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A conversation partner | Wesley & Student Ministry


A conversation partner | Wesley & Student Ministry
(a book review)

A fellow I crossed paths with quite a few years ago recently contacted me about reviewing a book he wrote on student ministry and John Wesley. My first thoughts was… I like student ministry, I like John Wesley and I really like free books! SURE!
Now I guess I should confess that it wasn’t all that recently. I’m a bit behind on writing this little ditty here. Sorry Jeremy! But the good news… the book is available, go buy a few copies!!! Tell em’ Erik sent you.

So here’s the review…

Lost_Soul_YMTo have a conversation partner who helps you think through how what you believe shapes what you do is an extremely value thing. Youth pastors often get pretty stuck in the rut of just making it happen; programs, events, small groups, mission trips and a million other things. I speak as one such youth pastor. Often the why can get buried in dust kicked up by the doing. To have a few people that are continually calling you back to the why of ministry is really important. In this this book Jeremy is offering himself to fill a bit of that space for anyone who has been shaped by the beauty and truth of John Wesley’s theological contribution. (And to say practical theology is redundant but if you’re into Wesley much you already know that.

Bottom line, if you like Wesley and if you work with students you’ll like this book. So pick up a few copies and let Jeremy lead your student ministry staff and volunteers in a conversation about the real Wesleyan soul of student ministry!

That was my Amazon review, I would add that I especially enjoyed a couple of the grace sections. To talk about how prevenient grace and the means of grace can and should be a reminder that God is always and already at work, taking pressure off youth workers and rather inviting us to create spaces and places for that grace to be encountered. I love the vision and invitation we get from Wesley’s understanding of Grace and Jeremy helps us remember that we are simply participating in the grace that is always and already wooing and working on all of us.

I do think there were a couple chapters where he was stretching it a bit or maybe trying a little to hard. His contribution about John Wesley’s class meetings and bands is good but not unique. I would love some more source material and resources around this.  But no doubt thinking about how Wesley structured his ministry is helpful for the church and specifically youth ministry. And the book ended strong as well. The missional nature of Wesley’s theology, the constant impulse to be on the go alongside God’s grace, to be living in a way that is for the world is strong and Jeremy does well at highlighting that this and challenging the youth worker to embrace this.

My cirque is minimal, this is a good book. At first read I was bit unsure of the title but I get, I think. The soul is all about our desires and impulse, it’s about what is deep, at the center of a person. The soul (and I would add the heart, if we were speaking in OT terms) is root of all our actions.  My soul often feels buried by my to-do list. This book and John Wesley are both great partners in caring for the soul as we participate in the mission of God for the sake of the world.

You can pick up the book here.
And read more about the author, Jeremy Steele here. Or read his tweets. Or his blog.



Why you should quit The Ministry…


jesus34.jpg.w300h409I have a friend who is a full-time pastor, associate actually but probably does more than his Sr. pastor, he’s good! But I think he should quit his job and get out of ministry. Let me tell you why.

Another guy I know, he’s a priest at a local parish and is experiencing what a lot of us “professional Christians” experience, the inability to really dig in and share life with people. We were talking about his community group and he isn’t sure he can do the small group thing because there is an expectation that he would have the answers. There is also probably a bit of a compulsion to give the “right” answer if the wrong ones are being tossed about. This isn’t uncommon, i’ve felt it and so have many of my friends who are pastors and preachers.

Now maybe you could still get a pay check form the church. Wear the collar and park in the clergy space at the hospital (there are some perks we don’t want to give up right!) But maybe we need to quit doing ministry and just start sharing life with people. To start living in a way that should be standard for all Christians not just those that get paid for ministry. Maybe we should only do things as professional ministers that we would also do as professional bike messengers or professional lawyers or professional… you fill in the blank. If you wouldn’t do it when you weren’t getting paid, don’t do it JUST because you are.

This is probably idealistic. Maybe there are things that are apart of any job as a professional that you’d hate but can’t help, things you have to do. Does anybody love every aspect of their occupation? If so, teach me your ways. So i’m not saying this is some hard and fast rule but what I am trying to get at is what I see in my friend and if I were honest, it’s what I see in myself all to often. I can be a horrible friend, a really crappy neighbor but when it’s my job or when i’m “ministering” i’m all over it. If you’re going to be a crap friend to your friends don’t act like your a good friend to the people you’re getting “paid” to be a friends to.

The goal in quitting ministry is to have the ability to actually live life with people and let ministry happen as it should for all of us, no matter how we get paid, you might even still get a check from the church and preach a message on Sundays. If we can find ways to shift our professional mentality I really think that our status as simply authentic human beings, people who has quit ministry will begin to shape how we actually share life with people. It will shape the conversations we have, the dinners we go to, the beers we drink and the games we attend. All these things and more might all be a bit more natural as they flow from life instead of being contrived via a job.

“So what do you do?”
“Oh, i’m i just a dude. I happen to work at a church though.”


So, do you get paid by a church? How have you felt this dilemma? Or have you?

I think an interesting part of this conversation could be to flesh out a theology of the priesthood of believes and how the professional priest fits into this community of priests that we all are called to belong to. I’m sure there are some good resources on this, any suggestions?

(These few icons and the one above inspire me as I think about the priesthood of all believer and the great cloud of witnesses the scriptures talk about.)
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Some thoughts on Humility…


I had a conversation today with a good friend who was approaching the subject of humility pretty standardly. My brain shouted, maybe there is something else going on here. It there another angle to approach the idea of humility? What is it really? How did Christ do humility?

So here is my stream of conscience…

What kind of “humility-ies” are there?

False humility  — Negative humility — No humility = Pride & arrogance

On top of this what does it really mean to actually be humble?

“He humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death…”
Philippians 2:8

HUMBLE – - -
* having or showing a modest or low estimate of one’s own importance.
* of low social, administrative, or political rank: she came from a humble, unprivileged background.
* of modest pretensions or dimensions.

Those are from the dictionary. I think the first definition is on track to what i’m thinking but not fully. Humility is to not think of oneself as too good or above. Maybe to not think things are beneath you. But the inverse is also true, to not think things are above you is an aspect of humility, although not as clearly in the common definition.

So let’s dig in…

It doesn’t seem like true humility is a lack of confidence or something along those lines. Rather, maybe it’s closer to an acute awareness of ones actual self, who you really are, your true self as Richard Rohr might say. Then, living so confidently in that true self that you can can serve and even die for that which you believe or feel called to because you are not better or you are not unqualified to fully live into your true self and your true calling.

There is an aspect of humility that is being OK with taking on a lower position than you might actually be worthy of or could occupy normally but it’s the confidence in ones true self, that what you do, even if its dying, won’t affect who your are, your actual worth that intrigues me about the humble heart.

Some times one needs to be humbled. Might this be because the heart is fighting for a higher, more prestigious place instead of being ok and finding joy and confidence in the true self? When you serve and / or when you are lead, which for the humble — the ultimately confident one, might be close to the same thing, you are confident, ok in who you are and the position you find yourself in… you are humble.

So the inverse could also be true. The one who lacks confidence and does nothing but work in lowly positions isn’t necessarily humble. They may to need to be humbled. To take on or be given a higher position, realizing their confidence comes from who they really are. To be leading / serving those whom you might feel inadequate to lead / serve is to be humbled by the grace and provision of a God who desire for you to be ultimately confident in who he has created for you to be and the opportunities he has given you. No matter the circumstances. For one to say, as they receive an award, “It is humbling to be given this award in a room of my most talented peers,” may be experiencing this very kind of acceding humility. For that humility to be honest and not empty there must be a step into confidence and also an avoidance of pride. At least for “humble” to be the word we use for this story.

I think Jesus was so ultimately confident in who he was, in his true self that he could lead without arrogance and he could serve, even die without grasping to his rights and privileges. Maybe this is the snapshot of of biblical, christological humility. An ultimately confident self, not swayed to maintain or grasp for power and prestige or live below who he was created to be, the crucified one.

I don’t know, just some thoughts. I’ve always wanted to be humble in the way Jesus was humble. But there always seemed to be something dishonest about hanging my head low and saying “oh, it’s nothing” or “oh, you know, it wasn’t me, it was God” or something like that when i was complimented for something i did well.  The most honest thing i have found to do is to humbly saying thank you. I am not ultimately confident in my self or even in who God has made me to be but my hope is that I am on a journey of learning the art of living, living as my true self and confident in that because it’s who God has created me to be.

Philippians 2:5-11

5 Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,

6 who, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God
as something to be exploited,

7 but emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
being born in human likeness.
And being found in human form,

8 he humbled himself
and became obedient to the point of death—
even death on a cross.

9 Therefore God also highly exalted him
and gave him the name
that is above every name,

10 so that at the name of Jesus
every knee should bend,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,

11 and every tongue should confess
that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

I think Richard Rohr audio teaching entitled The Art of Letting Go would be a great connection to this conversation and idea. Check it out on Audible.




Am I Dangerous Enough // Dietrich Bonhoeffer


I just finished listening to the biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. It was inspiring on many levels; intellectually, spiritually and on a praxis level.

Just to real how committed and intelligent Bonhoeffer was is pretty amazing. I often wish i was smarter but then i hear about a guy like Bonhoeffer and it makes me realize just how much smarter i wish i was. He was seriously committed to learning and growing and participating in intellectual spiritual conversations and growth. He did this even when his life took him the way of the pastor rather than the academic. One thing i have attempted to do every since college has been to always be reading something a little on the headier side. I’m reading a book by Andreas Andreopoulos on the Transfiguration right now. Not academic but a little beefier than your average Christian pop-culture book (i’m reading a couple of those as well). But yea, Bonhoeffer inspires in this way.

Often pastors and academics get smart and theologically robust in their thinking but lose the personal edge to their salvation. Bonhoeffer was far from this. Despite his intellect he engaged in the pursuit of God’s will for his life in a truly inspiring way. Each major decision in his life was thought over and prayed about. It wasn’t a shallow evangelical pursuit of God’s will but rather a robust, thoughtful pursuit of what and where God was leading him. I want that in my own own life. Not to worry over the parking spot i pick but also not assuming God inspired my pick of jobs or destinations when i never even stopped to pray and seek His help.

And praxis. This is putting your faith into action. Not letting blanket morals and standards govern your life but instead engaging God in a real world, letting him form thoughts and opinions and ultimately letting God shape and form all the functions and living of your life. Your living actually being shaped by the living, resurrected Christ, this is the most impressive characteristic of Bonhoeffer.

One of the questions i began to think about toward the end of the book was this, “Am i dangerous enough?” Bonhoeffer was sidetracked and eventually killed because he was dangerous to the evil in his world. His life, ministry, preaching, living and service was all a dangerous participation in the Kingdom of God. Every day he lived and every breath he breathed was a furthering of God’s kingdom here on Earth. To the evil in our world Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a massively dangerous man. I’m not that dangerous. That kind makes me sad. It challenges me to think about how i can, even if in little ways be dangerous to the evil in my world. Maybe it’s the evil of consumerism,  selfishness, nationalism or business. There are evils i could be dangerous to but most times i fail. I want to find ways, small and big to be more dangerous as i participate in the prayer “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”

Here are a few of the things i marked / noted as i was listening to this great book…

“Kierkegaard says, ‘man belongs either to the or the moral or the artistic type.’ But he did not know of this house (the Bonhoeffer house) because it formed a harmony of both.” [ Chapter 2 ]

Bonhoeffer disagreed with one of his more liberal friends but appreciate his pursuit of truth. “Anyone on the side of truth was a compatriot to be lauded.” This generous theology is one that i love and one that isn’t found often in the American church. Bonhoeffer thought you should be able to argue and differ both civilly and productively in the pursuit of God. I agree. [ Chapter 8 ]

“I pray that God will give me the strength not to take up a weapons.” Some people see Bonhoeffer as a pacifist and other don’t. But it was his extremely nuanced ethics that keep him from these categories. And it was statements like this that push him into the category of the non-violent for sure. [ Section 2 chapter 7 — Chapter 21 ]

“I think i am right in saying i will only achieve true inner clarity and honesty by really starting to take The Sermon on the Mount seriously. Here alone is the force that can blow this idiocy sky high like fireworks, leaving only a few burned out shells behind.  The restoration of the church must surely depend on a new kind of monasticism, which has nothing in common with the old but a life of uncompromising discipleship, following Christ according to The Sermon on the Mount. I believe the time has come to gather people together to do this.” Yea, that’s just good! [ Section 2 chapter 8 — Chapter 22 ]

“Theological work and real pastoral fellowship can only grow in a life that is governed by gathering around the Word morning and evening and by fixed times of prayer. Do not try and make the bible relevant, it’s relevance is axiomatic, do no defend Gods Word but testify to it. Trust to the Word.” [ Section 2 chapter 9 — Chapter 23 ]
I just think it was really cool that as he grew and thought through things he turned to a more set and liturgical way of doing things. Fixed hours of prayer and regular bible study individually and corporately. This is why his work – Life Together is so compelling.

Bonhoeffer had a friend and confessor. He trusted this person to criticize and shape his theological ideas and to share his inmost struggles. They prayed together and worshiped together daily. I guess i just think this is pretty amazing, to have a person you so throughly trust and are connected to. Many people are scared of this kind of intimate relationship. I pray i would find a person to whom i would connect with and be able to open up to in such a honest way. I think we should all want it. [ He talk about this in Section 3 chapter 2 ]

I have a few other book marks i could share but this post it long enough so this will do for now. It’s a really great book. Bonhoeffer was a really great man. It’s a pretty huge book, over 30 hours of audio but worth every minute!

Grace and peace



Holiness as being…


I read the below paragraph a week or so ago and loved it! It also got me thinking about holiness, something i used to do, probably too much and something i now do, probably not enough. I think it’s an important topic and one we would all do well to think about and live out a bit more. I’ll share what i read below and then i share some more thoughts on holiness in the next few days.


HOLINESS IS at play when people draw attention to the truth of God simply by being …

Saint Francis of Assisi took a novice out for a day of preaching the gospel. As they left Assisi, they helped a farmer move his cart; down the road they talked with a merchant and listened to his problems; around noon they shared their meal with a hungry beggar; soon after luHoliness as being… HOLINESS IS at play when people draw attention to the truth of God simply by being … Saint Francis of Assisi took a novice out for a day of preaching the gospel. As they left Assisi, they helped a farmer move his cart; down the road they talked with a merchant and listened to his problems; around noon they shared their meal with a hungry beggar; soon after lunch they prayed with a sick woman; on their way back, they helped a woman carry her heavy load. When they returned to the monastery at dark, the novice commented that the day was gone and they hadn’t preached to anyone. “My son,” Francis responded, “we’ve been sharing the gospel all day long.” Derek Maul
10 Life-Charged Words nch they prayed with a sick woman; on their way back, they helped a woman carry her heavy load. When they returned to the monastery at dark, the novice commented that the day was gone and they hadn’t preached to anyone. “My son,” Francis responded, “we’ve been sharing the gospel all day long.”

Derek Maul, 
10 Life-Charged Words
 I ran across this story in one of the Upper Room devotional email, worth a look.)  



Ben Rector—Suburban prayers // Music Monday 20.0 [ tuesday edition ]


I’ve been listening to this song on repeat today,
a suburban prayer of sorts by Ben Rector…

“I want to live until i die
don’t let the devil bury me alive
when my heart stops let me go home
don’t let the suburbs kill my heart and soul.”

Along with thinking about Peter Rollings talking about how we all make “ironic gestures.”

So listening to this song while i sit at St. Starbuck with the queen of the suburbs, a very ironic gesture if you ask me. Thinking, praying and wondering  how i live a less ironic kind of life.





Palm Sunday


To begin with celebration and adoration of Jesus, the “Hosanna in the highest!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” And then to swiftly move toward denial and distain, shouts of “crucify him.”

This is Palm Sunday. And this is Holy Week.
This is also our story. At least if your honest it is.

I once heard Peter Rollins, an author and theologian tell a story about being asked if he affirmed or denied in the resurrection of Jesus. His response was powerful. I actually found it on youtube, check it out…

It’s true right, we all deny the resurrection and we all, WAY to often yell with our lives “crucify him.” Often right after we have publicly ushered him in as savior, yelling “Hosanna.”

God forgive me and fill me with your grace and spirit so that i might die with you and to my selfish denial of you. By your grace enable me to not just affirm or believe in your resurrection but participate in it.

This is the journey of Holy Week. 
May we follow Jesus to the cross, so that we my participate in his resurrection.



Beauty & Worship // Space & Values…


The church values beauty and creativity because God values these things, right? Maybe it’s because God IS beauty and creativity so when we live fully as we were created to live, made in his image and filled with this spirit, when we embrace beauty and creativity we are participating in the life of God. Maybe it’s something like that.

I think in our worship we often forget this kind of stuff these days.

Our buildings are big square office boxes next to other office boxes. Even when we spend LOTS of money on a building it probably just looks like the school down the street. Our art… wait, we don’t really do art anymore. Our music is often times mimics of a pop culture with very little redemptive imagination.

Mostly we come to worship / sing a few songs about Jesus and listen to a message about Jesus, we don’t value much else. And it better not last much longer than an hour… after all, we have things to do.

Well on a night like tonight i remember the value of sacred music and sacred spaces. I think of the good, the true and the beautiful and how the church has always valued these things.

Screen Shot 2011-12-05 at 1.16.32 AM

Don’t get me wrong, i struggle with the amount of money that is spent on some church buildings and chapels, i personally don’t put a high value on appearances (in some ways), on pomp and circumstance, and on flashy kinds of things. I live in a tension when it comes to these things. I see value in space and beauty and creativity… but i also like low key, come as you are environments offered by many churches these days.

Screen Shot 2011-12-05 at 10.28.34 AMI’m not sure i like one over the other, i probably prefer beauty to bland but a mix of the 2… i guess.

I do know when i come to a night of worship at a church like the one i am privileged to work and worship at i remember that historically the Church has valued beauty and creativity and has lead the way in sharing it, often through architecture and art. I definitely think the church, in some ways, needs to regain that place in the world.

What do you think?
How do we reclaim space? Especially when it comes to worship and buildings / architecture… or does it matter?

Do we care about beauty or art or creativity? What does this look like as communities of faith if we say we do value these things?

Is it possible to value mission and beauty at the same time? (i’m thinking of the argument, “we could have spent that money on the mission field instead of a building.”

Alright, enough rambling.

My wife and i had an awesome night of enjoying Christmas music in a beautiful building created for worshiping God. It was great and these are some of my rambling thoughts at 1 in the morning.






A Rule of Life… (speaking of rhythm)


Speaking of rhythm, i get these daily devotional thoughts and the last two have been about developing a rule of life. Another way of talking about this concept of a “rule of life” might be having spiritual rhythm.

When i was growing up anything that had the word rule in it i ran from. Anything that was discipline wasn’t for me. Even when i became a Christian the concepts of spiritual discipline wasn’t very appealing to me. I thought that if you really loved God you did things “from the heart.” That’s kinda true but i think i’ve learned that doesn’t exclude having spiritual discipline. It might even be the more necessary for those who love God to be discipled in their spiritual life.

The idea of a rule of life comes largely from Saint Benedict, a monk from the 7th century. Honestly i don’t know a ton about St B. but he believed work and prayer were the most important things and i think he wrote a lot about living by a certain rule. I probably need to do more research on him, he’s seems like a cool fellow.

This idea of a “rule of life” is something to think about for sure. Something i want to develop more and more as i mature in my faith and relationship with Jesus. Mainly because i think i need it more and more.

Here are the reflections i’ve read the last couple days that have been an encouragement to me, enjoy.

I INVITE YOU to consider developing and claiming your own patterns and disciplines for spiritual growth. In Christian tradition this is known as developing a rule of life. A rule is a pattern of spiritual disciplines and attitudes that provides structure and direction for growth in holiness. … Growth in faith requires commitment, structure, and yes, discipline. Developing a rule of life moves you beyond good intentions into the arena of daily walking with God.


YOU CAN START developing a rule of life by choosing … some practices and disciplines to incorporate into your daily life. The behaviors, attitudes, disciplines, and practices you choose will soon become routine … in your life of growing intimacy with God.

Some people carry negative images of rules and discipline. You must remember that rules and discipline exist for guiding and training. Building a rule of life guides and supports your spiritual growth.

Your rule can be simple. Dorothy Day … committed to daily practice the presence of God by reading the Bible, keeping a journal, receiving the Eucharist, and looking for the face of Christ in the poor and hungry she served every day.

Both quotes are from Larry James Peacock book Openings
And share via Upper Room daily devotional





My life these days is all about rhythm.

When you’ve lived in a place for awhile you just have it, or at least hopefully you have it. And when you have rhythm you don’t really think about it. How often do you think about your heart beating or your wrist watch ticking. Your heart just beats and after a while your watch ticks and you never even notice it.

Well i just moved to Texas! The Dallas area, Plano to be precise. And everything is new! My work rhythm, my family rhythm, my community rhythm, my coffee shop rhythm, all of it. So i’m thinking a lot about rhythm.

God created us to have rhythm. Sabbath, festivals / parties, worship, spiritual disciplines, family, community… all kinda of different rhythms. I really think when we are in tune to these spiritual rhythms we live at our best.

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I went to my new small group last night. It’s hard because i had such a great communal rhythm in Nashville; great friends, great church, great community. Sitting with a bunch of new people reminds me of what i had, it’s hard and not horribly comfortable. It’s like i can hear my watching ticking really loudly but i need to remember that once i’ve worn it, am familiar with it, and when it feels like it’s apart of me (like any good watch winds up doing) i’ll enjoy it just as much as the old one. It just takes time (no pun intended).

I’ve also been having a lot of Anglican conversations lately. More and more i’m realizing probably my favorite things about the Anglican way is the rhythm it invites you into. The calendar and season, the liturgy, the community, the sacraments… all these things offer a rhythm that helps one to rest and live in tune with the life God created us for.

Today i’m feeling a little out rhythm; new job, new geography, new church, new community. But we’re getting ready for a new year, church year that is. Advent is right around the corner and i’m anticipating this next year to be amazing! Full of rhythm and wonder.

PS :: I’m also trying to get into a blogging rhythm. At least once a week is the goal. It’s Friday! Just made it!