Learning to be an Incredible Listener. My sermon notes at Thrive Church CA

I taught this message at Thrive Church CA on February 11, 2018 for their ‘Fight Night’ series! I also had the amazing opportunity to bring Bekah (my oldest) with me and we got to experience some amazing sights in Northern CA! Including the Golden Gate Bridge!

Message Notes    |    |

Slide # 1…Series Graphic + Jason’s Social Media Info

  • Good Morning Thrive Church! How are we doing today?
  • It is such a privilege to be with you this morning! Not only because it’s like -5 degrees back home, but because I love your Church and I love your Pastor!
  • And, I have been wanting to say thank you in person for a long time for helping bring this little boy home from China!

Slide # 2…Two Pictures of Kai

  • Your amazing gift was such a critical component to helping us Bring Kai home and we’re still so thankful! So, If you gave to that gift, THANK YOU!
  • He is going great. He’s been home just over a year and he’s learning new things all the time.
  • He has a genetic disorder called PKU, like two of our other kids and it’s a very rare thing that’s pretty costly and the longer he would have spent in China, the worse it would have became. So, thank you!
  • It is great to be with you today and I was able to bring my almost 18 year old daughter, Bekah, with me as well.
  • And, I love the series that you’re in.

Series Info: Fight Night

  • Were all going to deal with this thing called Conflict at times in our lives. Some of us have dealt with major conflict, some of us run like crazy away from it.
  • The reality is, Conflict resolution is a giant game changer in our relationships. When we learn to leverage it for good, it will not only improve our relationships, but it will bring us close to God.
  • The reality is, we’ve all probably been backed into the ropes at times in our relationships.
  • Maybe you’ve actually been in an actual fight. I grew up in Detroit, but whenever presented with the option of fighting, I actually pride myself on how good I became and running away from the fight! I was out!
  • Now, I’m not a giant boxing fan, but I love the Rocky movies. What I know about boxing is, when you get backed into the ropes, you pretty much are getting hit pretty good.
  • When that happens, we stop listening. We’re just trying to survive at that point. Listening is the key if we’re going to deal with the conflict that comes.
  • Typically what happens when we’re backed into the ropes is that we just try to retreat, avoid, ignore, stick our heads in the ground, attack back, bring up the past.
  • So, we go on the defensive and we’ll do anything to walk away unwounded. But, too often, nothing changes.  
  • What if, instead of fighting back or verbal sparring back. What if putting up our arms to protect us.
  • What if we learn how to listen, so we can hear the heart of what’s hurting the person close to us.
  • I don’t know about you, but when I think of listening, I think of this amazing truth from this poet…

Slide # 3…Picture of Vanilla Ice with the words next to his image

All right stop, Collaborate and listen, Ice is back with my brand new invention, Something grabs a hold of me tightly, Then I flow that a harpoon daily and nightly, Will it ever stop?, Yo, I don’t know, Turn off the lights and I’ll glow, To the extreme, I rock a mic like a vandal, Light up a stage and wax a chump like a candle

  • Ice, Ice Baby. Right, so much we can learn from Vanilla! Hah.
  • I read this quote about listening from one of my favorite Pastors and Authors on the planet, John Ortberg…

Slide # 4…‘You can’t listen in a hurry’ ~John Ortberg

    • If we’re going to learn how to listen, we have to stop rushing around all the time. We have to stop treating our relationships or the conflict like it’s an item on our checklist.


  • So, often, when we think of Listening, its so we can fix someone or something.
  • Most of what we consider “conversation” is, is merely interrupting monologues.


    • At Thrive Church MI, we have a staff member by the name of Dr. Tom. I’ve known him for 20+ years. He’s so brilliant. He’s so close to Jesus. I asked him what listening is and he said…


  • Its to keep company with someone.


  • Like, “I’m tracking with you.”
  • Listening is simple enough in principle, and nearly impossible to live.
  • Too often we are slow to hear, quick to speak, and quick to anger. So, learning to listen well won’t happen overnight. It requires discipline, effort, and intentionality. You get better with time, they say. Becoming a better listener hangs not on one big resolve to do better in a single conversation, but on developing a pattern of little resolves to focus in on particular people in specific moments.

Story: Jason and moving the Couch

  • A few years ago, we helped a friend move and the last item was the worst invention in the history of mankind.
  • A Couch bed. Why God Why?
  • And, worse yet, the friend asked my wife if we wanted it? And she said yes!
  • So, we struggled to get it upstairs and then we put it in the back of a truck. Well, it was too long, so I turned it sideways and part of it was hanging over the edge and side of the truck.
  • My wife so graciously said…Jason, I think that’s a bad idea. Jason, I think you should tie that down.
  • Of course like the super caring and super listening husband that I am, I said, woman, I’m the man. It will be ok. Hahah
  • Well, this was a big pick up truck and 3 kids were in the back and there were 3 of us up front.
  • My son Zach was giving me a play by play the entire way. Dad, the couch is shaking. Dad, the couch is moving.
  • I was keeping an eye on it the whole way and told everyone and reminded them that I was the man, the dad and I had it under control.
  • Well, Zach was freaking out more and more and his play by play got more crazy. Dad, the couch is bouncing, the couch is dancing.
  • Just as I looked up into the rear view mirror to calm him down, I hear Zach say…DAD…THE COUCH IS GONE.
  • I saw the couch just take off like a fighter jet from an aircraft carrier!
  • It was GONE. Up in the air and it was spinning. Before long the entire bed couch opened up and it came down fast and landed in the middle of the road, with the bed open and the pillows fell down right on the couch!
  • I stopped the truck and looked at Tracie and said, what should we do now? She said…oh, you want me to listen to you after that!

Slide # 5…Big Idea: Be Quick to Listen, Slow to Speak, Slow to become angry

  • If you want to honor God when you’re up against the ropes, be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to become angry.
  • This comes directly from the words of James in the New Testament in James 1:19

James 1:19

  • James is the author of James and he has a unique family member. He was Jesus’ half brother. He was one of the main leaders in the Jerusalem Church
  • He was writing this to 1st century followers of Jesus
  • James is writing this book to followers of Jesus and his main point is to encourage them to live out their faith. He says it’s one thing to believe in Jesus, know about Jesus, but it’s an entirely different thing to live your life for Him. To honor Him with your life.
    • When we talk too much and listen too little, we communicate to others that we think our ideas are much more important than theirs.


  • James say…hey, why don’t you reverse the process.


  • Put a mental stopwatch on your conversations and keep track of how much you talk and how much you listen.
  • When people talk to you, do they feel that they are heard? Do they feel valued?
  • Here’s how James worded it…

Slide # 6…‘My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry’ ~James 1:19

  • He starts by getting the attention of his church members! MY DEAR BROTHERS! It’s kind of like when you start whispering around your kids. Any of your kids do this? They don’t hear you at all at normal conversation volume. Or yelling. But, you whisper. They quiet right down!
  • And, get this, he doesn’t exclude anyone because he says…EVERYONE. EVERY ONE!
  • Be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to become angry

Slide # 6…Be Quick to Listen


  • So, this is one simple line from scripture that can CHANGE your relationships if you live it out.
  • It can turn your relationships upside down. It can help you overcome selfishness and a disease that seemingly has overtaken humanity…me-itis!


  • If you’re in conflict with someone, or someone is trying to talk to you, we need less interrupters! We need better listeners.

Slide # 7…‘Answering before listening is both stupid and rude’ ~Proverbs 18:13 (MSG)

How we can learn from how Jesus listened to people:

  1. He gave people His whole attention
  • Eye contact
  • Not interrupting
  • Put your phone down.
    • My rule: Don’t take it into lunch meetings.
    • Families: Make everyone put it into a basket
    • Small Group Nights: Make everyone put their phones on the counter
  1. He stepped into the other person’s shoes.
  • This is where Empathy comes into play
  • Romans 12:17-19…Discover beauty in everyone, don’t hit back.
  • Try to imagine their pain. Be more concerned about their wounds than yours.
  1. He didn’t Judge! He put down the stones.
  2. He asked questions! He was the master question asker

Story: My Madison and her questions

  • I spoke on Long Island, NY in Jan and I took my 10 year old. She asked questions non stop, the entire trip. I don’t think she took one breath!


  • Jesus asked 307 questions. He was asked 183 and he only answered 3!


  • Listen to this great Proverb!

Proverbs 13:3…”Careful words make for a careful life; careless talk may ruin everything” (MSG)

  • If tensions are rising, or even if they’re not, we must learn to be GREAT listeners!
  • Be quick to listen.
  • I love Proverbs 18:30 from the message

Proverbs 18:13…”Answering before listening is both stupid and rude” (MSG)

A few more tips…

  • Express your concern and willing presence by looking your friend in the eye.
  • Lean toward the speaker in a posture that says, “I really want to hear whatever you have to say.”
  • Touch when appropriate – a gentle squeeze of the hand, a tender pat on the arm, a solid hug.
  • When possible, meet in a private place where tears are free to fall and where emotions can be openly expressed.
  • Convey a message of hope and genuine interest. “I have time for you. I care. You‘re not alone. We can get through this together.” True listening honors the speaker.
  • Displaying shock or judgment will effectively shut down communication.
  • Allow for silence. A careful silence following the other person’s talk, tells her you are not sure if she is finished or is still gathering her thoughts.
  • Don’t give mandates; explore options.
  • Your time together is about the other, not you. It is not the time to share your story. Many a meaningful exchange has been prematurely ended with, “You think that’s bad. One time I . . .”
  • If you’re not a professional counselor, don’t attempt to be one. Listen and if necessary refer your friend to a professional who can be of help.

Be Quick to Listen

Slide # 8…

Good listening requires Patience


  • 1 Cor 13:4…Love is patient
  • Patience is the capacity to be wronged and not retaliate


Good listening is an Act of Love


  • We can’t be preoccupied with ourselves


Good listening asks Great Questions

Slide # 9…“Listening can be a greater service than speaking.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Big Idea: BE Quick to Listen, Slow to Speak, Slow to become angry

Slide # 10…Slow to Speak

  • When we’re up against the ropes, we want to defend ourselves.
  • We stop listening and we start speaking a lot!
  • Anybody ever say something in a fight that they regretted the second it came out of their mouths?

Be Slow to Speak

Slide # 11…‘Even dunces who keep quiet are thought to be wise, as long as they keep their mouths shut, they’re smart’ ~Proverbs 17:28 (MSG)

Imagine how better off our relationships and marriages would be if we were slow to speak.

  • No eruptions
  • NO flying off the handle
  • Holding our sarcastic comments in
  • Leaving our passive aggressive comments out of it

Proverbs 12:18…”Rash language cuts and maims, but there is healing in the words of the wise” (MSG)

[Illustration: Tootpaste]

  • Ok, a little fun to demonstrate something so powerful! It’s so easy for words to flow out…both positive and negative.
  • But, it’s IMPOSSIBLE to get them back! Especially if they came out quick and you didn’t want to say them.

Back in the Bible, in the book of James it says this:

James 3:6…the tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire and is itself set on fire by the hell!

  • What you say and what you don’t say are both important. Proper speech is not only saying the right words at teh right time, but it is also controlling your desire to say what you shouldn’t.
  • Gossip, putting others down, bragging, manipulating, exaggerating, complaining, flattering, lying

Ask yourself:

  1. Is this true?
  2. Is it necessary
  3. Is it kind?
  • James compares the tongue to a raging fire. The uncontrolled tongue can do crazy damage.
  • It can divide couples, families and friends. It can pit them against each other.
  • Just a few words can damage a relationship.
  • Ok, if the tongue is so powerful, how can we control it?
  • Don’t use your strength, use God’s! He gives us the Holy Spirit, an equal part of the Trinity…Father, Son and Holy Spirit to give us power and to convict us.

Ephesians 4:29…Watch the way you talk. Let nothing foul of dirty come out of your mouth. Say only what helps, each word is a gift.

Big Idea: BE Quick to Listen, Slow to Speak, Slow to become angry

Slide # 12…Slow to become Angry

  • Selfish anger never helps anybody. When our egos are bruised or hurt when MY opinions are not being heard. When injustice and sin occur, we should become angry because others are being hurt.
  • But we should not become angry when we fail to win an argument or when we feel offended or neglected.

Slow to become Angry

Slide # 13…‘Don’t be quick to fly off the handle. Anger boomerangs. You can spot a fool by the lumps on his head’ ~Ecclesiastes 7:9 (MSG)


Seek God. Chase after Him. Talk to Him…all the time. Fill your minds the stuff of God.

The bible says to fill our minds with things are that True, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious, the best, not the worst, the beautiful, not the ugly, things to praise, not things curse.

Slide # 14…Challenge: Instead of Protecting Our Wounds, Help Heal Wounds


My 2nd VLOG ‘The BEST Trip EVER’ is up!

I had the BEST trip ever with Madison!

We traveled to Newark, NJ and ended up in Mount Bethel, PA and I spoke for a bunch of Churches from Long Island, NY.

Plus…I throw in a few tips on how to make trips memorable for your kids!

Thanks for subscribing! Head HERE and push subscribe! Thanks!


‘Waiting is an act of Faith’. Message notes from week two of our Buffering series at Thrive Church.

Message Notes:IMG_8978

Slide # 1. Series Theme Slide

  • Good Morning Thrive Church! My name is Jason Raitz and I’m the Pastor of Thrive Church! How are we doing this morning!
  • Did you know that there are 3 other Churches in a network with us? Thrive TX in Houston and Thrive CA in northern CA. All the pastors have been friends for a long time. So, let’s be praying for Thrive TX!!
  • Did you know that Thrive is almost 4 years old? On October 6th, 2013 we gathered for our first official Thrive Sunday! And, October 8th we are going to Party! Why? Because, we are going to celebrate God’s faithfulness over the last 4 years!
  • So, just know this, you are expected and invited to be here on Sunday, October 8th.
  • Say it with me, Sunday, October 8th!
  • We have been planning, praying and preparing.
  • Here’s the crazy thing, and I know this is only going to interest a few of you. But, we haven’t even scratched the surface yet.
  • So, the BEST IS YET TO COME!!!!

Series: Buffering

  • Last week, Dr. Tom kicked off this series as we learn how to endure God’s silence.
  • Silence is awful sometimes.
  • Like when you text someone and you can see that their writing back, but every time you look, that little thing keep spinning and you’re like, come on!!
  • Silence is tough sometimes on our faith, we don’t always get the clarity we want, and we need to understand how to make the journey in the dark and confusing times.
  • And we WAIT!!!!!
  • And waiting isn’t fun, is it?
  • So, today, we dive into WAITING.
  • We begin to ask tons of questions, just like Habakkuk did in chapter 1!!
  • Will the person forgive me? Will they talk to me again? Is my girlfriend pregnant? Does my dad have cancer? Will my mom be ok? Am I going to get fired? Are we going to be able to pay our bills? Why God, why did that happen?
  • Why can’t ‘THIS IS US’ start back now???
  • Who else hates to wait? We live in a day and age where people hate to wait! We want everything right now!

STORY: Chick Fil A in MD

  • This summer, I was in line in a Chick Fil A in MD with Madison and the lady in front of us was not happy about the wait. How do I know? She was on the phone and she kept telling the person on the phone…
  • If I have to wait any longer for this food, I’ll just go kill a chicken on my own.

And, imagine our what our kids are learning about waiting. They have every bit of information available to them in an instant.

  • They just have to speak into their phone. They don’t have to research. They don’t have to wait till next week’s episode. They are the binge watching generation!
  • But, waiting on God is a theme throughout scripture!
  • Waiting on God to move on our behalf gives us the space to work out our souls. It’s like a gym. Waiting is a gym for our souls.
  • God’s not all that concerned that you get your answer like google gives you an answer.
  • He’s ok with you waiting on Him. And, turning to Him.
  • Last week, Dr. Tom looked at chapter one of Habakkuk and today we look at chapter two.
  • God points out all the junk that needs work: pride, extortion, dishonesty, violence, murder, dishonesty, ect… and asks for silence.
  • Silence of our soul: when we stop our complaints, demands, and questions, it gives God the space to work and speak within us. We stop from asking God to act according to our insufficient perspectives, onto God’s grounds in humility.

Slide # 2…Big Idea: Waiting is an act of faith

  • I hope you walk out of here remembering just that. Waiting is an act of Faith.
    • What’s faith? It’s complete trust or confidence in God. What we believe about God and how we live out that belief. One of my favorite definitions of faith is…
  • Faith is the quality that gives us mastery over life’s difficulties.
  • So, when God is silent in your life, are you ok with waiting on Him?
  • Are you ok with being silent and just listening.
  • Sometimes we’re not, right! We want an answer now! We want God to move now. We want God to speak now. We want our problem or our need taken care of right now!
  • I love this quote by Craig Groeschel.

Slide # 3…Your greatest need becomes a blessing when it drives you to depend on God’ ~Craig Groeschel

WHAT!?!? How in the world can it be a blessing?

  • We’re looking in the book of the OT called Habakkuk.
  • This book’s purpose is to show that God is still in control of the world despite the apparent triumph of evil. It was written a long time ago. Between 612 and 589 BC.
  • This book tries to get answers to the complex questions and discussions in life.
  • Habakkuk was a man who sought answers. He was troubled by what he saw and he asked difficult questions. He saw a dying world and it broke his heart.
  • He boldly and confidently took his questions and complaints directly to God.
  • In chapter two, verse 4 it says this…

Slide # 4…

“See, the enemy is puffed up;

   his desires are not upright—

   but the righteous person will live by his faith ~Habakkuk 2:4 (niv)

    • Guess what, WAITING on God is an act of FAITH.
    • The righteous person will live by his faith!
    • In chapter one, Habakkuk gives it God. Brings all his questions and complaints and what does God say in chapter two?
    • Be patient. I’m God, I have this. I will work out my plans in my perfect timing.
  • To trust God fully means to trust him even when we don’t understand why bad stuff happens or we don’t get the answer we need when we need it.
  • Psalm 37:7 says…

Slide # 5…‘Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; do not fret when people succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes.’ Psalm 37:7 (niv)

Waiting is an act of FAITH. But, guess what? Waiting is not just sitting around with lilies in our hair.

Slide # 6…Waiting drives us to Action

  • We don’t have to sit on our hands. Waiting is like a gym for our soul. It can drive us to our knees.
  • In another book in the Old Testament, we see a GREAT example of this. And, before I even say another word, there’s a Pastor by the name of Steven Furtick and he preached a message that hit me hard years ago and some of these ideas are from that message! He also put them in a book called ‘Greater’, check that out.
  • But, in the book of 2 Kings chapter 3, there is a story that just teaches this idea so well.
  • A little background info…
  • There are 3 Kings that have set up to fight an opposing army. These kings are under the impression that they’ve been on God’s good side, but the reality is, they have ignored him in the good times. These three kings consist of two kings of the divided nation of Israel and an ally king. They set up to fight and then realize they have a major problem.

Slide # 7…2 Kings 3:9-12 (niv)

So the king of Israel set out with the king of Judah and the king of Edom. After a roundabout march of seven days (represents completion and perfection), the army had no more water for themselves or for the animals with them.

    • The problem! No water and it’s not raining and when you run out of rain, you look to God really quick. In these days, you can’t just walk over to the hose and get water.
    • These Kings were ruling without looking to God. They think they’re ready to fight, but they run out of rain. And when you have men and animals and they’re dehydrated and thirsty, you have a problem.
    • They find out that…
    • Trouble can be a good thing because it will make you look back to the source that you may have forgotten.
  • Sometimes going through a hard time can be the best thing to ever happen to you.
  • If you never went through anything, some of us may never even pray.
  • Wow!!!! Ok, back to the story.

“What!” exclaimed the king of Israel. “Has the Lord called us three kings together only to deliver us into the hands of Moab?”

    • WHAT he says. Kind of in the Mom and Dad voice. You know the one. WHAT! He’s blaming God in bad times, even though he didn’t even thank God in the good times.
  • I wonder if there is a lesson in there for us? God gets so much of the blame when bad things happen, and so little credit in the good times.

But Jehoshaphat (pretty good king)  asked, “Is there no prophet of the Lord here, through whom we may inquire of the Lord?” An officer of the king of Israel answered, “Elisha son of [Snapchat] Shaphat is here. He used to pour water on the hands of Elijah.

  • Ok, this is kind of a put down, he’s calling him Elisha a water boy.
  • And, not like Bobby Boucher! Elisha was the replacement for Elijah. He’s a big deal!
  • Elijah was amazing! He called fire down out of heaven, actually spoke the words for the water supply of heaven to start again after a 3.5 year drought that he called for. He has serious power in his words.
  • Elisha is the new guy and he is about to preach his first sermon to the kings and he just had his first miracle. The Kings have a need that only God can meet and they want a miracle.
  • Isn’t that how we approach God sometimes?
  • I wonder what need you need God to meet? I wonder what the thing is that your smile doesn’t say.
  • You can do all you can do, but only God can make it rain. Some of you are on your 7th lap. Some of you are faking life and you need God to give a new sense of life.
  • But, we don’t want to wait! The Kings didn’t want to wait! They wanted an answer now.

Slide # 8…Waiting is synonymous with attention. Attention is synonymous with prayer. -Simone Weil

  • They call Elisha in and he preaches his first sermon.

[a]”Jehoshaphat said, “The word of the Lord is with him.” So the king of Israel and Jehoshaphat and the king of Edom went down to him.

  • This is how Elisha starts in 13 and basically says, ‘oh, you want God to move now’. You’ve waited this whole time. He has a little attitude.

Slide # 9…2 Kings 3:14-19 (msg)

Elisha said, “As God-of-the-Angel-Armies lives, and before whom I stand ready to serve, if it weren’t for the respect I have for Jehoshaphat king of Judah, I wouldn’t give you the time of day.

  • What if that was my opening line of this message? I feel like that could be a line from Connor McGregor!
  • He has a boldness about it. Hard to be subtle when you’re speaking for God. Gosh, which a little side bar: One of the soul searching things I came to grips with during my time off is that I need to speak stronger! I’m a people pleaser. Sometimes, I’m not as forthRight as I should be.
  • I mean, I’m such a people pleaser that I wouldn’t turn off my snooze because it was Hootie and I didn’t want to offend them!
  • I’m going to work on that! Maybe not as hard core as Elisha, but maybe.
  • Can you even imagine that Jason? I feel like God doesn’t approve of me? What should I do? Well, how about you stop sleeping around and gossiping. That would probably help you feel better.
  • Mic Drop! Hahahah
  • Back to Elisha…Elisha says you guys have been trying to do this all on your own. God is not your hobby. God is not a spare time thing.
  • God is the Lord of heaven of Earth!
  • Then Elisha says…

But considering—bring me a harpist.” (When a harpist played, the power of God came on Elisha.)

  • You’re the only one to speak on God’s behalf and you need a harpist?
  • A harpist?
  • That’s the power in music!
  • I listen to worship music on my prayer walks.
  • I can’t wait the final scene in footloose without crying.
  • But, Elisha says that cuz there is power!

He then said, “God’s word: Dig ditches all over this valley. Here’s what will happen—you won’t hear the wind, you won’t see the rain, but this valley is going to fill up with water and your army and your animals will drink their fill. This is easy for God to do; he will also hand over Moab to you.

    • This is not what the Kings wanted. They wanted a miracle and a magic trick right now.
    • They did not want to WAIT!
    • Some of you single people who have decided to wait to have sex are affirming that statement. Yes, waiting is an of faith!
    • But, waiting is also a beautiful thing.
    • It’s a GYM for the Soul!
    • God is working out so much in our waiting! He’s kicking the pride out of us. He’s getting our attention. He’s helping us refocus our lives.
  • Only God can bring the rain, but sometimes He wants us to be faithful.
  • He wants you and I to be faithful!
  • I think it was the great author and Pastor, Eugene Peterson, said this walk with Jesus is about being faithful and obedient in the same direction for a long time.
  • Waiting is an act of faith.
  • But…

Slide # 9…We can go to work while waiting

  • I love the verse that says; Dig ditches all over this valley.
  • You want to know what to do during the time of WAITING.]
  • Dig Ditches!
  • Get a shovel and start digging.
  • Actually, we ordered 300 little shovels and we were going to give everyone one as a symbol to remember what to do when your waiting.
  • Dig Ditches!

Slide # 10… Only God can send the water, but sometimes He wants you to dig a ditch!

Slide # 11… ‘As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.’ ~James 2:26 (niv)

Story of Thrive: Just a story of digging ditches.

  • Thrive is the story of digging ditches!
  • Just waiting on God! And digging while we wait!
  • We started with nothing. Just kept digging ditches.
  • When we went to two experiences, some people were like, really! We just kept digging ditches.
  • We’ve had ups and downs. We’ve grown, lost people, grown again and lost people. We just keep digging ditches.
  • We introduced the first Shoe Project. Oh man, some people were like, you guys are nuts. We just kept digging ditches. We raised the money. The second shoe project. We raised the money, but wow! It was hard, digging ditches.
  • Guess, what, in 2018 when we do our next Shoe Project, we’re going to keep digging ditches! Just to keep the crazy train going, I am praying that we as a Church will raise $50,000. That could do 4-5 Schools!!!
  • You don’t know where the rain is going to come from, but you keep digging!

What area of life is God calling you to digging ditches? In preparation for the blessing He wants to give.

Faith is not just wishful thinking. Oh God, bless my children. You start speaking words of blessing over your children.

Oh God, bless my marriage. You start blessing your marriage. You want love and attraction? You be more attractive? You make your spouse the center of the universe. You pray for them all throughout the day. You rekindle the love.

Oh God bless my finances. You trust him by giving.

Oh God, I don’t know where I fit at Thrive. You start serving! There are over 20 different opportunities on Sunday mornings alone at Thrive! Or you pray. Come early and pray over seats. Or be a facebook evangelist. Like everything on the main Thrive page. Comment and help get discussions going. Invite friends.

  • Make a commitment to SHOW UP, JUMP IN and DO GOOD.


  • We’ve dug a lot of ditches. We have to keep digging!
  • Real faith keeps digging when people say no, or are negative, or when it’s hard! We’ve had people say awful stuff about us. Or leave.
  • That’s ok, we will just keep digging ditches.
  • One of the areas I have struggled with, and we even talked about it at our Elder meeting this past week, is when people just disappear from Thrive. It’s hard. Some leave because they feel convicted. Some leave because of conflict with someone else. Some just stop coming because of laziness.
  • Part of my extreme exhaustion was letting the bitterness get to me.
  • God’s given us a GREAT vision for this Church and we can make a tremendous dent for God’s kingdom together!
  • Digging ditches of love. Of acceptance. Of wanting people who are messy so they can meet the God who loves them.

Oh God, I need your joy. God says, if you want joy, then rejoice. Quick watching and listening to crap. Put God’s word in your heart and start rejoicing.

Oh God, I’m single and I just want a good person. Then, stop dating people who want nothing to do with God. I’m not saying at all that they are bad. I’m just saying, if you want to be faithful, take God’s word seriously. Pair up with someone who loves Jesus passionately!!

  • Can you trust God today, because He knows your tomorrow and has already been faithful in your past.

Waiting is an ACT of FAITH!

As you wait, Dig Ditches.

Slide # 12…Biblically, waiting is not just something we have to do until we get what we want. Waiting is part of the process of becoming what God wants us to be. – John Ortberg

  • As you wait, what ditches are you going to dig?
  • Where can you be faithful?
  • Waiting is not all bad, remember, it’s an act of faith.


Maybe our parenting approach is all wrong?!? Parenting and the Church pt. 1

My wife and I have 5 kids. We have 3 teenagers (17, 15, 13) and a 9 and 3.5 year old. Parenting is an important part of our lives. One of the most important. And, for the past 22 years, I have had the privilege to serve families in local churches and have had a close up view to many different kinds of parenting styles.

On top of that, I have traveled all over the world and have spoke to thousands of teenagers. I don’t know the exact number. Retreats, Conferences, Camps, Christian Schools, Public Schools, Churches and Colleges. All over.

One more on top of that, we have a Senior in our house. That means we have one year left before she heads out on her own. It really is amazing how quick it goes.

All of that to say, we talk parenting a lot in our house. I talk parenting with my parents a lot. All of my friends have kids similar in age and we talk parenting a lot. I read parenting books and articles. I talk to parents about their thoughts. I talk to teenagers and parents about their thoughts. Because of all that, I’m at a crossroads and I’m thinking that…

Maybe we’re just wrong…jonnywow-maybe

Maybe Tracie and I are just wrong about Parenting when it comes to the Church.

Here’s where we’re coming from. We want our kids involved with the ‘Church’ and their Church. That’s the goal. That’s the win! 

Actually, we don’t want them to ‘just’ be involved or to just be attenders. We want them to be Contributors, Investors and Owners in their local Church.


A. Because the Church is the most important organization on the planet! I mean, Jesus gave His life for us and then He gave us the Church! It is the Bride of Christ and there is nothing more important. 


B. Something becomes so much more alive when you actually own it, rather than just renting it. 

Our point of view on the Church with our kids…

So, our approach to Parenting and the Church is that the Church is non-negotiable. It’s just a part of who we are as a family. And, we don’t want to sit in the cheap sits and watch. We want to be involved. We want to be on the field. We want our kids to love their Church and to be an Owner as much as we are.

That means that our kids are expected to care about their Church, pray for the leaders of their church and to be involved. And to be involved with their age appropriate ministries.

And, from what I can tell, our kids love their Church.

  • Madison, our 9 year old, has been talking about her Club 45 SpringHill retreat for months. (Club 45 is Thrive’s ministry to 4th and 5th graders)

A side note: As a family, we have made the choice that our kids won’t miss retreats or camps. Why? Because that’s where the power happens! There is something so incredible that happens on retreats and camps. I actually wrote an article about this years ago that’s been posted on many camp websites! Here it is. 

  • Zach, our 13 year old, decided to not try out for a travel baseball team because they practice on Sunday’s and he didn’t want that to interfere with Church and Youth Group.
  • All of our teenagers have already started their countdowns to next summer’s Big Stuf Camp. 
  • Shoot, during my recent 29 days off, our kids, on their own, still decided to join our Thrive community on Sunday’s. We let them decide and they decided to be a part.

Don’t think for one second that we’re experts or have the perfect family. Nothing could be farther from the truth. There are so many things we do wrong and need to do a better job when it comes to parenting and parenting teenagers and kids. 

Ok, why all of this? Why am I going on and on?

As a Pastor, I pretty frequently from parents who are beyond disappointed that their teenagers want nothing to do with the Church. 

I hear from other parents who are banging their heads against the wall and want help in getting their teenagers involved at church. 

So, all of that to say…

What if Parents gave even 10% of the passion they put towards their kids…

  • Prom Pictures
  • Football Practice
  • Travel Sports
  • Marching Band
  • 4H
  • Dance Competitions
  • School Stuff

And gave it to celebrating their involvement and serving in the Church?

I mean, its safe to say that parents are very excited about spending hundreds of dollars on Prom and then posting a million pictures of it. I mean, maybe I’ve missed something, but why is spending all that money and going to a dance all that important?

Now, I’m not trying to sound ridiculous. I love that my oldest daughter has gone to prom. She’s beautiful inside and out. I’m also proud that she hasn’t made a big deal about going with a guy and has just choose to go with friends. I went to prom. I love the dance scene from the movie footloose as much as they next guy.

But, when it comes time for parents to pay for summer camp or a youth retreat or a mission trip, sometimes its the end of the world.

End of the freaking world!

‘I can’t pay for that’ or ‘We don’t have it for that’ or ‘the church expects too much’

Hmmmm. But when it comes time to plunk down the fundage for a travel team, or a spring break trip, or a dress…the money is somehow there.

Ok, I know this a GIANT generalization. But, it’s also based on my experience of 22 years of being up close and personal to hundreds and hundreds of families.

Just imagine, MAYBE, how much more passionate our kids and teenagers MIGHT be about God and Church and Student Ministry…

If their parents Celebrated their faith like they celebrated Prom of Football or Soccer or Band?

Is this all unfair?

I know some parents slap up pictures on Facebook of their kids first communion or confirmation, but what about all the other hundreds of Sunday’s? Oh, it could be that some parents only get excited about a few milestone type church events. It could be that those parents themselves are only in Church for those milestone type events. That’s a whole other situation.

But what about all the Sunday’s their kids could be learning about Jesus? What about all the Sunday’s their kids could be leading at Church. Using their music gifts. Using their art gifts. Using their people skills.

Mom and Dad’s, we’re at a crossroads.

It’s time for us to decide if the goal of our parenting is to raise Jesus Followers or Prom dates or Soccer players or Baseball players or Marching Band Players.

The reality, if you don’t make your child’s faith a priority now or you don’t make Church a priority for your family, the likelihood of them coming back to the faith decreases rapidly.

All I know is…

What gets Celebrated gets Repeated.

(thanks for that phrase Andy Stanley)

So, if all we do is celebrate the Prom nights, the homecoming dates, the games, the grades and we don’t spend any time celebrating Church or making room for it or Youth Group or Bible Study or Small Group or celebrating our kids involvement with them. We can almost guarantee that our kids won’t be excited about them.

Maybe I’m Wrong. Maybe I’m too passionate about my kids loving the Church or being involved.


Or Maybe I’m onto something. More thoughts in part two coming next week.



The Gift of Sheila = Unbelievable Generosity that rocks your life!

The Raitz family has been so blessed over the years.

And, when I say blessed, I don’t mean…’oh, we’re so happy’, kind of blessed.’

I mean the kind of blessed where your life, where your family, where your everyday life is so rocked and so moved and so blown away, you just don’t know how to function! And then, all you want to do, is do just that for other people. 

Well, a few months ago, an amazing couple from our Church came over and gave us a gift that knocked the air out of our lungs. We sat there in silence and we had no idea how to respond.

The size and scope of the generosity was absolutely amazing.

Actually, after it happened, Tracie and I went into our bedroom and shut the door and just hugged and cried. That lasted about 2.5 second because we have 5 kids! Hah!

They gave us the Gift of Sheila! Which, if you’re wondering what that is, Shiela is the IMG_8052nick name we gave their mini van.

They gave us a mini van!

I am not even kidding! Just unreal! 

I can’t even begin to express what an answer to prayer this gift was for our family. I can’t even begin to express how incredibly blown away we have been for the past couple of months as we think about what this family did for us!

This is the kind of generosity that literally CHANGES LIVES! 

And, the amazing generosity started back in 2014. We were headed as a family to Florida to speak at a summer camp. Our van was barely kicking. As a last minute hail mary, I put out on Facebook that we were asking for prayer for our van to get to Florida. That’s when I got a message that we could use this couples mini van. It was a huge answer to prayer.

Over the next 3 years, again and again, they let us borrow their van for us to travel to speaking engagements and vacations. We went to WI and to IL and to SC and to FL. Over the course of this time…

Sheila became a part of the family. 

The couple that gave us Sheila has been a part of our lives since 2012. That’s when I first met them. They lived down state and attended a Church that I was speaking at. They were a part of the prayer and I still remember the day I first me them and they prayed over me before I spoke.

Fast forward and they moved back to Central Michigan and they have been a part of Thrive since the very beginning. Actually, Thrive would not exist without this couple. Their heart to serve, to pray and to give just continually blows me away.

Every Pastor needs encouragers. I don’t know where I would be without them. They have taught me so much about following Jesus and so much about generosity!

Every time I drive Sheila I pray for them. I ask God to bless them.

Our hope is that God will use us in a similar way to bless the people around us!


10 Ways to Support your Church in the summer

Summer is AWESOME!! Many people get to vacation. They get to rest. They get to breathe a little bit.

For some, life slows down a little bit. For others, it ramps up.

For most Churches, things slow down in the summer. Which is good. People need to rest.


If you’re a fully devoted follower of Jesus, your Church home is pretty special and important to you. If its not, you have some things to work through and do them quickly so you can get fully on board with your Church.

As an owner or partner or member (whatever term your church uses to describe being ALL IN), there are some very important things you can do to help your church still move forward during a slow time.

Let me give you a quick list on how you can support your Church in the summer.

1. Pray for your Church. Please don’t pray tiny, whimpy prayers. PRAY BIG, PRAY BOLD.

Ask God to grow your Church. Ask God to give your Church His favor. Ask God to financially bless your Church. Ask God to ready you for the fall.

2. Pray for your Pastor. Again, pray hard! According to this latest survey, about 250 are leaving the ministry every month. Pray for strength, pray for their health, pray for their family.

3. Watch the messages you missed. Keep up to date on what is being taught. Take the time to hear the vision.

4. Like stuff. If you’re not around, and that’s all good, you could still have an online presence. Its super encouraging to the leaders of your church when you take the time to LIKE posts online and comment.

So, like stuff. Comment. Reply. Respond.

5. Give financially. There’s an interesting thing that happens with some people. They only give financially to God when they attend Church. In one way, that’s kind of like giving Him a tip. In another way, it’s an interesting way to be faithful with your generosity.

6. Set up Online Giving. This is really awesome. Some people don’t do this because they like to actually write the check, totally get that. But, it really does help your church when you set up an automatic and reoccurring giving online. It helps with planning and spending on necessary resources.

7. Step up to serve. There’s an interesting dynamic that happens in many churches. A small percentage does the large amount of the stuff to do. So, change that. Volunteer. Commit.

8. Ask. There are always lists and lists of tasks to do. If you have time, ask if you could help.

9. Check in with people. Summer is a strange time. People are traveling. Some may miss every Sunday in the summer. So, check in with them. Start with the people in your small group. Check in with the people you serve with or sit by.

10. Help your Church win! Yup, I guess this is all of these ways combined into one, but do you help your Church win? If not, start today! Support your church. Encourage your church. Be there for your church. Help your church.

Summers are awesome. But, be careful to NOT disappear from your Church family!

Meet Thrive’s new Small Group Director…Jon Strifler!

Are you even kidding me? God just continues to blow me away!

I am beyond excited to introduce Thrive’s newest staff member.


Because has God sent an amazing leader to Thrive and He has filled a tremendous hole! And that hole has been for someone to lead our Small Groups. I have been trying to fill that hole and honestly, I haven’t done a great job. Cue our newest staff member.

Meet Jon Strifler. He’s our Small Groups Director. 

Small Groups are the secret sauce of Thrive Church! Sunday’s are awesome, but it’s just a small part. Small Groups are where it’s at! And, I’m so thankful that God lead Jon and wife to be a part of Thrive! Jon will be working closely with Dr. Tom to create healthy communities for our Church to be a part of and they will be creating tools to help us grow spiritually!
Here’s a little bit about Jon:
How long have you lived in Central Michigan?FullSizeRender.jpg
-Been in Central Michigan for 4 years. Originally from the Indianapolis area
What’s your favorite thing about Thrive?
-So far my favorite thing about Thrive has been the amount of fun we have working as a staff team
How excited are you to lead Small Groups at Thrive?
-I am quite excited–super geeked–fangirl moment, whichever you want to use
If you had to pick between either Hootie and the Blowfish or Country music, what would you choose?
-Certainly not country, so give me Hootie
Jon has been married to Jennise for a little over a year and together they have a dog. Jennise is a professor at CMU and is an amazing artist!
If you want to be in a small group, lead one or have questions, shoot Jon an email. Make sure you go out of your way to welcome him on a Sunday morning!