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The Philosophy Behind the “Brother”

December 21st, 2010


Every now and then I’ll hear a tiny little *poink* go off, somewhere in the faaaaaaaar back corner of my brain, and I’ll think, “All right!  A thought!”  I’ll rattle that thought around and eventually come to a conclusion.  Well, I had a *poink* go off as I’ve been thinking through a couple things.

The last thing I wanted when my wife and I came was to give the impression that we were big-shots.  Au contraire… we’re just a couple kids who are fresh out of Bible college.  But at the same time, we wanted to teach the teens to respect an authority, and we asked them to call us “Bro. Ryan” and “Mrs. Jamie.”  As I was writing a few letters today and signing them “Bro. Ryan,” I thought, “I wonder how that sounds to someone who hasn’t been around church very long.”  I’ve been asked by a few sets of parents as to what I would like them and their children to call me, and sometimes I feel strange calling myself “Bro. Ryan.”

Well, here are a couple principles that I try to teach the teens:

1) Using the title is biblical. It’s not just a strange Baptist thing we do… the phrase is in the Bible!  In Acts 9:17, the men say “Brother Saul” to indicate Saul’s conversion.  All throughout the New Testament we are considered brethren in Christ.

2) Using a title shows respect. While I do not teach that it’s wicked and ungodly to refer to an authority, an elder, etc. by his or her first name, common courtesy and long-standing etiquette say that it’s basically expected.

3) It is often about the respect you desire to show rather than the person’s wishes. With the teens, we teach that they ought to basically use a “title” (for lack of a better term) unless explicitly demanded otherwise.  While some people would prefer their first names to be used, we like to encourage the teens to use a term that is to the level of respect that they desire to show (preferably “Bro.” and “Mrs.”)

4) Using a title helps teach on authority. Small things make up big things, and if someone has a spirit that is unwilling to bend in what they think is a small thing (“I’m not calling him “Bro. ____!”), it’s probably an indication of a big problem with authority inside.  The young generation is a “Why should I?” generation, and wants to figure it out alone.  Anything that promotes godly authority should be encouraged.

Some of these principles seem small in importance, but they helped me answer some interesting questions: “Why do we use that term?”  “How is it respectful?”  “What if we get some young youth staff… Would they be ‘Bro.’ and ‘Mrs. ____’ too?” etc.

I hope it’s a blessing.  Now I’ve got to wait around for another *poink*.




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