Monday, April 5, 2021

New Staff and New Campuses

This past month we interviewed and selected 19 new apprentices for the 21-22 school year! It's a group I'm really excited about, especially as we are looking to start up as many as 5 new campuses this fall! Our staff is divided into five teams of pastors focusing on different areas: UTD, Dallas, Collin, Arlington, and Denton. Each of these teams is looking to pioneer a new work or a new campus this fall. Much more on all that to come, but be praying for these opportunities! 


Our Showcase fundraiser was a big success! We have come near to meeting our record raised last year, with some donations still coming in. If you didn't get to watch it and would like to, we are working on an "on-demand" option for the second part of this week. Our teams did an amazing job both in front of and behind the camera. Thank you to all of you who donated toward SICM this year. I'll have more to tell in the coming months, but we have an exciting plan in place for 2021!

This was pretty much the whole showcase crew. So many hours into this event!

A couple of behind the scenes shots

And my good buddy and fellow-UTD-pastor Rhett proposed live during the show. She said yes!

Most of my team has been vaccinated now, so we were finally able to take a staff picture. This is my team at UTD for the 2020-21 school year. They've done an amazing job pastoring our community!

Student Testimony

Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Entertainment (2 ways)

So first off, in just a little less than a month, we have our annual Showcase fundraiser for SICM (Student Institute of Campus Ministry). We are doing both SICM and Showcase a little differently this year.

We are planning our own SICM at a camp at the end of the summer when, hopefully, everyone will have had the opportunity to be vaccinated. We will be inviting a huge group since we have last year's crew plus a new batch from this year. Details on location and price are still being worked out, but with such a large crew, we will be using the money from Showcase last year along with whatever we can raise this year to make this training happen. I'm so excited to get these students pumped up to go out on campus right before the school year begins! Our colleges and universities have already started signaling that they plan to be back to normal, more or less, come fall semester!

Showcase this year will be an online experience, which means those of you in other states can attend for the first time! In addition to music, we have a professional illusionist/mentalist performing. He's amazing! You can look him up and see how many famous people he has performed for over the years. It's going to be a different show for sure! I hope you can join us. You can make an optional donation to watch, or watch for free!

On the flip side of entertainment, Garrett Davis recently taught our spring Pizza Theology on "What Would Jesus Stream" about the theology of entertainment. As we all spend quite a few hours per week (or per day!) entertaining ourselves, I know you would find his balanced reflections on the topic challenging and helpful. Feel free to watch on Youtube! (You can also find the packet and just the audio here.)

Thank you for supporting campus missions. Your gifts and prayers and hard work make a difference!

Sunday, January 31, 2021

Developing Next Level Leaders

A key need for our growing mission is more wise and experienced leaders who are able to think strategically and are skilled at developing the next generation of FOCUS pastors. Mandy Lanciani has been an amazing partner in developing our younger pastors for over a decade, and Garrett Davis has stepped up in that area the past few years. But now, the three of us do not have the time or bandwidth to do the kind of life-on-life mentoring and leadership development that we value with a staff of 40! 

To that end, I've been investing in 13 of our staff ministers over the past year with the goal of helping them take their leadership to the next level. I'm hoping to develop leaders who can mentor younger pastors, pass on our values effectively, and shape the culture of our team and our broader community. Every other week, we meet on Zoom to discuss leadership principles, work through case studies, and talk about how to move FOCUS forward. I love getting to do this! The only thing I don't love is that I don't get to do it with all of our younger staff. They are all so gifted in different ways, but these 13 are the ones I've identified as most poised to step into new leadership opportunities in the next couple of years. 

Our most recent lesson comes from a Habitudes book by Dr. Tim Elmore. He writes, "In the classic story of The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy illustrates a new kind of leader. She invites her friends on a journey, helps them discover their gifts, encourages them, and walks with them rather than insisting on being up front. She doesn't have all the answers but she gets them to their goal." That pretty much captures the kind of leaders we want at the helm of our organization! Building leaders for the kingdom is about helping people grow into men and women who can be used by God wherever they go. 

Dr. Elmore thinks the leader of the future will be marked by these qualities:

  1. Highly relational
  2. Interpret culture well
  3. Emotionally secure
  4. Share ownership freely
  5. Empower others
  6. Comfortable with uncertainty
  7. Listen and foster self-discovery
  8. Embrace the role of a mentor
  9. Less formal in structure
  10. Driven by service more than ego
Sounds like Jesus to me! Please be praying that I and those under my leadership will grow in these qualities in the coming year. We have huge opportunities ahead as the schools open back up!

Student Testimony

Thursday, January 7, 2021

Building a Team

One of the passages I've spent a lot of time reflecting on over the years is in Mark 3: "Jesus went up on a mountainside and called to him those he wanted, and they came to him. He appointed twelve that they might be with him and that he might send them out..." Such a simple message, but how did he do it? How did he pick the right 12 guys, 11 of whom would take his message to the world and lay a solid foundation for thousands of years of Christian outreach? Luke adds that he prayed all night before, but he doesn't tell us what he was praying. Paul also gathered a team. Just from the letters we have, we see a group of 40+ talented and Spirit-filled men and women who were his coworkers in the gospel mission. Their impact together was expansive.

This time of year, I'm always thinking and praying about the team of pastors with whom we undertake the mission to make and mature disciples on DFW campuses. Some of our pastors are contemplating whether to commit another one or three or even five years to serving in FOCUS, we're talking with our apprentices to discern whether staying on our staff is the right fit for them and for us, and we will soon have to prayerfully consider another group of applicants to our apprenticeship for the 2021-22 school year. 

In 2002, I was one half-time pastor for FOCUS; now we have over 40 if you include our administrators! Each one brings new strengths and shapes our team in new directions. Each of us also brings our own sin and weaknesses and slightly different values. There's both risk and reward.

For our student leaders, we use a FAITH acronym: Faithful, Available, Initiating, Teachable, Heart for God & People. On top of that, I have long used the "Three C's" for selecting new staff members: Character, Competence, and Chemistry. These are so helpful, but they are very broad, especially for a jack-of-all-trades campus pastor job! Competent at what? Chemistry with whom?

To help answer that, we've added three F's for our pastors: Fire, Fruit, and Fun. Here are some of the questions we're asking right now about potential FOCUS pastors:

  • Are they on fire for the Lord?
  • Do they have a fire in their belly, work hard, do whatever it takes? Are they a self-starter? Do they have momentum?
  • Do they evidence a desire to learn and grow?
  • Can they reach new students and bring them to Jesus?
  • Are they a catalyst for growth, maturity, and decision making in the lives of students? Do they make the people they are around better?
  • Can they make things happen? Do things happen in our community because they are on the team that otherwise wouldn't? 
  • Can they take whatever they are given and go beyond basic expectations?
  • Are they fun to work with? Do we really enjoy having them on the team? Are they net positive in terms of team dynamics?
  • Do students want to be around them?
  • Are they positive and lighthearted? Can they laugh at life and at themselves?

I say all this to say that we have a fantastic team of pastors. It has grown fast, but not because we will just take anyone and throw them out on campus. The Lord is doing powerful work in the lives of young people and raising up a team of pastors I could never afford to hire. They are talented men and women who could do so many other things but choose to serve in FOCUS because they love college students and are deeply committed to the Lord's mission. 

Please pray for me and my team of campus directors, that the Spirit would give us great wisdom and help us to discern who should be on this team for next year. I don't think there's a more important set of decisions we make!

I want to say a big THANK YOU in the Lord's name for all you do for me. Your steadfast love and care, your prayers, and your generosity do not go unnoticed and they are very appreciated!

Friday, December 4, 2020

We Surpassed Our $100,000 KFG Goal!

Thank you so much for your prayers and gifts! So many people have been extra generous during this tough season. God is doing great things on our campuses this year, and I'm praying next year is a big growth year for us!

Various and Sundry Pictures

At the end of the apprentice's Old Testament class, Dr. Iain Provan (Marshall Sheppard Professor of Biblical Studies at Regent College & former FOCUS Winter Camp speaker) joined the class on Zoom for nearly 2 hours of open Questions and Answers about the Old Testament. It was such a blessing! 

During our Deep Dive session on Mark 15, Amy read the crucifixion narrative while Rhett compared Mark's telling with the coronation proceedings for Roman emperors. You should check it out!

Some students gather outdoors on the lawn on Friday nights to watch Deep Dive together.

Our testimony this month comes from an alumna who is near and dear to my heart. Maloa was an international student from Cameroon and a student leader at UTD. She has remained a friend through med school, moves, and having triplets!

Sunday, November 22, 2020

I'm Excited to Share this Song With You

Many of you may be aware that most colleges in the US are sending students home before Thanksgiving this year due to COVID. Ours are no different. Many students have already left and others will depart in the coming days. And then they won't be back until January 19! So we've been working to connect with them before they go and preparing to move even more of our ministry online for the next 2 months. 

At UTD, we've been studying through Mark's gospel in our weekly Deep Dive meetings this semester, and we're almost done. This past Friday night, Rhett led us through the crucifixion narrative. It was excellent! He shared a number of things I don't think I've ever heard or thought about. You can find it at if you'd like to hear the sermon. But to go with the message, Rhett wrote the lyrics to a song, which Pico Dickinson then put to music and sang for us. It was very touching to me, and I want to share it with you here.

4 Holidays in One Day

Since we missed Fall Camp this year and with the students leaving so early, we came up with a new outdoor event to wrap up the semester: Holidays in the Park! We were outdoors all afternoon and evening. We played Halloween games, had a catered Thanksgiving dinner together complete with a thankfulness reflection time, were led through a Christmas devotional, and ended with sparklers and singing All Glory Be To Christ (set to the tune of Auld Lang Syne) to celebrate the New Year. It was a fun way to cram all the holidays in since we won't get to be together for most of them.

Thanksgiving Dinner. It was a windy day to eat outside, but the wind was good for safety!

Christmas Devotional. It's hard to tell, but everyone is spaced 6 feet apart.

New Years. It was so fun so worship together with sparklers going.

Keep FOCUS Growing!

Our annual fundraiser is upon us! On Giving Tuesday, December 1, we have $42,000 of matching funds up for grabs! (The students already had their KFG offering and more than matched the $8000 in matching funds we had for them!)

Please prayerfully consider giving an extra gift during this time to help cover all of our extra expenses beyond staff salaries. Depending on how things go with the virus, we are considering pioneering FOCUS ministries on some new campuses in 2021, and you can help us Prepare the Way. Thanks for all of the ways you've already helped us do just that!

Saturday, November 7, 2020

What are YOU passionate about?

For my seminary class this quarter, I've been reading a lot of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s writings, speeches, and sermons.  He was passionate about justice, passionate about injustice, passionate about people both young and old, passionate about the poor and the rich. He was truly passionate about creative nonviolent resistance as the only good alternative to either acquiescence or violence in the face of blatant evil and injustice. And his passion made him repetitive. Very repetitive! 

This is the book I've been reading from. So much good stuff!

This has me thinking: what am I passionate about? We live in a culture of neophiles. If you don't know that word, a neophile is "someone who loves and embraces new things and experiences, regardless of whether they are any good." We LOVE new stuff, the newest model, the latest upgrade, the newest trend. Then we get tired of our new stuff so quickly and go looking for something new. We replace our phones and gadgets, our hobbies and entertainment, sometimes our relationships or our convictions. We're bombarded with new needs and new problems in the world.

In the face of all that, it's up to each of us to, with the Lord's help, examine our hearts. Do I love what is good? Or do I just love what is new? Am I passionate about the same things the Lord is passionate about? His heart is unchanging, and while ours aren't, are they changing to be more like his, or are they just changing? Many of you have been serving and giving and investing and praying in the same places for many years now. Is your passion dwindling? Has it become stale? Do you need to rekindle something, reconnect with why those things are important to you and the Lord?

My passions play out in repetitive words and deeds. Those become habits, and our habits shape our hearts. But they can also stand to be refreshed from time to time. Perhaps it's time to remember why I do some of the things I do for the Lord, and let him renew my heart for the things he loves.

If you haven't ever listened to MLK's speeches or sermons, or read any of his writings, I highly recommend them. Many are readily available on the internet, and I'd be happy to give recommendations. I'm struck over and over again how very relevant to today his message is, as well as how deeply Christian it is. That's the part I never learned in school.

Thank you for caring about the Lord's work on college campuses. Thank you for your prayers and financial support. I pray the Lord multiplies all you do for his kingdom and renews your heart to look like his!

Student Testimony

New Staff and New Campuses

This past month we interviewed and selected 19 new apprentices for the 21-22 school year! It's a group I'm really excited about, es...