A New Look at Foreign Missions

I remember growing up as a kid in a church watching all the missionaries come through and give their projected picture presentations. They always brought some dramatic stories of what God was doing in far off places like Africa or Asia. We would take an offering, have potluck, have a youth group bonfire, and call it missions week. Once a year the youth group would take a missions trip to Mexico. To me and my friends this was missions. If you were so lucky you too would be called to take up the mantle to go to some far off place to bring Christ’s message of hope. Whether or not they said it the message conveyed was that the people everywhere else needed Jesus because we here in America were a Christian nation.

Christian mission of those years was a colonial expansion of western values which also included Christianity. In those days 90 percent of Christians in the world lived in the west. Today less than 15% of Christians are in the west. The data shows us that in the west less and less people are actually attending church. No longer can we with any credibility call ourselves a Christian nation. It is time for our missionaries to come home.

When I was in high school God called me to full time professional ministry. At that time I felt a burning desire to be a missionary but not overseas. My desire was to be a missionary to my home. When asked in my licensing interview how I would address missions as a pastor, I gave them this answer and they didn’t like it. The Spirit impressed something on me that has now proven to be fact. We cannot continue down the path of missions like we’ve always done it.

I don’t want to downplay those foreign missionaries who have gone before us. I am very grateful to them and know for that season God had clearly called them to go as missionaries in the way that we did. If we are going to be good missionaries no longer can we do it the same way. I believe we can’t do it the same way for a few reasons.

First, globalization is fully upon us. The world has become a melting pot. People from all over the world now live in our neighborhoods here in the west. With all cultures coming together especially in the local church I believe that in our local churches need to be training missionaries to be sent home. What better way to incarnate the Gospel than to send someone into a culture that they know intimately and would have instant credibility? A missionary like that doesn’t need to go through years of cultural training before they can start to have influence. Recently, I had the joy of watching a friend’s church send a missionary “home” to South Africa. It was awesome hearing him talk of how he could immediately hit the ground running in his home country. This is how we need to think if we are going to think about living out our missionary identity in light of Jesus’ incarnation.

Secondly, colonialism is over. If you don’t believe me just look at the struggle we have had at making Iraq a western country. The success of colonialism has breeding the response often one of hatred and distrust. As missionaries we are to look to incarnate the gospel into the culture in which we live. How can we effectively do that if the culture we are going to hates and distrusts us? Let me speak frankly, sending a white American into a primarily middle eastern muslim country is a waste of resources. Because of colonialism white Americans are hated in much of that world. Instead why don’t we train and send a former middle eastern muslim who is in one of our local churches to that part of the world. Much better use of people and resources.

Finally, logically it makes no sense to keep doing it as we have always done it. Resources are running dry, traditional missionaries are losing their effectiveness, and less people are going because frankly there is less of a pool of people to choose from. Logically speaking if I say I am going to give away $20k a year to an organization and I quit making money eventually I’m not going to be able to give $20k anymore. I have to change what I am doing and go make more money so that I can continue to give. Same is true here, something must change, if we don’t change then we are going to just get the same things that we have been getting.

What if all of our churches across the world had the mentality of being sending centers to send people back into their home culture with the purpose of transforming that culture into the likeness of Jesus? If we did this we would be more effective missionaries across the world. We would save resources and find more people. We would begin to move past colonialism and move into incarnationalism.

It’s risky for people to go home. Just look at when Jesus went home, the people he grew up with wanted to stone him. It’s hard to go across the street and live out Jesus. Take short term missions teams for example, I’ve been on dozens of these trips and they can be powerful times for those on the trips (the missions effectiveness of them will need to be for another blog post) but consistently people come back home as accomplished missionaries yet won’t go across the street to incarnate Jesus. Why is that? It is because he have failed to see our local churches become sending centers

I think all those years ago the church missed the point. I think it was great to hear what God was doing across the world. He truly used our missionaries and I know that he continues to do so. God will use us even if we don’t move forward in the most effective way. Our churches missed the point because we made missions just for those called to go across the world rather than using what they learned to created sending centers to send people across the street.

Love is found at Jesus’ Table

Love. If we are all honest we all want it. That’s really all we seek in this life. If we are truly honest with ourselves that is our pursuit. We might not pursue it in the same ways or from the same things. In fact, many times we look down on others who don’t pursue love the way we pursue love.  One way or the other we desire love.

In scripture, Paul describes love as the greatest thing better than two other things every humans need to have; faith and hope. Love is it. We pursue love from our peers, co-workers, family, friends, people we randomly meet, and many other ways. We try to earn their love through different means whether it be success, getting them nice things, doing nice things for them, or loving them well.

We know intuitively that none of those things can sustain the love we crave. It has a cause and effect. We fail to receive love so we decide we are going to show ourselves love. This leads to throwing pity parties for ourselves which is a way to cope. We pursue things that make us feel loved for a second but ultimately we come down from it and need it more leading to addiction in areas such as sex, drugs, alcohol, spending, eating, or pity parties. Yes, we can become addicted to pity parties. Winnie the Pooh shows us this through Eeyore. You live life long enough you will soon find that nothing on this earth gives us what we are looking for.

What is the greatest thing on this earth you seek love from? For many men if we are honest it is success at what we most identify with. For most men it is their jobs or if not their job their number one hobby outside of their job. What happens when you fail and don’t get what you are looking for from that? For women with children I’ve observed that love from your kids is number one. What happens when one day you don’t receive love from your kids. What happens then?

In the Bible it is talked a lot about having the joy of the Lord in midst of turmoil in life. I’ve long thought about that joy. How in the world can I have joy when the world is crashing all around me? Well if you are seeking love primarily from things that will ultimately crash it is impossible to have this joy. But, the good news is, if we seek our love from God our Father through His Son Jesus, we will find it and He will never fail us. It is only when we pursue this perfect love that we can have joy when our earthly life is failing all around us.

Jesus always welcomes us at his table. There is always a seat full of food, drink, and joy. There is no standard we have to meet to sit at his table. You fail in your career he welcomes you. You fail at home with your kids he invites you next to him. You fail in your personal life he runs to meet you. You fail at the gym he serves you the best food. You fail at life he gives you his top shelf wine. You fall down you don’t need to pick yourself up and go at it again he is the faithful one who will pick you up and do it with you. If you curse Him He will continue to stand there inviting you to hang out with Him. This is perfect love where nothing we do can cast it aside. Don’t you want this kind of love? His table is open and He is waiting for you.

You’re a Christian but Are you “in Christ” ?

We live in a culture where we compartmentalize everything. We have our job, neighborhood, family, kids events, eating, friends, gym, money, church, vacations, and hobbies. These things all have their place in our lives. Depending on our personality we have them blocked off on the calendar. Our lives are consumed by all these different things.

My guess is one of these things drives everything that you do. It drives your decision making process. It drives how you live your life in all of these compartments. For many it might be your job. If you are not effective at your job then you can’t provide like you want for your family, live in the neighborhood you want, have your kids involved in certain events, your hobbies can’t be fed, and the list goes on. Maybe it’s not your job it could be your family or your hobbies. These things will also dictate our decision making.

Your identity is what drives your decision making paradigm on a daily basis. What you most identify with in life we provide the motivation that you need to live life in every compartment. Think about your life and the decisions that you make, it all goes back to your core identity in your life. We could breakdown every decision you’ve ever made back to identity. If you move for your job, where you spend your money, and where you attend church.

If you consider yourself a Christian then as a Christian our identity must be in Christ. He must be supreme in our life. This is what comes with being a Christian. Does that core identity drive everything in your life? Does your identity in Christ drive how you work, lead your family, spend your money, go on vacation, eat, play, etc.?

If your identity is in Christ is it enough to just attend a church gathering one hour a week or maybe a better question attend on just the holidays? If your identity is in Christ is it ok to just move, travel, and work all the hours your company demands of you? If your identity is in Christ do you even think about him during the day? Does your identity in Christ drive where you spend and invest your money?

These are all questions that we can only answer individually. But I know that one’s life where Christ is preeminent He drives everything that they do. He moves in every area of their life all the time not just for an hour a week. I do not think Christ necessarily wants us to change what we do but I do think He wants us to change how we live in what we do. He wants us to reflect him in what consumes our daily lives.

How do we do this? We do this is in a few ways.

  1. Move from cultural Christianity to personal Christianity.

    As one who is in Christ we first pursue Christ with our whole hearts. We have to move beyond just being a cultural Christian. We need to move from just culturally saying we are a Christian to building a relationship with him. We do that by reading the scriptures, praying to Jesus, singing to Him, and simply hanging out with Him.

  2. Move from personal belief to community accountability.

    If you believe and have a personal connection with him we must move to connecting in a community of others who are in Christ. It’s in these communities that we can take our faith deeper. At times it can be uncomfortable as others challenge us to live more like Jesus.

  3. Move from just showing up to living Jesus’ call.

    If you are a Christian then Jesus has called you to a purpose. It is not enough to just show up. Jesus wants all of His followers to get in the game. But as you develop a personal relationship with Jesus and get involved in His community He will guide through those things your steps to getting in the game.

The Church: First Step to Following God’s Mission

If the call on all of us who say we follow Jesus is to make disciples the question then comes how do we do that? I think that our culture of church has fed the idea that we can attend church and watch others make disciples or worse we ignore the passage completely. For most of us church is just a cultural thing that we do because we think that we should do it. We do church because we think that it will help our life somehow or make us more successful. If you go to church for any of those reasons you should probably stop.

The first thing we have to understand is that we don’t go to church but we are the church. We are a people that is called to a purpose. Maybe you are attending a church and you feel like something is missing or you have attended sporadically and you feel the same way. It’s probably because God is calling you to more, to His purpose.

As we explore the scriptures we find that what Jesus has called us all to be is disciplemakers. We are called to “Go and make disciples.” This, for someone who has never done it, is daunting. For most it can be a bit overwhelming. The immediate response is, “I can’t teach or lead or preach or I don’t know enough, etc.” This is because we assume a disciple maker is what we have always seen as a disciple maker, the pastor. This leads to exactly what we need to do first if we are going to make disciples, we have to know who we are.

  1. Know our Identity in Christ.

    The first thing we will pursue in knowing ourself is who we are in Jesus. Being in Christ creates an identity of who we now are. When we are in Christ we are adopted into His family. We are called to be His servants that take on the attitude that whatever he calls us to do and wherever he calls us we will go. We are given His Spirit to be His witnesses. His Spirit desires to proclaim the good news of Jesus. When Jesus claims us as His own we become His followers or disciples. This is who we are, all of us.

  2. Know our Specific Role.

    This idea plays into what we talked about before. We can get overwhelmed because we think we need to disciple exactly like our pastor or some celebrity pastor we respect. We are not all created the same. We have different likes, dislikes, gifts, passions, personalities, and talents. We need to figure out who God has called us to be and specifically disciple that way. There are a few ways to figure this out and we will explore that as we move forward on this blog. But a few simple ways is to ask God’ Spirit, those closest to you, and get in the game to see what clicks!

Survive and Advance

Survive and advance is the motto of the basketball teams that enter into the NCAA “March Madness” basketball tournament. I think it should also be the motto of life. For so many of us life is a failure if we don’t have a highlight everyday. In this culture it is so hard to live with the survive and advance mentality with the social media driven nature of the culture. Everyone is posting highlights of their day and we feel the pressure to create a facade of highlights to keep up.

In reality life is all about surviving and advancing as those highlight moments are in the minority. Just because we haven’t had a highlight moment in a while doesn’t mean our life is a failure. I have been learning that simply surviving and advancing to the next day is a success. Each day brings a series of struggles and if you are like me there is no highlight for that day. The kids are being terrible, the meal you prepared did not come out as you would like (no pics today), you feel lousy, and you just feel uninspired. Maybe your day was worse as you found out you have a terrible disease, lost your job, or you lost a loved one. I know many days when I get on the social media inter webs I’m annoyed at how awesome people’s days are going when mine was terrible. But life is not about the highlights its about what happens between the highlights. It’s about what happens when the days are terrible. Will you keep going? Will you survive?

I think we need to reevaluate our expectations for what a good day is. I think we need to look to Jesus. On our worst day we didn’t have it as bad as Him on His worst day. Jesus was abandoned by his dad, best friend, and most of his family. He was beaten and killed in the worst way in the history of humanity. But here is the thing on Jesus’ worst day He survived and advanced. He died yes but He turned death into a highlight. He showed us that even in death we can survive and advance.

The best way I know to survive and advance is to follow Jesus because when life is at it’s absolute worst whether we are told we are on our death bed or anything else Jesus has given us hope we can continue to survive and advance. He gives us hope in the midst of our storms. He shows us how to put one foot in front of the other. I can tell you when we live in that reality the time between the highlights of life are a lot more hopeful even if they are frustrating.

5 Things I’ve Learned About Getting Fit So Far

One of the number goals every year is to lose weight or get physically fit. I am included in this stat as nearly every year I set fitness goals for myself. If you know me I have been on a weight loss journey for the last 5 years. When my son Caleb was born I was so out of shape I could barely carry my son out of the hospital without heavy breathing. I decided that it was time for a change. I started by doing some video workouts over a couple months then started running. Over the course of that first year I lost 80 pounds and changed many habits in my life. Over the last 5 years I have exercised at least 3-4 times a week without fail. I have begun eating better and taking care of my physical body. My weight still fluctuates some but I’ve never gotten closer than 50lbs to my heaviest weight. What I am learning about fitness is always evolving and I have learned so much over the last 5 years on my journey.

Currently I train at a Crossfit gym in East Brunswick called Crossfit Barbending. I absolutely love it. My goal for this year is to trim the fat. Even at my skinniest I was fat. I was what they call skinny fat. For example I am currently about 30 pounds heavier than I was at my skinniest but my body fat percentage is about the same. I want to get my body fat to a healthy level not just my weight. For me to do that I need to stay consistent in my diet throughout the year.

We are all at different parts of the journey in our fitness lives. I am no expert when it comes to fitness but I have learned a few things. I hope that they are helpful.

  1. It’s not easy.

    We get cravings for junk. We get lazy and don’t want to work out. We show up to the gym and just eat the free donuts rather than work out. It’s tough to stay consistent especially when we haven’t made it a habit. We naturally don’t want to do the things we know we should do. Life happens and we get behind causing us to just give up.

  2. Keep it simple.

    It’s not easy but it is very simple. Eat healthy, exercise, and supplement. Greg Gassman, the founder of Crossfit, gives a great definition of fitness in 100 words: “Eat meat and vegetables, nuts and seeds, some fruit, little starch and no sugar. Keep intake to levels that will support exercise but not body fat. Practice and train major lifts: Deadlift, clean, squat, presses, C&J, and snatch. Similarly, master the basics of gymnastics: pull-ups, dips, rope climb, push-ups, sit-ups, presses to handstand, pirouettes, flips, splits, and holds. Bike, run, swim, row, etc, hard and fast. Five or six days per week mix these elements in as many combinations and patterns as creativity will allow. Routine is the enemy. Keep workouts short and intense. Regularly learn and play new sports.” We don’t need to make it harder than it has to be.

  3. Takes Discipline.

    I can’t tell you how many people have asked me the question, “What did you do to lose weight?” My answer is always I started eating better and exercised. Inevitably people say either I don’t have time to exercise or I love food so I can’t do that. People are always looking for a magic pill or something. There is no magic pill or shortcut to a healthy body. It takes discipline. We all have time to do what we want to do. I have found practically that it takes about 2 weeks for me to create a habit of eating healthy and exercising. Once you get passed that initial hump it becomes more natural to stay consistent.

  4. Don’t do it alone.

    Your odds of success in fitness go down dramatically if you try it alone. If you are the only one in your house dieting the temptation will be too great for you to make it. It’s helpful to be a part of a group of people on the same journey whether an online group or in person group. I think it’s worth it to your health to spend some extra money to work out in a group setting whether with Crossfit or another group gym. Online diet and weight loss challenges are always great to join. If you are like me you want to keep up with everyone else in your group holding you accountable to your plan.

  5. Exercise at something you love.

    It took me a while to find what I love to do. Crossfit might not be your thing but that’s ok. It might be running, weightlifting, biking, workout videos, fun classes, or sports. Doing what you love will allow you to stick with it over the long haul. I spent a couple of years running. I enjoyed the sport of running and still do it on occasion but my body just didn’t cooperate to keep doing it. At least I didn’t enjoy it enough to deal with the pain. I love Crossfit and want to keep doing it no matter how I feel.

What have you learned on your personal fitness journey? What are your goals? How can I help you reach your goals?

The Church: Where did we start?

My hope is to write a series of blogs outlining where I see the church going in the future and why. This is leading to my dissertation that will address how I think that the church should address these changes in culture. Where have we been, where are we going, and how should we now live as the church.

The word used for church is “ecclesia” which literally translates as “assembly.” The meaning behind what the apostles meant when they used the word has deeper meaning. We can assemble around a lot of things like sporting events, movies, gyms, school, or many other things in society. This assembly was different, it was assembled around Christ, a people following Jesus. As a group of people following Christ the group is orienting their lives around becoming a lifelong learner of Jesus. Inherent in our call to make disciples is more than just assembling together. Jesus gave us marching orders or his mission. With Jesus being God one could deduce the pursuit of making disciples as the “Missio Dei” or “the mission of God.” The phrase, “the mission of God” could also say, “the sending of God” so in essence the church could be defined as the group of Christ followers sent to make disciples. Everyone that is part of the assembly around Christ is called to follow Jesus and as a result is set aside for missionary activities as being sent ones. To faithfully be a disciple of Jesus you are to be with Him, partnering with His mission, and to be witnesses of him and what he accomplishes. If I could sum up what the Church is, it is to reflect God’s glory and make our life a living sacrament of His grace and truth, not just to preserve the assembly as a witness, but to send it out among all people.

If the church is defined as a group of Christ followers sent to make disciples then how will they functionally do that? The apostle Luke, in Acts 2:42 tells us, “And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” The early church functionally practiced in community a devotion to teaching, fellowship, the Lord’s Table, and prayer that produced a disciple-making community. The Acts 2:42-47 passage continues drawing out functions such as singing praises, miracles, eating together, generosity, and sacrifice. These functions naturally led to more disciples being made the whole purpose of the church. Acts 2:47 tells us that as a result of this the Lord was adding to their number daily.

All of the functions of the church begin and end with worship. The worship of God is what God wants desires all people to do. The mission of God exists because worship does not exist. God wants to bring everyone to enjoy his glory through their worship. Worship is making something your idol or god. It is giving something all of your worth. Discipleship is the process of submitting every area of your life to the lordship of Jesus. You could say becoming a disciple of Jesus is giving all of your worship in every area of your life to him. Disciples are made to fill the earth with God’s glory full of those who give him their worship.

Mission begins and ends with worship. It takes one worshipping God to go on mission to see more people worship God. The ultimate purpose of the church is that they pursue God’s mission.  A church without mission is no church at all. At the core when defining church it is mission. The goal is to, “send a community of Christ worshippers to make disciples that make disciples that worship Jesus filling the earth with his glory through the functions of the apostles teaching, fellowship, the Lord’s Supper, prayer.”

Why Do We Binge Watch TV?

Binge watching TV. It is the season for it. It is getting cold outside, we are less likely to be outside doing things and the streaming sites make it easy to stay in. If you are like me you actually enjoy binge watching TV shows especially those with great stories. Lately, I’ve had a lot of conversations with friends around what is your favorite show to binge watch. I hear everything from Walking Dead, Game of Thrones, Downtown Abbey, and Homeland. Netflix has even released whole seasons of shows they produce at once to encourage binge watching.

The question becomes, “Why do we binge watch?” Really the answer is simple, we crave story. As humans we were created for story. A good story moves us to laughter, to tears, and to change. Not only were we created for story but we were designed to be in a story. Every good story has a characters, a conflict, a climax to that conflict, and a resolution. At the heart of every human life are these elements. We were created as a character in a story. All of us have lives filled with conflict and we are seeking that resolution to the conflict. We love to binge watch because we can experience those resolutions through our TV sets.

As we live the stories of our lives we seek resolutions in many different things. We seek resolution from fitness, healthy eating, better relationships, our kids, success at work, more money, better politicians, and the list goes on. These resolutions are only temporary. They never completely fix the conflict of our lives.

When I’m getting to know someone I want to know their story. When I’m asking questions about their life I’m looking for the conflict of their life. The great conflict of my life right now is being a good father to my 4 kids. I want to be healthy for them, provide for them, and lead them to be healthy adults. It’s a battle everyday and I know that ultimately I might fail at this. Thankfully my hope is not in my own ability to bring resolution to this conflict.

There is one who brings resolution to all conflict. Our creator will resolve it all. He not only created this earth and all in it He created story. Every story ever written goes back to the original story that God created us, we fell away from Him through our sin, that sin deserved punishment removing us from His presence for eternity, and he resolved to send His Son Jesus to pay the ultimate sacrifice for us.

Our conflict is only resolved in Jesus. We binge watch because we are craving that ultimate resolution. Our desire for the work of Jesus is deep in our soul. We were made for story and ultimately made for Him. As we wait on His ultimate resolution we can all watch snapshots of that coming day in whatever story we prefer to binge on.

The Church: What is the Problem?

My hope is to write a series of blogs outlining where I see the church going in the future and why. This is leading to my dissertation that will address how I think that the church should address these changes in culture. Where have we been, where are we going, and how should we now live as the church.

I don’t care what kind of church background you have Catholic, Protestant, Evangelical, Fundamentalist, Liberal, or your own made up version in your head this is for you. There are realities we must face as the church. The church’s goal of making disciples is by and large failing in America today. All of the statistical analysis is showing this.

George Barna’s recent research on church growth in America found that 38% of America is now considered post-Christian. Thom Rainer’s research has shown that 96% of churches are in decline when compared to local population growth, failing to keep up with the growing population. Pew Research found that those with no religious affiliation or the “nones” were happening at a faster rate than ever before. There are more and more unaffiliated religious in the younger generation than any generation before it. An astounding 75% of the religious unaffiliated grew up with a religious affiliation. These stats include all church backgrounds that I listed earlier in this blog.

What is the problem? People are walking away from their faith at an alarming rate. What’s even more deceiving is the fact that their is a growing mega church movement that gives the perception that we are addressing the discipleship problem but clearly we are not. The church is failing at it’s goal of making disciples but the real question is, why? To truly understand where things are headed we need to look back. The church somewhere along the way lost it’s missionary fervor. In some ways the church got to the point where it thought it had arrived. There was a period of history that sums up this arrival as “Christendom.”

Christendom is the period of time post-Constantine where everything in the church had a standardized form and expression of church and mission. In AD 312 Constantine made the Christian faith legal then in 391–92, Theodosius made Christianity the official religion of the empire. It was at this time that the church moved from the margins to the center. As a state religion it gave the framework for understanding culture giving a meta-narrative for both church and state. Christendom looked fundamentally different from the New Testament Church both in function and form. The Christendom church no longer was marked by its sending but by attracting people to a building.

The Christendom church saw itself as central to culture that culture needed to change rather than the church incarnating itself into the culture. It led to the mentality as church planter Andrew Jones cleverly says, “Any church that cannot get by without buildings, finances and paid experts is not fully being church.” Having a building, some shared money, and some paid staff doesn’t preclude you from being an effective church, but if your church would be lost without them, there is a core problem. The Christendom mindset effectively alters the way the church perceives itself. It perceives itself as static people rather than a sent people. It perceives itself as an event you go to and attend rather than a way of living daily. The Lord’s Supper is a formal event put on by professionals rather than being equals around a table remembering Jesus’ sacrifice. Missions can no longer be just expanding western culture the church needs to look back to the New Testament for what it means to be missionaries not as the dominate culture like in Christendom but as a minority view. Christendom fundamentally put the forms of the church before the function of it. This is the fundamental problem with the church today and it has affected the church’s effectiveness in fulfilling the purpose which Christ gave the church to go and make disciples.

To say that Christendom doesn’t affect the lack of discipleship today is a mistake. As the stats play out we see that much of what the church has done in response to the lack of disciples being made is to do things that only impact the core of Christianity. In other words most of what churches do for outreach only reaches those with a church background. Those with this mindset are not defining what the church should look like in a secular world but in the context of a Christian world. The church assumes people actually want to attend your church. Where the stats show us that people who claim Christianity is in decline. This is a lack of self-awareness on the church’s part. We are no longer in a culture where the majority of people are driven to be a part of a local church, we are closer to what the New Testament church was than the Christendom church.

Christendom led to the church becoming culturally illiterate. The church no longer knows how to contextualize the gospel to a culture that is walking away from Jesus. This is a big part of the problem of making disciples today and why the church is in decline. We must not assume by doing what we always have done that we will find the solution. Even more dangerous is because mega churches are popping up and swallowing up the remaining Christians we can easily think that is what will address this problem while it is clearly not. I know because the church is Jesus’ bride that He will move through His Spirit. He wants to use us in the midst of that and we must see what the Spirit is up to. In the coming weeks and months I will explore what that might be on this blog.

3 Ways to Address Getting Back to the Grind

The Grind. We all have to deal with it. It’s been an awesome time in the Murphy house these last two weeks. Kids had no school and right before they got off school we took them to Great Wolf Lodge, a indoor water park in the Poconos. We had a great time as a family celebrating Christmas and New Years with many friends and family. We even got to lay around the house doing a lot of nothing for a few days, it was a small slice of heaven. Today I said and heard a lot of others say, “Back to the grind.”

If you look the phrase “daily grind” up in an idiom dictionary it literally means a tedious pattern of daily work. We dread going back to the grind because we must go back to the tedious tasks of daily life. I think that it is in the tedious daily grind that leads to great growth as individuals. This discussion of the grind got me thinking about how we make the best of the grind.

1. Grind doing what you love.

All humans must enter the grind. It is part of being human. We must work and enter into the mundane tedious tasks of day to day life. Most of life is spent in the grind. I will never understand why people insist on doing something they don’t love to do. Understandably there are all seasons of life that are hard and we are going to have to do things we don’t like. If you are in one of those seasons are you moving your life in a trajectory that is headed toward doing what you love.

When I’m in the grind doing what I love to do I can keep at it. If I ever sense I’m not loving what I’m doing my personality tends to stop grinding away. One of the number one new years goals is to get in shape. You will not sustain your goal of getting in shape if you don’t eat things you love or exercise doing what you love. So, find what you love to do and you will never stop grinding.

2. Be disciplined in the grind.

It’s important that in the midst of the daily tedious tasks that we don’t lose focus. I like to set a plan as new seasons come then execute in a daily basis. When this happens those tasks produce results. It doesn’t matter if you are a stay at home mom, working person, or a student there are all results we want to see. Don’t waste your time in the grind. The time doing tedious mundane tasks is what produces all the awesome stories we tell. Instilling great values in our kids happens in the mundane that produces moments like a teacher saying “your kid is doing a wonderful job.”

3. Have fun in the grind.

Make what you are doing fun. Add a little spice to the grind of life. If you follow any diet plan they will tell you to take a cheat meal once a week as if you don’t you are likely to give up. Take a “cheat meal” once a week in the grind of life. Take your kids somewhere crazy when you pick them up from school, change your setting of where you work, take your family out for donuts late at night, spontaneously go to the movies, or next time you are at a restaurant just ask the waiter to pick your meal for you sight unseen.

Keep perspective in those daily tedious tasks. Learn from what life brings you and never give up. Keep your head up and remember you aren’t the only one we are all in the grind together.

Looking Back to Look Forward

with love From the stirling family

Another year is gone. The years get faster the older I get. It’s all about perspective when it comes to the speed of years. When I was 10 one year was 1/10 of my life. I’m about to turn 34 in a few days and now a year is 1/34 of my life. As my perspective has changed so has my goals. Every year I set goals. I think that it is healthy to reflect on the past year and look ahead to the next year. In the Bible the Israelites took time to remember all that God had done for them. The disciples of Jesus took time to remember all that God had accomplished through them. There have been numerous studies that show people who set goals and reflect on the past accomplish much more than those who do not.

with love From the stirling family

Looking Back at 2015

2015 is a year I know I will not soon forget. It was a year that was easily the hardest year of my young life and probably the best. 2015 was a year of pruning. It was a year that pruned my heart and my goals. God rocked everything I put my heart into. This year we spent a week in the hospital with my youngest son and a night with my oldest. We saw our church plant lose money and people. Friends we made in the midst of our church plant walked out of our lives. Some of them took opportunities to talk behind my back, call me names, trash me to my face, and undermine us. My expectations for 2015 were full of hope. None of them were met. With all that was happening in our family and ministry life in 2015 was full of stress.

In the midst of that stress God showed His abundant Grace. He brought our family closer together as a unit. We decided to make choices to spend time as a family like becoming members at the town pool with one of our good friends. God replaced old friends with new ones who we’ve become like family with. As we listened to God for our ministry we have gone back to the basics of church and it has been a sweet time together as a church family. God brought me brothers in ministry to hold me up, pray for me, and keep my head in the game. God showed his Grace to us by proving to us once again He is the provider. God came through financially time and time again.

An organization that helps our church out wrote about the 5 capitals that we as people can invest in. They are financial, intellectual, physical, relational, and spiritual. God wired me as a competitive person and not only do I want to invest in these capitals but I want to succeed. This year of the 5 capital investments of my life the one I felt I won at was physical. I joined a great Crossfit gym called Crossfit Barbending and a supplement company Advocare that have both been great in helping me physically win. I’ve never been in better shape or felt better. To have an hour each day to defeat the weight on the bar was so freeing. God’s gift to me in that area kept me going when the days were darkest.

As a result of 2015 God has developed me deeper spiritually than ever before. He graciously showed me the idols in my heart that were opposed to Him. I believe that is grace because without this year I would’ve never known how much I worshipped my dreams. They were just that my dreams. My brother, Timothy, is a drill sergeant in the Army. He told me it is his job to break down his recruits to nothing and then build them back up into an Army soldier. 2015 was just that for me. I believe God used 2015 to break me down and build me back up into who He has called me to be. I now know better of who I am as a person, leader, pastor, husband, and father. That is a great place to be.

Recently, I was asked by our Elder team at church the question, “What’s Next for our church?” Honestly, I didn’t know how to respond other than what the next week looked like. I’m a guy who has always had 1, 3, and 5 year plans looking ahead. I don’t have that anymore and I know that’s good. I’m just trusting God for what He has right around the corner. My expectations are all in Him.

Looking ahead to 2016

As I look ahead to 2016 I want my expectations to be all in Jesus and who He has called me to be. I want to seek Him daily for my marching orders. Jesus didn’t set goals necessarily but trajectories. He was ok with getting off the road he was on while keeping focused on the trajectory of His mission.

The trajectory I want to take in the financial capital I have is to carve away at our debt. As 2015 showed us as a family things happen that don’t fit into your budget but to stay disciplined even when things get out of control and not let other stuff affect this investment. Most importantly bring our spending to God when we have extra rather than our emotion.

In the area of intellectual I want to finish my doctoral degree strong. This is the year I will be writing my dissertation. In 2015 the chaos of our life got in the way of me really attacking my studies well. God has blessed me with a smart mind and I want to use that to the best of my ability. I want to ask God how I can develop that further and share it with others. I need to do some hard work in this area in 2016.

My physical capital I’m going to keep pressing into the disciplines I already have. One area I need to attack better is my diet. I made some decent changes in that area in 2015 but I’m a stress eater. So, there was a lot of terrible eating in 2015. At the gym I want to attack my weaknesses with enthusiasm unknown to mankind.

Relationally I want to press into my family time in a more quality way. Our kids are getting older and it’s time to start pouring into each of them individually. I’m thankful for Kelly in the midst of the chaos. She has been a rock even though I was unstable at times. I love her to death. I’m grateful for the way the stress has actually brought us closer together. I want to keep investing in our relationship together as friends. With our friends God has brought to us my hope is to see those continue to develop and I want to see how can serve each of them better this coming year.

Spiritually I want to just be with God. I want Him to pour out of me constantly. I want to continue to pursue who He has made me to be.

A season of giving gifts

As a kid I remember all I talked about around the Christmas season is “what are you getting for Christmas?” or “What did you get for Christmas?” We never talked about what we gave for Christmas. I think even as we head into adulthood it is the same. Sure, those of us who have kids spend a lot on giving gifts to our children. But our cultural marketing pushes what are you getting for yourself. Even in line at the grocery store this morning the discussion was about what we are getting for Christmas. In our heart of hearts we want to know what we are getting for Christmas. The emphasis all around us is about what are you getting.

Why are there even presents at Christmas? We have to go all the way back to the time when Jesus was born to learn why. Let’s not forget that Jesus is why we have Christmas. His birth coming to this earth with the purpose of sacrificing himself for us is why we have this holiday. If we know the story of Christ at all we know that when he was born the angels announced his coming to shepherds and God announced his coming with a star. This star was noticed by ancient astronomers as an anomaly. They had to go see what this was about. These guys were scientists. I’m not a scientist so I’m not going to get into the science behind the star but this story shows that God speaks through science. Science had shown the wisemen who was the king. That they thought Jesus was king is evidenced by the fact these men traveled to meet Jesus. They brought him gifts that were fit for a king. The first Christmas gifts were gold, frankincense, and myrrh. These gifts were often given together for to Kings. The wisemen gave sacrificially to a child they had never met but knew that there was something special about Jesus. The wisemen worshipped Jesus with their gifts. The wisemen wanted nothing in return. For them Christmas was all about worship and when we worship something we give of ourselves.

I wonder what Christmas would be like if we took on the attitude of the wisemen and gave as if we worshipped the one we are celebrating at Christmas. What if Christmas was about giving rather than getting? And what if when we are giving we gave in such a way that it reflected the heart of Jesus?

As you look ahead to 2016 give your life to your king. Don’t think about 2016 in terms of what you can get but what you can give. Make 2016 a year of giving your time, energy, finances, and your whole life in honor of your King Jesus.

How do we attain it?


When we are in pursuit of a goal a lot of our success is dictated by how much work we put in. For example, if I want to lose weight and get in shape I have to actually be disciplined. I need to go to the gym, eat healthier, and eat less. If I am not doing those things odds are that I am not going to lose weight or get healthy. It is like this in life with almost any goal.

We humans tend to take this line of thinking to our spiritual life as well. It’s natural to think that, because this is the way we live our lives everyday. So, we live our spiritual lives thinking that if we just do the rituals set out before us at church, live a good moral life, be nice to people, live out the vision of the church, give money, give our time, read our Bibles, and many more then we will be saved. This is what the culture tells us, but scripture is so counter cultural, especially so in how we are saved.

Don’t you get so stressed out over the phrase “you have to”? I know that I get incredibly stressed by that. I get stressed thinking about all the things I don’t measure up to in my “religious” life. A stressed life is not good news. What if I told you that starting right now you no longer have to live in stress? Wouldn’t you take that as good news? I know that the best days are ones that are stress free around a pool, at the beach, executing a great WOD, enjoying a great beer, a good cigar, watching my favorite team win, and laughing with my friends and family. All of those things and more were created by God for us to enjoy. He wants us to live a life of joy, free of stress. Read the good news found in the words of Jesus, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (‭Matthew‬ ‭11‬:‭28-30‬ ESV) Doesn’t that sound like good news? Then why is it that we are so stressed and burdened all the time?

I believe that we are stressed because we are in pursuit of salvation in all the wrong ways. We think that if I can just get the perfect body, job, spouse, kids, amount of money, house, vacation or spirituality then my life will be where I need it to be. We are in pursuit of something that will never satisfy. There is always a need for more or better. We will always fall short of perfection.

So, what gives? What actually saves us and brings us that stress free life? Simply put, Jesus. Jesus is the good news that we seek. Jesus fulfills both ends of the covenant. He made a covenant with us that we can be a part of His family if we keep His ways. Yet we cannot keep His ways. God knew this so He sent Jesus to hold up both ends of the covenant. The only thing we have to do is believe. Faith in Jesus justifies us and brings us righteousness. Romans 4:5 says, “And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness,” Our faith is counted as righteousness not by our discipline or good works. Jesus is the one, “who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began.” (‭2 Timothy‬ ‭1‬:‭9‬ ESV) We cannot save ourselves through any ritual, task, or good work. We must simply have faith that Jesus did it all and rest in Him. Jonathan Edwards said, “First we must be in him, and then he will be made righteousness, or justification to us.” This is good news. You don’t have to pursue perfection or your salvation. Just believe that Jesus did it all. When we understand that then we can begin to live our lives stress free.

This naturally leads us to conclude that we can live our lives the way we want to. But Paul in Romans 6 tells us NO WAY! If we truly believe in what Jesus did we will desire to rest in Him because it is so good. Tim Keller says, “Only when we see we cannot keep the rules, and need God’s mercy, can we become people who begin to keep the rules.” Then it goes from a “we have to do it” to “we get to do it.” We get to have a healthy body the way God designed it. We get to have faith that God is going to provide our every need. We get to show the world how to live in God’s Kingdom. We get to because we don’t have to any longer. Praise be to God! That is GREAT NEWS!

Is Jesus really your King?

Do you serve a King? Are you a part of a Kingdom? We are in the midst of Holy Week where we will remember and celebrate the King. This King, Jesus, rules a Kingdom and He is looking for His servants. Are you a servant of the one true King? As a servant of King Jesus there will be some key evidences.

In the American culture in which we live it is counter cultural to serve anyone especially a King. Our country was founded on the idea that no one can rule us. We must rule ourselves. Our Declaration of Independence states that we deserve, “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” We must realize that everything about that statement is individualistic consumerism that actually is in direct contrast with the ways of Jesus. We don’t deserve life because of our sin, we actually deserve death. In Romans 3:23 it says, “For the wages of sin is death but the gift of God is eternal life.” Our life is a gift not something we deserve. Jesus says in Matthew 6:24 that we cannot be slaves to two masters. Paul introduces himself in his letters as a slave to Christ. The call be in Jesus’ Kingdom is a hard call. It is a call that brings us to slavery. We will either be a slave to our own pursuits or to Jesus. We are not guaranteed happiness. Was Jesus happy when He was crucified? Were the disciples happy when they were beheaded or crucified like Jesus? Following Jesus is hard and counter cultural. He calls us to “take up our cross daily” and follow him. But when we serve Jesus we serve the greatest King.

We don’t submit to Jesus as King because our image of a King is screwed up. We only look to what an earthly King is. An earthly King has nothing except which he controls through power and manipulation. The earthly King has nothing so to control he must get something. He goes to the wise sages and learns how to make money. The King takes that money to buy soldiers. He then pays those soldiers to conquer a land so that the people in that land will become his servants. No one wants to follow that kind of King. In scripture, when the Israelites asked for a King God warned them that they would not be happy. The Lord said that an earthly king would take everything from them and they would eventually cry out to God asking Him to help. (1 Samuel 8) We are exactly like the Israelites. We have the perfect King before us yet we desire something less than perfect to be our King. Our King is whatever rules our life. It could be our money, bodies, career, kids, spouse, lack of a spouse, and the list goes on and on.

But Jesus is the righteous King. Jesus is the King that already has everything. He is the wisdom of God fully having all knowledge and wisdom of the world. Jesus owns everything as the creator of the universe. He has an endless supply of finances and resourses. It is all His. He rules over all of creation holding us in the palm of His hand. He has it all but yet sacrifices it all for us. Jesus is the only King that serves those he rules. He served us so much that He gave His life for us. And he freely gives us what we need. He has all the money in the world and will provide our every need. He loves your kids more than you do and will take care of them. He loves you no matter how successful you are so you don’t have to advance in your career to prove your worth. He loves you no matter what you look like so you don’t have to be in bondage to your self image.

The question is who is your King? Is Jesus your King?

Here are 3 ways you can know if Jesus is your King:

1. Obedient Servant 

You do what Jesus says because He is your King. You pursue relationship with Jesus because you know that He loves you. You get to know Him daily on your own time with your own Bible. You learn to listen to His voice through the scriptures and respond to it. You actually obey what the scriptures say. You will begin to become as Paul says, a slave to Christ. This means we will sacrifice all for the sake of Jesus.

2. Be with His Family

You desire to be with Jesus’ family. This doesn’t mean you show up to a worship service, mass, or a church event once in a while, once a month, or even once a week. This means that you seek to be family with others saved by His Grace. Sharing life together as Jesus shared life with His disciples. This also does not mean that you move into a compound together. Don’t do that. That’s just weird. But be the family of God. Jesus tells us that “they will know me by your love for one another.”(John 13:35)

3. Be Jesus’ Witness

Tell people who the great King is. Tell them that they don’t have to be in bondage anymore to their fleshly desires that will never satisfy anyways. Tell them that there is a King out there that serves us with His life so that we can have the life we have always desired.


My prayer this Easter season is that you see Jesus as the King of your life. We would love to have you explore what that means with our Christ-centered community at Element Church. Check out our website: elementnj.org for more info.

Being a Good Neighbor 

This past week has been a crazy week in the life of the Murphy clan. For the first time one of our kids was admitted to the PICU. It was a scary time for us in the early moments of that trying to figure out what was wrong with Gideon. Once we got clarity on that we were much more relaxed but it was a stressful time. Through this ordeal I learned from my neighbors what it means to be a good neighbor.

I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to be a good neighbor. It’s one thing to think about it or even talk about it. It is a whole different thing to be about it when it comes to being a good neighbor. I gotta say I love our neighbors and where God has placed us in our neighborhood. It is safe to say some of our best friends are our neighbors. They teach me everyday what it means to be a good neighbor.

Here are 3 simple ways to be a good neighbor:

1. Make friends.

The first one is essential. If you don’t know your neighbor then it is impossible to be a good neighbor. We live in a culture where it is easy to walk in your door and never come out to say hi. As part of making friends get to know their story. I’ve noticed with the neighbors we are closest to they have taken time to get to know us and our stories. We are able to bond over similar things. We laugh about crazy family stories, connect over hobbies, and sharpen our parenting skills together. Being able to make friends will allow you to do the next one.

As you become friends you will most likely become like family. We have a become family with some of our neighbors that the sickness Gideon had spread to one of the kids in the neighborhood we are becoming family with and they ended up in the hospital a couple of hallways away. Praise God they are out of the hospital but we had our neighbors as neighbors in the hospital. Probably not the greatest way to do it but hey I know it made both hospital stays a lot easier!

2. Serve. 

In our culture here in Central New Jersey everyone looks like they have it together. I have been to many foreign countries where the needs are obvious. Not as much here. We cannot really serve our neighbors unless we know their story. When we become friends with our neighbors we can be in touch with what is going on in their lives. A good neighbor will look to bless their neighborhood.

We have felt so blessed by our neighbors most specifically when Gideon was sick. Because we are friends our neighbors knew what was up with Gideon and immediately acted. We got a phone call that they could take our other kids. Then we had dinner waiting for us 3 nights in a row from our neighbors. It was amazing and humbling. I’m not used to receiving help but I was very grateful for it. It really relieved a lot of the stress we were having.

3. Have fun.

This one should be easy if you are friends. Have fun together. It seems like in our house we are always having fun with our neighbors. We have seen Santa, gone apple picking, shared meals, brewed beer, went trick or treating, played games, attended sporting events, and many other things having fun with neighbors. Having fun keeps things well, fun. If I can’t have fun with you I never want to hang around you.

We are very grateful God has called us to live in Milltown. Our community is rock solid and we love them. I believe our communities would be a lot more enjoyable to live in if we were be good neighbors.

The Reason for Lent

No Facebook, sweets, TV, alcohol, and soda for 40 days are all common things people give up for Lent. I have given up those things and more for lent as well. Many also give up meat on Friday’s replacing it with fish, grilled cheese, or pizza. But do we know why we do this or is it just a cultural exercise that we have lost all sight of the meaning behind it.

I come from a Christian tradition that doesn’t traditionally celebrate Lent. Although in recent history more and more churches in my tradition have begun having Ash Wednesday services and practicing Lent. Now that our lives have become entrenched in New Jersey and specifically Milltown most of the people we know practice Lent. Lent is a good thing but I wonder if we have forgotten the reason for Lent.

Lent begins at some point in February with Ash Wednesday. Ash Wednesday is a time for repentance and remembering that from dust we came and dust we will return. The ashes respresent our need and total dependance on a savior, Jesus. Lent follows with the 40 weekdays leading up to Maundy Thursday or Holy Thursday which is the beginning of the weekend of remembering Jesus. The 40 days of Lent traditionally has always been a season of giving up or fasting and mixed in throughout Lent is meatless Fridays. 

So what is the point of all of this? If you really step back and look at it from a big picture perspective it is a beautiful thing. The season starts with Ash Wednesday where we admit we are nothing and depend on Jesus for everything. We spend 40 days giving up something not just to give it up but so that we focus on and become more like Jesus. The giving up for Lent was actually designed for us to choose something that was affecting our relationship with Jesus and be an impetus for change. It wasn’t designed as something for us where we can’t wait to get back to it after the season is over(not that you can’t go back to it, maybe don’t act so excited, ha ha:). Lent is all about relationship with Jesus. Lent was created so that our focus was on Him. The Friday no meat or eat fish thing was started to remember how Jesus lived. It wasn’t started for your health. It was another way to remember Jesus and how he lived. Traditionally it is thought that Jesus lived on fish and bread. He lived simply. Friday’s during Lent are a time to live simply and build our relationship with Jesus. If you aren’t building your realtionship with Jesus during Lent then why are you even doing it? Then Lent ends with Jesus and remembering His sacrifice and celebrating His resurrection for us. 

So here is the point of the Lent season, we are feeble humans who can’t do anything on our own, we can’t even keep our lenten promise for 40 days. Because we are feeble humans we are in desperate need of a savior. The only one who lived the perfect life was Jesus. Because we can’t live the perfect life Jesus willingly went on the cross He died as a sacrifice for our sin. Then Jesus took it a step further and rose from the dead. He is no longer on the cross. We no longer have to put ourselves on the proverbial cross. The punishment is over. Jesus declared IT IS FINISHED! We now have a new life because of Jesus. The point of Lent isn’t that we keep a ritual perfectly but it is that we remember the perfect life of Jesus that we can’t live(I mean you can’t even give up one thing for 40 days much less give up sin for a lifetime:), that He died the death we deserved for our sin, and rose from the dead defeating death. He did all of this so that He can have a relationship with you and I.

Jesus is in pursuit of you. He wants to be in your life. Will you let another Lent season go by or will you lean into the relationship Jesus has for you? 

Jesus is proclaimed at Element Church. We would love to have you come celebrate part of your Lent, Good Friday, or Easter with us. 

My Michigan fandom and how the Gospel is Transforming me

Not that it matters to anyone but I know a lot of people think I am nuts with my Michigan fandom. I’m sure many think I’m not self aware about what people think but no, I’m pretty self aware about this issue. (I’m sure there are many things I’m not self-aware about but not when it comes to this;) I know I annoy people. Shoot, I’m pretty confident people have unfriended me because of it. Frankly, I know that I need to not be crazy on the news feeds but I just can’t help myself sometimes. This blog post will help you understand a little bit about me and my story.

Growing up I literally had no hometown or home state. I say I’m from Michigan because that is where I lived when I graduated high school and it was the state I lived in most while growing up. I moved a lot as a kid. It’s my story. So, when I was in school growing up I was always the outsider. I had to adapt to make friends. And it always seemed that just when I would assimilate into a group of friends we would move away. It was tough. There were times I hated my parents.(I don’t hate them to be clear) Times I hated God(I don’t hate him to be clear). But God used those times to lead me to Him. In hindsight I am thankful because it made me into who I am today. I’m able to adapt and make friends quickly. I have an ability to network because of that. It drove me to work hard and I became driven as a result. I am a self-starter and self-motivated because I spent much of my childhood figuring things out on my own.

I struggled for a long time knowing if God was for me. I also struggled thinking that God was distant and not near. God revealed to me over time that He is always with me. He always has a plan for my life even if I cannot understand it. Jesus was the reason I knew God was for me not against me. The Holy Spirit revealed himself to me that through the Spirit Jesus was always with me. This was profound and was a huge transforming experience for me.

Sports was my way into the community to make friends. I was always playing sports. I was on a sports team year round. Because of that I developed an obsession with sports. Sports drove me to succeed, probably in an unhealthy way at times. To be honest, I am not an athlete. I do not have natural athleticism. I was an uncoordinated, unathletic, slow, and for athletics small kid. But to be accepted in that culture you need to have some skill. So I busted my butt to be the best. I worked my tail off. I played everyday to improve. I always made a commitment to get better each and every year. This is still who I am. You tell me I can’t do something I will figure out a way to prove you wrong. In baseball I was told I couldn’t hit. When I was a senior I had the best batting average on our team. In basketball I was told I couldn’t shoot and probably wouldn’t be able to play much in high school. By the time I graduated I was a starter on the basketball team and arguably the best shooter on the team. I say arguably because my best bud Drew would say he was better:)

For me success and relationship came the harder I worked and the better I was. Jesus is transforming me to understand that His acceptance does not come through performance or effort. He just loves me as I am. This is tough for me to comprehend because my whole life it is the opposite. Shoot, even in ministry, relationships and acceptance come through ministry success. I never had more friends than when I was leading a large ministry with a large budget. Our culture is wired this way. But Jesus is the opposite of our culture. It is tough. But the Gospel is transforming me and reminding me that Jesus is with me no matter what kind of numerics or momentum I have. I am learning to lean on Him more and more not what others think.

As a result of God’s transforming work in me the more I know God the more I know myself. He confirms daily more and more of my identity in Him. It has been such a rewarding experience to learn who I was created to be. I am learning that I am an adopted Son of God. As His Son I am His and He has my back. I am part of His family. I am a missionary sent by the Holy Spirit. He prepared me for this with all of my moves as a kid, that I was always to be prepared for His move. I love the metaphor of the Celtics for the Holy Spirit, a wild goose. You never know where the Spirit might lead and it’s an adventure. That is who I am. I am a servant of the King. Jesus served me with His life and calls me to do the same. He called me to ministry within the identity of a servant. I was so transformed by the fact that I knew God had a plan for me in the midsts of my storms that I wanted to help others learn that.

If my spiritual identity is that I am part of a family, a missionary, and a servant then I also think that there is a physical identity. Where you are from? What do you do? What are your gifts and talents? Let’s take Jesus. He was Jesus of Nazereth. Or Paul of Tarsus. They knew where they physically were from not just spiritually. I wanted that. I asked God for that. So, because I lived in Michigan multiple times and the most number of years growing up, Michigan became where I was from. You may think that this is weird but most people just take for granted where you are from and unless you are from nowhere you probably wouldn’t understand.

As a sports fan you must pick the team you are going to root for. So every state I lived in I rooted for a different local team to fit in. I always kept rooting for the teams even after I moved. I had at one time probably a dozen favorite teams because of all the places that I lived. I was always envious of people who grew up in one location, knew their friends their whole life, and had one favorite team.

I always rooted for Michigan for as long as I could remember, they were always part of my laundry list of teams. As I got older and my attention span could last the length of a football game I would spend every Saturday afternoon watching Michigan. This became my habit.

As I entered into my deep journey with Jesus revealing my identity He actually freed me up to root for them. He created me to love sports and I asked him for my home. He gave it to me. Jesus gave me freedom to have a place I was from, Michigan. Here in New Jersey it is very mutli-cultural. There are Italians, Greeks, Hispanic, Korean, Indian, Jewish, and many other nationalities. All people I know at some point and fairly regularly celebrate their heritage. They celebrate where they are from through food, parties, or other cultural celebrations. When I root for Michigan sports it is no different. It is my cultural identity. If you are from Michigan this is what you do. You root for the Maize and Blue, unless you from East Lansing. Call me crazy call me weird but I don’t really care. My Father has freed me up to root for them, it was His gift to me as His Son. (Ok I know maybe I could tone it down a bit:)

God is still revealing to me other pieces of my physical identity as His Son as I live out my spiritual identity. There is nothing wrong with having a physical identity so long as it doesn’t overtake our spiritual one. The second our cultural identity trumps who we are in Christ it becomes an idol. We all can be tempted to do that. I know there are times I cross that line and I repent. I am so thankful for God’s Grace.

God is continually transforming who I am. I am thankful that He doesn’t give up on me. I love the journey that I am on finding out who God created me to be.

Jesus is Healer.

This week we talk about Jesus as our healer. We have access to Jesus as our healer. Let Jesus be your healer. Join us at Element Church as we experience Jesus as our healer.

Jesus is Sanctifier

We are in week two in our “Foundations of Jesus” series at Element Church. This week we looked at Jesus as our Sanctifier. This video seeks to help us with our lists that we create when we are in pursuit of being like Jesus. So many times we have a key moment in our lives that we ruin because we think it takes creating a list of things to do. All the Spirit is doing in the midst of our sanctification is prompting us to surrender to Him. A Sanctified life is a surrendered life.

If you are interested in more join us at Element Church on Sundays 10am at the Days Hotel in East Brunswick.

Knowing God Takes Commitment

It takes commitment to lose weight. It takes commitment to stay fit. It takes commitment to be successful. It takes commitment to live a good life. It takes commitment to achieve your goals. It takes commitment to have a good marriage. It takes commitment to be a good parent. Many people don’t accomplish what they set out to accomplish because they lack commitment.

When we set out on the goal of accomplishing something what we are really saying is we want to know what it is like to accomplish that task. For example this time a year many people say, “I want to know what it is like to lose weight and be in shape.” To know what that is like it takes a certain level of commitment. I am currently reading the book A Little Manual for Knowing by Esther Lightcap Meek. She says, “Commitment is the way we dispose ourselves toward the thing we want to know. We take a responsible, highly sophisticated, human, step of choice to bind ourselves in covenant with it.” (Kindle Location 385) She is saying if we really want to know something we must stay committed to the task at hand. To know something we must embark into covenant with it. For too many we haphazardly pursue knowing things and because we lack commitment never truly know anything. 

One of the greatest basketball coaches of all time, Mike Krzyzewski says that if you want to accomplish anything it takes commitment. He describes a time when he was first starting out as a basketball coach that it took a deep level of commitment for players to play for him because he was nobody at the time. Now everyone wants to play for “Coach K” but there was a time when no one knew who he was. He said it takes a real level of commitment to commit to something before anything has happened. I have found that many people lack that deep level of commitment. The culture in which we live devalues commitment to knowing. We want to know without commitment. I find it funny that right now everywhere you turn there are advertisements to getting an awesome looking body without doing anything. Here just take this pill and watch the weight drop off or just put this belt around your waist to get a six pack of abs. I hope you realize that the models in those commercials got those bodies from years of hard work and commitment. They know what it is like to be fit because of commitment. Yet, we, as a culture, want the easy way out. 

I have noticed this at the church level as a church planter. People don’t want to commit to knowing what it will be like to be the kind of church God has called us to because that’s too hard. (some people leave for good reasons so not everyone lacks commitment and it’s not just church plants that experience this but all churches of all sizes do, for many church goers the grass is always greener somewhere else) So, let’s go down the street to a church that is already doing it. They do that because the commitment level is a lot lower. Some other group of people have already put in the hard work to get the church to the level it needs to be. It takes a special group of people that commit to something before anything has been accomplished. I am so thankful for that special group of people God has given us at the church plant. Because of their commitment God is going to give them the reward of knowing. Not just knowing what it is like to plant a church that lives out the mission of God but actually knowing Him.

When it comes to knowing God it takes a level of commitment. You are not going to haphazardly stumble into knowing God. God set up the whole system of knowing Him that it would take commitment. He describes our relationship with Him throughout scripture with the metaphor of marriage. That we serve, sacrifice, and submit. Jesus tells Peter that to follow Him would require his life and tells the disciples that the cost of being his disciple would cost them everything. Most people don’t want to know God because it’s too hard of work. When I hear people make the statement “I want to go deeper” or “I’m not getting fed enough” what they are really saying is I’m lazy. Never have I heard a follower of Jesus with a deep commitment to Him ever say those things. When people say those things what they are admitting is the only time I seek to know God is for an hour on Sunday. And for many that is only a couple times a month. Well, if your commitment to God is only a couple hours a month then you aren’t going to know much about God.

To know God takes commitment. It takes getting up early to read your Bible and pray. It takes actually going out to make disciples of Jesus. It takes submitting yourself to leadership. It takes listening to the call of God and following Him. It takes denying your selfishness. It takes as Jesus said to Peter, “you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will fasten a belt around you and take you where you do not wish to go.”(John 21:18) When we can finally commit to giving our life for the sake of Jesus then we will know Him.

Jesus is Savior


It will be my goal in 2015 to provide you, Element Church, videos to help you take the sermons deeper during the week. Use this as a resource to help you orient your life to Jesus, encourage you, and challenge you.

This past Sunday we talked about Jesus as Savior. This video I talk about how we get back to the root issues in our lives and submit them to the Lordship of Jesus. It is a process that we should all practice regularly.

Take a few minutes to watch this video and enjoy.


The culture that we live in is permeated by individualism and consumerism. The best metaphor that I can find to describe it is a gym. When looking for a gym membership a person is looking for something that fits their specific interests and needs. Cost? Spa? Tanning? TVs? Equipment? Shower? Pool? Childcare? Juice Bar? The list could go on and on. The choice is made purely on individualism and consumerism. Essentially as a consumer we are god. The demands of the customer will not go unnoticed. In fact, our society is becoming more and more individualistic. You can individualize everything. If as a business you do not allow for individualization then you will probably fall behind the competition. Because of the internet marketers now know more than ever what you enjoy. If I go to any website with ads right now it will probably advertise things that I want that will be different than if you went to the same website. I bet if you went to a restaurant ordered a sandwich then asked for something like onions to not be on the sandwich even though it was listed and they told you no it has to come with onions you would flip out. You would probably order something else and some of you would probably leave the restaurant to eat somewhere else. The point is we are individualist looking to consume and when we are consuming we might not say it but we act like god.

It hasn’t always been this way. The Enlightenment ushered in the individualist mindset. The Enlightenment gave us reason and that we can make our own choices. That isn’t all bad. The Enlightenment helped lead to the Reformation that made a significant course correction for the church. The church needed a reorientation and it got one through individualism. Before that everything was community driven and the church began to take advantage of that and demand things from people that was not biblical. But because the community thought for the individual whatever the community thought they would do. A reorientation was needed and happened. I believe we are living in a time that the church needs a new kind of reorientation.

I believe that the church’s pendulum has swung very hard to the opposite side. I think that the church has embraced individualism and consumerism to the point that we are allowing people to think that they are god. It is easy to do because that is the world we live in on a daily basis. Following Jesus is a culture shock to this culture. Because it is such a culture shock most can’t reorient their lives to follow Him. They say to the church and Jesus follow me communication that they are the most important. People who live like this make demands rather than humbly serving, they lack commitment rather than giving their life, and worst of all think that they are following Jesus when they are really not. Prayer life becomes all about what they can get out of God rather than what they can give for God. Remember it is all about them because they are god. And the church leadership plays into this. They want Hymns? Let’s give them that. They want rock music? Let’s give them that. They want better preaching? The pastor should go take some course on how to present better. If the church can’t provide these wants? Well they might have to go to the cool kid down the road.

We as church leadership play into this mindset because well we are told everyday that the people are right. Church leaders copy business models designed to massage the backs of the individualistic consumer. So we create programs and sermon series to help the individual better their life then call that discipleship. We look no different than the world and then complain that all we have is a bunch of consumers. We get hundreds of thousands of people to attend an event every week but yet only a handful actually commit to doing anything. Why is that? Well we have told them it is ok to be a consumer so they are being a consumer. All the while those consumers are sitting in our pews at war with God. Something has to be done. The church needs a reorientation.

Steve Jobs, the founder of Apple and inventor the iPod, iPhone, and iPad; had a philosophy in creation that let’s not give the people what they are asking for but show them something they never thought possible. This is a lesson from the business world that needs to be applied. The church needs to reorient toward not what the people are asking for but what they need. The people are asking that we proclaim them as god. Well, if we are preaching the Gospel of Jesus then that will go in direct contrast to that line of thinking. The Gospel will go to war with this culture. To reorient something you have to find the “true north” to point to. The church has to point to Jesus. Not in the genie in the bottle Jesus will give you everything you want kind of way. But in the way Jesus actually lived His life. Reorient people to take up their cross daily, to die to self, to admit they aren’t god, that they are not the center of the universe, sacrifice, commitment, discipline, and the list goes on.

This reorientation will not be easy. It will not be popular. In fact, most probably won’t make the switch. But it is necessary. It is time for Jesus to be Lord. It is time for every knee to bow and every tongue to confess the majesty of Jesus.


“Don’t Give Up, Don’t Give In”

“Don’t give up. Don’t give in. There is an answer for everything.” These were the words spoken by Louie Zamperini the central character of the book and movie Unbroken. It is an inspirational story of a man that had everything that could’ve gone wrong go wrong. Have you ever felt that life has treated you that way? I know there are seasons I feel that. Louie had it worse than most. He was in a plane wreck in the ocean, floated at sea for 47 days, was in a typhoon, attacked by sharks, shot at by the Japanese, captured by the Japanese, and beaten as a POW. Louie’s story is one of perseverance despite the odds. Every time Louie got knocked down he would get back up.


As I read Louie’s story I felt as I was reading it that every time it seemed he was going to get out of the tough situation that he was in it would get worse for him. I don’t know about you but sometimes life feels that way. It seems like every time you think that you have hit rock bottom it gets worse. This is one thing that every human has in common no matter how successful we are. We will find ourselves in situations where we feel like giving up. But as Louie says there is always an answer. Louie as he lived his life found that answer to be Jesus.

James 1 tells us that we are to consider it pure joy when we face trials of various kinds because those trials will make us mature not lacking anything. Sometimes like when renovating a house it needs to be gutted Jesus might be gutting your life so that you can live the life He designed you to live. We really have one of two choices when we are going through trials. 1. We can give up and wallow in self pity or 2. We can get up and persevere. When you get up and persevere the situation might seem dire but we have a promise that Jesus will always be with us. Romans 8:37-39 says, No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

This is the promise we can rest in as we fight our battles day in and day out. I know that for me I want to live the life God designed me to live. The creator of the universe has your best in mind. He is the ultimate designer. I know I want to live the life He created me to live because it is there that I will have the most joy. To do that will take perseverance and hard work.

My prayer is that those of you who are struggling right now is that you keep fighting, don’t give in, don’t give up, and remember Jesus is the answer for everything.


Getting Kicked in the Face


The other day a friend and I were swapping war stories of ministry. It was a time of sharing our success, struggles, and needs. It was an uplifting time as we both understood that we are not alone. One comment that stuck out that he said to me was that it really sounds like you’ve been kicked in the face this year. That’s not far from the truth. In many ways it feels like I got punched in the gut, kicked in the face when hunched over, and spit on as I lay there in pain. If I were to guess I’d say that’s a pretty common feeling among those who might be reading this.kicked

If that’s how you feel then you are in good company. Jesus was literally punched in the gut, kicked in the face, and spit on. He was beaten to the point of death then nailed to the cross for you and I. The Apostle Paul was 5 times lashed 39 times, 3 times beaten with rods, 1 time stoned, shipwrecked, put in prison, and even bitten by a viper. Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 12:8-10 what he thinks of all that, “Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My Grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

Things might not be going the way that you envisioned. Really, who dreams about getting beat down? I don’t set yearly goals around failing. I don’t get excited about insults, hardship, persecutions, or difficulties. Who does that? But if we are honest a lot of life is lived in the midst of those things. We are a like Paul, we plead with God to take those things away. Not only do we not plan for those things to happen we beg for them not to happen yet they do. Joel Osteen, Oprah, and others will tell you if you just live a good life then those things will go away. Others will tell you if you pray harder or have more faith then God will remove those things. The words of Jesus to Paul stand in direct opposition to that line of thinking. “My GRACE is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

It’s time to get your head out of the sand, stand up, and rest in the GRACE of our savior, Jesus. There is no greater gift. When we understand His Grace those hardships begin to fade by comparison. That Grace begins to overflow from our life and points directly at Jesus. It’s time to boast in your weaknesses so that Christ’s power may come. Where we are weak HE is strong. It is not about you it is about HIM. Would you dare live a life where only God gets the credit? When following Jesus strength comes from our weakness because in that Jesus can shine. No more excuses. It’s time to embrace Grace because that is more than enough.

3 Ways to Parent Your Children to Fail


Yes. I said that we should parent our children to fail. This is very counter our culture. We live in a culture where everything we do is to teach our kids to succeed. The culture teaches our children that winning is everything and losing is for losers. Even when we don’t keep score our kids are taught to keep score.

The New York and New Jersey area just celebrated the career of Derek Jeter. What a career he had. Very few will be able to do what he did again. One can say he succeeded. But even Jeter failed. He did not win a World Series every year, did not get a hit every at bat, and many other failures. The reason why Jeter succeeded in his baseball career was because he learned to fail.

An investment banking executive from Goldman Sachs said that the would never invest in someone who didn’t have a failed business on their resume. They understood that failure teaches us more than success. We succeed because we have learned to fail. In fact, most of our lives will be learning to live in the midst of failure. If our children do not know how to fail and fail well then we will have failed them.

If your kids are like mine then they hate losing. In fact, both of my oldest kids will cry when they lose or quit doing what they are doing if they feel like a failure. It was at this point that I realized that I really need to teach them how to fail or they will never accomplish anything in life if they keep quitting everything they fail at.

Here are 3 things I’ve been thinking about and implementing in my parenting to help them fail.


1. Don’t let them quit when they fail.

In my case with my 6 and 4 year old it is easy to spot when they have experienced failure as it sounds like from their cries that they are in severe pain. So, when I see them lose at something I immediately go to them and speak into their life. I stop them in that moment and tell them it’s ok that you have failed. Now, what are you going to do about it? I encourage them that the only way they are going to get better is to keep trying. If appropriate I will not let them move on until they try again. (Of course circumstances don’t always allow this)

2. Be open with my failure.

Sometimes when I’m playing with them in the yard I let them beat me. I want them to see how I respond when I lose. I want them to see that I keep playing no matter what. As they get older I will share my failures in life and how I have responded. I think a big mistake parents can make is not being open with their children. I think that it is a mistake of parents to not fight with their spouse in front of their kids. I don’t care who you are you will fight with your spouse. So, if you never fight in front of your kids then when they get married they will think there is something wrong when they fight. They will also not know how to fight well. Probably one step you should learn is how to fight well then fight well in front of your children.

3. Show them where to find strength.

You will not always be there for your children. It is your job to show them where they can find the inner strength to persevere. Jesus is the only one that can give strength to help you through any storm. In the Murphy house we end everyday by talking about Jesus. Every time the share a problem in life I share with them Jesus. He alone will allow you to persevere through EVERY trial including death.

Missional is…


a trendy word, a catch phrase, a calling, negative, different, social justice, serving, evangelism, and cool. It can be all of those things. Over the last few months I have heard all of those descriptions and more. A question that I get a lot as well is, “What is the difference between Missional and Attractional?” I will define missional as simply as I possibly can.

Missional is MAKING DISCIPLES that MAKE DISCIPLES. That’s it. Pretty simple. I could simplify it even more if I just said, “Make Disciples” but that’s assuming people understand that a disciple is one who makes other disciples. Hopefully that takes the pressure off. Hopefully you don’t think a missional guy is something he is not or a missional guy thinking he is something more than that. I believe that most of us in the Church can agree on making disciples.

You might ask why then create a whole different word to describe what the church is supposed to be doing? Great question. I believe it is because the church for the last 100 years or so has been “attracting” people to 2-10 key disciple makers. (the best preachers, muscians, etc.) What we did in an attempt to boost the number of disciples is forget to actually make disciples. Now, if you are in that world you might be upset about that last phrase. That’s ok. Just think about it though. If we have to attract people to just a few studs to “make disciples” then are we actually making disciples. By definition disciples also make other disciples. What the missional movement is doing is teaching EVERYONE to give their lives to making disciples. Missional needs to be different because it is very different than what has been done.

I don’t like the word Attractional to describe the opposite of Missional. I don’t like it because the opposite of missional is more non-missional. (we don’t use that word because it sounds too negative) I believe that there needs to be attractional elements to living missional. Jesus lived a life making disciples that was attractive to people. Jesus is “attractional”. To answer another question I get a lot, Can’t you be both attractional and missional? The answer is YES. But, what they are really asking is can’t you be both missional and non-missional? Well by definition we can’t be. If you are not being intentional about making disciples that make disciples then you are not being missional.

I believe God is stirring revival in the church toward making disciples that make disciples, missional. It is hard work. We’ve been telling people about what a disciple looks like and training a few to do the work of disciplemaking. Many people have gotten comfortable to do nothing. Jesus calls us to something higher than just attending a couple gatherings of believers. Jesus has called us to give our whole life to making disciples who make disciples.

If you are at a church that just invites people to watch a few then think through how you might start encouraging them to make disciples. Chances are you will run into some road blocks. It’s like giving a 5 year old ice cream for every meal then abruptly telling them they can’t have ice cream for their meals anymore. You are going to have some difficulty and a lot of unhealthy habits.

Finally, push into Jesus. Disciplemaking is His deal and we are His vessels. He will show us the way.

Oh No Summer is Over! (5 ways to take advantage of the FALL!)


But Fall is coming! I’m sitting here at my hotel rooftop pool in Washington DC on unofficially the last day of Summer. I’m enjoying one more jump in the pool and one last chance to turn my pale white skin a little less pale. I’ve heard over and over again the last week or so that we have to get one more thing in as a family before the end of summer. Family outings are great, they don’t have to stop because the summer ended.

One of the best ways we can invest in our children is to give them experiences that they will remember for the rest of their lives. As a parent our greatest responsibility we will ever be given is to take care of our kids. All of the “summer fun” doesn’t have to stop because Labor Day is here. In fact, the fun is just beginning.

Here are 5 things you can STILL do this fall with your kids, even though summer is over.


1. Back 2 School Party.

It’s time to go back to school so why not throw a big party! The BBQ season doesn’t have to end just keep the grilling fun through the fall. At Element Church we are throwing a Back 2 School party for our community of Milltown. If you live nearby feel free to join us! We are going to cook out and show the movie Frozen. Details can be found here. But if you are not part of our community consider planning your own party.

2. Go to a Farm.

In New Jersey a great fall tradition is to head to a farm with the kids. It is an awesome time to work our way through a corn maze, feed animals, pick apples, and ride horses. It is a great time to build teamwork as a family and enjoy some fun. Consider taking a few friends with you when you go to expand who you’re kids are building experiences with.

3. Go on a Canoe Ride.

If you live near us there are a couple rivers and a long canal that we can go canoeing on. Take your kids and teach them about what lives in and around water. It’s also a great way to spend a few hours of quality time with your kids.

4. Make Fire.

I love sitting around a firepit enjoying time with friends and family around it. It’s an intentional time together with no electronics just to talk about live or enjoy a treat like a smore around the fire. Fire pit nights seem to bring people together, keep your firepit open and invite people into what you are doing.

5. Tailgate.

If you know me you know that I love sports. Even if you don’t like sports they are a great experience to have as a family. Some of my best memories growing up with our family were when we attended games together. Find out your local college football teams schedule and attend a game together. If you do go early and tailgate. It will be a great memory they won’t soon forget.

Creating positive experiences as a family creates opportunities to develop a relationship as a family built on trust. As a family we should be inviting people into our family. Family is open not closed. Teach your kids to include people in what they do.

Have a great Fall!

3 Reasons to Stay Patient living the Missional Life


I had coffee with a good friend this morning and we are talking about life, ministry, jobs, and our families. We also talked about the cultural reality we live in and how to live out the mission of God in our cultural reality. There is a pervasive culture of instant gratification that has clearly worked it’s way into the church. We want it done now. We don’t want to wait. We definitely concluded that the media has pushed that. Commercials tell us we can have things right now. Commercials in the midst of TV shows also lead to instant gratification as there is a situation you are waiting to see resolution to gets resolved in about 2 minutes after the commercials are over. Our culture will make it seem like certain people are overnight successes but they just become celebrities overnight. In reality those “overnight successes” have spent years working their butts off.

Steve Jobs took years before he perfected Apple. Windows was in the market around 7 years before it took off. John Wooden didn’t win his first NCAA title until his 16th season at UCLA. His previous 15 teams had some success but some teams were mediocre or even below average. It is safe to assume that in our current culture John Wooden would have never gotten the opportunity to win 10 championships and 7 straight at one point. Steve Jobs actually was fired from Apple at one point. We could go on and on about the importance of patience when it comes to being successful.

Let’s look at the 2nd greatest missionary ever after Jesus, Paul. Paul many times we think things just happened for him easily. They did not. Read through Acts again. Paul was beaten. Paul was thrown out of cities. Paul was put into prison. Paul stayed in places for years before people would respond. Paul worked hard. Paul was patient. Many of us when we are reading through Acts just gloss over the difficulty of the mission that Paul had. We focus on the statement, “and 3000 souls were added that day.” That only happened once. The other mentioning of numbers were the grand total of believers. Yes, there are outliers out there. There are people that God will use to reach the masses in a short period of time. But for most of us that is not the case. Anytime you are frustrated with ministry just look at the life of Paul and be encouraged. Remain faithful to the call to which Jesus has called you.

Here are 3 reasons to remain patient as we live the missional life.


1. Relationships take time.

If we are truly seeking to make disciples that make disciples we must build trust in our relationships. We cannot take the shot gun approach in this culture. No longer can we just had someone a piece of paper or preach from a bullhorn to see people come to Christ. It is a waste of time. We must take the time to build a relationship with someone, learn their story, and share the Gospel into their life. It is life on life for an extended period of time. Do life with the people God has put around you just as Jesus did.

2. Waiting on Jesus is just better.

Jesus is the one who makes disciples by the power of the Holy Spirit. His way is better. Jesus discipled the patient way. If anyone could’ve brought thousands of people into Kingdom all at once it was Jesus. He didn’t. He poured into 12 people for a period of time. 12 people that were perceived as generally outcasts in society. Most of them went on to become leaders of the church. His plan is always better than your plan. If you are trusting Him with your salvation why not trust Him with you life and ministry.

3. Stronger Disciples.

More time spent making disciples means a stronger foundation. They don’t pour Quickcrete to pour the foundation on your home. If you are trying to teach people in the ways of Jesus quickly as soon as a storm comes they will give up. I have seen this over and over again as I disciple people. I have a tendency to not be patient and have noticed people will crumble under pressure without a strong foundation.

I am convinced that success in ministry is not in how many disciples you make but in how faithfully obedient you are to the call to make disciples. Hang in there and be patient.

3 Keys To a Great Marriage


If you are married you did not enter marriage to have a bad marriage. Sadly, the majority of people who get married have a bad marriage. This doesn’t have to be the case. You can have a great marriage but it will take some work. Great marriages don’t happen by just desiring them to happen. Like anything in life you cannot cut corners to a great marriage.

First of all let me be clear if you are looking for your marriage to look like a chapter in The Notebook you will be sorely let down. In fact, a lot of people think heading into marriage that is what it is going to look like. Many marriages break down because two people have an image of what was to be that was never to be. Typically our image of what our marriage was supposed to be is very selfish. But our desire to covenant together as a couple, to have a great marriage, and a marriage we get excited about is a good one. We were designed to be in a covenant relationship. We were actually designed to be in a perfect relationship but we screwed that up.

The first marital spat ever is why we are in the predicament that we are in. When Adam and Eve disobeyed God then blamed each other for what happened and destroyed it all. Perfection can only come with God and because Adam and Eve disobeyed God they were removed from God’s presence. God though, created a way for us to enter into His presence again and that culminated with Jesus. But until we are walking with God in the cool of the day again like Adam and Eve were we will sin. We will not live in a covenant relationship with one another perfectly. But there is hope. We can have a great marriage.


Here are 3 keys to having a GREAT MARRIAGE!

1. Focus your marriage UP

God designed you and me to be with our spouse. When God was creating the world He said it is not good for man to be alone so He created a woman. We were destined to be together. It is in His presence that we can perfectly be married. Since God designed marriage from the beginning it is important that we focus on Him. As a married couple we must focus on the Trinity:  God the Father, Jesus His Son, and the Holy Spirit. The Father gives us the love and support that we need. Through Jesus’ sacrifice we receive forgiveness for where we mess up in a marriage and He gives us the fulfillment we crave. Through the Spirit we are empowered to live the way we are supposed to live. Sure, there are good marriages that don’t focus on God. Typically those marriages have something that they focus on but once that thing is removed the marriage is over. Their focus can be kids, hobbies, grandkids, money, security, or many other things. But a marriage focused UP on God can be GREAT because God the designer of marriage is in it.


  • If you are in a struggling marriage and you know your spouse wouldn’t be game for focusing up with you start on your own and see what God does.
  • Get plugged into a church community. We would love to see you connect at Element Church in East Brunswick. Check us out on our website.

2. Focus your marriage IN

Getting connected to God can be tough and hard work as a couple but focusing in can be the toughest. A GREAT marriage will have two people focused on each others needs. This is counter productive for our human nature. We want our spouse to focus on us. But the way God designed marriage is if we focus on our spouses needs then we will actually get more fulfilled. So, stop trying to change your spouses mind or the way they do things. This will sound counter productive but start doing things the way they like them. Start serving them. Imagine if two people were doing things the way each person liked them done. Wouldn’t that be an incredible marriage?

Part of focusing in is to be a part of a group of people working on their marriage. You might run into problems with your spouse and it is always good to have someone to vent to that will point you in the right direction. Sometimes our friend from childhood isn’t the person that will point us to pursue a great marriage. They might just pursue us to get out.


  • If you are in a marriage in crisis begin by serving your spouse. Go out of your way to meet their needs. This might sound counter productive but chances are they know that the marriage is a mess and they will wonder why would you do something like that. This will mess with them and many times drive them to do the same. Don’t give up though, it will probably take longer than a few days or even weeks.
  • If your marriage is really in crisis I’d be happy to help. Email me: matt@elementnj.org
  • Get in a community of people pursuing great marriages. At Element Church we have Families of people help each other walk in ways God has designed us. Get connected to one of our communities.

3. Focus your marriage OUT

No I am not talking about an open marriage. Ha ha:) Spend time as a married couple focused on something outside of your family. Find a family mission or purpose. If you have kids include them in this. This could be feeding the hungry, raising money for someones health, cleaning your neighborhood, or pursuing community change in some way. I would encourage you to have a big mission you want to pursue as a family. This will not only bring you together as a couple but will bring your kids with you as well.

As you focus out, actually GO OUT as a couple. Have a date night. Babysitting can get expensive but if you are part of a Family that desires to see your marriage thrive you will always have FREE babysitting at your disposal. It is important that you spend time dating each other. Go have fun together, without the kids. This might take planning to make sure the kids are taken care of but put in the work, it will be worth it.


  • If your marriage is in crisis I think that an important step would be to do something tangibly out together. Go serve together at a local food bank, clean up a park, or raise money. I would also encourage you to immediately get a babysitter and go do something fun together. Do a karaoke night or something to get some laughter going.
  • A next step would be to find a marriage retreat and really work on the issues you are dealing with. You can email me for some options.
  • Get connected to one of Element Church’s Families on Mission. We have groups of people serving together with a mission to transform communities.

Don’t sit still work on building a great marriage. If you are feeling like there is no hope for your marriage don’t hesitate to talk to us.

4 Reasons You NEED to connect with a Church Community this Fall

School is soon upon us. If you have kids at home then you are probably like Kelly and I, scrambling for back 2 school supplies and to get prepared. As the fall comes it is also a time to reset your own life for the coming school year. Attending a church gathering is one of those things that many reset when the fall starts.

I believe that it is time for you to take the step this fall to engage in a church community. I know all the excuses. The kids won’t get up, it’s the only day that I can sleep in, or maybe you think you do go to church because you show up on Easter and Christmas. Whatever the excuse I know you are missing out on all that God desires your life to be.


Here are 4 reasons why you should connect with a church community this fall.

1. Real Community.

No one wants to do life alone. I know that I don’t. I love having people in my life that I can call to help me move a couch or people I can talk to when I am struggling with life. As humans we have something within us that desires community. At Element Church in East Brunswick one of our key values is to help you find community. No one should do life alone.

2. Purpose.

Everyone wants to know the answer to the same question, “Why?” Why am I on this earth? Why am I going through this? Why have I been given these passions? Why are my kids ___________? The list of why’s go on and on. Humans at our core need to know our purpose. At Element Church in East Brunswick we will help you find the purpose for your life.

3. Participate in Social Good.

The culture we live in desires to do some social good. One of the fastest growing industries are social good organizations. In Milltown some people have organized a fundraiser for a little boy named Tommy that has a rare disease. You donate money to the cause and your yard gets “flocked” with a bunch of flamingos. The flamingos stay in your yard for 3 days then they move on to another yard. I think that this flocking will continue until every yard in Milltown has been flocked. Why? Because we want to do good. At Element Church in East Brunswick we create environments where you can serve your neighbors, friends, and community.

4. Jesus

This is easily the most important one. We will introduce you to Jesus. Jesus is the one who fills every longing and dream. He solves every fear and shows us we are loved no matter what. Jesus shows us the best way to live our lives. He gives us opportunity to live a life that is free of stress. Element Church in East Brunswick does not compromise on the greatness of our Savior, Jesus.

At Element Church we are a Family of Missionary Servants sent to make disciples of Jesus that make disciples of Jesus. Join us this fall as we kick off our series called Activate on September 14.

4 Steps to Surviving Your Latest Trial


We all have them. Most of us are probably in one. If you aren’t currently going through a trial then just wait it will come. Trials can be big or small. They can involve death, loss of job, or relationship difficulties. Some trials come our way because of our own doing. Some just happen because, well, that’s life. Trials in life are those things that cause us stress, depression, worry, fear, and the like. So, how do we survive them?

Recently I was at Sesame Place with my family. My son Joshua, who is 6, decided to that he was going to take a step up on rides this year. Joshua is 6 and traditionally he is a little fearful of certain rides. This time his cousin who is a few years older than him was with us and definitely added some peer pressure to what he did. There was one ride that he decided to go on that was a little bit beyond his usual threshold for rides. We got on and as we started to go I could tell right away that if he had another opportunity to choose he would not go on this ride. Maybe dad coaxed him a little bit to get on the ride. But as the ride went it started getting faster and higher. He was full on death gripe to the safety bar and sitting practically on my lap. I knew that there was no way he was falling off of the ride. I mean it is Sesame Place, there isn’t a ride in the park that is going to test the limits of physics, we will be ok. We were fully strapped in. But Joshua was holding on for dear life. This is how most of us are when things are going poorly. We become paralyzed by fear, worry, anxiety, etc and just hold on for dear life. We can’t even function. In reality we are safe. We will be ok. it really isn’t that bad. In fact, as I told my son Joshua we might as well throw our arms up and enjoy the ride.


Here are 4 steps to surviving your latest trial.

1. Know the Purpose

Do you know why you are going through what you are going through? This first one is probably the most difficult to understand or get. Maybe you’ve caused the problem and there are things that you need to do to fix it. Maybe you have unresolved issues in your life that you need to deal with. Ultimately, I believe that we go through things because the God of the Universe wants our hearts. He wants us to submit every area of our life under His Lordship. As we submit our lives to Him He wants to use us and our circumstance for His Glory. I believe it is ok to ask God the question, Why? I believe that He will show you, although you may not get the answer you want. But as we go through trials knowing the purpose is most of the battle. If we know the purpose then we can more freely go through the battle.

2. Do Something About It

If you know the purpose of the trial then do something about what you are going through. Maybe you need to mend a relationship, live a disciplined healthy lifestyle, or apply to jobs. In the book of Acts, we learn that an angel of The Lord told Paul that He was going to be shipwrecked and survive. He didn’t let that stop him from making preparations on the ship so that they could survive. Many of us in tough situations give up or become paralyzed. When we give up we will not make it through. For example if we just give up on a relationship then that cycle will just repeat itself in the future because we’ve never actually dealt with the issue. The people and situation may change but the issue won’t. Jobs won’t find themselves, relationships won’t fix themselves, and cutting corners will get you nowhere. Do something.

3. Trials Pile On

If you are like me then when one car is broke then all the cars are broke including my closest friends. Stay away when my car breaks. You know how it is. When things are screwed up nothing seems to go right. Or you experience my favorite law: Murphy’s law. Everything that could go wrong will go wrong. How will you respond when those situations pile on. Will you live free or in bondage? As one who follow Jesus, I find freedom in those weeks where everything seems to go wrong that Jesus has my back. I know that even if things aren’t practically taken care of that Jesus will take care of me. He takes care of me over and over. He has proven Himself faithful.

4. The Holy Spirit Brings Freedom

This only comes through a relationship with Jesus. A life that is submitted to Him. Jesus says in scripture that His burdens are easy and light. He tells us to take His burdens and He will take ours. When we submit our life to Jesus then we get His Holy Spirit. His Spirit will guide us to freedom in the midst of trials. We can experience the life we have always dreamed. The crazy thing is that the Spirit can fix our problems too. He can heal bodies, relationships, jobs, financial situations, and ultimately give us that peace we are seeking. Put your hope and trust in the Spirit.

I would love to pray for you in whatever you are going through. Email me: matt@elementnj.org if I can pray for you.

4 Walls of a Healthy Missional Church and Life


Timehop is one of the best newer social media apps that you can get. If you don’t have it already you really should. It is an app that combs your social media accounts from the years gone by every day. So today it will tell me what I posted 1-5 or 6 years ago. The best timehops are ones with pics included. I get nostalgic and it reminds me of things I would’ve otherwise forgotten. Timehop is a great use of technology. Last week my timehop was pictures of a mission trip that I led to Ensenada, Mexico 5 years ago. I have to say that team was the single best team I’ve ever been on.

Our task that week was to build a church for the local mission. We were building this church very close to the ocean. We knew that we needed to make the church very strong to stand up to all of the weather that could come it’s way over the years. We also had less than 5 days to get the thing built. We knew we could do it. Our team was able to accomplish our goal in perfect time. We believed we had built a quality church. As I reflected on that trip I realized that we were able to build it so well because our team was so tight. We came together as a team like no team I had led. We were all centered on the Gospel. We all loved Jesus and wanted Jesus to be proclaimed in Mexico. We built the foundation as a team on Jesus, He was our focus that week, and we accomplished some pretty cool stuff.


Much in the same way if we want to build a healthy missional church or life we’ve got to have our lives centered on Jesus. As it says in 1 Peter 2 that Jesus is the cornerstone. Paul makes the comparison even more explicit in Ephesians 2:20-21,

“built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in The Lord.”

It is when Paul was leaving Ephesus, the same church he talks about building a church on Jesus that I believe Paul shares what the 4 walls of a healthy missional church or life is.

Paul, when he was leaving Ephesus gives a sermon in Acts 20 on his departure and gives us the 4 walls.

1. Share Gospel of Faith and Repentance

The first wall is faith and repentance. These two will always go hand in hand. If you are putting your faith in God then you are repenting of putting your faith in something else. This rhythm of faith and repentance is really turning our areas of unbelief into one of belief in Christ. For example if I see a slice of pizza (or a whole pie) as the best way to relieve stress in my life then what I am saying is I do not believe Jesus is good enough to relieve my stress. I don’t believe that Jesus’ yoke is easy and light as He tells us in scripture. So, I repent of believing food is better than Jesus and believe that Jesus is better. Repentance isn’t just confessing a sin it is literally turing and walking a different direction. So, I know that I have repented by walking towards Jesus in my stress that shows I believe.

It’s not surprising to see Paul start with the Gospel. In Acts 20:21 Paul says, “testifying both to Jews and to Greeks of repentance toward God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.” The word “testifying” is key here. Paul is asking us to testify about our own faith and repentance. So, to do this we have to believe the Gospel of Faith and Repentance first then share that Gospel. The nature of the Gospel and experiencing faith and repentance will lead us to testify about the Gospel. Much like the foundation of a building will dictate how long our wide those buildings walls will be Jesus being that foundation will lead us to develop this first wall. When we experience the good news that is found in our faith and repentance we will want to preach it. It will become so good that we desire to share it.

How will you build this wall in your life? Where do you need to repent and believe?

2. Follow the Holy Spirit’s Call

As I look at the 4 walls that Paul talks about it is clear that they all work together but this wall is the most prominent. When we were building the church in Mexico we had one long wall that was facing the ocean. We spent more time developing that one as we wanted to get the windows just right to take advantage of the view of the ocean.

Paul tells us in Acts 20:23 that the Spirit is guiding him. The only way that the Spirit is going to guide you is if you are living the first wall. If you are submitting yourself to Jesus then you will be able to hear the Spirit. As you listen to what the Spirit is saying put it to action. The Spirit is what makes your specific mission unique. The Spirit will give you the gifts and resources that you need to accomplish what He is calling you to. Imagine a whole community following the Spirits lead. How incredible would that community be? Imagine the move of God.

Are you creating space in your life to listen to the Spirit?

3. Hard Work

On that mission trip it took hard work to build the church. We were up every morning early to pray and focus on Jesus. We worked hard in hot weather. At the end of each day we felt tired. We were wiped out but we still pressed on.

In this same message Paul reminds the church that they had to work hard for what they had accomplished. They had to work hard to provide for their necessities and for their ministry. The beautiful thing is God created us to work and work hard. This is why He designed us to also rest so that we can work. If we have a healthy rhythm of sabbath in our life we will get the rest that we need to accomplish the work. Too many times we back away from stuff because it is hard work or we are tired. Follow God will require hard work. It is not enough to just know what God has called us to in our heads we show we believe by putting those things into action which takes work.

Are you putting your believe into action? Where is God calling you to work hard?

4. Prayer

The final wall is prayer. Paul is about to embark on a new journey that the Holy Spirit has called him to and they close their time by praying for him. Prayer is important because it shows that we are dependent on the Father. God is the only one that can make disciples. God is the one who transforms. He uses us as His vessels but He is the one who does it. God has called us to be a people that pray. A community on mission will need to depend on God to move. We need to pray.

What do you need to pray for? Where are you trying to control things in your own might?

3 Ways to Move from a Task Driven Ministry to a Disciple-making Ministry


Yesterday I was sitting in a coffee shop pretty early meeting with someone as part of our DNA group. We had a very rewarding time together as we talked about what God was doing in our lives. After the guy I was meeting with left I stuck around to work on stuff, as a pastor I have that flexibility. There was another couple of guys meeting up for coffee as I was sitting there. I made the assumption that they were probably from a church. They were close enough where I could hear their conversation and proved my assumptions right. As a pastor I spend enough time in coffee shops to know who the different people are at certain times of day.

Their conversation was pretty typical of a pastor and a lay person in a church. It was a lot of how are you doing, how’s the family, and encouragement. As I’m listening I’m waiting for the punchline from the pastor. And it eventually came. He asked him to take more responsibility in his area that he was serving in. I could see the life leave from the guy. His demeanor went from relaxed and enjoyment to stress. The guy gave the pastor the run around, said he would pray about it, and talk about it with his wife.

Maybe I’m reading into it but the guy seemed burned out already with the amount of time he was serving and now this pastor, his church was asking him to give more. In his mind he probably has no more to give. Whether that pastor knew it or not he was using that guy across the table. To give the pastor the benefit of the doubt I’m sure that he did not intend to come off that way but that’s how it was.

I have been there many times over as a pastor. I get it. You have a spot to fill and you need to do whatever you can to fill it. As a pastor you have a big vision with little time and even less people to help you accomplish it. As a pastor our job is to make disciples not use people to do stuff for us. There is a distinct difference that will enable you to see impact way beyond an event.

Here are 3 ways you can move from getting to do “stuff” to actually making disciples.


1. Slow Down

Leaders of churches practically speaking think that the future of all Christendom is on their shoulders. Seriously, they think that if they don’t accomplish what is in their head to accomplish then thousands of people will miss out on all that God has for them. Get over yourself. God doesn’t need you or your ministry. He’s just fine on His own. The amazing thing is God does WANT to use us but there is a big difference between want and need. I cannot tell you how many times I have felt God impress on my heart that a church needed to be present in a certain location or for God to move a certain way. I thought for sure each time that He wanted me or my ministry. Sometimes He did but sometimes our ministry was too slow. The times our ministry was too slow another Gospel centered church moved into that location or accomplished the vision in my heart. Each time I was reminded that God will do it and doesn’t need me.

So, leaders, SLOW DOWN. Take time to build relationships with those God has called you to make disciples of. Spend time developing a structure that allows people to be cared for, challenged, and to become like Jesus. The best way I know how to do this is through missional communities. Maybe do less as a church so that your people can do more for the Kingdom.

2. Empower their Gifts

The only way you know where someone is gifted is by spending a lot of time with them. The church set up guy might not be gifted at hospitality or service but is just simply filling a hole for you. Because he is faithful he gets pigeonholed into doing that one thing. Don’t mistake faithfulness for gifting. People will feel less and less used if they are serving and doing what they love to do. There will be a lot less burnout this way. Sure you might not be able to pull off everything that you want to pull off each and every week but that is the beauty of following Jesus you don’t need it all for Him to move.

I think that the church is losing a lot of our talent is because we don’t give our talent something to do that they are good or that moves them. People of our culture make decisions that affect millions of dollars and thousands of people in their work lives. Then they come to church where we ask them to plug in a wire or hand out a piece of paper. Then manipulate and use them to keep doing it. No wonder people are bored and getting burned out.

Why don’t we actually call people to give their lives to the mission of God. How about we call them to use all their gifts and talents for the purposes of God. They are craving more. They know that there has to be more to following Jesus. Let’s actually make them a disciple.

3. Focus on Jesus

This probably seems self explanatory and intuitive. But seriously how many times as church leaders do we actually think about Jesus as we are doing our stuff. Isn’t the point Jesus. Don’t we want the set up guy falling more in love with Jesus. How come the word Jesus never came up in the conversation between that pastor and lay person? (I have done the same thing over and over) Isn’t a person being on a set up team just a means to showing them Jesus? Isn’t the whole point of setting up gear to proclaim the name of Jesus? If so, then why do we never talk about Him? I bet a lot less burnout would happen and a lot more disciples would be made if we just talked about Jesus more.

Jesus is where people get their drive. Jesus is where people are motivated. Jesus is what people need. Give them Jesus.

5 things I’m learning about PROCESS

I’ll be honest I’m not naturally a process guy. I am more of a get it all done at once kind of guy. Over the years I’ve never really seen the need for a process. I’m of the belief that something needs to get done we should just complete the task. Why do I need to go through the headache of multiple steps that I don’t perceive need to be done.

In fact, my freshman year of college I was taking some type of math course and I literally got every answer right. I aced the test but I got a 75 on the test because the teacher said I did not write down the process of how I got the answers. Isn’t the point to get the right answer? Well, apparently not. The teacher was teaching me that the process to getting the right answer is just as important. I was too young and arrogant then to understand that. I mean I got the right answer right?

The more experience I get leading the more I understand what that teacher was trying to teach me back in college. It is important to get the process right. It’s important to show our work. If you are like me sometimes the process can get tedious and seem like it doesn’t matter. Here are 5 things I am learning about why the process matters.


1. Transferable

When you submit to a process the solution becomes more transferable to all situations. By understanding the process for any given situation you can begin to apply it to many different relevant areas. Process is just as important as the end result that you want. For example the majority of people who have weight loss surgery gain the weight back. Why because they did not go through a process of developing good habits they just jumped to the end. Learning the process of hard work in weight loss is actually very transferable to other areas of your life. It is no coincidence that many fitness coaches become life coaches as well because the process is so transferable.

2. Discipline

Following a process creates discipline in your life. I have found that people who love process are typically some of the most disciplined people I know. The more you follow process over time will actually allow to accomplish more over a longer period of time because you are creating disciplined habits in your life. For someone like me who naturally just wants to jump to the result will get lazy, frustrated or quit too soon when we don’t get the result in the right amount of time. So, in the end we will accomplish less than we originally set out to accomplish. You can tell if a leader struggles with process because they are always changing things.

3. Excellence

Process will create excellence in what you do. It is inevitable. The more time you spend preparing or developing something toward the result that you want the better off you will be. On that test I took in college even though I was right it was not an excellent test. It was not going to be submitted to any journal or anything like that. There’s no way I could give that test to anyone studying for future tests in that class and be of any help to anyone. Process creates excellence and a better end result.

4. Solves Problems

Developing out a process will help you identify problems. It gives you time and discipline to find problems and solve them. If you are quick to drive to the result you can overlook core issues that could derail you in the future. This can be glaring in any organization but especially in discipleship. If we just jump to the end and make ourselves look like Jesus on the surface without submitting to a process of developing our character our flaws will eventually be exposed. This is true with any growing organization if things get to the goal without going through the right process the organization could have huge set backs in the future because potential problems were not exposed early on.

5. Empowers

Process helps leaders empower others to jump into the vision. Having a good process will show people clearly where you are going, how to get there, and how they can help. No leader wants to go it alone. If a leader does not develop a good process then that leader is a lot more likely to go it alone. Empowering leadership actually will help you get to where you want to go a lot faster and in a lot more dynamic way than you thought possible.

Submitting to process is hard and takes a lot of work. I think that there are 2 extremes of people one extreme is like me who naturally doesn’t want to submit to process and just get the goal accomplished. There is another extreme of a person that all they do is submit to process and never accomplish the goal because there is always more process. In life we need both sets of people to help each other and learn from each other.

Get Coached!

I have been coaching as long as I can remember. There was a time in my life where I was very close to pursuing becoming a full time basketball coach. I love getting into people’s lives and literally coaching them. In many ways God has gifted me to coach people. It is what I do. As such I’m not afraid to tell people what they need to hear and at times will rub people the wrong way. Honestly, that’s what coaches do. We tell people what they need to hear and it doesn’t always line up with what they want to hear.

It is interesting in coaching that if the person you are coaching has the same goals as you they can receive coaching a lot easier. Correction is always easy to take if there is an understanding that we all want to get to the same goal. In coaching we want to define what the goal is in then coach people towards.

Coaching will help you get to where you want to go. Without a good coach you will have a hard time accomplishing all of your goals. You cannot possibly see everything going on around you to succeed the way you want to. A coach can help you with that. A coach can tell you things that no one else will. A coach will challenge, encourage, and equip you.

I would encourage everyone to submit to a coach. I have always had coaching in my life and will continue to do so. Here are 5 benefits to having a coach:

Goals Concept

1. Give you insight.

Coaches typically have experience that can help you but they also can have a gift of insight or discernment. They are probably gifted at finding an answer for you. A good coach will know how to speak into your situations in ways that are simple and effective.

2. Expand your network.

Coaches better be a people person. That’s why they are your coach. They will have a network of contacts that you will not have and can help you connect to others that may help you become successful.

3. Find what you’re great at.

Coaches can take information about you and help to streamline it to a few things that you are great at. Many times I just need this from my coach. I just need him to streamline all my energy into what I am good at. I am an idea guy and I know that all my ideas won’t work with me doing them. My coaches always help me find what I am great at.

4. Help you focus.

This kind of goes with the last point but I’ll add to it. Coaches can help you focus on the right things to accomplishing your goals. This is different than finding what you are great at. Coaches can help you distinguish what you need to do to accomplish the goals within your sweet spot(what you are great at). Because you are good at something doesn’t mean you should do everything. A coach will help you find the most important things to focus on.

5. Identify your blind spots.

No one can see all of their blind spots. You need people speaking into your life to help you become more and more aware of your short comings. Typically a peer and definitely a subordinate will not call out your blind spots. A coach can and if they are good they will. This is where it becomes difficult to receive coaching. You will need to be open to having your life spoken into.


God has called me to coach. I would love the opportunity to either coach you or point you to someone that can coach you well. Check out my coaching page more info.

Now you know why I love Sports

John Brooks

The World Cup this year was an awesome experience for me as a sports fan. People who never watch sports got into it. People who tell me they have no idea why I am so passionate about my sports team or unfollow me on social media because of that were going nuts! It was awesome to see. Now you all know why I love Sports.

I’ve been involved in Sports in one form or another for my entire life. I have played, coached, refereed, and obviously cheered. One thing that has been clear to me over my life is that sports teach us more about ourselves and life more than anything I know. And honestly for me I have learned more about the Gospel of Jesus through Sports than any other thing. Seriously every successful team that I was a part of was a team that lived out the Gospel principles. I find it interesting that a team to win a game will live out the Gospel faster than a community of people who say they believe in Jesus. Think about it people will sacrifice, give, commit, love, encourage, and give hope all to win a game. But many Christian communities will never live those things out for Jesus. It’s a shame really. But I digress.

There are key things that sports teach us about Jesus.

John Brooks

1. Community

Whether you are watching sports or playing them there is a sense of community. This was a big reason I played so many sports growing up is it allowed me to meet people. I moved a lot as a kid and one thing my mom always made sure I did was play sports so that I would meet people. Think about what we just saw in the World Cup. Bars everywhere were packed. Homes were packed with people’s eyes glued to the TV. We wanted to be around people to watch the game. Sports bring people together like nothing else in our culture. If you want to win playing a sport you must come together as a team. Sports has proved over and over again that teams win championships not individuals.

Living in community is where Jesus has called us to be. He is clear that we are now part of a new family if we are in Him. God designed us to be in community. This is why at creation God said it is not good for man to be alone. Community is at the core of who we are. We are Family.

2. Sacrifice

To win a team must sacrifice. They must sacrifice time, energy, and resources. A team that does not sacrifice will not get better. We love to watch players sacrificing their bodies for the good of the team. We as a nation loved watching Clint Dempsey get up from his broken nose and keep playing. Sacrifice is important in our culture. It means even more to those of us who have sacrificed for something. We can identify with what they are going through and root them on even more. We can see their sacrifice in real time and we get pumped. We Americans love the story of sacrifice. Movies become best sellers through the idea of sacrifice.

The reason for this is Jesus sacrificed everything for us. There is something in us that knows we need someone to sacrifice for us because our lives are messed up. Jesus did that for us. He sacrificed it all for us. While we were still sinners Christ died for us. Jesus served us with His life. It is built into us that because Jesus served us through our sacrifice that we serve Him through our sacrifice. We are His Servants.

3. Mission

Sports has a clear purpose: win the game. Or in soccer possibly tie the game or don’t lose the game by too much:) We love this about sports because the objective is so clear. We love rooting for a purpose. Even better I think when the odds are stacked against us. This fall will be the basketball world cup and I do not think as many Americans will watch as did the soccer world cup. I believe that is because it is pretty conclusive that we are going to win that tournament. There was something about rooting for a team that was accomplishing a mission against all odds. Our culture wants a mission that stretches us and changes us.

Jesus accomplished a mission that defied all odds by rising from the dead so that we might live. Jesus lived the ultimate underdog story. Jesus came to earth with a purpose and mission to save us from death. He did that. We are sent with a mission. We have a purpose because of Jesus. We are His missionaries.


Sports can teach us so much if we just look. Sports reveals much of what is in our hearts. Sports shows me that our culture all around the world is crying out for community, sacrifice, and mission. All of those things are found perfectly in Jesus. Sports reveal that our society is in desperate need of Jesus. This is why I love sports.

What do you need to sacrifice?

Leaders sacrifice. Great followers sacrifice. The best teams sacrifice. Success comes from sacrifice. But the question is will you sacrifice?

Sacrifice is a big word and it’s hard for us to wrap our minds around as humans. Our natural instinct is to do what feels good or is best for us. It is not natural to give up something. It actually has become a cultural norm to sacrifice for our children (this is a very good thing). There was a time when people did not do this. The majority of us who have children or even those of us who don’t have children know that we would give up everything for our kids. To have a thriving family you are going to need to sacrifice. You will need to sacrifice time, energy, and possibly a more successful career.

Other things we sacrifice for: career, hobbies, entertainment, sports, gaming, and on and on. Do you know why we sacrifice? Even if we believe in Him or not. We sacrifice because of Jesus. The reason there is a culture of sacrifice is because God created it. It was personified in the life of Jesus. Jesus’ example is everywhere in our culture because we are created in His Image. Sacrifice, love, compassion, service, volunteering, generosity, purpose, hope, victory, protection, saving, and heroism are things that Jesus brought.

Jesus sacrificed when He came to earth to live the life we could never live. He lived a good, right, and perfect life that none of us can do. He died the death we deserved. I find it very interesting that Jesus came to earth just at the time that capital death was at it’s worst in all of human history. The most painful way to die in all of human history was on the cross. Because of our sin we deserve to die unless a perfect sacrifice came in our stead. Jesus came to die for us. Then He did not stay dead but rose from the grave so that we can have hope and a new life. All He asks is that we depend on Him and submit to Him as Lord.

Jesus our King sacrificed everything. He is the God of the universe and He gave everything for us. He doesn’t even have to ask me to serve Him. I’m so excited that I get to serve a King like that. The question is what will you sacrifice for the one who had everything and gave up everything for you?

The process of following Jesus is learning to submit all of our life to His Lorship. What do you need to sacrifice today?

A Letter to Church Planters: Church Planting gets Ugly


I want to preface this by saying that my heart has never been closer to Jesus than it has been over the last 6 months. I have a never grown closer to Jesus more on a daily basis than leading a church plant. I know that God is Gracious, Glorious, Great, and Good. He is so GOOD. He is so GRACIOUS. He is so GLORIOUS. He is so GREAT. I embrace these things not always perfectly but I submit to Jesus daily. I love Jesus more than anything. I follow Him first and foremost.

Here is the Ugly truth about Church Planting that they will never tell you in books, conferences, or seminary.

Church Planting is not what it seems.

When you talk about planting a church people make it sound very glamorous. They make it sound like everyone will be on board with what you are doing and that God will move. You only hear stories of great success and it seems as if what they are doing is flawless. These things are not true. It is tough. It will be the toughest thing that you ever do.

Here are 10 things I have learned about Church Planting that they never will tell you before you plant a church.


1. People will not support you.

From the beginning expect that people you think should be supporting you will not. You would naturally assume that people would get on board with the idea that there is a new work of God happening to reach a different set of people that aren’t currently being reached that people would get excited. Nope. You might find a small handful of people that support what you are doing but very few will. I’ve learned that the biggest supporters of me are fellow church planters. So, immediately find a group of church planters for your support system. There will be people that will support you ask them to be on your team if possible. If not, then ask them to pray for you.

2. People will abandon you.

Some of your best friends will abandon you and leave your church. You will take it personally. They will go back to what is comfortable. Some of them may never talk to you again and you will have no idea why they left. One minute they will be as excited and as passionate as you are then the next disappear. Remind yourself that God loves you and you are approved by Him no matter what.

3. People will call you the devil or think it.

Because you don’t have the vision that they have or execute church the way that they want to then of course you must be the devil. You will be accused of not being spiritual because you don’t pray or preach the way their former pastor preached and prayed. Maybe the Holy Spirit is convicting them and they don’t know how to deal with it so you are the devil. (I actually got called the Devil once. Cool story.)

4. Very few people will be excited about your call from God.

You will hear very clearly from God. God will break your heart for something powerful and call you into something incredible. You will be extremely pumped about it. You will tell people about it and show them from scripture how God is calling you to live as a church. Very few people will actually follow you in your call. What I am learning is that some will follow you and those are the people with whom you invest your time.

5. You will be tempted to compromise your call.

If you hear from God and start pursuing His calling for your church community people will leave the church. It’s gonna happen. You see, up until you announce what God is calling your new community to, people are all excited to be around something new. People are pumped that they are part of this new work that has unlimited potential. They also all have expectations and agendas for how the church should be. Once you clarify and they realize that what God has called you to isn’t what their expectation is they will be gone.

6. Key leaders will fall into sin.

I have seen it in multiple church plants. Moral failure will take over. Not just the obvious moral failure such as sexual sin but also moral failure in respecting the elders of the church. Odds are in a church plant you will need to remove a leader for a variety of reasons. These are not easy decisions. These will hurt your momentum as a church plant. I have learned that the primary purpose of the church is to make disciples and that starts with your leaders. Will you compromise your disciplemaking call to people please?

7. You will stress about money.

God is Great and He owns it all. God will provide proving it over and over again that He is in control. But the fact will remain that you will stress about it. You didn’t start a church to make money but if you want to do much as a church community you will need some money to make it happen.

8. People will quit.

Heck you might even quit. It gets hard. Being the harvester that tills the soil, removes the rocks, & cuts the weeds is in for a lot of hard work. It’s not for everyone. There probably is a right time to quit. That right time is when God says so. But so many will quit before God says so.

9. People will talk about you and your family behind your back.

It might be good, it might be bad, and it could help your cause. But just know that people will watch everything you, your wife, and your kids do. Then they will talk about you. They will make judgements about you and your church without ever knowing reality or talking to you about it. You need champions for you. You need a few people that know everything about you that have influence that can defend you, your family, and your calling.

10. Everything that could go wrong will probably go wrong.

Staff will fail you. People will leave. Leaders will quit. Your expectations will not be met. Your family will be attacked. The enemy will probably go after your wife. There will be seasons where you wonder if anything went right.

Church Planting is the hardest thing that you will ever have to do. But it is also the greatest experience you will ever have. I love being a church planter and would never trade it.

You are God’s Marine. Church Planting gets ugly because you are on the front lines of the kingdom of God. You are moving to where no one has ever gone before and establishing a beach head. Your job might be to move the line a couple of feet and have someone else actually establish the beachhead. Maybe God will use you to push the line far forward into enemy territory.

We just recently celebrated D-Day. There were 5 different beaches that the Allied troops attacked. Some were harder to win than others. We are all attacking different beaches. This is why it is stupid to compare ourselves to others. Their beach is different than ours.

Here is the beautiful thing about Church Planting: JESUS HAS WON! He has already done it. He builds His church. Wherever your church is at is exactly where God wants it. You are a Son or Daughter of the King. He loves you dearly and will give you everything that you need.

I’m proud to be a church planter. I’m proud of my team that is in the trenches with me. I love each of them dearly. I know God is going to move His line forward and I can’t wait to see what He does.


Remove The Clutter


Cluttered life. Cluttered house. Cluttered organization. Cluttered goals. All of these things can lead to frustration. We can quickly become overwhelmed and don’t know where to begin. Many times when we attempt to de-clutter our lives we make cluttered plans that just perpetuate the problems. Most people can’t get their head above water because they can’t get anything done.


I have spent many years helping people get things done and accomplish their goals. The primary reason people can’t get stuff done is their lives are too cluttered. The best way to accomplishing your goals is to simplify. Peter Drucker, who was an early leadership guru, said that the most successful leaders were leaders who only pursued one goal at a time. One goal. These leaders were able to accomplish so much more because they zeroed in on one thing and gave it everything that they had. If you can give 1 thing 100% of your effort there is no telling what you can accomplish. Patrick Lencioni, a business consultant and writer has multiple books that all have the thesis that great leaders, teams, and organizations all have one singular focus. Jack Welch, the great CEO of GE became great because he closed parts of the business that were cluttering what GE was about. Businesses spend millions of dollars each year seeking to simplify their processes through a program called Six-Sigma. Six Sigma saves organizations many times what they spend just to simplify. These principles go beyond organizations. If you want to lose weight, get out of debt, run a marathon, lead a healthy family, or live a healthy spiritual life you will need to de-clutter your life.

Here are 4 key principles I have learned in coaching others, consulting organizations, leading organizations, and leading my own life and family.


1. Identify the Problem. This is the first step to getting done what you need to get done. It could be we’re wasting money. Spending too much time on issues that don’t matter. The problem could be that you are overweight, out of shape, family is dysfunctional, or organization isn’t growing. Take some time and write down what the issues are in your particular area of life you are trying to focus on to de-clutter.

2. Define the Solution. After you have identified the problem you are going to need to define the solution to the problem. This is where some good old fashion hard work comes in. What is it that is going to allow you to solve the problem. A great way to think through this is to come up with two lists. One is what you need to START doing and another is what do you need to STOP doing.

3. Create Action Steps. Create 2-3 key action steps towards your solution. Don’t do more than that or you will just clutter your solution again. From your START/STOP list glean these action steps. It will be key that these be simple. Remember your life, organization, or family is already cluttered. Maybe you need some coaching to help you process and simplify. Most people have a hard time coming up with good action steps. Each action step needs to be SMART. S.pecific M.easureable A.ttainable R.ealistic T.ime Sensitive. If it is too vague then redo your action steps. Your actions steps should be actionable.

4. Drive Implementation. Begin executing your actions steps one at a time. Don’t try to multitask. Again multitasking this process will actually only clutter you more and slow you down. It’s important that during the implementation process you are constantly evaluating your solutions. Which is why having good SMART action steps is important so that you can measure them.

Where do you have clutter? Where do you need to simplify? Can I help?


Missional Cast: What does Missional Mean?

Check out this video as I define Missional, Discipleship, and Disciple.



5 ways We Can Depend on the Spirit While Living On Mission

Mission is the work of God. But too many of us make Mission the work of ourselves. When we make it all about our-self then burnout happens. A sign that you are too dependent upon yourself is burnout. When we are depending on the Holy Spirit things happen a lot smoother for us.

The Spirit of God is who accomplishes the mission of God. The mission can only be accomplished through dependence upon the Holy Spirit.

Here are 5 ways we can depend on the Spirit while living on mission.

Prayer1. Ask Spirit.

This may sound easy but it isn’t so easy to do. When we are living with the purpose God has called us to live then we will ask Him what to do. In my opinion we should be asking the Spirit each and every morning what He wants us to do. As we interact with people around us we should be asking the Spirit what is next for each individual.

2. Listen to Spirit.

The only way that we can learn to listen to the Spirit is to ask the Spirit what He wants us to do. The Holy Spirit will then speak to us. Listen to what He says. If you are praying about What’s Next for your neighbor and you immediately get an idea about what to do for your neighbor then there is a good chance that is the Holy Spirit speaking to you. Or maybe God will speak to you in another way. Recently I was asking the Spirit how I can serve my neighborhood practically. That very day I was praying that prayer I logged onto Facebook and I found out through a status update that a neighbor 5-6 doors down needed meals as they were sick. Boom. God spoke to me through Facebook. Amazing.

3. Respond to Spirit.

As the Spirit speaks to you learn to respond to Him. When you get that idea or find a way to serve your neighbors through Facebook then actually do it. Many of us don’t make it this far. I’m sure many of us will hear the Spirit of God but never do what He says. There are many reasons for this: apathy, disobedience, fear, or lack of confidence. Each time we don’t respond to what the Spirit is saying we are actually showing that we don’t believe He is God. If the Spirit asks us to do something there is a good chance He has a reason for it.

4. Trust the Spirit.

As you are responding this is where you begin to learn what dependence on the Spirit means. You might actually do what the Spirit asks you to do and nothing happens. Maybe the Spirit was developing trust in you. Maybe success is that nothing bad happened to you and you can actually keep responding to the Spirit. You see this isn’t a one time thing. This is all of our life. The Apostle Paul tells us that he prays without ceasing. This is something that we should be continually doing with all of our life.

5. Stay constant in the Spirit.

The more you trust in the Spirit the more you are going to live a life that is constantly speaking to the Spirit. He begins to do things that are amazing. Just last night I was asking the Spirit what’s next for certain guys at the baseball field as I was coaching my son’s team. I felt the Spirit tell me to invite a family to our party we are throwing this weekend. After the game ended they were gone. I thought that’s a bummer. But then I heard the Spirit say to go watch another game at the park so my son Joshua and I did. The park isn’t too far from our house so if it’s nice out I normally walk. Joshua and I stopped at the field that was closest toward our home and watch an inning of a baseball game. Yes, the Spirit told me to watch part of a baseball game with my son. Wow, that is so difficult. Then it started to rain. Joshua started to get restless because of the rain so we started to walk home. I was thinking that maybe God just wanted me to watch baseball with Joshua. Then all of a sudden from behind me someone shouted “Hey! Do you want a ride!” I turned around and it was the family God told me to invite to the party. So, I said yes and was able to get to know the family and invite them to our party. It was a pretty easy thing to do. God did all of the heavy lifting. He provided rain, the timing, and the opportunity. All I had to do was invite someone to a party.

The Spirit is the one that does the work. We are just His vessels. Don’t make mission harder than it needs to be. Depend on the Spirit.

5 Reasons I’m Thankful for the Moms in my life


Today is Mother’s Day and we should all be celebrating a mom in our life. Even if your mom wasn’t around growing up there is a mom that you know who should be celebrated. My hope is that today Mom’s everywhere feel appreciated. Happy Mothers Day to the moms in my life; my wife Kelly, my mom, and my mother-in-law!

Here are 5 reasons I’m thankful for the moms in my life:



1. Sacrifice. Mom’s sacrifice for us. They start by giving us their bodies for nine months so that we can grow and develop into a healthy baby. She is up at all hours of the night, waiting on our every wail, and no matter what we do to them she is there for us.

2. Advocate. Mom’s advocate for us. Even if we treated mom like dirt as we were leaving the house that day our mom’s will fight for us. They will cheer us on, pray for us, tell the principle that they were wrong(then punish us when they get hom), and encourage us to pursue our dreams.

3. Teach. Mom’s are our number one teachers. They teach us how to behave properly in public. (can’t just pee in the middle of the road we need to actually go to a private place to do that) They do our homework. They teach us how to be graceful in both victory and defeat. They teach us what it truly means to put others before themself.

4. Love Unconditionally. There is something about mom’s that no matter what a child does they will always be the first to forgive. No matter what we do our mom’s will love us. The Godly mom’s in my life show me what Jesus is like by their unconditional love. They always give love to their children even when they don’t deserve it.

5. Encourage. I know that even if I was the worst player on my team my mom would always encourage me as if I wasn’t. Looking back I thought I was better than I actually was because of my mom. Which actually in the long run made me better and helped drive me to actually get good. A mothers encouragement can drive a child to ultimate success. To know that you have at least one person in your corner is huge for a child’s confidence.

All three of the moms in my life exemplify all of these things in incredible ways. I am so thankful for and love each of them. Happy Mothers Day!!!

Missional Cast: Are You Ready?

God is moving. There is a rising up of people living on His mission. God is doing something incredible through small bands of people all over. He is using Element Church. Are you ready to be used by Him?



A Disciple Depends on Jesus


When life gets tough we find out pretty quickly what we depend on. Do we depend on Jesus or do we depend on other things. We can quickly get wrapped up in depending on finances, health, sex, abilities, material goods, hobbies, and many other things to get us through life. A disciple of Jesus will depend on Jesus.

Jesus wants our dependance on Him. He wants us to trust Him. I think that Jesus brings situations in our lives that make us choose between what we naturally depend on to for strength and Him. His desire is that we look to Him. Chances are your finances will be stretched thin if that’s what you depend on. There will come a point where your abilities will fail you. I can tell you that a life fully dependent on Jesus is a full life.


At Element Church we are headed into a season of dependance. God has led us to be our own congregation. It is been a season of pruning and asking God what’s next. If God is going to build His church through Element He is going to have to do it. We need Him to do it. At Element Church we are headed into a season of prayer. I am calling everyone at Element Church to pray for 5 things.

1. Your hearts to fully submitted to the Gospel
2. Your family to fall in love with Jesus
3. Your neighborhood to fall in love with Jesus
4. For Element Church to become a thriving extension of God’s movement
5. For Revival

Join us we pray. Join us as we depend on Jesus.

Missional Cast: 3 Things the Holy Spirit Does in Disciples


Feel tired and worn out? If life is stressing you there is hope. Jesus tells us to come to Him for rest. Jesus sends us the Holy Spirit to us. The Holy Spirit gives disciples 3 key things to help them live life effectively as a disciple.

5 Things that Happen When We Make Disciples


Living on mission always make disciples. As you live on mission the more you become like Jesus and in response the more people around you will become disciples of Jesus. I am convinced that the way to become a disciple of Jesus is to live on mission for Him.


Here are 5 key things that happen when we begin to make disciples.

1. Look like Jesus. Bottom line is we are becoming a disciple of Jesus and if we are doing that then we probably should look at the way Jesus lived. He lived His life making disciples. Everything He did was for disciple making purposes.

We as disciples of Jesus need to learn to reorient our lives to the mission of God. Jesus called us to “Make Disciples.” This task will take all of our lives. Unfortunately most “Christians” don’t look like Jesus because they don’t make disciples. Most “Christians” are just looking for some existential experience to make them feel better. The only way to get the life you’ve always wanted is to live the way Jesus did by making disciples.

2. Brings you to your knees. Living on mission brings you to the point where you are fully dependent on Jesus. You will begin to pray like never before. Making disciples of others will expose things in your heart you’ve never had to deal with before. You will come to points where you have no idea what to say and will fully depend on the Holy Spirit to move.

I find myself regularly praying to God asking Him to move in my city. I have never prayed so much in my life than I am now. I am always asking God for the words to say and who to talk to. God’s heart is breaking for those that don’t know Him and He wants to use each of us to find them. There are many times I am in situations I do not know how to deal with so I just get on my knees and seek God.

3. Deal with wounds. Living on Mission will bring you areas of your life that need healing. As we make disciples we will have areas of our life we didn’t even know needed healing and we will get it from Jesus. Old wounds, old hurts, and spiritual issues will be exposed that need to be dealt with. To be an effective disciplemaker we will need receive healing from Jesus. Jesus is our healer and heals for His purposes. Because He heals for His purpose He might not heal exactly the way you want Him to but when you are living a life on mission that will be ok.

There are times when we are living on mission that we get beat up. We might feel exposed emotionally, hurt spiritually, or literally hurt physically. Jesus will bring you the healing you need for the mission. This is why we need our missional community. We need them to pray for us and lift us up. When I am feeling wounded I ask my community to pray for me.

4. Gain Bible Knowledge. When you are making disciples things will happen or questions will be asked that you don’t know how to respond. These situations will drive you to your Bible. No longer will reading and studying your Bible be some legalistic thing that you are supposed to do. Reading the Bible will be something that you will get excited to do!

There was a moment the other day where my wife Kelly was talking with someone in our neighborhood and a subject came up that she didn’t really know how to respond to. So, she asked me about the situation. I didn’t have a good response that came to my head so we agreed we needed to pray about it and study the scriptures more on the subject. A lot of things happened all at once just because we were living on mission. Our marriage became closer, Kelly sought a mentor, and we pursued God through the scriptures.

5. Become Generous. Living on Mission will drive us to become generous like Jesus talked about in the New Testament. The surest way to show people Jesus’ love is to bless them through our generosity. We will find ourselves looking for ways to give more so that we can bless others more abundantly.

Living on Mission will cost you. It will cost you time and money. You will become generous and need to rely on God for provision. My wife Kelly and I have never made less money as a household in our lives but we’ve also never given more money to the mission. There have been so many times in the last few months that God has provided for us financially that I can’t even count. One thing that I have learned is when I am generous Jesus provides for me. I have learned to follow Him with my generosity and He always comes through. I mean He does own everything so He can repay as much as He wants. “Christians” are known to the world as stingy people. I think it’s time to start living as Jesus did and become generous.

Missional Cast: Living on Mission Post-Easter

Don’t forget to keep Jesus at the forefront of your mind post Easter. Learn to live missionally by watching this Missional Cast.


217church Here We Come!

I am entering into a new phase of ministry at 217 church and my wife Kelly and I are really excited about the future. We just recently have transitioned from leading a church plant where God has taught us so much but we believe He has prepared us for such a time as this to serve at 217 church. For those that want to know more you can read our Element Church story here and where God has taken us these last 5 years here.


First off my family can’t wait to meet all of our new 217 church family and our prayer is that many from our Element family will join us at 217. It has been an honor to serve 217 as an advisor on the board for the last 6 years. It has been a blessing to watch from that role the growth of 217 and the exciting things God has done. It was always my joy to preach at 217 church a couple of times a year and now I get to be around on the regular!

Now, just a little bit about us. I have been married to my beautiful wife Kelly for nearly 12 years and we have 4 awesome kids; Joshua(7), Caleb(5), Gideon(3), and Sarah(1). I grew up primarily in Michigan growing up although I moved 11 times in 14 years but that is another story for another blog post. Kelly grew up in Ringoes, NJ and her parents still live in the same house. As a family we love to play sports, play outside, videogames, movies, and root for the Michigan Wolverines at any sport they might be playing. I am an avid reader and learner. I average about a book a week and I am currently pursuing my doctorate at George Fox University in Future and Semiotic Studies. (Study of the future of the church)

My ministry experience includes leading youth, college students, young adults, plain old adults, discipleship ministries, small groups, and an entire church. My passion is to see every man, woman, and child experience the love of God and become a disciple of Jesus that in turn makes a disciple of Jesus. I really believe that you can do a lot of things to build a church but the only thing to grow a church is the making of disciples. I will be spending a lot of time helping to create systems and structures that helps to facilitate discipleship. 217 already has a great foundation of discipleship and I get to come in a build on what has already been done. Pastor Josh and I see eye to eye on what discipleship should be so I am really pumped about the potential of what God will do at 217.

As I get started it will be my goal to meet as many of you as possible and begin investing in our discipleship leaders. I want to learn what has been done, what is currently being done to make disciples, and then together create a great plan for the future. I know that many of you have a passion for this so I believe the potential is endless on what God can do through us. Buckle up because it is going to be a great ride!

What’s Next for the Murphy’s


It has taken me about two weeks to write this and I’m still not sure what to write even as I sit here typing this. 5 years ago God clearly called Kelly and I to plant a church in the Brunswick area. It was a dream of mine to plant a church since before I even graduated High School. As soon as I felt God calling me to ministry I felt a call to start a church. Even as I started my vocational ministry journey I was always starting new works that God grew. I started a youth ministry, a couple young adult ministries, a coaching ministry, and many other ministry initiatives that God grew and are still going today. We finally got that call to start a church and we were excited. Up until planting a church if I am honest ministry was easy for me. It seemed everything I did was met with what most would call a success. With the exception of our first year at the plant with all of our team building and launches it has been a really hard 5 years. On the surface of things it would seem that it hasn’t been a success. But if I am truly honest the last 3 years have been the best thing ever for my family and I even though it has been hard. As I sit here evaluating my ministry career I can’t help but think that my most successful period has been these last 5 years. I’m sure people who have seen my whole ministry arch might disagree with me but honestly I don’t really care what they think, here’s why…


1. I have learned that God is Glorious, Great, Good, and Gracious. Not just in the book sense have I learned it but I have experienced it. I have tasted, seen, felt, heard, and smelled that the Lord is Good, Glorious, Gracious, and Great. I know what trusting God for daily bread feels like not just what it means in the spiritual sense. I literally know what it means to trust him for manna from heaven. It tastes so good. I used to care what people thought and said behind my back, now I don’t really care. I don’t care because I know Jesus loves me and has my back. The greatest human to ever live thinks the world of me and makes me perfect, that is all I need.

2. I learned what it means to give something you hold dear to Jesus. I experienced what it means to start giving yourself to Him. I know I still have a long way to go but I think many live their whole lives and don’t really know what it means to give something dear to you over to God.

3. God changed others in the same way in which He changed me. People who would’ve never experienced the good news of Jesus got to for the first time. Some were in churches for decades. Others were far from God.

There are many other ways in which God worked and you can read the story of Element Church here. For me I have always known what is next and had a 5 year plan for my life. I don’t have that anymore. I know that I love the Lord of my life Jesus and He loves me. I know that I love my family deeply, Kelly, Joshua, Caleb, Gideon, and Sarah are the loves of my life.  I love my neighbors. I know God has called me to make disciples first of my family. I know God has called us to make disciples here in New Jersey. I know that God is going to continue to use us.

What’s next for me? I will be taking a role with one of my best friends at a church I love and have served with as an advisor since they began, 217 Church. I am excited about the opportunity and know that God has ordained for us to be there at this time. For our next role in ministry click here to learn more and check out their website at 217 church. God is so good, gracious, glorious, and great. Can’t wait for what is next.

Element Church Story

Sometime between 2006 and 2009 God birthed a desire in the heart of Matt Murphy and Matt Coder to plant a church together. In early 2011 that dream became a reality when Princeton Alliance Church called Murphy to lead a church plant to the Brunswick area. In March of that year there were about 8-10 of us in a room dreaming about what God could do through us through a church plant to the Brunswicks. As a group we were reading through Ephesians and someone said verses 8-10 were standing out that we were all “elements” of God’s plan to make known the Gospel. So we named ourself Element Church. We were all an “element” of God’s plan to make known the Gospel. So we set out on a journey that would make known the Gospel in the Brunswicks.

We did this through huge marketing campaigns to put the word out that we were there. We put flyers in neighborhoods and through big events in the community. We were pumped to be planting a church, following the call of Jesus. Eventually, we launched big in the Regal Theater in North Brunswick. We had what we called “preview” services with our first being in October of 2011 that saw around 200 people show up. We capped our previews with our first “official” service that was in February of 2012 where we had nearly 300 in attendance. After all of the pomp and circumstance we settled at around 125. Some weeks we had over 50 people volunteering on a weekend.

To the naked eye we were a success. But God was stirring something in our hearts. Each week we had a volunteer meeting where we would share stories about how amazing Element Church was. Then it hit our leadership that we weren’t called to make Element Church amazing we were called to show how amazing Jesus was. We wanted to see disciples of Jesus made not disciples of a “cool” church. As a leadership we prayed and asked God what He might be doing. Jesus asked us “Do you want to make the Gospel known or do you want to make Element Church known?” Little did we know that this would have ramifications we would not forsee. God brought Matthew 16:24-28 to mind as I was praying through this question. In that Jesus asks are you willing to give up everything, your hopes, dreams, desires to follow after me? Will you take up your cross and follow me? We were struck by this and began to press in. Another way of asking it is do you want to make disciples or do you want to build the brand of Element Church? We hit the ground running hard after the vision of making disciples. That first year we taught people what the Gospel was all about setting a foundation of what was to come.

As we preached the Gospel God did amazing work through Element Church we baptized 15 people in the first year and a half. In total Element Church has baptized 42 people in 5 short years. God was beginning to show us through the Gospel that our identity as a group was a Family of Servant Missionaries sent to make disciples that made disciples. Around the time Hurricane Sandy hit our church was just learning what it meant to live as missionaries in our communities. We felt compelled as a church to just literally walked to homes most severely hit by the storm.. We were like the Marines for Jesus, we hit the beach head before anyone else. It was funny to watch each time we went to Union Beach how much more they were organized as we went. The first time we went we just made it up as we went and I’ll never forget God using an unemployed alcoholic/in and out of rehab contractor to help us and lead us. I’ll never forget sharing the hope of Jesus with him in his truck and him weeping as we drove at the grace of Jesus that God would use him to help others.

You see the church is not primarily a business, it’s not primarily a service project organization, it’s not primarily a hospital, it’s not primarily an event, it’s not a primarily building, although these things can help what the church is. The Church is a people sent to make disciples that make disciples. We as a church were called to make disciples and make disciples we did. We set the bar high for what Jesus had called the church to be. Things changed. It no longer became about Element but it became about Jesus.

Mistakes were made. We are human. But boy it was fun and a lot more rewarding. Rather than spending thousands of dollars to travel to a beach to be “missionaries” we were learning how to be missionaries in our local context. This was scary. Opening our life up to the call of God to be a family of servant missionaries to make disciples was scary. When we started the journey of making disciples we knew we needed to build relationships with people. In all honesty, we could not throw an event/party/bbq that included anyone outside of the Element Church we had a relationship with. We sucked at throwing parties. How would we make disciples if we could not even build relationships with anyone? But slowly we learned how to build relationships in our local context. We learned how to apply the Gospel to ourselves for the first time. We were wrecked by the Gospel and what Jesus was calling us to as a church. We grew so much that we actually began to make disciples of those who did not know Jesus seeing neighbors step into faith with Jesus and even be baptized. We finally learned how to throw parties, this fall we had a run of 13 straight weeks with an outreach event all with the goal of making disciples of Jesus.

It wasn’t all roses as people left our community as we pursued this call. Some left because we didn’t lead them well and some left because it was uncomfortable confronting this new/old identity. It was tough to see people go. Because of people leaving we had to adjust our budget where we moved to the Days Hotel and some staff had to move on. With staff moving on more people left because of the closeness they felt to the staff leaving causing more budget concerns. It was difficult for a young church to survive the turnover we had in our leadership. People leaving caused negative momentum too big to overcome leading to more people moving on. We even reached the point where 3 times this fall, financially Element had no money. It is not just about money. It is also about the people. We have been in decline for the past 2 years with no real immediate sign that will change. This fall we have averaged around 20 adults. It is people and resources.

Over this past summer(2015) our leadership talked about and considered making a move to close. We all agreed it wasn’t time. To give it one more shot. The boat had not sunk yet and we felt God wanted to do more. He did. We saw our first “Story of God.” I saw two people at my dinner table understand God’s grace for them for the first time. We were able to help a family dear to Element Church walk through the death of their son. God had his reasons for calling us to stay.

In the fall of 2015 we went back on district support meaning we were in a redevelopment phase, life support if you will. We sought their counsel, other church leaders, and our sending church. Everyone was in agreement it is now time to close as Element Church. Throughout my life God has always confirmed things through mentors in my life. There has been a lot of confirmation.

We are not closing the church because the church is a disciple making movement and God has called us to that. We will always do that. Hopefully you all will always do that. But it is time to close the business side of this community. People and Resources are the 2 commodities in the business side of the church. God is not bringing us more people. We almost need to triple to get to a point on the people side of sustainability. And resource wise we continue to burn through money. We cannot continue to sustain it at our current rate.

This church did not fail. God did not fail. In our last time together we remembered stories of God’s success through our church. We remembered those who were baptized. People told stories of how over their 5 years at Element Church they grew more like Jesus than in the decades before. Others told stories of how God literally transformed their life, old became new, and Christ was in them. Every shared at how God had changed their view of what a church should be. For all of that I believe God accomplished what He set out to accomplish in us. He accomplished His vision through us and that is what we asked Him to do. Now, we all go our separate church ways continuing to live out our identity as a disciple living as a family of servant missionaries.