Screen shot 2013-11-11 at 5.11.09 PMWell, it’s always a little uncomfortable for me to announce things like this, but my book Losing Your Religion releases today! I’m very excited about it, because I think it really meets a need.  I wrote this book because I’m becoming increasingly concerned that many people are slitting the wrists of their faith, without knowing it.  We so easily fall into religious ruts that we think are normal, but the truth is, many of them are not. And I hope to be a part of bringing freedom in these types of areas!

Here is the description on the back cover:

We’ve all heard that Christianity isn’t a religion—it’s a relationship. But a lot of us practice a Christianity that’s really a behavior management system . . . in other words, a religion—one that nobody longs to be part of! How can we stop confusing behavior management with the life-giving faith into which Jesus invites us? How do we move past having behavioral standards and habits as our only measures of maturity?  Losing Your Religion will help you identify where beliefs meant to give you freedom have become a new set of religious chains. More importantly, you’ll find out how to let your relationship with Christ break those chains and lead you and others to true freedom. You’re not called to be a “better Christian.” (What a relief!) You’re called to let Christ’s very presence transform you into a person who loves God and others wholeheartedly and with deep joy. But to get there, you must lose your religion. The good news is you’ll never miss it.

If you, or someone you know, could use a book that gets to the core of religious issues that hinder us from truly experiencing the life Jesus invites us into, this book could be a tool God uses to bring that freedom.  Well, that’s at least what I’ve been praying would happen.

To check out the inside, read some endorsements or the review done by Publishers Weekly, click here.

I hope you find it helpful!




I am so proud of Tyler, a freshman in high school. He and his family have been coming to our church for about a year and a half.  It’s fun to see a high schooler rallying his friends at school to do something for the gospel.

The news station didn’t mention our church in this video (probably for obvious reasons, we were lumped in under the phrase “other non-profit organizations”), but it’s things like this that our church is seeking to give more and more money towards.  We are coming behind more things like this that those in our church are doing.  Helping our people do things in our community for the furthering of the gospel.  I love this and am very encouraged.

A local news station recently aired this recap on what Tyler is doing. Click the image below:



Proud of these students wanting to bring hope to others,



The Thread Of Your Message

 —  November 8, 2013 — 3 Comments

Screen shot 2013-11-07 at 1.35.00 PMWhen I teach at Colossae, I use something I call a “Thread.”

The thread is the main point of the passage we are teaching, boiled down into a phrase or a very short sentence. On a fantastic week, if we’re honest about it, people will (maybe) embrace 1 thing they heard us say in our message. So, my thought is…why not make the entire message about the one thing you want them to walk away with?

That’s where the “thread” comes in. I really wrestle with the wording with our staff.  It can take up to an hour sometimes. But it’s really important to make sure we are clearly articulating the biblical authors’ point.  We want to word the writers point in a fresh, boiled down and consumable way – but certainly in an accurate way.

Then, as I prepare my notes, I make sure everything I say somehow points people toward understanding and embracing the thread.

  • If I share information about the historical background of the passage, I want to only share that info that would help people wrap their minds around the thread.
  • If I want to unpack the meaning of a specific word or grammar of a sentence, I want to only unpack the that which will be beneficial for people to to better understand the thread.

There is a phrase that people sometimes use that goes something like this: If you can’t say it in a sentence, you can’t say it in 30 minutes.

I believe that. It keeps the message simple, but not shallow. It keeps the message clear, but you can dive into the depth of it.

Do you use a “thread” or something that helps you keep your messages clear and on point?

Tell me your thoughts!



Troubling Stats On Pastors

 —  November 1, 2013 — 7 Comments

Screen shot 2013-10-31 at 9.18.20 AMA friend of mine tweeted out an article that was showing statistics on pastors that, well, shocked me a bit.  You can check out the article yourself if you’d like, but here are a few things that stood out to me:

(1) 57% (over half!) of pastors said they would leave the ministry if they had a better place to go – ministry or not.

Okay, before I go any further with listing out some other stats, this troubles me a bit. I get that we can get tired, burned out or even burned in relationships, but

  • What does this say to us?
  • What might this say about these pastors, on a personal level?
  • What might this say about their calling to ministry?

I’m not pretending like there are actual answers to those questions – answers would certainly be dependent on the individual person and specific circumstances. However, I do think some of these questions can be wrestled with a bit from afar.

Anyway, here are some other stats that stuck out to me:

(2) 81% of pastors said they have no plan or program in place for discipleship.  Um, this is a major – very serious – problem.  But, maybe the next statistic shows a bit why this is the case:

(3) 75% of pastors felt unqualified to be in position.  I think this is much more than people being humble.  There are other issues contributing to this.

(4) 71% said they are burned out and struggle with depression.

(5) 77% said they do not have a good marriage.

(6) 30% said they have been in an ongoing affair or have had a one-time sexual encounter…with a parishioner. 

I don’t know about you, but I’m troubled by these things. Maybe these would be pretty average for any position in any industry…but I’m not sure that matters.




Screen shot 2013-10-29 at 3.59.07 PMWhen we think about discipleship we all think of different things.

Different methods.

Different books.

Different curriculum.

In each of our contexts we all attach connotations to the term, but the bottom line is whatever we do or whatever resources we use, it all requires our most precious commodity – our time.  And here is where we come face to face with the mountain we have to climb whenever we ask someone to “disciple” those in our ministry.  We are asking for their time.

So, I thought I would give you a few thoughts on how to overcome this challenge.  These are not bullet proof, but ideas I still embrace because they have proven to be effective in my ministry:

  1. Don’t ask people to serve.  I know, that sounds wrong.  But the truth is I don’t ask people to serve in a ministry.  Why?  Well, because the first question they ask is, “How much time is required?”  I never want that question to come across their mind.  Instead, I simply ask people how they are being authentic to their identity as a disciple, themselves.  As followers of Jesus we are all called to disciple, it’s part of who we are.  It’s inauthentic to not disciple.  When we bring it back to our identity, time is the last issue that crosses the mind of the person we are talking with.  Their motivation now is obedience to Jesus, not guilt with us.  Big difference.
  2. Show the value of relationship.  I wrote a lot about this in College Ministry From Scratch, but we ought to always encourage people with how they are impacting others.  This is far more effective than making them feel guilty for how they are not.  People will invest both their time and resources into what they find valuable.  We just need to show them the value of their relational investment.



College Overload!

 —  October 24, 2013 — 1 Comment

Screen shot 2013-10-24 at 8.43.57 AMSometimes it’s hard to stay focused in ministry and we wonder where we should be putting our energy.  Even worse, we stop wondering this.

Within a 20 minute radius of our church building we have college overload…

Here are the colleges/universities: 

  1. Portland State
  2. University of Portland
  3. Lewis and Clark University
  4. Reed University
  5. Oregon Health and Science University
  6. George Fox University
  7. Concordia University
  8. Multnomah University
  9. Warner Pacific University

Then we have 14 different trade schools…art, mechanical, etc.

Then we have the following Portland Community College (PCC) campuses:

  1. Sylvania 
  2. Clackamas
  3. Cascade
  4. Rock Creek
  5. Mt. Hood (about 30 minutes from our building)

The community colleges alone total over 80,000 students on campus.

This can cause confusion as to where to concentrate our time.

We have thoughts on this, but wondering, what are some guidelines that you use to focus your attention?

There are all sorts of ‘hot topics’ in our culture.Screen shot 2013-10-22 at 9.01.42 AM

In my opinion, as leaders, we need to be proactive in addressing these issues.  Unfortunately, many times we tend to just let them come to us rather than proactively leading our people and equipping them to navigate conversations like:

  • same-sex attraction/partnership
  • gay marriage
  • legalization of marijuana

Then there are some other topics that we tend to just let go unaddressed in the church context like:

  • the role of women in the church
  • specific (defers from context to context) spiritual gifts
  • navigating the church and state boundaries

These are all issues that are too often left unaddressed, and therefore, they become “unspoken truths” that leave people to drown in their own assumptions.  This creates confusion.  We tend to think that people will be able to navigate these issues on their own and clearly understand our position as a local church.  Both assumptions are wrong.  And, it’s my firm belief that we must proactively shepherd people in areas such as these.

So, here are 3 general guidelines for being a proactive leader in these areas:

  1. Provide Clarity.  Clearly state your position AND the underlying convictions that drive your conclusions.  Articulating the underlying convictions you have (such as scripture being our standard) are critical for these conversations.  
  2. Provide Framework.  Clearly lay out the expectations you have for people as they dialogue about these types of things.  I recently did a forum for our church on the LGBT conversation. One of the things I set up as a framework is the following statement: “Humility and love, not shame, is our mutual aspiration.”  These types of things set a tone for dialogue and are necessary to “posture” our people to be able to handle these conversations in God-honoring ways.
  3. Provide Freedom.  People need to be given freedom to discuss topics like this in our churches.  Everyone gets super tense when these types of topics come up in conversation and much of this is due to our lack of articulating the freedom they have to do so.

I pray we can all be proactive leaders.



The Gospel & Suicide

 —  October 18, 2013 — 3 Comments


What do these teens have in common?

Rebecca Sedwick

Bartlomiej Palosz

Adrian Alvaresz

Srijan Saha

a Mount Anthony Union Middle School student

These teens have all committed suicide recently, and most of them (if not all) took their life due to being bullied by their peers. These young lives can be added to the thousands of other teens who have committed suicide over the years, for various reasons and in various ways. However, the issue of bullying is a commonality in the majority of cases, especially those in recent years.

Suicide is the third largest cause of death among 15-24 year-olds.

Tragically, tomorrow, next month, and next year, more names will be added to grave stones. More families will be left picking up the pieces to their shattered lives. More questions will be asked; more doubt in faith will spring up; more anger at God will be experienced with great pain.

As youth workers, will we be standing in a posture of being proactive or reactive when suicide strikes our ministry, community, or even our families? Yes, no matter how prepared one is, suicide still knocks us off our feet in disbelief. However, it is my firm belief that this blow lessens by the steps we take in educating ourselves and others about the warning signs and preventions of suicide. Like so many other things in today’s environment, it is no longer a question of “if” suicide will strike our lives but one of “when.” We need to be prepared on all fronts, and one way of doing so is planting the gospel firmly within our students hearts, minds, and souls.

By the word “gospel,” I’m not talking about one particular fraction but the whole reality of the gospel, found in the Person of Jesus Christ. He is the firm definition of hope, freedom, life, pursuit, longing, et al, which are the very things teens are strenuously looking for today. Therefore, it is my conviction, that in order to combat the root issues of suicide and bullying, we need to go with our students beyond the surface of “Jesus loves you,” and into the depths of our identity and worth found in Christ alone. Although as youth workers we may realize this, I’m not convinced that today’s teenager believe this deep within. And maybe they don’t believe this because we don’t believe this ourselves. Or maybe we do believe this, but we wrongly assume our students do as well.

In either case, students are killing themselves, because in their minds, death is the only viable answer left to pursue. And this, we know, is a lie. So, what other answers are we providing for our students and their friends?

Here are 6 answers I strive to teach students every chance I get:

  1. You are made in the image of God, and nothing changes this.
  2. God’s unconditional love for you is greater than any sin you will commit (and have committed).
  3. Our identity and worth are wrapped around who Christ is, what He has done, and what He will do within our lives.
  4. We are a redeemed community, sent to live out the gospel in authentic community with others.
  5. We all stand upon the common ground of needing Jesus.
  6. The love of Jesus is greater than the lie of suicide, and the threat of being bullied.

Next week, I want to unpack these answers more. Meanwhile, check out some other great resources regarding suicide prevention found at Conversations on the Fringe and Six:11 Ministries.

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