The Vanishing American Adult

I don’t usually dig into political debate, and I don’t intend to here, but I recently read The Vanishing American Adult from Senator Ben Sasse. It’s telling that I felt it necessary to preface this post with a bit of a disclaimer, isn’t it? We really need to do a better job of hearing the dissenting voices around us rather than just snapping on the noise canceling headphones and climbing into the echo chambers that repeat to us exactly what we want to hear. That’s not to say that Sasse is, for me, a voice of dissent or an echo chamber, but rather that many will fail to grasp what he says simply because he is a Senator, a conservative, or a Republican. They’ll think he must be writing from a particular viewpoint that they already know they are against, and so, will not hear clearly through the muck of pre-formed opinions based on what particular label they assign to him.

One of the things I appreciated about the book was Sasse’s ability to seek and to share genuine understanding of opposing positions. It’s a refreshingly adult way to approach differences, which gets to the heart of what the book is about in the first place: raising adults. How can we better prepare the next generation to face the rigors of life? We have not been doing a great job at this and Sasse offers hopeful paths toward a better way for parents, teachers, coaches… for American society to equip the next generation of citizens to be more than self-absorbed consumers.

We are going to need America’s children to rise to their best in the years to come, because a nation of adult-children cannot be a nation of self-governing people…

A republic is the only form of government, the only social arrangement, that seeks to make individuals preeminent in their own self-control, their own self-possession. A republic is thus at once liberating and scary. For it both requires and assumes adults, not subjects. And this is a rare state of affairs in political history.

– Ben Sasse, The Vanishing American Adult

Having worked with youth for the last 20 years, I see so many lights of hope in the next generation. But we need to do a better job of helping our young people toughen up enough to hold on to their hope when life gets difficult. Self-reliance doesn’t just happen by accident. It happens when we walk with our kids through a process of teaching, mentoring, and coaching them to set aside the drive for instant gratification and remain determined to progress in a certain direction. Sasse offers some helpful guidance about how we can do this via real education, travel, meaningful work, and a host of other life long learning practices.

If you have a stake in the success of the future generations of Americans (we all do), you’ll find much to appreciate in this book.

College Group Potential Material

A recently graduated student who has been asked to lead a group of peers through some study at his new church has asked me for a list of stuff that he could potentially take the group through. I thought it might be helpful to share it here as well and let you guys add to the list. I know some of you are heavily involved in college ministries and your input would be greatly appreciated. Before I get to the list, though…

Hats off to Jim for not standing on the sidelines and for jumping into service at a new church as soon as you got to college! And thanks to the church for investing in young people and making space for them to learn to lead.

Ok. So.. in no particular order, here are some resources I’ve used and seen solid outcomes with young adults & college students. Not knowing particulars about the group itself or much about the context, this will be a general list, but can be a great place to start I hope:

BASIC video series from Francis Chan: This is a really good discussion starting video series in two sections: Who Is God? and We Are Church. There are 7 videos, with discussion guides and participant material for everyone to go through together. Could be a great baseline to build on for a new group of students from varied church backgrounds.

Catalyst GroupZines: I have not used these for a few years, but they’re a unique resource. Basically, a series of thick magazines full of articles exploring leadership from a lot of different angles and a myriad of leaders/writers. They are a companion/follow up to the content I saw at several Catalyst Conferences that I attended, but stand alone as well if you’ve got a group that is particularly leadership minded. (I’d also recommend the conferences themselves! Highly.)

Not A Fan from Kyle Idleman: This is a great little book about becoming completely committed to the cause of Christ. There are a lot of peripheral resources like journals and videos and discussion guides that can help a new group leader get comfortable challenging the group to a deeper discipleship than they may be used to. Also check out several other books Idleman has produced for small group use.

Eats With Sinners from Aaron Chambers: I may have a bias toward authors who’ve bought me good Chinese food, but this would be a great book for just about any group of Christians (college or otherwise) to walk through together. It’s a challenge to not just see people the way Jesus sees them, but to actually love them and treat them the way He treats them us.

Storyline from Donald Miller: This resource is a little different speed and may be tough to go through with a group that isn’t comfortable with each other. It’s more of an introspective study of how God has been shaping you throughout the events of your life. If your group can muster the trust to be transparent with each other, though, it could provide some great moments of clarity about just what God is up to in your lives. (If there’s a good counselor in your church that would be willing to help lead the group through this book, I could see that leading to a whole new level of benefit.)

Complete Guide to Money from Dave Ramsey: What college kid doesn’t need some help with money, right? I’d say go through the Financial Peace University, but unless your church will sponsor a class, most college students aren’t going to cough up the cash to get the whole kit, but this book goes through the bulk of the content anyway. Good principles that can help you avoid some big money mistakes that you may not have had a chance to make yet.

Sacred Marriage from Gary Thomas: Since we’re on the subject of more adult topics, how about marriage!? While many of the current crop of college students aren’t thinking about marriage, many are, and this is a good book digging in to God’s intention for marriage. Again, this may be one of those resources that can help you avoid some future mistakes (and also offers hope for the the redemption of past mistakes). This is also one of those resources that won’t hit home for some groups quite yet. Know your group, first.

PRAY by me: (Thank you for pretending like you didn’t see that coming, but if I don’t plug it, who will, right?) While this resource has not been offered from a huge platform and sold far fewer copies than the rest of this list, I really do see it doing a lot of good with groups and individuals that have gone through this guided journal. The ongoing conversation we are having with God is the fuel for His movement. Growing healthy in how we talk to God and listen to Him can enhance what we get out of any other resource/study. (I can get a special price for you depending on group size if you let me know you need a bunch of copies!)

Ok, college ministry friends… What are you using that’s working great for discipling college students? Would love to hear how things are going in your groups!

Is Your Church Designed to Lead?

The Christian faith has continued to advance because the Lord has continually raised up new leaders to disciple others. The Kingdom of God has continually advanced because God’s people have been developed and deployed to make disciples. The spreading of the faith is going to continue until people from every tribe, tongue, and nation are His. By His grace, He has invited us to join Him.

– Eric Geiger and Kevin Peck, Designed to Lead

In Designed to Lead, Geiger and Peck make a strong case for the church being the place God intends for leaders to be developed. Not just church leaders, but leaders in every culture and industry and strata of life, should be able to find development in and through the church. The quote above sums up just why this is so critical.

God is on a mission. He is renewing all things ~ and we have been invited to join Him in what He is accomplishing, but it doesn’t just happen on accident. He works through His people as we continue to put ourselves in environments where He stretches and transforms us. He works as His people continue to walk people through processes that turn guests into friends, friends into family, and family into partners. He works as we each take seriously his charge to make disciples.

What’s your next step in the process? What can you be doing to engage someone close to you in our mission to proclaim Christ as Lord? How are you being developed AND deployed on His mission to make disciples?

If you’re a church leader, I’d invite you to check the book out for yourself and begin to put a plan into place to develop leaders consistently and intentionally.

Hope Tested

So… yesterday I wrote this post about hope and responding to the darkness we encounter in life’s circumstances. Sometimes, it’s funny how life pushes back when you make a statement. Sometimes… it just hurts.

I went home and discovered that my basement was striving for swimming pool status once again. As I was writing words about hope in the darkness, brand new carpet was taking on water in the basement. In the very room that we’d done so much work to mitigate the possibility of flooding. In the very room that my 17 year old was so looking forward to having her own space for the first time in 15 years. In the very room in which we’d put down carpet THREE DAYS AGO! So now, the carpet is piled up with fans furiously attempting to push the moisture out into the air where it belongs (or at least SOMEWHERE OTHER THAN MY BASEMENT!).

And now I’m in a position to either live with the hope I claim to have that “God works everything out for the good of those that love Him” and reveal Him to be Lord, or light a match and reveal myself to be the fraud that I sometimes suspect I am.

I’m all out of matches, so here are a few observations:

  • There is a tiny fraction of humanity throughout history that would even have the chance to be upset by wet carpet. It’s an incredible time/place to be alive.
  • We have been so ridiculously blessed that it’s easy to forget that the best is yet to come. I have another place being prepared for me by the Maker of everything. You can bet its basement won’t flood!
  • My basement doesn’t really matter. The room can sit empty. My daughters can keep sharing a room upstairs until we can figure something else out. They’ll be fine. We still have everything we really need. Maybe this is just a reminder of what that really is.

Don’t Hide Your Hope

With reports of bad news being plentiful these days, hope stands out. In fact, hope shines brightest when circumstances are at their worst.

And when hope shines, questions arise.

How are you not devastated? (by your cancer diagnosis)

How can you keep smiling? (when your home had just been flooded)

How will your family make it? (when you just lost your job or spouse)

… the questions are many.

And every one of them is an opportunity to explain the hope we have as believers. These questions are open doors to speak life into people’s hearts and minds. But only if we’re ready. Too often, when life is roughest, I want to just crawl in a hole and be alone. I think I still understand the hope… I just don’t feel like sharing it. So my hope is buried and hidden away from the world.

Don’t hide your hope.

The people around you are desperate to see some right now and learn where they can find some of their own.

Totality Makes All the Difference!

Just so this doesn’t turn into a Jesus Juke-y post where you think it’s about something else, I’m just going to state from the beginning that this is about Him. Don’t come back at me for a snarky twist at the end that leaves you shaking your head and wondering if I thought it would be cute or funny or… whatever. There is no “Gotcha” moment. There is no snark intended.

A friend posted yesterday how underwhelming the eclipse was. After all the hype (which even the most ardent eclipser should admit got more than a little annoying), he felt let down. It was sort of a “Yeah, yeah… whatever. Now can I get back to my life already?” statement. I couldn’t believe he said it. I had to do a double take, because I saw the total eclipse and it was awesome! Did he really just say that? Yep. He did.

Then I realized something: He didn’t actually see the eclipse. He went outside and looked up at the sky, but he was so far out of the path of totality that what he was observing shouldn’t even have been called by the same name as what my family and I were seeing. He was criticizing something he hadn’t actually experienced! He was rolling his eyes at one of the most spectacular things I’ve ever seen!

Have you ever noticed how it’s so much easier to criticize something than to understand it? We do it all the time. Instead of getting to know the crazy neighbors down the road, we sit back and mock the mess in his yard. Instead of doing the hard work of creating something original, we stand at a distance and scoff at the artist who made the leap and held his heart out for everyone to see. Instead of walking in the way of totality with Jesus, we dip our toe into the church and step back and criticize all the perceived hypocrisy and short-comings we can find.

What if we could close the distance? What if we stopped observing from a distance and stepped into the path of totality that is a life fully given to the cause of Christ? What if we stepped out of the shadows at church and fully engaged every ability at our disposal in being the church? I think we’d see something incredible! When we “fix our eyes” on the perfecter of our faith, we’ll see things far greater than shiny rings in the sky and wavy shadows on the ground. (Those were crazy awesome though, right?!) We’ll see walls of division being torn down. We’ll see the gates of hell failing to separate people from God any longer. We’ll see the hearts of people who can’t stand each other begin to turn toward each other and soften and love again. We’ll see restoration and healing and hope.

Go ahead and take the leap to go all in with Jesus. Let me know if I can help you somehow.

You don’t even need to wear goofy glasses!

Responding to Charlottesville in Your Neighborhood

Evidence of our brokenness is not in short supply, but this past weekend we were viscerally reminded in so many ways that we have fallen far, far short of God’s hopes for humanity. Issues of race and economics and many other factors, complicated by political scheming and posturing are boiling over in our nation, separating and dividing us from each other. The events in Charlottesville painfully displayed the ugliness that has crept in to our world as people stop thinking of each other as people and lump the “others” into some category or another that they can then vilify without actually understanding who they’re hating.

Media figures continue to froth and feed the frenzy with hot takes and headlines that bear little resemblance to reality. The church gets blamed for it’s complicity and silence as those within it who do not take the Word of God seriously or actually follow His Son to freedom continue to be allowed to operate on the fringes that media so loves to spotlight. And fear of what’s different takes the win.

It’s time to stop fearing. Don’t just sit back and watch this happen. White supremacist hate will not win out. Neither will antifa violence. Neither will anyone else who attempts to shove people as far right or left as possible in their attempts to divide and conquer. Don’t let fear motivate your response to the news and draw you right or left – move in faith where the wind of the Spirit is moving. Let love and compassion set the tone for your life BEFORE you hear reports of racial tension exploding into chaos. Then you’ll be set to step into the chaos with hope in in the name of Jesus.

Hope. Love. Faith.

These will win.

In thinking about the events of last weekend and reading an unrelated book about God’s intent for leadership in humanity and in the church, I came across this quote:

It’s easy to forget that the failure of Adam’s leadership in the garden was passivity, not aggression. Adam failed to cultivate the garden. Adam failed to keep the weeds out…

-Eric Geiger & Kevin Peck, Designed to Lead

Continue to call out racism and speak out against this evil as it creeps around you. Don’t give that weed any place to take root in your neighborhood. Cultivate rich and meaningful relationships with those who can share with you a perspective different from your own.

Play the Man: Curiosity

Did you hear the one about the kid who wanted to know everything about everything?

Drawing on some stories of Teddy Roosevelt (who was evidently enough of a man to give a 50 minute speech with a bullet buried in his chest), Batterson paints a compelling picture of childlike wonder as the second virtue of manhood. Roosevelt was a man who was insatiably curious. I don’t know if he was the pre-cursor for Sid the Science Kid, but he was compelled to learn. He wanted to know stuff.Fence Musings-3

This kind of appetite for figuring things out, for seeking understanding, for learning is a critical component of being a man. Have you ever heard two 12 year old boys arguing about the merits of Ford vs. Chevy? Or throw in a third boy who just loves his Dodge? Maybe you haven’t, but let me assure you, it is the curse of doing youth ministry in rural America – I’m sure there’s an analogous conversation going on in the clusters of 6th Grade boys wherever you are. It’s amazing how much these boys know about their family trucks, right? Right? No. Actually, it’s not. They typically know more about how their fidget spinners work than the trucks. But that won’t stop them from declaring absolute devotion to one brand or another – because they’re boys and they don’t realize how much they don’t know.

Curiosity may have killed the cat, but you’re not a cat. You’re a child of God, so don’t ever lose that childlike wonder that Jesus built you with thinking it makes you more of a man to pretend that you know everything you need to know. You don’t. Men don’t know everything. The best of them know that there is a lot they still need to learn, that every day points out new gaps in what they know, and they continually seek to learn what they need to learn.

This isn’t merely a vain pursuit of knowledge for it’s own sake, though. It’s for the sake of more deeply worshiping our Father, who made all the wonders of the universe that keep us so enthralled. The more we understand our selves and our world, the more in awe we can be about our Creator. He loves to see that awe and wonder, that curiosity in His children. It pleases Him to no end when when we worshipfully wonder.

So go ahead, Man – Be Curious! Learn something.

What do you want to do with what you’ve been learning lately? Maybe, instead of emails and private messages to me, you can share your answer in the comments section. Maybe someone else can be sparked into action by what you’re learning. Or maybe they can help you take the next steps in your process.

We’re walking through 7 virtues presented in Mark Batterson’s new book Play the Man over the next several posts. Feel free to jump into the discussion. It may be helpful to use the links in this post to get a copy for yourself and follow along.

Play the Man: Tough Love

“Real men don’t cry.” I don’t know where this thought originated… Maybe it was some line in some movie where Clint Eastwood got shot without blinking, or where Bruce Willis walked barefoot over glass through a thousand explosions without flinching, but probably long before tough guys (or actors pretending to be tough guys) started showing up on giant screens. Somewhere, we’ve culturally come to understand the idea that men are supposed to be tough – and that means they don’t cry.

I would completely agree that men should be tough, but is an absence of tears really how we want to measure that? I don’t think so.

Mark Batterson lists some great character traits (virtues) in Play the Man, his recent book on “becoming the man God created you to be.” The first of these he defines as Tough Love. It’s that combination of toughness and empathy that allows a man to make it through the trying circumstances of life without become an uncaring jerk with no regard for anyone else whatsoever. Sometimes, life sucks, and it’s tempting to either crawl in a hole and ride out the storm or to lash out at anyone and everyone within reach.

Neither of those options will help us reveal God to the people around us, but Tough Love will. It’s what led Jesus to endure personal agony for our benefit. He was tough enough. And He loved enough.

Where do you need to toughen up a bit to get through the obstacles life is throwing at you right now? Can I help?

Where are you withholding your love to protect yourself from getting hurt? Maybe it’s time to take a risk and love the way Jesus does.


We’re walking through 7 virtues presented in Mark Batterson’s new book Play the Man over the next several posts. Feel free to jump into the discussion. It may be helpful to use the links in this post to get a copy for yourself and follow along.

Thanks for Reading

You have chosen to read my posts, follow my tweets and Facebook thoughts, or receive an email once in a while from me – and I want to thank you for that. I don’t take that for granted. I know you only have a certain amount of time to read stuff every day and there are thousands of writers churning out content begging for your attention by the minute. Thank you for valuing my words enough to read them. Despite the occasional foray into frivolity, I try to write stuff that matters, and I hope that what you’ve read from me has been helpful.

I want what I write to unlock something inside you and help you realize that more is possible than you’ve dreamed. The potential God has placed inside each one of us is nothing short of a history shaping, culture making, creative spark He hopes to fan into flame in order to restore everything to Himself. He is building an unstoppable Kingdom and you have a unique part to contribute to its momentum.

Having said that, I’m not sure any of the words I’ve written will be more practical and effective in helping you understand the work He has ready for you to do than what I’ve written (and what you’ll write) in PRAY! That’s because my words aren’t the ones that matter when it comes to building the unstoppable church – His are. My words aren’t the ones that carry the weight sufficient to push your potential into a kinetic movement that will rock the shaky foundations of our culture and reveal a solid bedrock upon which you can build real life – His are. And PRAY will help you strengthen your conversation with Him. It will help you make sure the story of your life isn’t missing the most important Voice of all.

Use that link to find it on Amazon, or ask your favorite bookstore to order it for you. Grow your conversation with God & let me know how it goes… This Kingdom is no accident.