Tag: christian (page 1 of 2)

Stereotyping For the Loss

I’m a man. A husband. A father. A pastor. A Millennial. A Jesus follower. A Crossfitter. A coffee guy. A wanna-be tech enthusiast. A Tennessean-born-and-raised-Californian.


Any one of those could be a stereotype. Every one of them is.

Please don’t categorize me. It may help you to process things more quickly, make decisions and move ‘forward.’ But I’m not simply the caricature of any of them. Don’t short circuit me into a stereotype so that you feel more comfortable.

The whole is the sum of its parts. Not the sum of its caricatured stereotypes.

Husbands are dumb. Fathers are absent. Millennials are entitled. Jesus followers are judgmental. Coffee guys are irresponsible with their money. Pastors are narrow minded bigots. Cross fitters have cult like intensity. Men are chauvinists. Californians are skin-deep. Tennesseans are rednecks.

Maybe, just maybe, I’m going to destroy your mold for who you think I am. Because God has created me unique. I’m not a category. I’m not a group. I’m me. With all of my idiosyncrasies, my tendencies toward sin, my quirks, and my gifts. My experiences, both good and bad, have deeply shaped who I am, how I lead, and how I interact with you.

I’m not the dad that used to live in this house. I’m not the husband you saw growing up. I’m not the pastor you watched once on TV. I’m not the Crossfitter who will yell at you because you’re not doing your burpee to standard. And I’m not the bumbling man you see on TV. I’m not a typical Californian…but I do have a little redneck in me. 🙂

I am a husband that loves his wife and a dad that loves his kids. I am a Crossfitter that cares deeply about my own physical health. I love serving other people coffee nearly as much as I enjoy consuming it. I love Jesus with everything I am, but if you’re not also a Jesus follower we can still be friends. I’m not going to boycott you.

When you get to know someone, and their story, perceptions change. Nobody is the sum of their caricatures.

If you want to be able to lead people, learn their story.
If you want to be able to speak hope to people, learn their story.
If you want to be able to love people, learn their story.
If you want to be able to change culture, learn people’s stories.

If you’re a Jesus follower, you’re called to love. In fact, that’s how the world knows that we follow Jesus.

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” – John 13:34-35

You cannot truly love someone you do not know.


6 ways to nudge a potential leader

I ask small group leaders often, “Who is your apprentice? Your Co-leader? What potential leaders do you have in your group?”

The reply I get more than any other is this:

Nobody in my group is anywhere near ready to lead other people.

I guarantee you, though, if I were to sit in their group meeting, I could pick out a handful of potential leaders.

I’ve found that the word “potential” is a tough word to grasp. We often jump right over it. Instead of “potential,” we hear “proven.” Or “ready.” Or “perfect.”

photo credit: Ahisgett (Creative Commons)

“Potential” is different. Think back to your days in science class, where you learned about the difference between potential energy and kinetic energy. Kinetic energy is the energy of motion. It’s the energy of work. The more work you do, the more kinetic energy you produce. The faster you move, the more kinetic energy you build up.

Potential energy is energy that’s stored up, waiting for an outside mover. Waiting for a nudge, a kick, or a “suggestion.” It’s hard to “see” potential energy. A roller coaster, at the top of a hill, has potential energy. A ball, just before it’s dropped, has lots of potential energy. A spring, when fully outstretched, has lots of potential energy.

When I’m sitting with a leader, asking what other “potential” leaders are present in their group, they are looking for “kinetic energy” leaders. They’re looking for someone who’s already leading. They want to suggest someone whose kinetic energy is building, not someone who has potential energy stored up.

Someone who has potential energy may look uncommitted and unmotivated. They may appear lazy. It may seem that they’re far from being ready to lead.

Seeing Potential

Seeing potential is tough, because you can’t look at who, or what, is in front of you. You’re looking at what’s in front of someone else. Often, what’s in front of them is something that they haven’t seen themselves. Potential energy isn’t moving mountains and creating waves. Potential energy may be sitting calmly, not realizing the kinetic energy right in front of them.

Which is exactly why they need a nudge. From you.

Here are 6 easy ways to nudge to a potential leader

1. Tell them that you believe in them. And mean it. Encouragement goes a long way in nudging a potential leader.

2. Tell them the potential you see in them. Help paint a picture for them of what could be if they were to lead.

3. Give them a chance to lead, and set things up for an easy win.

4. Ask for feedback on your own leadership. Ask them how they think you could improve.

5. Read a book on leadership…together. Meet as you’re reading through it, and discuss observations you find.

6. Give them authority over an area of your organization, or over a special project. Trust them to make decisions and lead well, and follow up to ensure they feel supported and are growing.


Do you find it difficult to spot potential leaders? How do you give them a nudge?

* photo credit: Ahisgett


Scott Boren & missional communities

Scott Boren (Twitter, Facebook, blog) has written an incredible book…one you should read. In fact, you can read it for free…just keep reading to see how!

Scott wrote MissioRelate as a way of prodding small group systems to move towards life-changing, relational experiences that draw people into missional group life.

The word ‘missional’ seems to be abuzz acros the landscape of the American church. It’s ‘hip’ to be ‘missional’ right now. What I love about Scott’s work is that he plainly lays out the foundations of what it takes for small groups to be truly missional, both theologically and practically. This book just might change the way you think about small groups…in a very good way.

Check out this interview I did with Scott (sorry…for some reason, my video froze. I’ll figure out the whole recording thing soon enough!).

Here are the questions Scott answers:

1. You talk a lot about rhythms in your book…why are rhythms so important to group life?

2. You’re pretty critical of current small groups systems. What churches are doing it ‘right’ now?

3. How do you see the typical American mindset influencing church life these days?

5. Give us a couple of practical steps that a small group could take to really draw people in to missional group life.

Scott mentions a few resources in the video. You can see those HERE.

I’m giving away 2 copies of Scott’s book! To enter, just do one of the following:

1. Tweet a link back to this post. You can use this if you’d like: Check out a great new book on missional small groups from @mscottboren: http://ow.ly/6Xery

2. Facebook a link back to this post. You can use this if you’d like: Check out a great new book on missional small groups from Scott Boren: http://ow.ly/6Xery  // (make sure you tag me so I can enter you into the drawing)

3. Leave a comment telling us whether you think that ‘missional small groups’ are a good idea or not.

In your comment, please be sure to leave your email address so I can contact the winners!

I’ll complete the drawing on Saturday evening, October 15th, at 8:00 pm.

But even if you don’t win, you can pick up a copy of the book HERE.


10 keys to a successful marriage ceremony

You may have never performed a marriage ceremony.  But you’ve attended plenty, I’m sure.

Some were probably good, and fun, and exciting.  Most, though, if your experience has been like mine, have been boring.

image via NotaryPublicParalegal

I remember the first ceremony I performed. To call it a disaster wouldn’t be fair, but whatever word is just short of “disaster” would aptly describe the experience.  Since then, through countless ceremonies I’ve done, I’ve learned a lot.

You’ve got to know one thing about me: I’m not all that traditional.  And my ceremonies reflect that.  If you’re a traditional person, though, I think that you can still incorporate these principles the next time you’re given the opportunity.

10 keys to a successful marriage ceremony

1. Insert some humor.

The bride and the groom are nervous and emotional and ripe with anticipation. Which makes everyone else nervous and emotional, too. A little humor eases a lot of tension. If you can get even a chuckle out of people, you’ll feel the weight lift in the room. Trust me…I can sense it every time.

2. Make it personal.

Every single line doesn’t have to be a personal, inside joke between the three of you. But sharing stories and quotes from the bride and groom helps everyone present feel like they know the soon-to-be-weds. My intro before I seat the parents, and before I get into my mini-sermon, is full of stories from the bride and groom.

3. Share favorite Bible verses/songs/quotes.

I’m not putting these on par as equals. I believe that Scripture is crucial in a marriage ceremony (see below), but in preparation for the ceremony (in meetings with the bride and groom), listen for clues. If they mention a favorite author, song, painting, or Bible verse, jot it down. You can use this to weave the truth about marriage into your ceremony.

4. Reflect on your own marriage.

Personal reflection can lead to beautiful, powerful, rich ceremonies.  Pull truth from your own experience in marriage, but don’t include your own stories. Use these as the background and motivation as you’re preparing, but leave out anthing that starts with, “When my wife and I…” or “On our wedding day…” or “One time, my spouse…” Hogging the spotlight is not cool…leave the spotlight on the bride and groom.

5. Craft your message for the bride and groom.

It’s their ceremony, right? Make sure you spend time speaking to them. There’s a great portion of my message where I’m speaking to the bride and groom by name. In a sense, I’m glad that the congregation is there to witness it, but that portion of the message isn’t for them specifically.

6. Craft your message for the congregation.

Don’t forget that you’ve got husbands, wives, and future husbands and wives in the congregation. As you prepare, think through how your message will land with them, and how you can even challenge them to love their spouse in a bigger, more self-sacrificial way.

7. Challenge the bride and groom.

Push them a little bit. They’re ready to make the biggest commitment of their life on earth…this is a huge deal! Push them to love more deeply, to be willing to weather the storms, to be willing to love through the pain, heartaches, and challenges of life. Challenge them now, and pray they take you up on it!

8. Don’t box yourself in.

Don’t make every ceremony have to look the same. Be willing to be flexible on the details. You don’t have to be flexible on the truth you’ll share…but remember, this isn’t your ceremony. It’s the bride’s and groom’s. If they want to do some non-traditional stuff, make it happen. (I once helped with a Mexican Lazzo ceremony. It was strange for me, but incredibly meaningful for the bride and groom.)

9. Link marriage with the Gospel.

For me, this is a must. It’s the one thing that I tell couples I can’t bend on. I don’t have an altar-call at the end of the ceremony, but I weave the Truth of the Gospel, the roles of the husband and wife in marriage, and the role of Christ and his bride (the Church) throughout the message.

10. Keep things short.

Nobody likes a long ceremony. Nobody likes a long ceremony. Nobody likes a long ceremony.

(experts say you need to hear something 3 times in order to best remember the idea. You’re welcome) If your portion of the ceremony goes over 30 minutes, you’ve probably lost everybody in the room, including the bride and groom. Here’s an important truth to remember: people didn’t come to hear you talk. They came to see the bride and groom get married.

Have you ever experienced a boring marriage ceremony?

What was the longest ceremony you ever attended?




The commitment

I have a small group that I am a part of that meets every week.  And I’m going to have to miss it soon.

I’m going out of town, and there’s no way I can make it back in time.  And that really bothers me.  Even though it’s only the 3rd time I’ve missed the group in 2 years.

Because I made a commitment to the group.

When I joined, I committed to being there every week.  The people in my group aren’t imposing any guilt on me for missing.  They’re not upset.  The group will carry on without me, no problem.  Somebody else will lead the discussion that night.  Somebody else will take up the prayer requests.  Somebody else will make sure the group keeps moving forward.  The group isn’t dependent on me.

But I’m bummed I can’t be there.

I’m missing out on

  • a dynamic discussion
  • a broken-hearted request
  • a cry for help
  • an opportunity to praise God for His goodness
  • a belly laugh
  • a good meal
  • catching up on life
  • sharing my own difficulties
  • sharing my own triumphs
  • doing life with friends
  • praying for a friend
  • being prayed over

You may not like my small group (I wrote about it HERE).  But I do.  These guys challenge, encourage, and equip me to do what God’s calling me to do.  Their influence in my life is beyond measuring.

To get the most out of your small group, you’ve got to make a significant commitment. Otherwise, a small group is just a Bible study.  A group of acquaintances.  An I-have-to-go-to-that-again? meeting.  A burden.  A time-waster.  Something that takes you away from what you really want to do.  A place of forced community.

Make the commitment to the folks in your small group.  They’ll be glad you did.

And so will you.

Have you ever made the level of commitment necessary to really invest in a small group?

Have you ever seen someone not make that commitment, and burn out quickly?


Family Devotionals

To me, family devotions are kind of cheesy.

I mean, I like the concept of sitting down as a family and talking through the truths of the Bible together.  But when it comes to sitting down and actually doing it, in my head it just comes off being silly.  I keep imagining a family all cozy in their den, with the children in the pajamas, sitting around a fire.  Dad gets out his guitar, and they sing a song together.  The children are gleaming as mom and dad, in their footed pajamas, talk about how God changed their soul…at breakfast that morning.

Weird, no?

This Christmas season, though, I’ve found a new resource I’m going to try.  And I won’t be wearing any footed pajamas when I read it.

Because I really want my son to understand the beauty of the Christmas season.  Why we give gifts.  Why we decorate our house.  Why we visit family.

Because in all of the hustle and bustle of getting ready, it’s incredibly easy to forget to instill in my son the values that are driving our generosity.  I want to raise a son that understands our traditions, and celebrates them with as much life and vigor as we do.  And not just because he’s excited about getting gifts from a fat man whose belly jiggles.

Here’s the new ebook, called Christmas Reboot, written by a good friend of mine, Alan Danielson.  You should pick up a copy.  It’s only $8.

My family and I are going to be working through this throughout the holidays.  I’ll let you know how it goes.  I’m pretty stoked about it.

Will you join us?


Interesting Conversation, part 4

This is the last post that I’ll give based directly off of the emails that I have talked about in the last 3 posts.  You can read about this conversation here, here, and here.  It’s been helpful for me to think through these psychology issues and offer what I believe to be a God-honoring response to these, though I know they can be very personal.  I know that some of this hits very close to home for many of you, and I invite you to comment below.

Here’s the email I sent to the licensed psychologist that I have been having the ongoing conversation with:
Good thoughts.  Thanks for even being a bit self-disclosing.

I do think that medication is helpful and maybe even warranted.  Take, for example, the schizophrenic (schizoid/typal personality disorder, schizophrenia, etc.).  Many, if not all, have to be on varying dosages/levels of medication.  Life is likely intolerable for them and those around them if they are not treated physically.  But if we as humans are comprised of both body and soul, the meds only treat the body side.  We, as soul-care providers (I tried to use a generic enough term to lump  us both into), have a responsibility to look at both aspects.  This schizophrenic, though on medications, still has responsibilities in society, even if “society” for him is in the mental hospital.  From a biblical standpoint, I think that he still has a responsibility before God as well.  God will hold him accountable for his actions done on earth.  God holds all people accountable for their actions, even when the issue is completely biological.  Take, for example, Type I diabetes, which is clearly a physiological issue.  Though there was not a specific sin that lead to this, we still have a responsibility to God for how we respond to it.  Holiness may more difficult in certain psychological problems, but holiness is still the requirement for all men (Leviticus 19:2).  God is full of grace and mercy, but His requirements are the same for everybody.  Obedience will likely be more difficult for some, but not impossible.  Think about someone who is mentally handicapped, but functions at a high level.  They are held responsible for some tasks, right?  Obeying their parents may be tough, but it’s possible.

Medication doesn’t negate anybody’s responsibility before God.  “Sorry I was short with you today…I’ve just got a headache.”  Our impatience and anger are not justified because there are physical issues present.  We need to realize where our weaknesses are and address them biblically.  There are over 40 places in Scripture where we are commanded to do things to “one-another”: love one another, serve one another, submit to, encourage, admonish, be kind to, be devoted to, think of them better than yourself, prefer, build up, accept, care for, envy not, be truthful to, etc.  God is pleased when we take even small steps in the right direction.

Hardships in life, no matter what the cause or what the suggested treatment, are a chance for our true hearts to be revealed.  We are all sinners living in a fallen world.  And what do sinners do?  Sin against one another…lots.  God will not judge us based on how people have sinned against us, but based on our response to being sinned against.  For those who have been scarred more deeply by the effects of sin, obedience may be so difficult that we, humans, cannot see how it would even be possible.  Good thing others’ obedience is not placed on our shoulders!  We serve a big God, who is able to change the vilest hearts and the most corrupt souls.  Lest we think ourselves prideful, I put us both in that category as well!  We serve a God who can cure cancer, heal headaches, mend broken relationships, heal crazy people (see Mark 5:1-20), and, biggest of all, save sinners.  “Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever.” (Ephesians 3:20-21)


Interesting Conversation, part 3

Here is the third post from a series of conversations that I had with a psychologist.  You can read the other conversations here, where it all started, then here, the response that he had to my post, then my response to him here.  Just so you know, we have a good friendship.  Neither of us is mad at the other in the least.  In fact, we both enjoy the discussion.  It keeps us thinking about why we do what we do.

So, what kind of counsel are you giving today?  We’re all giving some sort of counsel to almost everybody we come in contact with, even if it’s no counsel at all.  Is your counsel (or lack thereof) honoring God?

“I myself am convinced, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of goodness, complete in knowledge and competent to instruct one another…the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.” (Romans 15:14, 1 Timothy 1:5)

Here’s his response.  Mine will follow, tomorrow.

“I do not think our conversation is confrontational and enjoy the topic. I think it is a rare opportunity when we as Christians get to have real discussions about important issues. I value your thoughts.

I agree with everything you said but would add one thing. Diagnosis is not actually the problem though it is not always clear cut, you get a fair bit of agreement between professionals. The diagnostic criteria are pretty well accepted. I think what you are getting at is that we don’t know the cause. Was it biological? (testable through blood work or something) Faith based? Maybe poor parenting?  Living a life apart from God? I think we can say they are depressed but how then do we treat it? I think your example is right on. We use the medicine God gave us to heal the broken leg (i.e. we use what we know about treating depression e.g. improve sleep, decrease negative thoughts, engage in positive behaviors and thoughts, etc) and we look at the root cause. How is the person’s Faith? What is their lifestyle like? Do they attend Church, voluteer, pray, etc? We also of course look at familial patterns and history. An example that may illustrate both ways of approaching a situation (caution: self disclosure coming up) My mother, raised in faith, raised our family in faith, prays all the time, attends Church, yadda yadda yadda, but is completely co-dependent with my Alcoholic brother. Does she enable him out of a lack of faith in God’s power or could we approach her in terms of behavior modification (just stop doing those things that support his drinking). I think both are true and necessary ways of intervening.

Final note,  have your read “The road less traveled” by M. Scott Peck. I think it is very valuable for its attempt at merging Faith and Psychiatry. He talks about anxiety developing when people don’t do something out of fear. It is usually something they know they should or shouldn’t do but they continue to act out of fear. This idea of anxiety developing when we don’t do what we know we should to me is true of many people I see. They act in selfish ways and they are anxious because of the situation that develops. E.g. they know their boss wants something done but they disagree so they don’t do it and live in fear of being found out.

Anyways… Good discussion. I look forward to more.”


Interesting Conversation, part 2

This is the second part of a conversation that I had with a licensed psychologist.  I’ll keep his name anonymous, but suffice it to say that we share basic biblical/theological foundations, but approach counseling with a different methodology.  We are able to maintain a solid friendship, though we disagree on some points, as you’ll see below.  If you haven’t been following along, I wrote this blog post about psychology and faith (and how they aren’t going together all too well), he responded here, and the following is what I said as a response.  Feel free to agree or disagree with me.  Here I go:

“Thanks for the response ______(I’ll keep him anonymous)!  I appreciate the wisdom that you bring and the expertise in psychology that you have.  You see it through a biblical worldview as well, and I appreciate that.

I agree with the follow-up blog that you said.  I agree that not all mental health crises are issues of ‘faith’, but it’s so hard to detect and diagnose those issues (depression, bi-polar, PTSD, etc.) empirically, right?  To diagnose somebody as a diabetic, you can do blood work, but not so for depression.  I don’t mean to say that we then abandon all search for an empirical test.  But I will throw out this as an idea, that it would only be, at best, a diagnosis and not a prescription.  For many of those same issues, could it not be a ‘which came first, the chicken or the egg?’  If we do find a blood test that can prove definitively that a person has anxiety disorder, who is to say that it was brought on by purely physical (bodily) problems, as in the case of diabetes.  To further my example, lets say that a person comes into the ER with a broken leg.  We can perform X-rays to confirm, CAT scans to check head injuries, etc., and prescribe medications to dull the pain.  In fact, we can even set the leg and cast it so that it will heal.  Having a broken leg is a problem, for sure.  But maybe the real problem is that this guy can’t see well at all.  He walks out in the middle of the road when traffic is heavy because he can’t see the cars coming (I know, it’s a stretch, just hang with me…I probably could’ve come up with a more realistic example, and I will someday).  That’s what broke his leg the first time, and it will break his leg the next time he walks out of his house.  Medication can’t do anything about this…he needs glasses.  His leg needs to be fixed, but his real problem is that he can’t see.  Could it be like this for mental illnesses?  I make a blanket statement here, but I don’t deny purely bodily-induced illnesses, as in post-pardum depression, thyroid-induced depression, and others that I can’t think of off the cuff.  Medicine may take the edge off of mental illnesses, but the real issue that the illnesses came up is not addressed by medications.

I think that often (not always, though) mental illnesses are a result of (sometimes years, and even decades) responding sinfully to life.  Instead of appropriately grieving, a person spirals into depression.  Instead of handling fear in a God-honoring way, a person develops a myriad of phobias.  Instead of building God-honoring relationships, a person develops habits of retracting from people and society, and it becomes so bad that they can’t function, and are labeled with social anxiety disorder.  When the person presents to their psychologist/counselor, it’s way, way out of control.  Telling them to turn to God doesn’t “fix” their problem, because they’re trying to overcome so many years of developing sinful ways of responding to life (but ultimately the problem rests in their deficient relationship with God).  This is why I hate ‘Biblical’ counseling that consists of quoting a verse at somebody and telling them to ‘obey the Word of the Lord.’  It’s not quite that easy.  They have to be shown, over time, how to life life in a God-honoring way.  Medications may help this person take the edge off of their ______, but doesn’t necessarily help them to live a godly life.”

I welcome comments.

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