No Matter the Season

This morning as I sit down to type this article for The Earnest Christian, through the window behind my monitor I can see a beautiful, almost florescent tree. God’s creations are showing themselves in the beautiful fall spectacular. It is a color show that those of us that have spent most of our years in the Midwest look forward to on an annual basis. Each year as it begins, I am amazed again at how vibrant the trees become. It is also a sign that in just a few short weeks the leaves will be on the ground and once again the landscape will dramatically change.

This year an unusual happening has occurred in one of the flower beds on the church lawn. An Easter Lily has flowered at a time when most plants are being nipped by the frost and pulling in for the winter. I stopped Sunday night after church and snapped a picture of it. What a beautiful reminder of new life!

I’m not sure what has caused this Lily to get it’s time clock turned in the wrong direction, but I love the symbolism of God making all things new. II Corinthians 5:17 reads, Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!”

It doesn’t matter our season of life. God has the ability to bring something fresh and new into our lives if we make Him the focus of our world. This is the month of Thanksgiving. Let’s work together to focus on what new thing God is doing. Let’s strive to let our thankfulness for His  blessings overflow to those around us. Let’s bring the love of God with us wherever we go.


Pastor Paul Parker


5 Things Teenagers Secretly Want You to Know But Won’t Tell You

A friend of mine loved to play poker. I enjoy playing but always lose. My friend, on the other hand, used to read books and have consistent games with friends. Later, I learned that when he traveled to Vegas for business, he would go into some of the world’s best poker rooms and, more often than not, win. Sometimes he would even win big. Being a skilled poker player is about understanding the odds and reading people. The strong player will pick up on all of the subtle and unconscious gestures of their opponent to identify the cards they are holding. The very best are not only able to read people, but they are able to manage their own behavior in a way that maintains the mystery.

In life, teenagers can be difficult to read. Every day, they perform in a world of adult agendas and judgment. They work really hard at perfecting the outside so everything on the inside can stay hidden where it is safe. There are a precious few they can trust so they develop their poker face. Teenagers have a lot going on under the surface that they either haven’t identified, are afraid to say, or don’t know how to tell you. So it remains inside, alone and unattended. What if we did know? I think it might change the way we parent teens. Here are 5 things your teenagers secretly want you to know but won’t tell you.

1. They want you to say no.

They need your boundaries, but more interestingly, they want them. Giving them clearly defined lines of what is appropriate and what is not creates security for kids. [Tweet This] However, just because they want those boundaries doesn’t mean that they aren’t going to push against them and they will. That’s how they figure out if what you say is true and real. It’s your job to say no, stick to it, and explain to them why that boundary exists. Then you need to respond with consistency, nurturing, and compassion when they step out of bounds. That is also not to say that boundaries never change or widen, particularly as they mature.

2. They are desperate for your approval.

Unless they perceive you as untrustworthy, this is the reason they get so annoyed and roll their eyes at your correcting. For right or wrong, they are feeling your disapproval as a person. It’s a feeling of rejection. I’m not saying to not correct, but having an awareness of how they are receiving your feedback may change how you do it and how often.

3. They want your guidance rather than your expectations.

They want you to walk with them in their pain and discomfort. Teenagers have adults and peers giving them marks to hit all the time. They don’t need you to set a level for them to live up to but rather coach them. It’s the difference of how a football coach responds to a wide receiver who drops an easy pass. He can say, “I expect you to make that catch,” which puts pressure on the wide receiver to perform. In coaching the wide receiver, he might say, “What do think happened on that last play? I think you may have taken your eyes off of the ball. Remember to look the ball in. I know you can do it.” The first is like a parent who says, “I expect you to get good grades, make wise decisions, and do what I say.” It doesn’t give room for failure. A dad who gives guidance will look deeper at his daughter caught drinking and say, “What happened tonight? It seems like you’re lonely and trying anything to fit in. ”

4. They have no idea who they are yet and are scared to death.

Their core self has not developed. They really are several different people. The person they are when they’re with their friends on a Friday night is way different than the person they are at home or in the classroom. That doesn’t mean they are fake, it’s just a person whose different selves haven’t merged into a solid identity yet. The tension they live with is trying to be both a part of themselves (which they don’t know what that is) and what the other person thinks they should be. It’s a confusing and lonely place. They live in fear of disappointing people, namely, you, mom, teachers, coaches, and friends. They’re afraid of spending the rest of their life feeling as alone and misunderstood as they do right now. Be a safe and encouraging place.

5. They are consistently treated with contempt.

If they come across as moody or oversensitive, it is more than just hormonal or a bad attitude. If I made the statement, “There was a group of teenagers at the mall…,” you would expect the rest of that story to be negative. Teens are blamed, belittled, marginalized, and treated with contempt. I’ve seen it personally. They need to be shown respect and compassion. Don’t just react (easily said I know and I am the worst offender), but study what is driving the attitude.

Sound Off
What do you think are some other things teenagers would like their parents to know?
This post originally appeared at 


Like frogs in a kettle of slowly boiling water, we are sometimes so immersed in the world around us that we fail to see just how much and how quickly things are changing. That’s certainly the case with media. Remember the CD?!? Hey, it was an innovation not that long ago.

This helpful infographic from the folks at Siliconerepublic visualizes changes in the world of teens and media. . . all in a way that should get us thinking about how to best help kids navigate this rapidly emerging frontier to the glory of God. . .

infographic teens and media

Fall Family Festival Coming to WLFMC

Fall Family Festival FB Banner

Our theme for the event is Heroes

 (of the Bible and of the comics).

There will be ways to serve both inside and outside of the church building.  Here’s how you can be involved:

*Decorating the trunk or back of your vehicle/hand out candy


*Guides (letting families know where activities are located)

*Preparing/Serving food

*Leading a game/station

*Supervising a small group of children (Kidzone kids)

*Runners to make sure candy bowls are full

*Supervising bounce house

*Supervising SpaceMaze

*Set up/decorating

*Clean up


We will need mounds of candy, and will begin accepting donations to the metal trough right away.

This is an opportunity to reach out to children and families in our community.  We will not be able to pull this event off with only a handful of people helping.  Don’t want to be out in the chilly weather?  You can be inside!  Aren’t able to stand or bend down?  We can find a sit down activity!  Don’t have time to eat before you come help?  We will feed you here!  Now that all the obstacles are out of the way, please see Jen Nier and let her know how you would like to be involved.



GC15 Mission Teams Bless and Serve

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The Dominican Republic mission team poses for a group photograph.

Several days before General Conference 2015 officially began, 300 people met for training in Orlando and then traveled to serve God and others in central Florida, Miami, Costa Rica, Haiti and the Dominican Republic.

GC15 mission teams included Free Methodists from 17 annual conferences and more than 60 congregations. Coordinator Doug Ranck said half of the participants had never previously participated on a mission trip, and one-third of the mission team members were age 18 or younger.

“I want to say thank you for your support and the ways that you’ve prayed for us and you’ve funded the different teams … and just the support of Free Methodist Church – USA to take on such an endeavor,” Ranck said during the final GC15 worship service on July 16, one day after the teams returned from their trips. “We went to be a blessing, and we were blessed in the process.”

Lathan Alger of Pendleton, Oregon, shared at the service how his participation on the Miami mission team reflected a family member’s vision.

“When I was born, my mom received a dream from God. That dream was I was going to be up in front of a church congregation preaching,” said Alger. He added that he had resisted that dream throughout his life, but “God has a way of being patient and persistent.”

Alger also described “a love that overcame our entire group” after the team arrived in Miami. During a team dinner, he received notes of encouragement from other team members.

“Every single one of them said, ‘You need to minister to people. You need to spread that love,’” Alger said, “and I’ve just accepted that calling. I have declared that I will be a disciple for Jesus.”

Nurse practitioner Diane DeStefano of Mount Carmel, Illinois, shared how an interpreter for the Haiti medical mission team introduced her to a young man experiencing headaches and blurred vision. The man could not read any of the letters on a vision test.

“I’m sitting there thinking, ‘Lord, how am I going to help this man?’ I’m not an optometrist,” recalled DeStefano, who sensed God telling her to go to her room and get eyeglasses from her medical supplies.

“I put them on his face, and I said, ‘Let’s check your vision again,’ and praise God. He had 20/40 vision,” said DeStefano, who viewed the experience as a fulfillment of Philippians 4:19: “And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.”

During their July 9 training, the teams learned about leadership, discipleship and evangelism from Free Methodist leaders. Speakers reminded the team members that their trips have a greater purpose than personal satisfaction.

“This trip is bigger than yourself, and you need to keep in mind you’re part of a team,” Free Methodist World Missions Resource Team Leader Deb Miller said.

FMCUSA Chief Operating Officer Larry Roberts urged each mission team member to set a realistic goal, such as: “My goal is to share the Lord Jesus with one person a day.”

The mission trip team leaders included Clay Utley, Costa Rica; Pat McClanahan, Dominican Republic; Randy Bennett, Haiti; Bob Cannon, central Florida; and Ranck, Miami.

This article originally appeared at Light & Life Magazine.

First-Century Content/21st-Century Media

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I had my own radio station, WRAD, when I was a kid. My broadcast equipment included a microphone, mixer and tape deck.

By age 10, I sent a cassette several states away to Grandma, my No. 1 fan and underwriter. By age 11, I had a kit that used my house’s cold water pipes to broadcast a weak AM signal to the neighborhood. I was amazed when my first caller — Beth — dialed in to say she loved my station. I was an actual broadcaster, hooked on the rush of reaching an audience.

In adulthood, I hosted a morning show on an actual FM station. For five years straight, I’d roll out of bed and into the studio, talking about whatever mattered in the world or was mildly entertaining. The grocery store cashier even asked me if I was the guy from the radio.

Broadcasting as a medium has drastically changed since then.



In PART ONE OF THIS SERIES, we covered the technical advances we’ve made (smaller devices, unlimited internet and internet everywhere) and how the web has changed as well (1.0, 2.0 and 3.0). Now that we have an understanding of where we stand, how does this affect our kids?

I believe that there are five ways that our kids are being influenced by technology and the internet. As parents, we need to examine these influences and determine how we engage our kids and help them have positive interactions online.


One of the key ideas kids and teens have today about the internet is that anything can be deleted. In other words, if I put something on the internet and later want it removed, then all I have to do is just hit delete.

Of course, we’ve all seen the news stories of photos of celebrities from their hacked cellphones. These incidents only reinforce a truth about the internet. Nothing is ever really deleted.

Now I’m not saying don’t put anything on the internet because it won’t be deleted. What I’m saying, is that as parents we’re going to need to equip our kids with a basic understanding that there is a permanency to the internet. What is said or displayed on the internet will stay on the internet in some form or fashion.

Of course, this is complicated with social networks such as Snapchat that promise to delete your content after a short time. While this promise may have some truth to it, we’re naive to think that our kids and teens have a good grasp of what this means when they post content online.


Stop Preaching



I know why you won’t love this article. Because it doesn’t smell like anything. It’s propositional: It tries to convince your mind, it lines up a series of arguments, and it trusts you’re a logical person. But you’re not, and neither are the people you’re talking to about Jesus. I’d love to just tell you this as a story but not everything can be communicated in 750 words through a story!

One of the interesting conclusions of behavioral economists is that economic models often fail because people are not rational. Economists build a model assuming that people will choose the obvious right choice, and their model fails because many people don’t make the rational choice (think smoking). People are funny that way.

In church, we love to make rational, propositional appeals. We propose truth and hope people will make the right decision: Follow Jesus because He really is God, because He loves you, because life will work better for you, etc. Yet our models fail — perhaps not because we’re bad preachers but perhaps because we need to stop preaching, stop lining up arguments to convince. The effectiveness of story versus rational appeals seems especially true for Millennials.

Enter … the story! Rather than introducing my wife by saying, “She’s 5’1”, is right-handed and loves to talk with people about Jesus,” I say, “She absentmindedly brushes her red hair from her eyes as she leans across the grocery cart to ask Jamal if his bike is fixed yet. Nichole, glad for the temporary child care, hurriedly selects greens and tomatoes.”

Here’s what just happened. Our minds grab propositional truth and story in different ways. So anything that creates a visual image in our minds, like “brushing red hair,” has hooks that allow it to get snagged and understood. Anything that doesn’t create a visual image, like propositional truth, slides in one ear and out the other. We used to think it was a left-brain/right-brain thing, but it’s probably more complex than that. One thing is certain: We need both ways of communicating, but story engages quicker and with fewer obstacles than propositional truth.

Maybe Jesus understood this? As He traipsed across the countryside, followers in tow, stories were His preferred way of communicating. He told stories about kings and father and sons and women sweeping, seeds and trees. Could our neighbors be waiting for us to learn from Jesus not just what to communicate, but how to communicate it?

I’ve experimented a lot with video, actually just telling Bible stories. Take a look at my YouTube channel and how I tell Bible stories: And my wife, Yvonne, has created the “Well, Well, Well!” video series that tells stories for children through puppets (

An easier way than video is to simply tell our own story, what we used to call “our testimony.” Ask your neighbors their stories, and then they’ll ask yours. If you can tell it well, it will create visual images and get snagged in their minds. Too many of us learned to tell our testimony as propositional truth; stop it! We should tell our story as what it is, a narrative of what happened to us. Fill it with vibrant verbs. Then let the narrative work.

The reason we want story-truth to get snagged in their minds is so they will process it and think about it. Narrative, just like music, has the ability to lodge in our minds and circle back later for attention. During reflection, God’s voice penetrates deep into their decision-making process.

Here’s some propositional truth for you: God has an abundant life prepared and offered to millions of our neighbors, but to come into that abundant life, our neighbors need to be restored to right relationship with Him through Jesus. We have been chosen as the agents of restoration to bring our neighbors to Jesus even though we aren’t very good at it; therefore, there must be a better way to communicate this good news.

Yet there is no code to crack that will suddenly enable us to perfectly communicate and bring millions to Jesus. There’s not just one; there are thousands of codes to crack. That is how the kingdom comes — through you cracking the code of 30, 60 or 100 people. Don’t try for millions; try for 30. Don’t try to win New York City to Jesus; win one local neighborhood of New York City. Live there; tell your story there. Tell THE story there. Tell it with flavor, image, scent and color.

BISHOP DAVID  ROLLER served for 17 years as a Free Methodist missionary in Mexico and then for 10 years as Latin America area director for Free Methodist World Missions. He was first elected a bishop in 2007.

This article originally appeared at Light & Life Magazine.

Social Influence in a Rapidly Changing World



Then Bible includes a story of a young man with remarkable social influence: Joseph, who saved a region of the world from a savage, seven-year famine.

The story starts off as an account of Joseph’s father and his family. In late Genesis, Jacob (Joseph’s father) settles into a foreign land with his family. Jacob assigns his son Joseph to take care of some property and animals. Joseph is supervised by his half-brothers. Joseph is loved by his father and publicly recognized as a preferred son. Jacob gives Joseph a special robe of many colors. All of this causes jealously and hatred toward Joseph by his brothers.

Joseph has a dream one night, and when he tells his brothers, they hate him even more. He says, “Listen to this dream I had: We were binding sheaves of grain out in the field when suddenly my sheaf rose and stood upright, while your sheaves gathered around mine and bowed down to it” (37:6–7).

“Do you intend to reign over us? Will you actually rule us?” reply his brothers (37:8).





Hashtags and Wholeness

This issue’s title originated during a phone conversation that a colleague and I had with a bishop of the Free Methodist Church, which has the vision “to bring wholeness to the world through healthy biblical communities of holy people multiplying disciples, leaders, groups and churches.” We decided the issue would include discussion of technology and the ways it can help us be “whole church” (the General Conference 2015 theme).

Before putting #whole on the cover, I searched social media for existing use of that hashtag. If you don’t know what a hashtag is, Merriam-Webster defines it as “a word or phrase preceded by the symbol # that classifies or categorizes the accompanying text.” In several social networks, if you click on a hashtag, you will see other posts with the same hashtag.

I turned first to Twitter — the medium on which hashtags became popular. I found #whole referring to grain, personal fulfillment and a grocery store chain nicknamed Whole Paycheck. On Instagram and Pinterest, #whole usually accompanied food and beverage photos. A Facebook search repeatedly brought up a televangelist’s meme about healing for the whole body.

Many other mentions of #whole also discussed a person’s body or what a body should consume. Some dealt with having a whole mind. Few promoted a whole spirit. We need more emphasis — online and offline — on being “healthy biblical communities of holy people.”

That phrase also is a good description for Free Methodist colleges and universities. Each school offers liberal arts education that provides wholeness through instruction in multiple disciplines integrating faith and learning. Community happens in the classrooms, dorms, dining commons, gyms and chapel services.

Within these pages, don’t miss our higher education guide featuring these colleges and universities contributing to the church’s effort to multiply disciples and leaders.

We’ll be posting articles from this most recent edition of Light & Life Magazine here on our blog.