The Phone Call No One Wants

Reflects from a Difficult Year

memorial sloan Kettering Cancer center

Today marks exactly one year since my wife got the phone call that everyone prays will never come. I remember her calling me crying and all she could say was “come home.” I drove and prayed and asked God to do a miracle, and he did not in the way I would have done it but a year later I can say that I don’t understand, but we’ve learned to trust more. This year has been difficult because walking through cancer was difficult for everyone in our family in very different ways. It has been hard because we have lost some very dear friends a few of them to cancer. Every time I think of them my heart aches a bit because this isn’t how it was supposed to be.

To be clear, I hate cancer. I also don’t believe that it is a gift from God. I do believe that God works through our greatest pains for our good and his glory (Romans 8). While I would never wish for Cancer to come. There are things in my life and in our family I would have never known existed both good and bad if it wasn’t for the trial that took the form of cancer in our family. At the moment we were rejoicing from the good news that my wife was Cancer free a few of our friends discovered they had Cancer in their bodies. With the freshness of the pain from what we had walked through I can’t tell you how this pained my heart. Yet having just walked through something so similar and watched God move in my wife’s life and in several others I had a faith to believe and pray in a way I wouldn’t have before.

One of those friends of mine was Jeremy Lee, a guy I had recently met in person but have known online for some time. As my wife was receiving her joy-filled news 6 months ago he was received far worse news. Since the day I found out he had Cancer I began to pray with new wisdom and fresh hope for healing. This week he received a clean bill of health, to God be the Glory. I wanted to share his Facebook status with you because I found it personally helpful and profoundly true.

Pastor Success is Not Your Goal.


If 19 years in ministry has taught me, anything it has taught me that leading  is difficult. There are times where you are on top of the world and other times where you feel the world is collapsing around you. The challenge is not to give in the going gets hard and to not blow up when things are going your way.

In life and ministry success is an amazing by-product but a terrible goal and an even worse master. The challenge for each of us especially those in ministry is to measure our lives by the right yardstick. It is very easy to get sucked into the more is better; leadership fixes everything trap. The modern leadership movement has done much to help pastors and churches, but we must also be aware of the damage it has done and continues to do. There has slipped in this idea of a post-modern, secular identity that we can rise from obscurity to be the church everyone in the nation is talking about. If we allow success to be our goal, business strategies to be our mantra and CEO’s to be our heroes we will be swallowed up by the success we think will earn God’s favor and man’s respect. Tim Keller in his book Making Sense of God says the secular identity brings a crushing burden with it.

The Single Greatest Recruitment Tool for Kidmin


Good now that I have your attention. Of all the ministries in the church, the most volunteer intensive ministry by far is children’s ministry. No matter the size of church you are in if you do kids ministry you never have enough volunteers. If you have done kids ministry for any length of time you will be able to say like Paul “I know what it’s like to be abased and to abound.” These past few months I have lost several volunteers. In my early years of kids ministry, this would have set me to breathing into a brown paper sack to avoid hyperventilation. Recruitment is a way of life for kidmin leaders. I am always looking for tools and tips to do it better.

If you have been to any conference for kids ministry people you will always see breakouts on how to recruit, train, and retain volunteers. They are helpful and instructive I have been to many that have helped think how I structure the ministry I am the chief steward of. For a few years when I was much younger and breathing into a brown paper sack more often than I would like to admit I used to take volunteers leaving as a personal thing. They weren’t moving on because life changed for them. In my mind, they were leaving because of me. While that may be true for some it was not true of all. Growing older in age and deeper in the gospel I have come to the understanding that I am a steward the ministry I lead is not mine I have influence by the grace of God alone for the Glory of God alone.

With that being said I will now give you the secret sauce of volunteer recruitment that I have painstakingly discovered over 20 years of ministry.


There it is my friends. Prayer. I have found prayer to be my best most reliable tool for recruiting people to help in all our children’s ministry. There have been so many times that I was overwhelmed by the empty spaces on my volunteer management system and people would call me or seek me out and tell me they want to help in kids ministry. There have been other times that in times of prayer God will drop names in my mind to ask to get involved. Other times God uses people like my wife to give me suggestions. All those things have this in common they are an answer to prayers I have prayed that God would help me see the unconnected, that He would send people my way who I don’t even ask.

Prayer is one of the most overlooked tools in the arsenal of any Christ follower. Prayer is powerful because we believe the God of Heaven hears and acts when we pray. Prayer is powerful because it reminds us that we are wholly dependent on the grace and the mercy of God in every action we take. So kidmin leader take heart, pray for you have a Father who loves you more than you will ever know who is working all things together for you good and his glory.

I leave you with these powerful words about prayer taken from the great Bishop J.C. Ryle and his short and convicting book on prayer.

Nothing seems to be too great, too hard, or too difficult for prayer to do. It has obtained things that seemed impossible and out of reach. It has won victories over fire, air, earth, and water.

Prayer opened the Red Sea. Prayer brought water from the rock and bread from heaven. Prayer made the sun stand still. Prayer brought fire from the sky on Elijah’s sacrifice. Prayer turned the counsel of Ahithophel into foolishness. Prayer overthrew the army of Sennacherib.

Well said Mary Queen of Scots, “I fear John Knox’s prayers more than an army of ten thousand men.” Prayer has healed the sick. Prayer has raised the dead. Prayer has procured the conversion of souls. “The child of many prayers,” said an old Christian to Augustine’s mother, “will never perish.” Prayer, pains, and faith can do anything.

J.C. Ryle

Fairy Tales and The Gospel

How every story echoes the ultimate story.

Fairy Tales

Jesus is the underling reality to which all stories point, breaking into our world. – Tim Keller

The reason Frozen was such a good story is that it had the elements good stories do. If a story is missing one of the following features, it usually loses the audience, and they don’t even know why.

Explaining the Trinity to Kids

Why it matters more than you think.


The biggest problem with explaining the Trinity to kids is the fact that it is a mystery. We can never fully understand it but we can and should grow in our understanding of it. It’s something that is core to our faith and therefore should not be brushed aside.

The problem with explaining something so complex to kids is we look for a solid object to explain such abstract truths. The go to objects for explaining the Trinity to kids are water, apples, and eggs. How do I know this? Because I have been guilty of using them. When I address these misconceptions, it’s from a place of mutual understanding because I have used each of these in explaining this central doctrine to the Christian faith. I’ll try in a blog post to be helpful to parents and kids workers alike. This post will by no means be comprehensive, but I hope that it is useful and accurate.