worse, research also indicates that a lot of the things that we have traditionally done in youth ministry are actually weakening the ties that young people have to the church rather than strengthening them.

In Youth In Family Ministry: A HandbookI take an in-depth look at the current crisis in youth ministry, examine in detail what Scripture says about passing faith on to the next generation, and also suggest practical ways that this can be done. The book is about 100 pages long, and is thoroughly researched and footnoted, and is filled with important information.

This ebook releases in two weeks, on Wednesday, November 15, but you can pre-order your copy here.

I believe this is an important project, because I deeply believe in the importance of helping our young people to develop a faith that will stick with them throughout their lives. I would love for it to be read widely so these ideas can spread and more and more churches can practice youth ministry in what I believe is a more biblically-grounded and, ultimately, better way.

There are two big ways you can help:

(1) Buy the book. 🙂

(2) Spread the word. Share this post, and tell others you know who you think might be interested. I think it is an important resource for youth ministers, church leaders, youth group volunteers, parents, and more.

Thanks for reading, and thanks for your support!

The Christian Story, Free Will, and Love Potions

Really, the Christian Story is a fairly simple one. God created a world that was good—beautiful, well-suited for its purpose. Humanity, created in God’s image, was the pinnacle of creation, and was given the vocation of ruling over, tending, and cultivating what God had made.

But something went wrong. Rather than living according to the standard that God had set up, Adam and Eve determine to go their own way, and in choosing to eat the fruit of the forbidden tree, grasp for moral autonomy. The results are disastrous as sin enters into the world, damaging the relationship between humanity and God, damaging the relationship between humans, damaging the way we view ourselves, and actively placing a curse on the good creation that God had made.

The rest of the Christian Story is basically the account of God working to redeem and undo the damage that was done in Eden (and continues to be done) when men and women seek moral autonomy for themselves. That redemption and undoing was definitely accomplished in the work of Jesus on the cross, but will ultimately come when death dies, God establishes the New Heavens and New Earth, and dwells with His people forever (1 Corinthians 15, Revelation 21).

Not too long ago, I was summarizing this story to a group of teenagers at a weekend retreat that I was speaking at, and after I finished, a young man came up and asked me a great question: “If Adam and Eve’s sin caused so much damage, and God knew that they were going to do it, why did He create them with free will in the first place?”

This is a common enough question, but it’s a great question. It’s a thinking question, and I was proud of the young man for asking it (Incidentally, the question presumes that God has exhaustive foreknowledge of the future. I am fine with that, but not all Christians agree with that presupposition. See these posts.).

How would you answer the question? The typical answer that is given is that God created out of love, wants His creation to love Him in return, and the only way for that to truly happen is if humans were created with the power to choose: love is only real if it is chosen, not forced. Typically, this is illustrated with the example of parents: parents want their kids to obey them, but they don’t want programmed robots; they want their children to lovingly obey them. And it is the same with God.

But this isn’t the metaphor I used with this young man, since I have found that parental metaphors are not particularly relatable to people who haven’t yet been parents. Instead, I said this: “Imagine there was a girl you really really liked. Everything about her was perfect. You are 100% convinced that this is the girl that you want to spend the rest of your life with. Now let’s also say that you had a magic love potion that you could give this girl that would make her love you forever. She would never know about it, but as soon as she took it, she would always love you faithfully. Would you give her the potion?”

Pretty quickly, the young man responded that he wouldn’t. When I asked him why not, he said, “Because it wouldn’t be real love.” And then, he got it.

Real love is at the heart of the Christian Story. Not coercive love. Not programmed love. Not love-potion love.

With all the freedom in the world, God chose to create us, and chose to redeem us through His Incarnate Son. And in response to the love that God has first shown us, He invites us to freely love Him in return.

Journey of Faith

You’ve likely heard the common saying, “Life is not about the destination; it’s about the journey,” or some variation thereof. It may be somewhat cliche, and to an extent, I think it sets up an unnecessary either/or situation. From a Christian perspective, I life is very much about a journey and a destination. Scripture speaks of life as a sojourn (see especially Hebrews 11, 13), but it’s a journey headed to a specific destination. As Christians, we yearn for an eternal home with our Creator, where crying, mourning, and pain are no longer a part of our existence. And yet, Scripture is very clear that whether or not we reach that destination is directly tied to the way in which we travel our earthly lives.

I appreciate the journey metaphor as I look back on my own life as a believer. I am still relatively young, but what a journey it has been! It has been characterized by exhilarating peaks and depressing valleys. Seemingly, there have been few straight stretches where I could confidently see what was coming next, and a lot of twists and turns where the future was impossible to predict.

Interestingly, I also can see how my faith itself has changed over the years. That shouldn’t be surprising—as a Christian I believe (and as a minister, I teach!) that God’s Spirit indwells His people and works to sanctify them, and, furthermore, that Scripture is something we study not just for information, but for transformation: God’s word is living and active, after all (Hebrews 4.12). That is not to say that I have reached a point of exceptional maturity in my faith, or that I have everything figured out. I certainly don’t, and remember, the point of this post is to emphasize the journey aspect of faith, so I in no way want to give the impression that I have somehow arrived. I haven’t.

And yet, in hindsight, I can see how far I have traveled. I can remember (with significant chagrin) the degree to which, as a college freshman, I felt that I had things pretty well figured out. I can remember having long discussions deep into the night with my roommate (who also happened to be my brother-cousin, a made-up category which best describes our relationship) where I would dogmatically assert all kinds of things. In one particularly cringeworthy conversation, I confidently declared that someone who committed suicided was automatically lost—an assertion I made with the vast knowledge and experience of an 18 year-old and with no biblical authority whatsoever! My roommate gently pushed back against my declaration, but at the time, I did not have “ears to hear.”

As I have aged and hopefully become wiser and grown deeper in my faith (see above), I have changed my mind  on some things and I have found that their are fewer religious doctrines that are deeply important to me, but that the ones that are have become more important than ever. Or, put in other words, not everything is worth fighting for, but some things are worth dying for.

In terms of my own faith journey, I do not know what the future holds. Based on the past, I bet there will be thrilling highs, crushing lows, and unexpected turns along the way. I expect that there will be changing perspectives, reconsidered positions, and core truths that do not change, but are gradually driven deeper and deeper. I pray that there will be increasing wisdom and spiritual maturity, and I hope—in the biblical sense of the word as confident expectation—that my journey of faith will lead to the destination which Christians have been seeking for thousands of years.

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