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.

Post 2 & Post 3

Watch this short video…

This guy was trying to block the trajectory of the pass…and, well, you saw what happened.

Sometimes in life tough things come out of nowhere.  Completely unexpected things.

Life will slap you with no warning.

And, sometimes, the last thing we want to hear is “God has a plan for your life.”  As true as that may be, sometimes we have questions and/or doubts because of what we are going through that aren’t answered or addressed by that statement.

Here are 2 things I’ve learned keeps me grounded when facing unexpected trial/pain/etc:

  1. Ask for help remembering.  Jesus says the Holy Spirit will call to remembrance all he has taught (John 14:25).  Often in times of trial, we ask for answers that have never been revealed.  It’s not wrong to ask God for the “why’s” of our situations, but rarely do we get the answers we want in the timing we desire.  I’ve found that asking the Holy Spirit to remind me of what has already been revealed is a much more helpful way to go.  Trying to remain deeply committed to what we already know is most often the best way to make it through the ambiguity of pain.
  2. Remember what God has done.  In times of trial we go through a ton of different emotions…and sometimes all at once.  We can feel like God isn’t there or listening, we may question whether or not he is somehow angry with us.  Asaph deals with these same feelings in Psalm 77.  But in verse 10-11 he moves beyond his emotions and remembers the things God has done in the past.  This moves him to a place of worship even though his emotions are everywhere.  I’ve found this really helps keep me grounded.  I remember the things God has done throughout history, but also in my life and in the lives of those closest to me.  This helps me worship God rather than get angry or bitter at Him.

Godspeaks - narrativeJust got done teaching a series at Colossae that I called, “God Speaks.”  It was a way of teaching through the different literary genres of the Old Testament.  The point was to show what God is uniquely saying to us through the various genres.  I taught this series for a few reasons:


(1) I wanted to entice people to read scripture more, particularly the Old Testament.

(2) It’s a subversive way of teaching hermeneutics (bible study methods).

We all know that God speaks to us through the scriptures, but we often lose sight of the fact that He speaks to us in different ways through the scriptures.  He’s telling the same story, but we learn different things about Him and ourselves through the various literary genres.  So, we went through the following messages:

  1. God Speaks, Through Narrative.  God chooses specific historical events to reveal who He is and who we are in light of Him.  I taught through Genesis 1-6 in this message.
  2. God Speaks, Through Law.  We learn about our complete inability to be perfect and thus it leads us to a full recognition of our moral failure in God’s eyes.  We taught through Leviticus 16.
  3. God Speaks, Through Poetry.  We learn ways we can worship God regardless of our emotional state – no matter how high or low we get.  I taught through Psalm 77 for this message.
  4. God Speaks, Through Prophecy.  We see how God is inviting His people into the blessing of depending on Him.  I taught through Joel 2 and Jeremiah 7.
  5. God Speaks, Through Wisdom.  This is where God reveals the hindsight of others so it can become our foresight.  I taught through an overview of Ecclesiastes.

What are ways you’ve tried to entice people to read scripture?

Screen shot 2013-10-10 at 9.58.38 AMAs I mentor people there are a few things that, if I can keep them in mind, bring me rest and peace.  However, if I lose sight of these as I mentor I begin to feel stressed.  So, I thought I’d throw these out to you…maybe they would be of help to you today.

(1) I’m not the Messiah.  People are not a problem to be fixed and even where there are issues to be worked on, it’s not my job to fix them.  Philippians 1:6 tells us that God is going to complete the work.  He may use us, but the job of fixing is not ours.

(2) I’m a part of something bigger.  My role is to follow what God is already doing.  So, I don’t try to find areas that need to be worked on, I try to find the areas that God is already working…and then try to encourage further growth in those areas.

(3) I’m a real person too. I have past and present struggles and I cannot, nor should I, deny those.  So, when I can legitimately identify with a struggle that the person I’m mentoring is experiencing, I make sure to share my experiences.

(4) My hindsight can become foresight. I haven’t been around every block, but this isn’t my first rodeo.  Through experiences of embracing what I know to be true about Jesus, God has given me (and you) some wisdom in areas of life.  When we can see someone walking into a trap that we have fallen victim to, we can help them process through whether or not they actually want to walk down the same path.

Thanks for loving students,



Screen shot 2013-10-04 at 9.30.32 AMAs a continuation to my previous post titled, “Considerations for ‘Decision Times’” I will simply offer two quick distinctions/thoughts to possibly consider as you share the gospel with people…

1. Jesus invites, we don’t.  Many times we talk about the gospel as “inviting Jesus into our lives.”  I understand what we are trying to say by inviting him into our lives, but at the gospel’s core, Jesus is inviting us into his life – not vice versa.  This is most easily seen in Jesus’ call to “follow” him.

2. Both benefits and call are crucial.  We can often limit our gospel presentations to how we personally benefit – salvation and being with God for all eternity. But we have to be careful of allowing people to think they can receive the benefits of heaven without accepting the call of Jesus.  They go hand in hand.  2 Corinthians 5:14-15 is clear that Jesus died so that we would no longer live for ourselves…we’re joining into Jesus’ life of selflessness, seeking the benefit of others and the furthering of the gospel.  This is an important part to include in our explanations of why Jesus died on the cross.

Thanks for loving students,