The Courage to Lead Through…An Example

Courage to Lead

The words have come back to me so many times, “Do the right thing, keep a right spirit, and leave the results to God.” I am not sure if I ever heard these words expressed or if I just formed the thoughts over time. They did, however, come from somewhere. They came from the men and women who impacted my life along the way—through their teaching, but most of all through their living. One of those men was Robert D. Crowley.

My father was in and out of the Washington, D.C. area during his military career, and when we were there, we attended the Montrose Baptist Church in Rockville, MD. As a young boy I still remember the larger than life presence of Pastor Crowley, his strong preaching, and a church that was growing by leaps and bounds. He baptized me when I was nine. He would stop by our home on Saturday mornings and take me with him up to Summit Lake Camp in Emmitsburg, MD, where he would let me help the men with construction projects, mow the grass, and take care of the horses. I ended up working at Summit Lake for seven consecutive summers and realize now, more than ever, how much of my life was shaped by being around my pastor.

Bob CrawleyPastor Crowley was a Southern Baptist and Montrose was a Southern Baptist Church. That really didn’t mean much to me at the time, for all I knew was that I was part of a very healthy and vibrant church—there was no negativity. We were multi-cultural, had strong teaching and preaching, and were evangelizing our community. I also remember how many of the adults would take particular interest in the young people. I still remember their names— think it was because they remembered mine.

Toward the end of my high school years my father was transferred to Rhode Island. I really didn’t want to go to a place I’d never been, so I followed some friends at camp to a fundamentalist university in the south. It was my first real exposure to the south and my first real exposure to fundamentalism and separatism. I would spend the next seven years of my life there and God would do many great things, including preparing me for ministry. I am very thankful for that experience. One of the decisions I made early on in my freshman year was to leave my Southern Baptist Church and the Southern Baptist Convention because of the liberalism that had crept into most of its seminaries.

When I left Montrose Baptist Church in 1975, I would not speak to my pastor again for twenty years. I knew I had hurt and disappointed him. Interestingly enough though, I had gone on to plant a church in Colorado and had patterned the entire ministry right after what I had watched at Montrose and in the life of Pastor Crowley. I had in many ways become just like him. In 1995 Pastor Crowley would retire from the pastorate and turn his attention to Summit Lake Camp and Middle Creek Bible Conference. Just before this took place, I reconnected with my friend Ken Coley. Ken is a professor at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, NC and married to Kathy (Bob Crowley’s daughter). He encouraged me to reconnect with the Crowleys and to come to the retirement service. So, I did.

The retirement service was incredible. The church was packed and people had come from all over the country. Paige Patterson spoke, and so did Judge Pressler. I was asked to give a testimony. After the service, we went over to the Crowley’s home and we were able to share what had happened over the past twenty years. I had left Montrose and the SBC, become an independent Baptist, and planted a church in Colorado. Pastor Crowley had become a trustee at Southeastern and helped spearhead the resurgence from 1985-1995, something I was completely unaware of.

“He was at SEBTS during those tumultuous years when it was making the transition from a decidedly liberal institution to a conservative one that proclaimed the authority of the Bible,” said Kenneth Keathley, senior vice president of academic administration and dean of the faculty. “The school went through a tumultuous time when its theological future and very existence was unsure. There were a lot of things the board of trustees did, sacrifices they made, that had they not done them, Southeastern would not be what it is today.”

Southeastern’s current president, Daniel Akin, said he and Paige Patterson, who led the seminary from 1992-2003, have said “on many occasions that neither one of us would have served at Southeastern were it not for Bob Crowley. He is as responsible as any person for the miraculous theological turnaround of Southeastern Seminary.”

Pastor Crowley and I had travelled different paths and yet came to the same place. I “got out” because of my convictions. He “stayed in” and fought for his convictions. Who was right? Who was more courageous? Who was more of a “fundamentalist”? I feel no need to answer that. But, it was my joy to unite again, to have Pastor and Mrs. Crowley as our guests at Tri-City Baptist Church in Westminster, CO, and to have him preach for us. He was a hero to me. And, what I have found is that there are many others like him that stayed in and fought; Southern Baptists. Danny Akin, Al Mohler, Mark Dever, Dan Dumas, Ken Coley, etc. Good friends. Fellow laborers.

Men like Bob Crowley did not travel an easy path—for many of them endured cruel and harsh attacks through those years, by enemies and “friends.” They had their character assaulted, motives questioned, and abilities ridiculed, but, they never lost sight of what they were called to do, and they did not lose the joyful, steady resolve of following through in the will of God. I have seen men called “cowards” because they didn’t “stay in,” and others called “compromisers” because they didn’t “get out.” At the end of the day every man will have to do what he believes is right before God and be ready to give an account. The full story is yet to be told.

So, my challenge to the next generation; “Do the right thing, keep a right spirit, and leave the results to God.”

Growing “Systematically”

Growing Systematically

There are many ways we grow in our Christian faith and one of the most significant ways we do this is through the thoughtful reading of good books—often beginning with the Scriptures. Not only are the Scriptures the very words of God, true and authoritative in every way, they go beyond giving us just an intellectual knowledge of God to bringing us into a relationship with Him through His Son. This work is supernatural and transformational. Because of this fact, many believers make an effort to read their Bibles daily. Few, however, expand beyond this to other Christian literature. Over the past two decades of ministry I have become more and more convinced that the study of other literature is an invaluable resource. In this post I want to talk about the benefits of studying “systematic theology.”

Systematic Theology - GrudemTo quote Wayne Grudem, “Systematic theology is any study that answers the question, ‘What does the whole Bible teach us today?’ about any given topic.” The reason it is so beneficial is that it helps us answer our questions by looking at the whole of scripture. So where should we start? In the past, I have somewhat hesitated to recommend some of the best volumes to the average reader because they can tend to be a bit heavy and academic. A number of years ago, however, I came upon Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology and was thrilled with what  I found. Not only has his work become a personal favorite of mine, it is what I recommend to every Christian—whether young or mature in the faith. I am reading it now again for the fourth time.

Here are a few of the reasons I recommend the book:

  1. Grudem is faithful to the text of Scripture and uses it to support his points.
  2. He uses language that is clear and understandable to the average person without giving up the richness of theological terms.
  3. He is practical. He brings the teaching to where we live and makes helpful application.
  4. He writes with both humility and conviction (a rare blend today).
  5. He informs his readers of the differing views. He does this with respect and not a condescending rhetoric.
  6. Each chapter ends with “Questions for Personal Application.” These are also helpful for group discussions.
  7. He has an expanded bibliography at the end of each chapter which can direct reading from different viewpoints (i.e.. Anglican, Arminian / Methodist,Baptist, Dispensational, Lutheran, Reformed / Presbyterian, Charismatic / Pentecostal, Roman Catholic, etc.
  8. He recommends verses to memorize at the end of each chapter.
  9. He also references a historic hymn at the end of each chapter (coinciding with the doctrine covered).

This is a reference book, but it is more than a reference book. It is the kind of work that you can read devotionally—a little each day if your prefer. A shorter version written by Grudem and his son, Elliot, can be used in group studies, Christian Beliefs: Twenty Basics Every Christian Should Know.

Either of these books will help you as you study God’s Word and explore’s its teaching. We love to live in the “practical,” but everything we do in life will find its way back to what we believe or don’t believe about God. Our view of God is the ground upon which we stand, the security in which we rest, and the future to which we hope.

Our “Small Group” to be Remembered


Start them young. For most weeks over the past eight months we have met together at Starbucks—David Rudie, his son Beckham (the Beckman), and me. David and I would meet for discipleship and Beckham would pretend he was interested. He is such a great kid! This past week was our last time to meet together like this as David has taken the position of a full time youth pastor at the Topeka Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas. For the past three and a half years David and Julie have poured their hearts, time, energy, and resources into the ministry here at Valley Community Church. They have significantly invested in the whole church—particularly the youth and young couples. While doing all this they have at the same time been working secular jobs and raising a family. We are so thankful for them  and for what they have contributed to our church family. While we are sad to see them leave, we are also happy for their new opportunity! So, we are praying that God will bless their future endeavors in Kansas as well as fill in the gaps here at our church in Colorado. Thank you, David, Julie, and Beckham. We love you and you will be greatly missed. We look forward to crossing paths many times in the future. Keep discipling at Starbucks! The great commission is fulfilled one life at a time.

Churches & Institutions in Decline

Why are so many many churches and institutions that were once thriving now in a rapid state of decline? There may be many reasons, but a significant part of the problem is what Jim Collins addresses in his book, How the Mighty Have Fallen; “When institutions fail to distinguish between current practices and the enduring principles of their success, and mistakenly fossilize around their practices, they’ve set themselves up for decline.”

For many church ministries and organizations, their enduring principles and convictions produced methods and practices that served as tools to accomplish mission in their present day. Over time the methods become sacred right along with the principles. The longer the methods go untouched  the harder they are to change, and the more quickly the decline.

Leaders need to step up to the plate and lead with:

  1. A clear vision to take timeless principles into a new day with effective methodologies.
  2. Wisdom to navigate from where they are to where they need to be.
  3. Boldness and courage to make the hard decisions and then to stay the course to completion.
  4. Grace in relationships along the way.

Join me in praying with and for the leaders of tomorrow. The needs and opportunities have never been greater!

Is This Your Church?

Image 1

Is this your church? No, but that is where we meet for corporate worship. It is one of many places we meet during the week. We gather in homes, coffee shops, public buildings, parks, and restaurants. Our church, Valley Community of Louisville, Colorado, doesn’t own a building but this doesn’t seem to slow us down or keep us from doing what we are called to do. In many ways it is a freeing position to be in!

Understandably, there are many advantages to owning a building, and in the right circumstances we would gladly welcome that prospect. But,there are also a number of downsides to the large, attractive, and strategically placed buildings we call “church”. Here are a few things to consider:

First, the launching of financial campaigns, purchasing of land, building of buildings, and maintaining them consumes an incredible amount of time, energy, and valuable resources. Quite often it becomes the primary focus of the ministry.

Second, while most of us acknowledge that the church is not the building but the gathering of God’s people, we can begin to function as though the church really is the building. When that happens we begin to drift from our focus on people and give more attention to facilities and programs. It is an easy thing to do.

Third, we can also come to see the church building as a safe place to go, a retreat and haven from the world…ahhh! But more and more we become disconnected from our neighbors – the very ones we were sent to reach. Slowly we create a comfortable sub-culture that ends up being salt and light closed up in a box.

Owning buildings can be a blessing, but they are not necessary. If your church is without a building, be content without your building. If God gives you one, fantastic. In the mean time focus on what matters most as the believers did in Acts 2:42-47. The early church ignited and expanded over the next three hundred years without owning buildings. The fastest growing churches in the world today are growing without the physical structures we have become accustomed to.

Here is my challenge to you – keep it all in perspective, and do not think that the Gospel is limited in any way because you don’t have a church building. Keep the eternal perspective and invest in people. They are the church.

I would love to connect with you! If you have any questions or would like to connect please use the contact page.

No Better Adventure

After eleven years of being away from a shepherding role in the local church, I have the opportunity to reengage in that work! I am incredibly thankful to the Lord for directing Diane and I to the college environment this past decade where we could serve alongside some amazing people and invest in a future generation of young leaders. Now we transition back to where our hearts long to be—the church. More and more we see how God has most perfectly designed this living body as His way to bring glory to himself by making disciples of all nations.

We find ourselves more excited today about the future prospects of ministry than we were in our early twenties driving to Colorado for the first time to start a new church. We have a fuller perspective now—and this has enlarged our comprehension of the incredible needs and unlimited opportunities that are in the west, particularly in the Boulder Valley of Colorado. We look forward to our first Sunday at Valley Community Church in Louisville, CO, on November 10, 2013.

I plan to continue writing from the local church perspective—what we have learned and what we are learning. I look forward to that.

I would love to connect with you! If you have any questions or would like to connect please use the contact page.

Future Plans are Set

After much prayer and seeking the Lord’s will, I have accepted the gracious offer to partner with Mike Durrill and the other elders at Valley Community Church in Louisville, CO. Joining Valley’s team will allow me to continue my passion of preaching and teaching, and focusing on developing the future generation of leaders within the context of the church.

Mike and Diana led a small group of believers in planting Valley Community Church in the Fall of 2010, all of whom have poured their hearts into this work over the past three years. I have had the privilege of watching closely as the church has flourished and continues to expand its vision and ministry. We are excited that God has now allowed us to be a part of this next phase of growth.

Diane and I have been led by God to take this step of faith, trusting that He will provide for our needs. It is Valley’s goal to take us on in a full time capacity as quickly as possible. In the meantime we will be helping in the planning, preparing, and working through to that end. For us, this an answer to prayer as God continues to fuel our passion for church planting in the West.

We believe God has great plans for Valley Community as they live out the vision God has given them for making a gospel impact in their community and around world. Visit their website at for more information about this growing ministry.

“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” — Ephesians 3:20, 21 (NIV)

I would love to connect with you! If you have any questions or would like to connect please use the contact page.

Visiting with Rick Holland

This past weekend we had the opportunity to reconnect with our good friend Rick Holland who is now pastor of Mission Road Bible Church in Kansas City, Kansas. This is a healthy, vibrant, and growing church. Rick has also launched a location of The Expositor’s Seminary and plans to train young men in the context of local church ministry.

I would love to connect with you! If you have any questions or would like to connect please use the contact page.

A Visit to Countryside Baptist Church

While in the Kansas City area I visited Countryside Baptist Church in Olathe Kansas and got to spend some time with Pastor Mike Summers. Mike and I have been friends for many years now and it is such an encouragement to see how this ministry has grown and developed under his leadership. One of the most visible things is the number of young people who have a passion for Christ. Many of these have come to Northland and we have been so blessed to have them on our campus!

This weekend they plan to present Journey to Judea. Over the four day period they expect now to host over 5,000 and share the unfolding story of redemption.

I would love to connect with you! If you have any questions or would like to connect please use the contact page.

More or Less on Relevance

Relevance should not be our goal, but neither should irrelevance—either pursuit can derail us. Jesus was simply relevant. He wasn’t chasing it or running from it. He ministered in the context of His culture without being contaminated by it. He was a friend of sinners and this fact bothered a lot of people.

The distinguishing marks of a follower of Christ should be the characteristics of Christ himself. Jesus was not into image management, regulations, or checklists of behavior. His mark was the fruit of the Spirit and it looked like this: Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control. It also looked like this: The undeniable works of God. We call this fruit, and this is the proof of true discipleship (John 15:8).

Cults and religious sects can put on “the look” and control behavior but they cannot manufacture fruit. Jesus did not put on special clothes or make up extra rules to live by. He did not stay away from sinners or build a wall and moat around his life and ministry. He lived among the people and looked like them, yet He still stood out. The difference was that He bore the fruit of the Spirit and the evidence of the works of His father. These radiated like the dawn of a new day. And nothing could be more relevant! Gospel living is relevant.

I would love to connect with you! If you have any questions or would like to connect please use the contact page.