Archives For Mt Vernon

big_idea.250w.tnMonday I shared six months worth of BIG Ideas, one sentence statements that captured the biblical truth I was conveying that week. Here are the second half of 2013′s BIG Ideas:

“Mission Creep” Series

Jul 6 – Mission creep begins when you fear man more than you fear God.

Jul 13 – Mission creep gets crazy when you become lazy.

Jul 27 – Nothing fuels the fire of mission creep more than money.

Aug 4 – The problem with the church is that we’ve made church for church people.


“Front Porch Gospel” Series

Aug 11 – The world is won through Christ’s great love.

Aug 18 – Winning the world starts with seeing a world that’s winnable.

Aug 25 – Your actions illuminate what you adore.

Sep 8 – Invest and invite is the way to win right.

Sep 15 – The Kingdom explodes exponentially when we’re united in purpose.


“Picture Perfect Family” Series

Sep 22 – Your family has issues; deal with it.

Sep 29 – Where do you find your value?

Oct 6 – Are you doing the work required?

Oct 13 – Are you being salt and light?

Oct 20 – Are you committed for the long haul?

Oct 27 – Whom are you serving?


“Blessed” Series

Nov 3 – You’re blessed with a need.

Nov 10 – You’re blessed with a burden.

Nov 17 – You’re blessed to tell your story.

Nov 24 – You’re blessed to be a blessing.


“Advent Conspiracy” Series

Dec 1 – Spend less.

Dec 8 – Give more.

Dec 15 – Love all.

Dec 22 – Worship fully.


big_idea.250w.tnEach Sunday when I preach I give one BIG Idea from Scripture to the people, something tangible (and hopefully memorable) that they can hold onto. Some I’m proud of, some are honestly lame. Some rhyme, some should have been word-smithed a little more. Many are original, and some of the best are borrowed from other pastors. But, for better or worse, here are my BIG Ideas for the first six months of 2013:

“One” Series

Jan 6 – “I am doing a great work and I cannot come down.” (Nehemiah)

Jan 13 – There is nothing more valuable than the human spirit.

Jan 20 – “Stretch out your hand to heal and perform miraculous signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” (prayer of the apostles)

“Catfish” Series

Jan 27 – Americans have the wrong idea about God.

Feb 3 – My God is for me.

Feb 10 – Good people don’t get into heaven; saved people do.

Feb 17 – God’s chief aim is to glorify Himself.

Feb 24 – God allows evil to exist because to destroy evil He would have to destroy humanity.

“Losing My Religion” Series

Mar 3 – Jesus hates graceless religion even more than you do.

Mar 10 – To stay off God’s last nerve, don’t allow tradition to trump the Word.

Mar 17 – For the church to be its best, it needs to treat newcomers as guests not pests.

Mar 24 – Jesus walked towards the messes, and so should we.

Mar 31 – Jesus fulfilled religion so that you don’t have to.

“Culture Wars” Series

Apr 7 – When the world presents you with only two options, take option three.

“Deep Roots” Series

Apr 14 – To know the root, check the fruit.

Apr 21 – The better the soil, the better the roots.

Apr 28 – To kill a weed, you have to pull it up by its roots.

May 5 – God prunes the good so that the best can flourish.

May 12 – To see spiritual gain: don’t strain, remain.

“The Other Guy” Series

Jun 2 – There is no church without the Holy Spirit.

Jun 9 – The Holy Spirit is our guide to help us experience our maximum potential in Christ.

Jun 16 – The Holy Spirit is God’s explosive power in your world.

Jun 23 – Spiritual gifts are the Holy Spirit’s custom-designed way for you to impact your world.

Jun 30 – We’re filled to be spilled.

It’s amazing to see the impact you can have at your church this Sunday if you simply open your eyes to needs around you. Leshay came to Mt Vernon several months ago looking for acceptance and a family to belong to. Because normal, everyday church members went out of their way to make her feel welcome, we’re blessed to now have Leshay as a part of our church family.

Watch this video and see who you God puts in your path this Sunday at church.


Next StepsThings are always changing at Mt Vernon. One of the major changes we made in the past month was replacing our information desk with a Next Steps desk. We didn’t just keep the same desk but change the signs. We actually turned the old information desk into a coffee bar and built a Next Steps desk from scratch. Why?

1. We’re not an event driven church, so an information desk was useless. Every church seems to have an information desk, but it’s based on the assumption of a superfluous amount of special activities that happen outside the Sunday morning experience. We pour everything into our Sunday morning experience, making each one a special event. Thus, the need to fill up the calendar with extraneous events is negated (and with it an information desk).

2. We place high value church-wide in taking the next step in your faith. We constantly use the language that your Christian faith is a journey, a series of next steps. We are not called (nor are we content with) merely attending and consuming. Church attendance is not the goal of our faith at Mt Vernon. Taking the next step is.

3. We’ve identified several primary ‘next steps’ for people to take. On the back of our Connection Card, we’ve identified several next steps. We aren’t claiming these are the only ones, but they are some of the most common: salvation, baptism, share my story, life groups, membership, prayer, serving @ mt vernon, project hope, financial peace university, imagine campaign, 90-day tithe challenge.

4. We built a Next Steps desk in a place of primary importance to help people grow in their faith. When you first walk in our Welcome Center, you’ll see our Next Steps desk. The logo, look and format of the desk information matches the Connection Card. It’s our primary place of information, not of church events (we do that through email/social media), but of helping people take the next step in their faith.

We believe the difference is slight but absolutely crucial to be a healthy, growing, vibrant church.

Hooray! We Ruined Church!

February 19, 2014 — 1 Comment

2.19.14We ruined church for someone, and we’re excited about it. A few days ago I received a message from an Air Force family that was at Mt Vernon while they were stationed here, but a year ago moved to another part of the United States. Here’s their message:

Just thought we would let you know that because Mt Vernon set the standard of how a church family should be we think every church here stinks! We still have smiles on our faces when we think of the wonderful welcome team, the non showy praise team, your bible based challenging sermons and the love we felt from the church family. That’s all :)

All three things they mentioned are things we work incredibly hard at. We have dozens and dozens of dedicated volunteers who come to church early on Sunday mornings to stand at every door and fill the parking lot. Some say it’s overkill, but we say it’s making a difference.

We have a praise team that works incredibly hard to master their craft while not making a big deal out of themselves. I work tirelessly to make sure that my messages are scripturally sound, culturally relevant and personally challenging. We have a church family that genuinely likes each other and reaches out with open arms to newcomers.

What’s the result of all this? We ruined church for a family. And we couldn’t be happier about it!!

SANYO DIGITAL CAMERAChurch should be fun. It really should. Now wait, all you coffee-shop-theologians, before you start questioning my salvation. I didn’t say that church should be watered down. I didn’t say that church should be a conviction-free zone. What I’m saying is that when we make church boring, we do an incredible disservice to the transforming power of the gospel.

Whether you agree with me or not, here’s one family that’s been changed because Mt Vernon (the church I serve) refuses to make church boring and monotonous:

Pastor Josh,

I just wanted to take a minute to say thank you. My husband and I have visited Mt Vernon a couple of times this month with [a friend]. We have loved it. I am not from Columbus and was afraid of trying to find a church here. Mt Vernon is so welcoming and friendly. Your messages and way of conveying them is great. My husband did not have the same upbringing as myself and after our first visit he made the comment that he wasn’t bored in church for the first time. Thank you for that. We will be back.

That’s why our staff goes the extra mile to think of creative ways to teach timeless truths, to create irresistible environments that draw people back. That’s why our volunteers are out in the parking lot first thing Sunday morning, creating a welcoming atmosphere. If it makes a difference (and it does) for a first-time guest burned on church, then it’s all been worth it.

Mt Vernon Rap

December 19, 2013 — 2 Comments

Last night Mt Vernon Church premiered a staff Christmas present to the church. Enjoy!

blessedWe all want to be blessed, right? I mean, who doesn’t want to be blessed? Now the trick is, when we say we want to be “blessed,” what we’re really saying is that we want everything we need. We want to be self-sufficient. We don’t want to depend on anyone.

When a Christian is well-off financially, what do they say? “I’m blessed.” Think back to the Prayer of Jabez craze back in 2000-2001 or the popularity of positivity preachers like Joel Osteen, and you’ll discover that the evangelical community has a fascination with being “blessed.”

But what if we have it all wrong? What if our ideas of being blessed are upside down? Jesus talked about being blessed. In fact, he started his ministry by talking about it. He just didn’t say it in a way we expected. Today, we think that you’re blessed when you’re healthy, wealthy and wise. Jesus said you’re blessed when you’re poor, hungry and meek (Matthew 5:1-6).

So, what does it mean to be truly blessed? Are we looking for blessings in all the wrong places? Join us this Sunday morning as we start a new series: Blessed. (If you’re not in town, you can watch us live at 9:00 and 10:30 CST at

165855_685273474553_674174366_nYesterday I had the heart-breaking privilege at preaching Mark Junkin’s funeral. He was an incredible man who left a lasting legacy with his family, his church, and throughout the world. You can watch the archived funeral service at Here is the text of the message I shared:

Mark Junkins Funeral Message

Today we’re here to celebrate the life of Mark Junkins. As you’ve already heard, he was a son, a brother, a husband, and a father. His influence extended well beyond his immediate family. He touched lives in the lumber industry and in the military as evidenced by all the folks watching this service online from around the world.

For most of you, this isn’t your first funeral, and this definitely won’t be your last, but this one is especially hard. First, Mark was still young by today’s standards. More, he was in better shape than probably most of us in this room. His death comes as a complete shock and surprise to all of us.

Our hearts struggle with the issue of fairness, because of all people to die too soon, none of us would have put Mark on that list. He was such a giver. He added value to so many lives. He was such a positive force for good. He believed in God, as do many of you, and perhaps the biggest question we’re struggling with today is: why? Why God? Why him? Why now? Why when he was doing so many good things for others?

Now, while I can acknowledge the question that we’re all wrestling with, I cannot fully answer it, or at least answer it to the extent that it will take the pain away. Here’s what we believe: There is a good God that created the world and is still intimately involved in it. Sin entered the world like an atomic bomb through mankind’s choice in the Garden of Eden, and like an atomic bomb, the fallout still affects us today. Through our limited perspective, Mark’s tragic death makes no sense to us. All we can do is trust in a good God, a God who is in control and on his throne. Who knows the past, the present, and the future, all the variables that we could never know. And trust that because of his faith in God, Mark is in a much better place now.

So while we can’t fully answer the question of “why,” here’s what we can do: We can use this tragedy as an opportunity to be reminded of the most important things in life:

  • Life is short. The Bible describes it as a mist that appears in the morning for a little while and then vanishes. The end of your life will always be unexpected.
  • Life is incredibly valuable. You never know the true value of something or someone until they’re gone. If you have someone you love close to you, don’t let another day go by without expressing your love and appreciation for them. Some of you are estranged from parents, siblings, or children. Make things right today, because no one is guaranteed tomorrow.
  • Too many of us are content to distract ourselves through life and neglect the most important things: faith, family, and legacy. Life as a 21st century American is filled with trivial distractions, tempting you to waste your life on things that don’t ultimately matter. But it’s at moments like this when you realize that life is so much more than making money, watching tv, or following your favorite sports team. As another pastor eloquently put it: the value of a life is determined by how much of it you give away.
  • Death reminds us of the question of the afterlife. Is there life after this life? Do we cease to be, or is there a heaven and hell? If heaven exists, then are you making sure you’re doing what the Bible says you need to do to go there after you die?

Life is so fast, you’d be surprised at how few times you actually stop long enough to contemplate the deeper things. Don’t let this opportunity pass you by.

But more than just remembering the important things in life, here’s what we can do today, what I hope we all choose to do: celebrate. Celebrate Mark’s life. Celebrate Mark’s legacy. The amount of folks that have contacted Phyllis and the boys over the past few days, who came to the Visitation last night and who are here today, physically and online, are all a testament to the legacy Mark left.

Mark left a legacy with me. He was the chairman of the search team that brought me to Mt Vernon. He was the first person I talked with. As I’m sure he did with many of you, Mark always challenged me to keep learning. He was a voracious learner, a strong student of history. Some of my favorite conversations were of us talking about the book we were reading or how some obscure historical event continues to impact today.

More than that, he was an elder, the first elder, the primary lay leader of Mt Vernon. He was a source of incredible wisdom for Jeff (the previous pastor) and myself. His preference was to be behind the scenes. He never craved the limelight, but I guarantee you that Mt Vernon wouldn’t be what it is today if it wasn’t for Mark’s influence. This church is his legacy.

Mark worked for McShan lumber, and he leaves a strong legacy in the lumber industry. He was a hard worker, strong work ethic, always there, always looking for the best way. He always looked for the best in people, his coworkers and those he sold to. The way he interacted with others was a testament to his belief in God and His respect for the human life. While he was here, Mark worked hard to make his corner of the world a better place. And he succeeded brilliantly.

Mark leaves a strong legacy in the military. He served himself for the greater good of our country. For the past several years, he and Phyllis have adopted untold number of student pilots at Columbus Air Force base. Mark and Phyllis were like the world’s greatest dorm parents. Phyllis never knew who would be showing up when, but Mark and Phyllis created community for student pilots, serving as surrogate moms and dads, and mentors to scores of student pilots.

But the greatest legacy he left, are his two boys, Travis and John Mark. The greatest legacy any of us will leave is our children, and long after we’re gone, their lives serve as a testament to the years of sacrifice we’ve made. Travis got the build, John Mark got the temperament. For the record, Travis can grow the thicker mustache, but it actually comes in reddish blonde, so not sure how manly that really is. Both of you are in the military, serving this country, trying to make this world a better place. You’re both now husbands, one day you’ll be dads. Unfortunately, your kids will never know Mark on this side of heaven. So his legacy is you. As you live out what your dad taught you, as you live out the best parts of your dad, you two are a living legacy to Mark.

So we celebrate Mark’s legacy, but we also celebrate because we believe that Mark is still alive, although not here with us. This is where our belief in God, the Bible and heaven becomes so precious for us who believe. If this life is all that there is, then we don’t have much hope. But we believe in a God of eternity. We believe that life doesn’t end at death, it merely transitions to eternal life. In the gospel of John 3:16, the Bible clearly states, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” Mark had placed the full weight of his trust in God, as evidenced by his love for God and service to others. So, Mark has died, but he hasn’t perished. He now has eternal life.

And although we mourn, it’s appropriate to mourn for our sakes, for the void that is left because of his passing. But don’t mourn for him. Mark is in a better place. Mark is with Jesus. Mark is in heaven, in a place of perfection where there is no sickness, no pain, no death. Mark is reunited with the loved ones who passed on before him. Mark gets to meet many of the historical figures he read so much about during his life. Mark is now fully alive, in a way we can never truly experience on this earth.

So, when you think of Mark, don’t think of a casket or a grave. Think of him as he truly is, alive, rejoicing in heaven. I’m not sure if mustaches are fashionable in heaven, but they’re going to be after he’s through. Wherever Mark is in the New Jerusalem, you can be sure he’s probably already gone for a run around the perimeter. And can’t you just imagine Mark hanging out with Peter, with Samson, all doing push-ups together? Mark is gone from here, but he’s not dead. He’s alive in Christ, in heaven, and for those of us who believe, we’ll see him again one day. So, rejoice in that.

If Mark were here and wanted to preach a word, I’m pretty sure what he would share. He would simply share what he shared with many of us throughout his life. If you ever got an email from Mark, then you saw his final words, “Press On.” It comes from the book of Philippians, where the apostle Paul writes these words, “One thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:13-14

Rather than focus on the past, focus on the mistakes, focus on what could have been, Mark’s life, like Paul’s, was dominated by a forward-thinking mentality. In spite of the obstacles, in spite of the hardships, he “pressed on” to reach his full potential in Christ. May that example be the legacy we all walk away with. The goal? To win the prize, eternal life in heaven. Mark won. He’s in heaven with his Savior.

So Mark, we’re saddened by your loss, but we’re overwhelmed with joy because you’ve reached the goal. You’ve won the prize. You’re where you want to be, and one day we’ll see you again. I know that many of you here may not know that peace, that joy that Mark had. You may not have a relationship with Jesus. I pray that his life would spur you to investigate faith, investigate God, and discover the beautiful relationship that we can all have with Jesus, and that Mark so wonderfully exemplified in his life.

Let’s pray.

Mt Vernon logoYesterday at staff meeting (whoop whoop!) we went around the table and shared stories about how Mt Vernon is living out our purpose of “creating contagious communities of hope.” The stories I heard reminded me why I love to do what I do. Here are a few of the stories we shared:

  • We have a relatively new family that is becoming a strong beacon of hope in their community. They brought nine kids with them to church Sunday, most of them not theirs, most of them from homes without much hope. This family’s intentionality is inspiring.
  • There’s a single mom with three kids that came up to me Sunday after service with tears in her eyes. We talked the next day, and she’s feeling overwhelmed by life. She doesn’t have any real community or family, and she desperately needs a support network around her. We’re getting her plugged into a LifeGroup and will become the family she needs.
  • One of our staff went to drop off some clothes to someone in need last week. She lives in a trailer park, below the poverty line. In the ensuing conversation with this grateful lady, our staff member was overwhelmed by the lack of hope that seemed to emanate from the folks in the trailer park. We’re establishing a beachhead of hope in that community.
  • Last Friday I went to visit the mom of a relatively new family to our church who is currently in prison. She’s finding an incredible amount of strength from her new found relationship with God, and her fiancé and three kids were all in church Sunday.
  • One of our precious Air Force families is heading out this week to their next assignment. Looking back over their few years here, we celebrated as a staff how the husband accepted Christ while at Mt Vernon and within the past year has gotten the majority of his squadron involved in church. What a success story!

As we’re embracing this purpose of “creating contagious communities of hope,” we’re finding examples of it all around. People are being intentionally contagious with their faith. People are coming out of the woodwork, desperate for community. We’re seeing pockets of hopelessness all around where the hope of the gospel is desperately needed. That’s why I love doing what I do.