teenage crap detectors

Love this video from “Billy Madison”. The moderator was the only one in the crowd who wasn’t fooled.

One of the things I love most about high school students is that they are skilled “crap detectors“. They are horribly difficult to persuade, especially when it comes to religious matters.

If you’re lying to a high school student you better expect their crap detector to kick into gear. Faking it? Consider yourself detected. Embellishing? Misconstruing? Manipulating? Guessing? Their crap detecting capabilities will catch you in the act. Using the same old out-dated methods to reach and teach them? They’re not having it. Putting God in a little itty-bitty box based on your understanding of Him? Not gonna fly.

The challenge for me and my team is to:

  1. Remain 100% transparent.
  2. Listen.
  3. Never ask them to do anything we aren’t doing ourselves.
  4. Abandon all teaching methods that are dead.

These are just some initial thoughts I’ve had as I’ve evaluated the crowd at Calvary these past six months.

Side note: “church kids” are the most effective crap detectors around. They don’t wear hand-me-downs for very long unless they really like the way they fit!

doubting ryan

Vodpod videos no longer available.

We played this video tonight at our high school group’s Wednesday night worship gathering. Melissa talked about her personal battles when it comes to doubt, and did some digging in Scripture to try and figure out what a healthy amount of doubt looks like. Because we all doubt sometimes, don’t we?

I know enough about God to know that he exists. Sometimes I have absolutely no idea what He is doing, but I have a pretty good picture of who He is based on what I’ve learned from the bible, the world we live in, and my own story. I believe in his divine benevolence, but this article is about a guy who simply couldn’t believe in God’s divine benevolence. That article stirred up some doubts for me about the accuracy of the picture I have of God. I believe God is good, and that ultimately God can and will restore and heal this broken planet. But I’m human, and worms eating eyes stirs up doubt for me.

This guy is convinced that there isn’t a God. He says he knows there isn’t a god. I say I know there is. I used to doubt whether or not there was pretty before I became a Christian and even afterward for a couple years. But those doubts have decreased dramatically over the years.

It’s tricky because I trust God, but I buckle my seat belt. I trust God, but I lock my door at night. I trust God, but I save money for emergencies. I trust God, but I sometimes think my plan is better. I trust God, but I sure would like to see those hands of His.

I feel like I have pretty solid faith in God. I talk about my relationship with God, because that is what it is.

But sometimes I doubt, and I think that’s ok. Right?

Do you doubt? All the time or just occasionally? How does it affect you? If you attend a church, do you feel like it is a safe place to talk about your doubts?

disagreeing well

I learned almost everything I know about ministry during my time working at Cornerstone Church in Chandler, AZ.

I walked into my first church service there an unbeliever. I would end up working there for almost seven years. I was a hotel supervisor for a few years before that, but I had zero ministry experience before Cornerstone.

I ended up at Calvary because I spent the past few years developing some passions, convictions, and priorities that weren’t necessarily at the top of Cornerstone’s list. That’s not an insult in any way towards Cornerstone. I just felt myself moving in a direction that they weren’t planning on going. The bottom line is that my vision didn’t match up with the church’s vision. And that’s ok!

I always had a close relationship with Cornerstone’s senior pastor Linn Winters. He took me under his wing and supported me big-time. As I learned the ropes at Cornerstone he was really patient with me. For example, he would let me come into his office, shut the door, and say whatever I wanted. I could go in there and say ANYTHING that I wanted to say, and he would listen and respond. As years went by, I found myself in there a little more often (this wasn’t a regular thing, maybe a handful of times a year). We would usually leave those meetings seeing eye to eye, but sometimes we didn’t. But here’s what I loved about our relationship:

I could say anything I wanted to Linn in his office, but when I left that office I was on his team. He knew that no matter what we had just talked about, I would leave his office and support his vision. He knew he could trust me to lead my team in a way that honored him and the vision of the church. We were able to disagree very well.

One day we both knew that I couldn’t support the vision any more, so I had to go. He knew I couldn’t leave his office and lead my ministry in the same direction, so the right thing to do was part ways. That’s never easy, but I still appreciate the leadership principle I’m talking about so much. I learned it from him and the other pastors on the team.

I want to be someone who disagrees well. But more than that, I want to have an office like Linn’s.

(Calvary readers, I haven’t had any meetings with Dave, Michael, Eric or Josh… but I’m sure they would handle it the same way!)

stolen teachings


A few months ago I blogged about whether or not it was ok for pastors to teach using someone else’s sermons. I didn’t have much to say on the topic (and neither did you guys), but my friend Steve Carter did. Steve is joining the Rock Harbor team this month as one of their teaching pastors.

If you’re a pastor, or are interested in the topic, you should check out some of the things Steve and his blog readers have had to say by clicking HERE. This is just one of the five entries so far, so click around and check it out.

free lunch

I’ll buy lunch for the first one of my interns who leaves a comment on this post.

And you’ll officially be my favorite.

Because the other two obviously don’t care about me as much as you.

Because if they did they would have seen this post first.

Name it and claim it!

(I’m guessing it’ll be Matt)

youth ministry format

If it was up to you, what would your youth ministry look like?

Maybe you grew up in a youth ministry, maybe you work or volunteer in one, maybe you’ve never been a part of one. Either way, I’m curious what “components” you would include in a youth ministry if it was completely up to you?

Some meet in small groups and large groups. Some only in small groups. Some only in large groups. Some large groups meet weekly, some meet monthly. Some small groups meet weekly, some bi-weekly.

What would a youth ministry designed by YOU look like? What matters? What changes lives?

You can be brief or you can roll out an entire philosophy of ministry.

camp recap

Got back from the camp this afternoon. Started the week teaching in Luke 15, doing my best to burn an image of the father running off the porch (where I assume he was waiting for a long time for his son to return). I love that story because…

1. Jewish men didn’t run, it was undignified. But this one runs.

2. He didn’t punch the kid in the stomach when he got there.

3. I think he was probably wearing a William Wallace’ish man-skirt, which he would have had to hike up to run full-speed. But this guy doesn’t care what anyone thinks… he saw his kid take a step in his direction and he starts the full on pursuit of him. Then he throws a huge party.

4. It’s my story.

Then we looked at what Acts 19 and 20 for a picture of what it looks like to do church in a jacked up world… and here’s a little secret that you might not know: the Acts 19 and 20 world of Ephesus was u-g-l-y. Dark. Nasty. And had been that way for a loooong time. Until the church showed up šŸ™‚

And I wrapped up my teaching with what I think is one of the most urgently needed reminders for the church these days: the story of the woman caught in in the act of adultery (John 8). How Jesus responds to her is remarkable… and it’s only made possible because of what he was about to go and do on that cross. He makes it possible for her to “go and live a different life”.

Brett Stanfill and his crew were amazing- even after their drummer Anders broke his collarbone midweed while we were all snowboarding… poor guy. They could have come in and acted like rockstars but they were humble and honest and ridiculously good at what they do.

Great week šŸ™‚

away for a day

Actually, I’ll be away for three days.

I’m heading to a Winter Camp to do some teaching. I’ve never heard of a Tuesday to Thursday camp, but it should be sweet.


I’m FINALLY getting to bust out the snowboard on Wednesday with a bunch of the campers at Big Bear! I’m expecting to lose any respect I might have earned on Tuesday night once the kids see my clumsy butt fall off the first ski lift.

If you think about it I’d really love your prayers- I’m teaching tonight, tomorrow morning, and then again tomorrow night. I’m excited because I am someone whose life was ROCKED at a camp, so I know that God uses these getaways to change the course of people’s lives. I’m not a regular camp-speaker, which is probably a good thing because the nervousness will keep me dependent. I’ve seen God part some seas at camps with horrible speakers, so I’m comforted knowing it ultimately has very little to do with me!

Kudos to Rick Warren

Rick Warren and Melissa Etheridge were both invited to the Muslim Public Affairs Council earlier this month. I watched the whole thing on TV last week, but I definitely missed a few things happening behind the scenes. You’ve got a pretty interesting collection of people coming together for this one: Rick Warren, whose church has become enemy #1 for gay rights activists, and Melissa Etheridge, a woman who is a gay right activist. Oh and a room full of Muslim Americans!

Melissa had this to say about her experience at the conference:

I hadn’t heard of Pastor Rick Warren before all of this. When I heard the news, in its neat little sound bite form that we are so accustomed to, it painted the picture for me. This Pastor Rick must surely be one hate spouting, money grabbing, bad hair televangelist like all the others. He probably has his own gay little secret bathroom stall somewhere, you know. One more hater working up his congregation to hate the gays, comparing us to pedophiles and those who commit incest, blah blah blah. Same ‘ole thing. Would I be boycotting the inauguration? Would we be marching again?

Well, I have to tell you my friends, the universe has a sense of humor and indeed works in mysterious ways. As I was winding down the promotion for my Christmas album I had one more stop last night. I’d agreed to play a song I’d written with my friend Salman Ahmed, a Sufi Muslim from Pakistan. The song is called “Ring The Bells,” and it’s a call for peace and unity in our world. We were going to perform our song for the Muslim Public Affairs Council, a group of Muslim Americans that tries to raise awareness in this country, and the world, about the majority of good, loving, Muslims. I was honored, considering some in the Muslim religion consider singing to be against God, while other Muslim countries have harsh penalties, even death for homosexuals. I felt it was a very brave gesture for them to make. I received a call the day before to inform me of the keynote speaker that night… Pastor Rick Warren. I was stunned. My fight or flight instinct took over, should I cancel? Then a calm voice inside me said, “Are you really about peace or not?”

I told my manager to reach out to Pastor Warren and say “In the spirit of unity I would like to talk to him.” They gave him my phone number. On the day of the conference I received a call from Pastor Rick, and before I could say anything, he told me what a fan he was. He had most of my albums from the very first one. What? This didn’t sound like a gay hater, much less a preacher. He explained in very thoughtful words that as a Christian he believed in equal rights for everyone. He believed every loving relationship should have equal protection. He struggled with proposition 8 because he didn’t want to see marriage redefined as anything other than between a man and a woman. He said he regretted his choice of words in his video message to his congregation about proposition 8 when he mentioned pedophiles and those who commit incest. He said that in no way, is that how he thought about gays. He invited me to his church, I invited him to my home to meet my wife and kids. He told me of his wife’s struggle with breast cancer just a year before mine.

When we met later that night, he entered the room with open arms and an open heart. We agreed to build bridges to the future.

I’d encourage you to read the whole article. I’m so encouraged by this subtle shift in the tide of this situation. The Church at large has done a horrendous job of showing the love of Christ through this whole situation. We stand up for truth really well, but we will trample anyone who gets in our way. I think it’s time for the church to figure out what it means to be as “conservative as Scripture but as liberal as love“. Kudos to Rick for walking the fine line in this situation.

(Ht: Brad)

Calvary’s Leadership Structure

My high school ministry is led by two people, myself and Melissa Brosch (in addition to a great team of interns and an administrative assistant). I interviewed with ten churches last year, and none of the others had this kind of leadership structure: two leaders with full-time salaries, benefits, equal authority, etc… Most churches would probably love to do this sort of thing but wouldn’t have the resources. Having this setup gives me the freedom to do things I otherwise wouldn’t be able to:

It frees me up to focus almost exclusively on the guys. I’m still a pastor to the whole group, but I’m not asked to do things that don’t come naturally (i.e. thinking like a woman). There’s just rarely a volunteer or part-time or “number two” person that can provide what a full-timer can. Imagine Mark Driscoll leading the Women’s Ministry at Mars Hill in Seattle… it just wouldn’t work. Would it?

It allows me to teach less and prepare more. So many pastors I know are teaching on Sundays and then trying to figure out what they’re going to say two days later (even if their topics are already laid out). It’s too much to ask of one person. Half the time pastors aren’t even pastors at all… they’re so busy coordinating events and doing other office work that they neglect the very things that they are called to do.

Over the next couple months I’m teaching on Sundays and Melissa is teaching on Wednesdays. We’ve got four other people on our high school staff that make all of this so, so, so much more exciting to be a part of. I’m so grateful that I’m not expected to be a Super Pastor every week!