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Out of the Boat

For those who may not have already heard, we have been on staff at an AMAZING church in the south Denver metro area (Jubilee Fellowship Church) for almost 7 years now. During that time, it has been our honor to serve alongside adults, teens, volunteers, staff, and families as Youth Pastors, and more recently, as the Associate Campus Pastors at one of the JFC campuses.  We have grown so much in our ministry and are truly grateful for everything we have learned while on staff.

While we had hoped to be a part of JFC’s vision for years to come, within the last few months, we have wrestled with God’s spirit nudging us in a different direction. We have sought God on this, but could not come to a conclusion on what to do. Last week, Holly and I met with our Senior Pastor to gain his perspective and wisdom on how we should respond to what God has been placing in our hearts.

One thing we shared in our meeting with Pastor John is that, for many months now, we have sensed that God might be positioning us to begin the process of church planting in our hometown of Parker, CO. Pastor John agreed that he could see that calling inside of us and encouraged us to step into what we believe God is calling us to do.

While our meeting with Pastor John was encouraging and life-giving, by the time we finished, the decision was made that we have come to the end of our journey as JFC staff. Though we have heavy hearts at the prospect of leaving JFC, we believe God is using this transition as an opportunity to prepare us for His future.

So, it is with great faith (and trepidation) that we are trusting God as we are released from JFC staff. We truly do not know what the next step will be in this process, but are simply trying to hear God’s voice and trust Him as we begin to take these steps into new territory for His kingdom.

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So here is the scoop,

The surgery went great! Dr. Mangione and Dr. Gerow successfully removed much of the extra bone that was encroaching on my sciatic nerve and surrounding my hip socket. The delicacy of the operation called for six hours versus the originally planned two. But my hip is doing great! I have almst 90 degrees of motion as compared to 0 before the surgery. Three weeks into recovery, I am still pretty sore, but the pain is decreasing daily. I am in physical therapy every day and slowly seeing strength and function return to my hip area.

My big hurdle right now is the nerve pain in my left leg and foot. On a pain scale of 1-10, this pain averages around a 4-5 each day with spikes as high as 8-9. It is difficult to describe… sometimes it feels like low voltage electricity flowing through my foot. At other times it feels like a 3rd degree sunburn, or as if my top layer of skin as been dragged across sharp coral. Still other sensations include what feels like high voltage “shocks” or being stabbed by a sharp pin. Though the sensation changes, the nerve pain has not gone away or improved. It is very difficult to deal with, as the doctors have not found a medication that effectively deals with this specific type of pain. This has left me most days laying on my couch wrapping my foot and icing it down, trying to take care of the pain as much as possible. I have been prescribed a nerve drug that they have “upped” the dose on 3 times now and it does not seem to be doing much to control the pain.

I am going in on Friday, Jan. 29th to see  a Pain Management Specialist at a clinic up in Lafayette (almost an hour drive away). Please pray that they can find some sort of solution for these nerve issues. It is very frustrating to have to be dealing with “one more thing” after several months of recovery following my accident. I am definitely ready to get back to “life as usual” and this additional complication is really a major hang up right now that is taking its toll on me – physically, emotionally, and mentally.

I know and believe that God will never give me more than what I can bear, but sometimes it seems as if he is getting awful close. 🙂 Please pray for a quick and full recovery, and that these nerve issues would be resolved. More updates to come…

Happy 2010 to you all! I hope this new year finds you well.

As many of you know, the night before Thanksgiving, 2008, I was in a severe motorcycle accident. I shattered my hip socket resulting in 9 screws, 3 metal plates, and over 90 staples in the repairing surgery. Though I have been making improvements over the last 13 months, I am still experiencing joint and nerve complications from the accident. My hip socket has developed a complication called Heterotopic Ossification, where the soft tissue surrounding the joint has converted to bony growth, fusing up my hip joint and cutting off blood supply to my sciatic nerve.

On Wednesday, January 6th, I will be going in for surgery to remedy these issues. The doctors plan to decompress my sciatic nerve and restore feeling and function to my foot. They also plan to free up my hip socket and help restore my ability to walk without pain or a limp. It is a rare, complex, and tedious surgery requiring both an orthopedic surgeon, and a peripheral nerve specialist. My surgery begins at 1pm MST, and should take between 4-6 hours.

I would GREATLY appreciate your prayers during this time for a quick recovery and for peace and strength for my family. I am expected to be in healing and recovery for up to 6 weeks following the surgery.

PLEASE PRAY FOR:

  • Guidance and wisdom for doctors, and staff to be fully engaged in this operation.
  • Holly and my family – FOR peace, strength, extra patience, renewed spirit, hope.
  • No complications, protection from damage for my sciatic nerve, and for a quick recovery – emotionally, spiritually, and physically.
  • Increase in anointing to minister to, coach, pastor, and disciple the young people at JFC once I return in mid-February.
  • Full recovery, that I can walk without pain or a limp, that I will have nerve feeling and strength in my foot/leg, and that my hip socket will be healthy and able to return to full function. (I miss rock climbing, snowboarding, and mtn biking!!)

If you would like to follow how my recovery goes, please follow me on Facebook or Twitter:

http://Twitter.com/BernieBing

http://www.facebook.com/berniebing

Thank you so much. I look forward to updating you all to what great things transpire from this surgery.

Ben Binger

I have a confession to make…

I am really tired of youth ministry. Ok, wait… that’s actually NOT true. Maybe I am just discontented with how youth ministry is being DONE. I’m not gonna get on top my soap box and judge youth ministries across the nation, but I will take a macroscopic look at the ministry that I have been at the captain of.

I AM tired of the same churched up kids going through their churched up lives, yet not ACTUALLY making a difference in the world around them. I am tired of apathetic Christianity calling itself something it is not. I want our students to make a difference. I have always envisioned schools turned upside down with the transforming power of Jesus Christ.

The words of the old song go “if you can use anything Lord, you can use me.” Well… I throw down the gauntlet. I take this challenge to God. Isaiah 6:8. USE ME.

I don’t know where I am going much of the time. 10 years into youth ministry and many times I still feel like a baby taking their first step. THANK GOD this whole thing isn’t supposed to be about me anyway! But I digress…

I am FED UP with youth groups that just entertain. I want to reinvent what youth ministry looks like. I want to do something that has never been done in Denver, CO. I want to see teens getting saved EVERY WEEK. I am sick of maintaining. I am sick of just “doing church.” I am weary from maintaining the “fish tank.” Lord!!!!! You have called me to be a Fisher of Men. So……. HOW DO WE DO A BETTER JOB CATCHING THEM????

I don’t know how youth ministry needs to be changed, but I am willing to see it through. It’s risky. It’s the unknown. But I’ve always been more comfortable there anyway 🙂

With God, I want to reinvent the way youth ministry is being done at my church. I don’t know how to even start. God knows how this will roll. I just need to trust Him.

This I know… Red (theredexperience.com) has always stood for an unknown factor. The desire to brand something fresh and new and never-before-seen in this culture. I believe a piece of what Red will be known for is innovating youth ministry.

The message NEVER changes, but the methods must evolve. The only constant in life is change. We must embrace that as a youth ministry. Either evolve or become extinct.

This unanswered question rings in my head: “If we closed our doors tomorrow, would our community even know we were here?”

Let’s make sure they do.

I guess I could describe myself  as a seeker or connoisseur of excellence and creativity. I LOVE new, unique, out-of-the-box, never-before-considered elements of creativity. Whether in the arts, music, messages, ministries, events, promotions, advertising, or programming, I am drawn to people or organizations that exhibit a “product” that pulls you in, stunning you and capturing your attention. For that reason, this video has been and continues to be my favorite music video of all times. Not just because these guys are incredibly talented and have tuned their craft to a superior level of musical excellence, but because EVERY TIME I watch this video, it blows my mind  at how they even came up with the IDEA… much less planned and executed to film and capture it. I am amazed.

ENJOY.

I have showed this video to people who when finish watching it and go, “ok, cool.” But think about it… realize the VIDEO is playing in reverse, while the lead singer’s WORDS and the band’s timing, chords, and MUSIC are going forward. If you are not amazed yet, know that they  had to MEMORIZE the entire song both on guitars and drums as well as vocally IN REVERSE (it took them over 3 weeks to do!) to make this music video happen. This is one reason why Mutemath continues to be one of my all time favorite bands ever. I AM IN AWE.

The impact of social media on our everyday lives is truly unbelievable. We cannot reach people in this age with methods that works ten years ago. It is a target rich environment. Eternity is on the line. Our message must remain the same, but our methods must change if we are going to be effective at reaching this generation for the Kingdom of God.

What do YOU think? How will this affect how YOU do ministry? If you know me, you know that I am ALWAYS looking for a chance to brag on my pastor, John Leach. I LOVE that the heart of my pastor and at JFC is to create a “church without walls.” We offer audio and video podcasts, multiple service times and campus locations, and just recently have begun streaming our services live on our website (www.JFC.org for those of you interested in more info). One of our first demos of the live streaming  service, we had people tuning in from all over the world… did you see that? ALL OVER THE WORLD.  That is a spiritual impact we cannot accomplish inside the walls of our church. If we want to reach this generation, we’ve got to get the good news out to where the people are at.

One stat on this vid states that those searching for social media i.e. Facebook, Twitter, etc. OUTNUMBER those searching for porn 2 to 1!!! That’s a LOT of people. We cannot just wait for people to come to us in this culture. We must be able to meet them where they are at. Church without walls. I LOVE IT!!!

For those of you who may not know, my life has CHANGED.

I used to feel invincible. I used to be able to rely on myself. I used to be unaware of my pride. I used to feel as if nothing was impossible for me.

It was nine months ago TODAY that I was in a terrible motorcycle accident that has left me with constant pain, a heavy limp, an irreparable PCL knee ligament, an unstable knee joint, nerve damage, a destroyed, repaired, and now fused hip socket, and severely limited mobility.

Before the accident, I was an avid backpacker, hiker, fourteener explorer, camper, mountain biker, rock climber, snowboarder, and soccer player. I don’t know if a day will come that I will ever be physically able to do these things again.

But I have learned a few things along this undesired and definitely unexpected path. I know that God is still God. My wife still needs her husband. My kids still need their Dad. And teenagers in Denver still need someone to connect them to Jesus. Here are just a few of the other lessons I’ve learned along this challenging and difficult journey:

Faith Is The Ability To Trust God When You Can’t Trust God.

The lyrics to an old gospel song, “when you can’t trace His hand, trust His heart” have been in my head and heart through these trying months. As Philip Yancey writes in his book “Disappointment with God,” the true test of Job was whether or not he would still love God even in the middle of the chaos and pain. Faith is not a casual belief in something you are already convinced of. No! Faith is holding onto something you can’t prove, verify, or even at times… TRUST. This is the furnace in which true, unwavering, unshakable faith is forged.

Everything In This Life Comes to Pass

Luke 2:1 tells us that, “it came to pass.” God desires to see how we handle these trying circumstances as they pass us. They aren’t permanent. They aren’t forever (even though it seems like it!) The truth is everything is in a continual state of change. In reality, the only constant IS CHANGE. Give it enough time, and it WILL pass. I have learned, no matter what it is, to continually fight to remind my soul, “This TOO shall pass.

Perspective Is Everything

I must admit that I continually agonize over the loss of many of the skills and abilities I used to take for granted before my accident. There are MANY things I may never be able to participate in again. Jogging is painful. Hiking is a hefty challenge. Cleaning the garage is thoroughly EXHAUSTING. I CAN’T get my shoes on by myself. My handicapped parking permit is PERMANENT. Snowboarding is out of the question. Yes, this is ALL true. Nevertheless I also have a family who loves me. I work at a church that backs and supports me. I have a job that I LOVE. Even on my worst days, I STILL HAVE COUNTLESS THINGS TO BE THANKFUL FOR. It is these positives – the countless blessings – that the apostle Paul was referring to when he instructed the Christians at Philippi, to “think about such things.” I am attempting to do likewise.

In The Darkest Moments Of Life, A Good Friend Is More Valuable than Gold.

In all of his wisdom, King Solomon spoke of the comradeship, kinship, and deep support that come from friendship. “But pity the man who has no one to help him up… A cord of three strands is not easily broken.” Thanks to my Mom & Pop, Lori Fox, Scott Nockels, Brian Kinney, James Shackelford, Justus Vaccaro, Jack Gelley, Pastor John Leach and my hero and consummate partner through this life – my amazing wife Holly. Without you, I honestly don’t know if I could have ever made it through those darkest moments of my soul.

The Mind Is A Powerful Friend or Foe.

I would like to say that in the midst of terrible physical struggles, I have steadfastly remained positive and uplifting in my mental outlook of the future. The truth is, there have been many, many, many days that I feel defeated, discouraged, depressed, dark, despondent (ok, enough of the “D” words), beaten down, hopeless, overrun, overwhelmed, and overcome. I want to “throw in the towel,” so to speak and just crawl under a blanket and forget the world. I have experienced times so dark that I could almost feel the cloud of despair surrounding my soul. I have heard the distant whisperings of my heart telling me it was not worth going on, that it would be better for me to end it all and take the easy way out of the pain and trials I have endured. Though these times, I have learned that my mental choices determine whether these moments will last a few minutes, a few days, or more. Whether I think I can, or I think I cannot, I have found that either way I have been right. Though I haven’t always prevailed with right thinking, as any good boxing referee knows, “you ain’t out until you stop getting back up!” I’m STILL choosing to “GET BACK UP.”

I Am Content.

Philippians 4:12,13… “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.” Yes, there are still many moments in my life that this is more of a “faith statement” than truth of belief, but I continue to strive for this fruit to be alive and active in me. For, “I can do everything through Him who gives me strength.”

Don’t Take Stuff For Granted.

I understand that the phraseology of this point may seem vague to some, but I have learned that EVERYTHING is precious. Who knows when you will no longer have your sight, or touch, or your favorite activities, or the enjoyment of that perfect couch, or contentment with those who are closest to you? Be grateful for everything. ENJOY. DELIGHT. EMBRACE. TREASURE. For tomorrow they may be gone.

Despite Our Circumstances, The Calling Does Not Change.

I am of the strong opinion that the event of November 26, 2008, and the following months of recovering did not take God by surprise. Even in the midst of what I consider a truly challenging, compromised level of the life compared to what I used to live, I am still held accountable before God to fulfill His divine and distinct calling and purpose for my life. It was Gandolf in Lord of the Rings who called out the true nature of one who was born for greatness. “Leave behind the ranger. BECOME who you were BORN to BE!” Each of us has a calling upon our lives. It is not by accident or mistake. God does not pass out exceptions for tough times or mulligans for bumpy roads. HIS CALLING REMAINS. SO MUST I.


If you have found this blog entry to be helpful to you, I welcome you to listen to a message I shared months ago as I began this long slow road towards recovery. It is entitled, “Finding Hope In The Brokenness.” You can download it for free at iTunes, search “The Red Experience.” Thank you.

I think one of the most insignificant, yet thoroughly frustrating parts of my recovery process from the injury is having to drive down to the hospital every couple of months, battling traffic, wrestling for a parking spot, and then standing at registration, in a line longer than the wait for Space Mountain at Disneyworld. But there is no exciting destination for this line… Just more waiting, more lines. You see, here at Denver Health, watching paint dry is considered one of the “faster” services they offer. Getting seen by a Dr. on the other hand… well, hopefully you have penciled in “All Day” on your calendar.

Ok. I apologize for my little tirade here. Enough ranting… I’m finally done with my doctor’s appt. Now I can go spend some time doing something I do love… Youth ministry. Thank you Jesus.

Ok, judge me. Call me super-spiritual, or legalistic, or out of touch with today’s cultural norms, or overly sensitive, or whatever… but my heart feels… saddened.

Strange. Maybe it’s because I am getting older, or perhaps because as a Dad I just see things differently now, but my actual reactions were diametrically opposed from what I thought they would be…

Standing in a surging sea of teenagers, moments after Transformers 2 credits rolled, I feel an overwhelming realization of the cultural war I am up against.

How do I combat this kind of cultural message to our students? How can my one voice even make a difference?

Inundated with a billion dollar culture of music, values, and media that I can’t even begin to touch. In one night hundreds of thousands of young lives across the nation were exposed to Hollywood’s message.

I just feel … Grieved. I don’t know how else to explain it. As my boys cheered from the entrance of the scantily clad heroine… How do I make a difference? What do I do compared with this? Something has become dislodged in my spirit…

How do we prevail against this? How do we be in the world, but not like it? How do we set a higher standard when we are sucked into the world’s lowering standards?

Can we impact it more than IT impacts us? Maybe these are just the mad musings of a spiritual leader no longer on the cultural cusp of trendiness.

Standing in the cacophony hugging, macking, and high fiving teens, sharing their favorite moments of the movie, I just felt out of place. How do we allow God to breakthrough to deeper transforming things, and go beyond a superficial, gone in a moment reactions of a cultural influence like this?

Where does God fit in all of this? How do I fit in to all of this? How can I even begin to stem this tide, much less overcome it with good? Am I pedaling positive feelings or authentic life change?

I feel as if the cultural war is being waged in epic proportions all around me and all I brought is a penknife; that the culture influences by the dump truck full and all I have is a small snow shovel.

Am I overreacting? What would Jesus do? Oh I wish I knew. Curse the darkness or light a candle? How do we instill convictions??? How do I connect people to spiritual transformation; life change with Jesus, and not just give them kudos for using “fudge” instead of the actual F word.

What does it mean to be more like Jesus? How do we engage the darkness without embracing and becoming like it? How are we as Christians called to stand out and be different? Will He recognize us when He comes? Will our cause clear?

I don’t want to overreact, but I just witnessed a cultural
phenomenon that I somehow cannot shake. How do I equip young Christian leaders to lead, instead of linger; to influence, and not just be influenced?

Quick Quip

News Headline: AIG is currently being rebranded as AIU.

“180 billion dollars and all you come up with is AIU? Talk about buying a vowel.” – Jon Stewart as quoted on The Daily Show