Top 12 of 2014

Here’s a great post from Tyler Sollie.

He is our network Youth Ministry leader.

Basically he keeps youth pastors like me in line.

He is a great husband, father, leader, but most importantly to me, he’s a great friend.

I’m thankful that he and his wife Amber are part of our lives.

Here’s one of his best from 2014:



Having things in the correct order makes a difference.

If you’ve ever tried to put a piece of furniture together from Ikea you understand exactly what I am talking about. I remember putting some bookshelves together and neglected to notice in the instructions which way a specific piece of the shelf was supposed to be facing. After I was done building the shelf I realized that I missed it. Instead of being done I now had to tear it down and build it the correct way.

Life can be like that.

I’m learning more all the time about the importance of having things in the correct order in life.

In John 21 we see Jesus having a conversation with Peter after he had made some choices that he regretted. What I love about Jesus in how he addresses Peter’s failures is it all starts with Jesus feeding Peter breakfast! Talk about grace!

After breakfast, Jesus asks Peter a series of questions that are important for each of us to consider.

After breakfast Jesus asked Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?”
“Yes, Lord,” Peter replied, “you know I love you.”
Then feed my lambs,” Jesus told him.

John 21:15 (emphasis added)

Did you see it?

Look again at the conversation that Jesus has with Peter.

Do you love me? RELATIONSHIP

Then feed my lambs. RESPONSIBILITY

In ministry and in faith it is vital to get this order correct.

My responsibility from Jesus flows from my relationship with Jesus.

It is easy to get this mixed around. It is easy to become so focused on the responsibility that He has entrusted to our care that we neglect the very thing that will fuel and enable us to fulfill it: relationship with Him. He doesn’t call us to do things before first calling us to Himself.

But lets be honest…things are easier to measure. They are concrete. We end up with a nice little check list at the end of the day of all the things we have done for Jesus.

But could it be that if we approach Jesus in this way, we are missing the very point?

There have been seasons in my life where I’ve missed it. There are still moments where I am tempted to pursue having relationship with Jesus only  because of the responsibility He has given to me.

It’s time to evaluate the order.

He calls us first to relationship. Then from that relationship flows responsibility.

What I do FOR Jesus will never replace the necessity for being WITH Jesus.

The order is important.


The best part about posting one of Tyler’s best from 2014 is now he’ll text and offer to take me to coffee…

I’m sitting by my phone Tyler.

Read more from him here on his website:

Best of 2014

Here’s another great post from 2014.

This one is from Angela Hagebusch.

She is one of the Children’s Pastors at NWLife Church.

Angela is a talented lady. She’s a great mother, leader and author.

In this post she reminds us all to be careful about playing, “The What If Game.”

Take a minute and read her post:


what if2







Do you ever play the “what-if” game?

What if I hadn’t made that decision?

What if I hadn’t said what I did?

What if things would have gone differently?

I’ve played this game before and it can be quite dangerous.

It can wreck you emotionally and leave you feeling full of guilt.

What if my dad had left five minutes earlier for work the night of the accident? Maybe the drunk driver wouldn’t have smashed into his motorcycle and things would be different today.

What if I had chosen to stay by my mom’s hospital bed the day she died, rather than choosing to go to the school dance? Could I have done something? Would she have said something to me before she slipped away?

Years later and my what-ifs still stay with me.

Sometimes I need to be reminded and maybe you need to hear it too:

You can’t change the what-ifs of your past,

but you can have a say in the what-ifs of your future.

What if you truly lived your life now, doing the best that you can – grateful for all that you have?

What if you remembered that you are loved for who you are and forgiven of the mistakes you have made?

What if you treated others the way you want to be treated and showed kindness to everyone you meet?

The what-if game can be damaging when you dwell on all you wish you had done differently.  Instead focus on all the positive possibilities that your what-ifs could bring.

What if you didn’t let fear stop you and you did that thing you’ve always wanted to do.

What if you wrote that book, took that job, or followed where God is leading you.

What if you stopped holding onto the past and moved forward towards a great future.


Make sure to check out Angela’s writing on a regular basis on her website.

She also has written several holiday books which you can see and order here.

Top 12 of 2014

Here’s another one of my favorite posts from 2014.

This one is from my pastor, Brian Dolleman.

He is a skilled writer and he posts regularly.

I’m pretty excited because his book is due out in early 2015. Stay tuned for that.

Here’s a great post he wrote this year called, “When the Church Jumps the Shark.”

Have a laugh and read it here:


jumping the shark

When Church Jumps The Shark


Sometimes church jumps the shark.

What’s that mean?

From Wikipedia:“Jumping the shark is an idiom created by Jon Hein that was used to describe the moment in the evolution of a television show when it begins a decline in quality, which is usually a particular scene, episode, or aspect of a show in which the writers use some type of ‘gimmick’ in an attempt to keep viewers’ interest. Its name is taken from a scene from a fifth season episode of the sit-com Happy Days when the character Fonzie jumps over a shark on water-skis.”Related to church, I want focus on this aspect of jumping the shark…

“Using some type of gimmick in an attempt to keep viewers’ interest.”

I started thinking about this last week when I read a post by John Blase about his attempts to energize the small country church he pastored right after graduating from seminary. Here’s a quote from that post:

“What I sensed I needed to do was… bring them into the new things God was obviously doing but they lacked the eyes to see. The kickoff of this innovation attempt was delivering a sermon sitting cross-legged atop the communion table. I didn’t prepare the people at all for that moment, just climbed up where the juice and crackers usually sat and, well, sat. If you don’t have a small town evangelical background, you must understand this was the equivalent of dropping my Dockers in front of the faithful and said faithful discovering I was going, as they say, commando. If memory serves me, the sermon was about how new wine simply cannot exist in old wineskins, yackity, yack… something I’d gotten all hot’n’bothered about at a conference I’d attended.”

Ha! As I read this, I pictured that scene in my mind. It was probably easy for me to visualize, because I’ve used my fair share of gimmicks, antics, and tricks in ministry over the years.

Yeah, I’ve done my share of shark jumping. It’s all rather embarrassing, really.

When I bought my new 1999 VW Beetle (after being on a waiting list for 6 months), I had “Beetle Night” at our youth ministry – and parked my car under the lights in the entryway of the church. Oh the hype and pageantry of it all.

A few years later, my pastor rode his Harley into the church during a Sunday service. I followed him in on my fake Vespa scooter. Because I was a rookie scooter driver, I confused the brake with the gas and nearly crashed into the stage. At the very last second, I got it under control.

Unfortunately, this poor fella didn’t get it under control…

These types of  gimmicks, antics, and tricks aren’t new. They’ve been going on for years. There’s even a “Top 12 Pastor Stunts” list by David Gibson.

Gibson’s list is pretty good. If I made a list, I would include motorcycle crash guy and the pastor in a coffin (this one is a classic).

I wonder, what makes us think we need more surprise, shock, and awe? Is it an underlying feeling that there’s just not enough buzz in and about the church? Do we believe God needs to be spiced up a bit?

And did Jesus do this?

Do gimmicks, tricks, and antics look like Him at all?

Sure, the making a whip and overturning money changers’ tables in the temple could seem a little jump-the-sharkish, but He wasn’t doing it to entertain an audience or get more Twitter and YouTube hits. I don’t think it had anything to do with buzz or hype.

In my upcoming book, I have a chapter called “Churchified.” Here’s a snippet:

When we:

Get all churchified

Keep up a frantic pace

Are addicted to the “lights, camera, action” show

Build on the cult of personality, creating Christian celebrities

Struggle to get excited over the simple and little things

Get starry-eyed over experts and gurus

Take ourselves seriously

Strain and strive…

The hero has been chosen. It’s not Him, the hero is us.

This is when things get really funky in the church. It kind of re­minds me of the story of the prophets of Baal in a showdown with Elijah. They wanted their god to respond to their prayers, so they prayed and prayed for hours. They increased their vol­ume and intensity. They danced and sweat and even bled a little. These guys were having some serious “church.”

But with all their intensity and spiritual fervor what actually hap­pened? Not a thing.

They used every religious trick and strategy they knew to make something happen on the altar, but nothing happened—not so much as a whisper, not a flicker of response. —I Kings 18.29 MSG

I wonder how often this describes our attempts to make things happen? Every religious trick and strategy, every gimmick and marketing method invented…

Sadly, I think it happens a lot.

*  *  *  *  *

I’m certain I will have a sermon illustration tip into the “jumping the shark” territory again. In fact, I just started advertising that our church is giving free DangeRuss Dogs on Super Bowl Sunday to everyone who attends. I don’t think I will ever be completely free of gimmicks, antics, and tricks – or the desire for buzz and attention. But I do hope to be aware of it and its consequences.

Just what are the consequences?

Well, sometimes you crash a motorcycle in the church. Or nearly die in a coffin during a sermon illustration.

There’s another thing that happens though—something worse than botched illustrations and church blooper-reel material…

The spotlight moves from Jesus to the individual performing the antics.

The gimmicks, antics, and tricks – and the person behind them – become the buzz.

And Jesus is no longer the star of the “show.”


Thanks for reading.

My 12 favorite posts continue tomorrow.

12 Great Posts

Here’s another one of my favorite posts from 2014.

This one is from the funniest man I know, my dad, Norm Jones.

He wrote this piece and sent it to my uncle in an email a few years back.

Once my uncle posted it I knew it would fit nicely in our top 12 of 2014.

It’s beginning to look a lot like…

…Good King Wenceslas looked…

…up on the rooftop reindeer paws, out jumps…

… three kings of orient are, bearing gifts we…

…need a little Christmas! Right this very…

… night, Holy night, all is calm all is…

…raindrops on roses and whiskers on …

…nine ladies dancing, eight maids a

… sweetly singing o’er the…

…most wonderful time of the…

… deep and dreamless streets the silent stars…

… Deck the halls with boughs of…

… Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer had a very…

…Merry Christmas to you…

Norm!? Will you please leave the radio on one station?!!!

I’d love to hear from you, what are your favorites from 2014?