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Author Archive | Matt

What is insecurity and why it will never go away

Insecurity is the debilitating lack of confidence that springs from too much self-loathing and fear of rejection.

The following isn’t necessarily biblical or even scientific, simply observational:

  • everyone struggles with insecurity in significant ways
  • some people struggle with insecurity quite a bit more than most
  • a few of those who struggle greatly with insecurity seem to have personalities that predisposition them for insecurity
  • most of those who struggle greatly with insecurity grew up in abnormally UNhealthy families

What’s the point of these observations? To create greater compassion for those who struggle greatly insecurity–a compassion of which I most definitely need.

Speaking biblically, insecurity is spiritual immaturity and presents opportunities for growth into greater likeness of Christ. Insecurity has deep roots into our basic assumptions and core identity. Because of this, they will never simply go away. They must be painfully rooted out, time and time again.

Our value is defined by God: he created us, loves us, sacrificed for us, saved us, sanctifies us, and empowers us to do great and significant things for his Kingdom. We are valuable.

As for rejection from others: free will is a fact of nature, a gift from God. We cannot take it away from others and make them accept us. Additionally: approval from others is fickle at best and destructive at worse. We are accepted.

Insecurity springs from at least two twisted realities.

A significant amount of “self-loathing” is necessary for biblical humility and surrender. We need to acknowledge our imperfections and sin and inability to save ourselves. Call it total depravity or original sin, we must be able to say, “not me, but You, God.”

Acceptance from others is a good thing, for we were made for community and relationships. We are better together.

HOWEVER, when we fail to accept the free gift of grace and shut down our pursuit of Jesus, insecurity quickly swells and prevails.


Faith isn’t the starting line for the Christian life

The righteous will live by faith… (Romans 1:17)

There’s a significant difference between a starting line and a foundation.

In a race, the starting line is quickly left behind, the faster the better. In a race, the goal is to get to the end, not stay stuck at the start.

For the Christian, faith isn’t like a starting line, it’s a foundation on which everything else in our spiritual life rests (I’m talking about the parts of our our spirituality that are dependent on our responsibility). We begin with faith, but we also continue in faith.

At no point in the Christian journey should faith become irrelevant or childish. Should isn’t always reality. Faith takes the back seat when we fall into the following traps:

1. We believe we must work to keep God’s love or earn more of it. Such pursuits are impossible. We are made right with God through faith, and we need his salvation throughout our entries lives. Why? We are constantly facing troubles that we cannot tackle on our own. We need God’s help, and this means having faith in him.

2. We forget the discipline of confession. When we lack awareness of our sin imperfections, we also loose sight of our need for faith in God’s Son.

3. We fill up with pride. Pride is the constant battle for every believer, and it begins when we have spiritual successes. Growing in Christ is a good thing, but without careful vigilance, we deceive ourselves into believing we achieved new heights on our own power. Affirmations from others CAN contribute to these feelings of pride. Comparing our victories to the weakness of others continues to build pride up. Our hearts have not the room for both pride in Self and faith in God.

4. We settle for simplistic answers to every question. Knowledge is not the enemy of faith, but understanding ought to flow from faith and create new spaces for faith to fill. True wisdom never replaces faith.

5. We fall into a safe life, one without any meaningful risks. When all of our decisions are weighed upon the scales of our ability and power, we loose faith because we stop trusting God to provide. Self-sufficiency is an enemy of faith.

What’s missing from this post? What are some other faith stealers?


Hunger Games vid

Hunger Games from Luke St. Hilaire on Vimeo.


Charisma and Character

Great charisma will make a big splash, but great character will move mountains.

Your next Big Thing may be your next 1,000 little decisions. It’s in the simple and small and secret decisions where our character is forged.

Charisma and character aren’t mutually exclusive, let’s just be sure we go after the important rather than the spectacular. Let’s choose to make a deeper impact rather than chasing after a wide influence.


FREE TOOL: what does it mean to follow Jesus?

I created the tool below to help our students understand the dynamics of a life of faith in Jesus. I was looking to create something a little more in depth than the four spiritual laws (although I think they are great.) without getting too technical. Take the material below and customize it for your ministry!


created with purpose

God created humanity because he loves us and wants us to enjoy a personal relationship with him.
“Even before the world was made, God had already chosen us to be His through our union with Christ…because of His love, God had already decided that through Jesus Christ he would make us His children – this was God’s pleasure and purpose.” Ephesians 1:4-5

real life

The promises of the world are tempting, but they never satisfy for very long and they leave us feeling empty. Only in Jesus can we find real life. Once we accept Him, we become part of a family of people who also have found real life in Him. Life in God’s family means finding support and friendship for our journey and is better than anything the world offers.
“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” John 10:10

we aren’t perfect

A relationship with God requires perfection because God is perfect and imperfection literally can’t exist in his presence. The only way for us to enjoy a relationship with him is for us to be perfect ourselves.  But nobody is perfect, and we know this. We don’t always do what’s right. We hurt other people, tell lies, gossip, steal, get jealous, etc. We don’t even measure up to our own standards of perfection, let alone God’s Standard. The Bible calls our imperfection sin, which simply means “missing the mark.” In essence, sin is the the willful rejection of God.
“…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Romans 3:23

a price must be paid

Every choice has a consequence. Choosing against God–choosing  sin–results in death which is spiritual separation from God.
“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 6:23


Looking for more resources like this? Check out the Follow Up Info Cards resource. More than 30 topics covered!


Jesus paid our penalty

2,000 years ago, God came to earth as Jesus. His death on the cross paid our price, and through our faith in him, his righteousness (“right standing” before God) is transferred to all who believe.
“…found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith.” Philippians 4:9

His sacrifice is the ultimate expression of God’s love for us:
“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8

Jesus literally defeated death

Jesus rose from the dead and defeated the power of death. He predicted it would happen, over 500 people saw him and interacted with him. This gave them hope that what He said about having new life is true! And we can have this hope as well.
“Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures…” 1 Corinthians 15:1-4

a new life of faith and obedience

In Jesus, everything is made new.
“What this means is that those who become Christians become new persons. They are not the same anymore, for the old life is gone. A new life has begun!” 2 Corinthians 5:17

Our response to God’s grace is faith, which means trusting God more than anything else. More than our feelings, thoughts, friends, media, and the latest self-help book.
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Ephesians 2:8-10

God created everyone with a purpose for their life: you can make a real difference in the world for God’s kingdom. God didn’t create anyone to sit on the sidelines. Therefore, the expression of our faith is to obey God’s Word. We don’t just hear what God’s voice, we also do what he says.
“But if anyone obeys his word, love for God is truly made complete in them. This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did.” 1 John 2:5-6

a prayer of surrender

“Dear Jesus, thank you for making me and loving me, even when I’ve ignored you and gone my own way. I realize I need you in my life and I’m sorry for my sins. I ask you to forgive me. Thank you for dying on the cross for me. Please help me to understand it more. As much as I know how, I want to follow you from now on. Please come into my life and make me a new person inside. I accept your gift of salvation. Please help me to grow now as a Christian.”

Have you said these things to God? A Christian is more than a churchgoer or someone who is born into a Christian family. A Christian is one who admits his/her sins, asks God for forgiveness, and invites God to take control of his/her life. If you do decide to accept Jesus as Lord and Savior of your life, we urge you to tell another believer.


Looking for more resources like this? Check out the Follow Up Info Cards resource. More than 30 topics covered!


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It’s easy to get them confused

The Bible says, Let your gentleness be evident to all. (Philippians 4:5)

It doesn’t say let your passive aggression be evident to all.

Passive aggressive actions spring from a heart of fear and leaves bitterness in its wake.

Gentleness comes from self control and the love that looks after the interests of others.

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Choose Hypocrisy

As a leader, it’s easy to slip into hypocrisy because words are powerful and personal reflection is difficult.

Leaders know the power of their words. Just a little wind from our lungs will encourage, inspire, or instruct others. Affirmation gains loyalty, knowledge builds respect, and empathy wins hearts. Stories entertain. Laughter makes memories. Every leader understands that words make a difference.

Leaders are constantly evaluating success and failure. This isn’t wrong!–unless success is more important than faithfulness. Integrity leaks when we give in to fear and go after greater control. Rather than trusting God for the results, we overstep our responsibility (and dethrone God) by tring harder to be successful (on our own). Hypocritical words spring from fearful heart.

It’s difficult to look inward–it takes time and the results can be ugly. Additionally, soul care often goes unnoticed…and unpraised. Pull off a great event and you’ll get recognition. Spend an hour in your journal and no one knows or seems to care.

Of course, neglect that time and soon everyone will know…

When we give up on guarding our heart, fear’s foothold becomes a stronghold. Words become a tool for influence rather than an expression of truth and conviction. The hypocrite says what works in the moment to achieve his agenda rather than what is true. Our hypocrisy can’t help but leak out in passive aggressive comments or toxic breadcrumbs litter what should be praise to others.

The great danger facing the hypocrite is a rapid loss of influence. What an irony! The hypocrite seeks to extend his influence but ends up limiting it, loosing respect and trust. The typically begins with those closest to the leader and the decay spreads to teams, friends and volunteers.

The loss of influence is tragic, but the loss of intimacy with God is a travesty. As the hypocrite lies to others, he also begins to believe these same lies. The downward spiral of self deception short circuits spiritual growth and derails all hope of Kingdom impact.

We must not let hypocrisy in. Its only expression is out. We ought to watch closely, our lives and our ministry. It’s ok to want to become a better leader, but not at all costs. We must speak the truth, and keep a good conscience. The other option is to choose hypocrisy and give up our integrity. Who wins this battle in your heart today?

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Welcome to the Love God, Love Students Blog

Well … this is it! The new youth ministry blog from Josh Griffin, Doug Fields and some amazing friends. This blog will be exploding every week with incredible youth ministry content, videos, contests and challenges. We’re really looking forward to this becoming a place you’ll want to frequent (there’s a reason Josh had the #1 blog in youth ministry for several years–he built the wildly popular More Than Dodgeball blog and now he’s redirecting his focus with new enthusiasm as a respected voice, thought-leader and practitioner.

Here’s the plan: Josh will be blogging non-stop. We know… we’re not sure how he does it either… but the dude just lives and breathes youth ministry and helping youth workers online. Oh yeah…  Doug Fields, the youth ministry Yoda of the past 2 decades, will be the co-author on this blog. We know… we’re excited too!

In addition to these two fellas–look for great monthly content from respected youth ministry leaders: Kara Powell, Duffy Robbins, Walt Mueller and Albert Tate (who will be writing about youth ministry from a senior pastor position). Our other contributors are no slouches either–you’ll see regular posts from experienced bloggers Neely McQueen (girls’ ministry advocate), Chris Wesley (our Catholic friend), Geoff Stewart (our Canadian friend), Shellie Hochstetler (our parent’s ministry guru) and several others who are lining up to participate. We’re going to hit every youth ministry angle–from rookies to veterans, from small church to big, from volunteer to paid.

Now, it’s your turn to be part of the action…

1) SUBSCRIBE to this blog – get the RSS feed right here or subscribe by email in the sidebar –>

2) SHARE us with your friends (Tweet, link, etc..) Thanks!

3) ENGAGE with us… we’re better together.


Empowering your student leaders

“…the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:28)

Help your student leaders discover their identity in Christ. This will empower them to serve him according to God’s design for their lives. We aren’t called to be a duplicate of everyone around us, we are each an original masterpiece. Here’s a specific way you can challenge your students to G.I.V.E. their life away like Jesus:

Everyone is gifted by the Holy Spirit to do great acts of service in the name of Jesus. We are gifted to build others up, not feed our own selfish desires. We don’t need help being more selfish! Encourage your students to discover their gifting by looking at key biblical passages like: 1 Corinthians 12, Ephesians 4, and 1 Peter 4.

We are created to be passionate. When Jesus looked upon the crowds, he was compassionate for them and taught them many things. Help your students discover the “crowd” that stirs their hearts for action. Our interests paint a target so we know where to aim our gifts. A person may have the gift of teaching, but whom will they teach? Little kids? Junior junior high students? Street kids in Kenya? Help your student leaders overcome their apathy and discover the deep interests of their heart.

This is the community piece in serving. We need advice because discovering our ministry is bigger than we are, a borader perspective is necessary. Even the most independent among us listen to others. When we walk with the wise, we gain wisdom. When we spend time with fools, we fall into harm. Challenge your students to seek valued advice from others about their ministry.

When we reflect on our experiences, we discover where God is moving and learn to follow his ways. God speaks to us in times of joy and times of pain. When life is good, it’s difficult to hear God because we’re easily distracted and rarely feel like we need help. God can also do great things in times of pain. We may not have all the answers, but he promises to comfort us. Through this comfort we can help others.

What’s missing? How else might a student leader hear God’s voice in their life?


Mariners Christmas Video

Below is a Christmas video from my new church. I love it: creative, clear, interesting, great message, and great challenge.

Give a Give Card this season from mariners church on Vimeo.

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getting organized

I hate to be unorganized…but it seems to be my natural state of being…so I have to actively beat back the dragon of disorganization. Since the complexity of my life is about to increase considerably (read about that here), I decided it was time to update a weekly task list I like to use.

In the past, I’ve really liked the stuff that David Seah creates (whichyou can find here: http://davidseah.com/productivity-tools/)

Earlier this week, I created my own weekly planner, which is based on his designs. I’m not nearly as fancy, but perhaps you will find them helpful. You can download the PDF here: weekly planner (PDF).  If you want to make edits: weekly planner (Adobe Illustrator) (please don’t ask me to send you the fonts…that would be illegal!).

Typically, I spend a little bit of time at the beginning of the week deciding what’s important and I put that on this form. Who do I decide what’s important? I start with my long range goals and projects to determine What Must Happen This Week to move everything forward. I like the word “imperative,” because it doesn’t leave a lot of room for ambiguity. I want to spend my time on the stuff that absolutely must happen … not on stuff that should maybe happen…

I like to do my weekly planning before I read any emails or jump into any tasks. I’ll keep this sheet with me all week long and add to it after meetings, programs, etc.

This isn’t where I keep a list of EVERYTHING I’m working on or want to work on … I keep that digitally either in Outlook or Omni focus. This form is the focus just for this week.

I like having this easily accessible during my quiet times … nothing can derail me quicker than thinking about the needs of the ministry. I’ve found that if I can write it down, then it’s gone from my mind and I can leave the distraction behind.

It’s hard to be organized! (well, for me it is….)

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PROJECT: the iPad only magizine

I’m fascinated by new ways to communicate and connect.

PROJECT is the first magazine to only be offered on the iPad (and I think it will also be released for other tablets too).

This is pretty amazing, creating content and limiting it to a single channel… an untested channel at that. Sure, the iPad is selling like crazy, but it seems counter intuitive to keep the content locked in at one place.

I’m about 1/3 the way through, and it’s everything I’ve come to expect from an iPad magazine: content that you can interact with. You can check out the “directions” in the pic below.

Mashable says the magazine is a mix between WIRED, FAST COMPANY, and GQ … I wouldn’t know because I don’t read magazines. You can go here to read their first impressions: http://mashable.com/2010/11/30/project-magazine-ipad/

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how God moved me back into youth ministry

After serving in the youth ministry at Saddleback Church for 11 years, I quit.
It was the most difficult decision I ever made, it required an astronomical leap of faith.

Moments before I made the decision, I STILL COULD NOT REASON OUT WHY I needed to quit youth ministry. Nothing in my life was different—and I examined every corner of my inner life, friendships, and ministry. In my life, the way my faith plays out, every time I’ve given a question over to God, I had received some kind of answer. Sometimes it was only tiny insight, but there was always something.

In this, I experienced Absolute Silence for the first time. I knew in my head that I’d not been abandoned by God, but it felt like it. Understanding fled and left a void that uncertainty was eager to fill. I had heard about this kind of surrender before, and now it was my turn to walk faithfully in the shadows of ignorance.

My life hadn’t changed, but my heart did: I was unsettled, discontent, and without peace. I was 33 years old, and I’ve never had 3 unhappy days in my life. I was now in three months deep, with no end in sight. Ugly.

So, I resolved to quit youth ministry, and do something different.
In an instant, a literal instant (!), I felt a peace I hadn’t had in years.

And every day, for the next two weeks, God displayed his faithfulness. He revealed how he’d been working in my life for two years to get me to this tipping point. I said that I quit youth ministry, that’s not really correct. I didn’t really quit, instead God had a new calling in my life: DO SOMETHING DIFFERENT. I never really quit youth ministry, but I moved on in faith and obedience.

It was a WILD five year ride. I couldn’t have planned what happened if I’d been hopped up on the latest hallucinogen. I left Saddleback for a year, worked at another church for six months, pursued a church plant for six months, and then returned back to Saddleback for four years.

Near the end of the ride, I could sense a change coming and it happened: Rick Warren asked me to lead the adult spiritual maturity team at Saddleback. I was excited! A decade earlier I said to my hero/friend/boss Doug Fields, “If I ever leave High School ministry, I’d like to lead the spiritual maturity team.” And here I was, comfortably convinced that I’d serve in this role for a while.

A few weeks into my new ministry, I headed to a youth worker conference. Every year, it’s always “vacation” for my wife and I, because I was only there to record a podcast. God used this time of relaxing to reorient my heart toward serving youth workers. Through a series of conversations, an employment opportunity with Simply Youth Ministry, and answered prayers, I decided it was time to leave the church.

CRAZINESS! I’ve known since I was in eighth grade that I was created by God to help others know him better by serving in the Church (That’s a story for another time.).

I spent eight months equipping youth workers at Simply Youth MInistry and serving as a volunteer in Saddleback’s high school ministry. I knew it would be a ton of fun, but I didn’t expect my heart to change again, because it was so soon after my last shift.

A close friend of mine, Jeff Maguire, tweeted that he was looking to hire a high school pastor for his team. I thought, “I should help him interview people for that position.” Normally I would have said something, but decided it wasn’t my place. Minutes later, Jeff texted me and asked, “Do you want to help me interview potential high school pastors?”

Funny how God works.
Funny how he keeps working.

Four days later, lightening strikes as an idea settles to the forefront of my awareness: “I need to interview for that position.” My world stood still for several eternal seconds. All the pieces fell into place, all the paths made sense. Clarity and certainty showed up and they were unshakable, undeniable. After a  few months deciding if I was a fit for Mariners Church, I accepted their offer to serve as the high school pastor.

I don’t know if my time away from youth ministry was an exile or a pilgrimage.
I do know God works in both, and that’s Enough for me.

Especially now that it’s over.

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10 things I love about Andy Brazelton

Jumping from the church into a NON CHURCH job was was risky for me: the church was the only thing I’ve known for the past 15 years. Making the leap of faith was a little easier knowing that I would be working for my long time friend, Andy Brazelton.

Andy and I have a long history, I’ve known him since he was a freshman in high school. I can’t tell you how much PURE MCGILL he’s had to endure over the years (ask my close friends, it’s not easy). I could share a few stories, but I’ll save that for another time (AB: never forget the harry tostada I so graciously provided for you).

ANYHOW, as a friend and leader, Andy was absolutely great to work with, so I thought I’d share what I loved about my experience at Simply Youth Ministry with him at the helm:

1. Andy is always positive, and it’s infectious. Nearly every project has setbacks, and Brazel never lets them throw him off course.

2. Andy is great at solving problems. This one is a no brainer, with years of experience (more than a decade maybe?), Andy couldn’t be successful without knowing how to overcome obstacles effectively and creatively.

3. Andy is great at letting others solve problems. I’ve observed many “micro managers” in my life, and Andy isn’t one of them. He knows what he’s good at, and he knows what his team is good at…and he lets them do their jobs.

4. Andy doesn’t take himself seriously. The guy holds contests about the “wing span” of his ears? How great is that?

5. Andy takes his responsibilities very seriously. Running the best youth ministry resource company in the world (I may be biased) is not a task to be taken lightly, and Andy is committed to the CORE about the mission and values of SYM and Group.

6. Andy is great at keeping the team focused. The Simply team is filled with a lot of creative, fun people…think of that dog in the movie UP. We all saw a lot of squirrels, but Andy was adept and adroit at keeping everyone’s eyes on the goal.

7. Andy gives his people what they need to succeed. Andy is a responsible steward of the resources at his disposal, but he’s not a miser. When I needed something (or anyone else), assuming it was semi-reasonable, Andy always said, “if you need it, let’s figure it out.” I once asked for a helicopter just for grins but got denied on that one.

8. Andy listens to any idea…and HOLY SMOKES, did I have a lot of bad ideas. Most of the time, my role in meetings was to offer up horrible ideas to clear the way for real ideas to surface. This isn’t false humility on my part, but open disclosure: I pretty much said everything that came to mind. Andy was quick to execute on the few ideas I had that made sense.

9. Andy pushes things forward. Not content with the status quo, he’s a builder and always looking to improve everything around him. Not just the products at simply youth ministry, or even the skills of his team, Andy also pushes himself to think in different ways and do things better.

10. Andy cares for youth workers. Simply Youth Ministry is a company, and companies need to make money. There’s nothing wrong with this, it’s the responsible, biblical thing to do. Driving all the decisions is the genuine desire to help youth workers succeed by providing quality resources.

I left a few things off this list…because I wanted people to actually read this post!

BRAZELTON: I love you and thanks for a great season! I’m leaving only because I’m firmly convinced God is calling me back into full time youth ministry to be the high school pastor at Mariner’s church.

When I grow up, I want to be like Brazel, don’t you?

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silent running

I haven’t been really active the last few weeks…some exciting CHANGES are coming soon…exciting for the McGill family, maybe mildly interesting for you…

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