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Passion + Zeal in a Church Start-Up


One of my favorite stories from the 1700's is the explosive ministry of John Wesley.

People would travel from miles around to experience his passion and zeal.

Someone once asked Wesley why so many people came to hear him preach.

His answer was,

“I set myself on fire, and people come to see me burn.”

Passion and zeal are always marks of a movement of God.

Proverbs 29:18 is true: "Where there is no vision, people abandon ship.
But the inverse is also true - if you rally around a passionate vision, people flourish. 

Starting something from nothing requires passion and zeal.

It's the fuel for forward movement.  It's like gravity to the unbelieving soul.

This is the whole idea behind hosting our monthly worship services at The Dow Event Center.

Don't stick your toe into the water... Cannonball!  That's zeal.


My aim as we continue moving forward toward monthly worship services this fall is to douse every action, every word with passion and zeal.

From our kids ministries to our worship band to our messages, I want our region to come see people who are fully alive and on fire for Christ.

C.H. Spurgeon once wrote:

If you desire to see souls converted; if you would place crowns upon the head of the Savior and lift His throne high, then be filled with zeal.  For, under God, the way of the world's conversion must be by the zeal of the church...

Zeal is stimulated by the thought of the eternal future

It looks with tearful eyes down to the flames of hell, and it cannot sleep.

It looks up with longing for the glories of heaven, and it cannot but rouse itself.

It feels that time is short compared with the work to be done;
therefore, it devotes all that it has to the cause of its Lord.


It All Begins Sep 16th

God planted our family in Mid-Michigan in 2009.

Our ministry in this region saw something incredible:


Healthy things grow! Every number has a name, every name has a story, and every story matters to God.

Now, I'm a Gen Xer, so I'm always dubious about claims and numbers.  It's just how I'm wired.

That's why this floored me:


135 in less than 18 months

Unbelievable.  You can't inflate or exaggerate public baptisms.  God has been so good.


Last summer, the plug was abruptly pulled.

As our family wept and prayed and cried out to God for direction, He broke our hearts even more deeply for the people of this region.

God whispered to us,

"Bloom where I have planted you."

Trust me, I really wanted to jet.  It's always easier to walk away.  Staying is harder.

God pointed me to Jeremiah 15:19,

"Therefore thus says the LORD:  'If you return, I will restore you.'"

Why Start Life Church?

  • Churches over 10-15 years of age gain 80-90% of new members by transfer from other churches
  • Over 60% of our family, friends, and co-workers throughout Mid-Michigan do not darken a church door
  • Over the past decade, no county in Michigan had an increase in weekly church attendance

We are starting up a fresh, modern, fun non-denominational church for people who don't like going to church.

And now I'm excited to announce that it all begins September 16th:

We are beyond excited! If you're local and want more info on joining our team or giving to this 501c3 start-up (every dollar gets doubled!) give us a holler!

Kamikaze Faith + Prayer Dominoes Falling Into Place

I tweeted this earlier today:

We got a location, date, & band!!!  Let's start a church...

No joke - - what an insane, grace-drenched week!

Months of planning, gathering people and resources, and praying our guts out.

Believing.  Hoping.  Trying.  Striving.

I've learned that starting something from nothing is HARD!  Church planting is NOT for wimps!

I'm convinced that following Jesus into the risky unknown takes kamikaze faith: you gotta be willing to be all in and totally sold-out to the vision.

I've been continually inspired along the way by these words penned by missionary John G. Paton over 150 years ago as he recalled being surrounded by spear-wielding savages ready to slaughter him:

My heart rose up to the Lord Jesus; I saw Him watching all the scene. 

My peace came back to me like a wave from God.

I realized that I was immortal till my Master's work with me was done.

...Not a musket would be fired to wound us, not a club prevail to strike us, not a spear leave the hand in which it was held vibrating to be thrown, not an arrow leave the bow, or a killing stone the fingers, without the permission of Jesus Christ, whose is all power in Heaven and on Earth.

Launching a new church from scratch stirs up similar emotions because it is missionary work
Missionaries always encounter tremendous obstacles, voices, and hurdles.


This week I was reminded that this is God's church, not mine.  Seriously, I have nothing to bring to the table; it's all Him.

Starting with literally absolutely nothing a year ago and now, in a single week, it's like God's finger saw fit to flick our little prayer dominoes wonderfully into place, one by one!


I cannot wait to share all the details with our Launch Team this Sunday morning,
then with our E*Blast Subscribers, and finally over on our church website.

Hang on kiddos, our little kites are about to jump into God's hurricane!


And if you want to help us bring Life to Mid-Michigan from wherever you are, please donate here.  Whether its twenty bucks or two thousand bucks, every dollar helps.  Everything you give gets DOUBLED thanks to a matching grant!


PS - I'll be tweeting hints on our new location, date, and the band this weekend...

Top 5 Leadership Lessons I Learned While On-Staff at NewSpring Church

I love Perry Noble.
  God has used him in my life as a friend, a coach, a cheerleader, and once as a boss.


You see, a long, long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, I was on the Senior Management Team at NewSpring Church
I love that team, have a strong loyalty toward Perry, and learned a TON while serving on staff under him.

Recently I was reflecting on my time in Anderson, South Carolina and came up with the Top 5 lessons that stretched and shaped me as a leader:

5.  Work Hard Together, Play Hard Together - Church-work is passionate business - - we're a rescue organization with eternity on the line!  That's why it's important for team members to enjoy each other.  It's not about a job; it's about doing life together.  My fondest memories at NewSpring were the random silly moments in hallways and hanging out together at someone's house watching LOST.  This is my biggest personal goal with our new church start-up - - to bring people onto our team who we can do life with deeply.

4.  Loyalty is Everything - Relationships are built on trust which is expressed through loyalty.  One thing I've always loved about Team NewSpring is their strong sense of loyalty to one another.  Loyalty means I have your back no matter what - - if I see a truck coming your way, I give you a big heads up.  Loyalty produces staff confidence which in turn fuels bigger steps of faith together.  If loyalty is broken on a staff, I guarantee you that the team will whither and disband.

Case in point: the 1998 Chicago Bulls team.  They were championship-caliber with back-to-back threepeats in the NBA.  Sadly, upper-management (the two Jerry's) said some dumb things in the press and made some amateur moves.  This quickly broke the Bulls' (and public's) trust.  Within a year, their all-star team of players like Jordan, Pippen, Rodman had all disbanded.  Disloyalty hijacked the vision and broke the team apart.  It took Chicago over twelve years to recover from that fiasco.

3.  Boring Inspires No One - Life-change is stunted in a church if everyone's drowsy.  It's OK to be creative in presenting biblical truths (just like Jesus!).  God is creative, we are made in His image, so when we are creative, it's an act of worship!  It's hard to create momentum with boring.  As I've said before, Boring Preachers Can Actually KILL You!


2. Open-Handed with Other Leaders - Perry always encouraged us to be completely open-handed with other church leaders.  I love that!  There is NO competition/jealousy/insecurity between churches (and if there is in your church, its a reflection of your leadership's hearts, not God's heart!)If we all love Jesus and serve the same King, can't we learn to like each other and share what the Spirit gives?  Whether it's sharing techniques or leadership tips or ideas, I still strive to do ministry transparently and in a posture of humility.

1.  Family First - Most important of all, Perry has always ingrained in me that I can always get another church, but I can never get another wife and kids!  When it comes to my schedule, my family will always win.  If they call my cell, wherever I am, even if it's a big meeting, I answer the phone.  My wife and kids need to know that they always, always come first. 

I'll always be thankful for how the Lord allowed my life to cross paths with the gang at NewSpring.  And it's Perry who shepherded me out of student ministry and into church planting.  Here's what I shared with Catalyst a few years back:

BTW - We're starting a fresh new church.  If you're interested in joining our new team in Michigan, drop us a line. 
We'd love to
hear from you. Bonus points if you lead worship.

4th Century Church Planting was Hardcore

They say that church planters are the Marines of Church World:

  • everything on the line
  • heaving their guts into the work
  • burdened with a holy desire to reach people far from God
  • making huge asks and taking massive risks to advance
  • always dodging incoming fire.

But you know what?
4th Century Church Planting was Hardcore.

It was common in the fourth and fifth centuries for wealthy patrons to pay for new churches and to give saintly relics to the monks who staffed them.

"Saintly Relics" is code for human bones. 
That's right, if you wanted to plant a church back in the day, you had to not only fundraise for ministry, but also dig up some bible-bones:

National Geographic just announced the discovery of what's believed to be John the Baptist's bones.  Buried and inscribed underneath a fourth century church plant.

Can you imagine the pressure of being a church planter back in the day

 "Let's see, we got our core team, we've raised our funding, secured our location, and, oh wait.  Schucks.  Did anyone remember to dig up St. Peter's bones?  C'mon, people!"

 Fortunately in the 21st Century, church planters don't appeal for saints' bones.

We just ask for help with start-up costs.

Please consider making a one-time or on-going donations to Life Church Michigan.

Every dollar gets doubled thanks to a generous matching grant from our friends at Converge.

No bones, just bucks.  Thanks.

"I Dreaded Going to Church" - A Story from Becky in Sebewaing, Michigan

Why start a creative new church from scratch in this area? 
Because we've seen first-hand that Mid-Michiganders respond to creative elements pointing to eternal truths (after all, Jesus was hyper about God's Kingdom and leveraged stories to explain the Gospel to farmers).

Becky in Sebewaing shares about why she's drawn to be part of starting Life Church Michigan:

6a00d83451baaa69e2013484152f29970c-500wiI had been a part of a Lutheran Church/School since I was a child and dreaded going to church every week. I disliked how the sermons never related to me or my life since they never tried to apply them to today's world and I didn't like how the "Christians" at church judged others...  I never left my church feeling good.

Then a friend invited me to hear your series, Confessions of a coffee-drinking, blue jean wearing pastor and I was hooked!

So I want to thank you for bringing me back to church and to God.

My fiancee and I are looking forward to Life Church and are so happy to hear you again.

This story is exactly why we are doing what we are doing! 

Discover more.  Give to our church start-up (your donation will be matched!). 

Together we can bring Life to Mid-Michigan!

Wanted in Mid-Michigan: Worship Director. Must be Fearless, have Awesome Sense of Humor, and Eager to be Creatively-Stretched. V-Neck Shirt Optional.

We are starting a fresh new church from scratch.  Our aim is to impact not a town, but a whole region:


If your flavor is Hillsong United, Jesus Culture, and a dash of Jeff Deyo, you might be the right fit.

We're looking for a strong worship entrepeneur, someone who is completely sold-out for Jesus, gets jacked up excited when lost people become found, and who thrives in fast-changing environments.  This position requires you to be:

  • Solid in your theology but not angry about it
  • Passionate about making Jesus famous
  • Most-likely an "I" on the DISC
  • Cool with being in silly videos
  • Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound
  • Passionate about the Book of Leviticus.  Like, we want you to have memorized it, including the liner study notes.
  • Able to laugh at random Princess Bride movie quotes

This person would be working closely with me.  I have a very strong track-record with developing and creatively-pushing worship leaders - just ask this guy or this guy

This isn't about "getting a job;" it's about doing life together and joining in with what God has so obviously been doing in our region.  The small print is that this is a church plant, so there's some fundraising and/or bi-vo work involved.


Email your resume and two video samples: one of you leading full-blown worship and one of you doing an acoustic cover of Beyonce's Put A Ring On It.  If you can't pull off the videos, we're probably not a good match for you.

 (If you're not musically-talented but want to help our church start-up, click here)

Words of Wisdom from Pixar


Pixar storyboard artist Emma Coats's has been tweeting words of wisdom she's received from Pixar's top people.

Below are the 22 that have been getting around; however, she's constantly offering sage advice on her Twitter:

#1: You admire a character for trying more than for their successes.

#2: You gotta keep in mind what's interesting to you as an audience, not what's fun to do as a writer. They can be v. different.

#3: Trying for theme is important, but you won't see what the story is actually about til you're at the end of it. Now rewrite.

#4: Once upon a time there was ___.  Every day, ___.  One day ___.  Because of that, ___.  Because of that, ___.  Until finally ___.

#5: Simplify.  Focus.  Combine characters. Hop over detours. You'll feel like you're losing valuable stuff but it sets you free.

#6: What is your character good at, comfortable with?  Throw the polar opposite at them.  Challenge them.  How do they deal?

#7: Come up with your ending before you figure out your middle.  Seriously.  Endings are hard, get yours working up front.

#8: Finish your story, let go even if it's not perfect.  In an ideal world you have both, but move on.  Do better next time.

#9: When you're stuck, make a list of what WOULDN'T happen next.  Lots of times the material to get you unstuck will show up.

#10: Pull apart the stories you like.  What you like in them is a part of you; you've got to recognize it before you can use it.

#11: Putting it on paper lets you start fixing it.  If it stays in your head, a perfect idea, you'll never share it with anyone.

#12: Discount the 1st thing that comes to mind.  And the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th – get the obvious out of the way.  Surprise yourself.

#13: Give your characters opinions.  Passive/malleable might seem likable to you as you write, but it's poison to the audience.

#14: Why must you tell THIS story?  What's the belief burning within you that your story feeds off of?  That's the heart of it.

#15: If you were your character, in this situation, how would you feel?  Honesty lends credibility to unbelievable situations.

#16: What are the stakes?  Give us reason to root for the character.  What happens if they don't succeed?  Stack the odds against.

#17: No work is ever wasted.  If it's not working, let go and move on – it'll come back around to be useful later.

#18: You have to know yourself: the difference between doing your best & fussing. Story is testing, not refining.

#19: Coincidences to get characters into trouble are great; coincidences to get them out of it are cheating.

#20: Exercise: take the building blocks of a movie you dislike.  How d'you rearrange them into what you DO like?

#21: You gotta identify with your situation/characters, can't just write ‘cool'.  What would make YOU act that way?

#22: What's the essence of your story?  Most economical telling of it?  If you know that, you can build out from there.

3 Leadership Lessons from Mister Rogers' Garden of the Mind viral video

1.  1980's Nostalgia is a Win with This Generation
Every other movie out of Hollywood lately seems to be a revisit to Gen X's television wonderland (think Transformers, Land of the Lost, etc).  If you can tap into the warm fuzziness of every latchkey kid's defacto babysitter (the 1980's boob tube), you have entry into someone's emotions

And emotions are the pathway to influence:

  • Leadership = Influence
  • Influence = Emotional Connection
  • Emotional Conection =How does this person make me feel when I'm around them?


 2.  Interwebs = Forever
Remember, everything you put on Al Gore's greatest invention becomes instant, constant, global, and permanentThink before you hit "Send."  If it's good (like Mister Rogers), your influence will ripple beyond your grave.  And if it's bad...


3.  Don't Think Outside the Box; Instead Ask Yourself, "Is There A Box?"

Funny enough, this is Old Fred Rogers' message in the video, but it speaks to the video's creation.  Who woulda thunk that ancient PBS kids' show footage could be not just mashed-up, but then layered with auto-tune resulting in a digital-rocket around the globe? 

Creatives, don't just push the envelope.  Shred it. 

Leaders, saying No to an idea sucks the air out of the room.  The fun is always on the other side of Yes.