The Church in Action

13 04 2009

The church is an interesting thing. I’ve spent the last 19 years serving the church full-time in a myriad of ministry roles. During those years I have found reason to celebrate, laugh, rejoice, cry, mourn and even at times hide. I’ve been amazed in recent years at how many people are frustrated and aggravated with the church. I constantly hear the voices of those who tell me all the problems and issues with the church. The reasons that they believe it’s in trouble and decline. I hear them describe for me what the church should look like and what it should be. In many ways they paint a bleak and dire picture of the church. One that would leave most of us convinced that the church’s best days are behind her but recently I found something very different.

Just two weeks ago I returned from a mission trip in Orlando, Florida with 41 college students. The bus ride was brutal (18+ hours) but the trip itself was amazing. I have never been so impressed with 41 students in my life. They worked hard and did so with a smile on their faces. They served faithfully at crazy hours. They roofed, painted, worked on computers, talked and ate with hurting people, cleaned, built fences, put up mail boxes, raked, and did countless other things to serve the people of Orlando. Never once in the 10 days did I hear them complain or gripe. Instead, they gladly and joyfully served as the hands and feet of Christ.

I know that there are those who find reason to be concerned for the future of the church, but I walked away from this trip with a greater sense of hope than I’ve ever had. I really believe that the future of the church is bright. The church’s best days really are in front of her. She’s in good hands. Oh, the church will look different. They won’t lead as we have. These young men and women will reshape and remake the church into something that is more effective and more powerful than what we’ve been able to do. They will change the world in ways that we never dreamed or imagined, and the exciting thing to me is that I get to be a part of it.

I have to tell you, that if you think the church is in trouble you might want to find the chance to serve with young men and young women that are radically changing the world with the love of Christ. These young men and young women will change the world and they’ll change how you view the future of the church.



11 03 2009

We’ve been talking this year in chapel about reconciliation. It’s a theme that I think all of us can relate to. I assume that all of us have people or individuals in our lives that we’ve distanced ourselves from. You know those people that somewhere along the way we chose to ignore. That person that made us so mad that we swore we would never speak to them again. That person that did us wrong and in doing so we promised we would make life miserable for them. It’s that individual that we just can’t stand. Maybe it’s a parent, a sibling, a spouse, or an old friend.

You see reconciliation isn’t easy. It’s hard work. It requires us to sometimes do things that we don’t want to do. It asks us to invite others into our lives, even at the risk of being hurt.

Do you remember the motto for Motel 6? “We’ll leave the light on for you.” I have a friend (Dr. Henry Spaulding) who describes forgiveness as the willingness on our part to leave the porch light on. You see there’s something inviting about a porch light being on. It brings a calm assurance that someone is waiting for you; waiting on you just like the father waited on the prodigal son, looking out the window hoping you’ll turn the corner up the drive. It’s that gentle invitation to come in.

In our home, Katie and I have a huge dining room table. One of the reasons that we have it is because we like to entertain. We believe that the best way to enjoy food and life is to enjoy it with as many people as possible. That means that when we have big groups in our home we try to get as many chairs around the table as possible. We want everyone to have a place at the table. We find ourselves constantly having to make room for more chairs and more people. You see there’s something wonderful that begins to happen when we make room around the table and share a meal together.

Jesus’ table is one that constantly invites us to come. It’s one that somehow continually makes room for all who come. It’s his table that offers us not just the spiritual nourishment that we need but the gift of reconciliation that we desire. It’s that gift that he’s given to us. The gift that Paul describes in 2 Corinthians 5:18 as “the ministry of reconciliation”. It’s the gift that allows us to make room at the table for others, even those who have hurt us before. It’s the ministry that leaves the porch light on for those that need forgiveness and reconciliation. It’s our opportunity to be a part of God’s great message, “the message of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5:19).


6 08 2008

I have a very good friend that describes the question of mission and vision as a boat. In a sense what he says is this that the boat is our mission and the direction that we take the boat is our vision. In other words the mission statement tells us what boat we’re sitting in. The vision tells us the direction that we ought to be rowing that boat.

Our mission or purpose answers the why questions of life. Why are we here? Why do we exist? I assume it’s a question that’s been asked for thousands of years. It’s a question, which others much more educated than I have asked many times before and yet it’s a question that continually seems to come up. The vision tells me how things ought to look when I get to the end. What I’m working toward and what I hope to accomplish.

They tell me (whoever they are) that part of the role of the chaplain is to shape the philosophy, vision, and direction chapel. In these last few weeks I’ve been wrestling with those questions exactly. What is the role of chapel here at Mount Vernon? What’s the purpose and duty? Where exactly do we want to go with it? How should it impact all of us?

I know that these may sound like silly questions and I realize that we’ve always had chapel, but in many ways asking the question helps to put all of us on the same page. It allows us to pull together as we move forward. It somehow reminds us of what we want God to do in our midst in those moments.

Maybe you have thoughts about all of this. Maybe chapel played a significant role in your time in college or maybe it didn’t but you think it should have. I would love to hear from you. Perhaps you have no great insight but you would be willing to pray for me and others as we wrestle with these questions. Whatever the case I would covet your prayers.

A Place to Call Home

25 07 2008

Ok, I’ve finally arrived in Mount Vernon. I’ve been here for almost two weeks. During this time I’ve gone to district assemblies, meetings, chapels, new student orientation and all sort s of other things. But during my hours that I’ve not been working I’ve spent my time looking for a place to live and at this point I’m still looking.

Oh, there are some wonderful places out there. Big places, small places, homes that are move in ready and others that will need some work to get them up to speed. It’s really a matter of finding one that fits not just my budget but our needs. We’re trying to locate a place that enables us to grow and a house that we can make our own. One of those places that you actually begin to call home.

Living as a nomad is always interesting. It has its benefits and its challenges. I always enjoy the adventures and the opportunities that lie in front of you in these moments but there are times that living out of a suit case can be a drag. For instance you wash clothes a whole lot more frequently because you have fewer things to wear. Cooking something really isn’t an option. You really don’t call any place home and being a part from the family just isn’t fun.

Maybe that’s why being apart of a bigger community is so important. Somehow knowing that you’re not alone in all of this brings some comfort. The understanding that you’re in this with people who actually care and do want the best for you makes the journey (even the difficult parts) so much easier. I’m forever grateful for those of you who have prayed for me and my family during this. Those of you who have encouraged, written notes, or simply spoken a kind word in these beginning moments. It’s a great thing to know that while I may not have a home yet I have friends that are trying to make sure I feel at home.

Mount Vernon Bound

24 07 2008

Our trip across country began Monday night with an overnight stop in Yuma, Arizona. As I awoke Tuesday morning and threw open the curtains at the hotel I saw nothing but brown dirt for as far as the eye could see. If you’ve never been there it’s one of the hottest places on the planet.

This morning I’m sitting in a hotel room in El Paso, Texas. If you’ve ever been here you know it’s a very dry and desolate place. As I sit here I’m looking out the window at miles and miles of brown dirt and trying to find the beauty in it all. I understand that beauty is in the eye of the beholder but my eyes just aren’t beholding beauty in this place.

Fall LeavesThe interesting thing is that in every place we’ve ever lived we’ve found things that were absolutely beautiful. In San Diego the beaches were amazing and at night we would come home, sit outside and look at the most beautiful moon and star lit sky. In Kansas it was the rabbit in the back yard that had babies for two consecutive springs. It was a blast watching bunnies run everywhere in the back yard. In Nashville the fall season with the changing of the leaves was awesome.

The leaves took on every color imaginable. In Portland it was the mountains covered with enormous trees and snow.

As we arrived in Mount Vernon in May it was the green fields and trees that caught my attention. I realize that the trees and fields won’t always be green but I’m confident that when the seasons change we’ll find beauty in something new. I’m sure the fall with the change of colors will be gorgeous. As a family we’re excited to see the first snow. It’s been a long time since we’ve seen it snow.

Beauty is an interesting thing. I know that Ecclesiastes tells me “God makes everything beautiful it its time.” I guess when it comes to some places it seems to take a little more time than others. Whatever the case is I’m confident there’s some beauty to be found in it all. For now I’m hoping the beauty is a little easier to
find at the next stop.


24 07 2008

There are many challenges associated with moving and near the top of the list is the dreaded keep vs. pitch decision. This week we started that process…not my favorite part of the moving experience. I find myself rummaging through everything trying to, somehow, evaluate it all. What really matters? What do I really need to keep? What would I be better off without in the long run? Are there things that should or could be discarded? Is this something I will ever use again?

Keep vs PitchAs I went through the keep vs. pitch evaluation process I was reminded that we often find ourselves making those kinds of decisions in the Christian walk. Taking a hard look at our lives and trying to figure out what we really need to keep. What things do we really need to discard from our lives? Is there a way I can lighten my load on this journey. I think we all need those moments if we’re growing in our Christian walk.

Deciding what to hang onto is seldom an easy decision but decisions that need to be made. I’ve discovered that taking a regular inventory of my life is a good thing. While it forces some hard choices, the reality is that there are things in our lives that keep us from growing in our faith. Some of these things we so desperately hang onto are the things that prohibit us from being the mature and strong Christians that God wants us to be. Habits, attitudes, and actions need to be reviewed on a regular basis so that we can pitch the ones that are weighing us down and holding us back from being all God designed us to be.

I think that’s a little of what Paul was speaking about when he says in I Corinthians 10:23 that “all things are lawful but not all things are helpful.” Paul knew what it meant to take a hard look at your life and evaluate what was needed and what needed to be discarded. It’s not always easy getting rid of some things but when we do, it’s well worth it.

One thing I won’t have to pitch in San Diego is a winter coat. I don’t own one. I am told that might be a good investment in central Ohio. How many months until winter?

It All Changes…

24 07 2008

Making big decisions is seldom easy. My wife Katie and I recently made one of the biggest decisions of our lives. Accepting the chaplain’s position at MVNU will be life changing for our family. But change can be fun and we are excited about where God is leading us.

Over the next few months countless things will change for us: addresses, phone numbers, zip codes, job assignments, schools, friends—even wardrobes. For the last 5 years we’ve lived in one of the most beautiful places on earth. San Diego’s average temperature is 72 degrees and most days feel like the beginning of summer. The sun is always shining and the grass is always green. Our biggest wardrobe decisions include which flip-flops to wear. But that will soon change!

The many e-mails and phone calls about our move to Ohio feature one common element: the weather. “Do you realize you’re leaving sunny San Diego for the long, cold Ohio winters?” people ask. For many, snow and freezing temperatures are not appealing, but we are excited about seeing things change—watching the leaves turn from green to yellow to brown. I’m excited to see the first snow, to hear a thunderstorm, and to spend a day inside because of the weather. I enjoy seeing change and being a part of it.

As our journey begins together, I can’t wait to see the changes that God makes in you and in me. It’s going to be exciting to see how God uses you. Your decisions while you’re at MVNU will lead you down the path of change, but God will go with you. He will not leave you or forsake you. Indeed it’s His desire to guide you as you make those decisions.

Chances are good that three of life’s biggest decisions will be made during your years at MVNU:

  • What will you spend your life doing?
  • Who will you spend your life with?
  • Who will you serve?

Answers to those questions will make all the difference in the world for you. My prayer as we begin our journey together is that God will guide, bless, and use you in great ways. Thanks for allowing our family to join you on the journey.

God bless,


June 2, 2008