Monthly Archives: March 2012

10 things I say often to college students

1) – You don’t know nearly as much as you think you know.  Be  teachable!

2) – Stop consuming from the church & start being the church.  Be a contributor!

3) – You have an enormous amount of influence right now – Use it.  Be a leader!

4) -You don’t need a study on the minor prophets or some obscure passage of scripture you need to apply the ones you know.  Be a learner!

5) – Be generous – Start giving now of your time & money.  It makes it easier when you get older.  Be a giver!

6) – Stop chasing whats cool in the church & start chasing Jesus.  Don’t worship the tools / worship the savior.  Be a worshiper!

7) – Dream God sized dreams.  If your biggest dreams can be accomplished without God they aren’t big enough.  Be apostolic!

8) – Dream God dreams not you dreams.  If in your biggest dreams you get the glory that dream isn’t from God.  Be humble!

9) – Find someone who looks like Jesus to you & ask them to disciple you.  Be a disciple!

10) – Don’t waste the next four years of your life.  You may be standing on the largest missions field you will ever stand on. Be a missionary!

What would you add?


What happened to all of our young people? (Part 1)

Since I am a pastor on a college campus I am often asked the question by other pastors or church leaders where have all of our young people gone?

Why have all the young people left our church?  How do we attract more young people to our church?

I think some people are looking for an easy answer like go buy 2 smoke machines, a fedora hat & girl jeans & have your worship leader sing 7 Hillsong songs each week & they will come.  Others are looking for validation to their philosophy that the next generation is a lost cause.  Others genuinely want to examine the problem.  So I would like to spend the next few weeks giving some reasons why I believe young people are leaving the church & what we can do about it!

The reality is young people are leaving the church at alarming rates you can read article after article discussing the problem.  The facts are around 70% of students in our youth ministries will leave the church when they go off to college.  Only around 12% of 18 – 25 year old’s attend church consistently and those numbers get worse every year!

I want to start this series with some thoughts by  Will Mancini & from his blog – I don’t agree with all of his solutions but I certainly agree with his diagnosis of the problem.

Here is what Will says,

Generational relevance is always a leadership (I would say discipleship) issue first.

 Because the gift of leadership naturally develops leaders in its wake, a lack of presence with the next generation is a lack of leadership discipleship in some way. The implications are:

  • Leaders beget younger leaders
  • Those leaders and churches who reach young people aren’t thinking about it as much as it is happening naturally
  • The more conscious you are of the problem of reaching younger people, there is a leadership issue to identify
  • Younger people are primarily reached by younger leaders
  • If you don’t have young leaders, you don’t have old leaders

That last one is very difficult to swallow but true for every church I have examined!  My working premise is that 90% of people under the age of 35 have never been discipled.  It is alarming how many young pastors, students or leaders sit down with me & explain to me that they know how to teach a lesson, they know lots of leadership principles and church growth strategies but they have no idea how to disciple anyone.  Why?

Not because they don’t have the desire but because they have never been given the tools.

We need to train the next generation & give them a language & a license for what disicpleship is & isn’t.  It isn’t a class you take on Sunday it is a relationship with a mentor who says to you follow me as I follow Jesus.

The first question I ask anyone who asks me what happened to all of our young people is, how many people under the age of 30 do you meet with weekly to pray, study, eat, laugh and do life together.  95% of them say none!

The reason we don’t invest in young people varies but the most common are:

  • Fear – that the generational gap is too large & that I can’t connect.  Fear that I have nothing to offer or don’t know all the answers
  • Time – This takes an enormous amount of time away from sermon prep & other church duties that pull us away from our “other responsibilities.”
  • Young People let us down – They are not dependable, they don’t show up, they fall, they fail & make mistakes
  • Discipleship can’t be microwaved – There are not 4 easy steps or a simple 6 week program this process takes years and is often messy & disappointing.

So my first answer to what happened to all of our young people is……..

  • They need more than a sermon they need a leader
  • They need more than a program they need a partner
  • They need more than a principle they need a living example
  • They need more of you!
  • They need to be in your home, they need to eat at your table, they need to watch you love your family & they need to see you live as Jesus lived!

So for anyone looking for a start, please don’t go out & buy a pair of skinny jeans or use the phrase “you da boss” in your sermon.  Start by sitting down with a young person who you see potential in & tell them you believe in them!  Tell them you see Jesus in them and you want to walk beside them.  Ask them to allow you to disciple them & start pouring your life into them.  Simply say, Follow me as I follow Jesus!

5 Observations from the NCAA tournament

If you know me, you know that I grew up in Ohio & that I am a huge Buckeye fan, I also am a church planter on the University of Louisville’s campus & a huge Cardinal fan.  Before becoming a pastor I was a high school basketball coach & I continue to coach AAU teams in the summer , I love basketball.  So you can imagine my joy about the upcoming final four!

Here are a few of my observations about the tournament so far & by the way this blog in no way has to do with church planting or has anything insightful to say about my spirituality so if you are extra holy just stop here.

1) – TNT’s / TBS / CBS coverage of the games is an absolute joke

Kenny Smith & Charles Barkley know nothing & I really mean nothing about college basketball.  Charles is simply (Turrrible – insert Barkley voice here!) – Reggie Miller spent half the Ohio State game talking about Ohio States underrated star Deshaun Thompson.  (Its Thomas) The sky cam makes me feel sea sick or like I’m on one of those roller coaster simulators at Kings Island.  Clark Kellogg is the only one saving this sinking ship! Please next year can we get some college basketball analysts or people who at least watched a few college games this year to do the games.  Barkley is still picking Auburn to barely beat Alabama in the final game.

2) – I don’t know which movie is worse American Reunion, The 3 Stooges or John Carter

I am fairly certain that each of them are unwatchable!

3) – I’m really proud of the Dominoes pizza guy from Findley Ohio who invented the Parmesan bread bites

Its innovation like this that all of us need!  Also its amazing how the appetizer for pizza is pizza in different forms – So creative!

4) – The City of Louisville is going to implode on Saturday

I am fairly certain that our worship leader killed a guy wearing a UK shirt on campus earlier this week & one of our elders is helping him bury him behind the red barn.  It will only get worse as UK and UofL fans duke it out with wars of words this week.  The obnoxiousness of the 2 fan bases is out there for the whole world to see and lets be honest its not pretty for either side.   I think we could settle this very easily by simply having a hunger games of our own somewhere in Pike county.  I think UofL fans win the war of words because we don’t end every sentence with “Go cats” because we have far less skoal impeding our speech & because the number of our teeth is is larger than the number of violations Calipari has committed at other schools.  Ultimately though I think UK wins the game, they are just to good!

5) –  One shining moment can only be sung by Luther Vandross

Luther is the greatest college basketball singer of all time.  If its sung by anyone else it is heresy!

This should be college basketball law!

I love this time of year / Hope you do to!

5 Simple Ways We disciple Our Kids

My number one priority is not to disciple the strongest leaders in my church, not to disciple the avenue staff or college students it is to disciple my family.  Here are 5 simple ways Sarah & I practically disciple our kids:

1) – The Jesus story book on the way to school every morning

The Jesus story book is the best, kids bible I have ever found for kids, it is gospel centered & focuses on who Jesus is and what he did and not on behavior modification.  We bought the version with the CD’s and we listen to them and discuss the stories every morning on the way to school.  My job is simply to help interpret the story for them.  We listen & then ask, what was the story about and what does it mean for us?  Even my 2 year old gets involved it is a lot of fun!

2) – Breakfast with Daddy

Occasionally, I take one of my kids or all of them on a special breakfast where we can simply talk.  I share openly with them how proud I am of them and I share how I have seen them look like Jesus to me.  Then I share areas where I am concerned for them, areas where I see them sinning and areas where I worry & pray for them.  I encourage them, and I pray for them!

3) – Prayer Circles

Usually once a week if not more, I will get all 3 kids together and just take a few minutes to pray for each other.  Everyone shares prayer requests, even my two year old and me.  Then we each choose a person to pray for, it is beautiful to hear my kids pray for each other!  Since we started doing this their prayers have become more others focused and more thoughtful!

4) – Dinner Conversation

We try to have a question prepared for dinner time.  What was the best part of your day?  Where did you see Jesus today?  How did you look like Jesus today?  Who did you see today that needs to be loved?  One simple question, sometimes it goes great, sometimes its a disaster but its always fun!

5) – Talk time / Bed time prayers

This annoys my kids to death but I read that on the average parents talk to their kids for 4 minutes a day.  That scares me so I want to make sure that this isn’t me.  I make sure to ask lots of questions and I don’t let them say, I don’t know or just give one word answers.  Recently, I discovered that my nine year old had his first real girlfriend at school.  He walked right up to her one day and said, “I think you should be my girlfriend.” Not sure whether to be proud of that or concerned?  The whole situation gave me a chance to talk to him about how having a girlfriend in the third grade is just fun and that he is allowed to have a girlfriend as long as he knows they are just friends and that he is not allowed to take it serious.  4 days later she broke up with him, he said, “Oh well, we were just friends right daddy.”  If I had not asked a lot of questions I never would have known and about this girl and I may have never known how to coach him through his first 4 day relationship.  This may seem silly now but when he is 13 and has a girlfriend I want him to know he can come and talk to dad!  I also want him to know what scripture says about every area of his life & its my job to teach him!

What are some things you are doing to help disciple your kids?

5 Truths I learn in Preaching

Here is a terrible confession:

This Sunday was my first Sunday in 34 weeks that I did not preach at the Avenue or at a different church!  I know, I am awful & I am not taking enough breaks, and I also thankful for Godly elders who said ‘No more.”  Every 6 weeks on from here on out I need to take one week off.  It was so refreshing Sunday to sit at the Avenue & listen to Matt Ness preach & after the evening service I spent some time reflecting on things I am learning about myself through preaching!

1) – I am learning to depend on the Spirits movement & not my preparation

I was taught how to preach without the Spirit, I was taught how to work a text, how to contextualize the text & how to deliver a message that engages an audience.  I was taught how to manuscript, how to build illustrations & how to practice, memorize & deliver.  I was never taught that preparation is a poor substitute for Gods Spirit showing up.  I am constantly asking myself, “today as I preach am I leaning into my preparation & my giftedness or am asking God to speak & move through me?”

2) – I am really hard on myself & that means I missed the point

No critic is ever tougher on me than me!  I replay the message in my head & always come up with a better more concise, way to say it.  I’m like a Jr high boy talking to a girl for the first time, I stammer & stutter but when I look back I could have said it so clearly!  Being tough on me just means I missed the point.

So these are the questions I ask myself:

1) – Was I prepared

2) – Did I preach what God asked me to preach

3) – Was it about my glory or His

If I was prepared and did all the hard work I needed to do to get ready, if I approached the message prayerfully and did everything I could to be faithful and if I was about making His name great and not mine then I am missing the point if I am beating myself up.  I am called to deliver His message in His way not to entertain or wait for pats on the back.

3) – I am exhausted after I preach

I know some of you work 10 hours a day and you build things & carry pianos up 12 flights of stairs but the reality is preaching wears me out.  I don’t feel guilty about it, I am exhausted because I carry the weight of the task God has given to me.  I take very seriously the call on my life to deliver His words & to teach His people His ways.  I take Monday mornings off, I sleep in & spend time with my wife and with God.  Make sure you take breaks, 34 weeks in a row is a bad idea.

4) – I am a far better preacher when I involve others in my preparation

Here is what a normal preaching week looks like for me.  Monday afternoons I pray over and review the text for the coming Sunday, I take lots of notes & gather some info about the text.  Tuesdays I write a rough draft & send it out to our elders as well as some other friends.  In this rough draft I will make notes about certain sections, and ask for specific help, this section could be more clear, this section is too long, or too boring etc.  Wednesday, I have appointments all day, and I don’t look at the sermon I wait for my fellow sermon writers to get back to me.  Thursday, I take all the feedback I received, usually several pages from several folks, and I read through it & add pieces to the rough draft!  Friday & Saturday I look over the manuscript & begin learning it, I will talk through the message our loud at least once on Saturday & once on Sunday morning. I pray throughout the entire process that God will give me His words for His people!

5) – The whole process teaches me to depend on God

I am not a great preacher, but I work really hard to depend on God to teach me, guide me, speak to me & direct me as I prepare and as I deliver the message.  He is faithful, good and true and He always shows up, even if sometimes he does it at the last minute.  The whole experience teaches me to pray, trust & depend on His strength and not my own!  Help your people to know that your job in the pulpit is not to entertain or to draw a crowd but it is to be faithful to deliver the message God has given to you!