Calvary Chapel / CGN International Conference 2021

This year’s conference will be June 28-July 1, both in-person and online, but if you can make it, I would encourage you to come in person.

This year’s theme is “The Way of Jesus”

Click here for the conference website.

Speakers

There are some excellent speakers lined up this year. Personally, I’m really excited that missiologist Alan Hirsch will be there, as well as Gavin Ortlund and Ed Stetzer, who is such an important voice in the church today – and happens to love Calvary Chapel!

I will be teaching an in-person Training Track at the conference on the topic of: “Preaching and Teaching Gospel-Centered Expository Messages.”

Click here to see the list of speakers.

Registration

Click here to register or for more information about cost, options, translation, etc.

Project Greatest Gift 2020: A Ministry to Kids in Kinship Care in Northern Colorado

This week I sat down with Christine Appel to discuss the history of Project Greatest Gift, a home-grown ministry that serves kids in kinship and foster care in northern Colorado at Christmastime.

Every year during the month of November, we partner with the Health and Human Services departments of Weld, Adams, and Boulder Counties to provide for children and families in the kinship and foster care systems.

In this interview, Christine tells the story of how Project Greatest Gift got started, the vision behind it, and how God has used it over the past few years.

Importantly, we also discuss what is different this year in 2020, as Project Greatest Gift expands to an online platform.

Check out: projectgreatestgift.org

Ministry in the COVID-19 Crisis and Beyond

This past week I was honored to be interviewed by David Snead on his podcast. David is a missionary in Lviv, Ukraine – and he is one of the most organized people I know.

We had a great discussion about my background in ministry, ministering in the COVID-19 crisis and beyond, Calvary Chapel, and expository preaching. Check it out:

Longmont Food Pantry Opening

Food pantry at new building

One of the opportunities our church has in our new facility is the ability to run a food pantry for those in the community who need it.

We’ve been hearing reports from more and more people in our church who are out of work, either temporarily or permanently, as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Those who work in service industries have been hit hard, salons have been forced to close until the end of April, restaurants have had to lay off workers, and we are hearing that many of these people have not yet been able to register for unemployment benefits because the website is so overloaded with requests.

We have wanted to have a food pantry ministry for a while, and the timing of this starting now will hopefully help many who are struggling to make ends meet or struggling to find they supplies they need.

If you or anyone you know could use a little help with food or household supplies, please contact our church at 303-775-3485 to set up a time to come in, or see the hours below.

The food pantry is also accepting donations, if you would like to contribute:

  • non-perishable food items 
  • cleaning supplies 
  • toiletries
  • baby food, diapers, wipes
  • hygiene and sanitary products

Initial Hours of Operation

Address: White Fields Community Church – 2950 Colorful Ave. Longmont, CO 80504

Donations may be dropped-off: 

  • Mondays: 12:30-2:30 PM
  • Wednesdays: 10:00 AM -12:00 PM

Pick up will be available curbside from an inventory list: 

  • Fridays: 10:00 AM -3:00 PM  

Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.

Galatians 6:2

We’re Moving!

White Fields Community Church is moving! From our church’s beginning, we have met in the St. Vrain Memorial Building in downtown Longmont. It’s a large building, and has been a great place to start a church, but as we have grown, we have gotten to the point where it has been hindering more than helping us in fulfilling God’s mission for our church. For example, our Middle School class meets in a hallway, since we have maxed out all of the available spaces for NextGen classrooms.

We have pursued several properties over the past few years, and God has been faithful to lead us by shutting doors, which is exactly what we prayed He would do if those were not the right places for us.

Recently we heard that another church in Longmont was considering closing a second campus they had opened 2 years ago. After reaching out, we felt that God’s hand was in this for several reasons. One is that the day we reached out to them is the same day that they had their official vote to close the campus. One of their prayers that day was that God would bring another church to use the space, and they received a call from us on the way home, within an hour! The other reason is because we were able to work out a deal in which we acquire all of their furnishings – something we would have needed to purchase wherever we moved to, and we will be able to take them with us when we move in the future.

We don’t view this as our final destination as a church; we would still like to own our own building rather than lease, but this will be a good place to facilitate ministry for the next several years. The church is a family, and a building is like the family car: it’s a tool that we use for our family, and it helps to have one that is good and reliable, and in which we all fit!

This new space is going to be a big upgrade for our kids and our youth; there’s a large youth area. It is a place that our church will be able to use for ministry throughout the week, including being home to our Bible Learning Center. It will give us the chance to have special services, such as on Good Friday; something our church has never been able to do. We look forward to filling the space with Bible study, discipleship and worship all week long, as well as having a home for our media outreaches. Our offices will move here, as we have also outgrown our rented office space on Nelson Road.

Please be praying for this new season at White Fields!

Address

2950 Colorful Ave. Longmont, CO 80504

Timeline

Our last service at the Memorial Building will be on March 22, 2020 at 10:00 AM. After service we will move all our equipment over to the new location.

Our first service in the new location will be on March 29, 2020 at 10:00 AM.

We’re excited for what God has planned. If you’re in the Longmont area, come grow with us at White Fields in our new location!

Falling Through the Cracks, or Straying Sheep?

white and black animal standing on green grass

“It’s an all-too-common phenomenon in churches. A church member stops showing up on Sunday mornings. A few weeks pass, and then a few months, before someone notices.”

This past November, on our annual elders retreat, the elders of White Fields Community Church read Jeremie Rinne’s book Church Elders, which is part of the 9 Marks series. Jeremy brings up an interesting point:

‘People in my congregation refer to this phenomenon as “falling through the cracks.” They say things like: “Have you seen Sally around church lately? I hope she didn’t fall through the cracks.”

What if, instead of “falling through the cracks,” we use a different image: “straying from the flock.” That picture seems more fitting for at least two reasons. First, “straying” implies that a disconnected church member bears a personal responsibility to stay involved with the congregation. Sheep don’t ordinarily leave a flock by inadvertently plummeting into a void. They wander away over time through a series of choices.

Second, the image of straying sheep also suggests that someone should keep watch over the flock and take action when a sheep begins to meander away. Yes, each member has a personal responsibility not to roam, but all church members have a duty to watch out for one another. However, one group in particular has an obligation to be on the lookout for straying sheep: the elders.

Elders watch to make sure that no “wolves” infiltrate their congregations with false teaching. But elders also keep watch for unwanted movement in the other direction: members straying away from the flock and from the Lord. This is part of basic shepherding work. Shepherds feed the sheep, guard them from predators, and keep track of them.’

He goes on to point out something interesting from Ezekiel:

‘Ezekiel prophesied against Israel’s leaders by accusing them of negligent shepherding: “Woe to the shepherds of Israel, who have been feeding themselves! Shouldn’t the shepherds feed their flock?” (Ezek. 34:2). And what was one of the ways they failed to shepherd? “You have not . . . brought back the strays, or sought the lost” (v. 4). As a result, “My flock went astray on all the mountains and every high hill. They were scattered over the whole face of the earth, and there was no one searching or seeking for them” (v. 6).’

Jesus, in contrast, is the “good shepherd” who leaves the 99 to pursue the one wayward sheep, something which is indeed “reckless” from a business perspective (and this is exactly what the lyrics of Cory Ashbury’s song “Reckless Love” come from).

The difficult balance from a church leader’s perspective is how to be a good shepherd under Jesus, and being overbearing. May God give us wisdom and grace as we seek to do His work!

Recap of Recent Travels

I just got back on Saturday night from a 2-week trip, during which I was in NYC, Turkey, Hungary, Ukraine – then a quick jaunt to Southern California, before making my way back home just in time for daylight savings! My internal clock was so confused by that point that losing one more hour of sleep didn’t even register.

Hungary

The purpose for the European trip was to visit White Fields‘ missionaries and ministry partners in Hungary and Ukraine. I got to spend time with Pastor Jani and others from Golgota Eger, the church my wife and I started back in 2005. We also spent time in Budapest at Golgota Budapest and with the leaders of the Anonymous Ways Foundation which helps to rescue women out of sex-trafficking.

Ukraine

After a few short days in Hungary, we flew to Kiev, Ukraine where Mike and I taught at a Pastors and Leaders Conference for Calvary Chapel Ukraine. Our topic was “movement dynamics” and we gave biblical and practical instruction about leading missional churches for about 50 pastors and church leaders from all over Ukraine.

Kiev

On Sunday morning I had the privilege of preaching at Calvary Chapel Kiev. Here is the video of that service if you’d like to watch it:

After church we spent some time with George Markey, one of the pastors of Calvary Kiev, and he shared with us the vision for urban church planting in Kiev – a city of about 5 million people. Their vision is to plant 30 churches in Kiev in 5 years! This year their goal was to begin with 2 church plants, and God has already raised up people for those in the northern Obolon region of the city and in the southern Teremky region. Please join in praying for God’s work in Kiev through Calvary Chapel and for this big vision they have for church planting!

Ternopil and Kharkiv

Sunday evening, three of us got on an over-night train to Kharkiv, the second-largest city in Ukraine, near the Russian border – while Mike and his wife Marika took a train in the opposite direction, to Ternopil in Western Ukraine to visit friends from Calvary Chapel Ternopil.

In Kharkiv, we visited with friends from Calvary Chapel Kharkiv, including Pastor Victor Fisin and Assistant Pastor and missionary Nate Medlong, whose aunt is a member of our church. Nate and his wife Diana are on the front lines of ministry to orphans and children in the foster system in Kharkiv. God is doing great things through their ministry, so please keep them in prayer.

UETS

Returning to Kiev, I got to speak to the students of Ukrainian Evangelical Theological Seminary on Tuesday morning, and then we spent time with one of the teachers and the director of the seminary afterwards. UETS is a doing a great work, raising up pastors and leaders from all over the former Soviet Union. They have a strategic partnership with the seminary I am currently attending: London School of Theology (LST), and they have several hundred students attending their many campuses all over Ukraine and one other former-Soviet country. Pray for their work!

California

While the others from the team came back to Colorado, I had one more trip before I came home: I went to Thousand Oaks, California for the first Expositors Collective – an interactive seminar for young people who have a desire to preach and teach the Bible well. As one of the leaders, I coached a group of young men who had a range of different experiences: from Bible college students to interns, to a staff pastor who sometimes preaches at his church. It was a great event, and one that was geared towards ongoing mentorship. This was only the first of what will hopefully be an ongoing collective to encourage expository Bible teaching in the next generation. For more information, check out expositorscollective.com

It was a great trip, but I’m glad to be home, here where God has called me to be!

Local Ministry Spotlight: Ukraine Orphan Outreach

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Based out of Berthoud, Colorado, Ukraine Orphan Outreach is a local non-profit you should know about that is having a global impact.

UOO works to help the kids who are falling between the cracks in the system, by establishing transition homes for orphans who are aging out of the system as well as helping to facilitate adoptions of older orphans with adoptive parents in the US. They also organize camps and other activities for orphans in Ukraine, to be able to have fun and hear the good news of Jesus Christ.

Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world. – James 1:27

When we lived in Hungary, my wife and I were involved in ministry to orphans, and we saw how difficult life is particularly for kids as they get older and especially when they age out of the system and have to move out on their own.

Here are some statistics from UOO’s website:

12,000 children age out of orphanages every year with no where to go.
70% of the boys are incarcerated after only 2 years of being out of an orphanage.

60% of young girls that age out of orphanages are pulled into sex trafficking.​

10% of the children who age out of orphanages commit suicide within 2 years.​

Friends of mine here in Longmont have adopted through UOO, a couple from our church met on a UOO mission trip, and through UOO I have made good contacts and friends in Ukraine, including at Ukrainian Evangelical Theological Seminary, where I will be visiting in March when I will be in Kyiv for a pastors and leaders conference.

How You Can Help:

Become a Sponsor

For $35/month, you can sponsor an aged-out orphan to live in one of the transitional homes. Click here for more information.

Attend Their Annual Fundraiser

This year’s fundraising event will be held on March 9, 2018 at Foundations Church in Loveland, CO from 5:30-9:00 PM.

Tickets are $20/person, $35/couple, $50/family – and can be purchased here.

My wife an I attended their fundraiser two years ago, and they put on a great event.

Donate Online

If you’d like to support their work with a donation, you can do that online here.

Here is a video which shows what they do in their transition homes:

Pray for this ministry and help spread the word about the important work they are doing!

An Important Perspective on the Difficult and Mudane

beofpp

A while back a friend shared an interesting concept with me, which I have come to see applies to many areas of life. We were on our way to meet with a ministry that our church supports and we knew that there would be some hard conversations that needed to be had – some behaviors and attitudes which needed to be confronted and challenged, some practices that needed to be critiqued.

What my friend told me is that things like this are hard in the moment, but when you zoom way out, and you take the big picture view of what is going on, they are actually beautiful – and if you can keep that perspective, it helps you to do those things which are difficult in the moment.

The example he used was his family: if you look at any given moment up close, it probably doesn’t look that beautiful: dad is frustrated and scolding the kids for not doing their chores, mom is complaining that someone left their shoes in the middle of the floor, siblings are bickering with each other, the dog is barking and scratching up the glass door…  It’s all terrible, right?

Except it’s not. If you zoom out from the details of the moment and take the 30,00o foot view, where you see what is happening there as a whole, what you see is something beautiful: you see a group of people who are living together, who love each other and are committed to each other. And 20 years from now, it’s not going to be the siblings bickering that you’ll remember, it’s the big picture of the family that was together.

The point is: Even if in the moment it isn’t glorious and beautiful, in the big picture it is.

I think this can be applied to many areas in life. In general, creating things and building things is an inglorious process, but the big picture of the process itself, not only the finished product, can be a beautiful thing.

I know someone who felt a calling to move his family to a certain city a few years ago to plant a church. They were excited, they felt that they loved the culture of this city, that it would be a great fit for their family, and they expected that God would use them to birth a new church. After arriving in town and getting established, they set up the church’s website, affiliated with a group of churches, and announced a weekly meeting. They were prepared that it might be slow-going getting started, but they were excited when someone they had invited showed up for their Bible study. However, little encouragements like this became more and more rare. For two years they did everything they could think of to get this church started, the whole family was involved, and the husband worked also worked a full time job to pay the bills. After two years, they shut it down and moved back to where they had come from, disappointed and confused: had they not discerned God’s will correctly that this is what they were supposed to do?  Or was it possible that God had led them out there on purpose, knowing that the church plant would not succeed, in order to teach them something?

If you would have looked at any given moment, you might have seen intense discouragement. You might have seen kids complaining that their parents had taken them away from their friends back home to move to this place, and for what? To have a Bible study in their house that was poorly attended? You might have seen a marriage that was struggling under the stress and sadness of a dream that was not materializing. Nothing beautiful. Nothing glorious.

But when you take a step back and look at the big picture, you do see something that is beautiful. You see something that is downright glorious. You see a family together, taking a step of faith and following God; working together and serving together, praying together for God to work in a city and call people to new life. You see a man and a woman who are seeking God for direction, and asking Him to speak to them. You see a group of kids who have a mom and dad who are setting an amazing example for them of values which really matter… That is beautiful. That is glorious.

That isn’t to say that everything people do is glorious in the big picture. There are plenty of things which are not. But doing things that matter often consists of doing many things which aren’t glorious or pretty or fun. Sometimes they are messy or painful or even just super boring. This is true of business, school, relationships, marriage, and just about anything else that matters.

Keep that perspective in mind this week: try to see the big picture in the difficult moments, and let that encourage you to continue on working for things that matter.

Every Single Day

There are certain messages that you hear, which you never forget. I remember hearing Jon Courson speak at a missions conference in Austria in the early 2000’s. I don’t remember much of what he said, but I do remember this phrase, which he repeated several times:

Read your Bible and pray,
every single day.

Novel concept for a group of missionaries and pastors, right? 

Well, it is actually. Because one rut that preachers and Bible teachers in particular tend to fall into is that of only reading your Bible to look for something to preach on or teach about: “sermon material” if you will. 

What I have found is that when I read the Bible purely to hear from the Lord and delight in His Word, it keeps me so fresh and alive as a Christian, that it makes me a better minister.

For example, yesterday I was reading through 2 Chronicles, and I read chapters 20-23. That’s one of those sections of the Bible that people like to skip over, because it’s full of hard to pronounce names and stories that are downright confusing – because it’s never clear who the “good guy” really is (hint: the only “good guy” in the story is GOD himself!).

After reading those passages, I went to meet with a brother from our church, and it just so happened that the very chapters I had read spoke directly to what he was going through in his life – in a way that was actually quite moving. And it wasn’t just one thing – it was several things from various stories in those 4 chapters. If I hadn’t been reading through the Word consistently, I’m sure I would have had something to share with this brother, but it wouldn’t have been so alive and prophetic as this was.

Another thing I remember Jon Courson saying: 

Wherever you are in the Word, that’s where you are.

That was basically Jon’s way of saying that in the providence of God, the scriptures you will read as you read through the Bible will often apply directly to the situation you are in. I have found that to be very true. 

May we never be people who only look to God’s word for “material” that we can USE in speaking to others. May we come to it always as the fountain of life.  But if you do that, you will also find that when you hide His Word in your heart, you will have plenty of “material” to share with others. 

The fear of the LORD is a fountain of life, turning a person from the snares of death. – Proverbs 14:27