Living Out God’s Mission



Editor’s note: This is the last article in a three-part series on “The Only Cause That Counts.” Previous articles include “Missiology: The Gospel at the Intersections” and “How Missiology Teaches Us About God and Mission.”

My last few posts have talked about missiology, the discipline of cross-cultural communication of the Christian faith. Missiology helps us understand who God is and what the gospel means at points of intersection in our world. Good missiology results in a healthy, autonomous, indigenous expression of the Christian faith, life and church within each cultural context or people group.

Unfortunately, a lot of what we call “missions” today ignores proper missiology. In the United States, lack of proper missiology results in churches doing their own thing because they’ve always done it that way, or because they are imitating perceived success elsewhere, without understanding the disconnect between their church and their context. I am increasingly convinced that a major part of the reason why the church in the United States isn’t growing as it should (and could) is because we have a weak missiology that doesn’t address real issues at places of intersection in our complex world. Today in America, Christian work is all cross-cultural. Even in contexts that look similar, there are layers and layers of cultural things happening simultaneously, impacting thinking and affecting relationships. If our faith, theology and missiology don’t learn to engage at those places of intersection, then the church of Jesus in the United States will not gain ground.

Internationally, lack of proper missiology is terribly sad. At its least dangerous, it becomes missions as tourism. Well-meaning Christians raise money from their relatives, friends and churches to see what they can see. They often paint churches that – for a lot less money – could be painted by someone local who longs to have enough money to feed the family. Internationally, lack of proper missiology results in doing what is good for us, with much less regard to the receiving church.

Good missiology asks and answers honestly:

  • Why do we do what we do?
  • Do these endeavors move forward the cause of Christ like in the book of Acts?
  • Is this move good for the church as an organization or for the cause of Christ?

The Apostle Paul was all about the accountability of what happens on the receiving end. Everywhere Paul went, the results were new disciples, new churches and new local leaders being identified and empowered.

Today, good missiology results in more disciples, leaders, groups and churches — plus energized churches here and overseas, mission agencies with empowered people, effective missionaries, and alive networks and eager individuals in the West resourcing at every level the cause of world evangelization.

Good missiology is like a great orchestra: everyone playing instruments that took a long time to learn to play well – and together – with nuanced ups and downs, loud and soft, fast and slow, to create something beautiful that both musicians and listeners enjoy.

The Lausanne Movement for World Evangelization uses the language of reflective practitioners for people who live and dream, think and minister at places of intersection. I invite you to be a reflective practitioner. No Christian is exempt from the Great Commission. We are all instructed to go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything Jesus Christ commanded.

We are all called to go and live out God’s mission. The increasing fragmentation of our world multiplies the points of intersection (and friction) at every level of society, culture and certainly church. Let us decide to live out our faith, our vocation, and flesh out our thinking, even at those wild places of seemingly incomprehensible intersections. Because at the end of the day, Christ’s cause is the only cause that counts.

Delia Nüesch-Olver is the Latin America Area director for Free Methodist World Missions. She began this role in 2008 after 35 years of ministry experience as a cross-cultural church planter and pastor. She also served as a professor of global urban mission at Seattle Pacific University. She is an ordained elder and has a Ph.D. in cultural anthropology.

How Missiology Teaches Us About God and Mission


Courtesy of NASA

Editor’s note: This is the second article in a three-part series on “The Only Cause That Counts.” Click here for the first article andhere for the final article. We posted part one on Monday and will post part 3 on Friday here on this church blog.

A key aspect of my spiritual journey and my ministry has been learning what the gospel means in places of intersection through a discipline called missiology. In the mist of cultural complexity and a constant whirlwind of social change, missiology gives me the tools to offer the reality of Jesus. So what exactly is missiology?

Missiology is the study of cross-cultural communication of the Christian faith. It includes:

  • How the gospel spread and the church expanded throughout history.
  • Understanding other religions in order to communicate the gospel.
  • Dynamics, culture, geography, economy, religions and politics of specific global regions.
  • Clear strategies for communicating Christian faith.
  • International and cross-denominational mission movements.
  • Leadership and organizational dynamics.
  • Linguistics and Bible translation.
  • Behavioral and social sciences, especially anthropology.
  • Theology in specific contexts, such as studying postmodernism to understand how to communicate Christian faith in a postmodern world.

Missiology brings together faith and practice, intellectual understanding and spiritual life, “secular” scholarship and theology. Missiology is all about being the church in a world of intersections. Missiology is about the mission of God in the world.

Understanding God’s mission is key to what we understand about God. Basic Christian theology is: God so loved the world that He sent His son. At the very beginning of God’s sending, there was a love for the world, and a passion to see the world changed that resulted in the Son being sent. At the beginning was a holy God on mission. Jesus Christ lived — in the flesh — the mission of God in the world, and His teaching explained what He was doing.

The Apostle Paul’s great contribution to theology arose from his church-planting movement and specific situations he addressed as he was carrying out the mission to which Jesus had called him.

For both Jesus and the Apostle Paul, theology arose out of their mission. German theologian Martin Kählerexpressed it like this: “Mission is ‘the mother of theology.’” J. Andrew Kirk, a theology teacher, built on that: “All true theology is, by definition, missionary theology, for it has as its object the study of the ways of a God who is by nature missionary… Mission as a discipline is not … the roof of a building that completes the whole structure, already constructed by blocks that stand on their own, but both the foundation and the mortar in the joints, which cements together everything else.” There is an unavoidable intersection between theology and missiology, the academy and the church, the church and the world, and the U.S. and the international church.

We are all spiritual beings. What we think of God and how we think about God directly affects how we function. Bad theology kills — literally. For example, children die of treatable illness because their parents believe only in faith healing and refuse medical attention, or pastors are killed by snakebites in Christian subcultures that practice snake handling. (Snake handling is based on misinterpretation of passages like Mark 16:18 and Acts 28:3.) These are tragic results of misunderstanding and misapplying Scripture. Bad theology hurts people and dishonors God.

As bad theology kills, good theology sustains, frees us to think clearly about God, empowers, protects and preserves us from the subtle lies of the snake. It is not an empty exercise but a means to freedom. We know the truth, and the truth sets us free (John 8:32).

Every Christian has a missiology. When that missiology is weak, bad, poor or self-serving, it is lethal for both the recipients of our mission and our own souls, and it devastates our participation in God’s mission. Good missiology frees us to think clearly about God and to lead the church of Christ in ways that result in healthy expansion with deep roots and vigorous, New Testament-type reproduction. This kind of healthy church is exactly what our world needs! In my next post, I’ll apply this understanding of good missiology to how we do global church and mission work.

Delia Nüesch-Olver is the Latin America Area director for Free Methodist World Missions. She began this role in 2008 after 35 years of ministry experience as a cross-cultural church planter and pastor. She also served as a professor of global urban mission at Seattle Pacific University. She is an ordained elder and has a Ph.D. in cultural anthropology.

Missiology: The Gospel at the Intersections



Editor’s note: This is the first article in a three-part series on “The Only Cause That Counts.” Click here for the next article in the series and here for the final article. Or we will be posting them here on our church blog on Wednesday and Friday of this week. 

Think for a moment about the many intersections that are part of your life. I have lived my whole life in the midst of intersections of language, culture and faith, which make me hungry to understand how the gospel relates to these places.

I was born into a large Swiss extended family in Argentina. My parents’ colleagues and our neighbors were friends from Sweden, Finland, Germany, England, Spain, Italy and the United States. We all lived in the center of what was then the fifth largest city in the world. There were always people around me — at home, at play, at church — who needed translators, and I realized early on that translators were not just translating words. Multiple times, I heard translators re-interpreting what foreigners had said. Many times, the interpreter wouldn’t even translate because it would be considered crazy talk cross-culturally. I grew up understanding that what makes sense in one culture doesn’t necessarily make sense in another one. Missing important cues in cross-cultural intersections can cause pain and confusion, even among people who love each other and want the best for each other.

Yet I saw the gospel spread! People met Christ in Buenos Aires, and later started house churches as they shared their faith. Later, as a young pastor, I planted a church in Rochester, New York, mainly made up of Cuban refugees. Churches started in Cuba because people I had led to Christ paid exorbitant prices to visit their families in Cuba, so they could share Jesus with them. I saw firsthand that the gospel transforms everything. It moves like fire through cultural and cross-cultural networks. In my first pastoral assignment, people from the church who had little knowledge (except that Jesus Christ had changed their lives) communicated the gospel in Belize and Puerto Rico and saw their extended families changed by God’s power. But I also saw how common and how painful cross-cultural miscommunication could be, even among people who loved the Lord and wanted to see His kingdom advance.

I realized that to become an effective and responsible participant in God’s mission, I had to pull back many layers and get to the core of the gospel. To me, if the gospel and the church didn’t make sense at places of intersection, they just didn’t make sense. I remember reading one of my husband Paul’s books for a seminary course that explained the word “missiology.” That moment, I realized it was describing me. I understood that if I wanted to be greatly used by God, I needed to get a proper missiology for the church.

Missiology is all about intersections. It is the discipline of communicating Christian faith cross-culturally. It made sense to me, because it gave me language to understand my own spiritual journey. It gave me frameworks for how to build on what was happening in Cuba, Belize and Puerto Rico because of our ministry, even though Paul and I had not yet been there. Missiology helped me understand how I could become a responsible participant in God’s mission in the midst of cultural complexity and social change.

Missiology became my scaffolding to organize everything in my brain as I did ministry and dreamed about a better future for my corner of the church. It has been such an important tool for me, that I am now passionate about teaching and sharing it with others.

The world needs more Christians who know how to engage their own communities and cultures from a proper missiology for the mission of the church. Understanding missiology helps Christians to communicate their faith so that others are attracted to commit their lives to Christ, and to develop more leaders to do the same. If you are hungry to understand how Christian faith relates to the intersections in your life, read my next post for a deeper explanation of missiology.

Delia Nüesch-Olver is the Latin America Area director for Free Methodist World Missions. She began this role in 2008 after 35 years of ministry experience as a cross-cultural church planter and pastor. She also served as a professor of global urban mission at Seattle Pacific University. She is an ordained elder and has a Ph.D. in cultural anthropology.

Two Kinds of Fishing

by Mark O. Wilson

Standing in line to buy worms at Pastika’s Bait Shop, I ran into my buddy, Kenny. He carried a bucket containing a big fish.

“Wow, Kenny, what a nice fish! Where did you get it?”

“Right here,” he grinned, “I just bought it. It’s my bait.”

My worms suddenly felt very small.

In an attempt to console me, Kenny added, “But if I don’t catch a musky, I’ll just fry this fellow for dinner.”

That day, I realized there are two kinds of fishing.

There are also two different approaches to sharing the gospel: the pearl merchant and the treasure hunter.

Pearl Merchant

The pearl merchant says, “I have something great and you need it.”

If the person on the receiving end is in the market for pearls, then this approach works splendidly. After all, everybody does better when they discover the pearl of great price (Matthew 13:45–46). People certainly need Jesus, and knowing Him is the greatest joy on earth.

When our hearts are captivated by grace, we naturally want to share Christ with others. However, unrestrained enthusiasm in pushing pearls often backfires and pushes people away.

One pearl merchant pitfall is condescension — an attitude of superiority: “I have the answer, and you are clueless.” In extreme cases, sidewalk evangelists blast messages of repentance through bullhorns and wonder why nobody responds. We all recoil from those who convey a condescending attitude and immediately seek an exit strategy.
Another pitfall is coercion. Some pearl merchant evangelists are mean-spirited. They’re the ones who give evangelism a bad name, suffering from what B.T. Roberts called “a warring holiness.” These folks bulldoze and won’t take no for an answer: “You’re going to have it whether you want it or not.” Evangelism without loving-kindness is brutal coercion. I’m pretty sure Jesus has an anti-bullying policy for his children.

During my youth pastor days, Victor, a varsity football lineman, came to youth group with a glowing report. “Guess what? I led six freshmen to Jesus this week!”

“Wow, that’s great Victor,” I replied. “How did you do it?”

“Simple,” he explained. “I caught them in the hallway, grabbed them by the collar, slammed them into the locker, and asked if they’d rather have Jesus or a knuckle sandwich.”

Treasure Hunter

The second approach is more along this line: “Here you are! I’ve been looking for you!”

This is how Jesus loves the lost. He seeks them out and reveals their true worth. Compassion always leads the way.

One April afternoon, our family combed the Lake Superior North Shore in search of agates.

“Here’s one, Dad,” Wes said from behind me. “You just stepped on it — and look, there are more.”

Sure enough, agates were strewn across the rocky beach, but they seemed so ordinary, I trampled on them. I was searching for something with more sparkle and zing. Thankfully, Wes walked with a different set of eyes. On the shoreline, buried in dust, the agates appeared insignificant. However, when we found one, dipped it in water and held it to the sunlight, it shone like a jewel.

Our job, as treasure hunters, is to look again — look beyond the ordinary. “The sacred gems are scattered at the head of every street” (Lamentations 4:1). Lost treasures are everywhere.

Dip them in God’s grace, lift them to the Sun of Righteousness, and they will gleam. Seek, and you shall find.

Be a Witness

A Barna Group survey found that 90 percent of non-Christian young people between the ages of 16 and 29 view Christians as judgmental. Perhaps one reason for this is because we have assumed the wrong role in the courthouse. We play the part of judge, jury or prosecuting attorney, rather than witness.

Your role as a Christ-follower is to simply be a witness. All you need to do is share your faith story. Here are a few pointers:

  1. Pray that God will open doors for you to share.
  2. When the door opens, have courage to speak.
  3. Stay humble and never portray an attitude of superiority.
  4. Keep it simple and brief. Don’t share more than they want to know.
  5. Tell them what you experienced, rather than what they should do.
  6. Focus on the message (Jesus) rather than the mess.
  7. Don’t engage in argument. If they protest what you’re saying, back off and let the Holy Spirit work.

Mark O. Wilson is a pastor in Wisconsin’s Northwoods. This article is an adapted excerpt from “Purple Fish: A Heart for Sharing Jesus,” which is available in print and e-book format at Copyright 2014, Wesleyan Publishing House; used by permission.


1 Have your evangelism efforts been as a pearl merchant or a treasure hunter?

2 How can you discuss sin and the need for salvation without coming across as judgmental?

Tell It to Yourself



All things in life — such as businesses, relationships and movements — begin with a conversation. Talking one-on-one is human beings’ most powerful form of attunement. Conversations help us understand and connect with others in ways no other species can.

I wish some conversations would never end. I remember the many conversations my wife and I had while dating. We discussed the possibility of getting married, fusing our lives together and having kids.

The world began with a powerful conversation. There was nothing but emptiness and chaos, and then a conversation happened (Genesis 1). That conversation has not ended.

The Word

John 1 tells us that “in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (v.4–5).

“The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God — children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth” (v.9–14).

The chapter tells us of John the Baptist, “a man sent from God” who “came as a witness to testify concerning the light, so that through him all might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light” (v.6–8).

 John testified — or had a conversation — concerning Jesus: “This is the one I spoke about when I said, ‘He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’ … For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known” (v.15–18).

Because Jesus came to earth, the announcement of God’s invasive kingdom was both a fulfillment of a prophecy and a challenge to the world’s present rulers. “Gospel” became an important abbreviation for the news of Jesus Himself and the apostolic message about Him. In Romans 1:16 and 1 Thessalonians 2:13, Paul saw this message as the vehicle of God’s saving power.

Product Evangelists

The idea of “good news” (also translated as evangel or gospel) had two meanings for the Jewish people. First, it meant the news of God’s long-awaited victory over evil and the rescuing of His people. Second, it was used in the Roman world for the emperor’s birthday.

For early Christians, this creative, life-giving good news was seen as God’s own powerful word. They could use the “word” or “message” as additional shorthand for the basic Christian proclamation.

The term “product evangelist” is commonly used today. It is, in fact, a full-fledged job in some companies. The job is occupied by someone with the ability to grasp, translate and communicate the capabilities of a service or product into clear, beneficial and life-altering results.

Daily, I question what the good news means in my life. This has altered my behavior drastically. I can recalibrate the concept of being a product evangelist to live my life as a product of Jesus’ gospel. I have the capability to evangelize with the greatest story to tell.

Prepare to Share

When you prepare to share the good news, consider three things. First, what do you want someone to know? Second, what do you want someone to feel? Third, what do you want someone to do next?

My story is of a life-transformed, reborn into the family of God. My good news offers change — for the better. My story has a happy ending, and yours could too!

How do artists get better at their craft? They practice, of course, but they also pay attention. You should act like an artist. Practice telling your good news. Tell it to your friends and tell it to your neighbors. Tell it to yourself. Then listen. You might even learn a bit about yourself in the process.

Do yourself a favor. Don’t end that conversation anytime soon.

Jay Cordova is an ordained elder who serves as the director of communications for the Free Methodist Church – USA. He previously worked as a startup business entrepreneur and coached small businesses in a Michigan incubator.

Leaking Good News



Why is it easier to leak (or expose) bad news than to leak good news? Gossip is a lot more prevalent than evangelism. For some people, gossip seems much more fun or entertaining.

In both gossip and evangelism, unknown information is revealed. Something is exposed. In the first case, it is devastating or troubling news. In the latter, especially when it comes to the “Good News,” it is transformational, life-changing news — saturated with blessings and mind-calming solution.

Leaking bad news is controversial and injurious, but it is profitable business. Perhaps Watergate and the Pentagon Papers (a secret Defense Department study of U.S. involvement in Vietnam) were two of the more notable leaks a generation ago. These incidents started an avalanche of leaks and led to a president’s resignation and the first war to end on the basis of leaked information. More recent examples include WikiLeaks, Benghazi revelations, the contents of Hillary Clinton’s email server and the early posting of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament bracket on Twitter. Leaks are newsworthy. They are a little salacious and fun. Frankly, gossip is the ancient art of combining leaked information with the sprinkled air of judgment and shame.

When David’s son Absalom died, one person was so eager to deliver the bad news to David (2 Samuel 18:19–33) that he could not resist running ahead of the official news bearer to tell it. It is hard to imagine what his compelling desire was to request being the deliverer of bad news. Sin is perhaps lurking in the answer. People are curiously wired to seek bad news — as long as it is others’ bad news. Perhaps a more honorable reason is that most people desire to express empathy for those who are struggling more than they want to celebrate the victories of others.

Charles Swindoll said it well years ago when he referenced Romans 12:15: “Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep” (NASB). Swindoll said, “It is far easier to weep with those who weep than to rejoice with those who rejoice.”

Perhaps it is because we wish we would have received whatever others rejoice over, and we find a little solace in not suffering what they suffer. Perhaps it is because we feel a little more useful if we are helping someone who is down. My experience tells me that people sometimes take special delight to be present when tragedy strikes someone else — perhaps to be close to the hurting, perhaps to commiserate on shared pain. The bad news oddly draws us into the drama.

Two features stand out when it comes to leaking information. The first is that bad news is generally more newsworthy and career-advancing (such as in the news media or cyber protection) than good news. The second, and perhaps in some ways related to the first, is that bad news is easier and much more tempting for most people to share.

Don’t get me wrong. Most people like to pass on delightful information — you see it on Facebook all the time — such as the acquisition of a new puppy or the announcement of an engagement. For the most part, however, that is just giving broader exposure to things already known. Leaking bad news has shock value. It is stunning by nature and engenders deep emotion.

Why is this so? Why is bad news easier to share than good? Sin is interesting to report because it has shock value and is tempting to expose. As sinners, we are tempted to gossip or tell of other’s failures for a number of spiritual and psychological reasons.

But, as forgiven and loved children of God, I wish we were better at leaking the best news known to humanity — the Good News of salvation. The under-told story of salvation in Jesus Christ leads to life transformation. Who wouldn’t want to share that? Everything about that news is transforming, uplifting and life-changing?

Four Factors for Sharing the Good News


Throw Me a Bone


My sister called me the other day in tears.

“I’ve been praying so hard, every day, for God to work in my husband’s life, and I just don’t see any changes. It gets so hard sometimes. I just wish God would throw me a bone and give me a sign to let me know my prayers are being heard.”

I felt her pain as I listened to her cry over the phone. How many times have we prayed earnestly for something or someone and it seems God is not listening? Our prayers appear to fall on deaf ears, and we become discouraged wondering if we will ever receive an answer.

As we were talking, it occurred to me our obligation is not to wait anxiously for responses to our petitions, but our responsibility is simply to pray. That’s it. Often, when our prayers are not answered in our time frame, or in the manner we expect, we toss aside this vital communication with God.

“My prayers aren’t working so why should I bother?” is a statement I hear frequently. James 5:16 tells us, “The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” If you are only praying expecting your answer in your time, you are missing the purpose of prayer. Prayer is powerful and effective because it reflects an intimate fellowship with God. This deep, personal relationship is demonstrated in our prayers and acceptance of God’s will in his answer.


Addicted: When the Smartphone Becomes an Obsession

by Jonathan McKee
Dynamic Image
Who is staring at screens more, teens or adults?

When our measuring tape isn’t long enough… does it even matter?

We’ve never had a device like it. It’s the most powerful tool we’ve ever kept in our pocket. It’s the Swiss Army knife of technology. 79.1% of U.S. mobile subscribers have one, 72 % of the entire adult population. (Yes, that includes great grandpa.)

We love our smartphones. The question people are beginning to wonder is…. what effect is this little device having on us?

Are we addicted?


Define obsessed. Is it measured in hours?

The numbers aren’t pretty. We live in a world where U.S. adults spend anywhere from 2.9 to 4.7 hours per day (depending on who’s counting) on our smartphones alone. If you add our time sitting in front of the TV, the computer and all other forms of entertainment media and technology, we clock in 11 to12 hours a day. That’s just the average.

Think about that for a moment. The average adult is only awake 15 hours a day. Do the math. This doesn’t leave a whole lot of time to walk the dog, get coffee with a friend… or play with your children!

Picture what this looks like in the typical home: the adults are staring at the TV, the teens are streaming video on a mobile device, the toddler is flicking colored shapes across the screen of a new iPad… and the dog is on the treadmill because no one walks him.

This isn’t a single-generational issue. Boomers and Xers love to try to make this a Millennial thing (Gen Y). It’s not even a teenage thing (Gen Z). Stop blaming young people. The truth is, today’s adults often clock in more hours on technology than teenagers. Adults definitely watch more TV (check any Nielsen report, any day of the year—the older the person, the more hours watched), but they also were more prone to peek at their social media on any given day. In fact, a recent study just showed 25-54 year-olds were the most compulsive social-media checkers.

And if you add up all entertainment media? The most conservative reports show adults soaking in almost 10 hours a day (Nielsen, 2016), and the most accurate teen studies show 13-18-year-olds averaging just under 9 hours per day.

Don’t get snow blinded with the numbers. Allow yourself to step back and consider the big picture for a moment. All of us spend the majority of our waking hours absorbing entertainment media and technology.

Priorities are becoming a little bit confused. The overwhelming majority of Americans spend more time staring at a screen than talking with their partner. But I guess those partners shouldn’t be offended, we even stare at screens when we’re staring at other screens. Eighty-eight percent of people actively entertain a second screen while watching TV.

Guess what the device of choice is?

So how do smartphone-obsessed adults connect with smartphone-obsessed kids? That’s the project I just finished, my brand new book titled 52 Ways to Connect with Your Smartphone Obsessed Kid. And it’s been fun exploring the venues where families seem to naturally open up and just talk with each other without having to say, “Put away your phone!”

What are some of these venues in your home?

When is the last time you and your kids engaged in meaningful conversation?

How can you maximize and even create more settings like this where your family truly connects face-to-face?

Jonathan McKeeJonathan McKee is the author of twenty books including the brand new 52 Ways to Connect with Your Smartphone Obsessed Kid; More Than Just the Talk;Sex Matters; The Guy’s Guide to God, Girls and the Phone in Your Pocket; and youth ministry books like Ministry By Teenagers; Connect: Real Relationships in a World of Isolation; and the 10-Minute Talks series. He has over 20 years youth ministry experience and speaks to parents and leaders worldwide, all while providing free resources for youth workers and parents on his websites, and You can follow Jonathan on his blog
, getting a regular dose of youth culture and parenting help. Jonathan and his wife Lori, and their three kids live in California.

Seeing and Hearing Sermons


“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:14–16).

In life, we always hear interesting sayings. One of the adages I have always found most interesting is one that some parents say to their children: “Do as I say, not as I do.”

This is essentially communicating, demonstrating and teaching our children to ignore actions. If one ascribes to this parenting style, it makes it difficult to teach children and to lead by example. Furthermore, this approach seems to contradict a wise adage sometimes heard in the church: “I would rather see a sermon than hear a sermon.” This adage’s meaning is in direct opposition to “do what I say, not what I do” and of what we should be communicating to the world as followers and disciples of Jesus Christ.

When people say “do what I say, not what I do,” they are instructing or communicating the other person to ignore and disregard their action, behavior and conduct and only give credence or regard to the words that are said. On the other hand, “I would rather see a sermon than hear a sermon” sends a message that actions and demonstrated teachings are much more important, influential and profoundly persuasive than words that may be empty. As followers and disciples of Christ, we are obligated to act upon Christ’s teachings. Through the demonstration of love, truth, hope, grace, mercy, redemption, forgiveness and salvation, we shine the light of Christ. Through shining the light of Christ, we are fulfilling and achieving the Great Commission (Matthew 28:16–20). Thus, by going out and being fishers of men and women and their hearts and souls, we are leading people to the Great Fisher of men and women and bringing disciples of Christ (Matthew 4:19, Mark 1:17).

As followers and disciples of Christ, the adage of “I would rather see a sermon than hear a sermon” is more aligned with our calling.


The Struggle in Change



Creation of the world and all its creatures required change, a lot of change. God saw beauty, purpose and possibility in bringing forth something new and different.

But we tend to resist, sometimes with a destructive outcome. We tend to want to hold on to what we know, the familiar, what is common or feels easy. We like the predictable, always buying popcorn at the movies or that same brand of socks. The challenge with this is we are here to grow and to glorify. We are not here to remain just us.

I have driven to work the same way for 12 years — the same streets, turned on the same corners, stopped at the same lights. It is easy for me to zone out and just use muscle memory. Last week, construction took me three blocks further west — not a big deal but a minor irritation. I leave extra time driving to work so I knew it would fine. I would still be on time, and tomorrow I would return to my old way. But driving on this different street, just three blocks down, I found that the traffic lights changed more rapidly than my usual path. I didn’t sit as long at each light, and I didn’t zone. I stayed present seeing new stores, faces and a type of tree — which wasn’t on my usual drive — covered in blooms of bright coral flowers. Because the lights changed quickly, even with my detour, I arrived at the office in a shorter amount of time than before.

So a question comes to mind: If we hold on to our usual routine, allow ourselves to react and respond as we are comfortable in doing, and do not take risks or stretch ourselves beyond what we know, how are we allowing God to have power and sovereignty over us? It is only in our giving over ourselves that we are saved. It is only in our willingness to become more Christlike that we grow as He has planned. The Great Commission is to go out into the lands professing His name.

Many people in the Bible were desperate enough or desirous enough to know Christ that they chose, one time, differently. The bleeding woman, the leper and Mary pouring out her perfumed oil on Jesus’ feet in worship are all examples of being audacious and having that bring change and blessing. God gave us free will to encourage us to be willing to change, turn away from our humanness (our sins) and choose to follow Him. Choosing God is a change, a transformation as we align ourselves instead with what He desires.

I have a wonderful opportunity as a psychotherapist to work with people who are frustrated, hurting or confused in their lives. They come to me realizing that they need change, to learn something new, to experiment so their lives can be calmer, smoother, healthier and, at the same time, glorifying. The steps they must take can be scary, hard, and certainly uncomfortable.

I worked with a woman who had a phobia of elevators. She would not set foot within a building that had one. That doesn’t sound too debilitating, but if you start to take notice, most two or more story buildings have elevators. We began our work exploring the history around her fear and current coping skills to come up with a strategy to help her overcome. I showed her photos, we went to the outside of buildings, and step-by-step helped her move beyond her fear. It was a one-week process from start to finish. We walked in the building, looked at the elevator, touched the door and the button, one foot in and then both. We slowly moved her in further and further to help her find a new strength and center, one that was becoming freer and calmer just like our promise from God. She learned to align within differently. She saw when she centered upon her fears, she was scared, overwhelmed and immobile. On the seventh day, the day of rest, she was able to go up and down in an elevator 13 stories high. For her, it was no longer an impossibility or an unlucky number. When we allow God to guide, He tells us how many stories to go in every situation. Knowing He is with us, our lives change.

Heather Browne, Psy.D., is a psychotherapist and a member of Living Spring Church in Garden Grove, California. She also is an author and poet whose writings have appeared in Parenting, Thriving Family and many other magazines and journals. Learn more about her at


1. Where are you aligning yourself on a fear or a habit that limits God and your freedom or flexibility? Where are you stuck?

2. What have you always wanted to try or experience, and how can you allow God to help you explore it?