5 Things the Church Can Learn From Jimmy Fallon

I’ve got a morning routine. I drop off my oldest son at school each weekday, then I stop by my gym just down the street for a quick workout before heading to the office. I’ll spend ten minutes on the elliptical, partly to get a good heart rate going, but really it’s an excuse to watch last night’s monologue from the Tonight Show on my smart phone.


I never used to watch the Tonight Show. No disrespect to Jay Leno, but I just didn’t connect with him. Since taking over, Jimmy Fallon has taken the Tonight Show to new heights, leading in the traditional Nielson ratings as well as online ratings. Always trying to learn from others, here are five things I’ve learned from Jimmy Fallon (and what the church can learn too):

1. The core remains the same. From Johnny Carson to Jay Leno to Jimmy Fallon, the core remains the same: entertainment and making people laugh. For the church, whether it’s traditional, contemporary, liturgical or charismatic, the core should remain the same: leading people to follow and worship Jesus.

2. Jimmy Fallon brought a 20th century show into the 21st century. Many of the elements that Jay Leno did rolled over into Jimmy Fallon’s tenure, just with new names. Jay’s monologue was “what’s in the news.” Since many young people don’t watch the news, Jimmy uses the phrase “Here’s what people are talking about,” referencing the importance of social media. Jay Leno did a bit called “Headlines,” where people sent in funny advertisements from the newspaper. Jimmy does “Screengrabs,” where people pull funny photos off their computer. The essence remains the same, just updated for a new generation. It’s the same essence behind “worship wars,” updating worship music to a style that connects with a younger generation.

3. Jimmy Fallon makes the show interactive. One of Jimmy’s most successful bits is called “Hashtags,” where he sends out a hashtag on Twitter and allows viewers to send in funny tweets with the hope of making it on the air. Today’s generation doesn’t want to simply watch a performance, they want to interact and feel like they’re taking part in what’s going on. This should inform how a pastor preaches and interacts with the crowd during his message. I’ve recently started using YouVersion’s “Live Event” option on their Bible app for their sermon notes, which allows members to take notes, go to church web links and answer questions in real time.

4. Jimmy doesn’t just talk to guests, he plays with them. The traditional late night format was to interview a number of guests with a musical number at the end. Some of Jimmy’s most searched for web clips are of him playing with guests, whether it’s catchphrase with Artie Lange, pictionary with Wiz Kalifa, or a kayak race with Cameron Diaz. The audience loves to see Jimmy and celebrities play together. In churches, we’ve lost the element of fun. While it should never overpower the reverence of worship, there’s nothing wrong with a little fun in church. It’s an incredible way to break down walls and build community.

5. Jimmy Fallon genuinely enjoys what he’s doing, and you can’t help but get caught up in his boyish enthusiasm. In a world of fakeness, Jimmy is the real deal. He loves what he does, and you can’t help but get swept up in it. As a pastor, your enthusiasm, your passion, your enjoyment of what you do each week will be broadcast loud and clear to your audience. You can’t manufacture it. You can’t fake it. If you genuinely love what you do and who you’re doing it with, people will naturally be drawn to it.

QUESTION: What else can the church learn from Jimmy Fallon?

12 Small Things You Can Do to Create New Ruts

Last night at The Conversation (our mid-week adult Bible study) we talked about how to practically stop the bad habits that are destroying our lives. Those bad habits may be: bitterness, lack of exercise, poor eating, viewing pornography, or overspending (to name a few). While many people think the answer is pure willpower, modern neuroscience shows that to be false.


In a fascinating article, John Ortberg applies modern science to spiritual discipleship, saying “Most of the time, a change of behavior requires the acquisition of new habits. Willpower and conscious decision have very little power over what we do.” The way our brains our wired, our habits create “ruts” in our neural pathways. Call it muscle memory. Once an action becomes a habit, it’s a rut in your mind that’s very hard to get out of. Practically speaking, the only way to change is to create new ruts, new habits. That’s how our brains work.

With that, I shared a few small habits we can begin that can help us create new ruts in our life.


12 Small Things You Can Do to Create New Ruts

  1. Set your alarm 20 minutes earlier. (get more accomplished).
  2. Lay out exercise clothes before you go to sleep. (get more exercise).
  3. Have a curfew and stick to it. (nothing productive happens after 9 pm).
  4. Take the television out of your bedroom. (robs too much sleep).
  5. Cancel cable/satellite television. (television is pure distraction, doesn’t make you better).
  6. Put your phone in a kitchen drawer when you come home. (be present with your family).
  7. Make the Bible the first and last thing you read each day. (make your mind dwell on Word).
  8. Listen to the Bible on YouVersion during your commute. (use quiet moments to dwell on Word).
  9. Keep a journal. (helps you reassess. Gives you perspective. Forces you to slow down and evaluate where you are).
  10. Buy a stack of thank you notes and leave them out as a reminder to write at least one a week. (habit of thankfulness)
  11. Write out a budget and keep track of every dollar you spend each month. (fiscal responsibility).
  12. Join a small group. (relational community).

QUESTION: What other habits would you add?

What Was Your High School Label?

If you look in your high school yearbook, you’ll discover that it’s divided by labels. All the seniors are together, then the juniors, then the sophomores. Then you have the football team, the baseball team, the band, the mathletes, the puppet club. Everyone had a label in high school. You might have been the athlete, the cheerleader, the nerd, the party animal, the class clown, the JROTC fanatic, or the miscellaneous kid. We all wore a label in high school. Some of us even got a super label, a superlative: most likely to succeed, most beautiful, most athletic, most likely to be arrested, most likely to still be living in your parent’s basement when you’re 40.

senior yearbook copyAs adults we’ve already figure out that sometimes life feels like we’ve never really left high school. We all have labels in life that attempt to define us. Maybe you’re too skinny and you wear the label ‘scrawny’ or ‘weak.’ Maybe you’re too overweight and you wear the label ‘fat.’ Maybe you grew up without a parent and you wear the label ‘unloved.’ Maybe you were abused as a child and you carry the labels of ‘shame’ or ‘worthlessness.’ Maybe you got a divorce as an adult and now you wear the label ‘single parent.’ Maybe you got in trouble with the law and now you wear the label ‘convict.’ Maybe you struggle with addiction and now you wear the label ‘addict.’

We all wear labels. It started in high school. The question is whether we allow our labels to define us and ultimately destroy us, or whether we allow God to redeem our labels. That was the conversation we started yesterday at Mt Vernon church. You can catch up on all my latest sermons by going to: www.vimeo.com/joshdaffern.

JUST FOR FUN: We asked all of our church members to get involved in the conversation by doing the following three things on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter:

1. Post an old picture of you from high school.

2. Finish sentence “In high school my label was _____.”

3. Use #mtvconversation

Get online and check out the responses. Better yet, add your own!


R.I.P. – Robin Williams

We all lost someone yesterday, a comedic genius that captured the hearts of generations. Appearing in over sixty films, all Americans feel like they knew and loved Robin Williams. For the vast majority of us, his death (apparent suicide) came as an extreme shock. Why would somebody so funny, so full of life, want to take his own life? It seems surreal, especially for someone to throw away what many of us spend our entire lives pursuing. Robin_Williams

Here are a few thoughts I’m processing through as I mourn his passing:

  • Like everyone, I immediately think about the movies. He was brilliant in Good Will Hunting, he moved me in Dead Poets Society, but strangely enough, I keep coming back to Mrs. Doubtfire. I loved that movie as a kid. He was so funny!
  • He feels like a part of the family. Even though we don’t know him personally, we brought him into our home. Most of us can go and find a DVD with his face on the cover. We thought we knew him. That’s what makes this so hard.
  • He was so funny! How could he struggle with depression? We all mask our inner struggles. We all project an image that we want others to see. Some just get paid millions of dollars to do it. We knew Robin Williams the actor, but not the private struggles of Robin Williams the man.
  • Some of the greatest artists create the most beautiful hues of color from the deepest pallet of pain. Williams drew on the deep reservoir of raw emotion to create such lovable characters. His art as an actor and his pain were intertwined.
  • Addictions are real and dangerous. Williams struggled with alcohol and drug abuse for most of his adult life. He got clean for several years, but recently the alcohol came back with a vengeance. Addictions are no laughing matter.
  • Williams struggled from depression. Mental health is a real issue that has been stigmatized for too long. Any other part of our body can be broken and we seek help, but if our brain is broken we feel like we need to hide it. If you need help, get it.

As we mourn the passing of a person who brought us so much joy and laughter, let us not forget those close to us who may be walking through similar situations. Help where you can. If you need help, please ask for it. R.I.P.

Five for Friday (8.8.14)



Here are a few articles to keep you learning through the weekend:


8 Ways the Enemy Attacks Church – true words of wisdom from Thom Rainer.

Learning From Young Atheists: What Turned Them Off Christianity – great perspective!

Marco Rubio: Intolerance in the Name of Tolerance is Hypocrisy – grateful for a politician to stand up and say this.

Don’t Overthink It: The Power of an Invitation – if we truly ‘got’ this truth, our churches would never be the same!

The Single Man’s Journey to Sexual Happiness – I wish all of our single men could read this!

What All My Favorite Movies Have in Common

I am a movie fanatic. If there’s a great story playing on the big screen (or at least a decent story with a lot of things blowing up), then I’m there. Here are a few of my favorites:

  • Gladiator – coolest ways to die in this movie
  • Braveheart – “Freedom!”
  • Dumb and Dumber – I have way too much of this movie memorized
  • Karate Kid – I’m not talking about the 2010 Jayden Smith nonsense. I’m talking old school, 1984 Ralph Macchio.
  • Avatar – simply an overwhelming movie
  • Harry Potter – not ashamed. Loved the books, loved the movies
  • Lord of the Rings/Hobbit – such an incredible adaptation of the books
  • The Blind Side – how can you not love The Blind Side?
  • Star Wars – huge fan. I’ve already committed to watching the next 743 movies that Disney will produce off this cash cow
  • Shawshank Redemption – When I see that movie on tv, I stop and watch the rest of it, no matter what I’m supposed to be doing

Underdogs 1

There’s one theme that weaves throughout all of my favorite movies: it’s the theme of the underdog. Dictionary.com defines underdog as “A competitor thought to have little chance of winning a fight or contest. A person who has little status in society.” What is it about underdogs that make them so compelling? Why do we root for them so much?

I think at the end of the day it comes down to hope. Hope that if they can overcome their difficult circumstances, perhaps we can overcome ours as well. We root for the underdog because we identify with them. In a sense, we’re all underdogs.

At Mt Vernon we just started a brand new sermon series called “Underdogs,” where we’re looking at some of the greatest underdog stories in the Bible and where we’re discovering incredible truths about the God who loves to use underdogs. You can catch up on the first sermon here. If you’re in town, come check us out at 9:00 and 10:30 am, or you can watch online at www.mtvchurch.tv.  Hope to see you soon!

Look Around, They’re You’re Best Shot

Here’s something scary you can do the next time you’re at church: look around. Take some time during the service and look at those sitting around you. Pretend you’re stretching your neck muscles or something. Look at the older couple sitting two rows up. You can’t remember their names but you see them every week. There’s the weird guy that seems way too happy to be at church. There’s the family with teenagers where the son has been playing games on his iPhone the whole time. Then of course there’s the young family who exercise their constitutional right not to take their kids to the nursery. Motley crew, huh?

8.6.14Here’s what’s scary: they’re you’re best shot at experiencing the fullness of God. Here’s what Paul says in Ephesians 3:

17 And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” Ephesians 3:17-19

Paul hits the same theme a few verses later:

11 So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. 16 From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work. Ephesians 4:11-13,16.

Our best shot at attaining the fullness of God is in the midst of a biblically functioning church. Christianity isn’t an individual sport like golf, it’s a team sport like football or soccer. We rise and fall together. For better or for worse, your church, the body of believers that you belong to, are your best shot at attaining the fullness of God.

Why Attending Church Can Be Hazardous To Your Health

7.15.14Maybe you did it Sunday. Woke up, got the kids looking decent, scrambled out the door a little late, snuck into the church service a few songs into it, but at least you didn’t miss the main part (the sermon). Maybe you stay for the last song, maybe you sneak out early to beat the traffic (or just to avoid another awkward conversation with “Sister Betty”). In and out. Smooth. Clean. Hazardous to your health.

I would make the argument that attending church can be hazardous to your spiritual health. You attend shows. You attend ball games. You’re not supposed to attend church. When you attend something, you sit and watch as a spectator. If you like it, you offer some applause, perhaps you pay to get in or make a donation, but that’s as far as your involvement and commitment go.

The picture we see of the early church is just the opposite. They didn’t just attend church services, they did life together. They broke bread in each others homes. They got involved in each other’s lives. They gave to those in need. They sacrificed for each other. They practiced biblical community. They were the church for each other.

There is a difference:

  • Attending church is about you. Being the church is about us.
  • Attending church is about getting. Being the church is about giving back.
  • Attending church is about meeting your needs. Being the church is about also meeting the needs of others.
  • Attending church is about being entertained. Being the church realizes that you’re not the audience, God is.
  • Attending church stays skin deep. Being the church goes deep into the lives of those around you.
  • Attending church will eventually dry up your soul. Being the church will enrich your soul and those around you.
  • Attending church is easy. Being the church takes work.
  • Attending church is optional. Being the church is not.

Don’t settle for attending church this Sunday. Be the church.

7 Things You Can Do To Make This Week Different

7.14.14Small things can make a big difference. If you want this week to be a little (or a lot) different than last week, here are some small things that could have a big impact on your week.

1). Set your alarm (or set your alarm 30 minutes earlier). If your morning is a frantic last-minute race to get out of the house to get to work, or if you have the mornings off and like to see how long you can sleep in, change things up. Get up earlier, don’t be frantic and stressed before you even leave the house. Don’t sleep in. Decide that you want to be productive this week.

2). Declare a “TV Free” day. Pick a day where the tv doesn’t come on all day. Choose to let something else besides the media influence your thoughts and actions. Read a book, play a game, just keep the tv off.

3). Listen to the Bible on audio. As you’re on your commute, as you’re doing things around the house, plug in those earbuds and listen to the audio Bible on free apps like YouVersion. See what happens when you allow words of truth to wash over you and settle on your soul.

4). Exercise. Yes, you know you need to do it, so do it! Get out and go to the gym. Walk around the neighborhood. Do something. As you take care of your physical health, your mental, emotional, and spiritual health will benefit as well.

5). Help someone accomplish something. To momentarily break the power of selfishness, choose to help someone else accomplish something they need. Help them with yard work. Help them finish a project. Do something intentionally for someone else and not you.

6). Don’t be a slave to lists. Just live!