Monday, March 10, 2014


Have been reading quite a bit about cross-cultural ministry.  A statement that John Perkins made in his forward to John Hayes' book Submerge has stuck with me.  "Cross-cultural is where the war is and that's where the violence comes from."  He was thinking of national cultures when he wrote that, but I was thinking "all cultures...everywhere...even the church."  The church is multi-cultural by design.  And challenges to unity come along predictable fault lines.

Can those who are committed to evangelism get along with those who are committed to discipleship?
Can those who are of Apollos get along with those who are of Paul?
Can those who are emotional in their approach to God get along with those who are intellectual in their approach?
Can those who are pioneers get along with those who are settlers?

There are perhaps a thousand of these cultural distinctives that can be found in the body of Christ.  One of the roles of a Christian leader is to help people build bridges across these divides.  Remember what Jesus said?  Blessed are the peacemakers.  It is near and dear to God's heart to help people put down the weapons (even if the weapon is a twitter account), and get along.  

Tuesday, February 04, 2014


As a Christian leader you have people around you, and they typically fall into two categories:  The Fors, and The Froms.  The Froms are the ones who want something From you.  They want your counsel, they want your teaching, they want your approval, they want your support, they want your friendship.  Based on Jesus' experience, this is probably the majority of the people around you.  And it's ok.  We are called to give of ourselves to others.  Like Jesus, we may need to get away from the Froms occasionally to refill the tank, but as a servant leader filled with the Spirit, you are ready, willing and able to serve.

But every leader is blessed to also have a few (maybe a precious few) who are there For them.  They are for your marriage.  They are for your ministry.  They are for you on a personal level.  They rejoice when you rejoice.  They weep when you weep.  They may be happy to receive from you, but they are intent on being a blessing more than a burden.  Generally, you can tell that you are dealing with a For because after an exchange with them you don't feel depleted.  They are positive.  They are uplifting.

I bring this to your attention, because some leaders make no room in their schedules (lives?) for Fors.  They are so busy with Froms (whom they will always have with them) that they feel guilty or frivolous about spending time with those who need nothing from them.  Remember, Jesus washed others feet.  He also got his feet washed on occasion.  Are you O.K. with that?

Tuesday, December 17, 2013


Why precisely are we here?

To create an authentic Christian community?  Yes.

To effectively reach out to unchurched people?  For sure.

To express love, acceptance and forgiveness?  Of course.

To draw people into the joy of salvation and a purposeful life of discipleship.  Obviously.

But those are just reasons with a small “r”.  There is a much greater Reason we are here.  To bring glory to God.  His glory is the reason behind all reasons.

Probably no text in the Bible reveals the passion of God for his own glory more clearly and bluntly as Isaiah 48:9-11 where God says,

For my own name’s sake I delay my wrath;
 for the sake of my praise I hold it back from you,
 so as not to destroy you completely.  See, I have refined you, though not as silver;
 I have tested you in the furnace of affliction.  For my own sake, for my own sake, I do this.
  How can I let myself be defamed?
  I will not yield my glory to another.

These words come like six hammer blows to a man-centered way of looking at the world, or ministry:

·      For my own name’s sake!

·      For the sake of my praise!

·      For my own sake!

·      For my own sake!

·      How should my name be profaned!

·      I will not yield my glory to another!

What this text hammers home to us is the centrality of God in everything.  The most passionate heart for the glorification of God is God’s heart.  Throughout scripture there is no mistaking…it is ALL ABOUT God’s glory.

1.    God chose his people for his glory: Ephesians 1:4-6

2.    God created us for his glory:  Isaiah 43:6-7

3.    God called Israel for his glory:  Jeremiah 13:11

4.    God rescued Israel from Egypt for his glory: Psalm 106:7-8

5.    God raised Pharaoh up to show his power and glorify his name:  Romans 9:17

6.    God defeated Pharaoh at the Red Sea to show his glory:  Exodus 14:4,18

7.    God spared Israel in the wilderness for the glory of his name:  Ezekiel 20:14

8.    God gave Israel victory in Canaan for the glory of his name:  2 Samuel 7:23

9.    God did not cast away his people for the glory of his name:  1 Samuel 12:20,22

10. God saved Jerusalem from attack for the glory of his name:  2 Kings 19:34

11. God restored Israel from exile for the glory of his name:  Ezekiel 36:22-23

12. Jesus sought the glory of his Father in all he did:  John 7:18

13. Jesus told us to do good works so that God gets glory:  Matthew 5:16

14. Jesus warned that not seeking God’s glory makes faith impossible:  John 5:44

15. Jesus said that he answers prayer that God would be glorified:  John 14:13

16. Jesus endured his final hours of suffering for God’s glory:  John 12:27-28

17. God gave his Son to vindicate the glory of his righteousness:  Romans 3:25-26

18. God forgives our sins for his own sake:  Isaiah 43:25; Psalm 25:11

19. Jesus receives us into his fellowship for the glory of God:  Romans 15:7

20. The ministry of the Holy Spirit is to glorify the Son of God:  John 16:14

21. God instructs us to do everything for his glory:  1 Corinthians 10:31

22. God tells us to serve in a way that will glorify him:  1 Peter 4:11

23. Jesus will fill us with fruits of righteousness for God’s glory:  Philippians 1:9,11

24. All are under judgment for dishonoring God’s glory:  Romans 1:22,23; 3:23

25. Herod is struck dead because he did not give glory to God:  Acts 12:23

26. Jesus is coming again for the glory of God:  2 Thessalonians 1:9-10

27. Jesus’ ultimate aim for us is that we see and enjoy his glory:  John 17:24

28. Even in wrath God’s aim is to make known the wealth of his glory:  Romans 9:22-23

29. God’s plan is to fill the earth with the knowledge of his glory:  Habakkuk 2:14

30. Everything that happens will result in God’s glory:  Romans 11:36

31. The New Jerusalem will be lit by the glory of God:  Revelation 21:23

Wednesday, December 04, 2013


Lead singer Jon Foreman was asked if Switchfoot is a “Christian” band.  His response is worth pondering.  

“To be honest, this question grieves me because I feel that it represents a much bigger issue than simply a couple SF tunes. In true Socratic form, let me ask you a few questions: Does Lewis or Tolkien mention Christ in any of their fictional series? Are Bach’s sonata’s Christian? What is more Christ-like, feeding the poor, making furniture, cleaning bathrooms, or painting a sunset? There is a schism between the sacred and the secular in all of our modern minds.

The view that a pastor is more ‘Christian’ than a girls volleyball coach is flawed and heretical. The stance that a worship leader is more spiritual than a janitor is condescending and flawed. These different callings and purposes further demonstrate God’s sovereignty. 

Many songs are worthy of being written. Switchfoot will write some, Keith Green, Bach, and perhaps yourself have written others. Some of these songs are about redemption, others about the sunrise, others about nothing in particular: written for the simple joy of music. 

None of these songs has been born again, and to that end there is no such thing as Christian music. No. Christ didn’t come and die for my songs, he came for me. Yes. My songs are a part of my life. But judging from scripture I can only conclude that our God is much more interested in how I treat the poor and the broken and the hungry than the personal pronouns I use when I sing. I am a believer. Many of these songs talk about this belief. An obligation to say this or do that does not sound like the glorious freedom that Christ died to afford me.

I do have an obligation, however, a debt that cannot be settled by my lyrical decisions. My life will be judged by my obedience, not my ability to confine my lyrics to this box or that. 

We all have a different calling; Switchfoot is trying to be obedient to who we are called to be. We’re not trying to be Audio A or U2 or POD or Bach: we’re trying to be Switchfoot. You see, a song that has the words: ‘Jesus Christ’ is no more or less ‘Christian’ than an instrumental piece. (I’ve heard lots of people say Jesus Christ and they weren’t talking about their redeemer.) You see, Jesus didn’t die for any of my tunes. So there is no hierarchy of life or songs or occupation only obedience. We have a call to take up our cross and follow. We can be sure that these roads will be different for all of us. Just as you have one body and every part has a different function, so    in Christ we who are many form one body and each of us belongs to all the others. Please be slow to judge ‘brothers’ who have a different calling.”

Foreman mentions the Christian "box" that many people want to stay in, and put others in.  I agree with Foreman that this box is particularly limiting when it comes to art.  So go out and create something - something beautiful, something wonderful - and do it to the glory of God.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013


Legendary college basketball coach, John Wooden, used to advise:  "Look in the microscope and the telescope."  His point was that we need an appropriate balance between seeing the long-range bigger picture, and keeping an eye on the details.  I have found this to be an important truth, both in the work we do, and the emotional equilibrium we must maintain.  

I have met leaders who are constantly thinking huge, visionary thoughts, and tending very little to the details which matter so much, to so many.  People around them are asking, "When are we going to solve problems around here...When are we going to actually make progress?"  I have met other leaders who micro manage, but get disoriented in a sea of minutia.  People around them are asking, "Where's this all going...What are we doing here?"  The ratio may be different depending on how God has wired you, but there needs to be a mix in a leader's profile between the the 30,000 foot view, and where the rubber meets the road.  You may have to "lean against the prevailing wind" as you chart your course; alternating between sweeping questions that start with "Why", and more pragmatic queries that start with "How."  

The macro/micro balance also has helped me emotionally through the years.  There are times when the "smaller picture" is discouraging.  The specifics of the ministry are not going very well.  I feel that I am bogging down in the details.  It is at those times that I need to expand my vision to see the much, much bigger picture.  Where is this story heading overall?  What is God doing in the meta-narrative (sorry, had to throw some jargon in there for the emergent, resurgent types)?  But there are times where I have literally had to read the book of Revelation again to remind myself that God actually wins in the end.

At other times, the bigger picture doesn't make any sense.  For instance, there have been many times where I have had no idea where we're going.  I don’t feel real comfortable at those moments, but they happen, more often than a leader might like to admit.  It's at those times that I will take a more microscopic view of the body for encouragement.  I'll take joy in the person who has recently been save and baptized, or the marriage that is being reconciled.  When the bigger picture is fuzzy, I look at the smaller picture.  When the smaller picture is fuzzy, I look at the bigger picture.  When a marriage blows up, for instance, I look to the heavens and remind myself that God is still on the throne.

Do you tend to get more joy out of looking through the telescope or microscope?
What ratios do you normally express between large and small scope?
What ratios do you need to express between large and small scope?