Archive for category: Ministry

The Small Town America Tour recap

09 Oct
October 9, 2015

fire2 small

Last weekend we had an amazing concert night with the Small Town America Tour. It was also our first foray into pyrotechnics in the sanctuary …

The concert itself was a blast. Openers Scarlet White and Shonlock were both amazing, with Shonlock really winning over the teens – they’ve been begging me every time they see me to bring him back for another show where he can have more time and really go to town! Seventh Day Slumber is definitely a rock band. They came out hard and it was amazing. I have to admit, the flame throwers were really, really cool. The lead singer also gave a powerful message that saw a number of kids raise their hands to commit, or recommit, their lives to God which was an incredible thing to witness. Fireflight finished out the night strong, belting out songs from their new album as well as older favorites.

I have to admit, our attendance was not where I was hoping. Usually the bulk of the online ticket sales happen in the days before the show … which this time around was when all the weather reports were saying a hurricane was going to blow through Wilmington the same time as our concert was. Instead of fielding calls about the show, I was answering the question over and over as to whether or not we were going to cancel. The storm never actually hit, but it did damage none-the-less! The bands told me that was the challenge they were running into all that weekend. Even so, they rocked the room like it was packed – I’d definitely recommend ANY of the acts to anyone looking to work with great bands and host an awesome concert!

I Make Kids Fly

28 Sep
September 28, 2015

I look forward to the blob all year long. Because I make teens fly.

Anyway, here’s the music video/highlights video from our 2015 Student Ministry Retreat! It was a blast!

Thoughts on Biblical Authority

26 Sep
September 26, 2015

The following is a short post I wrote answering the question, if we don’t have any of the original documents that comprise the Bible – we only have copies – how can we claim it has authority and is of God?

Having been a student of history before entering ministry, I have always found this conversation fascinating. The challenge is in communicating authority of a document without citing the document itself; if someone does not believe in God or the authority of the scriptures, citing scripture’s claims to authority is a circular argument that carries no weight with the skeptic. Fields is right in claiming this is a critical issue when he sums up “the situation.”1 I instead like to focus on standards of authority outside of scripture over time. History absolutely supports the existence of Christ, who in turn gives authority to the Old Testament through His use of it during His time one earth. More significantly, is the sheer volume of copies of scripture we have.

Historians consider what we hold today as representative and authoritative from Plato, yet there are only seven copies of his works, dated 1200 years after the originals, and vary significantly. We have eight copies of Herodotus’ works, 1300 years removed from the originals, which also vary significantly. Similar results are found in the works of Pliny, Suetonius, Euripides, and many others. Aristotle is an improvement with 49 copies of his works existing, but even they are removed by 1400 years.2 Even Shakespeare, removed from us by only a handful of centuries, has significant debate amongst historians about the accuracy of what we hold today and the question of whether or not they are what the performers recited in the Globe Theater under his direction.

And yet, we have thousands and thousands of the Old and New Testament. We have copies within a few lifetimes of the originals. With the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, we have copies of Old Testament works with prophecies about Christ that are positively dated before Christ’s time on earth. Fields points out that the Old Testament copies line up 90% of the time, with only a fraction of a percentage of the difference being words that are not grammar/spelling related. The New Testament copies, thousands of them, line up 99.5% of the time. Other religions have to revise their works or come up with complicated explanations and rationales as modern historical discoveries contradict what is recorded in their scriptures. The Bible, however, is primarily a work of history, poetry and prophesy. In the past there have been critics of its accuracy, questioning some of the historical claims in the scriptures that had not yet been substantiated – yet over time, as we continue to make new historical discoveries, find cities previously unknown, etc., they only serve to confirm scripture, not contradict it. As time goes on, the authority of the documents are only strengthened, not weakened like other religious documents.

For me, the only explanation for the sheer volume of copies of scripture, preserved so well over history – unlike any other major writer or religion – points to a supernatural intervention that can only be explained by God. The scriptures have authority based on secular man’s historical standards. Because of that authority, scriptures claims regarding God carries a weight that no other religious writing does.


1. Lee M. Fields, Hebrew for the Rest of Us: Using Hebrew Tools Without Mastering Biblical Hebrew (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2008), 44.
2. Nicky Gumbel, The Alpha Course Manual (Colorado Springs, CO: Alpha, 1995).

Money Changers and the Church Today

23 Sep
September 23, 2015

jesus whip

I was having an online discussion with someone the other day about how the Matthew 21 and John 2 passages regarding Jesus cleansing the temple of those selling sacrifices and money changers applies to churches today; his thought was that it meant nothing should be bought or sold anywhere on church property today. I disagreed and wrote the following:

I actually believe that the money changers in the temple courts is an often misunderstood passage. Many interpret it to mean that nothing should ever be bought or sold on church property, but I don’t believe that to be the case. There were two things going on that I believe triggered Christ’s righteous anger.

The first had to do with sacrifices; the ideal sacrifice came out of ones own home/farm. For example, a family would raise a perfect lamb and then sacrifice it. It would represent a real cost, both practically and even emotionally. Any sacrifice brought to the temple had to be approved by the priests as worthy of sacrificing. The priests had gotten to the point of finding faults with the animals people were bringing, a great frustration for all. Meanwhile, they (the priests) had begun selling acceptable animals at an increased cost. They were essentially holding people hostage; rejecting their sacrifices and forcing them to purchase overpriced ‘approved’ animals so that they could be forgiven. People were buying their sacrifices instead of risking the rejection of the ones they brought, effectively changing the worship practice and making the sacrificial system something purchased instead of a meaningful practice with preparation starting in the home.

The second had to do with the temple court itself. While a Jewish person could still proceed in further into the temple courts, the Gentile Court was where the buying and selling was happening. That particular court was as far as a Gentile follower of God could pass. It was intended to be a place for them to worship, to experience God, to grow in their faith. Instead, the money changers and sacrifice sellers had turned it into a marketplace. They had effectively closed the door to non-Jewish people experiencing God at the temple.

The takeaway to me is that the core issue was worship. Jesus was consistently angry with people that created barriers for approaching God. Through their actions, the commercial activities shut down people’s access to worship, and their full experience of what God had intended. It would be like us turning out sanctuaries today into a marketplace instead of a place of worship. Selling resources, charging for coffee, etc., in parts of the building without taking away from our worship services or Christian education classes is a far different scenario than what happened at the temple. The heart is different, the motivations are different, and worship is not obstructed.

The Manjui Bible Completed!

03 Sep
September 3, 2015

When I was a teenager my family spent a little over a year serving with the Manjui tribe in the Paraguayan desert during the time we were missionaries in South America. The Hunts are an incredible family who have spent the last forty years living with the Manjui, knowing them, learning the language, creating a written language and dictionary, teaching them the scriptures, planting and nurturing a church, and translating the entire Bible so that the Manjui can read God’s word in their own language. It took forty years to reach that last milestone – it’s so incredible to see the photos, the videos, to witness this precious tribe receiving something that will be a powerful tool for them.

It blows my mind to see that kind of commitment; very few have taken the kind of time that the Hunts have to see such a task come to completion. I’m not sure of the numbers now, but when we lived there just over twenty years ago, there were only a few hundred Manjui total – it was a small, isolated tribe with a language unique to only them. Many would say they’re not worth the effort, that resources could be better used elsewhere for a larger return. They would be wrong – God wants ALL of His children!

It’s also moving to see the physical differences in the tribe today compared to what I experienced in the 90’s. And what I experienced was a tremendous improvement over what the missionaries had originally found with this tribe. There is a greater sense of health, well being. Even things as simple as clothing have improved dramatically. It’s exciting to see how the tribe has changed spiritually and practically over the decades. What an exciting thought to know that some day the Manjui voice and language will be represented in the chorus of voices singing praises in heaven to God!

The Student Ministry Retreat!

31 Aug
August 31, 2015


The 2015 Student Ministry Retreat is a wrap! What a weekend! We had a great turnout, amazing weather, and an exciting kick off to the new school year. Our theme for the weekend was #Hashtag; essentially, we took popular hashtags from social media and used them as launching points for our three talks and two small group times. Over the weekend we worked our way through the basics of who Jesus is, a call to commit/recommit to Him, and a challenge to be a light for Him throughout the week in school, our neighborhoods, homes, and sports teams.

Of course, there was a LOT of fun involved with the weekend. I made another rules video (you can see it on the student ministry Facebook page), we tried out Human Hungry Hippo, had our annual candle lighting ceremony, played lazer tag in the woods, went water tubing, bounced on a jumping pillow, used the water slide, played with the canoes, and sent kids airborne off the blob. My son Caleb, an incoming sixth grader, tried it for the first time and got some great air – you can see a picture below!

I came into this weekend feeling nervous; the last half year has been kind of wild at our church. Our senior pastor retired after having first came to the church in 1975. Along with the other pastors, I was pulled in a lot of directions during the transition time. Between mission trips, the senior pastor search, mission trips. and more the summer flew by faster than usual. Even so, I came away from the retreat feeling like in spite of all the chaos going into it, our theme saturated the weekend better than we’ve seen in years. It was amazing how many kids came to me Saturday night and told me the ways they were being impacted by the retreat. Our goal is to see this continue in our student small groups – we took big steps to make sure kids were connecting with their small group leaders so that those critical conversations can continue in the weeks to come!

All in all, it was a great weekend! Now to catch up on some sleep …

caleb blob

MK abuse, PK perfection, and BJU

31 Jul
July 31, 2015


Victims of abuse in large religious institutions and organizations have really been on my heart in recent years, in part because of the stories of those close to me from my time in a boarding school for missionary kids, but even more so in reaction to the lengths of which organizations will go to hide the truth and protect themselves rather than the victims. Is this true of every religious organization and institution? No. Tragically, though, it is true of far more than many of us realize.

Similar stories have been coming out of Bob Jones University recently as the results from their abuse investigations have come to light. One victim wrote a powerful essay giving a glimpse into their experience, one that resonates strongly with so many of us and I think helps those outside better understand. The above cartoon, created by another victim, is what prompted the essay. You can read the full essay here; the quote below really jumped out at me – unfortunately, because it is so true of what I have witnessed in completely separate contexts than the author.

As for sexual offenders, I quickly learned that they were somehow seen with some strange sort of honor. It seemed that they were always very godly men, men that “God” wanted to use in his service. They had value, and their testimonies had to be protected. They had somehow passed that illusory threshold of being good enough for God.

It seemed that those victimized were treated as forever blackened, forever worthless, rejected and despised. We were used, broken, and useless. The preacher boys and missionary boys were to be protected from people like us as we were considered potentially destructive to ministries. We were ruined.

For many of us, counseling felt like it was driving the nails into our coffins. We now had names – They named us Bitter, Destroyer, Unforgiving, Impure, etc. Through their teaching, it became obvious that there were other names on the list: Worthless, Despised, Hated. We all were assumed to have deserved the abuse and worse, because we were abused by such godly men, we were responsible before a holy God for making one of his precious vessels stumble. We had one and only one possibility of value – our silence. IF we were to never tell and never show any struggles from our abuses, then we could remain on the fringes of the fold.

Read the rest here.

Kindle as a Tool

29 Jul
July 29, 2015

kindleWhen ebooks were first being discussed, I swore I would never make the switch from real books to some digital platform. There is something undeniably real about holding an actual book, the weight of it, the smell of the paper, the feel of turning the pages.

Anyway, that’s what I thought. But now it’s 2015 and I love my Kindle. I also love my Kindle app for iPad, Kindle for PC, Kindle in the cloud, the Kindle app on my iPhone … you get the idea. It’s been an incredible resource for me as a pastor and as a seminary student.

  • Cost. The books are generally cheaper. And with the Kindle Matchbook option now, it’s possible to get Kindle versions of physical books bought from Amazon for three dollars or less.
  • Research. I love being able to do keyword searches. My ability to find applicable information for both sermons or research papers far quicker than when I was a college student 15+ years ago.
  • Highlights. Highlighting has turned into one of my critical tools. It’s possible to see all my highlights for a book grouped together – great for having critical information quickly accessible. Even more important? I’m able to log on to the Kindle website, copy and paste my highlights, and/or print them. This has been GREAT for sermons, papers, or even just collecting information that I want to pass on to other leaders or my team.
  • Convenience. Whatever device I read on syncs up with all my other devices, which means whichever one I pick up knows exactly how far into the book I am. If I’m waiting somewhere, I can read from my phone. Later I can use my iPad. If I’m in the sun? Switch to my actual Kindle. In addition, I am able to have my entire library with me at all times – great for travel.
  • The Beach. I love my basic Kindle when we go to the beach. The screen is great in the sun, it fits in my pocket for when we’re walking around, and the battery lasts the whole trip. Next week when we’re on vacation? I’m going to fly through several books while parked under an umbrella sitting in the sand, sipping a Diet Mt. Dew. It’s going to be awesome.

All that to say, my Kindle has become an indispensable tool. The guy who once swore he’d never give up paper does almost all his reading digitally now!

Group Games Apps

28 Jul
July 28, 2015


This summer I told both of my interns to download the following three apps, and they have both been VERY excited with how useful they are! It is challenging to come up with different and interesting games for student ministry week after week, and while there are a ton of resources out there, both in book form and online, these are particularly convenient as they are apps! Each of the apps has a variety of games, from simple to complex. And at a couple bucks each, it’s around a penny or two per game idea. Definitely great youth ministry resources:

Group Games: The first games app I purchased, it includes over 120 games with filters and categories, as well as the ability to highlight favorites for quick access later.

GroupDo: 250 games with filters to help narrow them down by what type of game you want. Includes instructions, illustrations and more!

Awana YM Games: Awana is in the name, but this is app is incredibly useful if you work with teens, regardless of what curriculum you use. It includes 95 games.

Bonus app recommendation:

IceBreaker Questions: Not a games app, but another great resource from the creator of the Group Games app mentioned above. Tons of great questions, with filters for age groups, it’s a fun way to get a group talking!

It’s the little things …

09 Jul
July 9, 2015


Sometimes it’s the little things that make you feel most appreciated.

This photo is from the VBS party/cookout our team through for the residents in Stockholm and New Sweden during our mission trip to Maine. There were a handful of kids who came with drawings thanking us for the VBS!