Monday, September 9, 2019


I've now spent the last 30 years of my professional life teaching and coaching and discipling and building relationships with the NEXT generation of Christian students and young adults. It's been incredibly fulfilling, brought me great joy, and full of challenges in the invitation that I've extended to them to live a different and compelling life as followers of Jesus among their peers and in our culture and world.

I think it's pretty honest to say that there has never been a time in those 30 years more filled with negativity, daunting statistics, and great uncertainty, especially in the American/Western church culture, when people look forward to the future as it relates to young people and their engagement with Scripture, Jesus, and His Church.

The books written by Dave Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons and Mark Matlock have been incredible works that have detailed some of the challenges faced inside and outside the Church as well as the unique opportunities provided for this generation of young Christ followers.  UNCHRISTIAN, YOU LOST ME, and GOOD FAITH have awakened the American evangelicals and others to some of the issues and crisis points we have been and are facing in the faith journey of emerging adults.

Their latest book entitled FAITH FOR EXILES released this past week and hones in on the 5 practices of young disciples of Jesus who thrive and resiliently live out their faith in what the authors refer to as "Digital Babylon" where they now find themselves. This list and the explanations and examples given for each of the 5 practices comes from Barna's research on this group that is in many ways caught between cultures.  Here is the list of the 5 PRACTICES as they counter the influence and impact of the digital culture and world we now live in:

1. To form a resilient identity, experience INTIMACY WITH JESUS
2. In a complex and anxious age, develop the muscles of CULTURAL DISCERNEMENT
3. When isolation and mistrust are the norms, forge meaningful INTERGENERATIONAL RELATIONSHIPS
4. To ground and motivate an ambitious generation, train for VOCATIONAL DISCIPLESHIP
5. Curb entitlement and self-centered tendencies by engaging in COUNTERCULTURAL MISSION

I see these 5 traits as powerful ideas and targets that can and will enable faithfulness to Scripture and the capacity to flourish and be salt and light in the culture and communities students are part of in this era of digital relationships and communication that has altered so much in their lives and thoughts about the pursuit of faith.

Faith for Exiles is a book that anyone who is a parent, mentor, teacher, coach, pastor, or friend of the next generation should read as they consider their role in inspiring and developing the faith of the future leaders of the church of Jesus Christ.

In the midst of a sea change in the culture and the church in these days, I have incredible HOPE for what God and His people will do in the years and decades to come. My hope comes from walking alongside many of these FAITHFUL in EXILE students as I see them lean into the issues in our world and live out their faith in radical and redemptive ways every day. It's an incredible privilege to not just lead and pour into them, but to learn from and follow them as they chart a new and beautiful way on the faith journey of following Jesus in this day.

Grab a copy and learn and be inspired and challenged and equipped for the role God has for you in encouraging and raising up resilient disciples!

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

GROWING WITH: A Remarkable Parenting Resource

I've been involved and engaged with the youth ministry and high school and college campus ministry contexts for about the last 30 years. I've walked alongside thousands of students and their parents as they've navigated adolescence, the college years, and the post-education early career years. I've traveled with them to dozens of foreign countries, officiated at many of their weddings, and watched hundreds and hundreds of them perform on fields and in theaters and all kinds of spaces, often sitting besides their moms and dads and siblings. And I currently am a parent of a 20 year old college junior and a 15 year old high school sophomore.

As I head into my 4th decade of professional student ministry work and walk through life as a dad in 2019 there are a couple things that stand out to me as I look at the faith journeys and stories of this generation of students:

*Growing as a follower of Jesus and living out one's faith is pretty challenging for our next generation in a culture that throws at them non-stop technology, endless information, a sea of video, and a seeming growing indifference to formal faith practices and participation in the local church.

*Parents are more connected than ever before to their kids and young adults. They know more about them, are more deeply part of their everyday worlds, and communicate with them almost non-stop in comparison to any other previous group of parents.

I've read and reviewed and highlighted hundreds of books concerning the spiritual formation and development of the student generation. Some of them have even dared to address the role of parents in the spiritual growth of their adolescent children. But in this season of more parent and child communication, there is and has been a massive need to help parents engage their kids in new and more thoughtful ways, especially through the 18-28 years that have often been thought as the time when parents disconnect as their kids become fully adults.

Today an incredible book is being released called GROWING WITH from two young adult thought leaders from Fuller Youth Institute. I've been a huge fan of Kara Powell's work for a long time and her material in previous books have often been the basis for presentations I've done to help others working alongside me in the high school and college contexts, and Steve Argue has been a friend and ministry partner for almost two decades. These two professors who come from both a research background and ministry and personal parental experiences have authored a book that I think does a truly exceptional job of helping parents to help their teenagers and young adults thrive rather than be overcome as they make their way through seasons of incredible challenge and change in their lives.

They focus on several key topics in the text that engages the 3 distinct times of life growth and parental roles in this critical dozen years:

*LEARNERS (13-18)--Teacher Role
*EXPLORERS (18-23)--Guide Role
*FOCUSERS (23-29)--Resourcer Role

--How Our Kids' Life and Faith Paths Are Different Than Our Paths
--WITHING: a family's growth in supporting each other as children grow more independent
--Repairing & Reorienting Our Relationships as Parents With our Growing Children
--FAITHING: helping a child's growth in owning and embodying their own journeys with God as they encounter new experiences and information.
--Searching for the Communities That Support our Faith Journeys
--ADULTING: encouraging a child's growth in agency as they embrace opportunities to shape the world around them
--Navigating the World of Friends, Love, and the Search for Connection
--Shaping the World Through our Service and Career

Growing With is the best resource I've run across in helping to CLOSE the FAMILY GAP in the midst of our fears and feelings that are so strong when it seems like we are quickly growing apart...

I can't wait to share some of the principles and ideas and examples with the Student Development and Athletics staff teams at Cornerstone University where I serve, the parents who share their kids with us for the college years, and my peers who are walking the parenting journey as well.

More than anything I love the word, the title WITH...and the invitation to GROW with our teenagers and young adults as together we pursue Jesus and His Way for both of us!

If you are a parent, a youth worker, an educator, or a church leader, you really can't not grab a copy of Growing With as you lean into the work and joy of discipleship and spiritual formation with the incredible next generation we love and care about SO very much...

Here's a couple links to find out more and to order a copy today:

And check out a few quotes from the book below...


Thursday, February 14, 2019

Celebrating the Life of My Dear Friend and Ministry Partner…LAWRENCE TEMFWE

I’ve always considered the remarkable variety and quality of people God has brought into my life as one of His grandest blessings. I am thankful for high school and college friends that I’m still regularly connected to after over 30 years of relationship. There are so many colleagues I’ve worked with who have been way more than just fellow workers next to me in the office or classroom. The athletic world has been full of coaches and staff members and even reporters who I’ve loved competing with and against and creating memories with on and off the fields and courts. Church pastors and para-church leaders have been remarkable encouragers in my faith journey and empowered me to care about the things that Jesus cared about. 

I’ve been blessed and in the midst of hundreds of influential and important people in my life the LORD has anointed and brought some friends who have been unique in the way that they have left a mark in my life. This past Friday my dear friend and brother Lawrence Temfwe went to be with Jesus on the other side of the world. Lawrence’s friendship has been a gift I have thanked God for hundreds of times publicly and privately over the last decade of serving together in the beautiful nation of Zambia.

About 20 years ago I was finishing up my master’s degree at the Wheaton College Graduate School. And at the same time was a Zambian leader with his young family being trained to go back to follow God’s leading to start a holistic ministry serving and empowering hundreds of Zambian churches in sharing the Good News in word and deed to people and communities in his home country. Lawrence and I would sometimes chuckle about how we had to have been in some of the same places in Wheaton and yet never met each other. And there’s definitely a part of me that wishes I would have come across his path to enjoy another decade of friendship and partnership…

Along with a crew of Wheaton Academy students I started taking trips and helping to partner in community development work in Zambia after being pushed by BONO to respond to the HIV pandemic and being connected to a village where World Vision was starting to holistically address spiritual and physical needs. I fell in love with the Zambian culture, people, and church and community and ministry leaders I met. And God began to change me and deepen and expand my faith through the witness and work of the African people…

Almost a decade ago now I was introduced to Lawrence and Martha Temfwe over a lunch here in west MI. I was at a place where I was wondering what next steps in continuing and deepening my investment in global work and was pumped to meet a potential new ministry partner in my “second home” on the other side of the world. Immediately I found myself drawn to his passion and vision. I enjoyed a natural connection with him on a human level as I found him to be a winsome and thoughtful person to talk and share stories with. I had no idea that he was already connected to several influential US churches, and he didn’t seem to care that my little Christian university didn’t have the academic pedigree or endowment resources that a school like Wheaton had to offer.

We left the conversation with hopes for a future partnership and I began taking students from Cornerstone on yearly trips to Ndola for life-changing weeks in Zambia. And I was given the gift of a growing and surprising friendship that I found to be a wonderful addition to my relational network. Students would always ask me why I wanted to keep taking these long trips to sub-Saharan Africa and I would talk about the cultural learning and experiences, ministry and service projects, and seeing the needs and life in a place unlike their own world. But I would personally always simply say that I loved going back because I got to see my friends. And for me that meant being with my friend Lawrence.

I loved when he would join me on the soccer pitch as the elder statesman with all the young players running circles around us even as we kept telling them to pass us the ball. I always looked forward to the car rides to and from ministry sites where he would grab me and just the two of us would get a chance to talk openly and freely away from the loud bus full of students and staff members. Almost every drive he would call me to deeper faith and greater Kingdom risk as he shared with me where he believed God wanted to use me in the days ahead in his ministry and the larger world. I have vivid memories of the dinners at the favorite Indian restaurant where our laughter and voices would get to a decibel level that was noticed by everyone else eating that night. And I never grew tired of early morning times of worship at the Jubilee Centre office where His sharing of the Scriptures and leading us pastorally in worship and prayer gave rest and life to my soul that was often weary coming to Zambia.

This picture is one of my favorites I have of Lawrence. I think of 4 things that I saw in him that I see in this particular photograph at a bed net distribution to help protect orphans being cared for in their local community from the deadly threat of malaria…

1. JOY—He radiated and extended the joy of the Lord to those around him. His spirit lifted your spirit through the joy that spilled from his heart into the world. And I never escaped dancing when I was with him as we celebrated what God was up to and who He was.

2. DO SOMETHING—He always pushed people to move from a place of just knowledge or privilege to put their faith into practice that would produce fruit of lasting impact. If you see a problem like malaria in a community, you had to get the life-saving nets to people who were in danger. He modeled for me a life where he truly “spurred one another on to good deeds.”

3. PEOPLE MATTER—Not every influential leader would take the time to make a little girl feel special like Lawrence did in this moment. There are literally hundreds of students in my ministry who felt known and personally encouraged and challenged by Lawrence. And my family was so well loved and cared for and prayed for by the Temfwe family in ways we often didn’t feel even in our own community.

4. INSIDE THE NET—Lawrence was right in the midst of the challenges and opportunities he encountered. His gifts and capacities could have allowed him to stay safe on the outside but he always jumped “inside the net” and was present where courage and truth and love were most needed. His commitment to local churches and community based holistic ministry was real and authentic and personal. And that made all the difference for those God called him to serve.

Today I grieve the loss of and simultaneously celebrate what Jesus has invited us into and what was given to me as a brother found in John 15. Lawrence allowed me to move from being a financial supporter and a ministry partner to being a true friend. His legacy in Zambia and the world is wide and deep in its scope and eternal impact. And my heart is more aligned with God’s heart and my hands now do more of the work God longs for me to do because of my friendship with Lawrence Temfwe.

I do and will miss my friend so very much. And I am longing already to be reunited with him in the presence of Jesus someday.   

PHILIPPIANS 1:3-8: I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart and, whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God’s grace with me. God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus.