BIG change for Team Peterson!

(Artwork by Larry Selman, titled “They Were Always There”)

Yesterday at Church180, Sherri and I shared some big news (no, we’re not having another baby).

The best way to share it here is to share a letter with you that we sent to the church:

To my friends and “family” at Church180,

This will be the most difficult letter I have ever written to you.

After having served as your pastor for nine years, Sherri and I have determined that God is calling us to a new venture. To that end, my family and I will be leaving Church180 later this fall.

We have clarity and peace in this decision, as well as a good bit of sadness. I want to be clear with you… I love Jesus, I love Church180, and I love and will remain happily married to Mrs. Peterson. Nothing immoral or unethical has transpired to cause this change. God has simply called us to a different kind of venture and we would be neither obedient nor fulfilled if we did not follow His leadership.

Before I tell you what the next steps are for the Petersons, I would like to tell you why I think this is good for Church180, and what is going to happen next.

Church180 was started with the intention of reaching out to unbelievers, skeptics, and rookie Christians who are trying church again. We have seen some success in this endeavor. We have over 1200 names in our database of people who have come through the doors of our church. Some have been visiting. Some have stayed for a while and left. And YOU are still here… thank you! This is great, but the work of the church includes more than just having people walk through the door.

My wonderful friends, after having been a senior pastor for twenty-one years I have come to conclude something about myself and what I believe are necessary and important components for a local church – God has given me two primary gifts: evangelism and teaching. I do those well… but the local church requires so much more than just these two gifts.

I know that Church180 needs leadership that is gifted, skilled, and passionate about additional components; things like systems, finance, facilities and leadership development.

I have watched pastors stay too long and destroy churches. I will not do that to Church180. Church180 is entering a chapter in her story that requires leadership and passion for areas outside of my gifting and passion. This is part of why I have determined to step aside.

What happens next at Church180?

Our Superintendents are working with me and our Advisory Team on a transition timeline that is healthy for Church180.

Our superintendents will be working directly with our Advisory Team to identify a new pastor who will love and lead Church180 into the next chapter of this story.

While there are still some details to be worked out regarding exact dates, we will keep you informed as this process unfolds.

And this leads me to the next part of this story…

Where are the Petersons headed?

After lots of prayer, and hours of conversation with Sherri and various mentors, I have determined that the next step in my life is to become an active-duty Army Chaplain. In this environment, I will be able to maximize the gifts that God has given me and live out His calling on my life to its fullest potential… it is “my place” … it is “my thing.”

Part of the process of becoming an Army Chaplain is to write a letter to the Army Colonel who approves these transitions explaining why I want to be an Army Chaplain. Here is my letter:

Why I want to be an Army Chaplain

My earliest recollections are of playing with “army men.” Growing up, that love and desire for the military never diminished. At seventeen years of age I secured my GED through the National Guard and realized, “this is what I want to do with my life!” The feel of the uniform, the weight of responsibility, the sense of adventure and purpose… they surpassed what I had anticipated. Then I was in a car accident, broke my knee, and was medically discharged… all before shipping to boot camp.

That was one of the darkest points in my life. My spiritual awakening came about a year after that incident. I did not know what I wanted to do, but I knew I needed a new location to begin my search… so I chose a Bible college. It was there that I sensed the call of God to enter ministry. I responded affirmatively but have never lost the love or desire for the military. While working on my second master’s degree, I was in a cohort with a Marine major. He mentioned that I should be a chaplain.

I immediately shut that down. In my mind, if I was going to be a soldier, I was going to be kicking down doors and taking down bad guys. Almost twelve years later, at a men’s retreat, the special speaker was an Army chaplain who had previously served in the Special Forces. I approached him, and we discussed my lingering longing for military. He suggested that I check out the chaplain’s program. Again, I shot it down… but he didn’t accept my answer. He redefined what “chaplain” means. That was almost one year ago.                          

I have served as a senior pastor for over twenty years. I love ministry, but for the last decade I have been unsatisfied… searching. In the last few weeks a series of conversations and events have confirmed that it is time for me to investigate this sense. I reached out to mentors and talked with Army recruiters. The more I prayed, thought, talked, and researched, the more obvious it became that it is possible to spend the second half of my life engaged in the two things I love dearly… ministry and military. If I am granted the honor to serve as a chaplain, I will happily dedicate my life to serving God and country with all of my heart, soul, mind, and strength.

After several months of prayer, long walks, and deep reflection, and LOTS of meetings, God has made it clear that we are to make this move. I have been accepted in the military as a chaplain with the rank of Captain, and I will spend the next years of my life “bringing God to soldiers and soldiers to God.”

Church180, As I write this letter to you, there are still some details that need to be completed and questions that remain to be answered:

When will we go? That is not certain yet.

Where will we go? That is not certain yet.

We have debated when and how to share this information with you since there are still some uncertainties. It is beginning to feel like we are being disingenuous in our conversations with you regarding the future, etc., so because of that we determined to tell you what we know.

As we begin this transition, I ask you to do four things:

  1. Please pray for Church180 as these changes take place.
  2. Please pray for my family as we navigate these changes.
  3. Please “find your place and do your thing” at Church180 so that she will become a place that is “healthy, growing, and full of love” (Ephesians 4:16).
  4. Please take time to deeply evaluate your own gifts and passions and make sure you are living out the calling of God on your life.

I have loved serving as your pastor. I love the story and the values of Church180. I am excited about what will happen next in the chapter of Church180, and you!

Thank you for being a part of Church180, and my family’s life.

We love you!

The best is yet to come! Seriously!

Paul, Sherri, and “The Ladies.”

“The 12 Apostle of Ill Health”

One of my year end activities is to read through previous year(s) journals. It is exciting to see what I have learned and how I have matured… and disheartening to see those things against which I STILL struggle. Reading my own writing is a most credible witness to my personal discipline, and lack of self-control.


If you don’t journal… I urge you to try it! If you do journal… I urge you to read what you have written over the last year(s).

Anyhow, in May of 2017, I was reading Gordon McDonald’s classic work, “Ordering Your Private World.” In this book, he quotes E. Stanley Jones who wrote about the “12 Apostles of Ill Health.” That quote was written in my journal along with a note about a Bible verse I had read earlier that morning. Both are instructive for the person wanting health!

Here is my journal entry:

E. Stanley Jones speaks of the “12 Apostles of Ill Health”: anger, resentments, fear, worry, desire to dominate, self-preoccupation, guilts, sexual impurity, jealousy, a lack of creative activity, inferiorities, a lack of love.”

Jones says, “In prayer, I’ve learned to surrender these things to Jesus Christ as they appear.”

This brings me back to 1 Corinthians 10:13.

1 Corinthians 10:13 says, “God will not allow temptation to be more than I can stand. When I am tempted, He will show me a way out so I can endure.” (I personalized the verse in my journal, changing the words from “you” to “I/me”).

Take a minute and slowly read the “12 Apostles of Ill Health”:

  • anger
  • resentments
  • fear
  • worry
  • desire to dominate
  • self-preoccupation
  • guilts
  • sexual impurity
  • jealousy
  • a lack of creative activity
  • inferiorities
  • a lack of love.

See anything there that “rings your bell”? Anything there that is stealing spiritual energy? Depleting physical strength? Detracting from overall well-being? What are you doing about that “apostle”?

Jones found that prayer was a strategic tool in the battle for health. 

St. Paul said that God will provide deliverance from the things that tempt us and threaten to destroy us (1 Corinthians 10:13).

As I head into the new year, I see things on this list that need my attention. One of my strategies for reducing and even eliminating the influence of these “apostles” is going to be prayer.

What do you think? Do you agree with Jones’ list? How do you tackle these “12 Apostles of Ill Health”?

Guiding principles for students of Scripture

Today, I am working on material for a teaching series that I am going to give at Church180. We are going to be studying a letter that St. Paul wrote to the Christians in Colossae around 60 A.D.

As I am working on this material, I keep thinking about basic principles that guide my approach to Scripture. I needed to write them down, and figured that this would be a good place to put them.

These are the principles that guide me as I read and prepare to teach Scripture.

  • There is a God.
  • He has told us who He is and what He wants in multiple ways. His most detailed revelation is through the Scriptures.
  • The Scriptures were written over multiple centuries by a diversity of men, in a diversity of circumstances.
  • The Scriptures were given by God to men to address specific, historical circumstances.
  • Many of these circumstances have changed since the time when the Scriptures were written (e.g. how we travel, how we communicate, the means of war, the introduction of global organizations, etc.).
  • While much has changed over the course of time, there is much that has not changed (e.g. basic human emotions, good, evil, etc.)
  • The work of the student is to determine what is timeless, and then apply it to 21st century living.
  • As we “correctly handle the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15 NIV) we will understand God and how to live “righteously” in the 21st century.

Much sloppy and destructive teaching has been done because of a disregard for basic hermeneutical principles. With that in mind, here are a handful of questions that guide me as I seek to “correctly handle the word of truth”:

  • Who wrote this? What was his point of view (e.g. Luke was a doctor. Amos was a farmer.)
  • To whom was it written? (e.g. Matthew wrote to a largely Jewish audience. Paul wrote to a largely Gentile audience.)
  • Why was it written? What issues are being addressed? (e.g. Proverbs is a collection of “wisdom sayings” collected over a period of years; Paul wrote to address specific issues and questions in various local churches)
  • What historical, geographical, cultural distinctives might influence this letter? (e.g. when Paul writes that women should not speak in church… is there something cultural going on that might help me understand this and properly apply it in the 21st century?) 
  • When I am studying a particular verse, I pay attention to what is said before and after that verse! In other words, pay attention to the context! Much harm has been done by teachers/preachers who have ignored context. There are multiple levels of context:
    • Immediate context – what is said in the sentences before and after the verse
    • Letter context – how should I understand this verse in light of the entire letter? To whom was it written? Why was it written? What is said at the beginning and end of this letter? How does that influence my understanding of the verse in question?
    • Author context – If I am studying something that Paul said, I ought to inquire as to whether he has addressed this topic in his other writings. 
    • Testament context – If I am studying something in the New Testament, how do other New Testament authors address this topic? Do they even address it?
    • Broader context – does my understanding of the verse in question agree with the broader teaching of Scripture? If my understanding of a particular verse is in conflict with other verses of Scripture… I am probably understanding it incorrectly.

The study of Scripture is a serious matter and ought to be taken seriously. There is great reward for the one who does this work seriously. One of my favorite quotes regarding this matter comes from St. Paul:

All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16-17 NLT)


How I disappoint myself

I am most disappointed in myself when I give in to myself.

  • When I hit snooze…
  • When I say the first thing that comes to mind…
  • When I procrastinate…
  • When I skip the gym…
  • When I skip a date with one of my girls…

Whenever I give into my weak desires… I disappoint myself.

As a matter of fact, I can disappoint myself more bitterly than anyone else can disappoint me!

The opposite is also true.

When I do the hard, but right thing… I am deeply gratified and pleased. 

One of my favorite sayings these days is:

Easy choices… hard life. Hard choices… easy life.

Do the thing you know you ought to do… not the thing you want to do… you won’t regret it!

***This post was inspired by the fact that I got out of bed and followed my morning ritual this morning… and I feel GREAT! While on the other hand, I did not do that yesterday… and felt off all day!

Eating Frogs and Turds

This morning I walked with a couple of my girls (we were too tired to run). While we were walking we had a great conversation about doing difficult things.

I was able to string together some great, and funny, pieces of advice I’ve heard from others. It went like this…

If you eat a frog, first thing in the morning, everything else will be easy by comparison.

This is Brian Tracy’s way of encouraging people to stop procrastinating on the hard things! Do them first… and everything else will be easy in comparison! He wrote a book by that title.

The second piece of advice made us all laugh. Well… at least me. It made me laugh (the girls just rolled their eyes).

I can’t recall exactly who said it, but, unfortunately, it’s not original. Here goes…

If you have to eat a turd, don’t nibble!

In other words, if you have to do something that’s difficult… don’t take forever! Get it done quickly!

That’s such good advice!

Do the hard things first… and do them quick. That’s a formula for a good day (assuming you brush your teeth afterwards)!

Hug the Struggle

hugBen Horowitz wrote a New York Times bestseller called, “The Hard Thing About Hard Things.” In this book, he discusses the underbelly of leadership; the hard and unglamorous stuff that few talk about or consider. He tells and dissects leadership experiences… the hard ones… the REAL hard ones!

I actually picked this book up when I heard Bill Hybels recommend it.

Anyhow, the other day I was reading “The Hard Thing About Hard Things”, and came across a “poem” that Horowitz wrote. It flowed out of his experiences, and was sparked by a sentence from Karl Marx, “Life is struggle.” Here’s Ben…

The Struggle is when you wonder why you started the company in the first place.

The Struggle is when people ask you why you don’t quit and you don’t know the answer.

The Struggle is when your employees think you are lying and you think they may be right.

The Struggle is when food loses its taste.

The Struggle is when you don’t believe you should be CEO of your company. The Struggle is when you know that you are in over your head and you know that you cannot be replaced. The Struggle is when everybody thinks you are an idiot, but nobody will fire you. The Struggle is where self-doubt becomes self-hatred.

The Struggle is when you are having a conversation with someone and you can’t hear a word that they are saying because all you can hear is The Struggle.

The Struggle is when you want the pain to stop. The Struggle is unhappiness.

The Struggle is when you go on vacation to feel better and you feel worse.

The Struggle is when you are surrounded by people and you are all alone. The Struggle has no mercy.

The Struggle is the land of broken promises and crushed dreams. The Struggle is a cold sweat. The Struggle is where your guts boil so much that you feel like you are going to spit blood.

The Struggle is not failure, but it causes failure. Especially if you are weak. Always if you are weak.

Most people are not strong enough.

Every great entrepreneur from Steve Jobs to Mark Zuckerberg went through The Struggle and struggle they did, so you are not alone. But that does not mean that you will make it. You may not make it. That is why it is The Struggle.

The Struggle is where greatness comes from.

AHHH!!! I love and hate this! I hate it, because I know how it feels. I love it, because I know that “the struggle” will produce something, if I don’t run… or quit!

So, stay in the game! Pray often. Work hard. Get counsel. Cry. Cuss (not all the time, but sometimes… and not at anyone!). Exercise. Eat some food. Get some rest… and get back into the struggle! The struggle is your friend! It builds your strength and prepares you for the next level! Hug the struggle!

You can get the book (I recommend it), or you can read this article on “the struggle”.

What’s worse than having sex with your step-mom?


Crazy question huh?

Well, this morning I was reading St. Paul’s letter to the Corinthians. I know what’s in this letter… I’ve read it dozens of times. I know that Paul is going to rebuke the church for being proud of one of their members who was having sex with his step-mom.

Do you remember that? Here’s what he says:

I can hardly believe the report about the sexual immorality going on among you—something that even pagans don’t do. I am told that a man in your church is living in sin with his stepmother. You are so proud of yourselves, but you should be mourning in sorrow and shame. And you should remove this man from your fellowship.

Even though I am not with you in person, I am with you in the Spirit. And as though I were there, I have already passed judgment on this man in the name of the Lord Jesus. You must call a meeting of the church. I will be present with you in spirit, and so will the power of our Lord Jesus. Then you must throw this man out and hand him over to Satan so that his sinful nature will be destroyed and he himself will be saved on the day the Lord returns. (1 Corinthians 5:1-5 NLT)

Now there’s a lot to catch there, but I want to direct your attention to this one thing – did you see “chapter” in which this rebuke is located? It’s about a third of the way into his letter to this young church!

Yea… it’s pretty messed up that a guy is having sex with his step-mom. It’s even worse that his church is proud of it! You’d think something like that might get addressed FIRST in Paul’s letter! But it didn’t!

Do you know what Paul tackled first?

After a nice, friendly greeting, which is instructive for pastors and church leaders – be gracious and kind… even to people who are really jacked up, Paul tackles FIRST the matter of divisions and rivalries in church caused by spiritual immaturity! 

Check this out:

Dear brothers and sisters, when I was with you I couldn’t talk to you as I would to spiritual people. I had to talk as though you belonged to this world or as though you were infants in Christ. I had to feed you with milk, not with solid food, because you weren’t ready for anything stronger. And you still aren’t ready, for you are still controlled by your sinful nature. You are jealous of one another and quarrel with each other. Doesn’t that prove you are controlled by your sinful nature? Aren’t you living like people of the world? When one of you says, “I am a follower of Paul,” and another says, “I follow Apollos,” aren’t you acting just like people of the world? (1 Corinthians 3:1-4 NLT)

WHOA! BEFORE he addressed the crazy sex thing… he rebuked the church for being spiritually immature and divided! He rebuked them for being jealous and acting like middle-schoolers bragging about what brand of shoe they wear!

There’s something important here for all of us who call ourselves Christians…

If you are arguing and divisive… the greatest problem in your church probably isn’t the dude who is sexually weird.

If St. Paul were to write a letter to your church, my guess is he’d start by talking to you!

He’d get around to dealing with the sexual craziness, but because that’s not the worst problem, he wouldn’t start there!

Listen, if you are a Christian, please focus on building one another up; focus on creating a place where there is love and unity, encouragement and grace.


Christians don’t do cliques.

Christians don’t do rivalry with one another!

There certainly is a place and a time for confrontation and difficult conversation, but this is all part of teamwork with the end goal of encouraging and building one another up!

So here’s the thing I’m thinking about…

If St. Paul came to my church… what is the first thing he would address? I hope it would not be cranky, divisive Christians!