Archives For Michael Warden

Jesus said, “Come, follow Me.” ~ Mark 1:17

It’s no wonder the road that leads to life is so narrow, you know. It’s just so terribly difficult to stay on it. Not only does it require faith, which is hard enough in itself to hold strong in your heart 24-7, but it also requires a host of other internal qualities that take years to develop properly ~ things like Love, and Hope, and Courage, and Wisdom, and Patience and the like. And that’s not to mention the few external practices that are also essential to it, like prayer and forgiveness, things at which we always feel a bit like novices no matter how long we’ve been practicing them.

So few of us Christians ever really commit ourselves to the study of real Christlikeness. We pick a quality of his here or there, like kindness or integrity, and we say yes I’d like to have more of that, so we work on it for a bit and make ourselves satisfied with that. But the rest of our lives may look nothing like Jesus at all.

It’s really no wonder, then, how when people say “I’m a Christian,” nobody really knows what they mean. Within the Faith, we add qualifiers to help us narrow it down, like he’s a cultural Christian, or she’s a nominal Christian, or they’re devoted Christians, but it’s all a bit vague and undefined.

Continue Reading…

“You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.” ~ Inigo Montoya, The Princess Bride

“Repentance” has gotten a very bad rap in recent decades. As far as my own experience goes, repentance got utterly ruined for me by the televangelists of the ‘70s and ‘80s. “REPENT! REPENT! REPENT!” They’d yell it at me through my TV screen, their faces all red and blotchy from being so worked up. They acted like they knew something about me that I didn’t, and what they knew was really, really horrible. So horrible they were screaming at me to do something about it.


Maybe those televangelists sincerely believed they were trying to save me. But that’s not at all the message I got from their spittle-spray tirades. The impact they had on me was something more like the Shame Nun on Game of Thrones…

Only worse than that. Much, much worse. If those men were trying to move me toward God, they failed utterly. Few things pushed me away from the possibility of a loving God more effectively than the presence of a screaming televangelist on the TV screen or a street preacher on the west mall of my university yelling at students to repent as they made their way to class.

In the shadow of those decades, the admonition to “repent” has become so viscerally associated with religious abuse and the self-righteous judgment of others that nowadays you almost never hear the word used at all. And when it is it’s mostly as a mockery, or a joke.

But I believe there’s something really valuable about this word that we need to reclaim. Especially now.

Continue Reading…

Liminal (definition): of, relating to, or being an intermediate state, phase, or condition.

A friend of mine who works with people systems in the corporate world made a keen observation about the United States the other day. We were talking about how divisive and angry public discourse has become among U.S. citizens in the last few years, and she said, “It’s understandable. The whole country is demonstrating the qualities of what we call a ‘chronically anxious system.’ Everybody’s nerves are on end. We’re all exhausted from being on ‘high alert’ for dangers and threats for a long time now. But we don’t yet feel safe enough to stop and take a collective breath. So we just keep spinning ourselves up over every new threat that pops up on the newsfeed.”

That pretty much nails it, doesn’t it? When I hear this, I immediately notice feeling a surge of compassion for all of us, even those I struggle to understand. I know what’s it’s like to feel anxious and not know how to stop feeling that way. It’s exhausting. No matter where you fall on the political or religious spectrum, we’re all feeling chronically anxious about things right now. It’s a point of common human connection we can all relate to.

So how did we get here? Where has all this nationwide anxiety come from?

Continue Reading…

Take Off the Leash

July 31, 2017 — Leave A Comment

I’m excited to invite Alan Briggs to the blog this week! Alan is the Director of Frontline Church Planting, the Multiplying Pastor at Vanguard Church and the Lead Creative at Stay Forth Designs where he equips leaders and teams for health and kingdom impact. He’s a proud dad of four and a missionary to his neighborhood and city. His books Staying is the New Going (2015), Guardrails (2016), and Everyone’s a Genius (releasing in September) help leaders catch a bigger vision for their life. Learn more at

“We want to do something big for God in our community!” I started to grin as this couple in their early sixties beamed with the passion of teenagers. John has been an elder in our church and Sue has blessed countless people with her hospitality. They had twenty ones years of connection to their community. I’m pretty sure they’ve had half the town around their dinner table.

They shared a Macedonian Call of sorts back to the town they inhabited. They were ready to make greater sacrifices than ever before to see the gospel wreck and rebuild the people right around them. Their passion made me want to do a Tiger Woods fist pump. But I felt a twinge of something else. “Oh no!”, I thought. “Have we NOT already allowed them to do big things for God?!?” The truth is they had already been doing big things, and we all saw it. They had fleshed out a contagious and winsome gospel. They had unintentionally shepherded their town. John and Sue’s story is exciting, but it’s not an anomaly. There are people right under our noses who want to do something big, to take the plunge in the name of Jesus.

Continue Reading…

Grit or Quit?

July 24, 2017 — Leave A Comment

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma–which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become.” ~ Steve Jobs

The popular adage that “winners never quit” is, in a word, poppycock. (Other words include claptrap, balderdash, rubbish, and nonsense.) It just ain’t true.

Winners quit the all the time. In fact, quitting is what makes it possible for them to win. That’s because they’ve learned to quit all the stuff that doesn’t truly matter so they can double down and really focus their grit on the few things that do.

But how do you tell which ambitions to quit, and which are worthy of your grit? Here’s a straightforward 4-step decision matrix I use with my clients:

Continue Reading…

Longing for Home

July 16, 2017 — Leave A Comment

“For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith.” ~ 2 Timothy 4:6-7

The Apostle Paul wrote the words above in a letter to his protégé, Timothy, as the elder leader reached the end of his journey. He proclaims it with such confidence, so certain in his appraisal of his life. But what did Paul mean when he said he had “finished the course”? How did he know it was finished? How did he know he had fought a “good fight”? What is a “good fight,” anyway?

There’s something that happens in the hearts of those who live long in the Faith, something they may not speak about often for fear of being misinterpreted as morbid or depressed. But every soul long surrendered to God will know what I’m talking about:

You are longing for Home.

Continue Reading…

“Spiritual leadership starts with listening for the one true Voice and learning to distinguish it from all the other voices that clamor for our attention.” ~ Ruth Haley Barton

No leader is perfect. Even the best leaders I know (and I’m blessed to know several) regularly flub things up. Some even make huge blunders from time to time. Just like everybody else, really. In fact, the only real difference between a leader and a non-leader in this regard is that a leader’s mistakes get magnified 100-fold because of their position. Their missteps are more readily on display for all to see.

Faith leaders, in particular, face unique challenges because of the split nature of their role as both spiritual and organizational leaders. Because of this interesting dichotomy, some of the mistakes they make can have much more serious consequences not only to their leadership but to the world at large.

Here are three big mistakes that come with far-reaching costs for faith leaders:

Continue Reading…