Brick By Brick


Last weekend I attended Verge, a conference hosted by the Verge Network in Austin, TX. It was phenomenal. In fact, it could be the best conference I have ever attended. The production value was highly professional and everything was thought through to the smallest detail.

The conference was held at the ACL-Moody Theater in downtown Austin. It is a venue known for hosting acts like Coldplay, Willie Nelson, Tony Bennett, and Mumford & Sons. It is an incredible venue. And here’s the cool thing, a place typically filled with people who are ‘three sheets to the wind’ was filled with a group of men and women focused on missional living and discipleship. It seemed like the kind of place Paul would have loved.


I had the privilege to hear noted speakers such as David Platt, Francis Chan, Neil Cole, Alan Hirsch, and Mike Breen. During the two-day long conference it felt like trying to drink from a fire hose. Information overload is an understatement. The quality of their content left plenty to chew on. Things like:

  • From Mike Breen in regards to discipleship: “Fruitfulness not success is the number one objective.”
  • From Todd Engstrom in regards to missional communities: “A missionary is someone who sacrifices everything but the gospel for the sake of the gospel.”
  • From Jeff Vanderstelt: “Anytime your life rises or falls based on anything or anyone….it’s worship.”
  • From Alan Hirsch in regards to discipleship and evangelism: “Christianity without discipleship is Christianity without Christ and Christianity without Christ is Christianity without discipleship.”
  • From Neil Cole in regards to discipleship: “Bad people make good soil…they have a lot of fertilizer in their life.” Also, “The quality of the church is determined by the quality of its disciples.” That one will keep you up at night…..
  • Lastly, from Dr. John Perkins in regards to discipleship: “The biblical statement is not us asking someone “do you want to be saved?” But them asking us, “how can I have what you have?””

See what I mean? Chew on that for a while…..

On day one of the conference during some down time that afternoon I found myself sitting outside of Mozart’s, a local coffee shop, overlooking Lake Austin. It hit me: I want to speak at conferences, camps, retreats, etc., but why? Is my primary focus to establish my platform or to make Jesus famous?

I think that is a question each of us must ask ourselves regularly. I love students. I love student ministry. I love teaching. And I love studying. How can I use these to make Jesus famous and invest in other ministries? After some time I landed with the realization that I genuinely I want to do this to make Jesus famous, not myself.

Then, the other day I was watching a TED talk by Rick Warren from 2006 entitled A Life of Purpose. In it he mentions Psalm 72 where Solomon prays to God asking for a massive kingdom and enormous influence. On the surface this sounds like the most selfish prayer in the bible. On the contrary, this is a prayer that God would increase his fame through Solomon so that Solomon would be an instrument used by God and for God’s glory alone. You see, Solomon wants to care for the marginalized. I think this is a prayer that honors God.

I may never speak at a camp, retreat, or DNOW. I may never write a bestselling paradigm shifting book. I may never be on the main stage at Verge or Orange or Youth Specialties. That does not give me an excuse to abdicate my influence. In fact, it requires me to be more conscious of how I am leveraging my influence for God’s Kingdom, not mine.

We all live in a sphere of influence, mine just happens to be with the church, students, parents, and schools. Your sphere may be your neighborhood, kids’ sports teams (because we all know they can’t play just one), or project team at work. In that sphere, where God has intentionally placed you, how will you leverage your influence to increase God’s Kingdom and not your bank account?


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