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!


Five for Friday (8.15.14)

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What the Church Can Learn from Jimmy Fallon – I’m a huge Jimmy Fallon. There’s something we can learn from him.

3 Ways NOT to Share Jesus – Great words for anyone trying to share Christ with young adults.

Who is ISIS? A quick recap of the current conflict in Iraq.

What Would Jesus Say to Robin Williams? – Great words!

7 Easy Ways to Put a Not Welcome Sign on Your Church – So true!

How to Give Yourself a Heart Check-up

2 Chronicles 16:9 says, “For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.” But how can we know the condition of our hearts? This short video looks at three diagnostics that Jesus gives us:

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.

How to Spot the First-Time Guest at Your Church

Years ago I worked at a church that wanted to work on its outreach, so we brought in an outside consultant. We weren’t having a lot of first-time guests register each week, so we weren’t sure if any were actually coming. Our consultant came in for a “secret shopper” visit one Sunday (where someone comes to your church undercover to evaluate your services) and told us afterwards he had met six first-time guests. I was floored. I’d worked at the church for years and had never met anywhere close to six first-time guests on any Sunday.

8.11.14Knowing when a first-time guest is critically important for your church. You want to make sure you give an overwhelmingly good first impression. You want your pastor to go out of his way to meet them, to give them a few minutes of his time. A great first-impression can go a long way to ensuring that your first-time guests become regular attenders. But how can you tell who the first-time guests are? They don’t advertise it. They don’t wear a sign. They don’t tell anyone.

And then our consultant told us the secret. And it’s a secret that works. I’ve practiced it for years now, and if I’m intentional about it, it really helps me spot the first-time guest. He simply said, “It’s in the eyes.” If you make eye contact with those walking in your building, you’ll spot the first-time guests. They’re hesitant. They’re not sure. They have a bit of the ‘deer in the headlights’ look. They’ve never been to your church before and they don’t know where to go, but they usually don’t want to ask anyone for help. So they hesitate for a moment. That’s the giveaway.

With some practice, you can spot them. I used it to meet some first-time guests to our church yesterday. (I didn’t go out of my way to let them know I that I knew this was their first time, I just made sure to go out of my way to be friendly and cordial to them). How can you spot the first-time guest to your church? It’s in the eyes. Try it this week and see if you can spot them.

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!