Saturday, December 31

Four Words for 2012


A clock and a compass are both valuable tools, but serve two very different purposes. A clock measures where you are right now, without regard to the direction you are heading. A compass is all about direction. It's not so much about where you are at this moment, but about the direction in which you are heading.


The older I get, the more value I see in the compass. Destination and direction are vital. Destination and direction are more important than what is happening at any given time. A clear sense of destination and direction will help us focus on that to which God has called us, on what we really want our lives to be about. A compass makes sure you are heading in the right direction (or at least in the direction you want to go).


I need the focus that a compass gives. In a world ruled by full inboxes, crowded calendars, and over-flowing "to-do" lists, it is easy to lose sight of where I want to be and wander from the direction that will get me there.


The beginning of a new year is a good time to check your compass.


A few years ago, I came across this blog post by Chris Brogan. He writes about a different way of thinking about a new year. He thinks in terms of words that set the direction for the year rather than specific resolutions about what you are or are not going to do. His idea resonated with me. So each year, I spend some time with God – seeking direction on priorities and choosing three or four words to give direction to the coming year. All of these will have specific tasks, because even if you know your destination you won’t get there unless you take some steps. But the words (which will be at the top of each day’s calendar) will help set the direction for the year. 


Here are my words for 2012:


Deeper – This is about deepening my relationship with God through set and focused times in His Word, prayer, fasting, journaling, etc. But it will also happen as I learn to discern more clearly the Holy Spirit’s work in my life and follow His leading. Richard Foster begins his classic book, The Celebration of Discipline, with these words:


“Superficiality is the curse of our age. The doctrine of instant satisfaction is a primary spiritual problem. The desperate need today is not for a greater number of intelligent people, or gifted people, but for deep people.”


Wider – This is really about writing. I told my staff last month that I want to do more of that. There is no guarantee that anyone will want to read what I write. But I do want to be more purposeful in the discipline of writing.


Higher – This is about making other people better. This applies to my family, my staff, our students, my friends, folks in campus ministry, the people with whom I work in track and field, or others God brings across my path. I want to be purposeful in sharpening them.


Lower – This is about my weight. I told my wife last night that 2012 is a year no fried foods and no sweets. She was not excited about that idea. And I’m not sure that I can completely do that. But I do want to commit myself to a better diet – better foods, smaller portions, fewer calories – and more exercise.


So those are my words for 2012. What are yours?

Wednesday, December 28

Three Stories Calling Us to Better Lives

I intentionally left the word “sport” out of the title of this post because, though each of these stories come from the world of sports, the issues highlighted go far beyond something as temporary as an athletic competition. They are stories about higher virtues than winning or losing. They are about things like valor, courage, generosity, compassion, and fairness. I found each of them moving and challenging. I believe each are worthy of your time and thought. Let me know what you think …


Ashton Eaton is one of the greatest athlete’s in the world. He was a three-time NCAA decathlon champion outdoors, a two-time NCAA heptathlon champion indoors (where he holds the world record), the defending US national decathlon champion, and he won the silver medal at the 2011 World Championships in South Korea. I have had the chance to officiate Ashton on a number of occasions and he has always conducted himself with class. He is one of the US stars in track and field that you need to keep your eyes on in this Olympic year.

But he’s not necessarily the real hero in his family. Track and Field News shared a link to Ashton’s blog where he told the story of his brother, a Gunnery Sergeant in the Marines who was recently awarded the Silver Star – the third highest combat medal than can be given. It is worth your time to read Ashton’s words. His brother is just one of thousands of men and women who have risked, and given, their lives to make our world a safer place. They have demonstrated valor and courage on behalf of people they have never met and, for the most part, will never know what they did. We will never know most of their names. It is nice to be able to put a face and a story with one.


One of the football coaches on the hot seat in the SEC (at least at the start of the year) was Mark Richt, the head coach at Georgia. Fortunately, after on 0-2 start, the Bulldogs turned things around and had a great season – winning ten games in a row, the SEC East title, playing in the SEC Championship game, and earning a trip to the Outback Bowl. I say fortunately not because I’m a Georgia fan, but because the SEC (and all of the sports world) needs people like Mark Richt, who has a reputation of being a man of character. As this story also demonstrates, he is a man of generosity. I may not always cheer for Georgia, but I will be a Mark Richt fan.


Finally, I came across this story today (again, thanks to Track and Field News). It resonated with me because for the past year we have been dealing with a student in our ministry who found himself in a similar situation as this young lady. One of the things that I have learned from this process is that it is easy to speak from a podium or to a TV camera and dictate policy until you know people who are personally affected and whose future’s are in the balance. Illegal immigration is an issue that needs to be faced and dealt with, but it has to be done (especially in the cases like Ayded’s and Jonathan’s, who were brought to the US as children, have been raised here, and are contributing to making our nation better) with a sense of fairness and compassion.

Friday, December 23

God con Carne, Part 2


Yesterday’s post began to scratch the surface on the incarnation – of God becoming flesh and dwelling among us. He did that to demonstrate his glory in a way we could comprehend – in grace and truth – and to go to the cross, taking our sins upon his sinless person.


But the incarnation is not just a piece of theology. It is a practical way for us to live, to manifest God to the world that we live in.


Jesus’ friend, John, wrote:


This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did. I John 2:5-6


We are to be the physical, personal manifestations of God in our world. There are at least a couple of reasons for that. One is that we who are Christians have the Spirit of God dwelling inside of us. The other is that we are the Body of Christ to the world and each other.


And just as Jesus demonstrated the glory of God to the world through grace and truth, we are called to do the same.


But it does carry a cost


(Jesus), who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!

Philippians 2:6-8


Jesus is not an assistant to God. Jesus is not the Joe Biden of heaven. Jesus has never been a junior partner to God but equal with the Almighty Father in every way, shape, and form. But he did not regard that position of equality a thing to be held on to.


It is almost impossible to grasp the impact of that statement. Jesus, who experienced the worship and adoration of the universe, voluntarily relaxed his grip on those privileges to put on human flesh, live a life of grace and truth, and die on a Roman cross.


Incarnation is costly. It was for Jesus. It will be for us. If we are to demonstrate grace and truth to those in our world who most need to experience them, we are going to have to lay some things aside.


Our positions. Our privileges. Our preferences. Our prerogatives. Our comfort. Our fear. Our selfishness. Our possessions.


We won’t best demonstrate the glory of God by doing church with our friends, who all think and act and believe like we do.


We will best incarnate the glory of God – his grace and truth – when we engage the world as Jesus did. Hugging the diseased body of a leper. Showing acceptance and love in the home of a despised tax collector. Gently calling to repentance a shamed adulteress.


Incarnation isn’t just theology. It is a practical way to live and serve others. It is to be our posture before the world.

Thursday, December 22

God con Carne, Part 1


I’m a carnivore and proud to admit it. If I get to choose a last meal, it’s going to be steak. I will occasionally order a salad, but it will be a salad with lots of meat on it!


Once a week, Gina and I have “cheese dip night” – dinner at a local Mexican restaurant. When we sit down, they don’t bring us a menu. They just bring our meal because it is the same thing every week: diet cokes, chips and salsa, a small cheese dip, and tacos carne asada. Steak tacos.


Every year, I make chili for our Christmas party. (I only make it once a year because it is too spicy for Gina, but most of our students seem to like it.) Of course, what most of us call chili is actually chili con carne – peppers with meat.


This is the time of year when we celebrate the incarnation – the reality of God in the flesh.


God “con carne.”


For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him.   Colossians 1:19


For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form.   Colossians 2:9


Christ is the self-miniaturization of God, the visible image of the invisible God. The omnipresent one was downsized to the confines of a human womb. The all-powerful one became a baby that had to be fed and nursed and burped. The omniscient one had to learn reading, writing, and arithmetic.


But here was the miracle: when he became human, he was no less God. 100 percent God and 100 percent man. I can’t explain it. I can only marvel at it.


In 1995, Joan Osborne recorded a song that asked the question, “What if God was one of us?” Christmas tells us that is exactly what happened.


Veiled in flesh the Godhead see,

Hail the incarnate Deity.

Pleased as man with man to dwell -

Jesus, our Emmanuel.

Hark! The herald angels sing,
“Glory to the newborn king!”


But it keeps getting better.


In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made…. The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth…. No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.   John 1:1-3, 14, 18


When Moses wanted to see the glory of God, the answer was , "No." When Moses begged, God hid him in a corner of a rock. He could only see the aftermath of God passing by. He could only handle a portion of the glory of God.


But John tells us that when God became flesh, we could see his glory. When you read through the biographies of Jesus, where do you see his glory? Maybe it is not what we tend to look for. Maybe it is:


… when Jesus kneels beside the woman caught in adultery and says, “Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more.” 

… when Jesus puts his arm around a leper, both healing and loving him. 

… when Jesus goes to the homes of Levi and Zaccheus, ostracized tax collectors, to demonstrate God’s forgiveness and acceptance.

… when Jesus weeps with Mary and Martha over the death of their brother. Or even more when he stands and says, "I am the resurrection and the life … Lazarus, come out." 


Jesus' glory was full of grace and truth. Grace and truth. Grace that offered acceptance and forgiveness and entrance into God’s Kingdom. Truth that called to repentance and change and a life that sought first God’s Kingdom and righteousness.


Christmas should be the awe-filled celebration of God in the flesh, his glory in a body, grace and truth lived out among us. And alive in us.

Tuesday, December 20

Some Sports Highlights: Creative Traditions and Tebow Mic’d Up


One of the great things about sports of all kinds are the traditions that surround them. For my high school in Kansas, it was the entire team leaving the stadium and jogging across the street to ring the Victory Bell in front of the high school after a home victory. (Unfortunately, we never got to ring the bell at our final home game of the season. We lost the state finals, quarter-finals, and semi-finals at home in my sophomore, junior,and senior years.)


Here are couple of traditions that I’ve recently seen that seem to be a lot of fun. The first is from Taylor University and has a Christmas theme to it.


I would love to know where they came up with this idea, but Central Catholic High School in Lawrence, MA has a great pre-game tradition.


They also are pretty cool with the post-game celebration.


Finally, most of America is aware of Tim Tebow and the way that he has led the Denver Bronco’s to some great comeback. Of course, a big part of Tebow is his faith and the way he lives his life. No matter what people think of his quarterbacking skills, they have little doubt about what he believe or the kind of person that he is. During Denver’s game against the Chicago Bears a couple of weeks ago, they had Tebow mic’d up. I found it interesting to listen to what he said to his teammates, coaches, opponents, self, and God during the game. At least three things are for sure: He desires God to be honored, he is a great competitor, and the dude cannot sing.

Saturday, December 17

Miscellaneous Christmas Items: Christmas Music, Seryn, and a Provocative Christmas ad


Christmas tends to feature some of our favorite music. My favorite songs have always been Joy to the Word and Silent Night, and I love listening to the Messiah. But there are so many that I love. But there is also some bad Christmas music. I know this is a matter of taste, but you can keep your Little Drummer Boy and Away in the Manger. So what songs are your favorites? And least favorites?


Here is a list of 11 Christmas songs that never took off. It won’t take you long to figure out why.


A few days ago I mentioned a new favorite band – Seryn. They have a new Christmas album. You can check it out here.


St. Matthews-in-the-City Church in Auckland, New Zealand has a history of putting up memorable billboards around Christmas time. Here is this year’s ad – not quite as provocative as some years, but still enough to make you stop and think. Of course, their stated goal is to move beyond the “sentimental and trite” and “spark thought and conversation.” What is your response to the ad? Does it accomplish their goal? Is it too much?

Wednesday, December 7

Items of Interest: The Coldest, the Most Stolen, a great UK Christmas ad, and Seryn


A few items of interest from the past few weeks:


Here is a list of the 25 coldest cities in the US. Sympathies to my friends who live in these places!


Here is a list of the ten most frequently shoplifted items. Filet mignon? Axe? A razor? Really?


Here is a beautiful Christmas ad from Great Britain.


And, to top it off, a video from one of my favorite new bands – Seryn. Just today, Paste named them one of the top new bands of the year. Enjoy.

Tuesday, November 22

A Life Too Short

Last night I attended a candle light vigil with about 2800 others in memory of Garrett Uekman. Many of you already know of Garrett’s death. He died in his University of Arkansas residence hall on Sunday morning. Garrett was a nineteen year old sophomore and a tight end on the Razorback football team.

Being in the service last night brought a lot of thoughts to mind. I’m in my thirtieth year of ministry to college students and I have set through or spoken at more of these services than one might think. Many faces passed through my thoughts. We have had student deaths that have been the result of disease or accident. Others have been the result of violence, either at their own hands or the hands of someone else. None have been easy and all are reminders that life is fragile and temporary and not to be taken for granted.

I also thought about these truths.

We need to live life thoughtfully. I love these words of Paul:

Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.   Ephesians 5:15-16

The idea behind these words is not to live fearfully, but purposefully. The image is of a tightrope walker, making sure each step is precise – right where it should be. It is the image of intentionality, of purposefully making the most of every opportunity, not letting any slip by because we aren’t paying attention or are distracted by the lesser things around us.

We need to live life fully. Jesus told us:

“I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”   John 10:10

Jesus’ intent for us is not a life that is dull, boring, monotonous, and meaningless. Life as Christ intends it is to be full of joy, purpose, and meaning. It is to be a life that is lived in faith, that pushes the edges, that doesn’t settle in to the status quo of society or our religious culture.

We need to live life lovingly. Again, the words of Jesus:

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”   John 13:34

Ultimately, what we leave behind is what we have invested in the lives of others – the love we have shown to them. Money and success have their advantages, but the investment we make in the lives of others – the love we share, say, and demonstrate – is what will shape the lives of others.

We need to live life with a bigger perspective. One final thought from Jesus:

“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”   Matthew 6:33

Invest yourself in the things of God, in the things that last. So much of what we value is temporal and won’t last the next ten years, let alone into eternity. Invest yourself in the things of God, in the lives of people, in the things that will leave a mark on eternity.

Ultimately, this kind of life can only be lived by being in a relationship with Christ and abiding in him on a daily basis. That is the starting point for the life that God desires for us, for the life that our hearts desire.

Friday, November 11

Track and Field Notes–Five Great Stories, All-time NCAA Cross Country Rankings & UK Envy


A couple of interesting posts from the world of track and field …


Here is a collection of five great stories from the history of track and field – Bob Beamon, Al Oerter, Billy Mills, Jackie Joyner-Kersee, and Bob Seagren. They are all worth your time.


The Faster Than Forty website has ranked the top NCAA men’s cross country programs over the last fifty years. You can access their results here. Spoiler alert: Arkansas comes in at #2.


The IAAF (the world governing body for track and field) announced today that the 2017 World Championship meet will be in London. I (and many others) find it frustrating that the US doesn’t even bid on these meets and haven’t submitted a bid for the 2020 Olympic Games. I’m excited for my athletics official friends in the UK, but I would love the chance to officiate those meets before I reach retirement age.

Wednesday, November 9

An Example of Grace

I have written before that grace is the most misunderstood, under-appreciated, and powerful truth of Christianity. It is what sets Christianity apart from every religious system, every way that men and women try to make themselves right with God and win His approval.

Here is a great example of grace applied to personal relationships.

Monday, November 7

Intentionally Developing Leaders


One final post flowing from the 2011 Catalyst Conference in Atlanta.


In the final session of the conference, Andy Stanley challenged us with the question: “What is your strategy for developing leaders?” Most of us in leadership can talk a pretty good game on the importance of developing leaders. But the real question is: Do you have a strategy or plan for it? And are you working that strategy? For many, developing leaders is more talk than action. Stanley called those in attendance to “Intentional Apprenticing” – selecting, modeling, and coaching for the purpose of replacing yourself.


What Stanley described is just following the example of Jesus as he poured his life into the lives of his twelve apostles. Jesus began his public ministry with succession in mind. He didn’t ask for volunteers, but handpicked those with whom he would entrust his mission. He did ministry with them and sent them out to do ministry without him – but brought them back for a time of de-briefing and training. He was constantly preparing them to carry on his mission once he was gone from them physically. I would be remiss at this point if I didn’t point you to Robert Coleman’s classic book, The Master Plan of Evangelism, for a great study on Jesus’ strategy of preparing leaders.


As leaders, that is part of our call. But we are often held back by some common concerns. We are afraid that if we give special attention to a few rather than to the many, some will think it unfair. And they may. When Jesus chose the twelve in whom he would invest his life, there were probably some who had been following who felt he was unfair not to include them. But it was essential that he focus on a few if he was to adequately prepare them to carry on his mission.


At other times we feel inadequate for the task – we feel that we don’t know enough or that there are others who know more. The truth is that we will often feel inadequate, especially if we are working with younger, high-capacity leaders. But we are not responsible for passing on what we don’t know, but for passing on what we do know.


Our responsibility is to empty our cup - our life, knowledge, and experience - into the lives of others.


One of the measures of success as a leader is whether or not we leave our responsibilities in capable hands.


So leaders: Who are you intentionally apprenticing? Who are you raising up to replace yourself? How are doing in emptying your cup into their lives?

Friday, November 4

World Demographics–Largest, Fastest, and Dirtiest


Here is some interesting information on the world we live in …


Here are lists of both the largest and fastest-growing cities in the world. Look them over carefully. You may not be familiar with many of the names – yet. But they are going to shape the future of our world in the years to come. We who are Christians need to be asking ourselves how our plans for ministry in the years to come take these demographics into consideration.


Here is a list of the ten cities in our world with the worst air pollution. It is interesting that four of the ten are in Iran and that Pakistan and India each have two. Pakistan shares borders with each of the other two.

Friday, October 21

Great By Choice


One of my favorite authors on leadership and organization success spoke at the Catalyst Conference earlier this month. Jim Collins’ book, Good to Great, should be required reading for anyone leading an organization. In fact, I have gone back through it and reviewed my notes in it since I have returned from Atlanta.


This year he spoke from his new book, Great By Choice. I have not had a chance to read it yet, but I am looking forward to doing so soon. But he did share the key points.


First, he emphasized the points that “good” is the enemy of “great” and that greatness is a matter of choice and discipline.


He then went on to identify three important practices (evidenced by nine years of research) of leaders who choose to be great. To illustrate, he used the story of two teams racing to Antarctica in 1911. One team was led by the British explorer Robert F. Scott and another team was led by the Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen. Amundsen beat Scott to the South Pole by practicing these three things:


Ruthless Discipline — Leaders who choose greatness practice an almost fanatical discipline. Amundsen decided to walk 17-20 miles a day. No more, no less. Come wind or snow. No matter what happened they stayed the course. Scott would sometimes not go far enough or push his team too hard. Collins said that the signature of mediocrity is chronic inconsistency.


Empirical Creativity — Leaders who choose greatness do their “homework.” The majority of them are not pioneers, but they learn from those who are. And then they innovate. They don’t look to other’s practices and replicate; but look to the data for understanding and then become creative. It’s ok to say “I don’t know” and learn from those who do. This is how true innovation happens. They also look at the hard date and decide the best way to attack their challenges. One a side note, that is one thing I took away from the movie, Moneyball – rethinking the data, the goal, and the steps to reach it.


Productive Paranoia — Leaders who choose greatness know that you have to be prepared for what you cannot predict. They channel anxiety into productive action and reduce probability of failure.


So ….


How do you practice ruthless discipline in your leadership context? What is your plan, your “2o miles”? Are you and your organization disciplined and sticking to it, or does inconsistency seem to be more prevalent than discipline?


Who are the pioneers or entrepreneurs that you are learning from? Who is leading the way in your field? What does the “hard data” say about the direction you are heading and the way you or your organization are doing things?


Are you prepared for what you can’t predict? That sounds counter-intuitive, but it is an essential discipline to reduce the chances of catastrophic failure.


Wednesday, October 19

Losing Their Faith


One of the constant issues over my 30 years in student ministry is the frequency with which young people who grew up in the church “lose their faith” once they get on a “secular” college campus. There have always been numbers floating around – 75 or 80 percent – that strike fear in the hearts of parents, grandparents, and pastors.


And from 30 years of experience, I can attest that there is a need to be concerned. David Kinnaman of the Barna Group has just released a new book entitled, You Lost Me. In it, he reports that there is a 43 percent drop-off between the teen and early adults years in terms of church engagement. He goes on to say:


“The research confirmed what we had already been piecing together from other data: 59 percent of young people with a Christian background report that they had or have ‘dropped out of attending church, after going regularly.’ A majority (57 percent) say they are less active in church today compared to when they were age fifteen. Nearly two-fifths (38 percent) say they have gone through a period when they significantly doubted their faith. Another one-third (32 percent) describe a period when they felt like rejecting their parents’ faith.”


However, I have long been convinced that the church has been looking in the wrong direction when it comes to this problem. The real issue isn’t just the “evil secular university.” Yes, students may be exposed to more worldviews and harder faith questions. And students will face increased availability and acceptance of the temptations they faced in high school. But there are thousands of Christian students who navigate their college careers and come out spiritually stronger than when they started.


The real issue is faith and commitment questions that are set before they ever arrive on campus. As Kinnaman puts it:


“The dropout problem is, at its core, a faith-development problem; to use religious language, it’s a disciple-making problem. The church is not adequately preparing the next generation to follow Christ faithfully in a rapidly changing culture.”


We find it easier to blame our culture or blame the university than to face the fact that we are not doing a good job of preparing our young people to spiritually thrive in a post-Christian culture.


Kinnaman’s book looks at why young people who grew up in the church are dropping out. You can read a more detailed summary on But there are the broad reasons they give for dropping out. They find the church to be:


1. Overprotective. The impulses toward creativity and cultural engagement are some of the defining characteristics of this generation that are most obvious. They want to re-imagine, re-create, rethink, and they want to be entrepreneurs, innovators, starters. Creative expression is of inestimable value. The church is seen as a creativity killer where risk taking and being involved in culture are anathema.


2. Shallow. The most common perception of churches is that they are boring. Easy platitudes, proof texting, and formulaic slogans have anesthetized many young adults, leaving them with no idea of the gravity and power of following Christ. Few young Christians can coherently connect their faith with their gifts, abilities, and passions. In other words, the Christianity they received does not give them a sense of calling.


3. Antiscience. Many young Christians have come to the conclusion that faith and science are incompatible. Yet they see the mostly helpful role science plays in the world they inhabit – in medicine, personal technology, travel, care of the natural world, and other areas. What's more, science seems accessible in a way that the church does not; science appears to welcome questions and skepticism, while matters of faith seem impenetrable.


4. Repressive. Religious rules feel stifling to the individualist mindset of young adults. Consequently they perceive the church as repressive. Sexuality creates deep challenges for the faith development of young people.


5. Exclusive. Although there are limits to what this generation will accept and whom they will embrace, they have been shaped by a culture that esteems open-mindedness, tolerance, and acceptance. Thus Christianity's claims to exclusivity are a hard sell.


6. Doubtless. Young Christians (and former Christians too) say the church is not a place that allows them to express doubts. They do not feel safe admitting that faith doesn't always make sense. In addition, many feel that the church's response to doubt is trivial and fact focused, as if people can be talked out of doubting.


Some of these are caused by the wrong expression of Biblical principles. There is Scriptural truth regarding sexuality and exclusiveness of Christ. However, Christians have often been guilty of coming across as judgmental and close-minded, rather than willing to listen to concerns and discuss issues and differences in ways that enhance communication. Others of these are caused by wrong and shallow thinking by those in the church.


The implications of Kinnaman’s research deserve more thought and discussion than a blog post can provide. But these things come to my mind:


1. We need to lecture less and listen more to our young people. We need to hear their concerns and questions. They need to know that the church is a safe place to express their doubts and fears.


2. We need to help our young people learn to think and not just parrot religious answers. We need to help them learn to see the world – the arts, science, relationships, wealth, etc. – from a Christian perspective and in light of the God who created it all. Unfortunately, there are those who confuse this with indoctrination into such a narrow perspective that thinking is never really encouraged but seen as threatening.


3. We need to help our young people learn to hear the voice of God and discern the leading of the Holy Spirit and how to recognize his presence and work in our world. Our God is alive and active – even on the university campus. They don’t leave him when they come to the university or enter the military or join the workforce. God is already there and at work and calling them to join his mission to reconcile all things to himself.

Tuesday, October 11

Do For One


Last week, our staff made it’s third trip to the Catalyst Conference in Atlanta. Catalyst is two days that pack your heart and mind with all kinds of truth, dreams, and lessons.


There are great times of worship, led by some creative and talented people. Last year I came back from Catalyst a new fan of Gungor and John Mark McMillan. This year, I came back a fan of Seryn. You need to check them out.


And there are always special guests. This year’s Catalyst included the Sh’Boss Boys and the Russian Bar Trio from America’s Got Talent. Jeff Foxworthy also made an appearance, but not to do comedy. He talked about the Bible study he leads at an Atlanta homeless shelter and introduced us to one of the men whose life has been changed.


But the best part of the conference (at least for me) are the great speakers that come in from around the world. These folks don’t just work in the church world, but in business, social justice, and other areas. In the next two or three posts, I’m going to share some of the highlights regarding leadership that I learned this year.


The one speaker who is there every year (and, in fact, speaks twice each year) is Andy Stanley, pastor of the North Point Community Church in the Atlanta area. This is fine with me because there are few that I enjoy hearing more than Andy Stanley.


Here are some thoughts from his first talk:


The more successful you are, the less accessible you become. Refuse to face this reality and face burn out by trying to be accessible to everyone. On the other hand, some use success as an excuse to be more inaccessible than necessary.


So the leader faces this dilemma: You can’t shut it all out. You can’t take it all in. What do we do?


Do for one what you wish you could do for everyone.


We can’t do it all, but we need to do it for some. Otherwise, our hearts will grow hard.


To some, this won’t seem fair. But we don’t need to be fair. We need to be engaged. If we follow this principle, we can be engaged without being overwhelmed.


To do this, Stanley offered these tips:


* Go deep rather than wide.

* Go long-term rather than short-term.

* Go time, not just money.


When you do for one, you often end up doing for more than just one.

Friday, September 30

Music Videos–Daniel Martin Moore, Gungor, and Count Basie


For your weekend enjoyment, here is an assortment of music videos that I enjoy. I hope you do, too.


Austin Brown shared this video with me after hearing Daniel Martin Moore sing this song on Parenthood this week. I wound up buying his album, “In the Cool of the Day”, and really enjoy it.




One of my favorite bands, Gungor, recently released a new album. In honor of that (and because I’ve not found enough video from the new album), here is one of my favorites of their last one.




I first fell in love with jazz by hearing a 1973 Count Basie album called “Basie Jam”. There aren’t any videos from that album, but here is a video from a couple of years later that has the same feel as the first album.


Monday, September 19

A Response to Pat Robertson

I realize that for some, this is old news. Others, however, might not be aware of the small uproar created last Tuesday by television evangelist Pat Robertson. I would typically ignore what he said and encourage you to do so. However, there are a couple of things about last week’s comments that deserve some comment.

In case you missed it, Robertson was responding to a question about a man whose wife has Alzheimer’s. The man was bemoaning the unfairness of having to care for a wife who no longer knew him and he had began to see another woman. The writer wanted to know what she should say to the man.

Robertson said he wouldn't blame those who decide to divorce a spouse suffering from Alzheimer's, that divorce would be OK in a situation that involves something as terrible as Alzheimer's.
"I know it sounds cruel but if he's going to do something he should divorce her and start all over again," he said, "[and] make sure she has custodial care and somebody looking after her."
Robertson continued: "I hate Alzheimer's. It is one of the most awful things because here's the loved one, this is the woman or man that you have loved for 20, 30, 40 years and suddenly that person is gone. They're gone. They are gone!" 
Co-host Terry Meeuwsen noted that when couples marry they vow "for better, for worse."
Robertson replied, "You said 'till death do us part;' this (suffering from Alzheimer's) is a kind of death. I certainly wouldn't put a guilt trip on you if you decided that you had to have companionship; you're lonely. I can't fault them for wanting some kind of companionship. If he says in a sense she is gone, he is right. It is like a walking death."
I just want to make a few quick points:
* To those who judge Jesus and the Christians around you by what Pat Robertson (or any television evangelist) says, please stop. Pat Robertson doesn’t speak for me. He never has, through his long history of saying things without thought or Scriptural backing. Don’t assume that because he wears the name of Christian that he speaks for all of us, or even many of us. And please don’t assume that he speaks for Jesus. The same thing is true of anyone you see preaching on television. They don’t speak for me. If you want to know what I think, ask me. It gets frustrating when all of those who follow Jesus are lumped in with those with the loudest voices or who can afford television time.
* What Robertson is espousing is what he and too many others have been teaching for years – a “prosperity” gospel that teaches, at its core, that following Jesus is the way to make sure your life is always full and happy – that your happiness is the greatest good and greatest goal. Whether it is through having all of your material wants or a marriage that is always satisfying.
But the Scriptures don’t teach that. God’s highest will for you isn’t your happiness. It is your character, that you mature into the fullness of Christ. God knows that it is in being like Jesus that you will find peace and joy. And it will be the way that God is most glorified.
Yes, there is blessing and fullness of life that comes from a relationship with Christ. But it is a blessing and fullness that often comes in the midst of struggle and sorrow and disappointment. Jesus said that we would face difficulties. What we find as those who walk with Christ is that we can experience fullness and peace in the midst of conflict and difficulty and pain as we become more and more like Jesus.
* The New Testament describes marriage as an image of Christ’s relationship with his Bride – the Church. The relationship between a Christian husband and wife is to be a picture of what our relationship with Christ is like. The Apostle Paul tells us that Christ
“… loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.” (Ephesians 5:25-28)
The truth is that Christ’s love for us isn’t dependent on how beautiful or useful we are. He loves us because that is his nature. And his love is one that always seeks to give. Too often, we have chased a “love” that is more concerned with what we can gain than what we can give, with what’s in it for us rather than what we can do for another.
* There is no more beautiful image of a life well-lived than that of a husband or wife faithfully, lovingly, and sacrificially caring for the one they have committed to love – even if it isn’t recognized or appreciated. Years ago, I read a letter from Robertson McQuilkin, former president of Columbia Bible College, whose wife, Muriel, suffered from advanced stages of Alzheimer's. In announcing his resignation, he said:
“The decision was made, in a way, 42 years ago when I promised to care for Muriel ‘in sickness and in health...till death us do part.’ So, as a man of my word, integrity has something to do with it. But so does fairness. She has cared for me fully and sacrificially all these years; if I cared for her for the next 40 years I would not be out of debt. Duty, however, can be grim and stoic. But there is more; I love Muriel…. I do not have to care for her, I get to! It is a high honor to care for so wonderful a person.”
Gina and I both have family members who have modeled the same kind of deep, sacrificial, beautiful love as they have cared for their wives and husbands through the struggles of dementia. My admiration and respect for them goes far beyond what I could ever give some television evangelist, sports hero, or entertainment star. They have been people of character and integrity who have modeled the love and faithfulness of Christ in very real and tangible ways.
Russell Moore put it this way:
“Jesus tells us he is present in the weak, the vulnerable, the useless. He is there in the least of these (Matt. 25:31-46). Somewhere out there right now, a man is wiping the drool from an 85 year-old woman who flinches because she think he’s a stranger. No television cameras are around. No politicians are seeking a meeting with them. But the gospel is there. Jesus is there.”

Monday, September 12

Items of Interest from Around the World


Cleaning out some odds and ends that I had found interesting. Hopefully you will enjoy at least one of them!


* A very cool video from Tahiti. It brings to mind this quote from Phil Edwards, champion surfer:


“There is a need in all of us for controlled danger. That is, there is a need for activity that puts us on the edge of life. There are uncounted millions of people right now who are going through life without any sort of real, vibrant kick. I call them ‘the legions of the unjazzed.’”


* One of the joys of working the World Masters’ Meet this summer was getting to visit with Olga Kotelko, a 92-year-old athlete from Canada. You will enjoy reading about her in this piece from the New York Times Magazine.


* Some other track related news …


I have known Jesse Williams since he was a freshman at North Carolina State. He went on to be a four-time NCAA high jump champion at USC and he is now the World Champion. You can watch him win that championship here.


Here is a nice piece regarding Alan Bell, a friend of mine from England who just happened to be the starter when Usain Bolt false-started at the World Championships.


Track athletes – make sure your hair is cut, or at least put up. Long hair may have cost this woman a medal and a lot of money.


* Finally, a couple of general interest items …


A man sues White Castle because their booths aren’t big enough for him.


This man posted a video of him counting to 100,000 – very slowly. It took 77 hours! No, I haven’t watched it all. I’m just taking their word for it. But you can watch it if you want!

Tuesday, September 6

The Transforming Power of Grace


I have long believed that grace is maybe the most misunderstood and under-appreciated truth of Christianity.  It is what sets Christianity apart from every religious system, every way that men and women try to make themselves right with God and win His approval.


In a post entitled “The Most Transformational Word”, Paul Tripp talks about grace far more eloquently that I could, so I wanted to share part of that with you. Thank you, Paul, for this great reminder of the truth that transforms us.


“Grace is the most transformational word in Scripture. The entire Bible is a narrative of God’s grace, a story of undeserved redemption. By the transformational power of his grace, God unilaterally reaches into the muck of this fallen world, through the presence of his Son, and radically transforms his children from what we are (sinners) into what we are becoming by his power (Christ-like). The famous John Newton hymn uses the best word possible for that grace: amazing.


So grace is a story, and grace is a gift. It is God’s character, and it is your hope. Grace is a transforming tool and a state of relationship. Grace is a theology and an invitation. Grace is an experience and a calling. Grace will turn your life upside down while giving you a rest you have never known. Grace will convince you of your unworthiness without ever making you feel unloved.


Grace will make you acknowledge that you cannot earn God’s favor, and it will remove your fear of not measuring up to his standards. Grace will confront you with the fact that you are much less than you thought you were, even as it assures you that you can be far more than you had ever imagined. Grace will put you in your place without ever putting you down….


Grace enters your life in a moment and will occupy you for eternity. You simply cannot live a productive life or have a productive ministry in this broken-down world unless you have a practical grasp of the grace you have been given.”

Friday, August 26

Leadership Quotes from Steve Jobs



As most of the world knows by now, yesterday Steve Jobs retired as CEO of Apple – one of the most successful and innovative companies in US history. He was one of the co-founders of Apple in 1976 and what that company is today is a direct result of the vision and person of Steve Jobs.

I admit that I am (or was) a reluctant user of Apple products. I always fought the “hip” (which is pretty obvious if you know me as I have never been accused of being “hip) and superior image that Apple projected. Plus, most of the world and the tools I used were all PC-related. But I have had an iPhone for almost two years and love it. I have had an iPad since June and love it. And though I don’t ever see myself switching all the way to a Mac computer, my attitude toward Apple products has changed.


Steve Jobs has been an incredible leader and innovator. So, in light of his retirement, here are some quotes from Jobs that I think have some application to our leadership in whatever sphere we find ourselves – including ministry. Most of these quotes were gathered from a post by Casey Chan at and from the book The Steve Jobs Way, by Jay Elliot. (I drew from the review by David Mays. You need to check his website as he gives a summary of dozens of great books.)


On the importance of innovation:


"Nothing in companies is as blinding as a strategy, an approach, or a product line that has worked before. Success can be self-defeating, if it leads you into the rut of repeating yourself. Too often we cannot envision a different world because we've gotten into the habit of looking at our world with the mind-set of what has worked before."


"Innovators create products that are an outgrowth of what they imagine, things that help them create a world they would like to live in."


"Every team needs the spark of at least a few truly creative people who 'think different'--different enough to set an example for everyone else."


"We have always been shameless about stealing great ideas." PBS Documentary, Triumph of the Nerds, 1996


"It's really hard to design products by focus groups. A lot of times, people don't know what they want until you show it to them." BusinessWeek, 1998


"Apple should be the kind of place where anybody can walk in and share his ideas with the CEO."


On the importance of being focused as an organization:


Jobs pulled the plug on established, steady-selling products in order to focus on a few of the best. [Apple currently sells only 20 products.] He said, "I'm as proud of what we don't do as I am of what we do."


On the importance of passion:


"Great products only come from people who are passionate."


“You won't get people working for you fired up with enthusiasm unless you're fired up yourself . . . and you let everyone know it."


On his goal:


"The goal was never to beat the competition, or to make a lot of money; it was to do the greatest thing possible, or even a little greater."


“Being the richest man in the cemetery doesn't matter to me ... Going to bed at night saying we've done something wonderful... that's what matters to me.” The Wall Street Journal, 1993


"I want to put a ding in the universe."


On vision:


When Steve Jobs recruited John Sculley, Exec VP of PepsiCo to be CEO, the clincher appeal was this: "Do you want to spend the rest of your life selling sugar water, or do you want a chance to change the world?"


I’ve used that last story many times in sermons. I think too often we in the Church have been content to run programs or keep people entertained rather than aim for changing the world. To do that, leaders need to lead. Be innovative. Be creative. Be focused. Don’t look at how we have always done things, but look for how we can do things better, with more excellence, and in ways that actually “produce” what we say want – men and women who have been transformed by God and who are working with Him to influence the world. Not just men and women who are addicted to a religious habit.

Wednesday, August 24

2011 World Track & Field Championships


A few track and field related items now that the season is coming to an end …


The IAAF World Track and Field Championships are just around the corner, running from August 27 – September 4 in Daegu, South Korea. We who follow track and field closely are excited about the event, though for most sports fans in the US it will slip by mostly unnoticed. After all, the Olympic Games are about the only track and field event to which most Americans pay attention. But the World Championships are as good – or better – meet. One reason is that it just focuses on track and field and not badminton, equestrian, and fifty other sports. Another reason is that the World Championships are, overall, a better competition. The qualifying standards in many events are more rigorous than the Olympic standards and more closely enforced. So the fields are often smaller and of higher quality.


In this year’s World Championships, there are at least six athletes competing with ties to the University of Arkansas. They are:


Current Razorbacks: Raymond Higgs (Bahamas – Long Jump), Marek Nitt (Estonia – 100m, 200m), Tina Sutej (Slovenia – Pole Vault)


Former Razorbacks: Veronica Campbell-Brown (Jamaica – 100m, 100m, 2oom, 4x100 relay), Alistair Cragg (Ireland – 5000m), Jeremy Dodson (USA – 200m), Jeremy Scott (USA – Pole Vault)


Here is some sundry information on the World Championships, as well as some links to other items of interest (at least to me).


World Championships Website


More World Championship statistics than you could possibly care about


World Championships Schedule


World Championships Broadcast Schedule


Five Memorable World Championship Moments


More opinions on Oscar Pistorius (the Blade Runner), the South African double amputee who has qualified to run the 400m in the World Championships. Now some scientists are saying that his prostheses may give him up to a 10 second advantage. It is hard not to cheer for someone who has overcome the obstacles that he has, but you also want to be sure the “playing field” stays level. You can read more about it here and here.

Monday, August 22

Favorite Quotes from the Global Leadership Summit


A few days ago I “attended” my first Global Leadership Summit – an event simulcast around the world to almost 180,000 people by the Willow Creek Association. I love these type of events, where you are exposed to leaders from a variety of fields who can stretch the way you think. There were twelve different speakers from the fields of ministry, education, business, politics, and psychology. They all did a great job and had valuable things to share. The quality of speakers made the two days worth the time and cost. Being a simulcast event, it didn’t have some of the elements of the Catalyst Conference (no live worship bands, no one being shot out of a cannon and you were in a comfortable room with 150 people instead of in an arena with 12,000).


So here are some of my favorite quotes from the Summit:


Len Schlesinger (President, Babson College; Harvard professor)


“If you can’t predict the future, create it.”


“You can’t think your way into an unknowable future, you must act.”


Cory Booker (Mayor of Newark, NJ)


“Everyone is born an original, but sadly, most die as carbon copies.”


Steven Furtick (Pastor, Elevation Church, Charlotte, NC)


“The difference between a vision and a daydream is the audacity to act.”


“If your vision isn’t intimidating to you, there’s a good chance that it’s insulting to God.”


“God doesn’t give you the faith to finish what he calls you to; he gives faith to start it.”


Mama Maggie Gobran (Stephen’s Children Ministries, Cairo, Egypt; Nobel nominee) 


Silence your body to listen to your words;
Silence your words to listen to your thoughts;
Silence your thoughts to listen to your heart
Silence your heart to listen to your spirit
Silence your spirit to listen to His Spirit.

In silence you leave the many to be with the One.

Dr. Henry Cloud (Psychologist)


“When your maturity is not strong enough to change something, add external structure.”


John Dickson (Director, Centre for Public Christianity; Minister, St. Andrews Anglican Church, Sydney, Australia)


“Humility is the noble choice to forgo your status and use your influence for the good of others.”


Erwin McManus (Cultural Architect, Mosaic of Los Angelis; Activist, Filmmaker, Author)


“When we live our lives connected to the Creator, we become part of the creative order – part of God’s tools of creativity…. We are called to create a world that reflects the character and nature of God.”

Wednesday, August 17

Signs of Life


One of the realities of campus ministry is that it has its own rhythm and flow – it’s own schedule and pace. It usually comes down to four months of going full-throttle, a month to rest and re-organize, four more months of going full-throttle, and three months to do mission trips and discipleship projects, solidify support, rest and re-energize, and prepare to do it all over again.


But this time of year has it’s own feel. We are five days away from the start of my 30th fall semester with Christ on Campus at the University of Arkansas. The telltale signs of a new school year are all around:


* The football team is in the middle of two-a-days.

* The band is in the middle of two-a-days.

* Parents are moving their new freshmen into residence halls.

* Traffic is crazy. The mile and a half drive to Wal-Mart now takes 30 minutes.

* Road construction – the city always waits until August to do street repairs around the University.

* Freshmen girls are lined up in front of sorority houses while they go through Rush.

* International Student Orientation is gong on and our staff helps to provide transportation from the airport and hotels to permanent housing, banks, events, Wal-Mart, and other trips as needed.

* Older students returning from home, internships, study abroad, mission trips and projects and are excited to be reunited with friends they haven’t seen over the summer.


It all adds up to the most exciting time to be on campus. Worship services will be starting up this weekend. Small groups will be going next week. Events will be taking place to help new students make connections. Retreats and mission trips are on the calendar.


But the most exciting thing – the thing that gets my heart pumping and my mind working – is the thing that I know and don’t know.


I know that during this school year, God is going to transform the lives of students from all over the world. Some will give their lives to Christ for the first time. Some will begin to grasp the implications of really following Jesus and it will change the way they think and live. Some will come to the realization that God is calling them to something bigger than their major or the goals they have set for their lives. I know that God is at work on our campus. I know that God is going to change lives. And I know that God wants to use me and our staff and our students and our ministry to be a part of what He wants to accomplish.


But I don’t know exactly what that looks like yet. I have learned over 29 years of doing this is that it is our role to plan and prepare and pray. But God has His own agenda and His own plans and we need to be ready to follow His leading. Many of the students whose lives will be changed this year we haven’t met yet. We don’t know where they are from or what they believe or don’t believe or how we will get involved in their lives.


And for most of them, the last thing they are expecting right now – as they are moving in and buying books – is that they are going to have an encounter with the Almighty God while at the University of Arkansas. But they will and they will never be the same.


So right now I plan and prepare, but mostly I pray. As has been my custom over the last several years, I will take pray walks around campus – often late at night. Won’t you join me in praying for Christ on Campus and for campus ministries around the US as the new school year starts? Pray that God will use us as His instruments for transforming the lives of university students, staff, and faculty and for furthering His purpose in our world.

Wednesday, July 27

John R. W. Stott (1921-2011)




Word has spread that this morning, John Stott went to be with his Lord. Much of the world won’t recognize his name, but for many of us in ministry John Stott was a mentor through his writings. Books written by Stott are throughout my library and there has probably not been a better Christian thinker and writer over the last fifty years. Christianity Today has posted a thorough obituary that is worth reading.


However, his legacy is bigger than that. I never had the chance to meet the man, but those who knew him speak so eloquently of his character and humility.


Justin Taylor quotes Stott’s long-time assistant, Timothy Dudley-Smith:


To those who know and meet him, respect and affection go hand in hand. The world-figure is lost in personal friendship, disarming interest, unfeigned humility—and a dash of mischievous humour and charm. By contrast, he thinks of himself, as all Christians should but few of us achieve, as simply a beloved child of a heavenly Father; an unworthy servant of his friend and master, Jesus Christ; a sinner saved by grace to the glory and praise of God. (“Who Is John Stott?” All Souls Broadsheet[London], April/May 2001)


From Mel Lawrenz’ post on “The Impact of John Stott”:


One day New York Times columnist David Brooks wrote a piece called “Who Is John Stott?” Brooks was bemoaning the fact that the media always choose the wrong people to represent evangelical Christianity, putting the microphone in front of people who are, in his opinion, “buffoons.” If reporters were smart, Brooks said, they’d look to John R. W. Stott as the voice of evangelical Christianity. It is a voice that is “friendly, courteous and natural. It is humble and self-critical, but also confident, joyful and optimistic.” Brooks went on to reflect on why this evangelical preacher is so compelling to him, a Jew. It has to do with Stott’s uncompromising “thoughtful allegiance to scripture.” Brooks concluded: “most important, he does not believe truth is plural. He does not believe in relativizing good and evil or that all faiths are independently valid, or that truth is something humans are working toward. Instead, Truth has been revealed.”


John Stott was a pastor in London for many years and gradually became a friend to dozens of countries he visited in his itinerant speaking ministry. He never tried to invent something new, but was driven by his conviction that the truth of God in Christ is at the core of the mission that believers share. He never flaunted the fact that he served as chaplain to the Queen of England, or basked in the multitudes of accolades he received. He lived as simply as possible, writing books in a simple cabin in Wales, never married, called “Uncle John” by hundreds of younger people to whom he was mentor.


What a legacy – friendly, courteous, humble, confident, and joyful with a uncompromising allegiance to Scripture. Unfortunately, Christians are often seen as anything but those things. We are seen as either arrogant, judgmental, sour or compromising.


John Stott believed that God’s Truth has been revealed and he spent this life working to make that Truth clear and known. May we follow that legacy with the same spirit and character.

Tuesday, June 28

Random Thoughts: Creativity & Organization, City Ranks, and the Value of a College Degree


Summer traveling has taken a toll on my ability to write on here regularly. Here are some items that I have come across that you might find interesting…


Gina and I have just returned from a couple of weeks of vacation and we had the chance to visit some great cities: Vancouver (arriving the day after the hockey riot), Seattle (and we got to take in a Mariners game), Eugene, OR (a great college town), and Yachats, OR (city might be the wrong word, but a great place to spend some quiet time on the Pacific coast). In honor of our nation’s cities, here are two informative lists:


America’s Most Well-Read Cities


America’s Most Dangerous Cities




There can be great discussions about which is more important: creativity or organization and structure. There can also be great frustration between those who are more creative and those who are more structured. This great video by Scott Belsky shows the importance of both. I would encourage you to follow him on Twitter (@ScottBelsky) and to subscribe to his website.




Georgetown University has released a study showing what various college degrees are really worth in dollars and cents, as well as differences in pay because of gender. Let’s just say that if you are an art major, I hope you enjoy what you do.

Friday, May 27



Last August, I pointed you toward a book by Hugh Halter and Matt Smay entitled, The Tangible Kingdom. It is a book that expresses the concepts of missional and incarnational ministry that I believe reflect the heart of God. Over the course of the past year, our staff has read it and we have used their Tangible Kingdom Primer with our student leaders and in some of our Cords (our missional communities on campus).


Last week, I finished their sequel to The Tangible Kingdom. It is called AND: The Gathered and Scattered Church. In the book, they discuss the balance of a Biblical church (or campus ministry) – where people are both scattered through incarnational communities and gathered through structures that hold them together and provide encouragement and vision. It is, again, a book I would highly recommend to church leaders and church planters.


Here are some highlights. Hopefully some of them will provide you with food for thought.


"In Genesis 12:2-3, ... the people of God are being sent to live in a pagan land. Why? So they may bring the blessing of God wherever they go."   p. 34


“Missional isn't a form of church. It's a label we give to the qualitative or descriptive aspect of how a church actually lives. It's about how much like Jesus those people become and how much they influence, woo, and transform the culture in which they are placed. In other words, how 'missional' you are is largely determined by the extent to which your people model the life, activities, and words of Jesus."   p. 52


"Being missional is about our sentness - it represents the directional impulse of every church and every Christian in the world. Being incarnational is not so much about our direction; it's more about how we go, what we do as we go, and how we are postured in the culture God calls us to engage. Incarnation is the personality of our proclamation."   p. 56


"The principle is indisputable: the great things of God cost us our life. The more missional you want to be, the more incarnational you're willing to be, the more you release your people out into the world, the more you desire to equip and empower young leaders, the more effective and faithful you want your church to be ... the more you'll have to die to yourself."   p. 80


"Sadly, many people really are content to live as consumers, and they are just looking for a place to hold their beliefs together and to provide a sense of belonging relationally. In other words, all they want are some sermons and some friends.... We have to realize they aren't looking for transformation, either for themselves or for the world."   p. 106


"If you're worried about how to keep halfhearted, recreational Christians from leaving your church, I fear you've lost the big story."   p. 108


"What brings meaning to your gathering is how well you scatter. Jesus gave us the key to helping people find meaning when he said, 'Whoever wants to save their life will lose it.' (Mark 8:35 TNIV). Corporately, it's the same. If we want people to find meaning in our church gatherings, we must help them to gather for the purposes and people outside the gathering."   p. 174


"God's highest goal for our children isn't to keep them busy and safe. Our roles as stewards over the spiritual life and legacy of our kids is to model a holistic life of apprenticeship under Jesus - to invite them and include them in as much as you can and to trust that God will grow them, protect them, and use them to change the world."   p. 182-183


"Sermons have been an important part of our spiritual formation and will continue to fill that role, but we must also face the fact that even though we preach well, our focus on preaching as the main thing has not produced the level of discipleship we had hoped it would. Even more, our priority for pulpit-centered Christianity may actually be one of the most consumer-oriented aspects of evangelicalism today. Just as we must reimagine the church gathering, we must also have the courage to reimagine how we teach our people the Scriptures."   p. 183-184


What think ye?

Wednesday, May 25

News from the World of Higher Education


Here are some not-so-positive trends that have an impact on the students we minister to and the environment in which they live and we seek to represent Christ …


Some observations on recent college grads in the current economy from HuffPost College:


“A new survey of college graduates from the last five years finds that the Great Recession has hit them hard, forcing them into low-paying jobs often unrelated to their educations and leaving half of them expecting less financial success than their parents.”


* Eighty-three percent of them worked when they were in college … and they're coming out without a great job and with debt.

* The median starting salary for those who graduated between 2006 and 2008 was $30,000. For the 2009 and 2010 grads, it dipped to $27,000. And women graduates continued to make less than men.

* Nearly half the graduates say they're working at jobs that don't require a college education.

* Nearly half say they're subsidized in some way by their parents or other family members.

* About half say they personally don't expect to do as well as their parents. And 56 percent say their generation won't do as well as their parents' generation.


In related news, a survey reported by Time says that 85% of new college graduates move back in with their parents.


This Op-Ed piece from the New York Times discusses how the quality of higher education has been hurt by university and college attempts to appeal to our culture of consumers.


“Over four years, we followed the progress of several thousand students in more than two dozen diverse four-year colleges and universities. We found that large numbers of the students were making their way through college with minimal exposure to rigorous coursework, only a modest investment of effort and little or no meaningful improvement in skills like writing and reasoning.


In a typical semester, for instance, 32 percent of the students did not take a single course with more than 40 pages of reading per week, and 50 percent did not take any course requiring more than 20 pages of writing over the semester. The average student spent only about 12 to 13 hours per week studying — about half the time a full-time college student in 1960 spent studying, according to the labor economists Philip S. Babcock and Mindy S. Marks….


The situation reflects a larger cultural change in the relationship between students and colleges. The authority of educators has diminished, and students are increasingly thought of, by themselves and their colleges, as “clients” or “consumers.” When 18-year-olds are emboldened to see themselves in this manner, many look for ways to attain an educational credential effortlessly and comfortably. And they are catered to accordingly. The customer is always right.”


The drug of choice is on the college campus?  The Harvard Business Review reports that references to alcohol appear on 85.3% of male college students’ Facebook pages.


If you dug into the facts, you would be amazed at the number of incidents on your typical college campus that are alcohol related – from alcohol poisoning to sexual assaults to academic failure. And yet so many adopt a “boys-will-be-boys” mentality – like the parents I saw in a local bookstore, encouraging their 18-year-old freshman son to buy a poster for his dorm room on the “Rules of Beer Pong”, a popular drinking game.


Need more evidence that the answer to our world’s ills isn’t more or better education? USA Today reports that Yale University (one of our nation’s most prestigious institutions of higher education) suspends a fraternity for harassment of female students as the university itself is under investigation by federal civil rights officials.

Tuesday, May 3

Holy Discontent–A Year Later


A year ago today, I was attending a meeting just outside of Louisville, KY. Twenty campus ministers from around the country - each with at least 20 years of experience in doing campus ministry - had gathered to talk about ministry to students, where it was heading, and how we could better prepare the next generation of campus ministers. One night we sat up late, talking about ministry and families and life. Then one of my friends posed the question, "What is there in your life or ministry that is requiring you to rely on God?"


The question made me think and do a lot of praying. We continue to see God do a lot of great things in our ministry and we are excited about the lives that he is changing at the UofA. But the truth is that, though we were by no means just going through the motions, we were in a place where we were pretty comfortable. Ministry was going smoothly. Finances were stable. We were operating in our comfort zone. I wrote about this question in a blog post on May 17, 2010. Here is part of what I wrote at that time:


"It has been a pretty comfortable place to be. But I don't think God calls us to just be comfortable. And I don't want to just be comfortable. I want to walk in faith. I want to trust God. I don't want to be content with visions and dreams that are small enough that I can accomplish them. I want to be moved by God's visions and dreams - things that are only accomplished when God is providing the power and wisdom and resources. I don't know what any of that means right now. But I am praying for some holy discomfort."


So here we are a year later. And what has God done? He has put us in an exciting place with some great ministry opportunities that are going to make us completely rely on Him! Our Board of Directors and staff believe that God is leading us to take a couple of important steps - not just for Christ on Campus, but for the Kingdom of God globally.


In June, we will begin a partnership with a campus ministry in the Philippines. Christ on Campus will be providing financial support, student and staff assistance, and encouragement to a ministry at Benguet State University in La Trinidad where Crisanto Salvador serves as campus minister. Why do we think God is leading us in this direction? Because of the strategic nature of this ministry. The Philippines' greatest export is people and most of those who graduate from their universities take jobs in other countries. A large percentage of those will get jobs in areas where it is often more difficult for Americans to work and minister. We believe that a ministry that reaches and equips college students from the Philippines is a strategic way to access the parts of the world that are the most unreached for Christ. 


God has also led us to add another person to the Christ on Campus staff. Cory Garren graduated from the UofA in May 2010. Though he came to the UofA with a plan of going to med school, God began to change his heart during his four-year involvement with Christ on Campus. So Cory served as an intern with us during this past year. He feels that God is leading him into campus ministry and, specifically, into ministry with international students. We have seen Cory's heart for God and for students and his ability to work with students effectively. So Cory will be joining our staff on a full-time basis this summer and his primary (though not total) ministry focus will be on the over 1,300 international students from 123 countries that study at the UofA - many of whom come from those same countries in the most unreached parts of the world and most of whom will return to their countries as leaders in their fields of expertise.


We are very excited about the potential of both of these endeavors and their strategic importance for the Kingdom of God. And we are definitely in a place where we have to rely on God! First of all, we don't have the money for either of these projects in our current budget. Secondly, we have felt our nation's economic difficulties over the past few months. Giving to Christ on Campus has been down. For a logical perspective, it is not an ideal time to be adding these ministries to our monthly budget. But we believe that we are following God's lead in both of these. And we believe that he can provide the needed resources through his people.

Thursday, April 14

Father, forgive us …


This afternoon I took part in A Walk to Remember as a part of Rwanda Awareness Week photo (2)on our campus. As I silently walked around campus with the other participants, God spoke to me about the Church in the US – our lack of awareness of the needs of our world and the self-centered and inwardly-focused nature of most of our lives and faith.


I wondered how many students on our ministry or people in our churches know …


… of the genocide in Rwanda – that within their lifetime (1994) and over a period of only 100 days, 800,000 to 1,000,000 people were brutally killed because of the tribe to which they belonged. That is the numerical equivalent to approximately three Sept. 11 attacks occurring every day for three months.


… that each year more than 2 million children worldwide are exploited in the global human sex trade? That 600,000 to 800,000 victims are annually trafficked across global borders? That 14,500 to 17,500 of those are trafficked into the US?


… that 27 million men, women, and children are held as slaves around the world?


… that unclean water and lack of sanitation kill more people each year than all forms of violence, including war? That 90% of the 42,000 people who die each week as a result of unclean water and lack of sanitation are children under the age of five?


… that there are conflicts going on not only in Libya, but the Sudan, the Ivory Coast, Palestine, and other parts of the world?


… that an average of 171,000 Christians are martyred for their faith each year?


My guess is that most Christians in the US are unaware and uninterested. We have other things to worry about. We have conferences and camps to plan and Bible studies to prepare. We have “family life centers” to build. Plus, the Razorback Red/White game is this weekend and it’s on ESPN! We don’t have time or an appetite to hear or think about those who are suffering or the injustice in our world. We don’t want a faith that is aware. We want one that is comfortable and that keeps us entertained.


photoAnd, to be honest, I have often been the same way – wrapped up in my ministry and programs and plans. But thankfully God has placed students around me whose hearts and vision are often bigger than mine. He has given us Ines, a student in our ministry from Rwanda who spoke at today’s walk. She and the other Rwandan students on our campus are reminders that these aren’t just numbers, but people with families and hopes and dreams. God has given us a group of students who have a heart for those who are being trafficked and meet each week to pray and seek ways to raise awareness and funds to combat the problem.


It really isn’t my goal to make you feel guilty. (OK, maybe just a little bit guilty.) I really want to move you to action, to cause you to pay attention and look beyond yourself. We live in a world of hurting people. Some are close to you, but many aren’t. Yet they are people created in the image of God, many of whom are your Christian brothers and sisters. So read the paper with a prayerful attitude. Get a copy of Operation World and pray through it. And remember this words of Jesus:


“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’”   Matthew 25:27-40