Rob Bell + Oprah = ?

Tony Myles —  October 29, 2013 — Leave a comment


I was hoping we’d have something to talk about this week in Christendom.


Rob Bell + Oprah = ?

(A) A great opportunity to stir up conversation about who God is and how amazing He can be in your life.

(B) Another rabbit hole of chit-chat that will create long blog posts, social media debates and grumbling among fans/foes of Mr Bell and/or Ms Winfrey.

(C) Something else entirely.

According to Oprah, ”The ideas Rob sets forth in his books Love Wins and What We Talk About When We Talk About God opened my heart and my mind. People like him are the reason I set out to build OWN in the first place: to be able to gather a global community of like-minded seekers.”


Are we ready to pray for this, or pounce on it?

P.S. Be nice… yeah, you.


I got a chance this past week to interview Matt Chandler, Eric Geiger and Josh Patterson about their new book Creature of the Word. The goal of the book is to refocus church leaders on a Jesus-centered church and provide real practical steps toward achieving it. Here’s 5 questions asking them about the project, the Gospel and youth ministry!

There’s a ton of talk today about The Gospel. Can you help us give a clear definition of it?
To explain the gospel fully, it takes a combination of two perspectives – the global work of God to reconcile all things to Himself and the life, death, resurrection and future return of Jesus Christ. The combination of the two perspectives provides a more crisp, clear and lifelike expression of the story.

The gospel is the historical narrative of the triune God orchestrating the reconciliation and redemption of a broken creation and fallen creatures, from Satan, sin and its effects to the Father and each other through the life, death, resurrection and future return of the substitutionary Son by the power of the Spirit for God’s glory and the Church’s joy.

Where has the modern church failed in sharing and preaching the Gospel?
The Church historically and presently makes one of two errors when it comes to the gospel, legalism or license.  We try to lean on the law for justification or we do whatever we want because we have heard that God will forgive us regardless. Both of these errors are traps that rob of what Jesus called “life to the full” (John 10:10).  In our day it seems we are making both errors simultaneously depending on the church we worship with.  Some of us lean on a type of moralism that would dictate our relationship with God based on our actions instead of God’s. Others lack any real desire to pursue holiness because they believe to “pursue” (1 Tim 6:11) “strive” (Heb. 4:11) or “toil” (Rev.2:2)  would be legalistic and not leaning on the grace of God in Christ.  Our hearts burn to see people throw themselves on the lavish grace of our Savior and let that be the fuel that burns in the engine of the pursuit of holiness.

Tell us about the year-long campaign and why church leaders should consider it?
The Creature of the Word Church Campaign is a year-long movement of examination and growth. The hope is for churches to become more centered on the gospel of Jesus Christ. Broken into 12 parts, each corresponding to a chapter in Creature of the Word, the campaign is designed to help churches audit and assess their various ministries, from preschool to the pulpit, in order to be saturated with the Word of God in all that they do.

Each one of us as individuals and our churches corporately, have areas where there is a gap between our doctrinal confession and our practicing culture. Our hope is, by God’s grace, close the gap between what is believed and how we are actually living and functioning. We want to see churches, including our own, take an honest look at how our theology is being translated into practice. Is there is a correlation or have we bought into some other foundational system to try and lead a church.

The Creature of the Word Church Campaign is an attempt to address a variety of challenges that we all face through an audit, assessment and renewal process.

How has this thinking and strategy shaped your personal ministries and churches?
Ultimately the book is about the gospel and the pervasive nature of it, especially in the context of a local church. Too often, the gospel has been relegated to an aspect of the church like preaching or teaching, but doesn’t actually permeate into the life and culture of the entire church.

The thinking and strategy is lay a solid theological foundation based on the Word of God. This is the foundation upon which the philosophical framework of the life is established. Then, this philosophical framework informs daily church practice and decisions. To simplify it, theology informs philosophy which informs practice. So, our church practice should ultimately be tied back to a theological truth.

This thinking is how we have led The Village Church. It literally informs our approach to decisions, ministries, what to keep, what to cut, why to do something or why we wouldn’t do something. It is embedded into our culture. One of the great benefits of this is that we are able to make relevant connections between our church practice and our theological convictions.

Can you share the most important principle from the book and campaign where change is necessary in youth ministry?
We have a natural tendency to drift toward religion, to drift toward futile attempts to stand before God in our own goodness. Couple that natural drift with the burden many youth pastors and youth ministries sense to teach students to behave (no drinking, no sex, no drugs, make good grades) and we have a recipe for youth ministry to drift away from Jesus and His finished work for us.

While the gospel definitely creates a new heart in a believing teenager, and the result is a life that is marked with obedience and glad submission to Christ, it is very possible to teach for behavior without addressing the heart. And many would applaud a youth ministry for effectively teaching the kids to act differently. Many youth pastors and youth ministries sense pressure from parents and even the overall church  to “train kids to be good” or to “keep the kids busy.” The problem is that if the behavior is not the result of a changed heart, then the behavior is merely temporary. And the messages the students hear only further burden and enslave. Only Jesus transforms. Only His sacrifice is sufficient to melt the heart of a kid.

So youth ministries must wage holy war on the urge, the natural inclination, and even the pressure to protect students from the world (“keep ‘em busy”) or teach them them to overcome the world in their own strength. Youth ministries must constantly and continually bring teenagers back to Jesus. As Thomas Chalmers once stated, ”The best way to overcome the world is not with morality or self-discipline. Christians overcome the world by seeing the beauty and excellence of Christ. They overcome the world by seeing something more attractive than the world: Christ.” 

We know many youth ministries continually apply Jesus and His grace to the hearts of teenagers. And for those we deeply rejoice!

Thanks so much, guys! Get Creature of the Word today!


Every now and then we take a break from the normal routine to interview a friend, author, ministry leader or youth worker we think would have something to share with the youth worker nation. Today we talk to Greg Stier, founder of Dare 2 Share (, which is a ministry dedicated to equipping students to share their faith. Greg is a long-time friend of Simply Youth Ministry and will be speaking in a general session at the upcoming SYMC Conference in March.

1. Dude, many of our readers haven’t met you before—tell us about yourself!
For 10 years I was a church planter and pastor of Grace Church in Arvada, Colorado. Although I loved this amazing church, God used the Columbine High School shooting in 1999 as a wake-up call for me to focus full-time on reaching the next generation for Christ. I resigned my post as pastor and began to mobilize teens for evangelism through Dare 2 Share.

I’ve been married for 21 years to the love of my life, Debbie. We have two great kids who, unfortunately for my wife, have my spastic genes. We couldn’t have kids for 10 years and wondered if God would ever bless us with children. We were so thrilled that he did! Being a husband and daddy has taught me more theology than any Bible class I’ve ever sat through. It’s humbling and exhilarating all at the same time!

When I’m not traveling the nation equipping youth leaders and teens for evangelism, I’m hanging out with the fam. We live in the great state of Colorado and love to hike together. This summer my son and I had the opportunity to climb our first two “14ers” (mountains that are 14,000 feet or higher in elevation). It was great fun…even though I thought my lungs were going to burst. One more thing…I’m a movie freak.

2. How did you become so passionate about student evangelism?
I was raised in a family of body-building, tobacco-chewing, beer-drinking thugs (and that’s just the women!). Seriously, my family was bad to the bone. The Denver “mafia” knew my five fighting uncles as “the crazy brothers.” So when the mafia thinks your family is dysfunctional you have some serious issues.

But this church from the suburbs reached out to the city and, as a result, my entire family came to Christ. As a kid I witnessed the spiritual transformation of every one my family members from violent troublemaker to passionate Christ follower. This church also had a killer youth ministry who discipled us—that is, had us growing deep in our relationship with Christ and understanding theology, as well as training and expecting us to share our faith. They also had high expectations when it came to leadership and they gave teenagers significant responsibilities in leading the youth ministry, which I think is critical. There’s no way I’d be doing Dare 2 Share if I hadn’t seen it modeled in this amazing youth ministry setting first. Bottom line as to why I’m so passionate about student evangelism? I believe in the power of the gospel and the potential of teenagers!

3. Yesterday we talked about producing evangelistic students; what is the biggest key in your mind for students to “get it”?
They have to have their hearts broken for their friends who don’t know Jesus. They need to get their “Jesus eyes” on.

When I was a teenager my youth pastor challenged me to go to a local shopping mall and do some people watching for 30 minutes. He told me to put an imaginary tag on people’s foreheads as they walked by which read, “Bound for Hell.” I did just that. For 30 minutes I thought about the hell they were headed to and the hell they were going through apart from Jesus. By the time it was over I was crying. For the first time I saw people through the eyes of Christ and my heart has been broken ever since. As we put our teens in situations to interact with unreached people (mission trips, local outreaches, etc), we will have the opportunity to teach them to put their Jesus eyes on. Then, as their hearts begin to break for the lost, evangelism becomes much more natural.

4. Tell us about a time you were rejected after sharing your faith. How can leaders prepare students for the adversity they face in times like that?
There have been many times I’ve been rejected. The hardest was my Uncle Richard. He was the one holdout of my uncles who refused to believe in Jesus. It took 12 years of sharing and being rejected by him before he finally succumbed to Jesus (just before succumbing to cancer).

I think youth leaders can prepare their students by helping them realize that rejection is part of the discipleship process. Jesus said in Matthew 5:11-12, “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

At Dare 2 Share we do a thing called “Persecution University.” If a teen gets rejected for sharing Jesus, they become a PU grad and get a standing ovation from the thousands of teens in the auditorium. Of course some Christians get persecuted, not for sharing their faith, but for the way they are sharing their faith. I’m not talking about that. I’m talking about helping teens to humbly share the good news and then realize that, if their friends reject them, they are entering a fraternity of persecution that’s 2,000 years old. I find that teens who truly realize this have their faith steeled and sealed deep inside their souls.

5. You are an excitable guy! What are you most excited about at Dare 2 Share!
We are seeing teenagers truly share their faith, and youth groups are growing in maturity and in numbers as a result!  We are witnessing how evangelism accelerates the discipleship process in ways no traditional model can emulate. It’s great fun to watch the exciting messiness of a youth group growing with new and raw teen disciples.

I’m also excited about the way the Lord has opened up the door for this movement to be scalable outside of our Dare 2 Share events. From training curriculum to our free online training material to webinars to an upcoming Dare 2 Share mobile app (coming soon) we are pumped up to see that God is moving beyond our training conferences to accelerate teen evangelism training. Of course, the Dare 2 Share conferences are as exciting as ever and we are adding more and more new cities to the tour. I love what God does through these catalytic training events!

But what excites me most is that I believe we could witness a true revival in this nation within my lifetime. And I’m fully convinced teenagers and youth leaders will be on the leading edge of this next great awakening. I’m a student of past revivals and, to be honest, I’m tired of reading about revivals—I want to be a part of one!

This interview  originally appeared as part of Simply Youth Ministry Today free newsletter. Subscribe to SYM Today right here.

This week’s 5 questions is with Joel Mayward, author of The Youth Cartel’s new book, Leading Up. Here’s our interaction about his life, his new book and a little insight in leading from the middle:

Who is Joel Mayward?
I’m a pastor, husband, father, and writer currently living and doing ministry in Langley, British Columbia. I’ve been leading in youth ministry since I was 16, and have been in full-time ministry for about 6 years. I love movies, writing, coffee, drumming, reading, hiking, discipleship, and Jesus, but not in that order.

Love the idea of leading up – where have you seen this done well in your current ministry?
I recently moved from Arizona to British Columbia, and have only been at my new church for two months. I have to practice what I preach in Leading Up, learning how to navigate the systems and sacred cows of my new church context, and intentionally take the time to build relational equity with my fellow church leaders. I’m relearning everything, having to start over in a new church and rebuild relationships. It’s a deeply humbling and transformative process, which is what leading up is all about.

Leading up can be so difficult because we’re stuck in the middle as youth workers. What is one key thing to avoid to make sure our leadership is not overlooked?
Being “stuck in the middle” sounds more gloomy than the reality of our role–we are key members of the body of Christ, called by the Spirit of God and equipped to lovingly build up the whole church while focusing our time and energy on teenagers. It all comes back to recognizing my identity and calling in Christ; I’m not just a “youth worker,” I’m a beloved child of God, uniquely gifted and strengthened by the Holy Spirit. Leading up is far more empowering when I realize that it’s not about me, it’s about the vision and calling Christ has given me. Leadership is a gift, not an entitlement or obligation.

The book is a great and easy read. Why choose the youth ministry story/fable approach?
Originally, the book felt like a bunch of random concepts and tools about leading up, making it both very short and very boring. I love movies and compelling stories, and knew the various “leading up” experiences of many of my friends and partners in ministry needed to be shared well through a fictional narrative. Logan’s story is true in the sense that truth is larger than just facts, and art reflects our life and experience. I have to thank Mark Oestreicher for giving me the suggestion to write the book as a leadership fable, and the encouragement to keep writing. The characters and story took off from there!

What is next for you?
I’m hoping and praying that Leading Up would be an encouragement to leaders in the church, both in the youth ministry tribe and beyond. I’d love to hear the stories of young leaders choosing to stay in churches and embrace their calling, seeing their churches transformed through a leadership of grace. There are all sorts of other book ideas percolating in my mind. It’s literally a dream come true to write this book, and I hope to keep humbly writing and sharing and speaking and leading in the season to come.


Q&A about 99 Thoughts on Raising Your Parents
with Liesl Oestreicher and Max Oestreicher

Marko (their dad, read his blog here): Liesl and Max really did write these answers, just like they really did write the book with me (they wrote 100% of these answers, and about 70% of the book). BTW: Liesl is 18 – she graduated from HS last spring, and I currently on a gap-year, living in Ireland at the moment, and heading to India in January. Max is 14 (turns 15 in a week), and a freshman in HS.

OK, first off tell us about YOU!

Max: Drums + ukulele + bacon = Max Oestreicher
: I’m a dirty hippy, loving trees one hug at a time.

OK, now … what’s up with your dad’s beard?

Max:  I think he should go pro.
Liesl: Babies and old, senile women enjoy grabbing and stroking it. It’s true, I’ve seen both happen.

The book is awesome – how did it come about?

Max: My dad wanted me and my sister to write a book about how cool he is. At first I refused, and then he told me I’d get paid.
Liesl: I was sitting in a forest, writing my autobiography, when a glowing figure approached me. The figure told me He was God, who had come down in human form to tell me something. He told me that He had peeked at what I was writing and that it was very good, that it even exceeded the work of the great Mark Oestreicher. He then told me that He wanted me to write a book for teenagers, just like me, about how to get along with their parents. And, of course, I gratefully accepted. I don’t know, maybe I imagined that. Now that I think about it, my dad just sent me an email one day that said my brother and I were going to write a book and we were going to get paid for it.

What’s one thing that teenagers can do to change the game for the relationship they have with their parents?

Max: When you are getting in an argument/fight/disagreement with your parents, don’t get defensive. Respectfully communicate your point of view, and then listen to theirs.
Liesl: Respect their opinions. If you don’t, how do you expect them to respect yours? …or you can just move to Ireland, like I did.

Tell us a story about when your parents screwed up (aka, give me some hope). Make me laugh!

Max: My parent lost me at Disney World when I was three. They let go of my hand and I decided I wanted to go see King Louie.
: Once my mom and I were on a snowmobile on a family vacation. My mom accidentally went too close to a little dip and our snowmobile rolled over sideways. We couldn’t get up on our own, so before he helped us, my dad laughed as he took pictures.

Who do you love more – mom or dad? What do you value most about them?

Max: I think my mom is just OK, but compare her to my dad and she’s amazing.
: I would say my mom, but my dad is more likely to see this, so… definitely my dad.

You have the attention of a TON of youth workers – what would you say to them about their jobs/roles/calling?

Max: I think youth workers should give a lot of opportunities to get involved in a leadership roles as this has been very meaning full to me.
:  It is really encouraging to here your life stories, especially the times when you screwed up. It shows us  (teenagers in your youth group) that it is a safe place to admit to our faults when you do the same.

Thanks for taking the time to answer these! Make sure you check out the book here – might make a good resource to put in the hands of your students this Christmas, too!


I had a chance to sit down with Jason Ostrander, the man behind the incredible Simply Youth Ministry Conference this year – easily one of my favorite weeks of all time. This year we’re in Indianapolis in March – going to be really, really fun:

What is the heart and vision behind SYMC?
The Simply Youth Ministry Conference (aka. SYMC) has always been unique in the landscape of youth ministry conferences in that it is, by design, a conference “by youth workers –for youth workers”. In all aspects of the conference youth workers are an active part of both its development and implementation. The true heart behind SYMC it is to be a place where youth workers from around the world can come to learn, connect and recharge and the vision is always to support the local youth worker in every way possible so that they can thrive in youth ministry.

There are a lot of conferences out there, maybe now more than ever – why choose SYMC?
This is a great question.  My immediate response takes me back to when I was a youth worker attending SYMC –I remember that everyone I met seemed to identify with me as well as my journey.  It felt good to be known (and remembered year after year!)  As the conference director, I would say that SYMC works very hard to cut through the fluff of youth min conferencing so that we can fully engage youth workers right where they are.  I have been a part of some SYMC Lead Team meetings in the past few weeks where we’ve cut out potentially “good” things to make room for the “most important” things that we should be offering to youth workers.

When is the best time to sign up to get the best deal?
Of course the deepest discount for SYMC would be the early bird registration ($40 off the regular price) –which ends THIS WEEK on October 31st!

Hmmm … I should have seen that one coming. Well, youth workers love freebies – give us a deal or secret freebie just for MTDB readers! 
OK…how about a secret MTDB gift bag that includes: a $25 coupon for the SYMC Bookstore, a special early-entry pass for the nightly General Sessions (and other free SYMC-related resources)?  If you register with the code MTDB you’ll receive your gift when you check in at the conference!

Hahaah that’s the best! See you at SYMC!


A couple days ago I posted my review of the Unauthorized Dictionary of Youth Ministry, then got the chance to interview the author, Steve Case. Here’s 5 questions about one of my favorite new books:

JG: Tell us where the idea of the book came from?
Steve Case: Mostly from hanging out with other youth workers, especially at conventions. We chat and trade ideas and then its only a matter of time before you start to hear stories of stress and pain in youth ministry. Everyone has a story.  Once the stories come out then the humor starts to flow and you find yourself laughing through the problems.  I really wanted to be a catalyst for that kind of laughter.

JG: Did you try to get others to publish the title, and why do you think the Youth Cartel enthusiastically said yes?
SC: Mostly because I know Marko and Marko knows me.  The guys at the Youth Cartel understand what I meant when I said, “sometimes the Christian faith is like wearing a T-shirt two sizes too small.”  Plus Marko knows a good fart joke when he hears one.

JG: My only criticism of the book is the overuse of #hashtags. Explain.
SC: Hashtags are how people communicate the age of Twitter.  Comedicly speaking it also puts an extra beat on the end of a joke.  Get a bunch of church workers together and they can play off each other’s humor verbally.  I think the hastags copy that idea of “plussing” the joke.

JG: Give me 2 or 3 of the best ones of the cutting room floor?
SC: Honestly, I was surprised the Cartel guys let me get away with as much as they did.  I was kind of disappointed we had to lose part of the G is for Genie entry.  I made a reference to Barbara Eden’s navel that I thought was very funny but then didn’t go over with the editors.  Also the original title of one of the Graduation Books was “Is That a Cross in Your Pocket or Are You Just Happy to See Me?”

JG: Got a next project on the horizon?
SC: Oh yes.  Hopefully at the end of this year or early next year, the Cartel is publishing Dancing In The Dark which is a dramatic re-tooling of the Stations of the Cross.  Also a book called The Audacious Seven which is a book of Bible Studies about seven saints who lived and worked so outside of the box they didn’t even know the box was there.

JG: Thanks for your time!
SC: No problem. Thanks for the opportunity.


This week we’re talking volunteers! A key part of any youth ministry is the leadership team. If you’re doing ministry all alone, you’re going to bottleneck growth or burn out—take time to build a great team and you’ll never regret it.

But building a great team can be a big challenge! Today we’re going to blast out a few bullet points that we think will help you surround yourself with a great group of like-minded youth workers:

Recruit Well
• Ask God to lead you to the right people within your church.
• Look for key places to find people—men’s/women’s Bible study groups, the college ministry, leaders moving up with their younger students, etc.
• Resist the urge to just make a blanket announcement; you’ll get “zeros” who will hurt you in the long haul or “heroes” who are already volunteering for everything and are overcommitted.
• If you have a red flag at any point in the process, pass on that person. Better to have a difficult conversation before than have to clean up a mess after.

Place Well
• In part of your interview, talk through their passions and gifting.
• Personality plays a big role in success of using volunteers well. Factor in personality.
• Place people based on their available time; if someone is stretching to be a small group leader, it might be too much commitment and you might want to suggest another role.
• Finally, place them according to their gifts and availability…not according to your needs!

Train Well
• Prepare your people for common challenges they will encounter in their role serving students.
• Promise (and deliver on that promise when necessary) that you’ll be there when they face something they don’t feel super prepared for.
• Resource them with articles, books, and back-pocket guides to help them group as a leader.

Encourage Well
• Remember their birthdays, send encouraging notes, etc.
• Be present when you speak to them; pouring into them is, by extension, pouring into your students.
• Gather regularly for celebration, training, and story-telling.

What else needs to be done well in order to build a great team? Add your thoughts!

This post was written by Josh Griffin and originally appeared as part of Simply Youth Ministry Today free newsletter. Subscribe to SYM Today right here.