A Question For You


I have a question for you, “Who are you discipling?” How hard do you have to think about that? Would anyone say you are discipling them, mentoring them, or investing in them?

Probably no question will cut more quickly to the reality of your success or failure in life and ministry than this simple question. Jesus’ final words, “Go make disciples of all nations,” were not an option—this is what we are to be doing. While there are many gospel implications, there is one very clear command. We were, in the words of Dawson Trotman, “born to reproduce.”

Granted, there are a lot of good things Christians do these days; preaching, teaching, writing, leading, organizing, giving, etc., but at the end of the day, who are they discipling? The same question that we ask the average Christian needs to be asked of the professional clergy—pastor, evangelist, seminary professor.

Think back on your own experience. Who impacted your life? How did they do that? Books, sermons, programs, and college lectures all have their place, but nothing changes the world more quickly than investing in others “one life at a time.” That’s what Jesus did.

“Who are you discipling?”

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.”

Other Books (Part 2 of Growing “Systematically”)


In my last post I talked about how “other books” can be helpful to Christians in their process of spiritual growth. In particular, I pointed out Grudem’s Systematic Theology. But, what about books that are completely “secular” or written by non- Christian authors? Should we read them? Are they helpful? Can they help us grow?

One thing we have to recognize is that the Bible is unique literature. It is inspired of God, inerrant, infallible, and a pure means of grace (as is prayer and the the work of the Holy Spirit). It is fully reliable, authoritative, and sufficient (2 Timothy 3:17, 17; 2 Peter 1:21), and as the Reformers would say, “sola Scriptura” (scripture alone). There is no equal. But, this does not mean that God does not work His grace in our lives and cause us to grow through people, circumstances, or even other books—sacred or secular. It is just that all of these other works must be subordinate in our thinking to God’s Word.

All “other” literature is impacted by the fall of man. It is, and should be carefully scrutinized. I have heard people say, “I don’t agree with everything Grudem says.” My response is, “does anyone agree with everything you say?” Any earthly writing will require us to “eat the fish and spit out the bones.” The answer is not to censor all other works, but to grow in our biblical discernment, teach it, and practice it. There is a difference between developing a discerning spirit and developing a critical spirit. A discerning spirit will strengthen the church, a critical one will tear it apart.

In particular, pastor’s have also asked me about reading secular business and leadership books. I am thinking of books like Good to Great by Jim Collins and Peter Drucker’s classic, The Effective Executive. I have found many of these to be extremely helpful in the pastoral ministry. My admonition is to keep reading books—sacred and secular! Read them and interpret them through the lens of scripture, and grow!

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 it wrong to be contemporary? I don’t think so. Being in touch with people and in touch with your times is a good thing—Jesus was. Paul was. For some, being contemporary in our service for Christ means being contaminated—or “worldly.” I think Charles Spurgeon was another good example of a man who was current with his times but not contaminated by them.

“When 19-year-old Charles Spurgeon was called to the New Park Street Pulpit in 1854, London newspapers derided him as a brash upstart. Critics complained that his plainspoken, direct speaking style was too edgy—and dangerously innovative. A secular magazine referred to his colloquial speech as “slang.” A newspaper editorial categorized his preaching as “ginger-pop sermonizing.” One particularly harsh critic wrote:

‘He is nothing unless he is an actor—unless exhibiting that matchless impudence which is his great characteristic, indulging in coarse familiarity with holy things, declaiming in a ranting and colloquial style, strutting up and down the platform as though he were at the Surrey Theatre, and boasting of his own intimacy with Heaven with nauseating frequency. His fluency, self-possession, oratorical tricks, and daring utterances, seem to fascinate his less-thoughtful hearers, who love excitement more than devotion.’

During that first year, pundits regularly predicted an early end to Spurgeon’s ministry in London: “He is a nine days’ wonder—a comet that has suddenly shot across the religious atmosphere. He has gone up like a rocket, and ere long will come down like a stick.

Spurgeon’s critics were wrong, but they weren’t silent. They attacked him, slandered him, and fiercely opposed his ministry. They called his successes flukes and his failures proof of his character. What did Spurgeon do? He just kept preaching. He kept writing. He kept sharing the truth of Scripture as plainly and directly as he could for 40 years of faithful ministry.”    -Faithlife

Leading Without Presumption

leadingPrayer without planning presumes upon God. Planning without prayer presumes without God. As we look ahead it is not an “either or” proposition but one of  “both and.” Every venture in life for the Christian should begin with prayer and continue in prayer. But, we also need to plan. Planning is part of our stewardship and responsibility. In fact, we should do this better than anyone else because we have a higher calling and more compelling cause. Investigating, planning, organizing, and setting goals is not in place of prayer but rather fueled by prayer. It flows from a core conviction that is rooted in a desire for God’s glory and His will to be done. When God does answer prayer we are not surprised. In fact, we are already at the plow and ready for work. You can see this in action when you read Nehemiah 1-3. Pray and Plan. Then, expect great things from God!

A Worthwhile Blog

Dan Dumas“Leaders Don’t Panic” is a blog published by Dan Dumas. Over the past several months I have gotten to know Dan and have grown to value his counsel and friendship greatly. He is the Senior VP at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY, Director of the Center for Christian Preaching, as well as Professor of Christian Ministry and Leadership. Dan is also a church planter and pastor at Eastside Community Church.

You can subscribe to his blog at dandumas.com.

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

I Want to be a “Yes Man”

Last week Mike Summers, pastor of Countryside Baptist church in Olathe, KS, preached two outstanding messages at Northland. He shared with us a letter he wrote to one of his sons. I asked Mike if I could pass it on.

A Yes Man

I want to be a “Yes Man”– not a stutter-stepping, hesitating, slow-to-respond-man. I want to be a “Yes Man”—a whatever-You-say-Lord kind of man—a just-tell-me-when kind of man—a Your-will-be-done kind of man.

I want to be a “Yes Man”– not a doubting, unsure, insecure, see-if-it-works-first kind of man. I want to be a “Yes Man”– a man whose “Yes” is absolute and resolute, a man whose “Yes” is observable and unchangeable, a man whose “Yes” is from the heart. I want to be a “Yes Man.”

When God says “Go” or “Slow” or “No,” I want my immediate response—my only response—to be “Yes.” Because my purpose is Him and my agenda is His, I want to say “Yes” to any interruption, “Yes” to any inconvenience, “Yes” to any disappointment, and “Yes” to all trials knowing with certainty that my God is behind them all. I want to say “Yes” to His Word, “Yes” to His Spirit, and “Yes” to His call to serve Him humbly, fervently, dependently, and skillfully.

I want to be a “Yes Man”—a “this-one-thing-I-do” man—an “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” man.” I want to be a “Yes Man.” My “Yes” is a “No” to this world, a “No” to myself, and a “No” to anything that competes with my Lord. I want to be a “Yes Man.”

A Tribute To Les Ollila

Les & Charlene

Today and tomorrow we will be celebrating the life and ministry of Les Ollila. While “Doc O” still has plenty of ministry left in him, this is an appropriate time to pause and say “thank you.” It will be impossible to accurately measure Doc O’s impact, but everywhere we turn we see the fruit of it—and all in the lives of people. Seventy years of life, fifty years of ministry, and thirty years at Northland. He has been, among many things, a pastor, evangelist, disciple-maker, college president, and chancellor. But we would probably best describe him as God’s servant…and our friend. And those are the titles he would naturally embrace.

More than titles though, I think of qualities. I would like to note one quality, that for me, stands out more than any other—humility. As a young man I found this quality so rare in a leader. I find it even more rare today. We have heard, “humility is the soil in which all of the other graces grow” (Andrew Murray). Total dependence upon God. This is how a life will flourish and bear lasting fruit. We also use the word “brokenness.” Brokenness is what happens when we really get a right view of God. There can be no other response. And when we respond in that way He changes us, fills us, and uses us. The world sees God. This is the kind of life we see in Les Ollila. It is why many of us came to Northland.

Thank you Doc O for living such an approachable life, and one that attracts us to Jesus.

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


We all want to be great, do great. We want to be successful in who we are and what we do. But the pursuit of true greatness is the antitheses of everything the world will tell us – and it is impossible to escape that ubiquitous influence.

I find that every morning the Word is there to correct my thinking, and I hope, my behavior. Diane and I have been reading The One Year Bible (NLT) together. This morning’s passage in the New Testament was another reminder of the paradox of the Christian to greatness.

The Greatest in the Kingdom (Mark 9:33–37)

After they arrived at Capernaum and settled in a house, Jesus asked his disciples, “What were you discussing out on the road?” But they didn’t answer, because they had been arguing about which of them was the greatest. He sat down, called the twelve disciples over to him, and said, “Whoever wants to be first must take last place and be the servant of everyone else.” Then he put a little child among them. Taking the child in his arms, he said to them, “Anyone who welcomes a little child like this on my behalf welcomes me, and anyone who welcomes me welcomes not only me but also my Father who sent me.”

“Be Great, Serve”