Thoughts that inspire, challenge, and increase influence

Whole Story

“If you were to do die tonight, do you know where you would spend eternity?”

You may have been asked that question before.

It’s the question that the half-story version of the gospel asks.

It’s a question that matters and gives pause for thought, but it’s also a question that can be dangerous and misleading.

As discussed in the last post, Half Story, Fuller’s research has found that somewhere around or above 50% of youth group participants walk away from their faith.  Part of this, according to their research, is that these students do not have a clear understanding of the gospel.  For many, I’m guessing they’ve believed a half story.  (If you haven’t checked out the previous post, I encourage you to take a quick look at it, to help our conversation here.)


Students today are in a world that is increasingly diverse and post-christian.  Students today are flooded with a variety of ideas about what is true and what is the best way to live.  If we only are telling the half-story, I’m afraid it’s not going to hold up.  It’s not going to compel them to live full lives for Jesus.  They may just punch their ticket and put faith on cruise control.  Put it on when they need it.  Take it off when it doesn’t make sense with the world.

As students enter high school and begin looking for autonomy and exploring what life has to offer, the nature of the gospel story we share has significant ramifications.  If we condense the gospel to only the fall and redemption then we might leave them with a story that feels rather boring.  As Gabe Lyon’s points out, “By truncating the full narrative, it reduces the power of God’s redeeming work on the cross to just a proverbial ticket to a good afterlife.”  Students might be left asking:

“Is this all there is to Christianity?  Did Jesus die only so we could get out of this place and go somewhere else?  What if I like it here?”


I’m continuing to borrow from Gabe’s work here, but this is something that I’ve felt in my own life for quite sometime.  It always struck me as odd that so much of the church and message of the church I grew up around had to do with the afterlife and not the here and now.  As a student, I was often confused about why the best answers to the toughest questions I had, seemed more like scare tactics than a substantive answer.

(i.e. – “Sex is to be avoided at all costs and will cause you terrible pain!”  This scare tactic was a half story at best.  In reality, sex was God’s idea and it is good when we understand God’s larger story and how sex fits in.  I needed  a whole story answer and was getting a fear-based plea that showed no understanding of the larger story.)

As I began to study the scriptures, I noticed Jesus spent a lot more time focusing on how we should live in the here and now than he did describing the life to come or inviting us to find a way out of this world.  I think my feelings above echo some of what Fuller found in their research.  If we are not careful, we can easily be passing along a gospel that is like handing someone a novel with the first and last chapters missing.


Gabe reminds us in his work,The Next Christians: Seven Ways You Can Live the Gospel and Restore the World, that the gospel story consists of 4 parts:

Creation.  Fall.  Redemption.  Restoration.

As we pointed out last time, most presentations center on the middle two.  Again, the middle two are central to the story and more important than I can even portray, but we can’t leave out the beginning and the ending.   We all know the beginning and the ending, but may need to learn them anew.

Creation:  As God created, he looked at his creation and proclaimed, “this is good.”  Creation shows us how God intended the world to be.  Creation shows us the good world God created and designed and the way humanity interacted with this world – as stewards and caretakers of this good gift.  Adam heard God walking and there was no distortion in the relationship between God and the first humans nor between Adam and Eve as they were both “naked and felt no shame.”

Fall happens and distortion enters.  This is not how it was intended to be.  God enters the story through Jesus and brings redemption.  But the story doesn’t end there…

Restoration:  Jesus’ death and resurrection invites us into eternal life- an eternal life that actually begins right now and not just in the future.  The effects of Jesus work in our life brings us back to a taste of what it was in the beginning and foreshadows what is to come in the afterlife.  It invites to not just be saved from something (death or a way to escape this world) but to something – namely, “participation in God’s work of restoration in our lives and in the world.”

“Like a capstone to the story of God, Christians are called to partner in the restorative work so that the torch of hope is carried until Christ returns.”

–Gabe Lyons


Can you see the difference?  Can you feel the weight of your call as a follower of Christ?  This isn’t about an escape!  This is about a rescue mission!

You and I are to lives our lives in such a way that reflects the kingdom of God that was and is to come.  By following Jesus, we can give people a foretaste of what is to come and a reminder of the world that God wired in our hearts when he created us in His image and placed us in the garden.

Many people look around at their lives and don’t think “this is good.  In fact, this is the opposite of good”, but we have the opportunity as followers of Christ to be the hope bearers that step into the the “not good” of this world and change it so that folks get a taste of the “very good” world that God described in the beginning!


As I shared in the previous post,

For many students, faith isn’t relevant out in the “marketplace” of high school or within the social structures (peer groups, media, culture) that they are immersed in.  With this in mind, Christianity or living as a follower of Jesus is something you put on when you need it and take off when you don’t.

The half story understanding allows students to disregard the gospel when it doesn’t make sense with the world.

The whole story doesn’t allow that.  This gospel has weight in the marketplace of high school and the social structures that students swim in.  It invites them to see the world as it ought to be and work towards making that a reality.  It invites them to be known by Jesus and let his love transform them and propel them into loving others.

As a follower of Jesus, our life in this world isn’t something to escape – it’s an adventure, it’s a mission, it’s something to enjoy, it’s something to sacrifice for, and it’s something worth giving our whole lives to.

What do you think?  Does this understanding change how you view the gospel or your life in light of the gospel?

Do you think students and/or your kids can grasp this understanding and it carry weight in the midst of their busy teenage lives?  

How do we get this message through?
(This last question is one that I’m asking myself and don’t have a great answer…if you have one, I’d love to hear it!)



Half Story

“Well…they’re probably going to need therapy for that later in life!”  This half-joking statement is made in our house from time to time.  I’m sure you’ve uttered something similar in your home.  But joking aside, there is a question of what we are passing on to our children.  What are they learning from us?  What are they picking up as they grow up in this family?

Particularly, as a follower of Jesus, I hope my kids catch on to the incredible joy it is to know and follow Jesus.  I imagine you do as well!

Good news for parents of faith - There is currently a great amount of research on this very thing!  The folks over at Fuller Youth Institute have been conducting research on what makes faith “stick” in young people.  You may surprised to find that most research suggests that out of those who grow up in church only 50% have a faith that “sticks” into adulthood.  (Many others report even lower numbers.)

Fuller has taken their research on “sticky” faith and created some great resources for families.  (Check out resources, articles, and more info here

I want to focus today on one of their findings.  Basically, that students who grow up in families of faith and around the church don’t have a clear picture of the gospel or what it means to be a Christian.  I’m wondering if that’s because many parents (and the church!) don’t have a clear understanding of this either.


For many students, faith isn’t relevant out in the “marketplace” of high school or within the social structures (peer groups, media, culture) that they are immersed in.  With this in mind, Christianity or living as a follower of Jesus is something you put on when you need it and take off when you don’t.

I moved to Houston shortly after the whole Enron incident.  I became very intrigued by the whole situation and read many books and articles on what happened.  I will never forget reading a statement from the top executive who said something to the effect of this — “I’m a born-again Christian and live my personal life accordingly.  This is just business.”

Those are not his exact words, but as I read the article, that was the sentiment.  My personal life is one thing and business is another.  There is no overlap.  I couldn’t believe it!


Gabe Lyons in his book, The Next Christians  – Seven Ways to Live the Gospel and Restore the World, lays out where this thinking comes from.  Gabe says we’ve believed and bought into a half-story.  It’s a true story and is pivotal in understanding the Christian gospel, but we’ve missed the whole story.

The half-story is made up of 2 parts – The Fall and Redemption.

The Fall- You and are born sinners and therefore we have a problem.  Sin separates us from God.  If left in this state, we have no hope.

Redemption – God sends Jesus to die on our behalf.  Through His death and resurrection we are redeemed and restored to a right relationship with God.

This is oversimplified, no doubt, but captures the basic idea.  Is this true?  Absolutely.  Is this central to understanding Christianity – without a doubt!  Is it the whole story – no.


If the gospel is simply something that saves us from our sin problem and allows us to punch a ticket to heaven one day, then it’s possible to see how we could be so dualistic in our thinking. For the Enron executive, what happened in the world and how he conducted business had very little to do with his personal faith that allows him to escape this world one day.

Students today are in a world that is increasingly diverse and post-christian.  Students today are flooded with a variety of ideas about what is true and what is the best way to live.  If we only are telling the half-story, I’m afraid it’s not going to hold up.  It’s not going to compel them to live full lives for Jesus.  They may just punch their ticket and put faith on cruise control.  Put it on when they need it.  Take it off when it doesn’t make sense with the world.

Statistics tell you that 50% of more eventually take faith off one day and just never put it back on.

Dallas Willard calls this the “gospel of sin management”.  It’s about what we can and can’t do.  It’s about managing our sin.  In an increasingly post-christian world this only gets harder.  There has to be a better way.

The next post will invite us into the whole story and how we can better share a gospel with our sons and daughters that “sticks” and guides their entire lives!  (School, friends, media, business, dating, etc.)

Until then, what gospel do you believe in?  Does your faith interact with the whole of your life or is it compartmentalized or regulated to the sidelines?

What about your son or daughter?  What is the gospel you are sharing with them by the way you live and operate in the world?


P.S. – I can’t recommend Gabe’s work enough.  He was recently to our group and there has been a lot of great conversation in the wake of our time together.  Check out his work here:

Also check out either one of these books.  You can’t go wrong:



Now What?

There’s a lot of talk about helicopter (or insert your other favorite adjective lawnmower/hovering/bulldozer) parents these days.  But it is tempting to want to play that role in our kid’s lives.  Especially when it comes to protecting our kids from pain.

Few moments are harder for a parent than watching your son or daughter experience a disappointment. Whether it’s being cut from the team, failing the test, or not getting the part in the school play, teenage disappointments can feel devastating. Even if the situation doesn’t seem like a big deal to us, it can cause a teen to nosedive!


A Lack of Perspective

I remember when I was being interviewed for a high school newspaper as a new youth pastor in town.  I was asked,

“What is one thing you want teens to know?”

My answer was simple.

“So many things in a teen’s life feel like they carry the weight of the world.  If it doesn’t happen now, don’t worry, you have a lot of life left to live.”

I’m not sure they found this answer very profound.  In fact I’m not sure they even gave it much thought.  For a teen, there’s a lot of pressure to have the right friends, get the right grades, date the right person, make your name in sports, and the list goes on.  In the middle all of this, students don’t always have a lot of perspective.  They can’t always see past the here and now.

No one wants to see their kid crumble under this pressure.  That’s why it’s so tempting to help students avoid disappointment instead of learning to deal with it. In our minds we know that let-downs are a part of life and teaching our students to manage them is healthy, but there is a difference between “preparing the path for the child and preparing the child for the path”. 

Does that mean we have to be completely hands-off when our son or daughter is going through a tough time? Not necessarily.

In his blog post, Helping Students Handle Disappointment and Pain, Dr. Tim Elmore gives parents four tips for helping their students walk through a disappointing time without bailing them out of it.

  1. Talk to students about disappointment and pain. Let them know it is a part of life and a big part of growing up into healthy adults.
  2. Share some of your own stories of past hurt or disappointments, and how you learned to deal with them.
  3. Give your students perspective — big picture perspective — one that really matters. Help them separate the eternal issues from the temporal ones.
  4. Do something together that may introduce sacrifice or hurt, and reflect on the experience along the way.

 See more at:

These seem like simple conversations or suggestions, but I can’t encourage you enough to carve out time to sit, be present, and talk it through.  Even if it drives you crazy how irrational it seems!  You attention and presence is much more impactful than you know!

Try This

One of the greatest things we can do for our children is give them the tools to navigate disappointment. Sharing stories is a great way to model both the how-to and the how-not-to when it comes to handling tough circumstances.

Choose one of the options below as a conversation starter sometime this week.

 Option 1: Talk about one person who has inspired you in the way they have handled disappointment.

Option 2: Share a story of a time you were disappointed (by a situation that does not involve your family) and how you could have handled that disappointment in a healthier way.



Now What? is also a series we are teaching students this month developed by our good friends at Orange.  Get connected to a wider community of parents at


Joy and Forgiveness

Here’s a quick practical thought that will apply to every relationship in your life.  Mainly because every relationship has conflict.

This thought is currently being put into practice daily, if not hourly, in my house.  Our strong-willed child has turned parenting into a battle of wills and each day the battle rages on (a little exaggeration there, but not much).  Right now, parenting feels more like breaking a wild horse than anything else.

This thought has been providing perspective and bringing clarity to what is truly important.  It’s helping me not only “train a child in the way they should go” (read into that – constant, tiresome discipline), but also fight for my child’s heart.  It reminds me this isn’t a battle of wills to win, but a fight for relationship.

So, here it is:

“Fun validates forgiveness because you can’t play with someone you haven’t forgiven.”

–Reggie Joiner

Some of you are underwhelmed.  I get that.  But I think this has profound implications.  Reggie goes on to say, “Parents should go do something fun as a way to show forgiveness.”  Many of you get this intuitively.  In fact, kids do this everyday with their friends – “I’m sorry.  It’s ok.  Let’s go play” and off they run.

As parents and adults, we sometimes don’t turn that corner as quickly as our kids do, but they have something to teach us here.

In the heat of the moment, after a showdown with my daughter, I gather myself and go to her to offer forgiveness.  That alone is powerful and often neglected.  But to follow that up with joy and play, does several things –

1.  Speaks to identity (you are loved and I still enjoy you)
2.  Pursues relationship over other options (compliance, authority, etc…)
3.  Validates the discipline.  (The discipline was necessary and done in love.  Forgiveness followed by fun/Joy proves that.)

The list could go on.

I’m talking about a child here, but you can apply this principle to any relationship.

How do you see this principle affecting your relationships? 

Is this just a helpful reminder?  Or do you have some habits in conflict that need to change and this is a great starting point? 

What would this look like to practice with your spouse or a family member?

Let’s make joy and forgiveness staples in our home.  So go ahead, make something fun happen today!


Don’t Give In!

“Go, stand in the temple courts,” he said, “and tell the people all about this new life.”  Acts 5:20

Consider this your pre-game speech for a incredible 2015!

Ill admit, I’m somewhat half-hearted when it comes to New Years Resolutions.   I enjoy the process of reflecting and dreaming about a new way of doing things.   Or developing new habits that fall in line with my values and hopes for myself, my family and my ministry.  It’s just when it comes to implementing them…

I complete about half the list…halfway.

The Resistance

Awhile back I read a book by Steven Pressfield, The War of Art.  Steven is an author and couldn’t get a second look at his work for a long time.  He kept preserving and eventually got published (The Legend of Bagger Vance) and is currently enjoying a great career.  He wrote The War of Art as a part of a series of non-fiction about the process of doing creative work.  In the book, he writes extensively about something he calls the Resistance.  He spends page after page defining the Resistance and it’s a fascinating read.

To sum it up, anytime you have the desire to do something of value for yourself, your family or others, the Resistance is present and working to sabotage your efforts.  As I look back on my life or even the most recent day, it’s not hard to see this idea at work.  (I know realize that I every time I desire to go to the gym, it’s not just a hilarious internal dialogue, it’s the Resistance that I’m talking to!)

Did you know:

  • January 17th is the thought to be the most common day to ditch your new year’s resolutions.
  • Most surveys reveal that only 8 – 12% actually succeed in their resolutions.

I wonder why we are so quick to give up?

The Offer is Life!

I find these principles at work in my walk with Christ.  Why do I find it so awkward to pray with my wife at times?  Why can’t I just get out of bed 30 minutes earlier than usual?  This would allow time to be still before my kids wake up and the speeding train of my day takes off.  Why do I often have dreams of what God might do with my life or my family only to find that today looks a lot like yesterday?  I’m sure you have your share of questions here as well.  It’s no wonder Jesus paired these two statements together.

“The thief comes to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full”  John 10:10

Make no mistake, Jesus’ offer is a life that is unique, full, and fulfilling!  But let’s not be naive, that life is opposed!

Quite frankly, I’m tired of giving in to the Resistance (the Thief) and my prayer is that 2015 is a year marked by my trust of God.  That may sound simple, but in my life, I find it’s often a subtle lack of trust in God that derails the transformative work God is doing in my heart and life.  The offer of Jesus is life to the full and it is an offer for today as much as it is for the future.

God grant us the grace to fight through the Resistance and trust you more!


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