Dinner with the President

Pauline  was a simple, retired teacher living in Memphis, TN, going to the church where I was once on staff.  She was reading the Bible one day where it was talking about visiting those in prison.  She told her friend, “I guess that means I need to start visiting people in prison.”  So she started  to try to go to her local prison and visit the inmates.  The guards and prison officials asked why she wanted to do this.  Did she have a relative in prison?

Pauline told them, “Because it says to in the Bible.”  Yet she kept getting denied going to the prison.  One day, an attorney in our church heard about her desire to visit prisoners.   He took her  to meet a prison warden at a state penitentiary where  many prisoners were there for life.  There was little hope for these murderers and hardened criminals.

When the warden met Pauline, he asked her, “Ma’am, what do you do for a living?”  Pauline replied, “I am a retired elementary school teacher.  I taught little children how to read in Memphis city schools.”  The warden stopped in his tracks and said, “Ma’am, God sent you here.  You see, most of these prisoners here cannot read well or at all.  We have all these preachers come in here and talk about Jesus and then they leave.  They tell them to read their Bibles, but they can’t, because they can’t read.  Pauline, will you invest in our prisoners?”

Pauline  invested in those prisoners for years and years, teaching them how to read every Tuesday.   Tutoring takes time and it is one on one.  But guess what?  Pauline was following Jesus’ words to change the world.  In fact, years later, George H. Bush, (then President of the United States) started a program called “A Thousand Points of Lights.”  The President heard about Pauline and what she was doing to change the world by teaching prisoners how to read.  Pauline was given an official award for being a “point of light.”

There was an official ceremony in Washington D.C.  with a big dinner to recognize all the recipients.  Pauline was asked to go and meet the President of the United States.  What a great honor-what an opportunity of a lifetime!  There was only one problem.  The ceremony was on a Tuesday.  Guess where Pauline is on Tuesdays? That’s right, she was going to be with the inmates teaching them how to read, so she declined dinner with the President.  Remember, being about the kingdom means it is not about me!

Invest in the few, change the world

Dave Marshall


An explosion is a large-scale, rapid, or spectacular expansion or bursting out.  Whether it is chemical, astronomical, nuclear or natural, there have to be the right ingredients for an explosion to happen.  It is not very often that I get to witness an explosion first hand. But this past year, I got to see what kind of “explosion” can happen when one follows the plan Jesus gave to win the world.

After Brad graduated college, he started doing one-on-one ministry with college athletes.  He poured himself into ministry with these few athletes in order to make disciples.  A pastor noticed Brad’s passion for discipleship and sharing God’s word.   Brad had not been to seminary, licensed to preach, or ordained for ministry.  But discipleship is not about credentials.  It is about true authentic love for Jesus and growing His kingdom.

So when this pastor came and asked him about going into youth ministry at his local church, Brad focused on how he could make disciples and thought about the kingdom impact that could make.  The church already had a core group of 200 senior high teens meeting in a warehouse.  Brad began his ministry by making disciples.  He started pouring himself into the lives of these teens.  He and his leaders “lived” at the school cafeterias and ball fields where all the youth were.   They totally invested in these students and their friends.  They were not just a youth group.  Brad was preparing those 200 teens to be a true youth ministry.

Today, Brad has possibly the largest church youth ministry program in the United States.  After beginning less than 5 years ago, Brad consistently has just under 2,000 teenagers coming to his  ministry every week.  They also have campus satellite youth ministry programs around their state.  It is a discipleship explosion!  There are so many people coming to Brad’s ministry, it is mind blowing.  They had over 5,000 first-time visitors just this year.

Brad’s youth ministry now has a cool building and all the flashy things one might want to attract teenagers.  Their worship band, technical resources, sound, lights, and media are all world class.  Brad has become a well-known speaker.  He is asked to speak around the globe at some “big time” conferences.   If fact, hundreds of youth ministers come to Brad’s youth ministry every year to learn what he is doing to bring in so many teens.  Many of these youth pastors come in to look at the building, the sound, the cool gear, the flash, and the great preaching.   Some people probably even look at the clothes and hairstyle that Brad wears.

But if you ask Brad why thousands of teenagers are sold out to this ministry, he quickly tells you that there is only one reason.   “We have relationship equity with them.”  Translation: they are doing ministry the way Jesus did.  It all started with Brad making disciples with the ones that he had.  He developed relationship equity with the few and watched that multiply.  Now of course, Brad cannot make disciples with thousands of teenagers by himself.  So he continues to model this relational ministry to his staff, leaders, and youth.  He now sees his job as growing up disciple makers to carry on what he started in this ministry.

Interestingly, Brad’s church does not have a “college group.”  This realization blew me away, because they are in a big college area!  But Brad shared with me that their philosophy is that if you have been discipled, there comes a point when God expects disciples to no longer be a taker, and start being a maker.  In fact, when teenagers graduate from high school and they have been discipled in the small group ministry at Brad’s program, they immediately begin to help in the student ministry or in another area of the church.  Usually, one of the hardest things most youth ministers deal with is getting volunteers to help.  But at Brad’s church, people know that they are not just volunteers; they are all ministers who are making disciples.  Brad has no shortage of leaders to invest in the thousands of teens, because he started out, and continues in, faithfully making disciples.

Ingredients: Passion for Jesus, Sharing the Word, Disciple Making= Boom!

Invest in the few, change the world

Dave Marshall

Walking with Jesus to Georgia

I used to live across the street across from a young man named Addison.  Addison is a person with a bright ministry future.  He is very talented in leading worship and speaking to teenagers.  Young people are drawn to him, as he is a natural leader.   He would be a great preacher; in fact, there are a lot of things that he could do for the kingdom of God.  After graduating from college, he got a lot of job offers from churches.  But instead of taking a big job in a church, Addison took a walk.


Addison decided to hike the Appalachian Trail last year.  Starting out in Maine on July 6, 2010, Addison and a friend walked all the way to Georgia.  They completed their journey on December 12.  The 2,179-mile trail took them just over 5 months (158 days).  Most people told Addison to go get a ministry job and do big things for God, but Addison chose a less traveled path.  He chose to spend months alone with the Lord, soaking up His amazing creation and learning to trust in Him, even for his very survival.  He endured blazing summer days to sub-freezing snowstorms. He grew tired and weary walking mountain trails.  He met new people and they quickly became good friends.  Hazards on the trail brought them together in a special way.  In fact, each friend he met got hurt at some point on the journey and Addison had to help get them to a hospital.   Addison got hurt as well, and his friends took care of him.

Addison had to learn to trust in the Lord every day.  In five months on the Appalachian Trail, he stayed in different places, saw new faces and met adventures head on. This time alone with God changed him.  He read almost 50 books.  He prayed. He sang. He worshipped the Lord at sunsets. He laughed a lot and cried at times. He and his hiking partner were filled with joy, and at other times they were completely miserable.  But through it all, Addison embraced the experience.  In fact, the hardest part of the hike was on December 12 when the journey was coming to an end, because he knew it was over.

Maybe the most important thing we can do is embrace the journey God has for us.  Many of us are anxious to run out and do “great things” for God.  It is easy to forget that God does not need us; we need God.  Our focus should be on knowing Jesus….not on how many things we can do for Him.  We need to know Him and embrace our relationship with Him before we can hear His voice and step out to do those great things He may have for us to do.  The greatest command that He gave us as believers is to go and make disciples.  We must remember that our first step in making disciples is being intentional in our own growth as a believer.   Interestingly, Jesus did not even start his public ministry until He was 30 years old.  He delayed his public ministry to spend time with the Father.  He spent plenty of time in the wilderness in fellowship with God.  And look at folks from the Bible such as Moses, Noah, and Paul.  They all spent time waiting on the Lord, growing in their own faith.  We tend to look at the great things they did, but the real story is their time spent with God.

Remember that we can’t take another step or breathe another breath of air without Jesus in our lives.  The Lord will let you know when it’s time to take that big job or do that next big thing.  He will provide what you need when it’s time to do that.  But first, let’s stop and be intentional about truly being closer to Jesus every day.

Today Addison teaches young people about missions.  I bet he still takes some pretty nice walks .

Invest in the few, change the world

Dave Marshall

Muffins, Black Belts, & Discipleship

My two younger sons have just starting taking karate.  One of their instructors is Mrs. Muffin, or “Sensei Muffin.”  When they starting telling me about her, I thought it was a joke.  In fact, I started teasing them about Sensei Apple Pie and Sensei Cupcake.  But when I went to my first visit, I met Sensei Muffin.  She was a typical senior adult with glasses.  You might be inclined to help her across the street.  But I soon discovered that Sensei Muffin is a 3rd degree black belt.  Basically, this means that she could easily kill me with her bare hands.  I was fascinated that this little lady could be an elite, trained expert in martial arts.  But as I started watching karate practice every week with my boys, I began to realize that to make it in karate, you must have hundreds of hours of one-on-one and small group training.  Mrs. Muffin must have started out just like my nine-year-old son…. learning one move at a time from those above her.  I saw that all the students with higher belts are trained to be teachers.    There are always plenty of older and wiser people willing to teach those below them what they need to know for the next belt.     The student teachers know that in order to make it to black belt, you must teach.  They are committed to spending time with the students with lower degree belts.  They watch them closely.  They show them exactly what to do, one step at a time, and they do it over and over again.  When the students do it wrong, they correct their mistakes and help them get it right.  Sensei is a Japanese word that means “person born before another.”  In general, it means “master” or “teacher.” Jesus gave us the Great Commission to go make disciples.  He calls all Christians to be teachers.  That does not mean you have to get up in front of hundreds of people and preach.  If you have asked Jesus Christ into your heart, you are called to reproduce yourself.  Make sure you are being intentional in your own growth as a disciple.  Pray about the person that God puts in your path to invest in.  If that person that is open, available, and teachable, spend time with them sharing the teachings of Jesus Christ.  If you are a parent, start with your children.  Answer their questions.  Get into Bible study together.  Walk them through the basics of Christianity.  Help them.  Encourage them.  Eat plenty of meals together.  Do like sensei a does with a student.  Watch them closely.  Spend lots of time together.  Show them exactly what to do, one step at a time, and do it over and over again.   When your disciple struggles, help them correct mistakes and help them get it right.  When you don’t have the answer or the Biblical knowledge, admit that you do not know and go get it.  Be humble and transparent.


Our focus must be on discipleship if we are going to see world change.  Jesus calls us to be disciple makers.  I am so excited to see how churches are committing to discipleship and how the change is happening.  If you have a success story of one-on-one discipleship, share it with others to encourage kingdom ministry.  Discipleship must be sustainable, reproducible, and effective.  You do not have to have a building, money, or a seminary degree to make disciples.  If Sensei Muffin can be a black belt, certainly I – with the Lord’s help – can follow the Great Commission from Jesus to make disciples. These are just my thoughts for the day.Yours truly, Sensei Cupcake.


Invest in the few, change the world

Dave Marshall