Sunday, August 20, 2017

Sunday Supplication - Guide Us in All Ways

O God, we need your help to be the people you want us to be. We ask your Holy Spirit to be at work in our lives to transform us and guide us in all ways. Help us to trust you with all our hearts.

Forgive us our sins. Help us to leave the darkness and love the light. Make us willing and able to forgive others as you have forgiven us. Help us to think, speak, and act in ways that restore lives, nurture relationships, create peace, and bring honor to you.

Help us, O Lord, to be good stewards of all you have given us. Grant us the wisdom and the will to guard our hearts, feed our spirits, stimulate our minds, and care for our bodies. And help us, by faith, to do the good things you've prepared in advance for us to do.

Through Christ, we pray. Amen.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Friday Favorites - Hidden Falls Park

Hidden Falls Park - St. Paul, MN

I just discovered this amazing park this summer. It is a quiet sprawling park with beautiful scenery, great trails, wonderful picnic sites, and good fishing with a boat launch.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Thursday Thinking - Race and Grace

Revelation 5:9
9 And they sang a new song: "You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation.

In John’s vision he sees the Lamb who was slain surrounded by the elders and the four living creatures as they worship him. The Lamb, they sing, is worthy of praise and worship because he laid down his life to save people from every people group. God's intention and plan is to save people from every people group. Jesus’ sacrifice was made for people of every race, ethnicity, nation, and language. God so loved the world that he sent his only Son that whoever believes in him might have eternal life.

Those who walk in the way of Christ must remember that his love and sacrifice are for all people. God's heart is benevolent toward all people regardless of ethnicity and culture. Those whose hearts are being led and shaped by the Spirit will also have good will toward all people, regardless of ethnicity and culture.

Let us raise our voices in praise to God for the salvation and hope he offers to all humanity through Christ. Let us also join God's redemptive intention and work for the blessing and salvation of all people whatever their race or nation of origin.

Acts 10:34-35
34 Then Peter began to speak: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism 35 but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Wednesday Words - August

When the blackberries hang
swollen in the woods, in the brambles
nobody owns, I spend

all day among the high
branches, reaching
my ripped arms, thinking

of nothing, cramming
the black honey of summer
into my mouth; all day my body

accepts what it is. In the dark
creeks that run by there is
this thick paw of my life darting among

the black bells, the leaves, there is
this happy tongue.

"August" by Mary Oliver, from American Primitive, © Copyright 1983 by Mary Oliver.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Tuesday Tome - Tech-Wise Families

Here's a new book recommended to me by my associate pastor, Brad Dewing. I'm looking forward to checking it out. Brad said it's a book he wishes he had back when his kids were younger. I'm sure we'll have a number of parents from our church reading it in the months ahead.
The Tech-Wise Family: Everyday Steps for 
Putting Technology in Its Proper Place 
by Andy Crouch

Publisher's description...
Making conscientious choices about technology in our families is more than just using internet filters and determining screen time limits for our children. It's about developing wisdom, character, and courage in the way we use digital media rather than accepting technology's promises of ease, instant gratification, and the world's knowledge at our fingertips. And it's definitely not just about the kids.

Drawing on in-depth original research from the Barna Group, Andy Crouch shows readers that the choices we make about technology have consequences we may never have considered. He takes readers beyond the typical questions of what, where, and when and instead challenges them to answer provocative questions like, Who do we want to be as a family? and How does our use of a particular technology move us closer or farther away from that goal? Anyone who has felt their family relationships suffer or their time slip away amid technology's distractions will find in this book a path forward to reclaiming their real life in a world of devices.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Monday Music - Good-bye Glen

News of Glen Campbell's passing last week hit me a lot harder than I expected. When I started writing music back in the 70s, the combination of Glen Campbell and Jimmy Webb was an inspiration to me. What a singer and guitar player, but even more, what an amazing ear the man had for recognizing a well-crafted song. Adios, Glen. You were really something special.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Sunday Supplication - Renew Us by Your Spirit

Help us, O Lord, to trust in you with all our hearts. We humble ourselves before you. We know we cannot rely on our own strength, and we rejoice in your mercy. Thank you for your promise to forgive and purify us. Thank you for being the one who saves.

We confess our sins knowing that there is forgiveness and grace in you. Renew us by your Spirit. Show us how to act, think, and live as Christ.  As you have forgiven us, make us merciful and ready to forgive those who have sinned against us.

Remind us, O God, of your promises. And help us to persevere in our lives with love and reverence for you. Lead us away from temptation and deliver us from evil. Protect us from discouragement, and encourage us by your Spirit. Bring us safely through this day and all our days to come.

Through Christ, we pray. Amen.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Saturday Smile - Heartwarming Surprise

Today's smile is brought to you by a segment that was on the TODAY SHOW a few days ago. I was watching and enjoying the story and then had the unexpected fun of seeing my son, Tyler, playing along with Mat Kearney. What a special little girl and family, and what a wonderful cause!

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

Wednesday Words - August Morning

It’s ripe, the melon
by our sink. Yellow,
bee-bitten, soft, it perfumes
the house too sweetly.
At five I wake, the air
mournful in its quiet.
My wife’s eyes swim calmly
under their lids, her mouth and jaw
relaxed, different.
What is happening in the silence
of this house? Curtains
hang heavily from their rods.
Ficus leaves tremble
at my footsteps. Yet
the colors outside are perfect--
orange geranium, blue lobelia.
I wander from room to room
like a man in a museum:
wife, children, books, flowers,
melon. Such still air. Soon
the mid-morning breeze will float in
like tepid water, then hot.
How do I start this day,
I who am unsure
of how my life has happened
or how to proceed
amid this warm and steady sweetness?

“August Morning” by Albert Garcia from “Skunk Talk” (Bear Starr Press) © Copyright 2005 by Albert Garcia.

Tuesday, August 08, 2017

Tuesday Tome - Super Forecasting

Just ordered this book today. Looks really interesting...
Super Forecasting
by Tetlock & Gardner

Publisher's description...
Everyone would benefit from seeing further into the future, whether buying stocks, crafting policy, launching a new product, or simply planning the week’s meals. Unfortunately, people tend to be terrible forecasters. As Wharton professor Philip Tetlock showed in a landmark 2005 study, even experts’ predictions are only slightly better than chance. However, an important and underreported conclusion of that study was that some experts do have real foresight, and Tetlock has spent the past decade trying to figure out why. What makes some people so good? And can this talent be taught?

In Superforecasting, Tetlock and coauthor Dan Gardner offer a masterwork on prediction, drawing on decades of research and the results of a massive, government-funded forecasting tournament. The Good Judgment Project involves tens of thousands of ordinary people—including a Brooklyn filmmaker, a retired pipe installer, and a former ballroom dancer—who set out to forecast global events. Some of the volunteers have turned out to be astonishingly good. They’ve beaten other benchmarks, competitors, and prediction markets. They’ve even beaten the collective judgment of intelligence analysts with access to classified information. They are "superforecasters."

In this groundbreaking and accessible book, Tetlock and Gardner show us how we can learn from this elite group. Weaving together stories of forecasting successes (the raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound) and failures (the Bay of Pigs) and interviews with a range of high-level decision makers, from David Petraeus to Robert Rubin, they show that good forecasting doesn’t require powerful computers or arcane methods. It involves gathering evidence from a variety of sources, thinking probabilistically, working in teams, keeping score, and being willing to admit error and change course.

Superforecasting offers the first demonstrably effective way to improve our ability to predict the future—whether in business, finance, politics, international affairs, or daily life—and is destined to become a modern classic.

BONUS: Read or listen to a Book review on Minnesota Public Radio

Sunday, August 06, 2017

Sunday Supplication - Nourish Us with Goodness

O Lord God, we acknowledge your power and your holiness. You are the author and giver of all good
things. Work in our hearts and teach us to truly love you. Nourish us with goodness. Help us to live in true devotion to you in all we do. Help us, by faith, to do the good things you have in mind for us to do.

Thank you for the forgiveness and renewal you have given to us through Christ Jesus.  Help us as we extend that same forgiveness to others who have sinned against us. Help my church become a grace-filled family. And help us to have a redemptive and healing impact on the world around us.

We thank you, O God, for life, and hope, and salvation. Lead us away from temptation. Deliver us from evil. Provide for our needs this day. Protect us from discouragement, and encourage us by your Spirit through your word, your people, your promises, and all that is beautiful and true.

Through Christ, we pray. Amen.

Thursday, August 03, 2017

Thursday Thinking - Learning about Racism

This is a classroom experiment that would never happen today. It was done back in 1968 when I was eleven years old. Because of that, I'm very empathetic with how those kids in a small town in Iowa must have felt in that time and place. It seems radical and maybe a little traumatic for the kids, but you have to remember that we were already traumatized by watching the news and seeing assassinations of Kennedy, Oswald, Kennedy, and King.

It was time for some radical thinking and perspective on racism and violence and the human heart. When will we wake up to our own selfishness and begin to love our neighbor as ourselves – to do unto others as we would have them do to us? To empathize with the oppressed and marginalized. To stand against discrimination.



Highly recommended!

Wednesday, August 02, 2017

Wednesday Words - Splitting an Order

I like to watch an old man cutting a sandwich in half,
maybe an ordinary cold roast beef on whole wheat bread,
no pickles or onion, keeping his shaky hands steady
by placing his forearms firm on the edge of the table
and using both hands, the left to hold the sandwich in place,
and the right to cut it surely, corner to corner,
observing his progress through glasses that moments before
he wiped with his napkin, and then to see him lift half
onto the extra plate that he had asked the server to bring,
and then to wait, offering the plate to his wife
while she slowly unrolls her napkin and places her spoon,
her knife and her fork in their proper places,
then smoothes the starched white napkin over her knees
and meets his eyes and holds out both old hands to him.

"Splitting an Order" by Ted Kooser, from Splitting an Order (Copper Canyon Press) © Copyright 2014 by Ted Kooser, and from Valentines, © University of Nebraska Press, 2008.

Tuesday, August 01, 2017

Tuesday Tome - Kooser Collection

Splitting an Order
by Ted Kooser

I have long been a fan of Ted Kooser's poetry. Maybe it's because he his writing references typical midwestern life. Maybe it's a Nebraska roots connection. Most likely, it's because I so love the way he manages to sparkle with life and truth and human empathy through simple and straightforward descriptions of the everyday things slip by most of us.

My wife gave me this little book of Kooser poems as a Christmas gift a couple years ago. She knows me well.

"Ted Kooser must be the most accessible and enjoyable major poet in America. His lines are so clear and simple."
—Michael Dirda,The Washington Post

“Readers [of Splitting an Order] will find ‘characters’ both strange and wonderful, animal or human. There is a sense that time is passing quickly and that everything worthy must be captured and savored, from an old couple lovingly sharing a sandwich to another sowing seed potatoes to a tribute to an old dog who waits as age and winter approach… Master of the single-metaphor poem, Kooser offers images that evolve, fluid and unforced.”
Library Journal, starred review

"Kooser's ability to discover the smallest detail and render it remarkable is a rare gift."
Bloomsbury Review

Pulitzer Prize winner and best selling poet Ted Kooser calls attention to the intimacies of life through commonplace objects and occurrences: an elderly couple sharing a sandwich is a study in transcendent love, while a tattered packet of spinach seeds calls forth innate human potential. This long-awaited collection from the former U.S. Poet Laureate—ten years in the making—is rich with quiet and profound magnificence.
– From the Publisher

Ted Kooser is the author of numerous books of poetry and prose, including Delights and Shadows (Copper Canyon Press), which won the Pulitzer Prize. A former US Poet Laureate, Kooser serves as editor for "American Life in Poetry," a nationally syndicated weekly newspaper column.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Monday Music - Festival Crowds Can Be Fun


Crowd waiting for a Green Day concert in Hyde Park does a pretty great performance of Bohemian Rhapsody.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Sunday Supplication - To Reach Across Barriers

O God, we are so thankful for your mercy and love. We thank you for your Son, Jesus, and for the life and salvation he has made possible for us.

Help your people to be a living demonstration of your power to save. Transform and renew us. Make us a true community of grace.

We acknowledge our sins and thank you for forgiveness. Help us to turn away from darkness and to love the light. Make us willing and able to forgive others as you have forgiven us. Help us to nurture relationships, create peace, and bring honor to you.

Thank you, Lord God, for Jesus, who did not cling to equality with you, but emptied himself and became a servant. Help us, like him, to reach across barriers, to welcome the weak, to serve, and to look to the interests of others.

It’s in His name that we pray all these things. Amen.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Thurs Thinking - Growing Deep: Making Disciples

I have always wanted to help our church become a discipleship community. A place where we are trying to grow deeper, not just bigger. After years in ministry, the biggest question I have is whether or not there really are that many people who truly want to be disciples of Jesus. It seems to me that most churches are focused on proclamation of a gospel message, attracting people to church, leading people to become Christians, trying to build community, and encouraging service. My experience is that while those for things may grow or strengthen a church, they don't necessarily produce committed and growing disciples.

I am hoping that in the months and years ahead, the church I pastor will make some strides in helping our people understand what it means to be a disciple and how to measure progress as a disciple. Jesus said you can know a tree by its fruit. How can people in my church know they are growing disciples?

What follows is a quotation from an article I came across earlier this week. It has me thinking, but it also gets me back to my question of how does a program or strategy actually become a tool for discipleship? How do we move our church people to turn the "want to" switch to the on position? Your comments and suggestions are welcome.

From Grow Your Church Deeper by Ken Stewart
Your church probably provides numerous opportunities for people to grow spiritually. Worship services,  Bible  studies,  small  groups,  prayer  events,  classes,  socials,  ministry  teams—all  are offered in the hope that participants will be built up in their faith and strengthen their relationship with the church.

It  is  the  perpetual  temptation  of  churches  to “program”  these  activities  and  then  rely  on  the program, forgetting that spiritual growth is a spiritual, and individual, process. Even more, it’s the reason the church exists.

Heavy reliance on programs also can lead to what the software geeks call “scope creep,” where the project expands beyond the original goals. A church must continually revisit and recommit to its goal of making disciples. Otherwise the church can become about adding programs rather than building disciples.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Wednesday Words - Summer Song

Wanderer moon
smiling a
faintly ironical smile
at this
brilliant, dew-moistened
summer morning,—
a detached
sleepily indifferent
smile, a
wanderer’s smile,—
if I should
buy a shirt
your color and
put on a necktie
where would they carry me?

"Summer Song" by William Carlos Williams from The Collected Poems of William Carlos Williams, Vol. 1: 1909-1939.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Tuesday Tome - Surprise the World

I've been reading this little book and discussing each chapter with a friend from church. It's a gem and gives practical advice on positive ways Christians can engage with the people around them. I've decided to use it as a springboard and companion book for my next teaching series – "Your Surprising Life" – that will begin in September. Beyond the inspiration to live out and share our faith, the goal of this book and my teaching series will be to give our church community some measurable and practical strategies for doing so.
Surprise the World
by Michael Frost

Christianity is a surprising religion. It has changed the world in remarkable ways throughout history simply through Christians living out their faith. More recently, we’ve become afraid of a habituated Christianity, thinking that routines will rob our faith of its vitality. The net effect is that we’ve replaced the habits that surprise the world with habits that mimic the world―and both we and the world suffer for it.

Integrating the five habits in the BELLS model―Bless others, Eat together, Listen to the Spirit, Learn Christ, and understand yourself as Sent by God into others’ lives―will help you spread the gospel organically, graciously, and surprisingly.

Michael Frost, a world-renowned expert on evangelism and discipleship, makes evangelism a lifestyle that is fulfilling, exciting, effective, and easy to live out!

Monday, July 24, 2017

Monday Music - Steve Earle: Tiny Desk Concert
Steve Earle has lived through the sort of horrors that have launched a million country songs: addiction, affliction, heartbreak, even prison. He wears them in his voice, but what's most appealing about him is the wide-eyed, unmistakable fearlessness with which he goes about his life these days. The singer, author, actor and activist showcases many of his talents at the NPR Music offices.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Sunday Supplication - Wisdom to Take Hold

Almighty God, you have sent your only Son into the world to save us from sin and death. We thank you for his sinless life, his selfless sacrifice, and his example of godly life.

Give us the wisdom to take hold of all Jesus has so freely given. Thank you for his redeeming work in our lives and in our world. Help us to follow daily in his steps.

We look to you for forgiveness and ask you to help us turn away from wrong.  Transform us and give us the faith to press toward life, healing, restoration, holiness, and good deeds.  You are so gracious to us, and we ask you to make us able and quick to be gracious and forgiving toward others.

You have shown mercy to us, O God. Give us the attitude of Christ Jesus that we might be a testimony of your grace and instruments of your mercy to everyone around us. 

We pray in the name of Jesus, our merciful Savior. Amen.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Thursday Thinking - What Get in the Way

What is the point of life? What is the point of it all? What is the highest good for being human?

In this short video excerpt, Greg Boyd explains that the Christian answer to those questions is for us humans to enjoy loving God and for God to enjoy and love us. This is the Christian vision of the blessed life. But of course there are some basic things that stand in the way of this ultimate goal.


Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Wednesday Words - The Vacation

Once there was a man who filmed his vacation.
He went flying down the river in his boat
with his video camera to his eye, making
a moving picture of the moving river
upon which his sleek boat moved swiftly
toward the end of his vacation. He showed
his vacation to his camera, which pictured it,
preserving it forever: the river, the trees,
the sky, the light, the bow of his rushing boat
behind which he stood with his camera
preserving his vacation even as he was having it
so that after he had had it he would still
have it. It would be there. With a flick
of a switch, there it would be. But he
would not be in it. He would never be in it.

“The Vacation” by Wendell Berry from Entries, Copyright ©2012 by Wendell Berry.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Tuesday Tome - The Jesus Way

I'm currently enjoying this book by Eugene Peterson. Some good ideas that dovetail with my current teaching series at Valley Christian Church.
by Eugene Peterson

Publisher's description...
The Jesus Way ― part of Eugene Peterson’s meaty "conversations" on spiritual theology

A way of sacrifice. A way of failure. A way on the margins. A way of holiness. In The Jesus Way Eugene Peterson shows how the ways of those who came before Christ ― Abraham, Moses, David, Elijah, and Isaiah ― revealed and prepared the "way of the Lord" that became incarnate and complete in Jesus. Further, Peterson calls into question common “ways” followed by the contemporary American church, showing in stark relief how what we have chosen to focus on ― consumerism, celebrity, charisma, and so forth ― obliterates what is unique in the Jesus way.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Monday Music - The Cactus Blossoms on Tour

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The Cactus Blossoms had a short window to join us at the Gladden House on the third day of the Nelsonville Music Festival, having two other performances on site that day. Jack Torrey and Page Burkum were joined by Chris Heipola on drums and Andy Carroll on bass. The session was focused on performances only, and those in attendance were treated to a delightful set of well-honed originals and a cover.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Sunday Supplication - Renew Us

O Lord, we praise you and ask that by your Holy Spirit you would shape our hearts and minds to think and do what is right. Provide for our needs and preserve our lives. Make us able to delight in your will and walk in your ways.

Thank you for forgiveness and help us turn away from sin. Renew us by your Spirit. Show us how to act, think, and live as Christ.  As you have forgiven us, make us merciful and ready to forgive others.

Give us the courage and the grace we need to restore relationships, heal brokenness, sacrifice our rights, and humbly consider the needs of others.

Save and protect us, O God, from the things that threaten to consume and destroy us. Help us to look faithfully to you in all circumstances. Thank you for Jesus, our Lord, who for our sake and our salvation came down from heaven. Help us to love you with heart, soul, mind and strength.

Through Christ, we pray. Amen.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Thursday Thinking - How Big Should a Church Be?

The Church and Dunbar’s Number
By Howard Snyder - July 1, 2017 ·

How large should your church be?

Silly question, you say. Depending on your theology or worldview, you might add:

- Large as possible! Bigger is better!
- That’s up to God!
- I’m shooting for 1,000 (or 2,000, or 3,000, or whatever).
- I like small and intimate!

Here’s a better answer: A congregation should be large enough to fulfill all the essential functions of Christ’s body—and small enough to really function as body of Christ.

So we might take a quick look at “Dunbar’s Number,” which happens to be 150.


Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Wednesday Words - The Farm

My father’s farm is an apple blossomer.
He keeps his hills in dandelion carpet
and weaves a lane of lilacs between the rose
and the jack-in-the-pulpits.
His sleek cows ripple in the pastures.
The dog and purple iris
keep watch at the garden’s end.

His farm is rolling thunder,
a lightning bolt on the horizon.
His crops suck rain from the sky
and swallow the smoldering sun.
His fields are oceans of heat,
where waves of gold
beat the burning shore.

A red fox
pauses under the birch trees,
a shadow is in the river’s bend.
When the hawk circles the land,
my father’s grainfields whirl beneath it.
Owls gather together to sing in his woods,
and the deer run his golden meadow.

My father’s farm is an icicle,
a hillside of white powder.
He parts the snowy sea,
and smooths away the valleys.
He cultivates his rows of starlight
and drags the crescent moon
through dark unfurrowed fields.

"The Farm" byJoyce Sutphen from Straight Out of View (Boston: Beacon Press, 1995). Copyright © 1995 by Joyce Sutphen.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Tuesday Tome - The Good Book

I'm reviewing this book right now and may be using it for Sunday Morning or Wednesday Night adult Bible study at Valley Christian Church starting in October. We would be doing one chapter a week. If you've read this book, I'd appreciate hearing from you. Do you feel it's well-written? Does it do a good job presenting Biblical themes? Would it be a good introduction for those who have never read the Bible? Does it have compelling ideas that will be meaningful to people who are familiar with scripture and have been Christians for some time? Let me know what you think.
by Deron Spoo

Publisher's Description...
The Good Book offers a user-friendly guide to the Bible's biggest ideas. A chapter from the Bible accompanies each chapter of the book, which helps readers understand the context and content of the Scripture passages in a way that can open the whole Bible.

Designed as a forty-day journey through forty key chapters of the Bible, The Good Book will appeal to those who already love and read the Bible regularly as well as to those who are just beginning their Christian journey.
The Good Book is great for individuals, and it can also be used by small groups in an eight-week church-wide program or a forty-week journey that focuses on one Bible chapter each week. The Good Book will help people understand and live by the transformative truths of the Bible.

Sunday, July 09, 2017

Sunday Supplication – Protect and Guide Us

O Lord, we ask you to give us clean hearts. We ask you to protect and guide us as we strive to be a growing and devoted part of your Church in the world. May your goodness and grace shape us and direct us. Help us to honor you and to follow faithfully in the way of Christ Jesus.

You know our weaknesses, O God, and you understand our limitations.  Our sins and failures are no secret or surprise to you. And yet, Dear Father, you are faithful to forgive, you are ready to renew, you are able to lift us up, and you call us to press forward in Christ.

In the same way, help us to forgive and to bless others. Make us gracious and merciful to others.

Thank you, O God, for Jesus, your Son who came to live among us, full of grace and truth. Help us to see him for all he is. Help us to grow in our relationships with him. Help us to follow him wherever he leads.

Through Christ, we pray. Amen.

Thursday, July 06, 2017

Thursday Thinking – Smaller Worship Centers

Six Reasons Why Church Worship Centers Will Get Smaller 
by Thom S. Rainer • June 29, 2015

I am a product of the Baby Boomer big worship center era. For many of us old guys, the formula for building a worship center was straightforward. We would project the church’s growth many years out and build a worship center to accommodate that growth in a single service.

Those days are ending.

The more common approach today is to build a worship center that will accommodate growth with multiple services, multiple venues, and multiple campuses. As a consequence, there will be no need for a large, single-service facility.

How did this change take place? Let’s look at six key reasons...


Rainer's six key reasons summarized...
1. The pervasiveness of multiple worship services.
2. The growth of multiple venues.
3. The unexpected growth of multiple campuses.
4. The desire for perceived intimacy.
5. A greater emphasis on building stewardship.
6. The Millennial generation is sensitive to the issues of stewardship and fellowship intimacy.

Thom S. Rainer is the president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources. Prior to LifeWay, he served at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary for twelve years where he was the founding dean of the Billy Graham School of Missions and Evangelism. He is a 1977 graduate of the University of Alabama and earned his Master of Divinity and Ph.D. degrees from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.