Let’s face it, it’s much easier to leave Jesus out of missions. He gums up the works. Messes things up. Makes them awkward.

I’m part of an organization that mobilizes business for missions work around the world. It’s an awesome company, doing awesome work, both here and abroad. But I’ve noticed something interesting:

When I share with our staff (many who are not Christians) about the missions work we do, it’s so easy to tell them about the schools and the medical clinics we’ve helped start. It’s the stories about church planting and the proclamation of Jesus I struggle to craft. The excitement quickly morphs into uncomfortable silence. “Why’d you have to go and bring Him up?”

That leaves me in an interesting spot and pondering what will likely be a controversial statement for some of you:

Missions is about the proclamation of Jesus Christ and the establishment of The Church.

I know, I know, some of you are rushing to your Bible (or the latest millennial magazine article) to show me why I’m wrong. You’ll (mis)quote Francis of Assisi who (never really) said “preach the Gospel at all times and, if necessary, use words.” No one really knows where that came from by the way, as Assisi was a bold proclaimer of Jesus in everything that he did. Personally, I prefer Ed Stetzer’s rewrite:

“Preach the Gospel at all times, and because it’s necessary, use words.”

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Photo CreditivanCHANG

We humans have a unique ability to overcorrect, and today’s generation is understandably energized by “doing good.” That is a beautiful thing. We must do good works, serve the poor, respond to the oppressed, care for the orphan and the least of these (I can quote you all those scriptures, too) to live out or roles as Christ-followers in this world. But if the proclamation of the Gospel and the declaration of Jesus is not central, not on our lips, not the ultimate point, then we are not engaging in New Testament missions work.

Good works will accompany the proclamation of Jesus, but they cannot replace it. Jesus is the game changer.

I think there are two main reasons modern christians get uncomfortable with the idea of Gospel-proclamation and expansion of The Church as the ultimate focus of missions work:

1. Western Cynicism Toward The Church: I think many have become disillusioned with the idea of church in our western sphere. Pick your poison: too traditional, too institutional, poor leadership, too personality driven, too wealthy, too inward focused, too _____________. Because we’ve embraced cynicism toward The Church here, we don’t get real excited about the idea of replicating it elsewhere. But The Church, broken and imperfect, is God’s idea and has been His mechanism for spreading the Gospel message and His Kingdom to a broken and imperfect world. We’ve got 2000+ years to prove it.

2. Our Obsession with Being Liked: It’s a “how many likes can I get” world out there. I know, because I’m engaged in it, too. Addressing social ills and championing charitable endeavors garner positive media attention and “good feelings” from outsiders. Who doesn’t rally around anti-sex-trafficking and clean water? Adding Jesus to the mix just stirs up controversy and narrows our platform. And to make things worse, proclamation is associated with the obnoxious bull-horn preacher standing on his soap box and reading hellfire verses from the King James outside local sporting events. Who wants to be that guy? It’s easier to focus on the good we’re doing and just keep Jesus to ourselves. And in that, I fear we lose the whole point.

Just to be clear…

When we see the hungry, we feed them. When we see the naked, we clothe them, When we see the uneducated, we teach them. When we see marginalized and abused, we fight for them. But to everyone, at all times, and in all ways, we must proclaim the deity of Jesus, and His life, death, and resurrection as the only hope for this broken world.

With our mouths.

It’s not “we’re right and you’re wrong,” it’s “we’re all wrong and Jesus is the only One who can make things right.”

Missions cannot be over-simplified to “do good.” We must embrace the proclamation of Jesus (with our words) and the establishment of His Church to the ends of the earth. Good works will accompany our proclamation, but they cannot replace it. Let’s make sure that Jesus is “messing up” our missions work.

The Danger of Chasing Happiness

admin —  August 5, 2015 — 2 Comments

I went looking for happiness.

She’s hard to chase down.

I pursued her down many hidden corridors and back alleys, occasionally catching the faint gleams of her beautiful hair blowing in the early morning light.

To no avail.

She was there, and then she was gone. She was there, and then she was… 

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No wait! There she is! A faint silhouette! Her shadow dancing in the soft glow on the stone path ahead. Just over the hill, I see her now. Keep pushing on!

So we climbed. Up, up, up we pushed, the hem of her dress just beyond the reach of my straining fingertips. Feet grinding, stomping, pushing desperately for solid footing to propel me higher and closer to the object of my desire.

Almost there. Almost. There. Almost….


She collapsed beneath the weight of her passionate suitor. I had finally caught her! All those years of manic pursuit had paid off.

I had happiness. I finally had happiness.

I grasped her delicately by the back of her shoulders and slowly spun her graceful figure. I couldn’t wait to stare deeply into those beautiful, fulfilling eyes.

But oh, the horror!

Her face was distorted and mangled, and her eyes glared with a fiery hatred that sent fear deep into the recesses of my soul. I pushed her away in disgust. What is this?!

I pursued happiness, but I caught misery.

As I slowly regained my bearings, I looked back down the path we’d been so manically climbing, There laid the crushed remnants of joy, and friendship, and intimacy, and peace, crumbled beneath my feet as I desperately clambered after the happiness imposter.

You see, happiness is not a pursuit. It’s a byproduct.

Chase her, and you’ll never find her. Chase her, and you’ll find nothing but sorrow.

On the journey toward love, and service, and sacrifice, and adding value to the world – toward walking the path that puts loving God and loving others ahead of loving ourselves – happiness just shows up. She’s cool like that. It’s true. She always comes to hang out when you least expect it.

When you weren’t looking for her at all.

So what are you chasing?

My 13 year old is a drama queen. Yes, in the typical way drama oozes from an adolescent girl, but also in the strictest sense of the term. She loves acting, singing, the stage, all things thespian.

This summer, she attended a week-long drama camp and won the lead role in the end-of-the-week mini-production of Willy Wonka. There’s nothing like seeing your baby girl dressed in a purple velvet suit singing The Candy Man as grade school Oompa Loompa’s dance around her with glee. It was a proud moment, and we watched her stand up a little straighter and walk with a bit more confidence as she received accolades from her camp directors, fellow students, and the audience full of camera-happy parents.

There’s nothing like that first awakening of “hey, I’m pretty good at this, and other people are noticing.” Those are powerful, identity-shaping moments that can change us forever.

In beautiful and in dangerous ways.

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It hit me watching everyone’s favorite summer-time TV show, “America’s Got Talent” last week with the fam. An unknown performer steps nervously to the stage and wows the celebrity judges with a jaw-dropping presentation. The crowd erupts in wild applause and (cue the emotional music) the overwhelmed performer breaks down weeping beneath the mass approval.

It’s great television.

I think part of the reason we love it so much is because we all long for it so much. The way we view ourselves is shaped by how we are viewed by others, by their approval of our talents and abilities. Our identity is in the accolades, and the accolades are in our performance. But performance is a vicious taskmaster.

The truth is, our identity has been secured by the performance of Another. All the standing o’s are already ours because Jesus Christ took the stage on our behalf. And he crushed it (I mean seriously, best performance in a historical drama of all time). And because of what Jesus did, God’s applause is already raining down on you today. The approval you long for you already have when you put your faith in Him. Let that ovation overwhelm you to tears.

Because of Christ, our life performance becomes an act of love, not a frantic search for identity. The stage is yours, but the performance is already done. Find your rest and your identity in His thunderous applause today. He’s ready to give it to you (free of charge).

Re-Learning the Art of Prayer

admin —  July 1, 2015 — 1 Comment

This week, I was honored to share with my friends at The Point Church in Seymour, Indiana. This century-old church has continued to be a force for the Gospel under the leadership of senior pastor, Steve Greene. I love every chance I get to be with these beautiful people.

Steve left the topic to me, so I talked about an issue that has been messing with me in recent months: HOW TO PRAY BETTER PRAYERS.

Prayer is this ethereal, out-there thing we know we’re supposed to do, but we don’t always know what to say or how to really embrace it. Let’s be honest, prayer kinda weirds us out – talking to the air, asking things of an unseen God, grappling for words to say – and then we read verses like “pray without ceasing” and think, “man, I got a good 3 or 4 minutes in me max. Are you crazy?”

And guilt ensues.

Perhaps the reason we struggle to pray is less about technique and more about re-learning what prayer is actually all about in the first place. Here’s a few thoughts from me (and more importantly, from Jesus):

My daughter officially hit the varsity roster on her high school basketball team this year. She’s made some huge strides for a girl who had very little playing experience until her freshman year. With summer league upon us, every Tuesday and Thursday night in June is full of “pre-season” type games, as the team knocks off the offseason rust, integrates a new crop of players, and learns to work as a team again.

I’ve been keeping the stats book for most of the games, so I get to sit close to the bench and check players in and out of the lineup. I looked up from my pencil-scratches last night to see my daughter kneeling next to me at the scoring bench.

“I’m going in for #5,” she said.

Ignoring my official duties for a few seconds of fatherly advice, I leaned into her ear and waxed some parental eloquence.

“You belong here. Go out there and act like it.”

You see, a portion of our performance isn’t talent, it’s mindset. It’s being at rest with yourself so your actions are focused outward, and aren’t all about hedging your fears and internal insecurities.

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Photo Credit: ColorBlind Images

Today, I found myself in a meeting with giants. Not literal beanstalk kind of giants. Spiritual giants. Men who have accomplished incredible feats over decades of faithful work. On my way to the meeting venue, I was feeling small. Extremely small.

What do I have to offer? What will they think of my perspectives? I don’t have the experience, the skill, or the resume. Maybe I’ll just stay quiet, nod my head, and morph my opinion to match their proposals.

I was quickly shrinking into myself, and it was no different than my daughter posting up against that six footer in the lane the night before.

That’s when I remembered my own paternal pep talk.

You belong here. Go out there and act like it.

Let’s be honest, no one likes an overconfident hack. A big mouth. A pompous blowhard. But I find that extreme timidity and fear-filled reservation are really fueled by the exact same thing:


When my focus is on me, I’m either overconfident in my ability to perform or terrified of my potential embarrassment. Either way, I am at the center. It’s like filling your camera roll with “spiritual selfies.” Life doesn’t work well when I’m constantly obsessing over who I am.

For believers in Jesus Christ, our identity was settled at “it is finished.” That’s freedom my friends. Freedom from the tyranny of me. Freedom to walk into any room at complete rest and peace with who you are. If everything I need in Christ I already have, then I can engage anyone – from the Pope to the homeless guy on the street – with a boldness birthed in love. The gospel is the only source of this kind of confidence.

“All of our praise rises to the One who is strong enough to make you strong…”
–Romans 16:25

You belong here. Go out there and act like it.