A Christmas Reflection For This Week

“Do not be afraid”

This statement by an angel shows up several times in the Christmas story. It’s said to Zechariah as the birth of John is announced. The same is said to Mary as she is told of her pregnancy. Then the angels say it to the Shepherds as they first hear about of the birth of Jesus.

“Do not be afraid.”

I wonder if a part of the reason the angels would begin a significant announcement with those words was so that what they had to say could actually be heard.

In those kinds of moments, it would be easy to let your fear override the words that you’re hearing. It would be easy for your mind to be somewhere else, thinking about something else, all the while, the angels are giving you incredibly significant news that you’re going to have an opportunity to respond to. In order to not miss what was going to happen in that moment, the angel would say,

“Do not be afraid.”

Because fear would take them out of that moment. Fear would keep Mary from pondering and treasuring these things. Fear would keep the shepherds away from the manger. They are told to not be afraid, because fear would distract them from what God was doing in that moment and in that place.

Maybe if those same angels came to us today, instead of saying “do not be afraid,” maybe they would instead say something like, “put down your phone” or “don’t add something else to your to-do list” or “stop your incessant worrying for a moment”. I wonder if the statements we would hear would be the things that keep us from being fully present in the moment.

What if during this season, God is wanting to say something to you, but we have become so preoccupied that we aren’t able to hear it. Maybe this week, in preparation for Christmas, you could take some time to put your list away, turn your phone off, and allow yourself to not worry about all that has to be done. Maybe you take a slow, meandering walk with your family. How about you get a fire going and make coffee and hot chocolate and just hang out. Or perhaps you turn off the TV one evening and instead read the story of the first Christmas – it’s only a few chapters – Matthew 1 & 2 and Luke 1 & 2.

I’m reminded of the words of the Psalmist who said, “Today if only you would hear his voice.” Today. Not tomorrow. Not sometime when things slow down. Today.

Could it be that one of the reasons the angels would begin their declarations that we read every year at Christmas with the statement, “Do not be afraid,” was as a way of saying, “Be fully present so that you can hear what God wants to say to you and experience what God is about to do”.

This week, as you prepare for Christmas, don’t forget to slow down and be present so you can hear what God wants to say and experience what God is about to do.

Bold as Love This Weekend at Parkcrest

I first heard about Bob Roberts several years ago when Roger Beard, the former Lead Pastor at Parkcrest, was at an event he spoke at. Roger came back talking about this crazy guy, Bob, who was incredibly challenging and was causing him to think differently about missions.

So, I began reading Bob’s books, where his influence began to affect the way we engaged in missions at Parkcrest, and also began to spur on a passion and strategy for us becoming a church planting church.

A little over a year ago, I began getting to know Bob, and each time I’m with him, I’ve been regularly inspired, remembering why I’m in ministry and challenged at how I engage in my neighborhood and world. Bob has this unique ability to build relationships  and speak with world leaders, people of multiple faiths, and just about anyone he meets, all the while never giving up what he believes to be true and core. As a result of that, he gets invited to speak around the world at things most evangelical Christians never get invited to – like the World Islamic Forum. 

That’s why I’m so excited to have him come to Parkcrest this weekend to speak at all of our Weekend Worship Services at the Heartwell Campus. Bob is going to speak on the subject of his new book, Bold as Love. And while his book won’t release for another month, you will be inspired and challenged at what it looks like to live your faith out boldly and lovingly in relationships with people of multiple faiths.

Hope to see you there!

Thinking About Politics: Resources

Several times at Parkcrest, I’ve teased it that we’re going to spend a couple of weeks preaching on politics towards the end of October, at the height of the political season. Every time I bring it up, I’m shocked by the response and the discussions I end up having with people in the hallways and during the week. I get the sense that we’re really looking for some way to have some kind of thoughtful dialogue about this, and to honestly wrestle through what it looks like when the Kingdom of God and politics collide. 

For those of you that are intrigued by this, I thought I’d point you towards a few resources since we won’t be talking about this for another month. These are books that I’ve found helpful in thinking about this discussion. A few disclaimers first: As with any book, I don’t agree with everything the authors write, but I did find each of these thought-provoking; Also, a more robust theology needs to be developed outside of books specifically about politics, but these are only ones that approach things from that framework. 

Descriptions for each of these books can be found on Amazon. If you end up reading one, I’d love to hear your thoughts…

The Myth of a Christian Nation by Greg Boyd

Jesus for President by Shane Claiborne

Blinded by Might by Cal Thomas and Ed Dobson

The Politics of Jesus by John Howard Yoder

And finally, when you’ve got a spare hour :), you may enjoy watching this discussion between Chuck Colson, Greg Boyd and Shane Claiborne on how evangelicals engage politics. It’s a great, respectful dialogue, between differing views…

Three Degrees of Separation from On Being on Vimeo.

12 Years Ago

12 years ago as a wide-eyed, naive, optimistic kid, I stood next to Allison Otey and said, “I do”

12 years ago, I had no idea of the gravity of what we were committing to…

…the pain we would walk through together and the incredible experiences we would share

…the children we hadn’t even began imagining yet and the way they would forever alter our lives

…the adventures that we would share

…the hard decisions we would make

…the times we would laugh, and even cry

…the way we would come to know the other so well

…what was going to change about each of us and what would be the same

…how pursing Jesus together would look in each of the seasons of our lives

I had no idea

I was just this kid, who pursued this girl, and had no idea what was in store for us, but knew it was supposed to be with her. Marriage is the biggest risk that you will take, but it has the potential for the greatest rewards. 12 years ago, I had no idea what all I was stepping into, but I knew who I wanted to step into it with. 

Mike and Allison Goldsworthy Wedding from Mike Goldsworthy on Vimeo.

17 Days Alone…Almost Over!

This afternoon, Allison is coming home from 17 days with a team from Parkcrest in Africa. I’ve had the kids alone during that time. Before this, the longest I’d ever had them alone that was 2 nights. Here’s a few things I learned from those extra 15 days with the kids alone…

  1. Single parents are incredible. Seriously…I already had a huge amount of respect for single parents, but it went way up
  2. There is a special bond that happens with your kids when it’s just you and them for this long together. I didn’t realize what a gift these two weeks would be for us
  3. Something smells like feet in the fridge and I can’t figure out what it is…hurry home Allison! Speaks for itself
  4. I’m really grateful for some friends who were able to take the kids when I had to preach, come over to hang out with me for a bit after they went to bed, and take them for a few hours so I could do other things. I’m not good at having to rely on other people…this was a good reminder of the significance of community for me
  5. I’m so proud of Allison for going on this trip for several reasons, but one of them was that it was hard for her to leave our kids for that long. In retrospect, the two weeks she was gone won’t feel like very long for our kids, but it will be an important example to them of obedience and sacrifice on her part.

I’m so proud of the almost 100 people from Parkcrest who went (and are still going) on mission trips this summer…but really excited to see one in particular later today

Glorious Mess is Free on Kindle Today

Mike Howerton is a stud. Seriously, he’s one of my favorite people and has spoken into my life in significant ways over the past 12 or so years. I’m not blowing smoke when I tell you that I wouldn’t be who I am in ministry today without some wise words of counsel from Mike and people like him along the way. 

Mike’s newest book, Glorious Mess, is free today on Kindle. Even if it weren’t free, it’s worth picking up a copy. If you buy it and don’t like it, let Mike know and he’ll give you your money back (actually, I don’t think that’s true, but I’d love to see you try, plus it makes for good advertising).

Mike let me post a portion of his book here for you to get a vibe of what it’s about. Read it, get a copy on kindle for free today and then buy a copy to give away…

I am a pastor. 

I work in a church.

I am also a mess.


I went with a buddy to Gold’s Gym one time. One time. Everyone there looked like Ahhh-nold. Even the women had muscles and a gap in their front teeth. Each one bronzed, glistening, cut, and lifting more than I could wrap my mind around. (I understood there would be no math at the gym.) I went over to the pink weights, looked in the mirror, and was startled to realize that someone had replaced my biceps with those of a third-grade girl. I didn’t belong. This gym was for the Big Dogs. I wasn’t even a dog, really. More like toy poodle, which science reveals is predominantly rodent. I never went back, opting instead for an intense workout program that consists of wrestling (on the floor with my kids) and surfing (the internet). 


I wonder how many times this experience happens in a church setting. A spiritually interested person decides to go to church. When they get there, they are overwhelmed with the fact that no matter who they look at, they don’t measure up. The teaching is from a guy who apparently hasn’t wrestled with a single sin issue in his life since he became a follower of Jesus, at age 5, when he had to repent of making a frowny-face after his folks asked him to clean his room. Everyone seated around them is dressed to the nines, votes with a clear conscience, drives a paid-for Volvo, and has children who probably smile demurely from homes that look snipped out of Better Homes and Gardens.  Better than whose home and garden? Mine, for one.


Who can measure up? This is an obvious exaggeration, but the view from the outside is very one dimensional, unless we take the pains to change it from the inside. 


With three elementary school kids, a dog, multiple sports teams and dozens of neighborhood friends, my home is continually in a Defcon 5 state of disarray. I’m personally bringing the harried, wrinkled look in, praying it catches on. My children are wonderful gifts from God Himself, and I wouldn’t trade them, but they have rarely nodded demurely. They tackle demure kids. It’s pretty messy where I live.


The truth is, no matter how it looks, most everyone is a bit of a mess. 


When I first moved from California to Washington I drove a ’79 suburban. It had no heater. Mostly I think a car is perfect if it gets me from point A to point B, but now I am convinced that a heater is also essential. One night that first winter, I walked out from my office late, and the entire truck was iced over. I tried to get in, but the driver’s door was frozen shut. If you’re from someplace warm (and sane), take a moment to let that sink in. Frozen. Shut. So I walked around the car, and yanked the passenger door open. The frozen handle literally broke off, so the door opened but would not stay closed. This did not improve my mood. I noticed my fingers had become icicles. I was carrying a cup of coffee that I brought to keep my hands warm (since my heater wasn’t functional) but then I noticed my windshield was iced over, impossible to see through. I poured the coffee onto the windshield to melt the ice, because I didn’t have an ice-scraper. And I didn’t have an ice-scraper because I’m from Southern California and I hadn’t used an ice-scraper on my car out of necessity in a long, long time. Like never. So coffee was my plan. 


It was a dumb plan. The whole cup froze instantly on the windshield. The passenger door was yawning wide open. My fingers felt brittle, ready to fall off any moment. I crawled into the driver’s seat, fixed the loop of my backpack over the passenger door lock, and I drove with one hand holding it closed, with my head out of the open driver’s window because the only thing I could see through my windshield was the brown liquid that was supposed to keep my fingers and my belly warm on my cold ride home, but instead it was frozen solid, like my fingers, like my face quickly became except for my eyes which were bleeding rivers of salt joy down my face, and forming tiny icicles off of my chin. But hey, I was making progress. A mess but moving toward home.


We live life like that. We limp along. We tolerate ourselves. We survive our foibles. We put up with our stupidities, with the messes we make and we roll our eyes at ourselves, swearing under our breath, wishing we didn’t make things quite this messy. Personally, relationally, and spiritually messy. I wonder if we aren’t missing something profound. I wonder if we don’t see that in that moment, in that mess, just there where we’re stuck, frustrated, or otherwise not all that impressive…I wonder if that’s the place where God is free to bring His glory. I wonder if that’s exactly where His grace is sufficient.


I don’t know where you are in all this…how you view your life, your struggles, your trials, your sin. Do you view your imperfections as a canvas for God’s glory to be on display?


All throughout the Scriptures, you see examples of God loving imperfect people, forgiving imperfect people, and using imperfect people for great and glorious things. God’s love for imperfect people is unrelenting. In fact, the bigger the mess, the more glory God seems to get. And of all the glorious messes in the Bible, few are messier than Jonah.


Everywhere I go, people grab me and say, “Pastor, give me some Jonah! I need more Jonah! I’ve got a fever, and there’s only one cure…Jonah!” 


Ok, not exactly. And there’s probably a reason for that:

It’s one heck of a fish story. 

It’s a whopper of a tale.


The flannel board Sunday School story of Jonah smacks of the incredible, the miraculous, and the supernatural. Because it has been viewed in that light, the Book of Jonah is too often dismissed as an ancient fable with little practical value for our lives. I “bing”ed the word “Jonah” and the top ten sites were for children’s books and ancient biblical commentary (well, and Jonah Hill, the actor).


How tragic.


It’s tragic because one way or another, Jonah’s story is our story. He’s a mess, just like us. I’m a Jonah. You are too.


When God calls us, many times we run from the thing we know He is gently prompting us to do. When we run, the storms hit. When the storms hit, we turn back to God. When we turn back to God, we see an absolutely incredible return on our obedience. And even after we’ve experienced God’s grace, we need to be reminded again to share it. 


God loves both the reluctant prophet and the repentant people. 

God has a plan for us, even in the midst of our mess, to showcase His glory. 

And God has given us the book of Jonah to learn all about it. 


In the five acts of Glorious MESS you will encounter no new evidence that the Book of Jonah records fact…no scientific studies proving a grown man can actually utilize the oxygen from giant gills to survive; no bizarre but true tale about a sperm whale that was caught and opened up to reveal a family of four living comfortably inside with their twin hairless cats.


If you believe in God, who spoke all things into existence, who holds the galaxies at His fingertips, who is intimately involved in human affairs, who is capable of loving even the most stubborn human, then this story is a factual non-issue. I know thoughtful Christians who choose to view Jonah as a potent myth, a fable with a heavenly truth built in. I won’t argue that point here (although I believe in the historicity of Jonah), but I know we can agree on this: to an infinite God, commanding a fish and sustaining life for a wayward prophet are no big deal. It’s harder for me to cook a package of Top Ramen noodle soup than it is for an infinite God to perform a miracle.


Now, if you don’t believe in that infinite God, then Jonah is the wrong book to convince you. Our foundational view of God’s infinite nature is found throughout the Scriptures, but perhaps most clearly stated in Luke. It goes like this:


For nothing is impossible with God. Luke 1:37 NIV


If you believe, as I do, that the Bible has proven itself to be a trustworthy source again and again and again; if you’ve found, as I have, that this dusty desert tome reveals the heart of God and the character of me, then this verse speaks volumes. More than any stat or study I could quote is the realization that God can and does accomplish the AMAZING, whether we are willing or ready to believe it.


That’s good news.

Good Grief

Erica McNeal caught the bridal bouquet at our wedding. You’re probably thinking what do I care who caught the bouquet at your wedding? Well, here’s the deal – when the person who caught the bouquet at your wedding writes a book, let me know and we’ll be even. Until then, I’m telling you about Erica.

In the almost 12 years since I went to college with Erica, she has been through a lot. By the time she was 32, she was already a 3 time cancer survivor and had experienced the loss of 5 children. But one of the beautiful things about her is her deep and resounding faith and the way that it’s guided her through all of those tragedies.

Today, is the official launch date of Erica’s new book, Good Grief, where she not only tells her own personal stories, but shares the insights that she’s learned through her own experiences.

Here’s how her story began to unfold while we were still in college…

In 1999, I was diagnosed with a very rare form of cancer. I was immediately told there was good news and bad news. The good news was the tumor had a name. The bad news was not only had my doctors never treated a patient with this type of cancer before, they had never even heard of it! At this time, the cancer had only been found in the stomachs of men over the age of eighty. I was twenty-two, my cancer was found in my neck, and the last time I’d checked, I was not a man!

And that was just the beginning…throughout the book, she not only gives you glimpses into what she went through, but how she began to process what she was going through and the way people reacted to it. 

I read her book to not only hear her tell her personal stories of tragedy, but to learn to engage better with people in the midst of their grieving and hurt. Speaking through her own personal experiences, Erica gives great practical advice for both those in a tragedy as well as those who are walking it through it with someone. She pushes through tired cliches and helps you to have some tangible ways to engage when you don’t know what to do.

If you’re walking through a tragedy yourself, or alongside someone, let me encourage you to check out Erica’s book…and help out the friend who caught the bouquet at our wedding!


by the way, if you buy a copy of the book this week, send Erica a copy of the receipt and you’ll get a pdf version of the book sent to you and she’ll enter you into a drawing to win a gift card to Outback or Carrabbas

A Multiplying Manifesto

This weekend at Parkcrest we talked about what it looks like for us to be a Multiplying Church. Towards the end of the message, I gave a bit of broad vision as to what that looks like.

Here’s my “Multiplying Manifesto” for Parkcrest:

We will become a church multiplication center. Training and releasing people into full time vocational ministry and missions as well as to become church planters.

But we will not just train full-time vocational ministers, but every day ordinary people who are willing to die to themselves to see the Kingdom advanced, who will start non-traditional churches…who will lead out kingdom initiatives in the city…people who will use their jobs and their vocations to see the kingdom expanded.

Parkcrest will become known not only as a church for people who are far from God to connect with God, but as a training ground…a training ground for every day, ordinary Christians to live out their faith in exponential and multiplying ways. A training ground for people who are called into vocational ministry to be prepared not just to lead in a church, but to see the kingdom expanded.

We will redefine success from how many people we can get in here to how many people we can send out…A multiplying church seeks to release as many people as possible to see the kingdom grow.

There will be a day in the not too distant future when there will be people living out Kingdom expressions all over Long Beach, Southern California, the rest of the nation, and all around the world. And they will be bound together as people of Parkcrest not because they all gathered here on the weekends, but because this is where they received a vision for something more…because this is where they were trained not to manage the structure of the church but to see the Kingdom expanded…because this is the place that said we won’t hold on to what we have, but we will die to ourselves so that we can see the movement of Jesus multiplied.

There will be a day when God will use Parkcrest where we literally will not be able to count how many people are affected by our ministry because while we will always have a localized gathering like this, we won’t be able to count them all because they don’t all gather in one place at one time, but instead will have been trained and released by Parkcrest to multiply the movement of Jesus.

And so here’s our most basic role within that…here’s how we participate in that…we die…

We die to being comfortable just calling ourselves Christians. We die to only spreading the movement of Jesus when it’s easy. We die to the idea that paid professionals and pastors lead the movement of Jesus…we die to success being how many people we can gather in one place…we die to church meeting my needs, and start being the church…we die to giving the church a couple of hours a week, and start letting the Kingdom and Kingdom advancement affect the entirety of our lives


What Do You Focus On?

With baseball season now in full swing, I’ve been following the Dodgers who incredibly have the best record in baseball with 9 wins and only 1 loss. I was wondering today how many of the players are thinking about that 1 loss and wondering what they could have done differently…what it would be like to be 10-0 with an undefeated record right now.

They probably don’t, because they’re professionals…but that’s what I would do. In fact, it’s what I do far too often.

A couple of years ago at Parkcrest we had an incredible year of people coming to faith – so much so that we actually baptized in a day more people than we ever had in an entire year, and at the end of the year we saw a huge number of baptisms. But it was actually just 1 shy of being a really nice round number that would have sounded so much better. It was hard for me not to focus on what we could have done to see one more person get baptized.

A week ago, we had record attendance for Easter weekend – the biggest weekend Parkcrest has ever had numerically. But we were 11 short of what would have been a really nice round number that would sound really good to say. It’s hard for me not to think, “seriously, in the 17 different services that we had that weekend, there weren’t at least 11 random people in the foyer or something that got missed and didn’t get counted”

It’s interesting, because the big number is what God did, and yet I tend to focus on the small number of how I perceived us coming up short. When I focus on the 11, I miss thanking God for what we got to be a part of. When I focus on the 11, it’s about what I didn’t do as opposed to what God did.

Far too often, I find myself focusing on the perception that I have of what hasn’t been realized, and I miss the incredible things right in front of me.This week, I’m going to commit to focusing on God’s provision rather than my perceived shortcoming so that I can recognize and celebrate what He has done rather than what I didn’t do.

Context Matters

What if I told you about a friend of mine who leads a church, and that church has baptized 10 people over the past 3 weeks? You’d be pretty impressed but it’s not totally out of the ordinary to hear about something like that.

What if I then told you that church averages around 150 people each weekend? A bit more impressive for them to have baptized 10 people over 3 weeks?

What if you also learned that the town this church is in has a population of 1,042? Actually, true story, there was a murder two weeks ago, so it’s now 1,041. Still, that means that in 3 weeks, they have baptized about 1% of their population. Just to give that some context, that would be like Parkcrest, baptizing 4,000 people in Long Beach in 3 weeks. To even begin to comprehend that is crazy and ridiculous.

But here’s the thing that blows me away, and is one of the problems amongst Christian leaders today – no one knows about it or will hear much about it. He won’t be asked to speak at a conference, get interviewed for a major magazine or to write a book about it. But what other church are you aware of that has baptized 1% of their population over a 3 week period?

As people, and especially pastors, talk about results they’re experiencing, I’m learning to ask context questions. For churches that are rapidly growing – are they in a suburban area, a place where there is a large amount of new growth, are people coming to faith or are they changing churches? A church where all of that is true may be growing at a faster rate and percentage than one that is in an urban area with a highly post-Christian population, but the growth of the church in the second context would be a much harder to achieve growth. Context matters.

In the movement of churches that we’re a part of, they publish a list of the largest churches each year. Parkcrest has been on that list for several years…until last year and this year when I chose not to submit any information. The thing is, I couldn’t figure out why it was helpful. What does it benefit someone to see us on that list? It felt good to see my name and Parkcrest’s name there, but stroking my ego hardly seemed like reason enough to make sure we were on there. Now, most pastors and churches don’t make that same decision, and this really isn’t about whether thats right or wrong – but that to say those numbers don’t tell the whole story.

As I was asked to submit our info this year, something more than years past began to bother me – my friend’s church wouldn’t ever be on that list. Which is unfortunate, because he probably has something more significant to teach people than many of us who are on that list, if people would listen.

I’m all for tracking success and making sure that what we’re doing is moving in the right direction, but at the same time, we can’t forget that as we talk about results, context matters. Our results don’t occur in a vacuum. I wonder if some of the most significant stories have remained untold because we ignore the context and look purely at the results.