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Make 'Em Laugh: Life Church Michigan is one of the Fastest-Growing Churches in America



Every Person Matters.

That was preached and modeled by Jesus nearly two thousand years ago.

No matter what someone's upbringing, skin color, or background, every person is an image-bearer of God and is of great worth and immense value.

Jesus lived this out in a poignant moment after He rose from the dead.

The Scriptures tell us that after the Resurrection, Jesus stuck around for 40 days before returning Home.


Let me ask you a question:

If you are the Son of God and you have only 40 days left to show people worldwide that you're alive, who would you pursue?

Kings?  Presidents?  YouTube Stars?

I know that I certainly would not pursue a former close friend who had betrayed and backstabbed me.

That would be a waste of my time, right?

Not according to Jesus.



Every Person Matters.

Even the person who hurt you most deeply.

Enroute to the Cross, Jesus' right-hand man Peter had denied Christ three times.

Three times!



After the Resurrection, Jesus pursued Peter.

This is mind-blowing because Peter was a 7 day journey away up in Galilee, fishing and sulking with his buddies.

So get this: the resurrected Christ spent 7 of His 40 days walking north to Galilee, all for one person: Peter.



Every Person Matters.

In John chapter 21, Jesus comes upon Peter.

Jesus does not lecture, or point fingers, or give Peter the silent treatment...  Jesus cooks Peter breakfast!

Because Peter had dropped the ball three times, we discover that Jesus forgives and restores Peter three times.

It's that third moment of restoration that gets me:

Then Jesus asked him again, “Peter, son of John, do you have great affection for me?”

Peter was saddened by being asked the third time and said, “My Lord, you know everything. You know that I burn with love for you!”

Jesus replied, “Then feed my lambs!"

(John 21:17, The Passion Translation)



Peter was a fisherman.

In his line of work, he had to pay a tax to Rome for every single fish he caught and kept.

This meant that fishermen would look at a caught fish and if it seemed weak or not good enough, they would throw the sickly fish away.

After all, who wants to pay a tax on a fish that doesn't matter anyway?

Jesus looks into Peter's eyes and basically says,

"You are no longer a fisherman who casually throws fish out of the boat.  You are now a shepherd.  In a shepherd's eyes, every single lamb matters because every single lamb is pure potential. They just need extra love, extra attention, and someone willing to take care of them and show them the way forward.  A shepherd is willing to do whatever it takes to find and feed the sheep."


The big idea Jesus was sharing?

Every Person Matters.

And that's the heartbeat of Life Church.

We truly believe that every person matters.

Nobody is disposable.

Everybody is pure potential.

Faith is a journey, not a guilt trip.



At Life Church, we love our region.

The Great Lakes Bay Region is a diverse region full of pure potential.

What ignites that potential?


And so we are all about making Jesus famous, one life at a time.




We are Kamikaze Disciples.

We want to make it HARD for people in our region to go to hell and EASY for people in our region to go to a Life Church location!

Trust me, it makes NO SENSE to essentially launch three church start-ups in six years.

The hours are long, the work is tough, critics are loud and the pay often averages less than a school teacher.

Yet that is what God has called us to do: Reach the Lost at Any Cost.



We are United Under One Vision.

Stewarding this vision has been my job since Amber and I began putting the pieces together for a new church start-up back in 2011.

Raising up leaders has been our concentration since launching Life Church on March 17, 2013.

Championing the reach of Life Church has been our ambition as God has graciously grown us into one church in three locations: Bay City, Midland, and Saginaw.


Even though I am free from obligations to others, I joyfully make myself a servant to all in order to win as many converts as possible."

(Paul in 1 Corinthians 9:19-23)


I am proud that Life Church was the first church in Mid-Michigan to experiment with multiple locations.

If Every Person Matters, Let's Bet the Ocean.

I'm not here to play tiddly-winks.

I have zero interest in the status quo of a Yacht Club when God has called us to be a Rescue Boat.

We exist for the benefit of our non-members.

Playing it safe is too risky.

And our movement chooses to pray audacious prayers while moving forward at the speed of faith.

Life Church is less Atari and more Apple.

We will bet the ocean and not play in puddles.

I will not bring God my leftovers when He deserves my first and best.


Movements Move

If every person matters, then every Sunday matters.

That's the secret sauce of Life Church's incredible growth in such a short time: We will not surrender a single Sunday!

Every weekend worship experience is an opportunity to point people to the hope we all share.



Humor Over Hammer

My job isn't to lecture people or beat them up over their life choices.

I just want to paint a picture of what their lives could be and should be.

Following Jesus will make your life better and make you better at life!

We've discovered that humor travels further than hammer.



Make 'Em Laugh

Humor is our default in sharing God's timeless message in timely ways.

And now, it appears more people are catching on to what we're up to.

Our mischief as Kamikaze Disciples apparently caught the attention of Outreach Magazine, a national publication for church leaders.

Every year, Outreach compiles their popular Fall edition listing the 100 Fastest-Growing Churches in America.

Today they let the cat out of the bag with this article online: Life Church is on their list!



Dang it, We Just Missed the Top 10

Of course, it blows my mind that anyone would take notice of our feeble efforts here in the High Five State.

It's even crazier that we cracked the Top 20 in Growth for 2019.

I believe it's all because we serve an extraordinary God and we are a church family full of extraordinary Lifers.

The people of Life Church pray like it depends on God and work like it depends on them.

Our Lifers are incredibly special to me.

But dang it, we just missed the Top 10!




Dream Bigger

If I've learned anything in my faith journey, it's that I cannot out-dream God.

His ways are not my ways and His thoughts are not my thoughts.

I don't think God is impressed by our ranking on the Outreach Magazine list.

Not when there are church leaders in Nepal being arrested and pastors in India disappearing.

If anything, this motivates me to drill down deeper and make bigger waves for Christ!


Because we are dreaming too small.

Never doubt God’s mighty power to work in you and accomplish all this.

He will achieve infinitely more than your greatest request, your most unbelievable dream, and exceed your wildest imagination!

He will outdo them all, for his miraculous power constantly energizes you." 

(Paul in Ephesians 3:20)


Healthy Things Grow

Think about it: We are the 11th Fastest-Growing Church in America right now.

That happened on the backs of a handful of Lifers who serve two Sunday mornings per month and faithfully tithe.

The super-majority of us who call Life Church maybe serve occasionally when it's convenient and throw in some spare change every once in a while.

What if we were ALL IN?

All the believers were one in mind and heart.

Selfishness was not a part of their community, for they shared everything they had with one another.

(Acts 4:32)


What if we were ALL healthy, thriving servants of Christ?

What would Life Church look like next year if every household had skin in the game through twice monthly serving and no-excuses-fully-on-board tithing?

How many more lives could we impact for eternity?


If we were the 11th fastest-growing church in America for 2019 with only a small percentage of Lifers ALL IN (both serving and tithing), how much faster would we be growing with 100% of Lifers ALL IN?

Healthy Things Grow and the choice is ours.

We can choose to be brave, trust God, and take our next steps forward in serving and generosity.  That's healthy.

Healthy things grow.

Unhealthy things miss out.

God cannot and will not bless disobedience.

Hearts that are open-handed with their time and their treasures are what God multiplies and blesses.


So Here's My Challenge to our Lifers


1) I love you.  I am proud of you.  What God is doing here is special.


2) We can do better. Jesus deserves our very best efforts in changing the world, not our leftovers.


3) I am challenging you to go ALL IN on serving twice a month. 

We've simplified everything so that serving is fun, easy, and exciting!


4) And yes, I am challenging you to take baby steps forward in generosity

I know it's scary and foreign. 

That's why I've written a simple, 9 session online study called New You: How to Follow God's Plan for Your Finances

Start today and take baby steps forward in generosity.

I don't want something from you, I want something for you!


5) Last but not least, share the news! 

God is moving in the Great Lakes Bay Region and there's room for everyone at Life Church!

Everyone's welcome and nobody's perfect.

We can celebrate all that Christ has done in our short 6 year history so far while pressing forward into the future together.

C'mon, Life Church! 

Let's see what God can do through you!

Jon Signature Slide





If I were a 1960's pop music icon vocalist with #1 Singles and #1 Albums firmly under my belt, I would probably just coast through my glory years and not lift a finger.

Not Micky Dolenz.

The Voice of The Monkees continues to wow fans worldwide with recent tours through the U.S., Australia, and this past weekend right here in the Rust Belt.




Micky doesn't have to tour.

He chooses to, honoring generations of fans and creating more musical memories along the way.




What is most striking to me is that Micky's voice hasn't changed -- He can still hit all the high notes live, entertain us fans with amazing-but-true stories of wacky-antics from over the years, plus share his heart with his fans through a deep catalogue of music.

I've seen Micky do entire solo concerts without an Intermission... You can't even find that kind of dedication and energy in a Monster Energy Drink!

Furthermore, Micky will often stick around after a hot outdoor concert to greet fans and take photos! 

It's those personal, extra touches that create a loyalty with Monkees fans.






Being a child of the 80's, I wasn't introduced to The Monkees until they appeared in 1986 on Disney World's 15th Anniversary tv special (I had tuned in to watch Emmanuel Lewis tap-dancing in front of Cinderella's Castle)

The bits with Micky, Davy, and Peter grabbed my imagination

I taped it on our VCR and wore out that poor VHS tape watching it over and over again

At recess during school, all my buddies would pretend to be The Monkees (I was always Micky)

The Monkees popped back onto my radar in 1987 via Nickelodeon's must-see, not-quite-MTV-but-safe-for-elementary-eyes, Nick Rocks (right after Danger Mouse and before You Can't Do That on Television)

I was hooked, Heart and Soul.



In 1996, I took Amber on a romantic date to see The Monkees on tour.

It was a blast.  Well, for me it was a blast.  I think Amber was just tolerating my harmless little musical obsession.


In 1999, I took my Mom on a date to see Davy Jones do a solo gig on the riverboats in Davenport, Iowa (above).   Again, blast was had by all.



We followed that up with a 2001 Monkees concert in Cleveland, Ohio and a 2006 summer festival solo concert from Micky Dolenz in Akron, Ohio:






I've probably seen Micky, Peter and Mike live more in recent years as they increased their touring capacity starting in 2012.

The live concerts never get old because Micky is always surprising us with new anecdotes, fresh deep cuts, and the occasional cover song (like Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band this past weekend in Columbus, Ohio).

Micky influenced me in 3 key ways:

  1. With the exception of Martin & Lewis in 1950, The Monkees were the first to create television music and comedy through improvisation

    Yes, they had a script, but 1960's NBC was sharp and edgy enough to air the improvised bits created on the fly by the boys. 

    The Monkees were trained in improv-comedy by Second City vets, which led me to study there also during my college years.

    Micky Dolenz in particular could channel just the right zany vibe to keep scenes moving forward and eyeballs glued to the tv set.  I don't think Dolenz gets enough credit for his acting and behind-the-camera chops as he does for his vocals.

  2. The theme of the tv series was that they were Perpetual Underdogs

    They never got their big break on the tv show, just shlepping from one gig to another (along with the occasional haunted mansion). 

    Perseverance while keeping your sense of humor were the keys to the on-screen band.  And guess what - it's true for real-world creatives also.

  3. The Monkees always had second chances.  

    Their 1987 reunion was the highest-grossing concert tour in the world, their 1996 reunion album received great reviews, and their 2011 reunion tour featured rave reviews from Rolling Stone Magazine

    Even though they were always getting written-off by critics, The Monkees would manage to reinvent themselves over the years and keep the magic rolling.

    In recent years, critics have finally come around to what fans already knew: these guys can sing, play, write, and perform.

I am thrilled that Micky Dolenz continues to tour while also engaging with his fans on social media.  My own children are now growing up listening to Dolenz's hit songs and clapping along at live concerts.  In the years ahead, I am confident Micky Dolenz will discover another new wave of Believers!

3 Keys to a Long-Lasting Relationship

Amber and I were married 21 years ago today on the banks of the Mississippi River in Iowa.

We started married life as poor college students in a lousy basement apartment deep in the heart of Chicago’s Logan Square.


Five adoptions and four church start-ups later, we now have the privilege of seeing lives transformed by the Gospel at our 6-yr-old start-from-scratch church start-up that will be recognized in a few weeks as one of the Top 15 Fastest-Growing Churches in America.  


Our marriage and our ministry are held together by one God-man, Jesus.  

Following Jesus makes our married life better and makes us better at married life.  


The secret sauce to our relationship has been these 3 keys:

  1. GRACE FIRST: Grace is when you love someone when the LEAST EXPECT it and LEAST DESERVE it.

  2. SERVING OTHERS SECOND: Take the Spotlight off Yourself and Place it on Someone Else.
    "For even the Son of Man did not come expecting to be served by everyone, but to serve everyone..." - Jesus in Mark 10:45

  3. And finally to Live with OPEN-HANDED GENEROSITY: God owns all our stuff and we are called to wisely manage His stuff. 

    Amber and I are excited to bring 10 cents of every single dollar that enters our home to our local church (our tithes), to give an offering above and beyond our tithe to both Compassion International and The Timothy Initiative, and to seek local opportunities to bless others.


21 Years of Marriage to Amber has been a privilege and an honor. 

If these 3 Keys to a Long-Lasting Relationship have been helpful to you, please share on Facebook and Twitter!

My Pastoral Thoughts on Josh Harris, Sexual Purity, and Kissing Christianity Goodbye

'This is why it is so crucial that we be all the more engaged and attentive to the truths that we have heard so that we do not drift off course.'

(Hebrews 2:1, The Passion Translation)


PHOTO from June 2002: Jeff Schofield, Josh Harris, Myself


I am sad about the valley Josh Harris is (publicly) walking through in his life right now:


Josh is a good guy who has produced strong discipleship materials in the past including books I still reference on my personal bookshelf:


Yes, I know that a few years ago Josh disavowed his books. 

That was a bummer to hear, yet I still believe firmly in these Scripture-drenched discipleship tools.

And I still believe in Josh Harris.

I'm just sad that in this season of his life, things are being deconstructed and are very public.

Separation and divorce are painful enough without the added fishbowl of social media thrown into the mix.

I pray for Josh, Shannon, and their children. 

I pray for their former church family. 

I pray.


'For there are many who reject these teachings and are now outside of the true faith, such as Hymenaeus and Alexander who have fallen away.'

(Paul in 1 Timothy 1:19-20)


I don't think the Apostle Paul felt smugness or judgement when writing these ancient, inspired words of Scripture.

The Holy Spirit directed Paul's pen on the parchment.

Walking away from Christ is painful to watch.


As a pastor, I'll be honest: It felt like a punch to the gut reading Josh's words on Instagram.

I am not privy to Josh's personal life nor should I be.

My response is to pray for him.


'For even though they were once a part of us, they withdrew from us because they were never really of our number.

For if they had truly belonged to us they would have continued with us. 

By leaving our community of believers they made it obvious that they never really belonged to us.'

(1 John 2:19)


I pray this is a temporary deconstruction like when Peter denied Christ.

I pray that Christ Followers will show grace and kindness to Josh in this season.

I pray that the world will see repentance and restoration -- an explosion of God's grace that creates awe and wonder.


'Before you were led astray, you were so faithful to Messiah. Why have you now turned away from what is right and true? Who has deceived you?

The One who enfolded you into his grace is not behind this false teaching that you’ve embraced. Not at all!

Don’t you know that when you allow even a little lie into your heart, it can permeate your entire belief system?

Deep in my heart I have faith that the Lord Jesus the Anointed One, who lives in you, will bring you back around to the truth.'

(Paul in Galatians 5:7-10)



Monday Motivation: Don't Take DIET ADVICE from a FAT GUY!


TODAY we are releasing the newly-refreshed website PLUS our Fearless Leaders Podcast evolves into a WEEKLY program!

Get fresh church leadership content every Monday when you SUBSCRIBE to Fearless Leaders on:



That's the question Mark Rodriguez faced when he left the safety of being the Executive Pastor of one of America's Fastest-Growing Churches to launch a new church start-up in Miami, Florida.

Six months into his new church plant, Mark is leading a dynamic, modern church start-up that actively serves the poor and makes a difference inside inner-city schools.





Facebook Livestream

Today's #MondayMotivation Facebook Livestream covered:


I hope your Monday is INCREDIBLE!

In Christ, the BEST is YET to COME --- Let's see what God can do through YOU!




We Have a National Emergency


I am firmly apolitical as a pastor.

I love that my church family is culturally diverse, ethnically diverse, and politically diverse.

This is not a political blog post.

This is an intellectually-honest blog post free of spin or debates or soundbites.


Whether you are Republican, Democrat, Independent or whatever, let's put country above party and be Americans first:

We have a national emergency.‬

I don't claim to have all the answers.

My heart drops every time these headlines scream across my phone.

Here are the three things I do know:

  1. I am part of the problem.

  2. Christian leaders are also part of the problem.

  3. I can be part of the solution.


Yes, I am part of the problem.

I'm not proud of this and I feel shame.

My votes helped put voices into national leadership - in both parties - that have not solved this recurring, chronic problem.

Leaders that I voted for are silent or engage in pivoting when the very urgent, very dangerous rise of white nationalism is mentioned in television interviews.

I helped put some of those leaders into power.

I am ashamed of my voting record.

I am part of the problem.


Christian leaders are also part of the problem.

I am also ashamed of faith leaders -- Christian pastors -- who pursue photo-ops with politicians, choosing to cloak themselves with the vestiges of political power instead of cloaking themselves in the righteousness of Christ.

Biblical justice goes hand-in-hand with truth.

Racism, white nationalism, and white supremacy all make no sense if you are a Christian.

I literally worship a dark-skinned, Jewish savior from the Middle East.

I've been to Bethlehem and Jerusalem. 

Jesus had brown skin.

Not only is racism sinful, it is remarkably stupid for anyone who identifies as a Christian.


And I can be part of the solution.

Solutions require prayer to God and speaking truth to power.

This is not about video games:

Great Britain has a population of 65 million.
The United States has a population of 330 million (5x larger).

Great Britain has video game revenues in excess of $5 billion.
The United States has video game revenues in excess of $25 billion (5x larger).

Great Britain's 2017 gun homicides: 31.
The United States' 2017 gun homicides: 14,542 (469x larger).

You cannot blame video games.

This is not about mental health:

If any of these gunmen had been brown or black, "mental health" wouldn't even be mentioned by politicians. 

Listen, if one of the gunmen had been Muslim, we would see be seeing politicians quickly jumping on tv decrying terrorists. 

It seems that when a violent gunman is white, politicians hide behind "the need for better mental health solutions." 

This in itself is a problem of white privilege.


I can be part of the solution.

My God hears my prayers.

I can seek Him first in repentance, then in petition for His help.

Our fight is not against flesh and blood (see Ephesians 6).

I can also be a voice for change.

Our generation cries out for a new direction.

‪It’s time for leaders to come together.‬

‪No cameras.‬
‪No grandstanding.‬
‪No politics.‬

‪Just come together and create a solution.‬


‪Solutions DO exist. ‬

The solutions may not be perfect and may not make every group happy, but inaction is no longer acceptable. ‬

If our leaders do not move beyond "thoughts and prayers" and political grandstanding, things will only grow darker.

I was a child of the 80's.

I remember the Cold War.

No shots were fired, but the tensions and effects were real.

Inaction in the face of these mass murders will slide our country into a new kind of Cold War... a Cold Civil War.

It's time to be brave.

It's time to repent.

And it's time for our all leaders to come together and take action.

Back to Blogging


I started blogging back in 2002 as a way of:


I've used many blogging platforms in the years since.

I'm now at a place where I need to separate my personal blog from my ministry platforms at Life Church and Fearless Leaders.

Screen Shot 2019-08-01 at 12.23.12 PM

So I'm blowing off the dusty cobwebs of this Typepad blog (where the bulk of my blog posts are housed) and bringing back home.


I plan to use this space to share what excites me:

IMG_8214 (1)

Hoping to also import old blog posts from Blogger and WordPress in the next few weeks to create one complete online home for my blog.

SUBSCRIBE TO MY BLOG NOW so that you NEVER MISS a single post!

In the meantime, let's have some fun together here on the blog plus at Insta, Twitter, and Facebook!