Back To School: 5 Things To Pray For Your Teenager

Today marks the beginning of the 2014-2015 school year in our County’s Public School System. Here are a few things that Christian parents of Christian teens can pray for as their students return to school:

1. Pray that you and your student will realize that true identity is in Christ
Middle and High School years are rough. Young people are discovering who they are for themselves. The world, classmates, and parents often send mixed messages about who they should be. If students aren’t guided, they can look to popularity, grades, and outward appearance for their identity. Parents, it’s your God-given responsibility to constantly and gracefully show your teen that true identity is found in Christ alone, not in their performance, their looks, or the acceptance of their peers.
(Proverbs 22:6, 2 Corinthians 5:17, 1 Peter 2:9, Galatians 2:20)

2. Pray that your student will see his/her studies as an opportunity for worship
While a Christian student doesn’t find his/her identity in academics, academics still matter! For the Christian, all of life is an opportunity to make much of Jesus. If your student professes faith in Jesus Christ, show them how their love for Jesus translates into a pursuit of excellence in their academics. (Colossians 3:17)

3. Pray for (and cultivate) and atmosphere of honest conversation in your home
As your student is “in the world” he/she will encounter things that challenge a Christian worldview. Don’t panic. Have open and honest conversations about the truth of the Gospel vs. the lies of this world. Graciously and winsomely refute false worldviews. Teach your student to think for himself/herself and study the scriptures. Encourage spiritual disciplines that flow out of a robust faith in Christ. Be in the Word on a regular basis as a family. Take note: In order to guide your children in these things you must be grounded in a biblical worldview. You must have a robust and demonstrative faith in Jesus. Do you? (Consider walking through Paul’s sermon at Mars Hill in Acts 17 to see how Paul refutes a pagan worldview. Or consider THIS great resource.)

4. Pray for Christian community
Ask God to give your student close friends who love Jesus, share struggles, and encourage one another. Take them to Student Ministry gatherings; good ones where they hear the Bible and learn to properly apply it to their lives. Encourage times of fellowship with other Christians their age. (Proverbs 18:24, 27:17, Hebrews 10:25)

5. Pray for missional opportunities
If you are actively discipling your student, you should be showing them that their time around people who don’t know Christ has a purpose. Have you taught your student how to share the gospel? Have you encouraged your student to invite their non-Christian friends to church? Are you modeling this in your own life? (1 Peter 2:9)
I’m praying these things for the students and parents of NewBranch Community Church. Will you join me? Also, this is a very short list. What else would you add?


Serve Medford 2013


This Saturday a team of 10 from NewBranch will fly up to Boston, MA (Medford, to be exact) for Serve Medford 2013. Serve Medford is a week long outreach of Redemption Hill Church to the local community. There will be a lot going on during the week, which means a lot to pray for. Here is a list:

NewBranch Team:

Dawn Koehler, Alex Koehler, Griffin Holloway, Lori Bleth, Brandon Mitchell, Reece Nobles, Kevin Sanders, Tim Sherwood, Bowdie Jenkins, and Ken Rucker.

Churches Participating and Their Travel:

  • Cave Spring Baptist Church, Roanoke, VA
  • Crosspoint Church, Clemson, SC
  • FBC Pickens, SC
  • FBC Owensboro, KY
  • New Branch Community Church, Dacula, GA
  • Renewal Church, Greenville, SC
  • Ridgecrest Baptist Church, Durham, NC

Ministry Opportunities: 

  • 8-9 Medford Parks (cleanup/construction and engaging families)
  • Kids Camp at Willis Ave.
  • Programming and Cleaning/Organizing at the Boys and Girls Club
  • Serve local businesses in Medford Square (cleaning, organizing, construction)
  • Give away 10,000 invites to Redemption Hill Church (T and Bus stops)
  • Hang 2000 door hangers inviting the community to Community Fun Night
  • Give away 5,000 invites to Community Fun Night**
  • ESL Class at Willis Ave.
  • Community Fun Night on 8/2/13 (last year we had over 700 people come)
  • Boldness among all of the teams to clearly display and declare the gospel. Pray that we would all live that week (and every week to come) with eyes wide open to the physical and spiritual needs of those around us and engage as the Spirit provides the opportunity.

NewBranch And Boston

This mission trip is unique for NewBranch as we prepare to send my family to Greater Boston to plant a church. Our projected timeline for departure is Spring 2015. This trip provides the opportunity for our church to catch the vision for church planting in Boston and serve alongside an existing church plant. For more information on church planting in Boston, visit the SEND Boston page over at NAMB.

Thank you in advance for all of your prayers. We can’t wait to get back and share testimonies of what God did during Serve Medford.

Stay updated via Twitter during the week by following pastors @kenrucker and @knsanders

True Peace On Earth: Guest Post by Steve McCullough

I was at an office Christmas party when I first read the news,“27 killed at Elementary School.” Immediately my heart sank.

Back in the office, I couldn’t focus on my work. What if that had happened at my son’s school? I decided to take some vacation time to ride bikes with the kids. I’d almost pushed the whole incident to the back of my mind, when I spotted a neighbor.

As I greeted her, I could see that she was upset. The news of the shooting had made her cry all the way home from work. I struggled for something to say, but nothing came. In that moment, I felt like an ineffective Christian. This bothered me all weekend.

On Sunday, God gave me an idea: have a neighborhood prayer service. One of the videos I’d worked on, Fostering the Harvest, talked about something similar being done after 9/11. It would give people a chance to honor the grieving and to process the hard questions about the incident. That afternoon, we printed invitations and passed them out in our neighborhood.

As I began to prepare what I would say, I realized that I could not properly explain this incident without including the gospel. I had to spend time on my knees begging for courage. But God was gracious, and assured me that I could speak with boldness, because real comfort is based in real truth.

On Monday evening, people from our subdivision crowded into our living room. As they began sharing, it was clear that everyone had been deeply moved by the shootings. Some even expressed fear, and bewilderment. I led the group in a prayer for those who lost loved ones, for the family of the perpetrator, and for our nation. After praying, I spoke for about three minutes. I have included a paraphrase below, hoping that it may help anyone who is still struggling to reconcile this incident with his view of God.

Incidents like the one at Sandy Hook remind me that evil is real, and present. But it was not always this way. God created a perfect world, but Man chose to listen to the Enemy, and rebel against God. This sin brought death into our world. Man hasn’t stopped rebelling against God. In fact, what happened on Friday was indeed an act of rebellion against God.

It almost seems wrong to be celebrating and enjoying the Christmas season when so many are grieving. But I have to remind myself that I don’t celebrate Christmas because of the decorations, or the fun times with the family. I celebrate Christmas because 2000 years ago, Christ came to earth, lived a perfect life, and then laid that life down for my sin on the cross. He not only took my punishment—the death that I deserve—but by rising from the dead He literally defeated sin, and death. For now, He allows evil to continue. But I trust His promise that one day, He will return to earth and judge all evil. He will take those who believe in Him to a place where there will be no pain, no grief, no tears, and no death. A place where I willnever hear of events like what happened on Friday. Christmas is a time to celebrate the hope of true peace on earth.

A brother from our church sang “It Is Well with My Soul.” I shared that the author wrote this hymn while he was traveling to the funerals of his children who had tragically died. It was a beautiful example of the hope and peace found through trusting in God. I closed the service by telling our neighbors that our doors are always open to pray with them.

After the service, people signed a giant card with messages for the families in Connecticut. Many of those attending expressed how helpful it was to process such an incident together.

We are disturbed and horrified by the violence at Sandy Hook, and our hearts recoil at the pain it brought. People around us are trying to process these events. Some don’t have answers. We have hope, and the true reason to celebrate Christmas. May God open doors for us to share this with others.

Headed to Boston…

Lauren and I are on our way to Boston, MA this morning for the Gospel Coalition New England regional conference. We’re excited for many reasons. This is the next step in pursuing God’s burden on our hearts for planting a church in New England. I wanted to share a few prayer requests for us while we’re on this trip.

  • Safe travel to and from and all around Boston
  • Good meetings. We will have a great opportunity to spend time with church planters, seasons NE pastors, strategists with the North American Mission Board, etc. Pray that God would use these times to give us direction. Also, there will be many others with a similar stirring that we have for New England. Pray for God to begin relationships around Gospel ministry.
  • Worship in the Word. We will be sitting under some solid teaching over the weekend from D.A. Carson, Tim Keller, John Piper and many others. Pray that God would convict, correct, encourage, and humble us through the preaching of his gospel.
  • Our children. It’s always hard to leave our little ones. Pray for safety and well-being of our parents who will be loving on them while we’re gone.

Follow me on Twitter and Facebook for updates throughout the weekend. Thank you for your prayers!

Sunday Service 10/2/11

We are beginning a new weekly post here on the NewBranch blog. The purpose of these Sunday Service posts is to help you prepare you heart, soul, and mind for worshipping the living God with your church family on Sunday. You can also use theses posts to purchase songs and load up your ipod!

Here is what’s coming up this Sunday, October 2, 2012:

Be sure to click the links for streaming audio…

Text for this Sunday:  Matthew 5:9-13


 9 “This, then, is how you should pray:

   “‘Our Father in heaven, 
hallowed be your name, 
10 your kingdom come, 
your will be done 
   on earth as it is in heaven. 
11 Give us today our daily bread. 
12 Forgive us our debts, 
   as we also have forgiven our debtors. 
13 And lead us not into temptation, 
but deliver us from the evil one.

This passage of Scripture is commonly referred to as The Lord’s Prayer.  It is not really “His prayer”, but it is a model for how “we” should pray.  As you prepare for Sunday, examine your own prayer life, and ask yourself, “how well do my prayers align with this model”?  Do I intentionally recall that I am approaching “our Father”?  Do I really want (not just ask for, but do I really want) His kingdom and His will in my life?  Do I petition Him for my daily bread, or for a year’s worth of all-you-can-eat buffets?  Do I spend more time confessing and repenting of my sins, or do I spend more time asking Him to deal with the sins of others?  Ask yourself these, and other self-evaluative questions, and come ready for the Lord to speak to us corporately about “how we should pray”….focusing not so much on the form of prayer, but on our spirit and attitude in prayer.

Persecution Resources

This past Sunday we looked at the final Beatitude in Matthew 5,

“Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

The main focus of this text was for us to evaluate whether or not we are enduring any opposition from the world because of how we live our lives on mission for Jesus Christ. We talked about if we do not endure any opposition whatsoever, why not?  Are we compromising our convictions or the Great Commission itself in favor of the opinions of man?  Paul promises persecution to all those who “desire to live godly lives in Christ Jesus” (2 Tim 3:12), so if we are not enduring any kind of opposition whatsoever, why not?

Although this was the primary focus of our study, I did mention that there are places in our world today where Christians are severely persecuted because of their faith in Jesus Christ.  Hebrews 13:3 tells us to pray for our brothers and sisters “who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering”.  We need to be interceding for our brothers and sisters around the globe who are persecuted because they follow Jesus, but how can we pray for those whom we do not even know?  The call to prayer for the persecuted is a call to awareness about the persecuted.

Along those lines, I wanted to pass along some resources that might be helpful in becoming more aware of the condition of the persecuted worldwide.  The following are two great resources, from which I received updates just today of recent news about persecuted brothers and sisters.

Voice of the – Their website is filled with resources.  One of the most helpful resources they offer is their “Prisoner Alert Newsletter”.  Youcan sign up to receive this electronic newsletter via email.  I received one today that provided an update on a pastor in Iran who was arrested in October of 2009, and whose sentence of death was just yesterday upheld by the Iranian Supreme Court.  You can read about Pastor Youcef here.

Open Doors – They also offer a ton of information about worldwide persecution of believers.  Of particular help to me as been their e-mailed prayer updates, as well as the  World Watch List.  This resource is a list of the countries that are the worst persecutors of Christians.  Reading through this list brings awareness of the plight of brothers and sisters around the world, and the Holy Spirit has often used these reading to move me to pray for them.

I encourage you to become more aware of what our fellow family members are enduring worldwide, so that you are moved to pray for them regularly.

The Priority of Private Prayer

Why don’t we pray more?

If that question doesn’t resonate with you, then try checking back in with us tomorrow.  To the rest of us, this is a question that brings great conviction.  Why don’t we pray more?  What are our excuses?  DA Carson gives several in an excerpt from his book, “A Call to Spiritual Reformation: Priorities from Paul and His Prayers”.

  1. I’m too busy
  2. I feel too dry spiritually
  3. I feel no need to pray
  4. I am too bitter to pray
  5. I am too ashamed to pray
  6. I am content with mediocrity

Which is it for you?

Or maybe a more fundamental question is “What does our lack of private prayer tell us about what we believe about God”? I believe that our theology drives our practice.  It was AW Tozer who said, “It would be impossible to overemphasize the importance of sound doctrine in the life of a Christian. Right thinking about all spiritual matters is imperative if we would have right living.”  So ultimately, if we’re not praying, then something is wrong with our theology….or there is something about our theology that we only affirm with head knowledge, and don’t really believe it in our heart.  Such it is with prayer.  If we are not praying, then what does this tell us about what we believe about God and about what He says about prayer?

For those desiring further inspiration in this area, read this sermon by the late puritan, JC Ryle entitled, A Call to Prayer.

In closing, here’s one of my favorite “prayer quotes” from Leonard Ravenhill:

“Our spiritual immaturity never shows up more than in our lack of praying, be it alone or in a church prayer meeting. Let 20% of the choir members fail to turn up for rehearsal and the choir master is offended. Let 20% of the church members turn up for a prayer meeting, and the pastor is elated.”

May we be a people who love God, worship God, glorify God, thank God, beseech God, petition God, cry out to God… prayer.