The One By One Initiative

Apr 12th 2014

Over the course of the last decade or so, I’ve heard more than one church researcher (like Aubrey Malphurs) make these two statements, 

  1. All church congregations die.
  2. The most productive years of  a congregation’s life are the first 15 years.

There is ample evidence for both statements. Every year 4000+ congregations die. They close their doors and the building gets sold for unique condo’s or an antique store. This is not necessarily a tragedy. Though how churches die is sometimes a tragedy, the end of a congregation’s life, doesn’t mean that the church that Jesus is building is somehow less vibrant or healthy. If the church is more organism than organization then death is natural part of the cycle.

Yes church congregations have a natural life-cycle. You could say that like people a church goes from birth, to growth, to maintenance to retirement to death. But unlike people a church congregation can have a reboot. If it occurs, it usually occurs somewhere in the growth phase (during the first 15 years).  In some traditions, it might be called a revival. In other traditions, a relaunch. Sometimes it simply comes with a revisioning of the mission and the goals of a congregation.

That’s where we find ourselves at Calvary. In 1995 we started a revisioning process at Calvary. We called it “Vision 2000″ and we were asking the question, “Who are we to be as we head into a new millennium. In 1998 we started to get a new mission statement and new goals into place and a new season of growth was upon us. From 1998-2001 we grew by almost 250%. It was in 2002 that God further refined our vision with the calling to build a church without walls and from 2002 to 2013 we again grew by almost 100%. From 1998 to 2013 we went from 300 people in one worship gathering, in one place to close to 1300 in eight worship gatherings in four places.  

From 1998 to 2013…that’s about 15 years…which means we either consolidate what we’ve done and get ready for retirement…or we start another life-cycle. We don’t believe that God is done with us yet. We believe that He has given us a unique opportunity to be part of a unique mission in a unique place. Our One By One Initiative is our first steps into that new cycle. You could imagine an extreme home makeover that gives a family new hope. Or perhaps imagine a company going through a strategic relaunch. But perhaps the best metaphor is that of labor. Something new has been conceived in our midst and we are in the first stages of labor and delivery.

Over the course of  the next few weeks, I’m going to do a series of blog posts talking about this new vision. I realize that not everyone who stops by this blog, is a part of Calvary, but you are welcome to follow along and pray for a good birth. Let me close this one by giving you the opportunity to watch a video that gives a glimpse into Calvary’s next chapter.


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From Faith to Faithfulness

Apr 05th 2014

In the spring of 1975, I finally received that little piece of paper all teens crave, my learner’s permit. (Yes they grow drivers young in South Dakota.) With a learner’s permit I wasn’t permitted to drive alone after dark. One evening, there was a talent show at school and I wanted to go, but my folks didn’t want to drive me. So they let me drive with clear instructions to come home immediately after the event. No driving uptown. Now uptown in my town was nothing more than three blocks. But there was a pool hall/bar on the last block, to which all my friends were going. So I went. On my way home I rolled through the lone stop sign and was pulled over by a police officer who upon viewing my license decided to escort me out back home…with lights flashing.

He walked me to the door and asked to talk with my father. I don’t remember their conversation, all I remember is my father looking at me and saying the words, “I guess we just can’t trust you any more can we Dan?”

I’m not sure how those words would play in your mind, but my father’s trust was of great value to me at the time. So those words brought a certain sense of devastated sleeplessness. What a terrible thing it is for a son to hear His father say, “I guess I can’t trust you.”

How do we paint the picture of someone who lives their one and only life in an uncommon way? What leads to greatness in God’s Kingdom? What is it that will lead to living an heroic life? In our society, in the Christian conversation, there is far more dialogue about faith than there is about faithfulness. Over and over again the question is asked, “Can God be trusted?” Over and over again we have encouraged and even sometimes pleaded with people to trust in God. We have written books to persuade people that God can be trusted.

Did you ever wonder if God might occasionally get tired of having his trustworthiness doubted?

Did you ever wonder if he has the same question for us?  Sometimes people are asked, “If you had just one question, and could ask God anything, what would you ask? What if God could ask us one question? I wonder if He might ask, “Can I trust you?”  

Last weekend at Calvary we gave away $25,000! That would be close to an average weekend offering for us. So rather than taking an offering, we gave an offering. One of thoughts that you might have had if you were with us… “Wow that’s kind of risky. You don’t have much control over how that money is used once it walks out the door.” But isn’t that what God does every day?

Every day He gives us resources to use as we choose; 1440 minutes to use as we choose; opportunities to use as we choose; talents to use as we choose; money to use as we choose. It’s kind of risky. Every day we can choose to live our lives with open hands and open hearts — that’s called generosity — or we can choose to live with closed fists.  That’s called something else.

Last weekend, I shared Jesus parable of the talents, (Matthew 25:14-30) and then near the end of the message (listen here) we gave everyone an envelope which contained $10, $20, or $50. Very simple instructions were given with the money.

  • Use it to bless someone outside of yourself or your family.
  • Don’t give it back to Calvary.
  • Give it (use it) by May 5.
  • Share Your Story with us.

Already the stories are being written. One family pooled their money and went and bought the ingredients to make their neighbors (a bunch of college students) a meal. One family pooled their resources and gave it to a woman who works with the homeless in our community, so that she could take them out to dinner at the Olive Garden. One of my favorites, a woman who had a bit of an altercation at a McDonald’s drive-thru paid for the meal of the man who was angry with her (because she beat him to the window :) Now that’s what you call a happy meal!

Two thoughts coming from this assignment.

1. Even if  you weren’t with us that weekend, you can still join us. Just take a $10, $20 or $50 from your wallet. Bless the money with a prayer saying, “God this is your money, please give me an opportunity to bless someone.” And then do it!

2. It is not drudgery to be generous. It is a joy that God has blessed us to be a blessing. That’s really the point of Jesus’ story.


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I Love The Church

Mar 13th 2014

I do. I love the church. Make no mistake I’m not a go-to-church fanatic. When I”m on vacation I don’t search the yellow pages for the closest evangelical church, I sleep in. I’ve even been known to look for reasons to cancel church in favor of things like serving the community or just visiting another church in town. But I do love the church.  

Lately it seems like I keep running into people who have “graduated from church” or found a new way of doing church, or have a particular ax to grind against a particular church that they think they know or don’t even care to know. I’ll be honest my emotions in these encounters have run the gamut from annoyance to anger. Again, make no mistake, I’m not a blind-to-her-faults pastor any more than I am a go-to-church fanatic. I see the places where the church is messy, and messed up. I’m painfully aware of missed opportunities and missed people.  Some of us are more concerned about the style of music being played than we are about the neighbors we are called to love and sometimes we fight the wrong fights. I know that there are times when I love my job more than I love Jesus and times I love comfort over sacrifice. I know that for some of you the church has brought hurt rather than healing. Should I go on?

But I love the church.

I’ve experienced many of her varieties. Independent Fundamental Baptist. Denominational. Charismatic. Mainline. But I’ve spent the last (almost) 20 years as part of a church that is a combination of many of those varieties. Our pastoral staff includes pastors who have served or grew up in Presbyterian, Charismatic, Christian Missionary Alliance, Catholic, Nazarene, and Christian Church congregations. We have people on staff who grew up in Christian homes and people who more recently became Christ-followers and frankly that diversity mirrors the people who call Calvary their church family…and there is not a single one of us who hasn’t messed up…and I love the church in all her messy glory.

So what am I saying? Is it wrong to critique the church, or a congregation? No. The apostle Paul’s letters contained critiques for the church of Ephesus, Corinth, Philippi and others; critiques about what they believed, how they loved, and how they did church. Critique is okay. Just take care. Remember that the church isn’t just an organization built by men, it’s a bride loved by Christ. Remember that before it was ever your church, it was his bride. I try to imagine how I would feel if someone put all their thoughts about Lynn’s (my bride) shortcomings on Facebook. Yes I have to imagine hard because the shortcomings are few and far between… :) but I don’t imagine I would be wearing a smile or giving you a sympathetic nod. If you went on too long, my heart might even get fierce.

If we feel compelled to critique, perhaps we might first ask Jesus to help us love his bride the way he loves his bride. We might ask him to help us see her, as he sees her…and then with humility we might start with ways that we (as part of his church) might better his bride. (And to use another metaphor with which you might be familiar, “if you are a hand start by bettering the hand.”)

I love Calvary, that’s the part of his bride with which Christ has connected me. I scroll through Facebook and run across someone who found Jesus at Calvary on Campus. Then I’ll remember a cowboy who wanted to be baptized with his boots on. Then I’ll read an email from a lady who found freedom from an addiction because of the way that people served him and God ministered to her at Calvary. Then I’ll shake my head at the way some of you have invested yourselves –all-in–all the time. As I walk down the hall where my kids sat in a kid’s class on Sunday morning or a Wednesday evening youth group event, my heart is glad because my kids still like church. And as I think about my kids I’m reminded of mission trips we’ve taken as a family…our growing partnership in Myanmar. Later I sit in on a community non-profit meeting where the people can’t stop saying thank you for the way Calvary serves the community; and by the way, the meeting is being held in a room where people have poured out their tears and their hearts in worship and prayer.

In spite of the mess, lost people have found Jesus, lonely people have found a friend, people stricken by poverty have found living proof of a loving God, marriages have been redeemed, sinful people have found grace, people have been served and Jesus has been lifted up.

And Calvary isn’t alone in that journey. This happens in church after church…it is simply amazing what Jesus can do in the midst of our mess.

Remember that, the next time you are disappointed in his bride.

There are 3 Responses to : I Love The Church

  1. howie shultz Wrote:

    really like this…thanks Dan

  2. Shawnee Wagner Wrote:

    Thank you for this. I feel that I’ve finally found a “home” at Calvary-Warriors Mark…something that has eluded me for a long time. I grew up going to a Christian & Missionary Alliance church and that is where I went to the altar the first time (at age 12) to be saved. I’ve made many mistakes throughout my life, the biggest of which was allowing my marriage of 20+ years to dictate my views on church and I didn’t take my girls when I should have when they were younger and when the foundation is built. Thank goodness my youngest is an active member in the Youth at Calvary-WM…I hope that my oldest will find her place there as well.

    As I was going through a divorce about 4 1/2 years ago, I found strength in my “family” and in my friends and through the Warriors Mark United Methodist Church for a time…but it wasn’t until I remarried and Clark and I decided to take Pat & Lisa up on their numerous invites to attend Calvary-Warriors Mark that I found a church family. I felt an immediate connection to Bruce Eveleth and the people within the small congregation at Calvary-WM and that has grown even more strong with Denny and Gloria leading us. I’m so thankful for my church family, and my new family of friends that I know I can count on from there. Through marriage classes, financial peace, and many LifeGroup sessions, my feeling of being home has only grown stronger.

    Thank you, too, and your family for staying with Calvary…that gave me a little “uneasy” feeling when you talked of leaving. So glad you were called to stay. Thank you for the inspirational words above.

  3. dan Wrote:

    Thanks Shawnee, you and Clark are such great parts of our Calvary family…thank you for sharing some of your story!

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I Don’t Go to Church Anymore

Feb 05th 2014

I remember a decade ago when Donald Miller’s “Blue Like Jazz” came out. I was 40 at the time, so I was perhaps on the edge of the generation with whom he really connected. But I appreciated the book, he was wrestling with themes and ideas with which I had wrestled both as a father and a pastor. In later years I have greatly appreciated his work helping people uncover the story God is writing in and through their life. Good stuff.

Yesterday on his blog, Miller started a conversation about church. You can read it here. He started by revealing that he doesn’t connect with God through singing (worship music at church). Then somewhere in the midst of the blog he revealed that he doesn’t learn best through lectures (sermons at church). Finally at the end of the blog, he revealed that he doesn’t attend church much.

As someone who attends church much (and yes, sometimes I wouldn’t attend if I wasn’t the pastor! :) I just thought I would share a few of my thoughts related to his blog. By the way, it would probably be more helpful to read his blog before you read this… Read it? Okay here goes…

1.) I appreciate and agree with Miller’s declarations that everyone doesn’t experience God best in the same way. Gary Thomas did a good job of discussing this in his book, “Sacred Pathways.” I do believe that some will connect better with the songs of creation than they will with the songs Redman. Some will connect better in one on one dialogue than in a large group, monologue. Some will connect better when they serve than when they sit.

2.) I appreciate the fact that Miller connects with God well, perhaps even best, in his work. I can relate to that. Early in my Christian walk I was told repeatedly to never confuse sermon prep time with my devotional time with God, yet the reality is that I often hear God best and most, I often connect with God most as I work on a sermon. I believe God has wired us for a unique calling and when we dive into that calling we feel his pleasure. (Cue the Chariots of Fire music.) By the way I think God is going to use Miller’s Storyline conference to help people discover their calling. And I wouldn’t be surprised if there is singing (worship) and lecturing (sermons) at that conference. :)

3) I appreciate Miller’s willingness to start a conversation about and question our model(s) of church. I think we need that…and perhaps we have to expect that the best questions sometimes come from those who have found a particular model to be unsatisfactory.

4) On the other hand, I wonder if Miller really has such a limited view of church. Admittedly it’s hard to tell from one blog and a book or two, but if all I had to go on was this blog, I would characterize Miller’s ecclesiology as “church is an event whose purpose is primarily to foster an intimate experience with God and secondarily to teach you something.” My ecclesiology is broader than that. Church is more than an event and it’s purpose is deeper and broader than experiences and information.  Church dives into the reality that Christ is present in our togetherness in a way that he is not in our isolation. Church is the formation of a people, not just a person. It involves authority, submission, discipleship, servanthood, persevering relationships and so much more. I stopped attending church the moment I realized that we are the church. 

5) While I agree with the concept of being wired for a unique sacred pathway, it is still God’s right to declare and define parameters of worship. All through scripture there are examples of worship that God did and did not accept. Cain’s worship, even though it fit his calling, wasn’t accepted. It seems that there are elements/forms of worship that Christ and scripture emphasize, for example corporate song/music, communion, baptism, etc. In other words, while God has wired me in ways that will shape how I worship, it’s okay for God to ask me to worship in ways that don’t seem to fit me.

6) While Miller seems to indicate, in multiple ways, that traditional church is okay for some. I’m not sure he really believes that. When he talks about graduating from church and evolving, it seems apparent that he feels that he has found a better way, not just his way.

7) In a follow-up blog post Miller clarifies some of his thoughts on church. Reading it made me wonder if Miller has really stopped being part of the church, or if he has just changed or exchanged the model of church he grew up with for a different model of church. If that is the case I think he could have been more clear in his writing.

8) Perhaps my strongest objection to Miller’s two blogs comes more from the follow-up than the initial blog. Miller paints a broad stroke of the “traditional” and “evangelical” church and then expresses little hope that that church will ever change, partially because of the high need for job security (of pastors).  I don’t think Miller has a very good grasp of the breadth and depth and uniqueness and willingness to embrace change that can be found across the sweep of those churches he paints with one stroke. It’s too bad, he’s missing some amazing stories.

9) Finally, I love innovation and change, but sometimes we think that the best innovations come when we throw off all the limits. We call it out of the box thinking. I would suggest that without limits there is no true innovation. Actually it is the limits, the box that forces us to innovate. Christ has given us some parameters, some limits, a box he is building called the church. The greatest innovations will come from those who dream inside the box given by Christ. It would be interesting to hear Miller describe what he views as the box.

There are 4 Responses to : I Don’t Go to Church Anymore

  1. Sara Wrote:

    Can’t stand the rejection……don’t go……try but it always hurts…….Christian people make me feel terrible…..Would love to have real connections……Happy that Jesus loves me in spite of all of this.

  2. Bob Spooner Wrote:

    Several things come to mind in thinking about limits and innovation. It was the limits of the laws of physics that provided a framework for a successful space program that put men on the moon. Francis Shaeffer had a lot to say about the necessity of form for freedom to exist in the church. The musicians who are really good at improvisation know a lot about musical forms. I saw an outstanding example of that recently at a guitar concert in Eisenhower auditorium. It’s part of the universe God put us in.

  3. Dan Wrote:

    Great examples of limits creating innovation Bob!

  4. dan Wrote:

    Sara, I’m really sorry that has been your experience of church. I know that happens…and I know that our church is far from perfect, but I also know there are Christians out there who, like God will love you where you are at…and love you for who you could be… I’m praying today that God brings someone like that into your life.

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I Judged Richard Sherman

Jan 20th 2014

If you are a Seattle Seahawks fan, you either love Richard Sherman or at a minimum you love the fact that Richard Sherman is on your team. If you are a 49′ers fan, you have at least one huge reason and many other smaller reasons to not love Richard Sherman. If you watched the NFC championship game of 2014, you saw Richard Sherman make the game-saving play–an amazing play–followed by a move that, if he were my son might have caused me to bench him for the super-bowl. (C’mon I said “might”) Then came the grand finale of an interview with Erin Andrews that brought back my childhood memories of Hulk Hogan in the WWF ring.

This was followed by all manner of facebook and twitter statements about the classlessness of Richard Sherman. In fact you can find a few tweets between Sherman and Crabtree. I didn’t make any e-comments, that I can remember, but I thought them.

Today I ran across this Sports Illustrated article, written last summer, on Richard Sherman, click SI:Sherman to read it.  It’s a good article which gives some context to the life of the man; it tells a bit of his story. After I read it, I thought, “If he was my son, I would still tell him he needs to control his mouth, but I would also be proud of many parts of his life.”

So it reminded me of one of the reasons we can’t judge people on the basis of what we see.  In the New Testament book of James, the author challenges our ability to judge others (chapter 4) and one of the reasons he gives is that there is only one judge (namely God) who is able to save and destroy. I believe that one of the principles coming out of this text is that there is only one who sees the whole picture, who knows the full story.

The reason we are not good judges of a life is that when we see the action of a person we see a small slice of small moment…we don’t see where they have come from or where they are going. We don’t see what outward or internal forces shape their responses.  We don’t see the totality of their hearts. We see more of the picture when it comes to our own actions, that’s why we are quicker to excuse ourselves, quicker to justify our own actions.

I still think that Richard Sherman could be a bit more like Russel Wilson…but who knows it may be the case that Richard Sherman has grown more in his life as a man, as a person, than Wilson has…that’s the problem we just don’t see the whole picture.

So yeah, if he was my son, I would tell him father to son, that he needs to master his emotions. The tongue is a far more dangerous weapon than anything the “legion of boom” can bring. But I would also tell him that I’m pretty proud of the good he has accomplished with his life.

After all, we are all a pretty mixed bag. Aren’t we.

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The People of God’s Blessing

Jan 18th 2014

In Numbers 6:22-27 it says that God spoke to Moses,  

Instruct Aaron and his sons to bless the people of Israel with this special blessing: May the Lord bless you and protect you. May the Lord smile on you and be gracious to you. May the Lord show you his favor and give you his peace. This is how Aaron and his sons will designate the Israelites as my people.

Don’t miss what God says at the end. This is how the people will be known as God’s people. I want my people to be known as the people who are blessed by God. (And today Paul says that the blessings God has made available to us are spiritual blessings.) Some of us have this suspicion that God is stingy, that he’s always holding out on us, but God has no desire to hold back.  He wants to bless us and when we experience the blessing of God, it changes our story. That is the power of blessing.

Last week at Calvary we talked about God’s blessing and I closed with a blessing. A number of people asked me for the words to the blessing. I’ve prayed it over my kids. I’ve prayed it over children and over marriages. For what it’s worth, here it is, maybe you can use it to pray a blessing over someone.

In the Name of Jesus Christ, I bless you. I bless you with all the promises of God given a resounding yes in Jesus Christ. May the Holy Spirit make you healthy and strong and spiritually to know and follow Jesus with expectant faith. May you be blessed with supernatural strength to turn your eyes from foolish things, instead may you follow hard after God.

I bless your ears to hear words spoken in truth with grace, the life-giving words of scripture, words meant to build up rather than tear down. I bless your ears to shut out words spoken in anger and bitterness, the critical and demeaning. I bless your feet to walk the path of total commitment, your hands to be tender helping hands blessing those in need, your hearts to be humble, courageous and compassionate–loving people more than rules and God more than people. I bless your minds to be strong, disciplined, balanced and faith filled.

May God’s grace be upon the place in which you live, may it be a safe place that allows dangerous God-exalting dreams. May it be a place of renewal and unconditional love. May sounds of joy and laughter be heard often from your lips. May you be children of prayer, may God use you to love your neighbors and change your generation. May God open the windows of heaven and pour out a blessing upon you, as you seek to be a blessing to those around you.

May God give you spiritual strength to overcome the evil one and avoid temptation. God’s grace be upon you to fulfill the dreams and visions He has given you. Goodness and mercy follow you all the days of your life. The Lord bless you  and keep you. The Lord make His face shine upon you and be gracious to you. The Lord lift up His countenance upon you and give you peace. IN JESUS’ NAME. AMEN.

There is One Response to : The People of God’s Blessing

  1. cindy way Wrote:

    Love this blessing, Dan. I have kept it close since the first time you shared it years ago. Have given copies to many people and even spoke it at my brother-in-law’s funeral. It is so beautiful… thanks!

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A New Year Seed of Hope

Dec 31st 2013

The last 18 months have included a number of transition points for the Nolds, and every transition brings a new beginning, which is one of the things I appreciate about the New Year. Even though it’s somewhat artificial, it is an opportunity to think about new beginnings. A few of our new beginnings include…  

  • Lynn and I (and for a portion of time all of you) walked through the possibility of leaving Calvary and then we stayed, which brought for us, a sense of new beginnings.
  • Lynn’s grandmother died at the age of 101.  She was the matriarch of the Jacobsen clan and this was their first Christmas without her.
  • My daughter Sarah moved to Connecticut for a new position with Target.
  • My daughter Katy got married which also means we added a son-in-law to the family.
  • My son Jake changed his major at Bethel from Athletic Trainer/Physical Therapy to Ministry.
  • My son Josh is on the cusp of a new beginning as he has now been accepted into three different universities.

New Beginnings in Myanmar. We also had the opportunity, to host Joseph and David. Joseph and David are our partners in Myanmar.  This was their first time in the States. They were here for a month that included their first taste of snow and their first taste of Times Square!  I’m not sure which surprised them more.  

It’s pretty incredible when I think about all that God has done in the last several years through this partnership. We’ve sponsored hundreds of children, built orphanages and a Theological School. We resourced students from the seminary to build a school for children in a remote village and help that village develop an ongoing water supply…and so much more…including chicken, pig, fish and rice farms.  With all that has already occurred, in many ways I believe their time here signaled a new beginning for our work together in Myanmar.

The needs in Myanmar are so great. Poverty is off the charts, children are abandoned with regularity, thousands of children as young as 10 have been forced to serve in the military, and very little is invested in the education of the next generation. 

To add to those realities, in recent years, Myanmar was the number one producer worldwide of methamphetamines, and number two in opium production. Making matters even worse is the fact that because of Myanmar’s isolationist government, Myanmar ranks among the lowest countries in receiving international aid. Then we come to the church, the hope of the world. The church in Myanmar is often marginalized and in some parts of the country persecuted and the Burmese Buddhists rank as one of the largest unreached people groups in the world. 

Amazing Stuff! Yet in spite of all those obstacles, God is doing amazing stuff in Myanmar!  Buddhists priests are leaving their robes behind for the cause of Christ. Children are being taken in, nurtured, educated and given new hope for their future. Christian schools are being built, unreached villages are discovering living proof of a loving God and we have a part in all of that.

I’ve met some of these amazing stories. Mynt Shwe and Shu Mong left their Buddhist monk robes behind to become a Christian Orphanage Director and a missionary. Timothy grew up in the orphanage, attended our Bible School and hopes to go back to his village to show people the love of Christ. Elizabeth abandoned by her folks and taken in by Agape Orphanage is now dreaming of becoming a doctor to help people in poverty. Through your prayers, through your sponsorship of a child, and through your giving to the ONE% fund, you have a part in all of that. 

When you give every need becomes an opportunity for God to do amazing stuff.

Continued Opportunities. On Christmas Eve Calvary takes an offering; we’ve called it our ONE% Offering. I ran across a statistic a few years ago, that suggested that American Christians give less than one half of one percent to serve those in need globally and locally, so I said, “Let’s double it and give 1%.” One thing I love about Calvary is being part of a family that celebrates generosity! Our ONE% offering is more than a gift, it’s an investment in hope. The ONE% offering plants seeds of hope for children in Myanmar as well as in the Dominican Republic, Rwanda, and here locally.

The ONE% goals this year were significant, $243,000 to reach them all; a larger goal than we have ever before set. But our giving is behind last year’s efforts.  If you know me, I don’t often go to this length to ask people to give, but this one matters a great deal and I don’t want anyone to miss an opportunity to start 2014 with a gift of hope and be part of God’s amazing stuff.

If you are interested in giving a gift of hope — 100% of what you give will go toward the goals — you can click ONE% for more info and to give.  We will keep receiving this year’s ONE% gifts till the end of January, but why wait? I can’t imagine a better way to kick off 2014!

As New Year’s eve draws close…it’s already a New Year, a New Day in Myanmar.  I wonder what God has in store?

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You Can’t Cancel Church

Dec 30th 2013

Last weekend we had a church sabbatical. We cancelled church.  Well we didn’t actually cancel church, we just cancelled the weekend, corporate worship gatherings.  Below is the letter I sent to the Calvary family.  Even though it’s all about a weekend that already passed, it’s really all about, “being the church whenever you are wherever” or something like that.  Here is the letter,

Dear D-News Friends,

Church is not a place, it’s a people.
Church is not an address, it’s a movement.

Place is important. Meeting together requires place and meeting together is vital, but church is more than a place. Which is why you can’t really cancel church, people have tried for years but the people keep following Jesus and Jesus keeps building his church.

So this weekend we aren’t meeting together in our typical locations at our typical weekend times, but that doesn’t mean we are canceling church.  In fact let me encourage you to take time to be the church this weekend.  How?  Here are 10 ways to be the church this weekend.

1. Send a note to someone who is going through a dark time. Use scripture.  Be encouraging. Write out your prayer for them in the note. Email is okay. Snail mail is even better. Or try a phone…you know that thing you text with. By the way, text doesn’t count. It’s too easy.

2. Do a random act of generosity this weekend. Take out your wallet/purse right now. Find the largest bill (or gift card) and take it out. I know this is dangerous. Now take a moment and pray, “God show me who needs this, this weekend.” Now go be the church.

3. Go to and sponsor a child.

4. Visit a local church this weekend and bless them with your presence and your offering. Sure Calvary can use your gift but God smiles when we bless others.  Let’s make him smile.

5. Gather some family or friends around you, read the Christmas story and ask two questions. a. What part of the Christmas story impacts you the most?  b. What would it look like for you to live Christmas out throughout the whole year?

6. Take some time to pray and consider your part in our ONE% offering. Go to ONE for more info or to give online.

7. Spend an hour alone with God.  Read through a gospel. Make a list of everything in 2013 for which you are grateful. Ask God to show you what area of your life he wants to work on in 2014. Spend time praying.  Listen to some of your favorite worship music.

8. Go for a prayerwalk alone or with a friend. Pray for the people you see, the homes you walk past. Ask God to give you a heart of compassion for your city/neighborhood.

9. Have a neighbor over for lunch. After all, loving your neighbor is our second greatest command!

10. Go for a long drive with your favorite worship music and pray and sing to God with whispers, shouts, laughter and even tears. Sometimes that’s what I do.

That’s church too. I’m looking forward to hearing how church was this weekend!

Pastor Dan

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Christmas Blog Series: The Day After

Dec 28th 2013

I don’t know how you feel in the days after Christmas. But isn’t a shame that having looked forward to Christmas for so long, it’s over in a day. It does not take long for the magic of Christmas to turn into the reality of the day after.  The last carol has been sung, or soon will be sung. Christmas gifts are fast becoming January’s bills. Soon the decorations will be stored in boxes and the Christmas tree will be taken to the curb.

The last thing to go will be the outdoor lights. I leave them up as long as Lynn will let me. I think the record is March. Of course, I can’t understand why we don’t save the hassle and leave them up till next year, but part of my reticence is that I love the light shining in the darkness.  The day after Christmas there will still be darkness and we will still need light.

We need the light of hope for the darkness of difficulty.  Lynn and I just spent the morning in the emergency room with our son Jake.  He’s okay, but who wants to spend 2.5 hours in the ER. I have another friend who has been in the hospital ever since Christmas Day; a pastor I know lost his father and there are two couples I know who are going through deep struggles in their marriage. We need the light of hope.

We need the light of generosity for the darkness of selfishness.  In his book, “Grace Awakening” Chuck Swindoll gives his theory as to what it is about the spirit of Christmas that often irresistibly wraps us in it’s embrace.  Christmas scratches the itch of grace deep within us. It provides us an opportunity to get out of ourselves and do something tangible for someone else with no thought of getting paid back. It gives us a chance to counteract that selfish streak we all hate in ourselves.  Every notice how people just like hanging out around generous people. It’s not just because we hope to get something…it’s because we are drawn to the light!

We need the light of wonder in the darkness of technological innovation. No I’m not against technological innovation! But when technology becomes the source of our wonder it leads to darkness. Whether we find wonder in the latest vine video or instagram picture or the next iwonder exploding on the scene, when we lose the wonder that comes from relationships and worship and real life experience, life gets dark.

What can you do in 2014 to receive and reflect the light of hope, generosity and wonder? Perhaps rather than a holiday that is over and done once a year, Christmas could become a holy-day that goes viral to affect every other day of the year.

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Duck Dynasty Debate

Dec 20th 2013

I’ve only watched the show a handful of times…but when I watched it I liked it. I’m not sure why, but perhaps it’s because they seem somewhat close to my version of normal. They try to follow their convictions, which at least in some measure are similar to mine, not always getting it right. They love family and annoy family.  They pray at the dinner table and their family is multi-generational and fiercely loyal. It is no surprise that the whole family is standing with Phil.

So on the one hand I find myself interested in the Duck Dynasty Debate because I’ve enjoyed Duck Dynasty.  On the other hand I find myself interested because the topics of homosexuality, sex, and marriage are critical for the church and it’s interaction with the culture.  Let me make a few random clarifying thoughts first.

1. This is not a First Amendment issue. Read the First Amendment. The government is not at work here limiting the right of Phil Robertson’s speech. The First Amendment doesn’t magically erase the consequences of our free speech and if one of those consequences is the loss of Phil’s job, I believe that’s A&E’s right. Just like I believe it is the right of a church to fire someone who begins to express a stand that goes against their deeply held beliefs.

2. While this is not a First Amendment issue, it is a deeper example of the state of our culture.  We are quick to speak, quick to anger and slow to listen. (James 1:19).  Whether the debate is between right and left, Republican and Democrat, Christian and homosexual,  or Duck Dynasty and A&E, we are too often intolerant of those who disagree with us. From boycotts to petitions to calls for someone’s job our goal is to win rather than understand. And let’s be honest, from Christians boycotting Disney to Starbucks boycotting Willow Creek’s church leadership event, both sides love a good boycott.

3. It took about 700 names on a petition to Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, for him to pull out of Willow Creek Community Church’s leadership summit.  The “Stand with Phil Robertson” facebook page is nearing 1.5 million likes and 300,000+ petition signatures.  Probably more important to A&E is that the Robertson’s are standing with Phil. It will be interesting to see what A&E does.  What they do will be an indication of whether they are more convicted about money or about the morality of homosexuality.

4. I don’t think it should have been a surprise to A&E that Phil Robertson has traditional views regarding marriage and homosexuality. I also don’t think it should have been a surprise that if asked, he would say what he thinks without regard to what others think about what he says. I’ve only watched the show a few times and I know that.  On the other hand, I would be surprised and a bit bummed if someone at Calvary used the language that Phil used. I do believe that his heart is to “love his neighbor” but I also believe that some of the language that Phil used doesn’t communicate that love well.

5. I don’t believe I can fully know Phil’s heart or mind on this issue when it is only communicated through a news article. As I’ve read through the articles and responses it’s interesting to read which comments some articles focus on and which ones they leave out.  Again if the goal is to win rather than understand, that’s what we do.

6. I believe that one of our deepest cultural sins is greed…and I believe that the sexual mess we find ourselves in is a symptom of that greed.  And yes I do believe that our culture is a mess sexually, but that mess goes far beyond the issue of homosexuality.

So.  For the last few months the Calvary staff has been reading two books and a paper I wrote on the church’s response to homosexuality.  The two books are “Washed and Waiting” by Wesley Hill and “Is God Anti-Gay” by Sam Allberry.  Both men struggle with same sex attraction. Both men have a conviction that their surrender to God involves living a celibate life.  I have found both books helpful but even more importantly I have been so grateful — and even a little bit proud — to lead a staff that is so passionate about loving others with grace and truth.  To do that we must be slow to speak, quick to listen and slow to anger. To do that our ultimate goal must be to love rather than to win.

In the end God wins but from the beginning God has loved.

There are 4 Responses to : Duck Dynasty Debate

  1. Renee Squire Wrote:

    Thank you Pastor for writing this thoughtful response. I almost didn’t read this because I am weary of DD and A&E; so thankful I did. You put into words what I could not. Thank you.

  2. Brian Rabian Wrote:

    Dan, I agree with all you have said here. Phil has a right to say what he said and no one should be surprised that this backwoods man’s thoughts are traditionally conservative. I wanted to share with you that my prevailing thought in all this is that perhaps God has another message in all this. I’ve been struck by the merchandising of this show/family- piles of t-shirts in retail stores, red carpet photo ops, celebrity appearances at sporting events, and interviews. It was not lost on me that Phil’s comments eere made during an interview with GQ magazine. Maybe God is reminding them of the importance of living in this world, rather than of this world. If in the end the Robertsons and the network decide to oart ways, perhaps this will be pleasing to God and a reminder to a good family that fame shouldn’t be chased or embraced.

  3. SWBC Wrote:

    It’s not controversial that the network distanced themselves from Robertson’s personal views. Most people could accept their right to do that. A&E, however, went too far when they put Robertson on “indefinite suspension.” This amounts to an intrusive effort to control Robertson’s personal liberty and free speech in what he says on his own time. And let’s be honest, there is no way that Robertson’s views could have surprised the network.

    This means that they don’t care if he holds his view as long as he doesn’t talk about it — at least not publicly. Like others on this issue, they’re saying, “Keep it to yourself or keep it in your Church!” There is no safe place for publicly disagreeing with a homosexual lifestyle. Tolerance has become a strategy of power used to control people rather than a virtue to promote civility.

  4. Jeff Coll Wrote:


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