Leadership, Pastors, Posts I Consider to be the Most Important, Sermon Illustrations

Hope for the 21st Century (Part 1)

//Twitterized Version//

21st century America looks a lot like 18th century England. John Wesley brought hope to 18th century England in a way that we need now. They way he did it may surprise you…


//Untwitterized Version//

As Hannah and I get closer to having our first child, due December 29, I’ve been thinking about the future and about what kind of world our son will grow up in.

It goes without stating that the past couple of years have been very difficult for America. Those of us who have stable jobs have a lot to be thankful for, but there seems to be a general malaise over our country. Some are angry. Most of us are skeptical of the government, religious leaders, companies, etc. The U.S. will be  deeply in debt for years.

The future just doesn’t seem as bright as it did three or four years ago, and there is a real need for hope and optimism. Here are some thoughts about how the past might shed some light on our future and inspire a bright hope for a the 21st century…

18th century England was a time of uncertainty  and change.

The people could barely keep up. The Industrial Revolution and even advances in farming technology changed life as they knew it. Migration changed where people lived. Life felt uprooted. Before the 18th century, for the past 8,000 – 10,000 years, most people lived in the country and worked on farms. Now, machines did things that people used to do.

Massive political change was on the horizon, culminating with revolutions in France and the 13 Colonies. England fought civil wars and wars with neighboring countries. They were the world’s superpower, but it came at a price for the poor. Only the rich companies and their owners benefitted. The future looked as though the chances of it being threatening were as good as being hopeful.

The world just didn’t feel right. Society seemed less than human.

The ultimate questions of life seemed unanswerable. The Age of Reason was supposed to have provided all of the answers, but while reason made new freedoms possible, it also left life feeling mechanical, like the new machines filling the cities.

The Church of England was wrapped up in politics and had become stale and out of touch with life. Religion just did not meet the needs felt by the people. Gin, the new affordable drink, was more temporarily effective.

With the arrival of the steam engine and other technologies, the poor flooded into cities seeking work. Child labor in factories became the norm. Slavery was big business. Public health was horrible. Sugar became the favorite food of the masses because it supplied temporary energy but resulted in bad health and fatigue. Smallpox was the feared disease. The gap between the rich and the poor was enormous, and the rich profited on the hard work and ill health of the poor.


Stripped image of John Wesley

Image via Wikipedia

John Wesley

It was into this world that John Wesley was born. The Oxford grad student and new clergyman in the Church of England felt the same emptiness that most people felt, but he was willing to take drastic measures to make life livable.

He believed that nurturing the soul through disciplines would bring a sense of warmth and life, but, like the new technology, discipline alone seemed to be coldly mechanical. Other grad students at Oxford made fun of Wesley’s methods of spiritual growth by calling him and his friends “Methodists”.

He was willing to go to great lengths to make the world a better place. He attempted to be a good person and live a good life by serving the Native Americans in the new colony of Georgia. After experiencing conflict with local political leaders and being rejected by the woman he proposed to, however, he realized that he could not even change himself, let alone the world.

As Wesley returned to England, he remembered what had happened on the ship to America. A severe storm had damaged the ship so badly that Wesley and some of the other passengers feared they might die. It was during this storm that Wesley witnessed what would eventually change his life…

Leadership, Pastors, Sermon Illustrations, Uncategorized

What are Your Themes?

Great question from Mark Batterson, pastor of National Community Church in Washington, D.C. Even if you are not a pastor, his question still applies to you.

Life goes by too quickly, and every day is too important to not live according to some kind of personal mission. Don’t let another day go by without really thinking through specifically what you stand for and deciding to live intentionally for that.

I’ve found that if I can’t write my personal mission, it’s too fuzzy, to unfocused, for me to be intentional about living it out. Can you write your theme, your personal mission, in one sentence?

Click on the link to read more:


(Also visit “Before He was THE Woody Hayes” here.)

Pastors, Sermon Illustrations, Uncategorized

Justin Bieber Confusion

This 35 year old man is named Justin Bieber. Poor guy. He’s been kicked off facebook for using his real name and gets calls from teenagers at all hours of the night.

Click on the link to watch the video (notice the gum ball machine in his living room!)…

Justin Bieber, 35, Often Confused For Star – Video – KMBC Kansas City.

There are a bunch of sermon illustrations in here!


Leadership, Pastors, Sermon Illustrations

The Social Network (Part 2)

(continued from “The Social Network (Part 1)“)

According to the movie, Mark Zuckerberg didn’t want facebook to sell advertising space because if it did, it would lose the cool factor. He wanted facebook to stay cool so it would grow. He was willing to delay financial gratification, wait to make money, and let facebook take off before trying to cash in on it.

1. At Leadership Institute, Bob Johanson spoke about reciprocity becoming even more important in the next ten years.

He stated that “makers”, people who create things, should give their ideas away and allow others to make them better. Instead of trying to package every idea to make money, reciprocity means that I give, others will give too, and everyone benefits.

For example, a blogger might post ideas and sermons for free and let others use them, modify them, and make them better. We will all benefit more by giving our ideas away.

Yesterday, the youth pastor at Stonybrook gave me a Seth Godin booklet that Seth gave (gave = free) to everyone at the Catalyst conference this year. It’s called Graceful.

In Graceful, Seth wrote an entry entitled, “Giving, receiving, giving” (p. 17), in which he states pretty much the same idea as Bob Johanson. Give your ideas away, and allow others to run with them and make them better.

2. This requires that a leader be secure enough to allow others to modify her or his ideas.

Jim Collins writes about the Level 5 Leader, a leader who is secure enough to be humble and who embodies the cause. The Level 5 Leader creates a movement (Read “The Level 5 Leader“).

I think that it takes this kind of humbleness and the willingness to embody a cause to believe in reciprocity. Humble leaders who are passionately sold out to their cause are willing to give ideas away.

3. A perfect example also came from the Leadership Institute.

Steve Hawn, a VP at Hallmark, showed two videos about a new Hallmark product called Storybook. It is a storybook that enables the reader to record her or his voice. Then, whoever opens the storybook can hear that person’s voice reading the story.

The highest consumer group is grandparents who record themselves reading the book and then send it to their grandchildren. Expecting my first child this December, this choked me up a little bit.

Steve then shared a story about how someone used Storybook in a way Hallmark never anticipated.

An American couple is in the process of adopting a child from an overseas country. They bought a Storybook, recorded their voices reading the story, and then mailed it to the little boy they are in the process of adopting. They wanted him to hear their voices so he could get used to them and feel comforted by their voices when he arrives in the U.S.!

A stay at home mom might start a support group for moms or blog about being a mom. A businessperson might give a product away. A pastor might mentor other pastors for free.  An attorney might volunteer at a free legal clinic, etc.


  • How are you sharing some of your ideas with others for free?
  • Are you intentional about sharing your ideas? If not, why don’t you get in the game? We need your ideas.
  • What would it look like for you to share your ideas, product, skills, etc.? How would you do it?
  • What would it feel like knowing that you have made other people better by sharing some of your contributions for free?
Leadership, Pastors, Sermon Illustrations, Uncategorized

The Social Network (Part 1)

(If you haven’t seen it yet, there are no spoilers here.)

After the last session of Leadership Institute at Church of the Resurrection, our church staff went to see The Social Network at the AMC theater in Leawood, KS. It’s the first time I’ve ever paid $12 to see a movie, but that’s life in Leawood, the Beverly Hills of Kansas.

Before I saw it, I was shocked when I first read last week that rottentomatoes.com gave it a 97%. After the seeing the movie, however, I agree that it’s very good. The actors are convicing (even Justin Timberlake is believable), the soundtrack is cool (by Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails), and the plotline moved along well enough to keep my attention throughout the entire movie.

1. What I liked most was the character development, specifically one aspect of it.

There is no hero.

In my experience, at least, this is true to life. We’re often tempted to look at events in black and white terms, all good or all bad, heros and villains, but in my experience, this either/or does not reflect reality.

I believe that all of us have mixed motives for what we do. I’m not sure that anyone acts out of completely pure motives. We may have a main reason for what we’re doing, but in my experience, there may also be various sub-motives.

A person may volunteer at a charity because of altruistic motives, but mixed in, is also a desire for purpose and maybe even recognition. A person may also relieve guilt by volunteering. This doesn’t make the person “bad” or selfish. It makes them (and us) complex… human.

2. Another aspect I liked was the way friendships were portrayed.

Obviously, the title references facebook, but it’s also about the social network of facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg. It’s a network of friendship and conflict. Of course, it’s hard to know what in the movie is fact vs. artistic license.

In all of our networks, aren’t our relationships a mixture of friendship and conflict? When we’re with the people we love, sometimes we just want to savor the moment and remember it forever. If we could take a snapshot and keep things just like this, it would be heaven.

Then there are times when, let’s just say, we don’t feel that way about the people we love. We’ll leave it at that. Sometimes we even try to run away from a relationship whenever it involves conflict.

Friendship is a mixture of agreement and conflict. You can’t have one without the other.

(I’ll post more thoughts about The Social Network this week.)

Leadership, Pastors, Sermon Illustrations

Impact of Church of the Resurrection On My Life (Part 2)

(cont. from “Impact of Church of the Resurrection On My Life“)

I went home and looked up the church online. I was at a place in my life in which I needed hope immediately, so I did not wait for Sunday. I drove to the church building, and as strange as this sounds, I just sat in the parking lot. I felt like it was a holy place. I believe it was a Thursday, so there were only a few cars in the parking lot, but I just sat in my car and prayed.

I noticed the new building and the vast undeveloped land and parking lot. I could tell that this was a church, or more specifically, a pastor, with vision. I got out of my car and walked into the Narthex that I could tell was formerly a sanctuary. Then I saw the plaque above the threshold to the sanctuary. If I remember correctly, it read, “Let us never forget our purpose”. I was hooked without even attending a worship service.

I returned either that Saturday evening or Sunday morning, and I loved the service and Adam Hamilton’s approach to preaching. His intentionality about welcoming guests was crystal clear, both in the service and following. I was “mugged” a few days later. Volunteers from COR deliver a free coffee mugs to all first-time guests.

I felt grateful that someone had driven all the way to my apartment in Merriam, KS to deliver a mug. The mug now sits on a shelf in my office, and I keep the welcome card in my copy of Leading Beyond the Walls. According to the name on the card, the volunteer who delivered the mug was Margaret Nelson.

Over the next six months that I lived in Kansas City, I attended worship at the Church of the Resurrection every week. I fell in love with the church and brought friends. It was formative for me.

I saw a church that is compassionate, intellectually honest, intentional about fulfilling Christ’s mission, and relevant to the culture around it. I remember arriving for one of the Christmas Eve services and sitting in Narthex because so many people had jammed into the building. I will never forget the incredible number of new people who came to the church for theLove, Marriage, and Sex sermon series in January.

In February 2002, I moved back to Ohio, and I have continued to follow the ministry of Church of the Resurrection since then.I regularly watch sermons online. It enables those of us who live outside of Kansas City to experience COR from a distance, and my preaching has benefitted greatly from Adam Hamilton’s example.

COR is doing much-needed ministry, not only in Kansas City but in mainline denominations and beyond. Both mainline and evangelical churches need to hear Rev. Hamilton’s voice, especially in a divided world of black and white.

I am COR’s ministry and its influence on my life. I hope that I serve as another reminder that the difficult decisions COR has made over the years in order to “reach non-religious and nominally religious people and help them become committed followers of Jesus Christ” have been used by God in life-changing and ministry-saving ways.

My wife, Hannah, and I are committed to serving in ministry at Stonybrook, and I plan to plant a new United Methodist congregation at some point in the future. Thank you to Adam Hamilton and the members of COR whose service has had such an impact on my life.

Leadership, Pastors, Uncategorized

Impact of Church of the Resurrection On My Life (Part 1)

This is a long story, but if you’re in need of a boost in your faith, this will do the job. It’s a great story…

I currently serve as a non-ordained associate pastor at Stonybrook United Methodist Church in Gahanna, OH and am early in the process of ordination.

My grandmother, who was the most influential person in my life, served as a layspeaker in her United Methodist congregation when I was a child. When the pastor was away, she gave the sermons. So, my exposure to Methodism began at birth.

When I graduated from Mount Vernon Nazarene University in Mount Vernon, OH in 2001, I moved to Kansas City to serve in a church. I had sought the position, and a professor told me that it was the opportunity of a lifetime and that it would put me on the “fast track” in our denomination.

I had been involved in a new church plant in my hometown of Marion, OH prior to moving, however, and I was not prepared for the transition into an established, denominational church. The experience at the church was disappointing, and I actually resigned on the morning of 9/11.

In our weekly Tuesday staff meeting, a pastor who was periodically leaving the room to listen to the radio reports came back and told us that the Pentagon had just been struck. Then, it was my turn to speak and turn in my resignation.

2001 had already been a difficult year for me. In February, I had a falling out with the church planting pastor with whom I had been serving. He had taken me under his wing when I was 19 and allowed me to be his right hand man in the church plant.

The church grew to 500 weekly attendees in five years in a town of 35,000 people. Lives were changed, and I sensed a call to church planting. His character was questionable, however. He was manipulative and less than honest, and I left the church in February 2001. One year later, he was let go from the church for indiscretion.

Then, one month later, in March 2001, I went through a broken engagement. My new fiancé and I had been dating for two years and got engaged in December. Needless to say, it was very painful and emotionally draining experience. That spring, I graduated from college and moved to Kansas City.

Following my resignation from the church on 9/11, my life had fallen apart. Words cannot express the despair that I felt. I had lost both my mentor and my best friend/fiancé and also what was supposed to be a promising start to my ministry career.

I longed to be part of a growing, dynamic church in which new persons were experiencing God’s grace. I felt profoundly alone, alone not only in my personal life but in my dreams for ministry, as well. Ministry felt like such a fight when I knew that it did not have to be.

I knew that it was possible for a church to be relevant to the culture and a community in which non-religious people could encounter the Christ of Scripture in a life-transforming way. I just felt a million miles from a church like that.

One of the greatest blessings of my life, however, is that I was actually only a few miles away. Around that time, I had already heard more than one person mention this church called Church of the Resurrection. I wondered what this church was about that would cause such word of mouth discussion.

The final straw came when I overheard two ladies in a grocery store talking about the church. I thought, “What kind of church is this that I hear about it in the cereal aisle?”

(To be continued… I’ll post part 2 soon.)