A Heap

I don't know if I've asked the question here or not, but what does it mean to be saved? I think it's almost meaningless in Christianity today. We say it, expect it as almost code for being in the "in club" and yet I think it's somewhat lost the power that being saved needs to have. When I hear it I think of the 70 year olds in my home church at the old Sunday night testimony and hymn sing we did sharing their testimonies. They would tear up and talk about being saved. I loved those night. But when I talk about it I don't have that same passion.

For the past few months, I feel like I keep trying to stand up and then I get my knees kicked out from under me. Usually by my own fault, sometimes from the criticisms of others, and sometimes I'll even blame it on God (He's not opposed to wrestling)--but I've felt like a big heap on the ground for quite a while.

I want to know what's next. I want to know what God has planned for Carrie and I. I want direction, leading, guidance and the next steps. I think God just wants me. Beyond that I think he wants to keep saving me. I think he wants to save me from myself. I think as I look for direction he just wants me to realize I'm directionless... and will be until I fall completely on him.

I'm tired--emotionally. I think I've been sitting in shame and self-doubt, craving the worth that "the right job" or the "right ministry opportunity" might offer. I need saved from this. I truly and desperately need saved.

Been thinking about this song...

BLOOM AGAIN - Charlie Hall
Crying seems to hurt me, but it's alright to cry
You have been so strong now, your tears will turn to wine
Life seems so brittle, landing upside down
It seems to make us fragile, and bares upon us now

Oh the leaves are falling
Winter is now here
The spring is coming
And you can bloom again

The beauty of,
The ash of love,
When you emerge,
You are more beautiful... bloom again

Some storms leave the beauty,
Some storms leave the thorns
Compassion pours from heaven
Mercy ever dawn

Somewhere in this whirlwind
Somewhere in this crowd
Hold up to his heartbeat
Push away the sounds

Oh the leaves are falling
Winter is now here
The spring is coming
And you can bloom again

The beauty of,
The ash of love,
When you emerge,
You are more beautiful... bloom again

Maybe I should say your Name,
Maybe I should say your Name out loud

The beauty of,
The ash of love,
When you emerge,
You are more beautiful... bloom again

Open Again

I've been wanting to post on here again for a while, but haven't felt like I had much to write. I don't really know if anyone will still read this. Either way, it might be therapeutic for me.

I'm in Minnesota right now for seminary. It's always good to be out here because I get away from work for a while and am able to really focus on school. I also like being with the guys I'm with in class and at the hotel--it's good to process learning in community. But, it's also hard being gone from the girls for so long. I miss them like crazy.

Anyway, I think the last time I posted on here we had just returned from North Carolina after taking a weekend away to really pray about church planting and our future. That was over a month ago. I think I've been kind of frustrated since then... frustrated at God somewhat for not making it obviously clear what lies ahead and frustrated that I can't figure it out. I understand his timing is perfect and am trying to surrender all that, but it is difficult at times.

Tonight I went to John Piper's church. Here's a picture:

Being at his church is pretty unique. I know John Piper from his books, the Passion conference, and other things like that. He's a phenomenal teacher--very passionate and very deep. But his church is like stepping into a timewarp. To be honest, it's really a pretty frustrating experience. Like many of our churches, it is not very welcoming at all, and I would feel really uncomfortable there if I wasn't a Christian. But I think it goes deeper than that...

After the service tonight I talked with some of the guys from my class. What I said was that I think I could cease going to large, corporate church services and be perfectly content. The house church model, to me, with a group of people that I love and relate to in community, seems much more fulfilling. I really don't know what to do with that. (I say that a lot on this blog.)

I'm not sure where things will head, but I think that for those of us thinking this way we have to get courageous enough to take some of these jumps. The jumps may mean stepping out of traditions in order to be intentional in the untraditional, smaller community settings. I don't know. Any thoughts?

Mormons on the Street

We returned from North Carolina last night about 8 pm. It was a great weekend, with a ton of driving and fun.

We went to Chapel Hill for a couple of reasons. When I started this blog a couple months ago, with the few of you that actually read it, I was at a point of total struggle and frustration. But... I also didn't just want to keep complaining. I needed to find out what God wanted to show me. In my mind, I was taking a leap, in a community of people, to find out what the future might hold.

About that same time I started thinking about Chapel Hill. I love college students, and I've spent time around UNC a few times with our friends from North Carolina. Every time, I've loved it. The area is incredible, and ripe for ministry. Maybe it was just a need to get away, or maybe it was God speaking, but Carrie and I decided to take a weekend down there in prayer and exploration... and wondered if God might be leading us there permanently. I was terrified, and felt like an absolute crazy man. But I wanted to at least DO something.

Anyway... the trip was great. We spent late Thursday night driving and pulled into our friends' house about 2:30 Friday morning. Our friends, Jordan and Deirdre, went with us and it was great having some other perspective on the trip.

Friday we walked around Chapel Hill and I realized that I really had no clue how I was supposed to "discern" God's voice. Funny story though, the first people that talked to us in Chapel Hill were two young mormon men on mission. Complete with short sleeved dress shirts and black ties, they were also about the only people in Chapel Hill who spoke with us. It was at this point that I started to realize how much I was stressing myself out trying to "hear" God.

Saturday we relaxed. I spent some time in prayer Friday night and really felt like I needed to just stop stressing and be present with the people we were there with that we loved a lot. We all went to get tattoos Saturday (even my wife!) which was a blast and took it easy.

Long story short, we're not moving to North Carolina. Most of you probably realized that as soon as I told you we were even taking the trip. I think I did too, but was perhaps glamorizing my own "Abraham experience" of going into the wilderness. I don't regret it though. I think the clearest I heard God on the trip was in the voice of the people I was there with.

That is what I keep returning to--the absolute divine nature of the intentional community we surround ourselves with. I am excited to be home... I missed our family and our friends... those of you who love and support Carrie and I. We have some big ideas that we're praying about and I'll be sharing in the coming weeks... I'm dying to get them out there for you all to start praying too, but I don't think it's quite time. If you really want to know, give me a call and I'll pour out my heart, but it may be a long conversation.

Anyway, thanks for your prayers and love for us. It is good to be home and I still have no clue where the road is going, but I think we'll keep walking.

Off to Explore

Carrie and I are off this weekend to spend some time in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Be praying for us. I'm hoping it's a great weekend away, and somewhat clarifying for us as to where God might lead us in the future. I'll try to keep you all updated.


I just read a brief article in "Worship Leader" magazine written by Francis Chan. The title was "Why are they Leaving?" and dealt with why so many youth are leaving the church in droves. His conclusion was that we've based so much of what we do in ministry on the entertainment mentality. The challenge was for worship leaders to go away from this--begin modeling the true Acts 2 church.

I love Francis Chan. I've heard him speak a couple of times and he is one of the most passionate speakers I've ever heard. But this article was ruined for me when I read the last page. In the midst of a great article was a full page spread with an ad for some worship projection software. The image was of a man kneeling on some carpets, arms raised in worship as he knelt before an enormous projection screen. The tag: "Powerful imagery for a powerful message." This was mirrored by an in-article ad for worship films, "20+ all new loopable videos to enhance your worship services."

Understand, I have no problems with the use of media and projection and those things in a worship service. I just think that sometimes with our "Christian" media world--magazines, shows, radio, etc. our message is very inconsistent.

Marketing your Church

What do you think about marketing for outreach? There are a lot of different opinions, from doing nothing at all other than relationships to mimicking the best in the world with a fifth avenue mindset.

Part of me loves the creativity and challenge of good marketing while another part of me wonders about it.

Any thoughts?

If you like good marketing, you should love Apple.

Decentralizing the Church

I've been thinking about a community of believers being organized in a decentralized way. One of the criticisms I've heard a lot of the church at large is the overly-corporate mentality. I think some of this stems from a need and desire to manage and organize the church in ways that give more seamless programs and processes. Intuitively, this makes sense. I don't know that this is necessarily a bad thing at heart.

The problem comes, in my opinion, at a level when something is so managed and centralized that the Sunday "event" becomes the central focal point, the key to all else that happens in the system. I'm reading a book called Here Comes Everybody, that deals with organizing without organizations. It's a fascinating book looking at the systems so prevalent today that people are organizing themselves around, minus the need for hierarchical organization. Things such as myspace and wikipedia are great examples.

So I wonder about decentralizing the church. I wonder, if a church were planted with part of it's value being in a decentralized nature, what that would look like. What if a system of house churches functioned as communities, organizing themselves around a common mission and purpose--perhaps with a monthly gathering at a larger level for worship and story telling, teaching and vision. I wonder what the key issues would be. The organizer in me comes up with a list of things immediately, but I also see a lot of values. What do you think?

Check out this article for more thoughts on the subject.

Jesus Truly is My Friend

Probably the funniest thing I've seen in a LONG time. I may learn this song and lead worship with it this Saturday.

Jesus is my friend by "Sonseed" from Peleg Top on Vimeo.

A Prayer...

Lord of Restoration for the Broken,

Be glorified through your people.

You are mighty. We are weak.
You suffered. All for love.
You resurrected. Glorified and exalted.

--The fulfillment of the ages.

--All in all.

You still reign. King of all kingdoms,
news media,
politicians (democratic and republican),
fallen heroes,
wounded soldiers,
sex addicts,
young and naive,
old and opinionated,
You still reign.

King of ALL kingdoms.

You STILL reign.

Be glorified through your people.
Through our time together and our words to each other.
Through our survival in spite of ourselves.
Through our hurts, fears, failures, and conceitedness.
Through the beauty of lives lived wide-open and entirely transparent.
Through the story of the new Israel, the Restored Remnant, the ones breathing Hope.

Through all days... be glorified in your people. In your Church.

In your Church.
In your Church.
We are the Church.

Hillsong Conference Day 2

Sitting here in the lobby of the Holiday Inn Express in downtown Toronto. We're leaving in about an hour to head home. I'm excited to actually be home for a while and see Malia and Pressley again, but it's been a great weekend.

Yesterday was packed full.

Session 1 - Brian Houston.
Brian Houston is the lead pastor at Hillsong Church in Australia. He planted the church 25 years ago and seems to be a great visionary who has seen a global vision for ministry truly come to pass.

In the morning he spoke from the book of Joshua where God promises Joshua that he will expand his territory, but he must be "strong and courageous." Brian's point was that God definitely has plans for us and great vision for us, but it won't come to pass without challenges at times. He read from Joshua 12 as it lists the entire group of defeated kings, 31 in all. Houston made a great parallel by asking what kings we were facing--be it anxiety, stress, fear, sin, etc.

Session 2 - Joel Houston
Joel is Brian's son. He is one of the worship leaders from Hillsong United, and is amazingly gifted, both as a singer/songwriter AND a speaker.

Joel shared about the I-Heart Revolution he has helped to birth. He spoke of God's call for truth, beauty and justice and I really appreciated the honesty and sincerity of his message. I think the main takeaway I pulled was just a reinforcement that worship must be carried out through our actions and involvement in the needs of the world around us.

Session 3 - Songwriting with Brooke Fraser and Joel Houston
Great, short session.

Songwriting is an abstract, crazy thing that I don't know if it's even possible to give practical advice on... so I loved that the basic gist of the talk was, "Be you. Keep writing. Love God." Amen.

Closing Session - Brian Houston
An amazing last session with a full-blown concert from the band.

Brian's talk dealt with the church and the calling of the people as a movement.

Looking forward to getting home.

Hillsong Conference Day 1

I'll be double posting from my other blog this weekend as we're in Toronto at the Hillsong Conference. Next week I'll have some thoughts to share specific to here.


It's difficult to follow my last post with something serious, but I'll try. I'm here with some great folks from the Chapel for the Hillsong United Conference in Toronto.

The first night of the conference was great. I'm amazed at the tightness of the actual Hillsong band and the spirit they have with worship. More amazing was the anticipation of thousands of people to engage in worship.

Phil Dooley spoke tonight. He is the former youth pastor of Hillsong in Australia and now leads their church plant in Capetown, South Africa.

I really appreciated Phil's message tonight as he spoke of intimacy and community as a reflection of the glory of God. He was a great speaker who began with some tinkering on a keyboard -- simple, single notes speaking of the isolation of so many people. Later he brought out one of the band's keyboard players who played during the entire talk, weaving in the idea of the harmony God brings to relationships and churches.

One of the most powerful moments of the night was Phil talking about what some US High Schools have done with a program called Challenge Day. The basic gist is that students are challenged to "cross a line" if they've ever been hurt by others, abused, wounded, etc. Watch the video if you can and you'll gain a better picture, but I was moved by this. I'm amazed that high schools are diving into the deepness and emotional baggage that comes with great levels of honesty and healing. As leaders in a church I think we should examine and question how we are doing the same things.

Time for sleep now.

Signing Off...

We leave for vacation today. I'm really tired. Just finished another class and still really struggling with what all this calling stuff is about. If you guys are reading, keep praying for Carrie and I and the girls. Here are some specifics:

1 - Pray for this week that it's restful. We camp from Sunday till Thursday and I'm really excited to just be away in the quiet.

2 - Pray for clarity and wisdom. I have no idea what the next year to three years to five years will entail for me, and I'm not sure I really need to know. What I am looking for is the clarity that will spell out some wholehearted passion in what God has called me to for this time.

Thank you. We'll look forward to connecting with you all once we get back.

The Crazy Ones

Great video. Best thing about it is it was made by fans, not staff.


I'm finishing a paper up for my class this quarter. It asks the question of how the writings of Paul and the book of Acts can be used to help lead our churches. The aspect I think I'm going to key in on is the idea of reconciliation.

As I read throughout Paul and in Acts, it seems that the mission of the church was to live out the story of God--a story that began with the Creator seeking to reconcile his people to himself. How does this happen? How is this story told?

I think that the most clear way of "telling" the story is through lives that are modeling this reconciliation. It's been said that the single largest cause of atheism is Christians... "who acknowledge Jesus with their lips but deny him by their lifestyle." In thinking about the CHURCH... where can we begin to model the reconciliation that God longs to bring to life in the lives of those far from him? Where does this take place?

I think it stretches from an individual to a global and cosmic level. What if we began ACTIVELY restoring relationships in the church we each attend? What if we refused to allow disunity? What if we carried this into our communities, toward people we've offended both individually and as church bodies? What if we sought reconciliation at political levels, racial levels, socioeconomic levels, family levels, and on and on and on?

Perhaps it's too idealistic, but I think this is the mission we have as storytellers of God's reconciling plan for the universe.

Any thoughts?

The ((((CHURCH))))

What is it? When I say a "church planting" in the first entry on this blog, what does that mean?

In my mind it's another big group of people meeting on a Sunday morning, singing some songs, and listening to a preacher. What I think we're all looking for is much, much different. Maybe that ((((ASSEMBLING)))) is a part of it. But at a deeper level I think we're stumbling onto something very, very different, and much more costly.

We are (or at least I am), looking to shed the 20-some years of Christian subculture I carry with me... the assumption that church must be ((((DONE)))) in one specific way, when I actually believe it is not something to be done, but a group of people to be ((((LIVING)))). It is giving up our guilt-ridden mental hangups and living as Bruce said earlier, with total and unabashed honesty before God and each other. In this honesty we will begin to ((((LIVE)))) differently and as an overflow the honesty will spill out into the lives of those we ((((ENGAGE)))).

It will take absolute ((((COURAGE)))). But I think it's worth the ((((RISK)))).

From Lisa...

I'm reposting comments because I don't know if you all get to see them. I think it's great to share the dialog though...

I don't feel that excited about the journey....just yet. I feel shaken, rattled and uncomfortable! My beliefs and ideas of how and what a Christian should be has changed. I have to admit...I like the ledger of checks and balances. It gave me a track to run on and a way to say whether I was doing "good" or "bad" at being a Christian. Now, I have no idea what a new kind of Christian should look like. I feel God stirring in my heart but I am more confused than ever!!! I know I need to change and know the church needs to take a new direction….but where and how???

At the edge and ready leap…but need a PUSH! Does anybody else feel this way?

From Bruce...

In the comments a couple of posts ago. Thought I'd post this from my favorite drummer...

So what are the things that really matter? In my mind it comes down to real relationships. Real relationships have trust and trust comes from the honest knowledge of who a person really is. Seems basic right? Wrong! Are we really honest with each other as Christians? Honest in a way that is not offensive or cynical? Usually not. How do I know? Because I speak from experience (of not being so honest with myself and others a lot of the time). I believe Christ was the perfect example of how the church was supposed to work through his relationships with people one on one. Why was this a great example? Because no one could lie to him. He already knew the truth. If we as Christ’s followers could relate to each other in even a small fraction of the same way he did with his followers, then I think we would be a lot better off. Imagine if you had no choice but to be completely honest with each other? What would it be like to have the ability to see someone with that kind of transparency? So to me, the strongest most meaningful relationships are ones that have a deep trust. If we could start with a new sense of honesty with one another, we would be that much further ahead. We as Christ followers are in desperate need of a filter. A filter of honesty that gets us past the masquerade that is all too prevalent in the church today. We have been given this inner desire to want to feel important and recognized for who we really are. And while this is part of our human nature, it gets in the way and we become false and materialistic. In an attempt to want to fulfill this desire, we loose perspective on what really matters and we can no longer be honest; even with ourselves. Mind you, I am not much interested in a church of people that do nothing but spew their dirty laundry all over the place and depress me with how terrible their lives are in an attempt to gain more false attention. I am interested in a group of followers that will be honest with themselves about themselves. A group that is not worried about impressing others and serving their own self interests. A group of people that can encourage and confront each other in a very loving and honest way. Isn’t that what people really want anyway? For someone to love them for who they really are? It seems to me that at different stages of life, God has a way of humbling us in a big way through different events. It has been my experience that through these events, we have to face this honesty issue right in the face. We have to see ourselves for who we really are. So one must ask, “Why does it take these events for us to be so honest with ourselves?”

Digging for Ebenezer

"Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen. He named it Ebenezer, saying, 'Thus far has the LORD helped us.'" (1 Sam. 7:12)

"the... [follower] needs to identify an Ebenezer (1 Sam. 7:12). This marker is a memorial of God’s help. It reminds the starter of God’s call and God’s promise that... in this place is the divine call. The... [follower] must be able, in the midst of doubt and weariness, to look back to that ‘Ebenezer’ moment when God’s direction had been clear and unmistakable.” -- Ed Stetzer

This, my friends, is where I find myself. Somewhat digging through rocks and trying to find that Ebenezer stone.

Here I raise my Ebenezer
Hither by thy help I come
And I hope by thy good pleasure
Safely to arrive at home
Jesus sought me when a stranger
Wondering from the fold of God
He, to rescue me from danger
Interposed His precious blood.

From Mark...

Here's a response from Mark...

So as a reply to the Blog:
First off I like it a lot! (I did not say love it because I am teaching Kylee and Ashton that love is something reserved for people...we like things we LOVE people!)

The idea is wonderful...jumping into the great journey God has for us. Wholeheartedly seeking after that which is unknown, pioneering the untapped wilderness of our souls and seeking what's out there just beyond our very own tiny boxes of reality...

...that doesn't make any sense
...I can't do that
...you can't do that
...what if God doesn't...
...we can't afford that...
...I would NEVER...
...it may have just been the voices in my head how do I know it was really GOD?


Thoughts from one much smarter than I...

"You would think that having unlimited options would be the platform for freedom, but that is often not the case. We have put so much emphasis on avoiding evil that we have become virtually blind to the endless opportunities for doing good. We have defined holiness through what we seperate ourselves from rather than what we give ourselves to. I am convinced the great tradegy is not the sins that we commit, but the life that we fail to live."
And just a few more thoughts...

"You can not follow God in neutral. God has created you to do something. It is not enough to stop the wrong and then be paralyzed when it comes to the right. God created you to do good. And doing this requires iniative. There is a subtle danger of hiding apathy behind piety. Getting rid of sin in your life? Great. Now it's time to do something."
---Erwin Mcmanus Chasing Daylight
So with these words we jump...with God as our witness and sanity and logic as our opposition. God called us to be free (John 8:36)..it does not stop there...
International Standard Version (©2008)
So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed!"
New American Standard Bible (©1995)
"So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.
GOD'S WORD® Translation (©1995)
So if the Son sets you free, you will be absolutely free.
King James Bible
If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.
American King James Version
If the Son therefore shall make you free, you shall be free indeed.
American Standard Version
If therefore the Son shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.
Bible in Basic English
If then the son makes you free, you will be truly free.
Douay-Rheims Bible
If therefore the son shall make you free, you shall be free indeed.
Darby Bible Translation
If therefore the Son shall set you free, ye shall be really free.
English Revised Version
If therefore the Son shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.
Webster's Bible Translation
If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.
Weymouth New Testament
If then the Son shall make you free, you will be free indeed.
World English Bible
If therefore the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.
Young's Literal Translation
if then the son may make you free, in reality ye shall be free.
...just so we get the point!

We will be free indeed...Now, wasn't the word "FREE" enough...If Jesus said you are free isn't that enough...instead he throws in one more word (translated to english I understand...anyone know the greek on this???)...INDEED as if freedom to his listeners (and us the reader) was not enough. Like he knew they were not getting it..."free indeed". There is no exclamation point in any translation that I found so it is a matter of fact. He was not yelling or emphasizing his point. Jesus was just saying that's the way it is...the rain is going to fall, the sun is going to shine, the wind is going to blow, its like breathing it just...is...that...way.

This is for those who want their children's children telling stories of the crazy old grandparents, to the mother who feels like her only purpose is changing diapers and raising bratty kids, to the men who stand before God saying Lord, Send Me, Cheers to being living legends...indeed.

Question for you...

What are the things that matter? What are the things that we should never take our eyes off of in life together as Christ followers? And don't just throw out the buzz words like authenticity or relevance... what do those things mean to you? Stories are always welcome.

Here we go.

Welcome to the journey. I'm calling it that, because I think it's already begun. For five or six years I've been telling Carrie cynically, "If I started a church, I'd..." and fill in the arrogant, self-focused cynicism of ideas I might have. But recently, something has changed from simply spitting out ideas to more of a quiet, pondering. The questions I've been asking are these:

What is God telling me right now about a passion I've had for a long time?

What would it take for this to truly happen?

What would it cost me and my family to jump in faith into something like this?

Who are the people in the community around me that share the common vision?

Is this the right time?

Is there ever a "right" time? (By right I mean the point where it all makes sense. I'm thinking no.)

Where would a church plant happen?

What would it look like?

Am I losing my mind?

I love the people of South Hills Bible Chapel. Like any church, it is full of people, so it's broken and sinful at times. But it is still a community of God's people. The leadership there is a group of humble people who are seeking God's best for that church. I serve there and will continue to serve there faithfully and wholeheartedly as long as God directs me.

But... I can't shake what I feel is a clear call to help birth something new. I have no idea where. I have no idea when. It could be in 3 months, it could be in 5 years. What I want more than anything is to walk this journey with eyes wide open and seeking to love God more through the process. I want people to join the journey with Carrie and I. I want to find stories along the way, stories of God drawing people to himself through the lives and impact of Christ-followers. I want to be part of those stories. I hope you'll share your hearts as well... your prayers for our community and your wisdom and encouragement along the way. I think the cynicism at a corporate, institutional level (while still prevalent in my hearts) needs to be silenced. Instead, I want to be changed myself. I want to find the path God has called me to and be confident in that.

Carrie and I are excited, hanging on for the ride of our lives. We're jumping, be it a step at a time, and don't know fully what it means. Pray for wisdom for us. Pray for patience and discernment. Pray that I'm not crazy. :) If you want to join us let me know. I'll be spewing here fairly regularly so turn it off if you get tired of the noise.

And one day, we'll all tell these stories around a fire while the grandkids sleep, and we'll be proud that at least we tried.