“_____________” for Christians

MembersOnly1A while back I was talking with someone about their recent work and they mentioned they were working on creating an online social community network. I thought, “That’s exciting. Go on.”

“Yeah, it’s going to be like Facebook… but for Christians.”

Face-palm moment. I shared that I think Facebook is already for Christians, depending on how we use it. Why create a virtual country club of Christendom when it’s our job to be part of God’s ongoing redemption plan for the world?

Why do we do that, create Christian-exclusive spin-offs (more like really cheesy knock-offs) of culture and life? Christian music. Christian t-shirts. Christian bumper stickers. Christian radio.

Are those things bad? Not necessarily, although each time I listen to K-Love I’m reminded why I don’t listen to K-Love, and it has very little to do with the music. I’m all about positive, encouraging messages, but that doesn’t mean a 10-minute diatribe from your DJ on their morning commute or their new workout routine. Pass.

There is a much-needed shift that’s taking place with some dynamic influencers in the Church, like Mark Burnett and Roma Downey who say they’re Christians who makes movies instead of saying they’re Christian movie makers, or Lecrae who’s topping Rolling Stones album charts for both Rap and Gospel genres, or Scott Harrison, founder of charity:water, the world’s leader in fixing the water crisis plaguing over 750 million people without access to clean drinking water.

These are just a few of many Christ-followers who are choosing to let their faith empower, not restrict them to be in the midst of culture. I don’t want to run a Christian business; I want to run a business that’s built on Christ’s principles.

When we start drawing boundary lines of insulation from culture, we become the outcasts by default and by our own devices. Jesus didn’t say, “Go into all the world by building an insulated community of people who only think, act, talk, and walk like you do.” That’s not the Gospel; that’s the self-preservation of comfort.

The world won’t know we are Christians by our t-shirts, frankly they won’t care. They will know we’re Christians by how well we communicate Christ’s love and hope for redemption. It’s time we turn “Christian” from an adjective into a noun.

We get to be a part of changing how the world sees Christians by making fantastic music, creating incredible art, producing industry-quality films, running Fortune 500 businesses, and becoming thought leaders on important issues of culture and philosophy, and all of this while following Christ.

College Map - 01

2014 College Football Picks – Week 8

College Map - 01Each week I’m picking the Top 25 college football games and an occasional non-Top 25 game worth picking (Exhibit A: Army-Navy).

Week 7 brought a lot less turmoil than Week 6, which gave voters and fans a chance to just catch our breath.

  • Good pick: Mississippi State over Auburn. I’m drinking the Starkville Kool-Aid this year and Dak Prescott is the real deal.
  • Bad pick: I expected Mizzou to rise up, but tip-o’-the-cap moment to Mark Richt and the UGA squad. Bulldogs football is more than any one player.
  • Predictions record after Week 4: 105-24 (81.4%, ouch!)

Notre Dame vs. Florida State this week On to the Week 8 picks!

Thursday, Oct. 16th:

  • #20 Utah over Oregon State. Utes are one of the more underrated teams this year.

Saturday, Oct. 18th:

  • #2 Florida State staves off #5 Notre Dame. Seminoles by a TD. I reserve the right to change my pick if Winston doesn’t play, which he shouldn’t play for a variety of reasons.
  • #3 Ole Miss thumps Tennessee.
  • #4 Baylor outlasts a very good effort from West Virginia.
  • #21 aTm over #7 Alabama. Roll tears roll.
  • #8 Michigan State over Indiana. If Sudfeld was still healthy, I’d be tempted to go with Indiana, but Sparta wins by at least two TDs.
  • #9 Oregon over Washington. Chris Petersen’s squad is still a year or two away.
  • Arkansas over #10 UGA.
  • #14 K-State over #11 Oklahoma. Wildcats beat OU coming off a bye week two years ago, and guess who’s coming off another bye week this year? Wildcats by a FG.
  • #12 TCU over #15 Okie State.
  • #13 Ohio over Rutgers.
  • #23 Stanford over #17 Arizona State.
  • #19 Nebraska over Northwestern. Wildcats gave up almost 100 yards to David Cobb, and Abdullah is the next level up.
  • #22 U$C over Colorado. Trojans by three TDs.
  • #24 Clemson over Boston College.
  • #25 Marshall over FIU. We are….Marshall! Actually, we’re not, but Marshall is Marshall, just to clear up any confusion.

An Ugly Truth About Youth Ministry

During the seven years I served on church staff, I interacted with literally hundreds of youth staff members from churches all over the U.S. We shared meals together, planned, prepared, dialogued, and both celebrated our “wins” and confided our struggles in youth ministry. Almost a decade of working with students in a variety of environments has shown me one ugly truth about youth ministry…

Youth ministry can be a very easy place for lazy people to hide.


To be clear, I know fantastic youth pastors and youth ministry staff who work their tails off and make huge differences in the lives of students, volunteers, and parents. Unfortunately, in my experience and the experience of people I know and trust, such exceptional youth staff are just that: the exception, and not the norm.

It’s easy for youth staff to blow an entire day in meetings where hardly anything productive is actually done, either physically or philosophically when it comes to ministry. Parents and volunteers at churches around the country have shared with me their confusion on what someone in youth ministry does all day.

One of the chief objections I’ve heard youth staff to this is, “What are you talking about? I’m very busy.”

Being productive and being busy are two very different things. A hamster on a wheel is extremely busy, just look at how hard he’s working.

What’s more, there’s a guilt factor associated with laziness in youth ministry. I regularly put in 45-50 hours a week during my seven years on church staff and in multiple instances was almost shamed into feeling like I was the guilty one for actually working hard.

At the same time though, there were a few rare times I myself was tempted to go with the crowd and not put in a full day’s work. It was very rare, but there were a few days I could have done more and got lost in “research” for a weekend service or an upcoming message. It’s easy to let your work ethic become lax without accountability, but it’s no excuse.

We owe it to our students, their parents, church givers, and most importantly, to God Himself to be both efficient and productive with our time in youth ministry. Whether you have any paycheck, big, small, or none at all, our roles serving in ministry leave us no excuse for “just a lazy day”.

If there are parents or volunteers who are uncertain what you do all day in youth ministry, this is a great chance to share your schedule with them. It helps keep you accountable. When I was a youth pastor, there were multiple volunteers who regularly had access to my calendar to help track my progress and assist me during busier-than-normal times throughout the ministry year.

Youth pastors, youth ministry workers, youth supporters, admin assistants, youth creatives, youth worship directors, no matter what your role or week may look like, we can always stand a gut-check on our work ethic.

Would your track record and real schedule of serving Christ in ministry make Him say, “Well done, good and faithful servant,” or does something need to be changed in how well you serve our Savior?

College Map - 01

2014 College Football Picks – Week 7

College Map - 01Each week I’m picking the Top 25 college football games and an occasional non-Top 25 game worth picking (Exhibit A: Army-Navy).

Wow, I had a feeling Week 6 was gonna get weird when I saw Katy Perry throwing corn dogs on the set of College GameDay. I’ve never seen a week in college football like we saw this past week. Even the 2007 chaos was nothing compared to 11 ranked teams losing this past week.

  • Good pick: Mississippi State over aTm is my best pick so far this year. I almost went with TCU over OU, but no such luck. More like Bloomer Sooner.
  • Bad pick: Where do I start? Oregon, BYU, Bama, OU, Stanford, Nebraska, Wiscoffsin, and U$C, you all let me down.
  • Predictions record after Week 4: 93-21 (81.6%, ouch!)

Another great slate of games this week, especially in Starkville. On to the Week 7 picks!

Friday, Oct. 10th:

  • #25 Stanford rebounds nicely over Washington State.

Saturday, Oct. 11th:

  • #1 Florida State over Syracuse.
  • #3 Mississippi State over #2 Auburn. I’m thinking Miss. State is the team to beat this year in the $EC.
  • #3 Ole Miss over #12 aTm. Tough environment in College Station, but I think the Rebs will pull it out.
  • #5 Baylor over #9 TCU. Great game, going to be close until the 4th quarter.
  • #6 Notre Dame over UNC.
  • #7 Alabama over Arkansas. Here’s hoping the Tide roll big over Bielema’s crew.
  • #8 Michigan State gets angry over Purdue. Spartans by 30+.
  • #10 Arizona over U$C.
  • #11 Oklahoma over Texa$. Great time for the Sooners to lose: right before they play UT.
  • #12 Oregon over #18 U-C-L-A. Another fantastic game, but I think the Ducks D will be too much for the Bruins to overcome.
  • #23 Mizzou over #13 UGA. Not impressed with the Bulldogs this year.
  • #16 Okie State over Kansas.
  • #19 East Carolina over South Florida
  • #22 Georgia Tech over Duke
Burn the box

Just burn the box.

I work with a lot of creative people. Fascinating artists, designers, people who can take anything and make a snapshot-inducing experience that bends your mind with inspiration and wonder. It’s with birds of my own feather where I’ve come to reject the box of standard thinking, the box of non-creativity.

Burn the boxPeople talk about thinking outside the box when it comes to creativity. Do you know what’s wrong with boxes? They’re ugly. They have an unnatural shape: a square. Do you see anything else in creation that’s perfectly square that isn’t man-made?

And yet, we often limit creativity to carefully drawn lines of predictability. Why do we have a “box” of creative boundaries in the first place? Is it convenience? Laziness? Fear that what we might create at first isn’t very good, so why bother trying?

As Einstein said, “Creativity is intelligence having fun.” Out-of-the-box thinking needs to be less about forcing creativity without changing our lethargy towards thinking and creativity. We lack inspiration to be creative because we’ve desensitized ourselves to our Creator’s all-present creative work.

I don’t like being in the box of non-creativity. It’s dark inside the box. It’s controlled and limiting and not conducive to imitating our Creator through mini-creations in replication through worship. My most creative moments in life have come when I push past the expected, the convenient, the previously published, and create a mashup of ideas that are unexpected to me.

When we say, “Let’s think outside the box,” it needs to be a call to shake off the uninspiring, the everyday ho-humness of our routines we lock ourselves into for the sake of convenience. Artists and musicians and teachers and craftsmen have told me story after story about their most creative moments. Do you know what the common theme was in their most creative moments? “I tried something creative I’d never done before…”

Get outside the box. Remind yourself why your creativity deserves to be outside the status quo of non-creativity. Don’t ever settle for the convenient way of thinking.

And then, just burn the box.

College Map - 01

2014 College Football Picks – Week 6

College Map - 01Each week I’m picking the Top 25 college football games and an occasional non-Top 25 game worth picking (Exhibit A: Army-Navy).

Week 5 had a bunch of great games and Florida State almost got stunned by NC State. One thing is already clear this year: this isn’t nearly the same Florida State squad from last year.

  • Good pick: Mizzou proved me right and bounced back with a good win over South Carolina.
  • Bad pick: Cincinnasty, you failed me…again. Ohio played well and blew your doors off. Bearcats? More like Bearmats.
  • Predictions record after Week 4: 82-12 (87.2%)

Scary good games this week. On to the Week 6 picks!

Thursday, Oct. 2nd:

  • #2 Oregon over Arizona. Rich Rod’s crew is one of the more overrated undefeated still left in CFB this year.

Friday, Oct. 3rd:

  • #18 BYU over Utah State. BYU isn’t going to make the playoffs, but they will make a New Year’s Day bowl as an at-large bid.

Saturday, Oct. 4th:

  • #1 F$U over Wake Forest.
  • #3 Bama over #11 Ole Miss. Not as close as some people might expect.
  • #4 Oklahoma shows why they’re the most complete team this year and beats #25 TCU.
  • #5 Auburn over #15 L$U. Tigers by… wait a minute, they’re both Tigers. War Eagle by double digits.
  • #12 Mississippi State over #6 aTm. It’s in Starkville, Miss St. is coming off a great win over L$U, and aTm hasn’t really been tested yet this year. I’m calling the upset here.
  • #7 Baylor over Texa$. Bears hang 50+ on the Wronghorns.
  • #8 U-C-L-A over Utah. Bruins have too much firepower for Utah to stop.
  • #14 Stanford over #9 Notre Dame. This is the annual tradition of exposing Notre Dame as an overhyped has-been. Stanford by double digits.
  • #19 Nebraska over #10 Michigan State. Two words: Abdullah Heisman. Get used to hearing his name called a lot on Saturday night.
  • #13 UGA over Vandy. What’s happened to Vanderbilt?
  • #16 U$C over Arizona State.
  • #17 Wiscoffsin over Northwestern.
  • #20 Ohio over Maryland.
  • #21 Okie State over Iowa State.
  • #22 East Carolina over SMU. More like SM-Ewww.
  • #23 K-State over Texas Tech.
Jon and Kara at Coors Field

All 30 MLB Stadiums, Ranked First to Worst

Jon and Kara at Coors FieldEarlier this year Kara and I were able to complete our bucket list of visiting all 30 MLB stadiums before turning 30. What an incredible adventure! We’re talking about developing an eBook for future MLB ballpark chasers with info on the best restaurants in and around each ballpark, parking and transportation suggestions, tourist tips, and lots of other good info.

As part of our “30 before 30″ MLB Tour, we developed a seven category ranking system to accurately rate and rank each MLB based on our experience. The rankings may change moving forward as new stadiums are built, environments change, and team dynamics are affected. For now though, this is our list of all 30 MLB stadiums ranked first to worst. Enjoy!

  1. AT&T Park – San Francisco Giants
  2. Turner Field – Atlanta Braves
  3. Nationals Park – Washington Nationals
  4. Busch Stadium – St. Louis Cardinals
  5. Fenway Park – Boston Red Sox
  6. Coors Field – Colorado Rockies
  7. Oriole Park @ Camden Yards – Baltimore Orioles
  8. Miller Park – Milwaukee Brewers
  9. Globe Life Park – Texas Rangers
  10. PNC Park – Pittsburgh Pirates
  11. Angel Stadium – Los Angeles Angels
  12. Chase Field – Arizona Diamondbacks
  13. Rogers Centre – Toronto Blue Jays
  14. Minute Maid Park – Houston Astros
  15. Target Field – Minnesota Twins
  16. Yankees Stadium – New York Yankees
  17. Citizens Bank Park – Philadelphia Phillies
  18. Marlins Park – Miami Marlins
  19. Comerica Park – Detroit Tigers
  20. Petco Park – San Diego Padres
  21. Great American Ballpark – Cincinnati Reds
  22. U.S. Cellular Field – Chicago White Sox
  23. Kauffmann Stadium – Kansas City Royals
  24. Citi Field – New York Mets
  25. Safeco Field – Seattle Mariners
  26. Wrigley Field – Chicago Cubs
  27. Progressive Field – Cleveland Indians
  28. Dodger Stadium – Los Angeles Dodgers
  29. Tropicana Field – Tampa Bay Rays
  30. Coliseum – Oakland Athletics