secret sauce

Unquestionably, one of the most important things we do as a church is the way we meet in houses, apartments, and coffee shops across the state of Montana for conversation, laughter, bible-study and prayer. Our larger gatherings on the weekend get more attention. They are louder and flashier — we have people travel from different parts of the country to attend these worship experiences all the time — but there is no way that Fresh Life would be the church it is if it weren’t for our small groups.

It is the low-key and conversational nature of the groups that lend themselves to discipleship, life-change, and real growth. It is in these settings that the aha! moments from the weekend are knit into the warp and woof of daily life. Friendships are forged and strangers become like blood. Anytime other pastors or leaders ask me for input, if they don’t have an aggressive and intentional approach to community, this is the very first suggestion I make.

Here is a fun little video that we recently used to create interest in Fresh Life Groups.

When a fail is not a fail

This weekend in the Clutch series we looked at the life of Peter. If being clutch is having the ability to perform well under pressure, Peter’s story started out with him being anything but clutch. It seems that every time he came to a crucial crossroads he choked. Whether trying to talk Jesus out of going to the cross, falling asleep during Jesus’ greatest moment of need or literally denying Christ 3x on the same night he swore he would die to defend Him; he proved himself to be a serial choke artist.

In the book of Acts, though, we see a completely different Peter than we witness in the gospels. He is bold instead of just brash, humble, more of a team player and most impressively he learned to keep a cool head when things heated up. Where before he pulled his sword out and chopped off an ear, later on he fearlessly unsheathed the sword of the spirit and 3,000 were saved. Early on he could be unnerved by the smallest servant girl but he went to the grave as fearless as a lion. He had become clutch.

It was a remarkable contrast and a testimony to the reality of the resurrection and the raw power of the Holy Spirit. I think that when these two things are neglected, perhaps more than any thing else, will drain us of the strength, energy and ability that are ours for the taking. If we are not daily emboldened by the wonder of Christ’s power over death and infused with His Spirit we will be sickly and anemic, and our performance will be pitiful.

As I covered Peter 1.0, the Peter we see perpetually stuck in struggle mode, and chronicled his list of failures I intentionally omitted something others might have included. I’m talking about the night where Jesus came to the disciples walking on the sea of Galilee and Peter got out of the boat and then after only a few steps he sank. I’ve heard people make a big deal about his failure to keep his eyes on Jesus and how he could had kept going had he not gotten distracted by the wind and the waves. That’s all true and a worthwhile thing to think about. But I personally don’t classify that episode as a fail. I think it belongs on his highlight reel not his blooper reel.

Yes he might have sunk, but let’s remember, he walked on water! None of the other disciples came close to drowning, but none of them had the guts to get out of the boat either. Ok, so he got in over his head and Jesus had to intervene, but back to my first point, HE WALKED ON WATER. It’s easy to criticize people who try big things because there will always be some amount failure when you are willing to get out of the boat. But a fail is not a fail when you fail taking steps of faith. It’s just par for the course and part of the experience.

My visit to Elevation Church

With the exception of vacation, It is an unusual thing for me to have a weekend off. If I am not preaching at my favorite church in the universe, this awesome place called freshlife, I am usually in the pulpit somewhere else. This past week was one of those rare occasions where I found myself out of town but free from any speaking engagements on Sunday morning. So what did I do? I went to church! I know, I am kind of a junkie, but there is never a good reason to miss gathering together with God’s people to worship Him–wherever you are. And it is always eye-opening to see what God is up to in other churches.

Since we were in Charlotte, North Carolina, my wife and I were looking forward to visiting Elevation Church, which is pastored by Steven Furtick. This explosive move of God began five years ago and in that time they have grown to over 9,000 people meeting at 4 campuses. I have been blessed following this extraordinary ministry through the internet the last few years. It is one of the 5 or 6 podcasts I listen to almost every week.

As a church, we have learned much from Elevation. Back when we were gearing up to launch the Whitefish campus, we sent some members of our team out to Charlotte to learn from Pastor Steven’s team. I knew that the team I sent would witness cutting edge tech and get a vision for excellence across a multi-campus ministry. What I didn’t know was that they would come back different and that the experience would drastically change our church. The concept of honor is one of the key values to Elevation church. They honor those above them, those beside them and those under them. It is infectious. Since that visit, an epidemic of honor has swept through our culture and has changed us for the better.

Experiencing the church in person was awesome. Even better than I expected. The work that God is doing there is powerful, and they do absolutely everything with excellence and on purpose. Their facilities and use of media are killer–state of the art and LOUD (it’s the only other church besides freshlife I know of that offers ear plugs at the door.) The message was outstanding. They are in a relationship series and Pastor Steven taught verse-by-verse through John 4 and showed that Christ calls us from the polluted wells of this world to the Living Water that He offers. It was powerful.

What really stood out during our trip is the way that the vision of the church has been amplified and rings out powerfully from every detail and crevice of the experience. Every single staff member or volunteer I spoke to was passionate, enthusiastic and seemed elated that they were allowed to be a part of what God was doing at the church in reaching people far from Him. It was inspiring.

Jennie and I were also very stoked to spend some time with Pastor Steven Furtick and his wife Holly while we were there. Since meeting a few months back, he has gone out of his way to invest in and encourage me. This is literally an answer to prayer. When we launched freshlife, just about all of my ministry mentors and leaders that I looked to were substantially older than me. Men like Pastor Skip Heitzig, Pastor Greg Laurie, my dad Chip Lusko and more recently Pastor James MacDonald. I wouldn’t have it any other way. I am extremely thankful and grateful for the fathers in the faith that God has given me and their wisdom has both steered me through turbulent waters and kept me from pitfalls. But I have also specifically prayed for pastor friends my own age. The problem is that the megachurch-while-in-your-twenties club is not a huge one. It is an unusual mixture to have a handful of kids under five at home and a less than five year old church that has exploded.

God has answered these prayers with friendships with men like Pastor Pedro Garcia from CCk in Miami and this new one with Pastor Steven Furtick, younger pastors who I feel a kindred spirit and a common DNA with and who are charging it in a big way. I am also super passionate about “passing it forward” by intentionally making time in my schedule for another generation of church planters that God is raising up to plunder hell and populate heaven.

Check out Elevation church online here. And if you haven’t read Sun Stand Still by Steven Furtick go buy it right now here. It will change your life.

Rock This City Behind the Scenes

I like to do these behind the scenes video blogs whenever I finish a series to sort of debrief and decompress. Here are my thoughts after spending 4+ months teaching through the Old Testament book of Nehemiah. The Rock this City series was, without a doubt, one of the most helpful and inspiring studies I have undertaken as a pastor. You can listen to and download all of the messages from the series here.

High Fidelity Behind the Scenes

This is sort of my way of decompressing after finishing a 15 week-long study through the book of James at Skull Church. In this video I give the resources that were helpful to me during the series, the reason we called it high fidelity, and why I chose to go through this book at a service that is explicitly evangelistic in it’s focus.

If you are on a mobile device you can watch the movie on vimeo with this link:

Sheep Blog behind the scenes

In Psalm 23 David blogs about how great it is to be a sheep in God’s flock. I just spent the month of May combing through these 6 killer verses and here are some thoughts about the series and some resources that helped me along the way.

We also had some live sheep at both of our theatre’s for the launch weekend which made the messages come to life with the sounds and smells of livestock. And to send the message that it’s not just David that is apart of God’s flock–we are God’s sheep too–we had “sheep yourself” cutouts where people could take pictures of themselves as happy lambs before and after services. No end to the fun.

Nucleus Behind the Scenes

Fire & Ice Behind the Scenes

Here are some great resources that I used during my Fire and Ice series that I just wrapped up at Skull Church. I didn’t mention it in the video but I also enjoyed Craig Groeschel’s podcasts from his Elijah series at

The end of At Worlds End

This past weekend I taught on the final verses of Revelation twenty-two. In all, it took me eleven months (41 messages) to go through this killer book. Back when I was teaching in California I taught survey-style through the Old Testament prophets, one a week, and it lasted a little over four months. At Worlds End is, by far, the longest end-times series I have ever done.

Honestly, I am a little bit bummed to have finished. I have never been more challenged or rewarded by any messages as I have been in this study. It makes sense though, Revelation is the only book in the Bible that promises a blessing for those who will read, hear and keep the things that are in it. (Revelation 1:3) I have definitely found that promise to be true–to the max.

Here are a few of the ways I have been blessed this past year:
1. Jesus has become bigger to me
The image of the glorified Christ has been burned into my soul and when I think of Jesus, I don’t just think of the humble incarnate Christ who came but the punk-rock version who is coming.
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