“John answered, saying to all, ‘I indeed baptize you with water; but one mightier than I is coming, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to loose.  He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.’”[1]John the Baptizer speaking of Jesus

“We believe that there is an experience of the empowering of the Holy Spirit in the life of a believer that is distinct and separate from the indwelling of the Spirit that takes place at conversion.”[2] – Chuck Smith

“The baptism with the Spirit was not optional for the apostles nor should it be for us.  Jesus had commissioned them to go into all the world with the gospel, but commanded them to wait in Jerusalem until they were endued with power from heaven.  Jesus saw this as absolutely essential to fulfilling their calling.  And I believe it is essential for us in the twenty-first century as well.  The Lord wants to empower us for ministry.”[3]Brian Brodersen

Discerning whether or not Jesus has called you to church planting is essential if you’re thinking about becoming a church planter.  There is more to have than a clear sense of calling though before you step out into the adventure of church planting.  The mission of church planting is a spiritual offensive on the kingdom of darkness.  You come against powers beyond yourself on the mission field.  That reality makes it necessary for the church planter to access a power beyond himself that is even greater than that of the kingdom of darkness if he wants to survive the mission.  He needs the very power of God through the reception of the baptism with the Holy Spirit (or Spirit-filling if you like).  Only then will he even be able to begin to be truly effective in the mission of Jesus.


The Personal War

Jesus conveyed this message to me in a very interesting way shortly after I arrived with my family in Utah to plant Refuge Church.  Early on in the life of the church I began to experience intense opposition.  I went through a season where I dealt with a lot of physical affliction.  I came down with swine flu, shingles, successive intense and unusual chest colds, culminating with an episode of stomach flu which left me puking my guts out all day, every day, for a week.

The physical pressure I was under at that time gave way to spiritual pressure.  As things intensified bit-by-bit the enemy began to tempt me to doubt God’s call and favor on our lives as we endeavored to start a new church in enemy territory.  I was getting really frustrated and insecure in some ways.  In the heat of all this, the Lord gave me what I now know was my first truly prophetic dream.   In the dream my wife Jen and I came to a large open field that was over-run with people participating in demonic worship.  They were dancing in worship in an absolutely chaotic frenzy.  There was an intense sense of darkness in the atmosphere around us.  It was freaky!

As the dream shifted gears, suddenly Jen and I were standing before a fence overlooking the field where we had before witnessed the satanic gathering.  Now it was broad daylight and we could see the narrow cliffs lining both sides of the field stretching far out into the horizon.  Jen and I were passionately praying over the field.  We were crying out to God to take that land from the power and kingdom of darkness and possess it for the kingdom of Jesus Christ.  We prayed for Him to use us as He took the enemy’s territory for Jesus!

And then it came.  As we prayed a giant and seriously intimidating red horse emerged from the field.  The horse came charging out of the field through an open gate a few yards from where we were praying.  I braced myself as the horse reared up to trample me down and kill me.  Then perhaps the craziest thing happened; As the beast lifted up to stomp me, I grabbed it’s front legs and twisted them until the horse was forced to the ground in submission.  After it was defeated the horse vanished and we were safe.  At that moment I woke up feeling really spiritually affected as I’m sure you can imagine.

As I prayed over the vision during the next few days the Holy Spirit granted the interpretation of the dream to us.  He reminded us that the picture of a field is often symbolic in the Bible of places in the world where He intends to bring His Kingdom.[4]  He showed me that in my dream the field represented Utah, the place He had called us to be some of the instruments through which He would bring His Kingdom.  In the dream He was confirming to us that as we work and pray for the coming of the kingdom of Christ in Utah, we would experience opposition that was too great for us to overcome on our own.  The opposition we would face as we served Jesus in Utah was represented by the horse coming out of the field to stop us as we prayed.  The ending of the dream in which I twisted the horse’s arms until it was forced into submission was a word of encouragement.  It was a declaration that even though the opposition would be great, we would ultimately overcome it through a power greater than our own, the power of God the Holy Spirit!  Even in the dream I was amazed that I was overpowering this fierce animal, and knew that something had to be working with me to accomplish this.  It was the power of God.

Where the Power’s at

The word of God given to the prophet Zechariah summarizes what the Lord was telling me through that dream in regard to what would make us successful as we fought on the front lines in spiritual battle as church planters.  Our ability to be successful and push back the gates of hell in Utah would come, “Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ says the LORD of hosts.”[5]

We’ve made relying on the leading and power of the Holy Spirit to accomplish the mission of Jesus through Refuge Church our relentless pursuit from the first moments we sensed Jesus was calling us to plant.  The Lord was reminding us through this dream to continue on in that mindset as we served Him in Utah.  As we’ve sought to obey Him in this we’ve seen the Holy Spirit continue to move through our local assembly of believers in powerful and undeniable ways.  It’s so exciting to watch the Spirit of God work through the people of God, for the glory of the Son of God, Jesus Christ!


The Need

Jesus spoke of the need for His missionaries to access the power of the Holy Spirit for their mission as much as anyone else did in the New Testament.  Consider a couple texts and their implications for the call to missionary church planting:


“And being assembled together with them He commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the Promise of the Father, ‘Which,’ He said, ‘you have heard from Me; for John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now…you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.’”[6]


These verses describe the last interaction that Jesus had with the apostles before He ascended into heaven.  This is what He wanted to leave fresh in their minds as He was sending them out into the world to continue the ministry He had started during His time on earth.  They were about to go preaching the gospel, discipling believers, healing the hurting, and church planting as the kingdom came on earth.  They were to start in Jerusalem and not stop until Jesus had a witness in every nation, even to the ends of the earth.  But they were to attempt none of this until they received the empowerment of the Holy Spirit!  Without the Holy Spirit leading and empowering every aspect of their missionary lives they would be absolutely helpless to successfully accomplish the work to which Jesus had called them.

Luke records the concern Jesus had that his men understand their need for Holy Spirit empowerment at the end of the gospel He wrote as well:

“Then He said to them, ‘Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day, and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.  And you are witnesses of these things.  Behold, I send the Promise of My Father upon you; but tarry in the city of Jerusalem until you are endued with power from on high.”[7]

The importance of experiencing the empowerment of the Holy Spirit for the work of church planting is clearly something that Jesus wants us to thoroughly understand.  If we think that we can be clever enough, cool enough, strong enough, strategic enough, or inspiring enough to bring people from spiritual death to life and beat back the gates of hell, we are at best naïve, biblically uniformed, prideful, and far from the heart of Jesus.  The work of God requires the power of God.  It is that simple.

As we venture out to the front lines where the kingdom of darkness and the kingdom of light meet in battle, which is exactly what we do when we enter into the work of church planting, we must consciously, prayerfully, dependently, and daily receive and rely on the empowerment of the Holy Spirit to make our mission fruitful.  If you don’t believe that, or aren’t prepared to walk in the power of the Spirit by God’s grace, DON’T PLANT A CHURCH!

Horses Vs Tanks

          I once heard a story of a cavalry unit that charged into battle against an armored tank division.  The cavalry unit was the last resort of defense for a country not as advanced militaristically as their invaders.  I’m sure it goes without saying that the cavalry unit was utterly destroyed!  Why? They didn’t have the adequate fire-power or equipment to even come close to overpowering the enemy they faced.  I would submit to you based on the words of Jesus Christ that if we try to be victorious in church planting over the opposition we face in the demonic realm without relying on the power of the Holy Spirit, we are a billion times more foolish, and will be far more fruitless than that cavalry unit ended up being as they challenged that armored tank division.  In the words of brilliant theologian, captain Kirk: “We just-don’t-have-the power![8]

Ten days after Jesus ascended back into heaven from where He came, the disciples did in fact experience the promised empowerment of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost.  As they prayed in the upper room the Holy Spirit came upon them in power.  He manifested His power through them first by enabling them to worship God in languages unknown to them,[9] and later through the powerful preaching[10] of the gospel through which 3,000 people became born again.[11]  Since that time, all followers of the biblical Jesus have access to the empowerment and various gifts of the Holy Spirit[12] which He distributes according to His will as we seek and desire them.[13]

Summary and Exhortation

As believers, pastors, elders, and church planters, the empowerment of the Holy Spirit is an absolute must in our lives!  If you’re not seeking the power, don’t attempt the work.  If you want to experience the daily empowering of the Holy Spirit all you need to do is continually meet with Jesus in the word of God,[14] pray over the mission you’ve received from Jesus,[15] and ask to receive a fresh work of the Spirit in your life from the Father. [16]  It’s a gift.  We don’t have to beg for it; just receive it.  May we not have dead words!  May we have powerful biblical messages to share as we preach the Bible to the church and the gospel to the world because we depend upon the power of the Holy Spirit alone for our success, just like Jesus[17] and Paul did![18]

[1] Luke 3:16 NKJV

[2] Smith, Chuck. Calvary Chapel Distinctives. Page 31.

[3] Brodersen, Brian. Essentials in Ministry. Page 27.

[4] Matthew 13:38-44

[5] Zechariah 4:6

[6] Acts 1:4-5 & 8 NKJV

[7] Luke 24:46-49 NKJV

[8] Random Numerous Star Trek Episodes, Captain Kirk

[9] Acts 2:1-4

[10] Acts 2:14-39

[11] Acts 2:41

[12] Acts 2:39

[13] 1 Corinthians 12:11 & 14:1; Ephesians 5:17-18

[14] Colossians 3:16

[15] Acts 4:31

[16] Luke 11:9-13; 1 Corinthians 14:1; Acts 9:17

[17] Luke 4:1

[18] 1 Corinthians 2:4-5

Note- The above excerpt is taken from the book “The Spirit-led Mission” by Kellen Criswell

MOTROW by Trip Kimball

MOTROW— no, not Motrin, nor is this some phony, phonetic attempt at saying Montreal with a peculiar accent. It’s an acronym, a set of letters that stand for something, but more on that in a bit. I use acronyms, but don’t always like them. Acronyms are big in special fields of study and institutions, like government for example. They’re great shortcuts, especially when writing, so you don’t have to waste time and effort writing all those words. The problem is understanding what they mean. Unless there’s some familiarity with the acronym, it may look like a jumble of letters or something written in code—actually, it is code, it’s symbolic.

Anyway, back to MOTROW. It stands for Most Of The Rest Of the World—a phrase I’ve kept using as a catch-all expression. In some circles this was called the “two-thirds world.” World missions organizations use the term “majority world.” What nations does this include? It’s easier to say what it doesn’t include—the USA, Canada, Australia, England. Even that list is too broad for what I mean by MOTROW, so let me narrow it down.

First of all, nations, as the Bible describes them, are called people groups—people with a distinct culture and language (or dialect) regardless of their geographic location or political government. There are thousands and thousands (16,696 to be exact) scattered throughout the world, ranging in population from several thousand to a few million. You can see a list of people groups on the Joshua Project website for a complete index. Over 40% of these people groups are considered unreached with the Gospel, having no Christian witness or community among them.

A real distinction of MOTROW is how the world is seen, called a worldview. MOTROW consists of non-western cultures. By non-western I mean how people think, interact with others, and live out their lives. This has to do with priorities and values. Americans (and similar western cultures) focus on time and tasks—getting a job done and using time efficiently (“time is money!”). MOTROW is focused on people and events, and events are important because of the people involved or celebrated in the events.

For example—in America, a wedding is typically focused on the couple being married, the venue, the style or theme of the wedding, and so on. In MOTROW, the couple are important, but so are family and friends. My first glimpse of this was in the Philippines. On the wedding night following the ceremony and reception, many close friends hung around till late in the evening with the bride and groom in their bridal suite (cottage). Anniversaries, in a similar way, aren’t celebrated by the couple alone, but with family and friends. MOTROW is more about community than individuality.

Another distinction is thought process connected to living. In America, we tend to be more concerned with the destination than the journey itself, and with test scores than the usability of what is learned. We, along with most western-oriented cultures, tend to think in a straight line, analytically. This is both a great strength and weakness. Others from around the world (MOTROW) come to America, enrolling in our schools to learn this capacity. It is valuable. It’s a weakness when we become so focused and driven that important life realities are neglected—relationships, quality of life, creativity, inspiration, peace of mind and heart, spiritual needs, you get the idea.

So, how does this relate to anyone, especially in America? There’s a couple things that come to mind. MOTROW has been moving into the good ol’ US of A for the past few decades. There are many people groups living in communities (usually urban areas), often isolated and bewildered by American culture. Thankfully, there are some churches and communities reaching out to them, but not nearly enough to meet these needs. There are great opportunities for reaching the world with the Gospel right here in the US, and many people and ministries are doing so.

The second thing is, most Americans are oblivious to MOTROW—inside America or outside. Our news about the outside world is limited, edited, almost non-existent. The internet has helped, but only if you’re looking for world news. Even then, it’s still pretty limited. Reading and hearing the news outside the US is quite different. Political and cultural views of the world and America are from a different worldview. Stands to reason, and it gives anyone willing to consider it an opportunity to see things differently.

So, look around wherever you live. There’s likely a people group or two from MOTROW near you. Have you already recognized people from MOTROW around you? Have you had any interaction with them? If you’re not ready to reach out or help them in some direct way, start praying for them, learn about them (see the Joshua Project website), and eventually engage them. Your perspective on life and the world will change. Your world will expand!


Trip came to know the Lord after wandering through a maze of eastern religions and philosophies during the 60′s. He was baptized in water and the Holy Spirit during 1971 at Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa. In 1972, along with his wife, Susan, he was called into full-time ministry, serving in various capacities and ministries in the US and overseas since that time.

He planted and pastored a church in southern California in 1978 (Joshua Springs Calvary Chapel in Yucca Valley, CA), and began serving full-time in the Philippines and South East Asia in 1990. Susan and he established Rainbow Village Ministries in 1991, and Trip was the founding director of the Calvary Chapel Training Center in 1995. Trip also served with Calvary Chapel of Dumaguete City as an associate pastor and board member.

Presently, Trip and Susan live in Jacksonville Beach, FL and continue as directors of Rainbow Village Ministries in the Philippines.

Trip is currently involved with discipleship within a local church body, as well as traveling within the US and overseas to teach and train leaders.

Progressive Revelation: “Do The Next Thing”

When the Israelites crossed the Jordan River into the Promised Land, God dried up the Jordan for them, and they crossed over on dry land.

God then told them to set up Memorial Stones in Gilgal, so that when their children asked about those stones, they would tell their story of God’s faithfulness to them.

I want to share some of my story regarding my experiences in Mexico.  Some of you have heard this a few times.  If that is the case, skip forward to the latest photo album, courtesy of Pastor Sam Scotti, of Genesis in Upland.  Sam has posted images of our latest Leadership Conference.  Thanks Sam.

The images are under the “Vizcaino Conference 2008″ folder and if you double click on the photos they will enlarge.

FYI…current photos can be found at

The Story…

I was on staff at Calvary Chapel, Costa Mesa from 1989-1991.  During that time, I was singing in a band called The Mirrors.  The Iron Curtain fell, and Eastern Europe opened up to the West.  We traveled with Brian Broderson (then pastor of CC Vista, CA) to Yugoslavia and Hungary, and sang and shared about Jesus.  Lots of young people got saved, and churches were birthed.

I traveled back to Yugoslavia and Hungary for a number of years, speaking at conferences that those young churches held.  Eventually, I also taught some in Austria.  Eastern Europe was my mission field for a time.

One year while serving at a conference in Budapest, I became increasingly uncomfortable with my involvement in Eastern Europe. Nothing was wrong, and I loved the people, but I felt out of place.  As I prayed one night, the Lord spoke to my heart, and gave me the impression that my new mission field would be in a Spanish speaking country.  There were no more details than that.  I immediately planned to not re-visit Eastern Europe and participate as I had done for a number of years.

I began asking around about missions opportunities in Mexico.  I was directed to La Posada in Rosarito, Baja.  I felt like I had found my place regarding foreign missions. We visited La Posada three times a year for a number of years.

One year, Victor Mayoral, former director and pastor at La Posada, invited me to go with him to Vizcaino, Baja Sur (South).  It’s 500 miles south of the U.S./Mexico border. He said that not a lot of outreach was happening there.  We went, and a few months later, took a group of pastors to tour the area.  During that first pastoral tour, I was impressed with the need for us to offer a Leadership Conference for pastors in the region.  We talked with them, and discerned that they needed encouragement and support.  The Municipality of Mulege takes 5-6 hours to drive across.  Vizcaino is located in the middle of the municipality.

Long story short: We bought 3 1/2 acres there, and are currently building a missions base with the help of other Calvary Chapels.  We have hosted 8 Annual Leadership Conference, with pastors and leaders from many different denominations.  We have planted a church which is pastored by a Mexican national.  We have two full time missionaries living on our property.  As many as 10 churches are now or have been involved in ministry in Vizcaino.  God has added many workers to this effort.

There is much more to the story, but take note of this: Our walk with the Lord is a journey, a process, and progressive revelation.  There is nothing wrong with planning, but far too often, our plans are only hunches, guesses, and good ideas.  As we obey what God is telling us, and as we take the next step and do the next thing, He shows us more of His plan.  We can never see the 2nd or 3rd step until we have taken the next step, and obeyed the Lord in the thing that is before us.  A favorite phrase of mine, originally coined by Elisabeth Elliot is this:  “Do the next thing”.

Don’t get frustrated or feel defeated if you can’t figure the big picture.  “Do the next thing.”  As you obey what is before you, the Lord opens up a new panorama.  Then share your story with others regarding God’s leading and His faithfulness.

The Mission of the People of God – Daniel Fusco @ Calvary Monterey


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Tinkering with the “worship” portion of our Worship Service

The reality of loving, leading, and pastoring a local church requires regular trips into what can some times be best described as a “wrestling ring” without end.  For myself and most of the other pastors I know, wrestling with one or more issues regarding the way we are “doing” church is fairly normal.  In fact, one of the things I’ve especially appreciated about this blog is the willingness of some of the contributors to be incredibly honest and transparent about the things they are wrestling with now or what they’ve learned from the wrestling matches they’ve had in the past with various issues.

As I reflect on the myriad of ministry related wrestling matches I’ve had in my own mind and heart over the past 25 years, some of what I’ve wrestled with has had to with the content and format/structure of our Sunday morning and/or Mid-week services.

What I’ve noticed is this:   It’s always easy but not always healthy to fall into a comfortable, repetitive pattern in our “worship services”.  I’ve learned that it’s healthy for me and for my some of my key leaders to regularly ask questions about everything we do, including the way we “do” our services.  These are some of the questions that I like to challenge myself and other key leaders with in this area:

–What are the existing components of each of our church services? (For example: the welcome, opening prayer, bulletin/information segment, worship in song, offering, message, and so forth).

–Why do we place those components in the order that we do?

–Why do we feel those components are important enough to be a part of the service?

–Is it time to modify, drop, or replace some of those components with other components?

–If so, what other components should be added and why?

What I’ve learned from my own experience and from others is that the format/structure of each church service is usually the result of the convictions held primarily by the senior pastor, even though he usually seeks input from other key leaders.  Understandably, the convictions the senior pastor holds have been influenced by his previous experiences in the services of the church he was launched out from along with what he has been exposed to in the other churches he had been a part of previously.

Although there are some minor differences from one church to another regarding what components make up the format/structure of the service and the order those components take place in, the majority of church services are fairly similar. Realistically, and rightfully so, the format/structure and components of a church service should be culturally relevant and will some times reflect certain aspects of the culture, (like musical style), the church exists in the midst of.

With all of the above as the backdrop, I’d like to share two things I’ve wrestled with for many years regarding the worship in song component of our Sunday morning service in particular and two changes God has called us to make within the last year.


If myself or almost all other pastors I know were told that our church services could only contain two components, I believe most of us would say that one component should be worship in song and the other should be the message–the teaching or preaching of God’s Word.  Those two are the “biggies”, the “pillars”, the “bedrock” that everything else rests upon.  I certainly believe this way.

But, which of the two of those should be the highest priority?  It’s clear from the way most church services are structured that the message–the teaching or preaching of God’s Word is what is THE highest priority.  Because of that conviction, the worship in song component of the service is many times relegated to what is basically an introduction or a time of preparation for what really matters–God’s Word!

In this way of thinking, the corporate worship in song by the body isn’t viewed as being a worthy end in itself, its true value is in it’s ability to prepare God’s people’s hearts to receive God’s Word.  I’ve actually heard a few pastors make a statement like “let’s prepare our hearts for God’s Word now by worshiping Him in song”.

That  perspective was even passed on to me personally my first few years walking with the Lord.  Older and more mature pastors and church members always encouraged me to pray and worship the Lord in song before getting into His Word so that my heart and mind would be prepared for what He would speak to me.  I tried what they said and sure enough, it did seem to do just that for me.  So far so good.

But then, the wheels of that perspective started coming off.  The wobbling of the wheels started one Sunday morning when God grabbed my heart through the message and all I wanted to do in response was to worship Him in song as soon as the message ended.  When the worship team began leading the one final/closing song, I joyfully sang out His praises through that song like never before and corporately all of us in that service magnified His name from all that was within us.  It really did seem like everything else was in the shadows.  And then that one song ended.  And everybody began to exit.  And I came crashing down.

Frustrated, I knew as I went home that morning that God had planted a seed about worship in song that I dare not ignore investigating and cultivating.

Being the inherent rebel that I am, I decided to experiment with my personal time with the Lord the next day.  Oh I did pray when I began and I did worship the Lord in song before getting into His Word.  But I only worshiped with one song and then I plunged into His Word….and He made His Word jump off the page and into my mind, heart, and life that morning, like never before.

I was so overwhelmed by His presence and His truth and it’s appropriateness for my life that I could do nothing else but magnify Him in song!  I didn’t have any songs pre-thought out, but His Spirit brought to my mind the perfect song for what He had shown me about Himself and as I finished singing that song to Him, He brought another song to my mind that expressed a different aspect of what He had shown me from His Word.  And before I knew it I had spent 30 minutes gushing out His praises through the various worship songs I had in my memory.  It was like the Holy Spirit was at the keyboard of my heart accessing the database of songs that were in my mental hard drive.  He brought up the perfect song for the specific truth He had driven home to me in my time in the Word.  Everything had changed.  I knew that much.

I also knew that I had to discover if what I had experienced at church that previous Sunday morning and what happened in my personal devotional time with the Lord that morning was in line with what He has revealed in the bible.  I leaped head-long into the Word to see what He Himself had revealed about worship.  For the first time really, I was able to see numerous instructions and examples of what I have come to call “prescribed” worship.  Which is basically where God tells His people how and when to worship Him.

But I also discovered what I now call “spontaneous” worship.  For example, Abraham’s servant in Gen 24:25 and 24:50 erupts in worship AFTER prayer and then seeing God move in response to His prayer.  In Ex. 4:30, AFTER hearing that God spoke and what He had to say, the people bowed their heads and worshiped.  Worship is expressed by men of God in response to perceiving God doing something or reminding them of something in  Judges 7:14 and Job 1:20.  Although these and the many other text that reveal spontaneous worship don’t tell us the words used in worship were in song form, I believe that putting whatever words are spoken as worship into song form would certainly be acceptable to God and satisfying to the worshiper.

To make a long story short, after quite a few years and much time wrestling with what God had shown me, I decided last year to move forward with changing the format of our Sunday morning service.  Before doing so, I took our little body through a fairly in-depth study of what worship is and the two main expressions of worship that are found in scripture:  spontaneous and prescribed.

We then began doing our service using these components in this order:

1.  Welcome and opening prayer.

2. Ten to fifteen verses of a text from the bible that is linked to the text I will teach from.

3. ONE worship song

4.Five to ten minutes of having everyone greet one another, (crucial for a multi-ethnic church, but also good for any church in America in my humble opinion).

5-Upcoming events and offering


7-At least 20 minutes, (3 to 5 worship songs) of worship in song.

Because I teach verse by verse the worship leader knows where I’ll be in the text and it’s amazing how God guides him to select songs that express the key points I bring up from the text.  And many times, they are points that I had NOT prepared for in my notes, but the Spirit had revealed to the worship leader as he put the song list together.


The extreme individualism that permeates our culture has influenced our corporate worship in song.  One indicator of how far we’ve gone on the individualism is the fact that we don’t have a separate word or phrase for the concept of a plural “you”.  In most other languages there is a word for “you” singular and “you” plural.  People from the south have a remnant of this idea when they say “y’all”.  But English as it is spoken currently by Americans reveals the individualism that dominates our culture.

Although we do come to Jesus individually, the moment of our new birth we become a member of the body of Christ.  Because of our individualistic culture, we view every “you” in the scripture as directed to us personally, when in many cases the text actually uses the plural “you” that we don’t have a word for.

In my own little battle for trying to correct some of our American cultural traits that have been accepted as Kingdom culture, I’ve begun waging war on many of our familiar worship songs.  We now intentionally change the nouns and pronouns from singular to plural.  We no longer sing “Open the eyes of my heart Lord….I want to see you”  We now sing it as “Open the eyes of OUR hearts Lord, open the eyes of OUR hearts, WE want to see you”.  We leave the hymns alone, but unless pluralizing the songs tweaks the wording too much, we now pluralize all of the contemporary worship songs we do.

Our members have had nothing but praise and thanks for our making this change.  But it has been VERY challenging for our worship leaders who have sung those songs hundreds of times with “I” “me” and “my”, to begin singing them this new way.  They agree though, the challenge is worth it.

And finally, because of the visitors who have been exposed to the more traditional Sunday morning format and worship song selection, we now include in the “welcome” portion at the front end of the service what they are about to experience and why.







Perils of Church Planting

This month marks the five year mark in our church planting journey. We didn’t have our first Sunday service until January 2007 but it was October 2006 that got the ball rolling. Our plant was unique in that we were sent out of a larger church with a healthy group of people. That benefit made the ball roll a lot faster than the average church plant. We are blessed and thankful for that but I have to tell you that it hasn’t come without requiring a pound of flesh or maybe two.

It is well documented that church planting is the trendy thing to do. To be honest I never wanted to plant and was more hoping to take over for the pastor I worked for when he decided to retire. God had other plans and here we are five years later. It has been an incredible ride but I think it is important to address some of the perils of church planting that I have experienced.


  1. It will require everything of you and then a whole lot more. Oswald Sanders says “When God finds a person who is ready to lead, … and take on responsibility for others, that person is used to the limit.” Being a pastor by nature requires everything of you but church planting exacerbates that even more because many times it is only you. Your family will have to sacrifice, your health will take a back seat, and your peace of mind will frantically search some happy place. The issues and attacks are at times unrelenting and it will take a toll on your life. You can practice all the time management that many of the popular speakers advocate but it still won’t turn off your mind. Few of us are disciplined enough not to think about the church twenty four hours a day (yes that means many sleepless nights).
  2. You will come under attack. By this I mean Spiritual Attack. At times it will be subtle and at times it will be all out frontal attack on you, your family, your leadership, and even unsuspecting people in your church. We are currently in a season of unprecedented spiritual attack in our church. It has been a brutal summer and has transitioned strongly into the fall. One of the reasons is that God is doing a work in all of our ministries and has us poised for something greater and that battle has been fierce. Another reason is that we have been dealing with a lot of compromise when it come sto sin. You are never ready for spiritual warfare. You can be read up, prayed up, and on alert and then somebody comes and undercuts you from behind. That is the most frustrating thing of all. It has driven us to our knees in prayer.
  3. There is always stuff to deal with. One thing that has caught me by surprise is all the details. It is never ending. It doesn’t matter how much you can delegate or say no to, there will always be nagging issues that will attempt to distract you from teaching the Word of God. When I mean nagging I am not talking about people’s personal issues, I welcome them. I welcome all counseling, hospital visits, volunteer recruitment. What I am talking about is staffing issues, power struggles, petty issues people have because they don’t get their way. These are what grate at you on a daily basis. These are the real reason most people leave ministry.

Don’t get me wrong being a pastor and doing a church plant has been the greatest thing that has happened to me in my work in the ministry. I know I should encourage you with some words that it will be okay but I am not there right now. The truth is that we need to be aware and considerate of these things. There are many more perils that I could talk about but I think this will get the conversation started. Let me know which ones you have faced.

The Minister and His Personality

Along with his gifts, calling, and ministry, the servant of God has to figure out how he is wired.   Many ministers, not knowing how God has wired them, have short-circuited and burned out in the ministry.  I discovered this just in time.  Our first two week vacation as a married couple occurred in the summer of 1982.  We drove from San Jose, CA, to Knoxville, TN, so that I could perform the wedding ceremony of a good college friend.

 We headed east on Highway 50 and dropped into the Tahoe Basin and, from there, into the Carson City area.  From there it was nothing but open roads and unmolested desert vistas.  As we hit the open highway, I thought to myself, “It sure feels good to be gone for a couple of weeks.”  About 50 miles down the road I again thought to myself, “It really feels good to be gone.  This is great – I don’t have the pressure of the pulpit or appointments with people.  This is wonderful.”  Another 50 miles had me thinking, “It sure feels good to be gone.  I feel like a heavy weight has been lifted from my shoulders.”  50 miles later I started feeling bad that I felt so relieved to be gone from the ministry for two weeks.  I began to analyze…

What was I doing in the ministry that it felt so good now that I didn’t have to do it for two weeks?  I must have been doing something wrong for it to feel so good to not be doing it anymore.  Here’s what the Lord ministered to me (and I believed it saved my ministry).

My parents raised me in the church (Christian Church/Church of Christ).  They were always good friends with the various pastors of the churches we attended and so I had the opportunity of being around the pastors more than others may have had.  These men were charismatic in their personalities (NOT their theology!) and were very outgoing and personable.  They were easy to be around.  They were the center of every conversation and everyone in the room deferred to them.  They were the center of attention and were smart and witty.  They carried themselves with great self-confidence and made people feel important when they paid attention to them.

So, when I was called into the pastoral ministry, these men were my role models and examples.  How they did ministry was how I thought ministry should be done.  How they moved among the people was how I needed to move among the people.  I thought it was incumbent upon me to be the center of attention, carry every conversation, be smart and witty, outgoing and personable.  And none of this was because of ego – it was just the way the ministry worked.  Right?  Well, it didn’t work for me.

Whereas my childhood pastors were charismatic in their personality and not in their theology, I turned out the other way.  I am charismatic in my theology, but not in my personality.  My chief joy is a cup of coffee, a quiet corner, a book – and then leave me alone!  I don’t know how to make chit-chat.  I don’t do small talk.  I still feel socially awkward at many times.  The worst time of the week for me was in the lobby after service was dismissed.  Like I said, I don’t chit-chat or do small talk (I’m not against it – I just don’t know how to do it).  Even today, if I’m in a line somewhere and the person in front of me makes an offhand remark to me, I don’t know what to say back – I just freeze.  I know what you’re thinking and you’re right – I’m pretty lame!

As I was driving through the desert on my way to Tennessee I realized that my childhood pastors were all Type A personalities – very driven and self-confident.  I think I am a Type C- personality – content to be a somewhat passive wallflower.  So here I was, a Type C- trying to be a Type A.  This was what was killing me.  This striving to be what I was not created nor intended to be was the weight on my shoulders and the unseen burden in my soul.

I recognized that God doesn’t intend to change my personality, but to work through the personality He gave me.  (He is out to change my character, but not my personality.)  I made the decision, driving through the desert, that when I got back to San Jose, I would be me and not strive to be somebody else.  If I’m not the center of attention, if I don’t carry every conversation, if I am not witty and funny and charming and personable – that’s OK.  I can’t bend and twist my personality into shapes God never intended.  If the people want a charming, witty, funny, center of attention pastor, well… they can go to your church!

Things aren’t so bad now as they were in the past.  I am older and have a greater sense of self-confidence.  I move among the people at church with a greater ease.  My thought is that if you’re here at the church I pastor, you’re on my turf and I can launch into substantive conversations and don’t have to keep talk at a chit-chat level.

I really do believe that had that desert experience not occurred at such a strategic time, I would be out of the ministry today.  I would have exhausted myself by contorting my personality into shapes that I thought the ministry demanded.  Without discerning how God had wired me, I would have short-circuited and burned out.

The wisdom of the sensible is to understand his way,   

But the foolishness of fools is deceit.  Proverbs 14:8

Christians and Drinking

How should Christians handle the question of alcohol consumption? This is a question Christians struggle with and argue over. Seriously, people get passionate discussing this issue.

Whenever I begin a blog concerning important issues (this is one) I feel I must give a disclaimer of the quality of work. This format is more of a conversation than a scholarly work. As a pastor, I get this question a lot from three basic groups of people: 1) the “parent” who is looking to me as the voice from God to affirm their position that consuming any alcohol is an abomination in God’s eyes; 2) the “partier” who is seeking to use the Scriptures to affirm their position that consuming alcohol is a gift from God and should enjoyed liberally by all; and 3) the “searching one” who is struggling (on either end of the spectrum) to understand what the Bible says and how it applies in their lives. My aim is to respond to this last group for the sake of helping someone, not for the sake of getting into a theological sword fight.  As pastors, we have people who sincerely struggle with this question and we should guide them according to the Word.

A few disclaimers. First, I am not covering every verse of the Bible concerning this subject. I am seeking to share some thoughts that come to mind concerning this issue. Second, Scripture is very clear about submitting to the authorities. So in light of this discussion, the Bible would frown upon any alcohol consumption that violates the law of the land.

Our relationship with God is based upon His grace poured upon us through faith in Jesus. As a young Christian I struggled with this concept of grace. When I “fell off the wagon” and went on a bender I was riddled with guilt and failure. I thought God’s love for me ebbed and flowed like the ocean tides and was contingent on my success or failure trying to walk the Christian walk. This works based relationship is not of the Lord. If you are reading this and struggling in this area, know that God loves you because He created you, He paid your debt of sin, and He is working on you in this area in you because knows what is best for you! On the other side of the coin, I haven’t drank in something like 10+ years. This doesn’t mean that God loves me more simply because I am observing this law that I have placed over myself because of my own failure with moderation. I have been tempted to have a glass of wine just to remove my ability to say with a prideful heart, “I haven’t consumed alcohol in over 10+ years. Look at how awesome I am!”

The dangers of alcohol. How can I adequately cover this section? I can’t. I would venture to say that alcohol has killed more people, destroyed more lives, devastated more relationships than any other drug. Forget biblical reasons for just a moment—consider alcohol from a purely pragmatic perspective. I often share with people that I didn’t stop drinking for religious reasons, I stopped because it was destroying my life. I was abused by my biological alcoholic mother until I was removed from her custody when I was about 12 years old. I started drinking at an early age which resulted in a number of terrible things in my own life—hurt shoulder (to this day) from crashing a dirt bike while drunk in the desert, an abortion, and a resisting evading arrest charge that led to the losing of my security clearance for a number of months. I literally can’t think of any good thing that alcohol has produced in my life (okay, I’ll give credit to rubbing alcohol and NyQuil).

Proverbs 23:29-35 shares wisdom concerning the temptation and danger of alcohol:

Who has woe? Who has sorrow? Who has strife? Who has complaints? Who has needless bruises? Who has bloodshot eyes?  Those who linger over wine, who go to sample bowls of mixed wine.  Do not gaze at wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup, when it goes down smoothly! In the end it bites like a snake and poisons like a viper. Your eyes will see strange sights, and your mind will imagine confusing things. You will be like one sleeping on the high seas, lying on top of the rigging. “They hit me,” you will say, “but I’m not hurt! They beat me, but I don’t feel it! When will I wake up so I can find another drink?”

Jesus’ first miracle was making wine. Yes, this is true. It was wine, not grape juice. There is nothing more frustrating to me when people manipulate the Bible for the sake of supporting their side. Please, don’t go down the road of “Okay, it was wine, but it is so diluted you can’t get drunk with it.”  Jesus made wine. Jesus drank wine. Jesus was accused of being a drunkard by the religious of His day (Luke 7:33-34).  The detours of grape juice or dilution distract from the main issue which is drunkenness–not consumption of alcohol.  Jesus was NEVER drunk, for that would be a sin.

There is freedom for a Christian to consume alcohol—so long as they do not get drunk. This issue is ultimately control. There is no clear line between sobriety and intoxication. The Bible makes it clear that we are to be controlled by the Spirit of the living God. “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18). I find this verse uncanny. Drunkenness is forbidden and the Spirit filled life is commanded as the key to maintaining healthy relationships (i.e. Husbands to wives and vice versa, parents to children and vice versa, employees to employers and vice versa) in this life. The uncanny part is the vast destruction drunkenness has caused to these relationships throughout the history of humanity. How many lives and relationships could have been spared if people set down the bottle and lived Spirit filled lives?

Sure, you have the freedom in Christ to have an alcoholic beverage, but be very careful because the warnings concerning drunkenness are severe.

I want to end with an important section of Scripture. I would encourage you to open your Bible and read through Galatians 5. Pray and ask God to give you wisdom concerning this issue in your own life.

Galatians 5:16-26—the deeds of the flesh contrasted with the fruit of the Spirit.

But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law.

Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.