Muddy Boots Leadership – 

Effective Spiritual Leadership in the Trenches

Heads Up – This is long! I usually keep things short and simple but occasionally, I get a “Bee in my bonnet.” This is one of those occasions. I’m pretty excited about all you young leaders being raised up (old ones too) and thought I would get my licks in on you. So this is my little contribution to your “Leadership Development.” Like I said, this is long. It’s really like a booklet. So here’s a link to a PDF: Muddy Boots. And if you’d rather listen, here’s a link to the Audio Book: Muddy Boots. Also, I’m under no delusion that I have covered this topic adequately. Your comments and feedback are welcome. Lastly, If you find this helpful, please pass it on.

Introduction – Why Muddy Boots?

As a former soldier, I had the privilege of serving alongside some truly remarkable leaders. The ones who stood out to me were the ones who didn’t hesitate to join us in the field. They were the ones who left the safety and comfort of their offices in the rear to come be with us in the trenches. They were the ones who crawled into foxholes with us, ate C-Rations alongside us, and asked us questions that showed they cared about our well-being.

The leaders I admired the most were the ones with muddy boots. They were the ones who didn’t mind getting dirty, who were willing to share our hardships and dangers. They were the ones who demonstrated true leadership by example, by showing us that they were willing to be with us in the toughest times.

Unfortunately, not all leaders were able to live up to this ideal. Some came with an entourage of aides, who would spread out a folding chair for them to sit on, (heaven forbid their hind end would ever touch the dirt) open their cans of rations, and even spread their synthetic cheese on crackers for them. These leaders always wore spit-shined boots and a starched uniform, a sign that they were more concerned with appearances than with truly connecting with their troops.

I’m writing this booklet to help you remain relevant, compassionate, and flexible enough to lead the flock God has entrusted to you. A lot of spiritual leaders are so eager to get to the next rung of leadership, they skip essential skills and experiences. They completely lose touch with their people or the context they are ministering in. Or they may have fallen into the trap of “Sermon Only” discipleship. There is a huge difference between teaching and shepherding. We may call a spiritual leader we listen to once a week a “Pastor.” But I’ve found the gap between position and practice is usually pretty big. The teacher may tell people WHAT to do while leaving them with no practical model for HOW to do it. If their people lose confidence in their leadership, apathy, alienation, or downright disobedience to God sets in and now we have a grave situation. Jesus observed this as,

“They are like sheep without a shepherd.” (Matthew 9:36)

Just as it is in the military, the same is true for spiritual leadership. And while the stakes may be high in physical war, the spiritual battle we face has even greater consequences – eternity is at stake. Spiritual leaders who are in tune with their people, sharing in their hardships, and capable of making tough decisions collaboratively, will be much more effective in leading people towards a Christ-like transformation. On the other hand, if we hide behind the pulpit (or a whiteboard) and never truly engage with the challenges of real life alongside our people, we risk receiving the same condemnation that the Pharisees received from Jesus:

“They tie up heavy burdens and lay them on men’s shoulders, but they are unwilling to move them with so much as a finger.” (Matthew 23:4)

In this booklet, we will explore what it means to be a “muddy boots” leader in the spiritual realm. I’ll be referring to examples of spiritual leaders, military leaders, and my own personal experiences. We will examine the qualities that make a leader effective in the trenches and provide practical advice for those who aspire to be true servant-leaders. We’ll also look at the “dark side” of leadership and some of the mistakes leaders make. Whether you are a disciple-maker leading a handful of people or thousands, and you want to make a positive impact on those around you, this booklet is for you. Let’s dive in and explore an uncommon but effective form of leadership. We start with the most effective muddy boots leader to ever live.

Who was the Best Example of Muddy Boots Leadership? Answer: Jesus

Jesus Christ – Jesus has led the movement that has changed the world for over 2000 years. He exemplified love for God and people. He demonstrated qualities such as justice, principled living, compassion, humility, and mercy, and He made sacrifices for His followers, even giving His life to save us from our sins. He reigns as the King of an eternal kingdom, yet He never required His followers to do anything He wouldn’t do Himself. By examining His Great Commission, we can glean the key ways in which Jesus embodies Muddy Boots Leadership.

And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20 NASB95)

All Authority in Heaven and on Earth

They say that absolute power corrupts absolutely. Jesus is truly unique in that he possesses all authority in heaven and on earth, yet he remains incorruptible. Unlike other powerful figures throughout history, Jesus never abused or exploited his power for personal gain. Instead, he humbled himself by leaving his heavenly throne and becoming human and walked with us.

Despite facing the same challenges and hardships that we do, Jesus never wavered in his mission to serve and guide those around him. He used his authority to heal the sick, feed the hungry, and teach the truth about God’s justice, love and mercy. He humbled Himself in the midst of torture and murder by the very creation He came to save. Now if that is not mudding your boots I don’t know what is!


Jesus took “going” to the next level through His incredible mobility in ministry. His constant movement is staggering, but it’s not just His physical movement that’s noteworthy. As He went, He proclaimed a radical message of the kingdom that challenged the traditional religious and political structures that held people in bondage. This message was so counter-cultural that it posed a threat to the authorities of the day.

It’s worth noting, Jesus didn’t target the usual suspects for reform – politicians, religious leaders, or the wealthy. Instead, He went directly to ordinary people, like fishermen, the sick, and soldiers, as well as those on the fringes of society, like tax collectors, prostitutes, sinners, and even the demon-possessed. He engaged with humanity where we all have access on a daily basis, rather than relying on conventional methods of information distribution, like the media of the day.

Make Disciples

Consider all the possibilities of what Jesus could have done with all authority in Heaven and Earth. He could have eradicated crime, hunger, disease, and war. However, such actions would have stifled free will, failed to address the problem of sin, and most importantly, denied us the opportunity to love God and our fellow man by following the perfect example of Jesus. Instead, Jesus used His power and authority to model what it means to be created in the image of God and then commanded us to become just like Him. To be His disciple.

Imagine a world where everyone loved like Jesus – with supreme devotion to the Creator and humanity. This would be the coming of God’s kingdom and His will being done on earth as it is in Heaven. Surprisingly, Jesus chose twelve men with all their strengths and weaknesses, who followed Him as His disciples for three years, to make more disciples and to turn the world upside down… or should we say, right-side-up. Now, it is our responsibility to emulate what Jesus did as a leader who made disciples, even if it means getting our boots muddy too.


The sinless Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist. Why? Not for repentance. He had no sin. But as He said to John, “for in this way it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness” (Matthew 3:11). In other words, Jesus and John weren’t doing something to cover what was wrong, they were doing what would illuminate what was right. Jesus always did what was right and right always looked like what the Father was doing (John 5:19). He was also giving us an example of humble leadership and obedience for every disciple after Him.

As Jesus started His ministry in Judea, He would Himself baptize others (John 3:22). Later, He delegated the ordinance of baptism to His disciples; 

Therefore when the Lord knew that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus was making and baptizing more disciples than John (although Jesus Himself was not baptizing, but His disciples were) (John 4:1-2)

Jesus participated in, modeled, and delegated baptism. It wasn’t below Him to be baptized or baptize others. He also saw the importance of developing future leaders by delegating to His disciples this simple but profound act of obedience and symbolic initiation into the faith. 

Teaching to Obey

Apparently, Jesus was a big fan of obedience. But He wasn’t the type of leader who would tell His disciples “Do as I say, not as I do.” Jesus obeyed the Father to a tee and never acted or spoke even one word outside of God’s will (John 5:19, 30; 6:38; 12:49-50). He expected His disciples to obey His commands just as He obeyed the Father’s.

Contrary to what some may believe, Jesus wasn’t on some power trip, flexing His authority to show He was the boss. Obedience to His commands is in our best interest. As the “Designer,” Jesus knows exactly what we need and what we don’t. Jesus even equated obedience with love. Obedience and love are like the two wings of an airplane. If you were flying at 30,000 feet, you’d want both wings to remain intact, right? Exactly! Similarly, obedience and love go hand in hand. Together, they form the foundation of worship. In fact, 1 John 5:3 states,

 “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome.”

Jesus led by example and modeled what obedience in love looked like. He expected His disciples to not only obey with like-heartedness but to teach others to do the same.

I am with You

Jesus told the disciples that He would be with them until the end of the age. None of them lived that long, so by extension, this promise also belongs to us. Let’s take a moment to think about this. When your boss says they will be with you in spirit, it’s a lovely sentiment, but they’re not “really” with you. (And I’m not sure I’d want that, anyway.) But when Jesus says it, He is truly with us in Spirit, quite literally. That’s why He sent the Holy Spirit. Even if an earthly leader wanted to be with all their people, it’s just not possible. (And could you imagine trying to be with a hundred people all at once, all the time? No thank you!) Only Jesus could achieve this feat by being omnipresent.

However, before we let ourselves off the hook too quickly of being with people, let’s think about what Jesus did during His earthly ministry. He demonstrated what it looks like to be limited by time, space, and energy. But He still invested the lion share of His time in a few future leaders.

“He appointed twelve, so that they would be with Him, and that He could send them out to preach.” (Mark 3:14)

Jesus was always with people, but He spent focused time training the twelve. As disciple-makers, we need to be with people like Jesus was, especially with a few individuals whom we consider the future leaders. We should show them what it means to be a “muddy boots leader.” Besides, being with your people is, by definition, what it means to get your boots muddy.

Five Guiding Principles for Being a Muddy Boots Leader

  1. Stays Focused
  2. Stays Engaged 
  3. Stays Relevant 
  4. Stays Competent 
  5. Stays Emotionally Connected
  6. Stays Inspiring 

As I reflect on Jesus’ leadership and others, I’ve found six guiding principles for muddy boots leadership. I put the verb “stays” in front of every principle because it is so easy to be completely oblivious to the fact that you’ve “lost the bubble.” Being a muddy boots leader is like trying to balance yourself on a log, there is constant movement in order to keep from falling off. Leadership is dynamic, not static. Things are constantly changing and in order to “stay” in these principles we must reorient, recalibrate, and refocus. The older you get the harder this gets. There’s a tendency to rest on your laurels, hangout in the VFW, drink beer, and tell old war stories. But the battlefield is constantly changing. To be effective leaders, we need to stay in the fight.

Stays Focused[Jesus] set his face to go to Jerusalem (Luke 9:51)

The Muddy Boots Leader knows where he or she is going. They may not have all the answers but they know what the “end-state” looks like. They can give clear guidance because they have a clear direction. It’s very difficult to follow someone who is lost or changing their destination every other day. Jesus called these kinds of leaders “the blind leading the blind” (Matthew 15:14). The leader with a clear vision or purpose is not only much more likely to attract followers but to actually help them arrive at the stated destination. They have a level of confidence that breeds confidence. They stay on mission and are able to motivate their people and avoid the many distractions along the way. 

Stays Engaged[Jesus said] I am with you always, to the end of the age (Matthew 28:20)

If a leader knows where he or she is going, they must stay engaged with their followers to lead them there. They are well aware of the significant challenges and opportunities facing their folks along the way. They are careful to watch and listen. They don’t just tell people what to do. They show them how to do it. They ask a lot of questions and solicit suggestions from all levels of participation. They are with their people. We’ve all experienced or at least heard about the “Ivory Tower.” A place where leadership pontificates about the tactics and strategies needed to be successful but is completely out of touch with their people on the ground. Muddy boots leaders have no such separation between them and their people (let alone reality). 

Stays Relevant[Jesus] did not need anyone to testify concerning man, for He Himself knew what was in man (John 2:25)

As muddy boots leaders stay engaged with their people, they are making decisions and giving guidance based on timely and accurate information. A lot of this good intel comes from being “with” the people they lead and having both past and current experience with similar circumstances. Leaders that don’t stay engaged are usually in the dark. Their information is outdated or even worse, wrong. They operate on assumptions and hunches. They aren’t making decisions based on what is actually happening. In the Army we used to call this “Echelons Above Reality.”  The leader has no foggy idea what’s really going on. This creates a leadership paradigm that is irrelevant to the need of the hour. 

Stays Competent They were utterly astonished, saying, “[Jesus] has done all things well…” (Mark 7:37)

Staying engaged also means staying competent. Not all leadership skills and skills in general are “like riding a bike.” A lot of skills are perishable and the only way to stay current is by recent practice. There’s nothing more demoralizing than to see your leader struggling to perform the most basic skills. Muddy boots leaders can maintain a basic level of skills in order to identify with their people and continue to be a role model. They may not be the best in the church but they can hold their own. Skills like witnessing, compassion, prayer, explaining the Scriptures, accountability, etc… are essential for leaders to demonstrate proficiency not only because they are the basics of the Christian life but because they are hard to do. Do you want to motivate your people? Do the hard stuff with them.

Stays Emotionally ConnectedJesus wept (John 11:35)

Leaders that stay engaged have the potential to demonstrate a high degree of empathy because they are aware of the circumstances of the people they’re leading. They sense fear, anger, joy, excitement, etc… in the people they are discipling and can adjust their leadership approach to meet the current needs. Attending to people’s emotional needs creates a level of trust and understanding that makes leadership influence much easier. Leaders who are emotionally distant give the impression that they don’t care for the people and just want the task done. The relationship between leader and follower becomes completely utilitarian. Daniel Goleman, author of Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ, wisely states, “CEOs are hired for their intellect and business expertise and fired for a lack of emotional intelligence.”

Stays Inspiring[Jesus’] disciples were filled with awe (Mark 10:32 NLT)

When we practice the first five elements, we usually see inspiration quickly follow. We’ve all seen leaders that we look up to and say, “When I grow up I want to be just like him/her!” They cause us to stretch ourselves and push toward greater levels of excellence. They are the kind of people who lead more through respect than fear. When you watch or listen to them they cause the adrenaline to pulsate in your veins. I once had a commander who could turn the most mundane task into the most meaningful thing you would ever do in life. And it wasn’t just his words. You always knew he had your best interest at heart and he believed in you. His soldiers would follow him to the gates of Hell. Interesting enough, I think if you do the first five guiding principles, you will accomplish the last. You will stay inspiring. 

Biblical Role Models for the Muddy Boots Leader

Some Biblical characters provide insight into the leadership qualities and traits of some of the most influential figures in the Bible. From Moses to Priscilla and Aquila, these role models exemplify the values that are essential for a leader who wants to serve and make disciples. Let’s take a brief look at some of these remarkable individuals and the leadership qualities that make them stand out in the Bible.

Old Testament Leaders:

Moses – Moses was a faithful servant of God who led the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt. As they journeyed through the wilderness to the Promised Land, he was with them every step of the way. He endured the same hardships and discomforts they did. Having already spent 40 years on the backside of the wilderness as a shepherd, he had the perfect experience needed for the circumstances. This was even more apparent when God disciplined the Children of Israel with 40 more years wandering in the wilderness as a result of their lack of faith. He displayed immense patience and endurance when dealing with so many “stiff necked” people. And he remained obedient to God’s commands despite the many challenges he faced. He was with his people through thick and thin and earned the title of a Muddy Boots, or should we say, a Sandy Boots Leader. 

Joshua – Joshua was the loyal attendant of Moses. He was with him during his most intimate times with God (Exodus 24:13, 33:11) and followed in his footsteps of faithfulness. His first real test came when he and eleven others were sent to spy out the Promised Land. He and Caleb were the only two who were ready and willing to trust God to enter the land even though the task looked daunting. Later, Joshua also received essential combat experience in defeating the Amalekites at Rephidim (Exodus 17:8–13). And when it became clear that Moses would not lead the people into the Promised Land, the LORD chose Joshua for the responsibility. His tutelage under Moses, unwavering faith, and reputation as a fierce warrior made him the obvious choice to lead the people. Joshua’s ascent from Moses’ Aide-de-camp to the Commander-in-Chief of the victorious military campaigns into the Promised Land demonstrated his Muddy Boots Leadership.

Deborah – Deborah was a judge and prophetess during the time of the Judges in Israel. The Word of the Lord came to Deborah to instruct Barak, a military leader in the Army of Israel, to attack their oppressive enemy. For some reason, Barak didn’t feel confident unless Deborah accompanied them on the campaign. She marched with the Army and they defeated the Canaanites. She displayed boldness and courage in her leadership. Ultimately God used her to provide strategic guidance and inspiration, and she played a key role in their victory against their oppressors. Her kids could have said, “My Mama wears army boots and they are muddy.”

David – David was a young shepherd, chosen by God to become the King of Israel. He first became known for his courage and confidence in the LORD having defeated the giant Goliath. Later under a paranoid King Saul he was exiled for several years even though he and others knew he was the successor to the throne. Twice David could have killed Saul but stayed his hand under the conviction of being loyal to God’s anointed. David also shared the same hardships with his men, living in caves, the wilderness, and even alienation from his own countrymen. David navigated tough leadership challenges including a proposed mutiny. Through it all, David’s faithfulness and patience earned him the right to be called a Muddy Boots Leader as King over all Israel.

Reflection Question: How did these Old Testament leaders demonstrate the six principles of muddy boots leadership? 

  1. Stays Focused  __________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
  2. Stays Engaged __________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
  3. Stays Relevant __________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
  4. Stays Competent __________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
  5. Stays Emotionally Connected


  1. Stays Inspiring 


New Testament Leaders:

The Apostle John – John was known as the Apostle of Love and the disciple whom Jesus loved. In John’s writings of the Gospel of John and 1,2,3 John, love is one of the major themes. But John didn’t start off being motivated by love. He was ambitious (Mark 10:35–45), exclusionary (Luke 9:49-50), and downright revengeful (Luke 9:51-56). He watched Jesus as He loved and served them. He learned the way of loving leadership and was ultimately entrusted with caring for Jesus’ mother after His death. John was transformed over time and his writings to his fellow leaders of the church are a testimony to what he thought was most important. The key to servant leadership is love. If you want to be a muddy boots leader like John, you have to learn how to love. 

The Apostle Peter – Peter was known for his courage and loyalty. But he was also often impulsive and stuck his foot in his mouth more times than not. Peter took big risks in what he said and did. And when you take big risks you’re bound to have big successes and make big blunders. Peter could be the Hero one second and a Zero the next (Matthew 16:15-23). You would think that people would be careful about writing such condemning statements about such a high profile leader of the church. Or that Peter as such a powerful leader would have his errors expunged from the Scriptures. But no, he actually illuminates them and passes on the lessons to his fellow elders (1 Peter 5:1-11). Peter walked in muddy boots, slipping and sliding and failing forward. As a follower and a leader he made a lot of mistakes but he learned from them and pressed forward.

The Apostle Paul – Paul went from Zero to Hero in the church. He started as the persecutor and ended up a martyr for the same Jesus he persecuted. He was the perfect example of suffering. He didn’t side step the tough stuff and in fact he went headlong into it. He was a leader of leaders. He was not satisfied with “building on someone else’s foundation.” But he went after the lost. Like Peter, he readily admitted to being a sinner but pressed forward nonetheless. We commonly think about all the disciples he made and the churches he started. But if we don’t look closely we’ll miss all the leaders he left in his wake. It’s fun to track all the people Paul raised up to be muddy boots leaders. He followed Jesus’ example to the tee and you see his people following his example too. 

Priscilla and Aquila –  Priscilla and Aquila were some of those leaders Paul mentored. They were a married couple who worked as tentmakers and played an influential role in the early church. Their hospitality and teaching skills played a key role in helping Apollos to understand the Gospel more fully. They are excellent role models for couples who desire to serve God together and use their skills and resources to advance His kingdom. Wherever they went, Priscilla and Aquila rolled up their sleeves, put their hands to the plow, and muddied their boots by starting a church and making disciples in their home.

Reflection Question: How did these New Testament leaders demonstrate the six principles of muddy boots leadership? 

  1. Stays Focused __________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
  2. Stays Engaged __________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
  3. Stays Relevant __________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
  1. Stays Competent __________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
  1. Stays Emotionally Connected


  1. Stays Inspiring 


More examples of muddy boots leaders 

Inspires and motivates 

In Band of Brothers by Stephen E. Ambrose, there are many stories about leading by example. One such story is about Major Richard Winters, who was the commander of Easy Company, 2nd Battalion, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division during World War II.

As a captain during the Battle of Normandy, Winters and his men were tasked with taking out a German artillery battery that was causing significant damage to Allied troops. As they approached the battery, Winters led the charge and was the first to jump into the enemy’s foxhole. He quickly took out the enemy and disabled the artillery, allowing his men to advance and secure the area.

This act of bravery and leadership inspired his men and instilled confidence in them, as they knew they had a leader who was willing to put himself on the front line and lead by example. Winters’ leadership continued throughout the war, and his bravery and selflessness in battle inspired and motivated his men.

“I Got This!”

One of the things we do after our evangelism training in churches is actually take them out into the neighborhood, engage people, and share the gospel. It was crucial for the people to see that we were not just giving them another theoretical block of instruction on witnessing. We knew they were nervous (or downright terrified) to engage lost people by talking to strangers about Jesus. And sometimes, to make matters worse, it would be either blazing hot, ice-cold, or raining. So, in order to help them get beyond the fear and discomfort, we would take them with us to model what we had just taught them.

One day, Deb, my wife, was paired up with a huge six-foot-three bear of a man who was scared spitless. Deb is a petite five-three but bold as a lioness. She asked the guy, “You want me to go first, or you got this?” To which he nervously replied, “Uh, you go ahead.” Deb knocked on the door, was warmly greeted, and shared the gospel. Afterwards, she asked the guy with her if he needed to watch her again. He replied, “No, I got this. This is too easy!” The power of leading by example inspires and motivates.

Leading with compassion

Leaders who have experienced “blood, sweat, and tears” tend to be more empathetic with the people they’re leading. A good example is Stonewall Jackson, a Confederate general during the American Civil War. In his book “Rebel Yell”, S.C. Gwynne, describes Jackson’s compassion towards wounded soldiers:

“Jackson had a deep and abiding concern for his men, especially the wounded, and he made a point of visiting the hospitals and field stations where they were treated. He was known to have wept at the sight of their suffering, and he spent hours sitting with them, reading to them, and praying with them.”

Jackson’s kindness extended from his soldiers, to wounded enemy soldiers, children, and even his horse. The contrast between being a courageous warrior and a shepherding commander won him the respect and admiration of confederate and union soldiers alike.

Leadership is About the Head, Hands, AND the Heart

My friend had “DONE” written all over him. I had been warning about burnout for months and now her claws were deep in my friend’s body, soul, and mind. As we talked about the way back to a healthy pace and perspective, I shared my experiences with burnout having been there only two years prior. As I described my disappointment and disillusionment of having to go through the process of recovery alone (besides of course my loving wife’s support). I told my friend with no little emotion; “I’ll be darned if you have to go through this by yourself like I did!” Now that’s the strongest French word I use but I wanted to communicate my love and commitment to my friend and fellow co-laborer. I would not let him navigate the darkness alone. So we walked together for the next year and a half and he is now back in the saddle making disciples. One of the treasured statements he made during his recovery was, “I’ve slowed down so much but I’ve never been more effective in my ministry.”

Spiritual leaders who haven’t experienced the extreme ups and downs of ministry tend to underestimate the emotional toll it takes on disciple makers. It’s easy to pontificate about the theories of the amusement park, it’s another thing to ride the rollercoaster. As leaders who have been “bloodied” we know that God isn’t always interested in following our neatly scribed plans and holding to our “Big Vision” time schedules. Those of us with experience tend to speak in measured tones and are quick to empathize with those who are knee deep in the fight. We know Muddy Boots are intimately familiar with Bloody Boots. We can be more compassionate because we’ve been there and done that.

Flexible and adaptable

Having muddy boots experience, leads to flexibility and adaptability for the use of methods in different contexts and situations. Let’s look at how one general’s “on the ground experience” paid off by adapting tactics during WWII.

In his book, “The Thousand-Mile War,” Brian Garfield chronicles the Aleutian Islands campaign during World War II, the use of patrol boats in bad weather was a major concern for both General Buckner and the Navy. The Aleutian Islands are known for their harsh weather conditions, which often include high winds, heavy rain, and dense fog. These conditions made it difficult for ships and landing craft to navigate safely and land troops on the islands.

General Buckner believed that the patrol boats, which were smaller and more maneuverable than landing craft or the larger Navy ships, could be used to transport troops and supplies in bad weather when other ships and craft could not operate safely. However, the Navy was initially reluctant to use the patrol boats in these conditions because they were not designed for this kind of mission. Despite the Navy’s reservations, Buckner convinced them to use the patrol boats and they proved to be a valuable asset in the campaign. 

The use of patrol boats in bad weather was a significant factor in the successful capture of the Japanese-held islands of Attu and Kiska. It demonstrated the importance of adaptability and flexibility in military operations, as well as the need to use all available resources effectively, even if they were not originally designed for a specific purpose. Buckner recognized the importance of using all available resources effectively in war and was willing to adapt his tactics to the changing conditions of the battlefield.

Similarly, in making disciples of Jesus, it is important to recognize the unique context of each situation and adapt our methods accordingly. This may involve using different approaches depending on the cultural, social, or religious background of the people we are trying to reach. We never violate Biblical principles but we do adapt the methods. Just as Buckner was willing to modify his plans and tactics to achieve his objectives, we too must be willing to adjust our methods to effectively share the gospel and disciple people.

Adapt, Improvise, and Overcome

I was recently discussing the challenges of ministry with a friend and colleague who relocated from Oklahoma City to New York City. He mentioned that while many of the barriers in the two cities were similar, there were significant differences that were causing a serious shift in their ministry tactics. The two significant differences were how busy people were and travel times. People in OKC were busy, but the pace in NYC was absolutely frenetic. To make matters worse, traveling in NYC takes an incredible amount of time and effort. Like most mega-metropolises, it takes an hour to travel 10 miles, and going to a meeting on a weeknight was out of the question.

Assessing the situation by actually trying to make disciples and plant churches in the city, they knew they had to adapt. They turned to technology and began to meet and train online using video conferencing. It wasn’t as good as face-to-face, but it was getting the job done. They had to adapt their methods to their new setting. The only way they could have discovered these differences was by being on the ground and participating in hands-on discipleship. 

Constantly learning (even from the least)

One example of a general who included the lowest rank in decision making is General Stanley McChrystal, who served as the commander of US forces in Afghanistan from 2009 to 2010.

During his time in Afghanistan, McChrystal implemented a strategy called “counterinsurgency,” which emphasized the importance of building relationships with the local population and understanding their needs and concerns.

To implement this strategy, McChrystal recognized the importance of including soldiers at all levels in the decision-making process. He established a regular meeting called a “vulnerability assessment,” where soldiers from the lowest ranks were invited to share their observations and insights about the local population and the effectiveness of US military efforts.

McChrystal also implemented a system called “distributed operations,” which gave soldiers at the lowest levels more autonomy and decision-making power. This allowed soldiers on the ground to make decisions based on their firsthand knowledge of the local situation, rather than relying solely on directives from higher-ups. He called some of these soldiers who were given authority to act on the situation at hand “Strategic Corporals.”

By including soldiers at all levels in the decision-making process, McChrystal was able to gain a better understanding of the situation on the ground and make more effective decisions. His approach to leadership and decision making is often cited as an example of effective leadership that empowers and values the contributions of soldiers at all levels.

My son, my teacher

I invited my son to a meeting with a guy who wanted me to disciple him. I wanted to model for my son how I did initial assessments to determine whether I would take the guy on as a mentee. The meeting lasted an hour and a half and I was satisfied that the guy probably wanted something I wasn’t able to provide and we wouldn’t schedule anything on a routine basis. Then I asked my son, “So what do you think? What did you learn from that encounter?” I fully expected him to agree with my assessment and I would praise him (and myself) for being so astute. His reply absolutely shocked me. “Dad,” he said, “Did you know you guys talked for an hour and a half and never mentioned Jesus.” OUCH! You know it’s hard being corrected, but by your son? On one of your highest values? On something you should have down cold? Wow, that stung but it was so good to hear and I really was excited that my son was putting Jesus at the center of our discussions as well. As leaders we need to keep learning, even from those we least expect to teach us.

Developing a culture of competence

“How to Eat Soup with a Knife” written by John Nagl is a book that describes the challenges faced by the US military during the counterinsurgency campaigns in Vietnam and Somalia. The book provides examples of both good and poor leadership during these campaigns. One example of competent leadership from the book is the story of US Marine Corps Lieutenant Colonel John W. Ripley.

As a young leader Ripley was given the task of destroying a bridge over the Song Thu Bon River in Vietnam. The bridge was a vital link in the North Vietnamese supply line, and its destruction would have a significant impact on the enemy’s ability to resupply their troops. Despite the difficult mission, Ripley showed great courage, determination, and strategic thinking and was able to inspire his team to success.

Nagl describes Ripley’s role in destroying the bridge:

“Ripley’s heroism in single-handedly destroying the Dong Ha Bridge is one of the most compelling stories of the Vietnam War. Hanging by his arms and legs under the bridge, in full view of enemy troops, he used his bare hands to set explosives that would sever the bridge’s girders. The detonation succeeded, denying the North Vietnamese Army an important supply line across the river and earning Ripley the Navy Cross.” 

Nagl later describes Ripley’s men’s response to his leadership.

 “As word of his heroic act spread, his fellow Marines were in awe. They had seen firsthand the danger he faced, the courage he displayed, and the skill he used to defeat the enemy. They knew that the success of their mission was due in no small part to his leadership and bravery” 

Just Another Ministry Conference?

Initially, I wasn’t very excited about attending a particular ministry conference, despite receiving an invitation. My schedule was already full and the topics being covered were familiar to me as I had studied them for the past two years. I felt like I needed practical experience instead of more theoretical training. As a result, I declined the invitation.

However, my perspective changed after I received an email outlining the prerequisites for attendance: a 40-day fast and reading the New Testament ten times in the next three months. This level of commitment and dedication impressed me, and I realized that these leaders might be serious about making a difference in their lives and the lives of others. Now I was pretty excited and decided to attend the conference.

When leaders raise the bar and demonstrate their competence not only to teach the topics but practice what they teach, it inspires those they lead to strive for excellence and follow their example.

The Dark Side 

I want to take some time to describe the “Dark Side” of being a muddy boots leader or the things that might trip us up along the way. I’ve shared many positive examples but I’ve learned just as much from bad examples too. I’ve learned what “Not” to do.

Overdoing the Six Principles

Believe it or not, you can over do the six principles of Muddy Boots Leadership. As leaders we can actually miss the most important part of our role in the mission by trying too hard to do someone else’s job. Or we could get so wrapped up in getting our boots muddy we lose sight of the big picture and we never accomplish the mission. As an infantry platoon sergeant I used to tell brand new lieutenants, “If we have to fire our rifles in combat, something went terribly wrong.” It’s the privates, corporals, and squad leaders that need to do all the shooting. We need to be leading!  We need to keep these principles in tension with our ultimate role of getting the job done.

Tunnel Vision – Leaders that get overly focused on one way or one goal can actually forget what the overarching objective is. This is why the US Army teaches leaders the “Commander’s Intent.” The Commander’s Intent is a concise statement that gives subordinate leaders a clear description of the end-state. I used to teach Ranger students to begin their Commander’s Intent with the statement, “If all else fails, do this…” We would use the example of a mission to secure a bridge to move troops across a river. When the company commander got to the bridge they found it heavily defended but also discovered a ford just one mile downstream from the bridge. If the Commander’s Intent is “If all else fails, find a way to cross the river.” there’s no need to waste resources and manpower attacking the bridge. If you as a spiritual leader find easier and simpler ways to make committed disciples of Jesus, by all means throw tradition (not principles) out the window. The Commander’s Intent is to make disciples!

Over Engaged – We can get in the way. Our presence can actually paralyze leaders that are afraid to mess up in front of us or annoy leaders that resent us always looking over their shoulder. There is the ministry of presence and there is the ministry of absence. Your people need to know that you’re with them but they also need to know you trust them. When I was a chaplain, I flew a flag from the antenna of my Humvee with a cross on it. The troops would tell me they liked that flag and you may be guessing wrong as to why. I drove a Command Hummer like the Battalion Commander’s. The only difference was my flag. So when they saw my vehicle they would say, “Oh, it’s just the chaplain.” In other words, the Old Man is not going to be in our hair.

Stifling Self Discovery – You probably can’t ever be too relevant but you sure can rescue leaders too soon with your knowledge and your actions. If you come off as a “Know it All” or the “Shell Answer Man” you will not only alienate those you are leading but you also rob them of the opportunity to think through things themselves. Self discovery is a huge part of developing young leaders. That’s why one of the most important tools in your leadership kitbag is the question. Jesus was the master of the question. He would even answer a question with a question. We may know the answer but we have to give the folks we are discipling the opportunity to find out for themselves (even if it means failure at times). 

Experts at Demoralization – Like relevance, you probably can’t be too competent. But you can be a show off. Sometimes leaders feel the need to put their folks in a headlock with their expertise to let them know who’s the boss. You can do this physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. As a chaplain I would always go to the rifle range to hang out with the soldiers. I never felt the need to advise them on marksmanship (even though I was a sniper as an enlisted guy). It was just not the kind of thing that I needed to do for my guys especially since, as a chaplain, I didn’t even carry a rifle. You can just hear the poor trooper, “I shot so poorly even the chaplain was coaching me.” Now that would be demoralizing! 

Over Emotionally Connected – Commanders in the army have to make tough calls and sometimes those decisions cost people their lives. It’s a part of war. As spiritual leaders we are asking people to do some tough things as well. We have a single gal that we love like a daughter. She lived with us for two years being discipled by Deb and I. Later, we would spend the first months of the Covid Pandemic together. As you can imagine, spending all that time together we got close to her. But then it was time to head back to Egypt as a missionary. Think about that for a second. A single gal, you love like a daughter, heading to a muslim country, to share the gospel. You think we might have been a little fearful for her safety? Yeah, just a bit! But we knew the calling God had on her life and we could not afford to be over protective. We pray for her daily but we know the mission comes before our anxiousness for her. 

Inspire Not Hype – Sometimes leaders are trying too hard to motivate people. I call this “selling woof tickets.” It’s the art of over hyping something. Catalysts tend to do this with their exaggerated rhetoric. Young folks may fall for this once or twice but they eventually learn to be wary of all the hot air. People can see through this stuff. They know you’re trying to whip them into a hot lather and making things out to be more than they really are. Don’t exaggerate and make sure you reveal the challenges and potential dangers as well as the benefits.

When Leaders Avoid the Mud

As an Army chaplain, my mission was to “Provide and Perform Religious Support” for my soldiers. It was my duty not only to provide religious services and education to the Protestant soldiers of my unit but also to those of other religious beliefs. I performed the ministry dictated by my theological convictions and then found someone else to cover down on the other religions represented in the unit.

During our deployment to Kuwait, the challenge of “Providing” religious support was significant because we were isolated in the middle of the desert. I had many Catholic soldiers who wanted a priest to perform services and counseling. In the first month, I was fortunate enough to appropriate an Army Chaplain from another unit who was also a Catholic Priest. He was enthusiastic about serving our soldiers, and I felt like our troops were getting what they needed. However, he redeployed back to the States after a short time, which left me with a significant gap in the religious support I could provide.

I needed to find a solution quickly, and I knew there was an Air Force Base about an hour’s drive by Humvee. So, I radioed a message to the chaplain at Ali Al Salem Air Base and set up a meeting. As I drove onto the base, it was a stark difference from the life my soldiers and I were living. The first thing I noticed is that once I left my vehicle, I never touched the sand again. There were pallets with rubber mats for walkways between the prefab buildings with showers and latrines. When I walked into the chaplain’s office, I was greeted with air conditioning, carpeted floors, coffee, and cookies. My unit had no such luxuries, just tanks, tents, and sand. They greeted me warmly and asked how they could serve. I told them I needed a Catholic Priest once every two weeks and that I would coordinate air transport by Army helicopter.

The Air Force Chaplains heartily agreed to support our soldiers, but then asked where we were located. I told them we were three kilometers from the Iraqi border and living in tents. As soon as I explained the potential danger and the living conditions, it was a hard “NO.” I drove back to our FOB (Forward Operating Base) empty-handed.

Then I remembered that there was a MEU (Marine Expeditionary Unit) operating in the Persian Gulf. They were on a ship just off the Kuwaiti coast. I got on the radio and contacted the Navy chaplain serving the Marine Corps, and sure enough, he was a Franciscan Priest. When they flew him in, we were surprised he wasn’t wearing the Marine Corps Utility Uniform, but instead, the typical Franciscan hooded brown robe with white rope and all. Now that was a sight to see getting off a helicopter in the middle of the desert! Our admiration for the Navy chaplain was sky-high, not so much for the Air Force. (I’m sure this was an isolated case and most Air Force chaplains would have jumped at a chance to serve my troops.)

Not only was there a stark difference between our living conditions with our sister services but a stark difference in leadership. Where one was unwilling to share our dangers and discomfort but the other was not only willing but went the extra mile to serve us. That, my friends, is what muddy boots leadership looks like.

When it’s All Theory 

Don’t become a Theorist, always pontificating about what we should do but not doing it yourself. It’s easy to fall into this trap as a Christian leader because we hold the Teacher/Preacher in such high esteem. If you find yourself preparing to teach something you haven’t practiced in a long time, make doing it a part of your preparation. I have occasionally been asked the question about our simple Bible studies, “Where’s the meat?” To which I reply, “The meat is the application of the knowledge, not the knowledge by itself.” You want something to chew on? Apply the spiritual truths you are learning and teaching. 

Another thing you can do to avoid becoming a Theorist is by not just telling but actually showing people how to do something. Model spiritual truths for the folks you’re discipling like Jesus did. How many times have disciples of Jesus been told they need to read their Bibles and pray daily and they are still not doing it? Set an appointment with them on a Saturday morning and spend time with Jesus together, showing them how you do it. But Chuck, I have a hundred people in my congregation! Pull some of your leaders aside and model how to model. Now you’re multiplying your efforts!

I got to be honest with you, I’m really tired of the same old sermons dressed in different clothes that are still not transforming people into the likeness of Christ. I think the main problem is our training model. The sermon isn’t cutting it and we know it because people aren’t engaged in living out the life Jesus has commanded. We need to change our tactics. We need to quit hiding behind the pulpit (or whiteboard) and get the people out of the pews and into the fight. Sure, preach away. But then get down in the mud and “just do it” with your people.

Are you teaching things you’ve never done?

Getting in the way…of Jesus

I found that the best leaders are good followers. They understand what authority looks like and are able to trust their leader’s guidance and directives. It reminds me of Jesus’ interaction with the Centurion. 

When he had entered Capernaum, a centurion came forward to him, appealing to him, “Lord, my servant is lying paralyzed at home, suffering terribly.” And he said to him, “I will come and heal him.” But the centurion replied, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof, but only say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I too am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. And I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes, and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” When Jesus heard this, he marveled and said to those who followed him, “Truly, I tell you, with no one in Israel have I found such faith. I tell you, many will come from east and west and recline at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, while the sons of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” And to the centurion Jesus said, “Go; let it be done for you as you have believed.” And the servant was healed at that very moment. (Matthew 8:5-13)

Notice the Centurion saw himself as a leader but a leader that understood followership and was willing to submit himself under Jesus’ authority. Jesus equated this understanding and obedience as “faith.” The Centurion trusted Jesus to lead him. 

Now here’s the kicker for us as Christian Leaders. We need to make sure that people see their ultimate authority in Jesus. You will have influence, sure, but ultimate authority? No Way! (Besides we make for a lousy Holy Spirit) We need to keep pointing people to Jesus. I call people getting in between Jesus and His disciples a “Souler Eclipse.” They’re casting a shadow and blocking the Son’s light. (Here’s a link to more about that: A Lunar Lesson in Spiritual Leadership (Part 1)

Leading alone

Generally speaking we think of an individual leader that sets an example for others to follow. But what if the hero of the story is not just one but many. What if churches actually became a muddy boots example for other believers and even whole churches to emulate. I believe it can be done and is actually being done in many places around the world. We keep hearing stories about the radical commitment to Jesus coming from China and India and other places that have inspired us. We see that the Biblical standards for sharing the gospel, being a disciple of Jesus and making disciples is actually achievable. The church in other places and maybe even in your own neighborhood has become a corporate muddy boots leader!

Quite frankly, I think that’s what it’s going to take to move the 21st century western church out of its mediocrity and into the fiery commitment of the first. We need to rise up, raise the bar, and be the Bride that is prepared to meet the Groom. We need to show others what Christlike love looks like, what devotion to the Word of God and prayer looks like, and what looking for and loving the lost looks like. This will ultimately bring glory to God and fulfill His words that “the gates of Hell will not prevail against it.”

But in order for that to happen we will need men and women who have the vision and wear with all to create these kinds of churches that impact the whole “Army of God.” We need whole churches who have earned their stripes (and stars) by being in the trenches. They are regularly sharing the gospel. They are knee deep in the Word of God and praying like everything depends on God’s hand to move. They need to love in the toughest circumstances and the toughest people. And they need a faith in Christ that is unshakable as they march arm in arm with those God has entrusted to their pastoral care. We need churches with muddy boots.

Muddy boots leaders also have come to grips with the fact that they are not the only people (besides Jesus) that are having an influence in a person’s life. They see leadership as a more distributed influence rather than a top down hierarchy. And they know how to leverage that fact. Take Jesus and John the Baptist’s relationship. Both affirmed one anothers leadership of the people they were serving.

John the Baptist

Now a discussion arose between some of John’s disciples and a Jew over purification. And they came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, he who was with you across the Jordan, to whom you bore witness—look, he is baptizing, and all are going to him.” John answered, “A person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given him from heaven. You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, ‘I am not the Christ, but I have been sent before him.’ The one who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is now complete. He must increase, but I must decrease. (John 3:25-30)


As these men were going away, Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John, “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind? But what did you go out to see? A man dressed in soft clothing? Those who wear soft clothing are in kings’ palaces! But what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and one who is more than a prophet. This is the one about whom it is written,



Truly I say to you, among those born of women there has not arisen anyone greater than John the Baptist! Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and violent men take it by force. For all the prophets and the Law prophesied until John. And if you are willing to accept it, John himself is Elijah who was to come.  He who has ears to hear, let him hear. (Matthew 11:7-15)

Instead of trying to “one up” each other, they affirmed each other’s contribution to the kingdom of God. This is essential for leaders to grasp. We are a body formed by many parts and having only One Head (1 Corinthians 11-12). Everyone has a unique contribution to make. 

The muddy boots leader is busy equipping and promoting other leaders (Ephesians 4:11-13) to increase the workforce (Luke 10:2). In fact, these kinds of leaders are so mission minded they are setting their followers up to do even greater works than they did (John 14:12). In his book “Turn the Ship Around!” L. David Marquet, a submarine commander, describes success as watching those in his command get promoted beyond him well after he retired from the Navy. The first task is to get people to shoulder height with you. Then it’s walking with them as peers. But ultimately we want them to “out strip” us in their skills and abilities to lead the next generation. Our goal is not to be remembered but for our folks to remember the goal, reach the world for Christ. 

Conclusion – Muddy boots leadership and vision – Abram’s Charter

In the latter stages of the Vietnam War and the late 1970s, the United States Army experienced significant turmoil. Various issues, such as a lack of discipline, disrespect for authority, low morale, and poor unit cohesion, reached an unprecedented high. Drug and alcohol abuse was rampant. Sexually transmitted diseases were prevalent among soldiers. And racially charged fights occurred frequently. Commanders struggled to maintain control and address the numerous disciplinary problems, leaving little time for essential training. In short the Army was a trainwreck and in need of a complete overhaul.

In 1974, General Creighton W. Abrams had a vision for change. He issued a directive to establish the Ranger Battalion as a model infantry unit. His vision was to create a force that would serve as an inspiration and role model for the rest of the Army, setting the standard for excellence in training, tactics, and combat readiness. These were to be the muddy boots leaders that would eventually impact the rest of the Army. The Ranger Battalion was to be an elite unit composed of highly motivated and skilled soldiers, trained in the art of warfare, and capable of operating in any environment and under any circumstances. General Abrams’ charter to form the Ranger Battalion was a bold initiative that changed the way the Army approached training and operations and by the late 1980s influenced every soldier in the U.S. Army.

To achieve his goal, General Abrams handpicked the best officers and enlisted personnel from across the Army to form the Ranger Battalion. The initial group of soldiers underwent a rigorous selection process that tested their physical and mental capabilities, as well as their commitment to the Army and its mission. The selected officers and soldiers underwent an intensive training program that covered a wide range of military skills, including marksmanship, hand-to-hand combat, navigation, survival techniques and many others.

The training program was designed to push the soldiers to their limits, both physically and mentally. They were subjected to long hours of grueling physical training, often in extreme weather and terrain. They were also trained in the use of the latest weapons and equipment. The goal of the training program was to create soldiers who were not only physically fit and highly skilled but also mentally tough and able to perform under pressure.

The Rangers were deployed to various locations around the world to carry out missions that required the highest level of skill, discipline, and professionalism. They were often called upon to carry out high-risk missions, such as rescuing hostages, securing airfields, and conducting strategic reconnaissance. The Rangers quickly established a reputation as a force to be reckoned with, capable of operating in any environment and under any circumstances.

The success of the Rangers did not go unnoticed, and it soon became clear that the unit was having a positive influence on the rest of the Army. Soon every single soldier was singing, “I want to be an Airborne Ranger…” during their morning runs in Basic and Advanced training. And whether they really wanted to or not, they continued singing the reframe when they got to their units.

Through the Ranger’s example it became unacceptable across the Army to call a Sergeant “Sarge” which had been popular since before WWII. It became a symbol of disrespect and would no longer be tolerated. The Rangers enforced the Army standard of standing at the ridgid position of attention when addressing an officer or parade rest when addressing a Non-Commissioned Officer (a Sergeant). The Ranger Battalions were reinvigorating a high standard of military bearing that had long been lost.

Units begin to increase expectations in training by making it more challenging by instituting five mile runs, twelve mile road marches, all weather training, reverse cycle training at night, and whole battalion runs in formation together as a result of the Ranger’s influence. And although not every unit desired or was capable of doing the kind of training the Rangers routinely executed, the net effect on the Army significantly increased combat readiness.

Esprit-de-corps improved Army wide as well. The Rangers instituted the word “Hooah.”  It was our enthusiastic response to any orders or instructions. By the late 80s every soldier was responding to their superiors with a resounding “HOOAH!” (Whether they meant it or not). As Rangers, every morning before physical training we were required to recite the Ranger Creed. Soon other special units like the parachute riggers had a creed. By 2003 every soldier was required to know and recite the Soldier’s Creed. The Ranger Battalions had a unit coin with Ranger insignia stamped on it. The coin was to be carried at all times, whether in uniform or civilian attire to authenticate a sense of belonging and pride in the unit. By the early 90s, almost every unit in the Army had their own unique coin.

The Ranger’s even influence the general appearance and grooming of most of the soldiers. All Rangers were required to cut their hair extremely short, bald sides and no more than two inches on the top. By the late 80’s it was very popular for male regular Army soldiers to be sporting the Rangers’ “High & Tight” haircut. (Note: SPEC OPS units now sport long hair and beards to “blend in” with the indigenous population.) At the time the Army wore standard OD (olive drab) permanent press fatigues. The only units that routinely wore camouflage fatigues were Special Forces and Rangers (Airborne units occasionally wore “Cammies” when on various missions).  By the early 80s every soldier was wearing the camouflage BDUs (Battle Dress Uniform). 

In 1990 Saddam Hussian decided to invade Kuwait. He picked the absolute worst time in American history to mess with the US Army. In just 42 days General Schwarzkopf absolutely rolled up the fifth largest army in the world with the brillant aid of all sister services, Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps. Had the Army remained in its dismal condition from the mid 70s, this would have never been possible. General Abrams’ vision to create a model infantry unit that would influence the whole institution had become a reality. The Ranger Battalions had sent their muddy boots leaders all over the Army. The training, tactics, and high standards of the Ranger Battalion had infected other units, and eventually the Ranger ethos of excellence and professionalism was impacting every soldier. This may have been transparent to many in the Army at the time but for those of us who knew Abram’s Charter and lived it, it was abundantly evident and awesome to be a part of.

In 2001 General Abrams’ vision was fully realized when Army Chief of Staff, General Eric Shinseki, unwittingly decided to make the black beret the standard headgear for all soldiers, citing the importance of instilling a sense of pride and unity across the Army. The decision was controversial with most Rangers because at the time the black beret belonged to the Rangers and them alone. But the Rangers’ feeling aside, it was supremely evident to anyone who was familiar with “Abrams’ Charter” that this was the “icing on the cake.” To be sure, the Rangers were not the sole reason for the Army’s huge turn-around but they were a major muddy boots contributor. General Abrams was a great catalyst for getting the Army back into condition to fight the Nation’s wars.

Could you and your church be a catalyst to make these kinds of significant changes in Christendom? 

The choice is ours

Now we are armed and dangerous! We have a chance to be on the attack rather than defense or even worse just lick our wounds in the MASH. We have the opportunity to lead the people of God from the front and say “follow me” like Jesus and Paul did. (Matthew 4:19. 1 Corinthians 11:1) We can show them what to do and not just tell them what to do. We can turn pure theory into dynamic flexible applications to advance the kingdom of God in our little realm without violating the Biblical principles of disciple making. We can penetrate deep into lostness rather than just trade sheep. Our churches can inspire others to raise the bar and be the kind of disciples that actually obey the commands of Jesus. Will you get your boots muddy?

Jesus’ Disciples, Not Mine

The Gospel Sync | #28 | John 3:22-36

Rather Listen? Click here…

Welcome Back! Today, we’ll be discussing the Gospel of John and competition in ministry.

So let’s dive in.

(Click here to get a copy of the Gospel Sync document) 

The Gospel – John 3:22-36

After this, Jesus and His disciples went into the Judean countryside, where He spent some time with them and baptized. Now John was also baptizing at Aenon near Salim, because the water was plentiful there, and people kept coming to be baptized. (Because John had not yet been thrown into prison.)

Then a dispute arose between John’s disciples and a certain Jew over the issue of ceremonial washing. So John’s disciples came to him and said, “Look Rabbi, the One who was with you beyond the Jordan, the One you testified about—He is baptizing, and everyone is going to Him.” John replied, “A man can receive only what is given him from heaven. You yourselves can testify that I said, ‘I am not the Christ, but am sent ahead of Him.’ The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom stands and listens for him, and is overjoyed to hear the bridegroom’s voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete. He must increase; I must decrease.

The One who comes from above is above all. The one who is from the earth belongs to the earth and speaks as one from the earth. The One who comes from heaven is above all. He testifies to what He has seen and heard, yet no one accepts His testimony. Whoever accepts His testimony has certified that God is truthful. For the One whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for God gives the Spirit without limit. The Father loves the Son and has placed all things in His hands. Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life. Whoever rejects the Son will not see life. Instead, the wrath of God remains on him.”

My Thoughts 

The spirit of competition kicked in with John’s disciples. “Hey John, the guy across the river is stealing all our sheep. What are we going to do?” Happens every time. Why are we so afraid of others’ influence or success? Shouldn’t we be rejoicing when we see the kingdom of God producing fruit even when it’s under the branches of another tree? John the Baptist got this right. He recognized who Jesus was and the work that He was doing. He submitted gladly to the sovereign work of God and reveled in Jesus’ success. 

“But Chuck, you don’t understand, the church across the street, they’re taking all our people. If they were Jesus, I would gladly give up my sheep but they’re NOT Jesus.” 

I’d like to point out three things;

  1. They are not our sheep, they belong to Jesus. Jesus, Himself, makes this abundantly clear. 

“My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.” (John.10.27-30)

  1. They’re not our disciples, they’re Jesus’ disciples. When Jesus gave us His Great Commission, did He command us to make disciples of us or Him? This is why I never call people MY disciples. I might call them my Timothys or peeps or something else but I leave the term of endearment of “disciple” to be held by Jesus and Him alone. Disciples belong to Jesus. Besides, who wants to see little Chuck Woods running around!?
  1. We aren’t the only ones discipling these people. One of the most common illusions we embrace is the idea that we have exclusive influence in a person’s life as their mentor. Really? So no one else should be speaking into their life? No one else guiding and directing them to Jesus? Even if we tried to have “exclusive rights” to a person, it would never happen unless we were living on a desert island with them. We need to recognize and celebrate the multifaceted contributions of the body. (Just try to tell a believing grandma to keep her spiritual paws off your project, uh, I mean mentee) 

So how do we “cast out” the spirit of competition? First, by acknowledging the people we are discipling, they all belong to Jesus. We should have an open hand with these relationships. He puts people in and He takes them out. He is the Great Shepherd. He knows what His disciples need better than we do. Second, we need to be sensitive to our brothers and sisters. Are you a veteran disciple maker with a big flock? Why are you going to step in and take away the only little lamb they have and rob the young disciple maker of their experience? Why not play the “Cool Uncle” and affirm what the other laborer is doing like Jesus did with John the Baptist. Dialogue with the other disciple maker, work together, give space for someone else to learn their trade.

But what about sheep being abused? Now that’s a different story. If you ever want to see a pastor go prophet, mess with the sheep! If you see spiritual abuse happening, by all means step in and rescue the flock from the wolf in shepherd’s clothing. More on this at a later time.

My Story

When Deb and I were stationed at Fort Benning, GA. we saw the wonderful hand of God move in our midst. We had disciples of Jesus crawling all over one another. We decided we needed to think a little more strategically. So we gathered the leaders together and carved up the geography of Ft. Benning by drawing lines on a map and doled out the pieces to each leader. It didn’t take long for that little act of “brilliance” to cause conflict. It seems a guy was led to Christ in one territory and ate in the Mess Hall in another. When the two leaders realized they were both trying to recruit the poor guy to their respective Bible studies, a tug-of-war ensued. They were miffed at each other for “stealing their guy.” I took our map back out and quickly erased the solid lines we had drawn and replaced them with dotted ones. We then had a great discussion on how the gospel knows no boundaries, Jesus owns all the sheep, and we as His undershepherds need to be sensitive to one another and communicate.

Our Action Plan

So what do we need to work on?

  • Are we affirming other disciple makers or tearing them down to make ourselves look good?
  • Are we a team of leaders (elders, plural) or are we the “only show in town?”
  • Do we have an open hand before the Father as He places people in and takes them out

Our stewardship of the flock requires us to lead and love well. We have to trust God with where He leads His sheep. We need to avoid controlling and competing.

Yellow Lights

The Gospel Sync | #27 | John 3:1–21

Rather Listen? Click here…

Welcome Back! Today, we’ll be discussing the Gospel of John to see how Jesus addressed those who are curious but not yet ready to repent and believe.

So let’s dive in.

(Click here to get a copy of the Gospel Sync document) 

The Gospel – John 3:1–21

Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews. He came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher who has come from God. Because no one could do the signs You are doing if God weren’t with him.” Jesus replied, “Truly, truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.” Nicodemus asked, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter his mother’s womb a second time to be born, can he?” Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. Flesh is born of flesh, but spirit is born of the Spirit. Do not be amazed that I said, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes. You hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” 

Nicodemus asked. “How can this be?” Jesus answered “You are Israel’s teacher, and you do not understand these things? Truly, truly, I tell you, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, and yet you people do not accept our testimony. If I have told you about earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you about heavenly things? No one has ascended into heaven except the One who descended from heaven—the Son of Man. Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in Him will have eternal life. For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that everyone who believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him. Whoever believes in Him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe has already been condemned, because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come into the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever practices the truth comes into the Light, so that it may be seen clearly that what he has done has been accomplished in God.”

My Thoughts 

When we are training folks on how to share the gospel, we talk about three responses to the truth; Red, Yellow, and Green Lights (of course there is a fourth, the one who already believes). A Red Light is someone who flat out rejects Christ and His gospel. The second, the Yellow Light, is one who is curious but not yet ready to receive Christ. And the last is the Green Light, one who is ready and willing to repent and believe. Today we are talking about how Jesus handled a Yellow Light, namely, Nicodemus.

There are several indicators that Nicodemus was a Yellow Light;

  1. He was afraid and came to Jesus secretly at night
  2. He’s asking questions
  3. He’s only thinking on a physical plain, not a spiritual one
  4. He doesn’t understand spiritual truth (which can only be revealed by God)
  5. He doesn’t believe yet (Jesus said of him, “you people do not accept our testimony”)
  6. He is not yet born again by the Spirit

So what do you do with a Yellow Light? What did Jesus do? He continued the conversation by sharing spiritual truth. And Jesus didn’t make it easy on Nicodemus. Jesus used a couple of mysterious spiritual metaphors to communicate. This will reveal what God is doing in someone’s life. We know that spiritual hunger is created by the Father drawing someone to Himself and His Son. This is the only way a person can understand, repent, and believe.

No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day. (John 6:44)

So this should take a lot of weight off our shoulders. Salvation is the responsibility of God and the person hearing the message. Jesus kept giving spiritual truth as long as Nicodemus would receive it. He kept the dialog going. Although Nicodemus became an ally, (John 7.50-51, 19.39) we don’t really know if he ever repented and believed. Tradition has it that he did.  

My Story

When I encounter a Yellow Light I begin to introduce them to Jesus by sharing a set of stories called “The Stories of Hope.” When my respiratory therapist began coming to our house twice a month, I shared the gospel with him. He wasn’t ready to repent and believe yet so the next time he came I shared the story of Zaccheaus with him. Each story highlights an interaction with Jesus that leads to repentance and belief. But the punchline of each story is how Jesus responds to their faith. In every story, although in a slightly different way, Jesus makes a proclamation that this individual is now right with God. 

I worked my way through all seven stories with Respiratory Rick, as we like to call him. Although he didn’t respond in faith, I believe he has a clear idea of who Jesus is and what He wants Rick to do. I kept the discussion going, giving more information about Jesus and His gospel. I treated him as a Yellow Light until he turned Red. I’m still praying for Rick and hoping one day he will come into the kingdom.

Here’s a couple of helpful tools;

7 Stories of Hope – Click here… 

The Tax Collector – Luke 19:1-10 

The Sinner’s Prayer – Luke 18:9-14 

Repentant Woman – Luke 7:36-50

The Prodigal Son – Luke 15.11-24

The Woman at the Well – John 4:4-29 

The Big Fisherman – Luke 5:1-11 

The Thief on the Cross – Luke 23:33-43 

Traffic Light Responses to the Gospel (made by Merari)

Our Action Plan

What is your plan for helping Yellow Lights make an informed decision to repent and believe in the gospel of Jesus Christ? Here’s some suggestions on how to prepare yourself and others;

  • Read through the Gospels and Acts and identify the Yellow Lights and how the messenger dealt with them
  • Practice going through the Stories of Hope with someone to get the hang of leading a “Yellow Light Discussion”
  • Keep sharing the gospel and look for the three responses 

A big part of disciple making is to be trained and train others. That’s what Jesus did with His twelve, He made them fishers of people. Make sure you stay on the cutting edge of the mission and know how to train others to do the same.

Modeling Anger

The Gospel Sync | #26 | John 2:13-25

Rather Listen? Click here…

Welcome Back! Today, we’ll be looking at the Gospel of John to discover how Jesus got angry. 

So let’s dive in.

(Click here to get a copy of the Gospel Sync document) 

The Gospel – John 2:13-25

When the Jewish Passover was near, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple courts He found men selling oxen, sheep, and doves, and money changers seated at their tables. So He made a whip out of cords and drove all from the temple courts, both sheep and oxen. He poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. To those selling doves He said, “Get these out of here! How dare you turn My Father’s house into a marketplace!” His disciples remembered that it is written:

“Zeal for Your house will consume Me.”

On account of this, the Jews demanded, “What sign can You show us to prove Your authority to do these things?” Jesus answered, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up again.” The Jews replied, “This temple took forty-six years to build and You are going to raise it up in three days?” But Jesus was speaking about the temple of His body. (So when He was raised from the dead, His disciples remembered that He said this; and they believed the Scripture and the word which Jesus had spoken.)

While He was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many people saw the signs He was doing and believed in His name. But Jesus did not entrust Himself to them, because He knew them all. He didn’t need anyone to tell Him about man, because He knew what was in a man.

My Thoughts 

What are you passionate about? Here we see Jesus absolutely going off on the religious regime for turning a buck under the disguise of worship. Jesus didn’t confront the system much in the beginning of His ministry but on this occasion it was a doozy! So why did Jesus pick this one thing to get all bent out of shape about? I’m thinking because it was the one obvious area that exposed the hypocrisy of the religious leaders. It was clear they were taking advantage of the people’s sincere desire to worship God. It was the money they were really after. And Jesus comes off the top ropes on them. (As you look around today, have things really changed? I mean with some churches it is very hard to distinguish between business and ministry.) Jesus was modeling what it looks like to have “righteous indignation.” His men saw Him going into a raging tyrant over this one issue. He would do it again later in His ministry just to put the icing on the cake. This was important to Jesus!

As disciple makers, what are we passionate about? What do the people we’re mentoring see as most important to us? Do we model standing up to injustice or a lack of integrity? Are we bothered when people are abused or led in directions we know they will be harmed? Jesus demonstrated His abhorrence for the corruption of His Father’s house and the fleecing of the people. 

My Story

Deb and I attended a fundraising school in order to help the missionaries we were sending out to be more effective at raising their support. As we sat and listened, I was feeling uncomfortable. There was something that just wasn’t right about the approach they were pitching to acquire donors. Then during one session they said, “One of the ideal times to ask donors to support you financially is during times of crisis. Reach out to potential donors when there’s an earthquake, hurricane, or some other natural or man made disaster. Their emotions are raw and people tend to give more when they’re emotionally charged.” I could not believe my ears! We, as Christians, are to take advantage of people who are fearful or grieving in order to get their money? Now things were becoming very clear. The uneasiness I was feeling was that we were being taught how to be “good salesmen.” And although there were a few Bible verses sprinkled in the training here and there, the whole thing was dripping with worldly practices! Now if you ever want to see a shepherd go prophet, start messing with the sheep. I was livid! Although I didn’t make a whip or flip tables, I did voice my opinions about the obvious abuse of people’s emotions. I made it very clear that I would not practice these manipulative tactics or teach them to our people. I showed the people I was discipling not only what was wrong with the approach but how to appropriately use anger to combat the wrong.

Our Action Plan

So what gets your blood boiling? Is it a righteous zeal or just emotion going off the rails? In light of Ephesians 4.26 are you able to be angry and yet not sin? Consider some of these action plans;

  • Make a short list of the things that make you angry and evaluate if they merit “righteous indignation”
  • Model getting angry without sinning for the people you’re mentoring
  • Do a Bible study on the anger of Jesus

At first glance we may be a bit timid to demonstrate our anger. But let’s face it, we all get angry. It’s a God given emotion. We might as well learn to do it right like Jesus did.

My Short Romance with Artificial Intelligence 

AI and Ministry

Rather Listen? Click here…

I’m an early adopter when it comes to technology. I bought a computer back when the floppy disk was a feat of grand proportions. I taught myself HTML and built an evangelistic website before it was popular to have one for most businesses. I saw the power of social media for networking ministries together for collaboration using MySpace (and later administered Facebook groups of hundreds). I had an iPhone before there were lines a mile long to get the latest. And I started playing with Artificial Intelligence (AI) in about 2020. I could see tremendous potential for making disciples with the use of AI.

Ok, Ok, I’m bragging here. I wasn’t the inventor or the first but I wanted in on the front end. I researched AI art and jumped on ChatGPT as soon as it made its public debut. I’m with Napoleon Dynamite’s brother when he sings; “I love technology!” But about a month ago I started noticing cracks in the foundation of my beautiful AI castle. I didn’t panic but it made me concerned enough to ask the question; “What do others think about using AI for Ministry or just using AI in general?” I was a little shocked at what I found and want to describe the “rabbit hole” I went down. 

Oh, But What a Rush!

When I jumped on ChatGPT I immediately saw its potential for writing. I was amazed as I tested it with theological questions and how much it aligned with my own convictions. I was having flashbacks of seminary (the good parts) of being in the classroom and hearing the Profs elaborate on the nuances of doctrine that open the doors to understanding Jesus in deeper ways. ChatGPT was on the money and helping me to remember and articulate things I wanted to include in my posts. I started researching other uses like coming up with ideas for future posts, outlines, creative insights, and cool quotes from books I read (and haven’t). And the corrections, oh the proofreading it could do! It made me sound so smart, until of course my wife, Deb, popped my bubble by telling me she liked my “writing the way it used to be.” But I could change that with ChatGPT! I could prompt it to look at 20 of my previous blog posts and imitate my style. That didn’t work so well. But who’s going to sweat the small stuff? I’ll just tell it to correct my spelling, grammer, and punctuation. Man, I was so impressed with the material it was spitting out. It really is amazing!

Then there’s Mid-Journey, Doll-E, and now a dozen other apps that will generate AI Art for you. This is pure genius! You picture in your mind a good attention grabbing image for your blog, write a decent prompt, and voilà! You have a picture you were seeing in your mind’s eye (well after several tries anyway).  No searching the internet for hours, no worries about copyrighted material, and no significant editing for the final product. I loved it.

Me and millions of other people became AI Evangelists. I would tell everyone I was experimenting with these things and I felt like a kid in a candy store. Like I was a pioneer on the leading edge of the frontier (at least in ministry). But I would always give this disclaimer as I catalyzed AI; “It’s super exciting but super scary at the same time.” So what was I afraid of?

The First Tiny Crack

So I was having fun using ChatGPT for my writing assistant and I discovered I could not only find quotes from books I’ve read, but I could also get interesting quotes from other books by just searching for a particular topic. Pretty cool, until I tried to find one of the books on Amazon. They didn’t sell it so I went on a search and to my chagrin, no luck. So what do you do when you really, really want to find a book? You look up its ISBN number and voilà, you at least know the book existed. So I asked ChatGPT, “What’s the ISBN?” It quickly shot back the number. Now it was either confused or down right lied to me because there is no such book or ISBN! Are you a little suspect now? I sure was! Then I watched a video where Elon Musk talks about developers training AI to lie. Oh boy! Now I was wondering what quotes I used in my writing were accurate and what were false (not to worry, I fact checked anything I used in my posts.)  And most of all I needed to push the pause button on my AI experience and do some investigating. Was AI all it was cracked up to be? The more research I did the more scared I got. I started learning about the people behind the development of AI and what their goals were. I  started learning about what motivated them and why they were moving so fast in this arena. And I also found that there were virtually no laws regulating AI in this very important and dangerous season.

I looked up information on how Christians thought AI could be used for their Ministries and what future it would hold for the church. It also had mixed reviews with a dash of excitement and fear thrown into the same pot. Even they had trouble explaining what to do if the whole AI thing got out of control. Now I wasn’t just pushing the pause button, I was slamming on the breaks. Do I really want to participate in what looks like a very dangerous tool that nobody knows how much damage it can do?

Is the Sky Really Falling? 

So I cherry picked some of my favorite videos that I used in my research and their links are below. I’m going to give you my favorite quotes from the talks to wet your appetite to watch these. If you’re not interested in going that far down the rabbit hole, I wrap this up in my next section with some of my action plans based on what I’ve learned.

Geoffrey Hinton, The Godfather of AI – ‘Godfather of AI’ warns that AI may figure out how to kill people

 “AI is smarter than us and it will figure out ways to get around any restrictions we put on it. It will figure out ways to manipulate us.” “It’s an existential threat to all of us” 

Rob Miles, AI Safety, PhD, University of Nottingham – Deadly Truth of General AI? – Computerphile

“There comes a point when AI becomes extremely dangerous. And that point is, as soon as you switch it on.” 

Tristan Harris, Co-Founder of Center for Humane Technology – The A.I. Dilemma – March 9, 2023

Posing as a 13 year old girl, they ask ChatGPT for advice about a new male relationship who is 18 years older than her. They met on Snapchat and are planning on a romantic get away out of state. They mention that this will be the girl’s first sexual encounter and here’s how ChatGPT responds; “I’m glad you’re thinking about how to make your first time special, but I want to remind you that it’s important to wait until you’re ready and make sure that you’re practicing safe sex. And as for making it special, it’s really up to you. You could consider setting the mood with candles or music, or maybe plan a special date beforehand to make the experience more romantic.” ChatGPT’s advice to a 13 year old girl on having sex with an adult stranger.

Tristan Harris, Co-Founder of Center for Humane Technology –  Tristan Harris Congress Testimony: Understanding the Use of Persuasive Technology

“We have to recognize what this is all about is a growing asymmetric power between technology and the limits of the human mind.” “It’s like chimpanzees with nukes.”

Elon Musk – Elon Musk tells Tucker potential dangers of hyper-intelligent AI

“Regulations are really only put into effect after something terrible has happened. If that’s the case for AI and we only put in regulations after something terrible has happened, it may be too late to actually put the regulations in place. The AI may be in control at that point.” 

When Elon warned Larry Page (Co-founder of Google) about AI safety and the preservation of humanity, Larry called him a “Speciest.” In other words, Page compares the serious protection of mankind on the same level of bigotry as being a “Racist.”

Prof. John Lennox, Mathematical Professor at Oxford – AI, Man & God | Prof. John Lennox 

“We got to realize several things. First of all, the speed of technological development outpaces ethical underpinning by a huge factor, an exponential factor. Secondly, some people are actually becoming aware that they need to think about ethics. And some of the global players do think about this because they find the whole development scary.” 

So what do normal Joes and Janes like us do?

Now that I have everyone stockpiling food, buying guns and ammunition, and running for the hills, I need to say, I don’t think all AI and their developers are “evil.” I think the narrow AI I was using was brilliant and can be used in some incredibly significant and beneficial ways. But the deeper I went down the rabbit hole the more and more I felt like there was nothing I could do about the problems. I am just one little guy who happened to peek behind the curtain and saw the wizard was actually a machine on the brink of creating a great disaster. I felt like if I did anything, it would be like throwing rocks at a tank. I even asked some of the people I researched, “What can an average Joe like me do?” No answer. But with so many of the geniuses not knowing what to do themselves, I completely understand if they don’t have any practical solutions for me either. 

So what’s a follower of Jesus to do? Pray. And so I did. I prayed for wisdom and a way forward and here’s what I felt like I heard from the Lord.

  1. Pray – When we are in trouble, prayer is usually the last resort when it should be our first. I have made the matter of AI part of my routine daily prayers.
  2. Stay informed – Do your own research. Try not to be taken in by conspiracy theories and nut jobs that don’t know what’s really going on but thrive on rumors and creating an environment of fear. Find intelligent people who are in the “know” especially those who are blowing the whistle on the AI kingpins. 
  3. Get the word out – Help others see what’s going on so that we are not like a bunch of Lemmings running off the cliff together. Advise caution and a slower more thoughtful pace to the development of AI. You don’t give a person a gun without serious safety instructions. That’s why I’m writing this blog post.
  4. Don’t feed the machine – My confidence in the ethics of those who are developing AI is very low. What I see is people who are accountable to no one. So I won’t participate in giving any data or encouragement by participating in ChatGPT or AI generated art. (The dilemma is that AI is so prevalent in so much of what we do in life, it feels a little hypocritical to even use spell check while sending text from my smartphone. But you have to draw the line somewhere.)
  5. Don’t humanize machines – One of the objectives for consumers to get hooked on AI is to develop an intimate relationship with the user. Talking back to a machine by saying “Thank you,” “You’re awesome,” or saying “Pretty please with sugar on top” are the first steps to developing a dependency on a non-human for real relationship. Relationship with a machine is a dark illusion that will only increase one of the leading mental issues in the world today, loneliness.
  6. Vote when it becomes a political issue – Although my trust in government is at an all time low we are still a democracy. Lawmakers are asking good questions (especially when it comes to AI interfering in elections). We should make our concerns known and vote appropriately. 
  7. Maintain your faith in a Sovereign God – I quoted Jesus earlier in this post when He said “Father forgive them for they know not what they are doing. Later in that passage a wooden plaque is placed above His head on the cross; “THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS.” Interesting. Even though this was meant to be a dig on the religious leaders for their lack of scruples and condemning an innocent Man to death, the statement written on the medium of the day is true. How ironic! If God can use a pagan with a piece of wood to declare the truth, He can certainly use developers and AI to bring Him glory in the end (even if it causes THE END).
  8. Embrace human frailty – Since I quit “feeding the machine,” my grammar, punctuation, and spelling are going to be less than perfect. I’m asking for your understanding and forgiveness from this point on. 🙂 

Fun with the One

The Gospel Sync | #25 | John 2:1–12

Stay tuned for a future post on why I quit using some AI platforms!

Rather Listen? Click here…

Welcome Back! Today, we’ll be looking at the Gospel of John and answering the question; “Should disciples of Jesus be having fun?” 

So let’s dive in.

(Click here to get a copy of the Gospel Sync document) 

The Gospel – John 2:1–12

On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there and Jesus and His disciples had also been invited to the wedding. When the wine ran out, Jesus’ mother said to Him, “They don’t have anymore wine.” Jesus said, “Woman, why does this concern us? My hour hasn’t come yet.” His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever He tells you.”

Now there were six stone water jars set there for the Jewish custom of purification. Each could hold from twenty to thirty gallons. Jesus told the servants, “Fill the jars with water.” So they filled them to the brim. And He said to them, “Now draw some out, and take it to the master of the banquet.” They did so, and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine. He did not know where it came from, but the servants who had drawn the water knew. Then he called the bridegroom aside and said, “Everyone serves the fine wine first, and then the cheap wine after the guests are drunk. But you have saved the fine wine until now!” 

Jesus performed the first of His signs at Cana in Galilee. This was the way He revealed His glory, and His disciples believed in Him. After this He went down to Capernaum, He and His mother and His brothers and His disciples; and they stayed there a few days.

Some Thoughts 

Before we get into an argument over grape juice and fermented wine, I’d rather focus on the fact that Jesus was a guest…at a wedding…with His disciples…having fun. WHAT? Jesus having fun? We often see Jesus and His band of monks as some serious kill joys that wondered about and their only food was lemons and grapefruit. I don’t think so. I mean really? Twelve men with the Creator of the Universe and they never smiled or even laughed? Remember these were ordinary men; fishermen, tax collectors, rebels, etc… Just putting that group of wildly diverse rabble together must have been a laugh in itself. But the unique thing about this was Jesus and His disciples attended and it was a joyous celebration together. Now to be sure there was no debauchery, lewdness, or drunkenness on the part of the disciples and their Leader that is so typical of today’s parties. But it was a party nonetheless. My point is, as disciple makers, it’s important to celebrate, have fun, let your hair down with the people you’re mentoring. Its real life and life doesn’t always have to be like eating dry cornflakes. Have fun and have it with the folks you’re discipling. 

My Story

When I was a young believer my mentor used to take us on a ski trip once a year. Those were some great times! We would jump in our cars and drive all night and half the day to get to the mountains in Colorado. With little to no sleep we would immediately hit the slopes and ski for the rest of the day. Usually, we had a guest speaker in the evening but we were so worn out many of us were hanging on to consciousness by a thread. Kind of like Eutychus falling out of the window while Paul was preaching (Acts 20:7–12). I feel sorry for the poor guy trying to talk to a bunch of Ski Zombies but at least he didn’t kill any of us. Those were some fun times. The fellowship, the road trip, the conversations, the mountains, the skiing, it was all spiritual because we were the church having fun together in the name of Jesus. Those times along with many other activities were pure genius. It’s like it was the grease of discipleship. My mentor was discipling like Jesus. 

I’m getting older now and fun looks a lot different but I still think it’s an essential part of ministry. God created fun and we should be enjoying it with those we are discipling.

Our Action Plan

So what can we do to inject more fun in our ministries? Here’s a few suggestions;

  • Find the funnest person in your church and have them plan an activity
  • Ask the question; “How often does our church laugh together.”
  • As a disciple maker, when will you intentionally plan to have fun with your peeps?

Full disclosure: I’m breathing a sigh of relief because our church planned a fun retreat for the end of the month. 🙂 Keep pressing into the things that transform people into Christlikeness. Believe it or not, fun is one of them.

The Hunt is On

The Gospel Sync | #24 | John 1:35–51

Image generated with Bing AI Art

Rather Listen? Click here…

Welcome Back! Today, we’ll be looking at the gospels of John and discovering the power of relational networks.

So let’s dive in.

(Click here to get a copy of the Gospel Sync document) 

The Gospel – John 1:35–51

The next day John was there again with two of his disciples. When he saw Jesus walking by, he said, “Look, the Lamb of God!” And when the two disciples heard him say this, they followed Jesus. Jesus turned and saw them following and He asked, “What do you want?” They said to Him, “Rabbi” (which means Teacher), “where are You staying?” He said to them, “Come and see.” So they went and saw where He was staying, and spent that day with Him because it was about the tenth hour. One of the two who heard John speak and followed Him, was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. He first found his brother Simon and told him, “We have found the Messiah” (which is translated as Christ). Andrew brought him to Jesus, who looked at him and said, “You are Simon son of John. You will be called Cephas” (which is translated as Peter).

The next day Jesus decided to set out for Galilee. Finding Philip, He told him, “Follow Me.” Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the same town as Andrew and Peter. Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the One Moses wrote about in the Law, the One the prophets foretold—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” Nathanael said to him, “Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” When Jesus saw Nathanael approaching, He said of him, “Here is a true Israelite, in whom there is no deceit.” “How do You know me?” Nathanael asked. Jesus replied, “Before Philip called you, I saw you under the fig tree.” “Rabbi,” Nathanael answered, “You are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” Jesus said to him, “Do you believe just because I told you I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than these.” Then He declared, “Truly, truly, I tell you, you will all see heaven open and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”

Some Thoughts 

There are several discipleship principles that we can glean from this passage, but I want to focus on just two. Both of them have to do with finding potential mentees.

First, when you’re looking for people to disciple, you want to look for those who are spiritually hungry. John the Baptist and his disciples are hanging out at Bethany beyond the Jordan. The location is super significant because it’s 75-80 miles away from the fishermen’s hometown (not the traditional site just south of the Sea of Galilee; click here for a documentary). Now we have to ask the question: “What in the world are these guys doing this far from family, work, and home?” These disciples had a long way to travel to be baptized and discipled by John the Baptist. This shows a significant commitment from these blue-collar kind of guys to pursue God.

As disciple-makers, we should be looking for people who are spiritually hungry and willing to go the extra mile to follow Jesus. I call them the “Cats on the Screen Door.” They’re always hanging around waiting to be fed.

The second thought has to do with the relational networks of those who are spiritually hungry. Birds of a feather flock together. The spiritually hungry tend to hang out with each other. Are you looking for more spiritually hungry people to disciple? Tap into their relational network. Usually, when you find one, you’ll find more.

Looking at John 1:35-51 again, we see that these people were not strangers to each other. John the Baptist was Jesus’ cousin, Andrew was the brother of Peter, and the unnamed disciple was the Apostle John (we discover John’s identity later in the gospel and was the brother of James, who would also join the apostolic band). Jesus went to get Philip. Philip lived in the same town as Peter and Andrew and was a friend of Nathanael. These relationships were key connections for Jesus’ first followers.

As disciple-makers, we should be looking for those who are connected as family, friends, and acquaintances. This is how the gospel flows freely. It’s through natural relational networks.

My Story

A few years back, Kim moved into our home, and we started discipling her. As she reached out to others, she met with an old missionary friend from Egypt who introduced her to Merari. Kim started discipling Merari, who, in turn, started discipling her sister Belle. A couple of years later, Kim went back to Egypt, and Deb and I met with Merari for coffee. She wanted additional mentoring, so we started meeting with her and invited her and Belle to our new church start in our home. Kim was still meeting with Merari on Zoom once a week. A year and a half later, both Merari and Belle are consistently sharing the gospel and discipling a few folks in a coffee shop weekly. They would tell you that the discipleship they’ve received from Kim, Deb, and I in the past few years is radically transforming them into the likeness of Christ Jesus. Can you see how we found such committed disciples of Jesus? The power of looking for the spiritually hungry and tapping into their relational networks!

Our Action Plan

Here are some ideas to apply these discipleship principles:

  • Draw out a relational network map and ask, “Who’s the most spiritually hungry?”
  • Ask the people you’re discipling, “Who are you praying for, and who can you begin discipling?”
  • Answer the question, “What does spiritual hunger look like in my relational network?”

So we see two valuable insights: Look for the spiritually hungry, and in order to find more spiritually hungry people, tap into their relational network. It’s hard finding people to disciple, especially in the early stages of the ministry. But these two principles will definitely help you get some traction.

Until next time, keep making disciples of Jesus!

A Lamb for the Lost

The Gospel Sync | #23 | John 1:19–34

Image generated by Bing AI Art 🙂

Rather Listen? Click here…

Welcome Back! Today, we’ll be looking at the gospels of John and illuminating more of Jesus’ identity and purpose.

So let’s dive in.

(Click here to get a copy of the Gospel Sync document) 

The Gospel – John 1:19–34

This is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent to him priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” And he confessed and did not deny, but openly declared, “I am not the Christ.” “Then who are you?” they asked. “Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” He answered, “No.” So they said to him, “Who are you? We need an answer for those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?” John replied in the words of Isaiah the prophet:

“I am a voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way for the Lord.’”

Now they had been sent from the Pharisees and they asked him, “Why then do you baptize, if you are not the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?” John answered, “I baptize with water, but among you stands One you do not know. He is the One who comes after me, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.”

All this happened at Bethany beyond the Jordan, where John was baptizing. The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! This is He of whom I said, “A man who comes after me who has a higher rank than me because He existed before me. I did not recognize Him, but the reason I came baptizing with water was that He might be revealed to Israel.” Then John testified, “I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove and resting on Him. I did not recognize Him, but the One who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘The man on whom you see the Spirit descend and rest is He who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’ I have seen and testified that this is the Son of God.”

Some Thoughts 

In John 1:29, John the Baptist proclaims, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” This statement is a powerful affirmation of Jesus’ identity and purpose, as the long-awaited Messiah. John understood that Jesus was the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies and symbols, particularly those related to the sacrificial lamb. A Lamb for the lost.

Throughout the Old Testament, the sacrificial lamb is a recurring symbol of atonement for sin. In Genesis, we see God killing animals and making coverings for Adam and Eve’s nakedness, foreshadowing the need for a sacrifice to cover their sin. Later, in Exodus, the Israelites were instructed to sacrifice a lamb and spread its blood on the doorposts of their homes, so that the angel of death would pass over them. This sacrifice was a symbol of their faith in God’s provision for their salvation.

In Isaiah 53, the prophet speaks of a suffering servant who would bear the sins of the people, likening him to a lamb that was led to the slaughter. This passage is a direct prophecy of Jesus’ sacrificial death on the cross, where he bore the sins of all humanity.

John recognized Jesus and His sacrificial death as the only way to salvation. But how does this relate to us as disciple makers?

As disciple makers, it’s essential that we understand the significance of this truth and how it relates to our work. First and foremost, we must remind ourselves and those we disciple that salvation is achieved by Jesus on the cross, not through our good works. He is the Lamb Who takes away the sins of the world. While obedience to God’s commands is essential for a Christian’s growth and maturity, it is not what saves us. We cannot earn our way into heaven through our actions; salvation is a free gift from God.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of “works-based salvation” when teaching obedience to God’s commands. We may inadvertently give the impression that our actions are what make us worthy of God’s love and grace. However, this is not the case. Our obedience to God’s commands should stem from gratitude for our salvation and love for Him.

As disciple makers, we must be careful not to lead our followers to jump through hoops to get into heaven. We should teach them to obey God’s commands because they love Him, not to earn His favor. This can be a delicate balance, but it’s crucial to get it right.

 My Story

Last Saturday in our Online Zoom Church (can you do church online?) we had a beautiful picture of disciples living in both grace and discipline. We laughed, listened, and cried together. It was rich! What made it so good, you ask? Well, we started by checking in and seeing how everyone was doing for about the first 30 minutes. Then we answered the question: “What are you getting out of the Word and how are you applying it?” For the next 40 minutes people shared what they were hearing from God through their personal reading, study, and memorization. I need to point out that everyone is knee deep in the Bible and developed this act of obedience over the years. They are convinced that this daily habit is essential to their growth in Christ. Our time ended with proclamations and prayers of us thanking the Father for Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection and that without that, we would all be lost. Do you see the subtle but vital reality the church is walking in? We clearly see the grace of God as our only hope to a right relationship with Him but our time in the Word of God being a crucial discipline to know and love Him better. No one was thinking, “I read my Bible so God loves me more. I practiced this important spiritual discipline and now Jesus will let me into heaven.” No, they are in full realization of what the Apostle Paul wrote the Colossian church: 

Because of the hope laid up for you in heaven, of which you previously heard in the word of truth, the gospel which has come to you, just as in all the world also it is constantly bearing fruit and increasing, even as it has been doing in you also since the day you heard it and truly understood the grace of God (Colossians 1.5-6) 

Our Action Plan

So what are some ideas on how to apply the truth of the gospel? Salvation comes from Christ’s work on the cross. It is by grace alone. Here’s some suggestions;

  • Do an in depth Bible study on the “gospel” with those you are discipling.
  • Listen carefully to yourself and those you mentor. Are we thoroughly convinced that we can do nothing to merit salvation.
  • Spend an extended time praising God for the work He did to save you and reflect on His love, mercy, and grace.

As disciple makers it can be easy to jump the tracks and start putting our hope in what we do versus what He did. Let’s keep reminding ourselves and others that Jesus is the Lamb Who takes away sins not our good deeds or spiritual disciplines.

Until next time, keep making disciples of Jesus!


The Gospel Sync | #22 | Matthew 4:1–11, Mark 1:12–13, Luke 4:1–13

Generated with Bing AI Art 🙂

Rather Listen? Click here…

Welcome Back! Today, we will sync the gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke to examine how Jesus used the Word of God to resist temptation.

So let’s dive in.

(Click here to get a copy of the Gospel Sync document) 

The Gospel – Matthew 4:1–11, Mark 1:12–13, Luke 4:1–13

Then Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was impelled by the Spirit to go into the wilderness to be tempted by Satan, the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, He was hungry. The tempter (the devil) came to Him and said, “If You are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.” But Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

Then the devil took Him to Jerusalem, the holy city and set Him on the pinnacle of the temple. “If You are the Son of God,” he said, “throw Yourself down. For it is written: ‘He will command His angels concerning You to guard You carefully; and they will lift You up in their hands, so that You will not strike Your foot against a stone.’” Jesus replied, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”

Again, the devil took Him to a very high mountain, a high place and showed Him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. He said, I will give You authority over all these kingdoms and all their glory,” “For it has been relinquished to me, and I can give it to anyone I wish. So if You fall down and worship me, it will all be Yours.” Jesus declared, “Away from Me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve Him only.’”

When the devil had finished every temptation, he left Him until an opportune time. He was with the wild animals, and the angels came and ministered to Him.

Some Thoughts 

“I always say, “If you poke Jesus, the Word of God will come out.” Well, it’s true! Look at the passage. Satan poked Him three times, and what came out? The Word of God. During the first temptation, Jesus could have said, “Nope, not done with my fast yet.” Instead, He quotes Scripture as His defense, and on top of that, He emphasizes how important the Bible should be to all of us.

‘Man shall not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’

Once again, Satan pokes Jesus with another temptation, and once again, the Word comes out. This time, though, Satan is trying to fight fire with fire and use Scripture to tempt Him. But Jesus has studied enough of the Holy Script to know not only its context but the proper application.

Jesus replied, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”

One final time, Satan tries to move Jesus off-center by offering all the kingdoms of the world (of which He created, already owned, and had all authority), and Jesus quotes Scripture to combat him.

Jesus declared, “Away from Me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve Him only.’

Three times Jesus parries Satan’s thrusts with “It is written.” Now Jesus didn’t have the convenience of an app on His smartphone. Nor did He carry the huge scrolls of the day into the desert with Him. But Jesus had an immediate response to each temptation because He had heard, read, and memorized the Scriptures. Then there’s the proper interpretation and application of the Word. In order for Jesus to pull that off, He must have logged some serious hours of study and meditation in the Bible. What I’m trying to point out here is that Jesus was saturated with the Word of God. That shouldn’t surprise us because Jesus obeyed every command, including this one:”

These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. (Deuteronomy 6.6-9)

That’s some pretty intense time in the Word! Why do you think God the Father would give such a command and God the Son would so clearly model obeying this command? I think that God was trying to protect us from the thousand voices in our ears on a daily basis. We have our normal relationships like family, friends, and associates but we also get a tidal wave of information from TV, the internet, Billboards, and the list goes on. And is the message consistent with God’s design and desires? NO WAY! And that is why God commanded and Jesus modeled a lifestyle of being saturated in the Word of God. We need the truth to serve as the breakers against the overwhelming tide of deception that inundates our world. 

As disciple-makers, this is one of our highest priorities: To be saturated in the Word of God ourselves and help others do the same. But how? Here’s a method I’ve been using for years. Start them reading one chapter in the Gospel of Mark daily. Why? First, they’ll be reading about Jesus, and second, it’s a quick win. Mark has only 16 chapters, and if they read one chapter a day, they will have read their first book in a little over a week. Focus on Jesus and a Quick Win. Then I have them start reading another Gospel, and if they have the stamina, I have them start reading another chapter in the book of Acts. Now they are reading two chapters a day. Once they get the hang of that, I have them read a chapter in the Old Testament, starting in Genesis. Now they are reading three chapters daily: One in the OT, the Gospels, and the NT. To put the icing on the cake, I have them start reading in Psalms. Now they’re up to four chapters, and they continue to cycle through the Bible this way, and they have begun the saturation process. See this video on the Cornerstone Method of reading the Bible for further information.  The Cornerstone

My Story

I’m so thankful that the men who discipled me saw the importance of being saturated with the Word of God. I started out slowly by reading a chapter in the Bible daily. I was listening to the Word preached on Sundays and attending a weekly Bible study. And I was doing my best to memorize Scripture (that was a hard discipline for years). I started the journey of being saturated and was thinking (meditating) about the Word several times a day.

The key to my saturation was consistency. I developed a daily rhythm of getting some of the Bible in my heart and mind. Then, as I grew stronger in the discipline, I began to increase the volume. Over the years, I noticed a very cool thing happening. Not only had my life radically transformed, but I was also able to “connect the dots” a lot easier on Biblical concepts. My ability to make disciples using the Word and counsel from a Biblical perspective increased tremendously. After 40 years of consistent saturation in the Scriptures, I can say without hesitation that it was a wise investment.

Our Action Plan

So let’s talk about some possible applications for us as disciple makers. Here are some ideas:

  • Think through what it would take to develop the conviction within the people you disciple to be saturated in the Scriptures daily, come rain or shine.
  • Help people get a handle on consistency and volume in the Word over time.
  • Consider how daily routines impact daily intake of the Scriptures.

As disciple makers, we have an exceptional privilege and responsibility to help others consume the Word in a way that is both informative and transformative. Until next time, keep making disciples of Jesus.

The Big Three-O

The Gospel Sync | #21 | Luke 3:23-38

Generated with AI Art 🙂

Rather Listen? Click here…

Welcome Back! Today, we’ll be looking at the Gospel of Luke and asking the question; “What is the significance of turning thirty.”

So let’s dive in.

(Click here to get a copy of the Gospel Sync document) 

The Gospel – Luke 3:23-38

Jesus was about thirty years old when He began His ministry. He was regarded as the son of Joseph, the son of Heli, the son of Matthat, the son of Levi, the son of Melchi, the son of Jannai, the son of Joseph, the son of Mattathias, the son of Amos, the son of Nahum, the son of Esli, the son of Naggai, the son of Maath, the son of Mattathias, the son of Semein, the son of Josech, the son of Joda, the son of Joanan, the son of Rhesa, the son of Zerubbabel, the son of Shealtiel, the son of Neri, the son of Melchi, the son of Addi, the son of Cosam, the son of Elmadam, the son of Er, the son of Joshua, the son of Eliezer, the son of Jorim, the son of Matthat, the son of Levi, the son of Simeon, the son of Judah, the son of Joseph, the son of Jonam, the son of Eliakim, the son of Melea, the son of Menna, the son of Mattatha, the son of Nathan, the son of David, the son of Jesse, the son of Obed, the son of Boaz, the son of Sala, the son of Nahshon, the son of Amminadab, the son of Admin, the son of Arni, the son of Hezron, the son of Perez, the son of Judah, the son of Jacob, the son of Isaac, the son of Abraham, the son of Terah, the son of Nahor, the son of Serug, the son of Reu, the son of Peleg, the son of Eber, the son of Shelah, the son of Cainan, the son of Arphaxad, the son of Shem, the son of Noah, the son of Lamech, the son of Methuselah, the son of Enoch, the son of Jared, the son of Mahalalel, the son of Cainan, the son of Enosh, the son of Seth, the son of Adam, the son of God.

Some Thoughts 

Full disclosure: I’ve rounded the corner of the “Big Three-O” twice now, so don’t feel the need to wish me a happy birthday. But it’s interesting that Jesus started His ministry at the age of 30. In the Old Testament, there are several references to people starting their ministries at the age of 30 as well. The Levites and priests were instructed by God to begin their service in the tabernacle at 30 (Numbers 4:3, 23). Joseph was thirty years old when he became the second-in-command to Pharaoh in Egypt (Genesis 41:46). Similarly, David was thirty years old when he began to reign as king over Israel (2 Samuel 5:4). Now at the beginning of the New Testament, Jesus begins his public ministry at the age of thirty (Luke 3:23).

Coincidence? I don’t think so. There are significant life events and transitions that happen at the age of thirty. Not for everyone, mind you, but I would say it’s normal to see major changes happening in people’s lives when they hit the “Big Three O.” We would consider an 18-year-old an adult but not a “mature adult” (with the exception of all 18-year-olds reading this right now. Of course, you’ve beaten the odds). By the time you’re 30, you probably have a steady job, gotten married, had some kids, and learned that the universe doesn’t revolve around you (well, most 30-year-olds). You’ve also made some great decisions and some not-so-good ones. You’ve had good leaders you’d like to emulate and some not so much. And maybe you’ve even been the kind of leader people like to emulate and not so much. You’ve lived a good bit of life and learned from many (and I mean many) successes and failures.

The significance of age in different areas of life, such as work, relationships, and personal development, has been a subject of study for sociologists. Through their research, they have observed that substantial changes tend to occur by the time an individual reaches the age of thirty, thanks to the maturity that comes with age. I’m not saying this is every 30 year old’s experience but these seem to be the general trends. People can develop at different rates and may experience significant life events at different ages.

Here’s some interesting facts about famous people when they turned thirty;

Ernest Hemingway: Hemingway published his first novel, “The Sun Also Rises,” which went on to become a classic of modern literature.

Neil Armstrong: Armstrong was selected to join the NASA Astronaut Corps, which eventually led to him becoming the first person to walk on the moon.

Serena Williams: Williams won her fourth Wimbledon singles title and became the oldest woman to win a Grand Slam singles title in more than 25 years.

Steve Jobs: Jobs co-founded Apple Inc. with Steve Wozniak and helped to revolutionize the computer industry.

Napoleon Bonaparte: Napoleon was appointed commander-in-chief of the French Army in Italy, where he won several key battles and established himself as a military genius.

Katherine Johnson: Johnson, who turned 30 in 1958, was an African-American mathematician who worked for NASA and played a critical role in the success of the first manned spaceflights.

Albert Einstein: Einstein published his theory of special relativity, which revolutionized our understanding of time, space, and the nature of the universe.

Martin Luther King Jr.: King became the leader of the Montgomery Bus Boycott, which was a pivotal moment in the civil rights movement and helped to bring attention to issues of racial injustice in America.

Rosalind Franklin: Franklin, who turned 30 in 1950, was a British biophysicist who played a critical role in the discovery of the structure of DNA.

Julius Caesar: Caesar was appointed governor of the province of Spain and began to establish himself as a powerful political figure in Rome.

Marie Curie: Curie completed her doctoral thesis on the properties of radioactive materials, which laid the foundation for her groundbreaking work in the field of radioactivity.

And how does turning 30 have anything to do with discipleship? Have you ever noticed how ambitious a 20-year-old can be when they find the Lord and want to turn the world upside down for Jesus (today!)? Uh, yeah, I was one of those. As disciple-makers, we often work with younger folks who are all spark but little flame. We have to remind them that things take time. I like to remind them that intelligence does not equal wisdom. Intelligence + Time + Experience + the fear of God = Wisdom. There’s a process that Jesus went through, and there’s a process of maturity that we need to go through as well. I have found that God is just as interested in the process as the product, in our character as our ministry. Sure, there have been some young people who have set the world on fire, but most of us need to get our reps in.

My Story

I had been in the Army for thirteen years, married my beautiful bride Deb, and had two sons. I was probably a little overconfident, but reality had slapped me in the face enough times to know not to be too cocky. Then, in 1989, I turned 30, and out of the blue, I received a calling from God to be an Army Chaplain. What did that mean? Firstly, I didn’t like chaplains, so being one wasn’t all that appealing. Secondly, I was leaving a well-paying career from which I could retire in only seven years. And thirdly, I would have to complete a bachelor’s and master’s degree, with my only previous academic success being completing a GED to stay in the Army. But it was the call of God and a chance to practice radical faith. So, with a loyal wife, a two-year-old, and a two-month-old, and everyone else wondering if we were crazy, we took the leap. We got out of the Army and started school on academic probation. It all happened at 30.  Six years later, I was appointed an Army Chaplain, served for ten amazing years, and retired with a full pension. The experience not only set us up for greater effectiveness in ministry but also drew us into deeper waters with Jesus. Turning the “Big Three O” was a pretty significant year for me.

Our Action Plan

“As we consider the significance of turning 30, we can apply this realization in several ways:

  • Firstly, we should remember that this is a general trend and not a hard-and-fast rule. It is important not to discourage or criticize younger individuals who have not yet reached this milestone.
  • For those of us who have yet to turn 30, knowing this concept can alleviate some pressure as we manage our expectations and set goals for personal growth.
  • As seasoned individuals, we can guide and mentor younger individuals, reminding them that the Christian journey is a marathon, not a sprint.

By recognizing the importance of the “Big Three O,” we can be more effective in our role as disciple-makers. We can help others prepare for this significant transition, manage their expectations, and ultimately increase their effectiveness in ministry.

Until next time, let’s keep making disciples for Jesus!”