What A Ride

There are many posting about Mike Yaconelli this week. Mike, the founder and former president of Youth Specialties went home to be with his Lord four years ago this week. I never knew Mike. I wish I had. He was a man who embraced who he was, embraced Jesus and loved the ride!

He had a heart for people and a real heart for youth workers. I love what Justin wrote on his blog about his experience meeting him. It gives a real glimpse into his heart.

It was just days before Mike was killed in a car accident on October 30, 2003, that he said at the Charlotte National Youth Workers Youth Convention, "If I died right this minute, I would be able to say, 'God, what a ride! What a ride!" When I stand face to face with my God, I want to say the same.

As I reflect on my own ministry over the years, and look at where it has been, where it is now, and where it is heading, I am growing more an more convinced that it is not about programs. We are great at creating programs, but it is not programs that changes lives. It is serving. It is serving our God, in community with one another, that brings about real life change and a smile on the face of our God. If you can spare 9 minutes, I hope you will spend them watching this video. It is primarily clips of him speaking at the National Youth Workers Convention, and is amazing. One of my favorite quotes is, "If we gave up a bunch of our programs and just got kids serving then maybe Jesus would show up in a way that we never thought possible." Agree.

May we all enjoy the ride.

First Memory Verse

My little man Benny has memorized his first Bible verse...Psalm 119:42.

Notice the "preachers flare" he possess!

"I trust in Your Word."

Think On This

The young do not know enough to be prudent, and therefore they attempt the impossible - and achieve it, generation after generation.
-Pearl S. Buck

NYWC Days 3-4

Due to the fast paced nature of the convention and less than desirable internet access I was unable to post on days 3 and 4. Here are some of things I am still chewing on.

Day 3
Gary Haugen, president of International Justice Mission spoke and got me thinking seriously about following Jesus into areas that are beyond our control. Following Jesus is an adventure, an adventure into places that are dangerous and beyond our control. It is in those places that we will experience Him like never before. It is in those places that we must remember that His power is made perfect in our weakness. Following Jesus is not safe, but it is good.

Mark Matlock, president and founder of WisdomWorks Minstries, spoke on the Church and culture. He compared the values of Culture to the values of the Kingdom.

Culture Values
• Identity
• Controlling the process
• Critique of others
• Achieve outcomes

Kingdom Values
• Deny self
• Submit to God and others
• Serve others
• Trust God for outcomes

His comment to both of those, was both inditing and by in large, true, "The institutions that house the Church have become works of culture, not the Kingdom." May we strive to be more Kingdom minded and less guided by culture.

Day 4
Marko, Youth Specialites President, wrapped things up with a great talk on the future of youth ministry.

Youth Ministry 1.0 the early years of youth ministries in the sixties and seventies was Proclamation Driven. It was primarily driven by mass evangelism and numbers.

Youth Ministry 2.0 in the eighties and nineties was Program Driven. This era was driven by fancy programs, and even gimmicks all designed to attract.

Youth Ministry 3.0 (today) needs to by Not Driven. Instead of being driven we need to be present. We as youth workers need to be present with God and present with the students we minister to. Our ministries should be characterized less by numbers and programs and more by relationship. Our ministries should be more community oriented (I believe the word he coined was "communial") and incarnational. He based both approaches on Acts 2:44-46a and John 17:18.

We need to be willing to go against the flow of culture and past paradigms, and work toward contextualizing our ministry by making it more appropriate to our communities context.

He used this rather humorous yet poignant Wendy's commercial to illustrate what is taking place in the American church and how we need to be willing to make a change. The point isn't that the Church is blindly running itself into a hole, rather that we need to take a look at how we are approaching youth ministry and be willing to make changes to more effectively reach today's students. Powerful imagery.

Lots to think about. And those were just the General sessions! It was a great weekend. I am thankful Aaron and I were able to go and I am thankful to the YS Staff for putting together such a quality experience. I am better for it.

NYWC Day 2.2

World Vision's 30 Hour Famine had an exhibit down in the Exhibit Hall so naturally we had to stop in and say hey. It was pretty cool because as soon as I mentioned that I am one of the rally organizers for the Portland 30 Hour Famine Rally and that I knew Ruth Nottingham, World Vision's church relations person for the Northwest, they started hooking us up with all kinds of free stuff. You just gotta love free stuff!

At their display they also had a little area set up for people to tape a promo spot for their group's 30 Hour Famine event, so naturally Aaron and I looked at each other and said, "Why not?!"

We had no idea what we were going to say or do, we were pretty much told you have 20 seconds...go! So for all you 180 people reading this, you got yourself a "cowboy cheer" coming this year if we raise more money that we did last year!

NYWC Day 2.1

One of the fun things about the convention is the exhibit hall; a plethora of organizations and ministries that all offer the product or service that promises to make my ministry more successful. Not sure they will, but still fun to learn about new things.

Adam wanted me to get pictures of some of the best displays. Well I'm going to have to go with the ones that offered up the java! In my book, the ones that get me to stop, are the ones offering up the free jo! Of course all the displays that want to offer me a chance at a free iPod Touch get my attention as well. I think Aaron and I have filled out every available drawing. We're gonna get one this year!

NYWC Day 2

This morning in the first General Session Francis Chan spoke about modeling our lives and ministry after Jesus. He asked some great questions. What would the church look like if we took what Jesus said literally? What would our church look like if we said the things Jesus said? The conclusion...much different.

He made a comment that I can't stop thinking about. I'd love your thoughts on it.

He said, "If Jesus had a church in my town, I bet mine would be bigger." I agree. Do you? Jesus said some very radical things. Jesus calls us into a very radical life; a life that the American Church struggles to live.

What are your thoughts?

NYWC Day 1

Convention registration - $245
Airfare to San Diego - $306
Room at the Town & Country Inn - $360
In room bottled water -$2.50

Being with people that understand you - PRICELESS!

Man is it great to be with thousands of others that share your passion. We just got out of a great time of worship led by David Crowder, along with a crazed concert with Family Force Five.

The theme of the convention is "Storyline" We all have a story, a story we must embrace and a story we must share and use for God's glory. We may not like our story yet we must own it.

Phil Vischer, producer of Veggie Tales shared his story to night. It's a story of a big dream that crumbled. A dream that was taken from Him to drive him back to what is most important in life, that being in the center of God's will; complete surrender and Lordship. Phil was at the pinnacle of his career, event touted as being the next Walt Disney. God saw different. God saw his pride, and God took it all away. His story was one that resonated with me at a very deep level, as I too had to come to a similar that point in my life. I hope to share that story here in the days to come.

A quote that stood out to me "If you are in the will of God then where you will be in five years is none of your business." We often spend more time trying to chase our dream, our "vision" instead of just being with and seeking God.

Today has been a great day. We have just begun. I anxious for the rest of the weekend.

National Youth Workers Convention

Aaron and I will be at the NYWC in San Diego this weekend, October 19-22. I'm looking forward to being there for so many reasons. We went two years ago and returned so refreshed, blessed, and challenged. There is just something very cool being with thousands of other people that share your passions and are just as freakish and crazy as you!

Watch this space. Wi-fi permitting, I plan to blog from the event.

Grace Point Staff

We as a church staff recently had our photo taken.

I have been a part of the team for nearly 8 years now and feel so blessed to serve with such great people...my friends.

What Teenagers Look For In The Church

The Barna Group has just released the results of their recent study on "What Teenagers Look For In the Church." What they found is very interesting and I believe very insightful to those of us that minister to teens.

I thought what the president of The Barna Group concluded was dead on. "Helping them connect with God, learn about their faith, and serve others, in a loving and relational environment are their top desires from a church. Keep in mind that young people are not spiritually transformed merely by attending a church, knowing a few Bible stories or being friends with the youth pastor. It takes addressing teens on a much deeper, personal level - such as developing their intellect and vocational passions as well as cultivating their curiosity for the complexities of life."

You can read the study summary here.


One of things I enjoy most about blogging are all the connections I have made. I have made many connections, and friends, with people all over the country as well as around the globe. Most of which are fellow pastors. I have now made another connection and a very fascinating one at that.

I received an email the other day from someone I had never met. She asked me if my great grandmother was Nina Brenizer, and had enclosed a picture of her. She asked if Nina was my great grandmother and if the little boy on her lap was me. Much to my surprise when I viewed the photo...it was me!

Seems this person has been doing research on her family tree and came across this photograph that had my name written on the back. She then googled my name, found this blog, and sent me the email! The picture was taken in Salina, Kansas in 1968 when I was 1 1/2 years old. Pretty cute kid eh?

After I confirmed with her that that was indeed me, she then sent me a scan of the back of the photograph as well as an early picture of my great grandmother and great great grandfather. Turns out her great grandmother is my great grandmother's sister, and that apparently, makes us 3rd cousins. Fascinating connection!

Your Dash

What are you doing with your dash?

The Dance

One of the things that saddens me the most as a pastor to students is when I see a student surrender their life to the Lord and then slowly allow the influences of the world to creep back in and push Jesus out. I have seen it time and again and it breaks my heart.

On the other hand there is one thing that I love to witness in a student's life. I love to see a student that has come to the realization that they have moved away from Jesus, and return to Him with an increased love and surrender and joy. It is a beautiful picture of God's tender love and grace.

This video of a skit performed at Winterfest 2006 does an excellent job of portraying God's love, grace and joy. Allow yourself to enter into it and you will be moved.

May we all enjoy the dance. May Jesus always be our everything.

Faith Hope & Love

On Saturday September 29, the world lost a wonderful person. Jan Geist was a friend and inspiration to many. Her life was one of extreme faith, much hope, and lots of love. After a 9 year battle of cancer she was set free from her suffering and is now enjoying the tangible and immediate presence of her Lord.

Jan's life and story touched countless lives. Many are recounted at a web site the family has set up. See it here.

Jan touched our family's life in a very special and profound way; a very unselfish and loving way. It is a picture of real faith and love. The following is what my wife, Robin posted on the family web site.

I was part of Jan's Bible Study group in the early days when there were only a small handful of us. We met in a very small room, around a very small table at church. I loved the small intimate feel of our little group. It didn't take long for us to get to know each other in a very personal way. My prayer week after week was that I would have a baby - it had been several years in the trying. My study buddies agonized with me, and prayed so fervently for me. It touched me so deeply. At the same time, Jan was battling her breast cancer. Over time, we had all come to love Jan so deeply, we loved her like a mother. She freely shared her life experiences and her wisdom with us each week. I think all of us inwardly feared for her life, and wondered how we could live without her there.

I was not about to let Jan die if there was something that I could do about it - so, I struck a deal with God. As passionate as I was to have a baby, I was more passionate about keeping Jan with us. I told God that I would gladly give up the privilege of being a mother, if he would keep Jan here with us. I felt that we and the world in general needed Jan so much more than I needed to have a baby. I had contented myself with being childless, as I witnessed Jan have a long period of remission from her cancer. I was truly happy, and God strengthened my faith through it all.

It was about a year into Jan's remission, when I had cause to wonder if I should take a pregnancy test. After three positive tests, I believed the impossible - I was pregnant! How was this possible, and what about my deal with God?

I could not contain my excitement as I proudly walked late into my Bible Study group the following Wednesday. They must have read it all over my face as I told everyone that I had good news. I literally saw some holding their breath as I made my big announcement. I will never forget the response of those precious women - I felt so wrapped in love that day. There were tears and screams of joy all around the table.

As I was walking out to my car after study that day, I received the most touching news of all. I met up with Jan, and I proceeded to tell her about my deal with God, and of His boundless and awesome love for me - blessing me in this way in spite of our "deal". Through joy filled tears in her eyes, Jan told me that she had also made a deal with God, that she had felt strongly prompted by the Holy Spirit to pray for me - to ask what God would want her to "give up" for my happiness. She said that she had told God that she was willing to give up her very life for me, so I could have a child. I was astonished by such a love as that - I was speechless. Jan lived the words of the passage in scripture, John 15:13, "Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends".

Jan was the special speaker at the baby shower on December 14, 2004, for Benjamin Andrew Eberly - my son. I just finished watching the DVD of her message of our special bond in Christ. I pray that my son becomes the man of God that would make Jan proud to give her life for.

I am forever in awe and inspired by Jan Geist. I can only hope that I can one day attain the kind of wisdom and intimacy with God that Jan had, and now has in His presence.

Last April I preached a message entitled "Is Jesus Lord of Your Hardships?" Part way through my message I had Jan share some of her story with us. If there was ever someone who knew how to keep Jesus the Lord of her life amidst hardship, it was her. Her testimony was truly amazing. Hear it here.

Read more about Jan's life here.

9 Years Ago Today

It was 9 years ago today that I married the most wonderful woman I have ever known. Robin is my best friend and my love. I am eternally grateful to my God for the gift that she is to me, one that I do not deserve.

It is because of God's wonderful love and grace that we are together. A gift that we remember and celebrate often. A gift that we celebrate in full today.

Happy anniversary hon. I love you.

Middle School Retreat 2

Our Middle School Fall Retreat this last weekend was great! It was a great time of hearing from God, worshiping God, serious play, good food, late nighs, and living in community.

Here's a peak at some of the action.

Already looking forward to next year!

Middle School Retreat

Today we leave for our Middle School Fall Retreat at Camp Tadmor. This will be the eighth year we have done this retreat. It is always a highlight of our ministry year.

This year our speaker will be, well.....me. I will be speaking on four important spiritual disciplines, prayer, time alone with God, witness, and mission. I would appreciate you praying with us that God reveals His heart to each of us this weekend.

The weather is even supposed to be nice!

Here is a glimpse of how it looked last year.

Love Wins

There is a guy who stands in front of one of our local middle schools wearing a sandwich board handing out tracts to students as they arrive for school. He's the kind of guy that is quick to tell kids that they are heading for hell if they do not repent. This is very confusing to my students. I have been asked several times recently, who is that "Jesus guy" and why is he doing what he is doing? They see him as mean, rude and condescending. They don't see much love.

While I appreciate the fact that he is concerned for the eternal destiny of middle schoolers, I wish he knew and understood the kind of damage he is doing. I wish he knew that the Good News that he is presenting doesn't sound very good. I wish he understood that by simply showing love to students, he would see far better results. When we show people the love of Christ, when we love people like He loves, we earn the right to be heard, and people respond.

Jesus told us to love Him and to love our neighbors as ourselves, and that there is no commandment greater (Mark 12:29-31). What we could accomplish if we would just show love. I like the words of G.K. Chesterton, "The Bible tells us to love our neighbors, and also to love our enemies; probably because they are generally the same people.” Let us not just love those we agree with, but let us love all. Jesus does not see good guys and bad guys. He sees a lot of bad guys, some have embraced Him, and others that have not.

May we learn what it really means to love as Jesus did. May we indeed be prepared to give an answer to those who want to know the reason for the hope we have (1 Peter 3:15) yet may we do so in love and not in anger.

I appreciate Rob Bell's video, "Bullhorn." Here is a clip.

One Anothers

For the past five weeks Pastor Steve has been preaching through a great series entitled Doing Church Together. Yesterday's message, Wise is the Connected Christian, Part 3, was fantastic. You can click here to hear it.

The core of the message was that the church is to be made up of contributors not consumers. In light of my recent post Consumerism And The Church I thought it appropriate to post some thoughts from the message.

God desires to show Himself to the world through the Church. In all our imperfections He desires to reveal His presence through us. He could do it a lot better Himself, but instead prefers that we do it. C.S. Lewis was quoted saying, God "seems to do nothing of Himself which He can possibly delegate to His creatures. He commands us to do slowly and blunderingly what He could do perfectly and in the twinkling of an eye." There are two ways that the task of revealing God's presence is accomplished ... love and unity.

In a consumer based church this task is not possible. The Church must not be made up of consumers but rather contributors. Throughout the New Testament we find a number of "One Another" statements all pointing to the fact that we as God's people must be focused not on ourselves (consumer) but rather focused on one another (contributor). Here are a few:

• Accept one another. (Rom. 15:7)
• Instruct one another. (Rom. 15:14)
• Serve one another in love. (Gal. 5:13)
• Carry each other's burdens. (Gal 6:2)
• Be patient, bearing with one another in love. (Eph. 4:2)
• Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. (Eph. 5:21)
• In humility consider others better than yourselves. (Philippians 2:3)
• Spur one another on toward love and good deeds. (Heb. 10:24)
• Do not slander one another. (James 4:11)
• Don't grumble against each other. (James 5:9)
• Clothe yourselves with humility toward one another. (1 Peter 5:5)
• Comfort one another. (1 Thess 4:18)
• Forgive one another. (Col. 3:13)
• Meet with one another. (Heb. 10:25)
• Minister one to another. (1 Peter 4:10)
• Be at peace with each other. (Rom. 12:10)
• Honor one another above yourselves. (Rom. 12:10)

May this be what the world sees. May His presence be clearly seen through us, His imperfect Church.