a new way to think about elders at GraceSLO


There's always a ton happening behind the scenes here at GraceSLO.  I always love to share some of it when I have opportunity.  

One of the things we've been working on recently is a new way to think about and classify elders at GraceSLO.   After a history of "life-time elders", over the last couple of years, we've had several guys  step off the governing team for different reasons . . . 

  • After 45+ years of elder involvement, Leon Maksoudian asked to "retire" active and ongoing involvement in elder meetings.  We've bestowed on him the title "Elder Emeritus."  
  • Jim Jeffrey stepped aside from the governing team to focus his energies on missions as our Missions Team Chair.  
  • Rick Ernstrom and Ron Johnston both stepped aside from the governing team for conflict of interest reasons as both men have family members who serve on our paid staff.   We aim to avoid any appearance of nepotism, so we no longer allow elders to govern when familiy members serve on staff. 
  • Ted Malley and Kendall Matina who have both enjoyed a sabbath rest this year after more than 6 years of active service on our governing team just informed us they are not ready to return to the governing team in order to give more time to their families at this time.   

These situations have raised questions for us, . . . 

What's the status and role of these guys who are
no longer serving on the governing team?

Are they still "elders" here at GraceSLO?   

After months of process, discussion and prayer we believe we've answered these questions in a way that honors the history of GraceSLO, the teaching of the Bible and the Godliness of these faithful men. 

From this point forward, we will recognize two classifications/categories of Elders here at GraceSLO . . . . 

Governing Elders:  board-sitting and invovled in the day to day business and shepherding decisions of the church

Non-Governing Elders:  those who serve and shepherd the congregation in non-governing ways and roles 

Non-Governing Elders will be recognized as Elders, be involved in worship services and other areas of the church as they desire and are available.   All Elders will meet together at least a couple of times of year for fellowship and a discussion of GraceSLO vision.  Elders will be considered elders at GraceSLO as long as they continue to meet the Biblical qualifications outlined in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1.  

We believe and hope this new way of thinking about Elders will foster and stimulate more leadership development here at GraceSLO.   Our vision is that we might grow our elder team to 25+ where 10-12 serve as Governing Elders at any given time.  After all. . . 

It is a trustworthy statement:
if any man aspires to the office of overseer,
it is a fine work he desires to do. 
--1 Timothy 3:1

We've also shortened the term for service on the governing team  to 4-6 years with a required 1 year sabbatical sometime in the 4-6 year range.  The Lead Pastor is an exception to this guideline and is considered a Governing Elder as long as he serves the church.  

So, here's where we stand currently with Governing Elders and Non-Governing Elders. . . . 

Non-Governing Elders

Jim Jeffrey 
Ron Johnston 
Leon Maksoudian
Ted Malley
Kenall Mattina
Rick Ernstrom

Governing Elders

Wayne Brown
Dave Burns
Scott Morton 
Wayne Peterson
Steve Potratz
Todd Talley
Tim Theule
Donny Valliere

There are also two guys who are in our "elder pipeline" in the middle of our elder selection process and we hope to introduce them to the church family by late Spring.  All new elders will serve on the governing team as their initiation into elder service at GraceSLO. 

We're excited about these new developments and are committed to growing our leadership at GraceSLO wilth a healthy intergenerational mix of Godly men.   We hope, over the next couple of years, that the GraceSLO family comes to understand and fully embrace our elder categories and how the plurality of leadership functions at GraceSLO. 

making Hume Lake affordable

Our leadership believes that God has and does use a week at Hume Lake to change students' lives.  We've seen the impact over many years.   However, the price of Hume has risen considerably over recent years to the point where the the real cost to get a kid to a week of camp this year is $550. 

We know that's cost prohibitive for many families and especially for families with multiple kids. 

The Elders have a heart to do what we can to get as many kids as possible to Hume this year and every year.  Because God is financially blessing GraceSLO right now, we have the ability to help. 

Here are the 3 things we've done to make Hume more affordable for all . . .

  1. We designated our February Benevolent Fund offering (around $2500) for Hume Scholarships.  A few times a year we designate this once-a-month offering to a special project or need.  This seemed like an appropriate designation. 
  2. We designated $10k of surplus funds (a result of your faithful giving) to subsidize the cost of transportation and counselors for Hume.   This effectively brought the cost of Hume down from $550 to $500 across the board for all families. 
  3. We developed the following discount and scholarship opportunities . . .

Scripture Memory Discount:  $50 off
Memorize 1 John 4

  • Students will have three tries to say it.
  • Any translation may be used and you must say it in one sitting.
  • Only open to the first 50 people who memorize the scripture before May 5th.

*Scripture memory is required in order to apply for the other scholarships.

Multi-Sibling Discount: $50 off each additional student beyond the first (if needed)
2 Siblings -$50 (discount)
3 Siblings -$100 (discount)

Financial Need Scholarship: $50 - $200 off
You will need to fill out TWO financial aid forms: One to be submitted to Hume Lake and one to GraceSLO. Both are due by May 5th. We will let you know by June 5th.

Here's what all this means . . .

  • Any student can go to Hume for $450 instead of $550 this year, if they get on it and memorize some Scripture. 
  • Families can send 2 kids to camp for $850 instead of $1000, or 3 kids for $1250, instead of $1500. 
  • Families in need can get kids to camp for $250 to $400. 

Why make discounts and scholarships dependent on Scipture memory?  

This is the most frequently asked question that's come up as we've been communicating our Hume vision.   It's a reasonable question.  Here's why . . . we firmly believe that having a student memorize Scripture to earn a portion of the their camp cost provides at least 4 benefits for students . . .

  1. It affirm's human dignity.  Hand outs don't affirm human dignity.  We believe providing dignity is important in all our helping ministries here at GraceSLO.
  2. It teaches students the value of money and hard work.  The REAL cost of camp is $550 for every student to get to camp.  The congregation is shaing some of that burden.  We think it's appropriate for students to also share some of that burden. 
  3. It's in-line with Gospel principles that encourage us to take responsibility, work hard and bear our own load (like 2 Thes. 3:6-13 for example). 
  4. It provides an opportunity for students to "hide God's Word in their hearts," which is always a good thing. 

Keep in mind . . . we are not forcing students to memorize Scripture.  They are, of course, free to pay full price for camp if they and their parents desire to do so.  We are simply providing students an opportunity to earn a discount off the cost of camp. 

(A personal note:  When our kids go to any camp or costly church event (and they don't get to go to everything!), they are required to pay for at least 1/3 of the cost.   When possible, we try to provide them opportunities to work around home, for which we will pay them a fair wage, when they are trying to get to camp.  If we are not able to provide work and/or pay them, then they have to drum up work and funds in other ways.  Why do we do this?  The above "benefits" explain our rationale.  Getting to camp, then, becomes a multi-dimensional developmental/training opportunity.  Our kids really appreciate camp even more because they've had to shell out some of their own hard-earned cash.  We highly recommend a similar approach for all GraceSLO families!)

We're totally excited about these ways to bring the cost of camp down for all and for those in need.  We hope you are, too.  Your faithful generous giving to the General Fund is making it possible.  Every year is different and there are no guarantees that we'll be able to provide similar discounts and scholarships in future years.  We'd like to, but that will depend on God's provision and blessing.  

We're praying ahead for God to work in deep and life-changing ways in the lives of lots of students at Hume this year.  Start praying with us. 

And get your kids signed up for Hume ASAP!

Religious Liberty

If you are like me you have not thought near enough about religious liberty.   Well, you and I better start! Because we are living in days when these freedoms which we've largely taken for granted are being increasingly challenged and undermined.  

I confess I've not always been a huge Rick Warren fan, but I was pretty challenged by his recent comments regarding religious liberty which I heard on last week's edition of "The World and Everything in It".  His comments were excerpted from a 90 minute interview at Georgetown University. 

Please take a few minutes and at least listen to the shorter version.    

Here's a link to the shorter audio, which I couldn't figure out how to embed. . . 

March 2 World and Everything in It:  Rick Warren on Religious Liberty 


And here's the longer video . . . 




60 years of faithful service

If you missed Sunday's 2013 Missions Dinner, you missed out.  Among other things, we honored Ruth Salvador for 60 years of faithful service as a GraceSLO missionary.  Ruth shared some reflections that moved all who were present.  I was touched by Ruth's obvious commitment to the Scriptures and her clear clinging to the promises of God throughout her life and now in her present season.  She was candid about her struggles and the challenge of aging. 

To put this in perspective, Ruth Salvador has been serving as a GraceSLO missionary 16 years longer than I've been alive!  That's totally humbling and inspiring. 

Eric Flores, Lorraine Maksoudian, Jill Talley and others did an OUTSTANDING job creating this amazing vid celebrating Ruth's long service.  She was totally surprised. . . and so was I!  It captures some of the rich history and legacy of GraceSLO. . .



We also honored Ruth with a gift with which she can purchase a new computer to continue her ministry.  A dear, Godly woman who demonstrates faithfulness to the end.  She's not retiring, but finding new creative ways to serve the Lord and His people.  I'm so grateful for Ruth's example in this flighty, non-committal world.

a mother's note to her son about his new iphone

We talk A LOT in our family about managing/limiting/checking the encroach of technology in our lives.  I'm passionate about this for my family and for the other families in our church.  We know not what is happening to us as personal technologies take on bigger, more dominate, and more influential roles in our lives.  I love technology, but I want to use it, not be used by it.  The line is very fuzzy some time.   We work hard to stick to our "5:00PM - 8:00PM tech free zone" in our home.  It's not easy. 

Are you thinking through these issues in your family?  
What limits have you set for yourself and your kids? 

My friend Josef sent me this letter from a mom to her son as she gave him his new iPhone for Christmas. (Originally posted HERE) Most of these same guidelines apply to our children as they begin to use their own mobile phones, but I love the idea of a written contract.  If Apple itself has a "Terms of Use" agreement that we all users must agree to, why can't parents have one, too?  

Josef suggested maybe guidelines should come in the iPhone box itself. . . 

Dear Gregory,

Merry Christmas!  You are now the proud owner of an iPhone.  

You are a good & responsible 13 year old boy and you deserve this gift.  But with the acceptance of this present comes rules and regulations.  Please read through the following contract.  I hope that you understand it is my job to raise you into a well rounded, healthy young man that can function in the world and co-exist with technology, not be ruled by it. 

Failure to comply with the following list will result in termination of your iPhone ownership.

I love you madly & look forward to sharing several million text messages with you in the days to come.

1. It is my phone.  I bought it.  I pay for it.  I am loaning it to you.  Aren’t I the greatest?

2.  I will always know the password.

3.   If it rings, answer it.  It is a phone.  Say hello, use your manners.  Do not ever ignore a phone call if the screen reads “Mom” or “Dad”.  Not ever.

4.  Hand the phone to one of your parents promptly at 7:30pm every school night & every weekend night at 9:00pm.  It will be shut off for the night and turned on again at 7:30am.  If you would not make a call to someone’s land line, wherein their parents may answer first, then do not call or text.  Listen to those instincts and respect other families like we would like to be respected.

5.  It does not go to school with you.  Have a conversation with the people you text in person.  It’s a life skill.  *Half days, field trips and after school activities will require special consideration.

6.  If it falls into the toilet, smashes on the ground, or vanishes into thin air, you are responsible for the replacement costs or repairs.  Mow a lawn, babysit, stash some birthday money.  It will happen, you should be prepared.

7.  Do not use this technology to lie, fool, or deceive another human being.  Do not involve yourself in conversations that are hurtful to others.  Be a good friend first or stay out of the crossfire.

8.  Do not text, email, or say anything through this device you would not say in person.

9.  Do not text, email, or say anything to someone that you would not say out loud with their parents in the room.  Censor yourself.

10.  No porn.  Search the web for information you would openly share with me.  If you have a question about anything, ask a person – preferably me or your father.

11.  Turn it off, silence it, put it away in public.  Especially in a restaurant, at the movies, or while speaking with another human being.  You are not a rude person; do not allow the iPhone to change that.

12.  Do not send or receive pictures of your private parts or anyone else’s private parts.  Don’t laugh.  Someday you will be tempted to do this despite your high intelligence.  It is risky and could ruin your teenage/college/adult life.  It is always a bad idea.  Cyberspace is vast and more powerful than you.  And it is hard to make anything of this magnitude disappear – including a bad reputation.

13.  Don’t take a zillion pictures and videos.  There is no need to document everything.  Live your experiences.  They will be stored in your memory for eternity.

14.  Leave your phone home sometimes and feel safe and secure in that decision.  It is not alive or an extension of you.  Learn to live without it.  Be bigger and more powerful than FOMO – fear of missing out.

15.  Download music that is new or classic or different than the millions of your peers that listen to the same exact stuff.  Your generation has access to music like never before in history.  Take advantage of that gift.  Expand your horizons.

16.  Play a game with words or puzzles or brain teasers every now and then.

17.  Keep your eyes up.  See the world happening around you.  Stare out a window.  Listen to the birds.  Take a walk.  Talk to a stranger.  Wonder without Googling.

18.  You will mess up.  I will take away your phone.  We will sit down and talk about it.  We will start over again.  You & I, we are always learning.  I am on your team.  We are in this together.

It is my hope that you can agree to these terms.  Most of the lessons listed here do not just apply to the iPhone, but to life.  You are growing up in a fast and ever changing world.  It is exciting and enticing. Keep it simple every chance you get.  Trust your powerful mind and giant heart above any machine.  I love you.  I hope you enjoy your awesome new iPhone.  Merry Christmas!



I'd love to hear your thoughts, questions and personal questions.  If you're not sitting down with your kids and talking about this stuff, why aren't you?  It's not too late to "reel it in" and reclaim some of the ground you may have given away to early or too easily.  Be a parent.  Your kids will thank you for it later.  

And as you practice engaged Biblical parenting, make connecting with your kids your #1 priority.  Connection before correction.  Relationship before rules.  Bonding before boundaries.  Love before limits.   Rules, boundaries and limits are absolutely necessary, but relationship, bonding and love must come first.  


C.S. Lewis on using your brain

This winter, I've had the immense joy of leading some men through C.S. Lewis' Mere Christianity.  It's been a while since I've feasted on this rich classic.   I was surprised at how many men hadn't ever read it.  Have you read it?  If not, get to it!  

Last week, we discussed the chapter on  Cardinal Virtues (part 3, chapter 3) and, as usual, it was packed with gems.  I really loved this one on "prudence" which happens to explain my commitment to gathering men for prayer and good reads on Thursdays at 6:00 AM.  (The study is open to all men.  You are welcome.) 


Prudence means practical common sense, taking the trouble to think out what you are doing and what is likely to come of it. Nowadays most people hardly think of Prudence as one of the "virtues." In fact,  because Christ said we could only get into His world by being like children, many Christians have the  idea that, provided you are "good," it does not matter being a fool. But that is a misunderstanding. In  the first place, most children show plenty of "prudence" about doing the things they are really  interested in, and think them out quite sensibly. 
In the second place, as St. Paul points out, Christ never meant that we were to remain children in intelligence: on the contrary, He told us to be not only "as harmless as doves," but also "as wise as serpents." He wants a child's heart, but a grown-up's head. He wants us to be simple, single-minded, affectionate, and teachable, as good children are; but He also wants every bit of intelligence we have to be alert at its job, and in first-class fighting trim. The fact that you are giving money to a charity does not mean that you need not try to find out whether that charity is a fraud or not. The fact that what you are thinking about is God Himself (for example, when you are praying) does not mean that you can be content with the same babyish ideas which you had when you were a five-year-old. 
It is, of course, quite true that God will not love you any the less, or have less use for you, if you happen to have been born with a very second-rate brain. He has room for people with very little sense, but He wants every one to use what sense they have. The proper motto is not "Be good, sweet maid, and let who can be clever," but "Be good, sweet maid, and don't forget that this involves being as clever as you can." God is no fonder of intellectual slackers than of any other slackers. If you are thinking of becoming a Christian, I warn you you are embarking on something which is going to take the whole of you, brains and all. But, fortunately, it works the other way round. Anyone who is honestly trying to be a Christian will soon find his intelligence being sharpened: one of the reasons why it needs no special education to be a Christian is that Christianity is an education itself. That is why an uneducated believer like Bunyan was able to write a book that has astonished the whole world.

"Christianity is an education itself!"  I wholeheartedly agree.  I long for our church to be at a place where tough questions are asked, discussed and answered.  I want the young people and newcomers of our church to know that Christianity can handle their questions and provides the best, though sometime incomplete, answers to the questions we all ask.  
Let's not be content with "babyish ideas we had when we were five year olds."   He wants "a child's heart, but a grown up's head." 

getting our heads around Genesis

In last week's message (LISTEN HERE) and the week before (LISTEN HERE), we referenced this chart that summarizes our long study of Genesis. . . . 

The life of Joseph is a story within the larger Jacob story within the larger Genesis story within the larger Biblical story within thre larger story of history.  

The Bible is not a book of rules and not a book of virtures.  The Bible is one story:  God's story of Gospel Promise.  Genesis is the beginning of that story.  The story climaxes in the person and work of Jesus Christ and the story looks forward to the coming again of Jesus to renew and reconcilie all creation.  Our stories are a part of God's larger story.  

This is how we must learn to read the Bible.   It takes time and work.   


reflections on Lance


I haven't made the time to watch Oprah's interview with Lance Armstrong.  I've heard a few snippets, but not enough to draw too many conclusions.  Is this true repentance and brokenness or just another public relations ploy?  Hard to say. Time will tell.   I just know the guy was in deep and his sins have found him out . . . as they almost always do. Consequences will be ongoing, far reaching, and long lasting.  

Ed Stetzer reflects on 4 things Christians can learn from the Lance Armstrong Debacle.  I thought these were a couple thought-provoking quotes . . . 

"Sin will take you further than you want to go, 
keep you longer than you want to stay
and cost you more than you want to pay."

Even a cursory reading of the news reveals it's true.  We overinflate the benefits and underestimate the costs of sin . . . every time.  

What we cover, God will uncover.
What we uncover, God will cover.  


The first refers to God's judgment where all our lives will be exposed, but the reality is, most of the time, what we cover is uncovered by God before judgment.  Just ask Lance.  Thank God for for His glorious Gospel in Christ that makes the covering of our sin possible. 

Repentance and brokenness is the only true prescription for forgiveness, grace and freedom.   If you've got some deep, dark secret, come to the light and come to Christ.   

FAQs about the Sanctity of Human Life

Awesome Sanctity of Life Sunday yesterday together! LISTEN HERE  In my introduction to the morning, I walked through this material, which was also included in the outline.  In case you missed the service, I wanted you to see and think about this issue, too.   


What is the "Sanctity of Human Life?"  

The "Sanctity of Human Life" is the Biblical teaching that all human life is sacred, precious, valuable and worthy of our protection and care. 

Why is the Sanctity of Human Life affirmed and taught here at GraceSLO? 

  1. First, because the Bible teaches the Sanctity of Human Life.  
  2. Second, because we believe the Sanctity of Human Life is a foundational and profoundly practical issue that informs how we view, treat and care for our own lives and the lives of everyone around us.  
  3. Third, we believe this is an "issue of our time" as the dignity of human life is being undermined and attacked in more and more ways.   
  4. Fourth, we're committed to equipping God's people to think and live Biblically.  In the church, Biblical principles cannot be assumed, they must be passionately and clearly taught.  

What is the Biblical basis for the Sanctity of Human Life?  

The Sanctity of Human Life is rooted in these twin Biblical truths . . . 

  • God alone is the author, creator and Lord of life.
    (Genesis 1, Ex. 4:11, Ps. 100:3,  Acts 17:24-25)
  • Humankind alone, among all creation, is made in the image of God.  
    (Genesis 1:26, Gen. 9:6, Ps. 139:13-16) 

Who does the issue of the Sanctity of Human Life impact?   

The Sanctity of Human Life affects all of us at every stage of our lives, but more specifically the truth that life is sacred impacts how we view and treat those who often cannot speak for themselves or care for themselves . . .

  • the unborn
  • orphans
  • the exploited and impoverished
  • those with special needs
  • the elderly

What practical issues does the Sanctity of Human Life inform? 

The Sanctity of Human Life informs how we think about and respond to a growing list of complex issues including, but not limited to . . .

  • abortion
  • abortificient birth control
  • genetic screening
  • pre-natal gene therapy
  • embryonic stem cell research
  • human trafficking and slavery,
  • genocide
  • suicide
  • euthanasia

I also shared the following statistics which all illustrate the undermining of the Sanctity of Human Life in our culture and world. . .

  • 50,000,000 legal abortions have been performed in the U.S.  since the Roe vs. Wade decision 40 years ago.
  • 9 out 10 babies diagnosed with Down's Syndrome in the U.S. are aborted.  
  • 2,500,000 people are victims of forced labor, including sexual exploitation, around the world today.
  • 80% of elderly folks who live in assisted care facilities never receive any visitors . . no family, no friends, nobody.  

At GraceSLO we want to be a voice for life.  We believe the Sanctity of Human Life is not a political issue, but a moral and Biblical issue.   It's why we encourage, support and celebrate adoption and foster care among our church family.  It's why we visit and care for the elderly in our congregation.  It's why we celebrate the mixing of ages in our worship.   It's why we feed, shelter and give to meet the needs of the poor in our community.  

sanctity of human life in 4 minutes

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  • Life Together is the ongoing contemplation of our life together at Grace Church, San Luis Obispo, through the eyes of current Lead Pastor Tim Theule. 
  • Tim and his wife, Susie, are the delighted parents of four great kids, Sage (17), Eden (15), Zeke (10) and Haaken (8).  They have lived here on the Central Coast of California since early 2003. 

  • The title "Life Together" is borrowed from Dietrich Bonhoeffer's excellent little book concerning the joys and challenges of real Christian community, which bears the same title.

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