I was born in Kalamazoo, Michigan (yes, there really is a Kalamazoo). Aside from a year in Wheaton, IL and a year in Denver, CO, it’s been home my entire life.
I am the oldest of 3 children, and both my parents have “graduated” to heaven. The most important decision I ever made was just before my 14th birthday when I asked Christ into my life. It literally set the direction for the rest of my days. I’m a sinner – saved by grace – and I often identify with Paul as being “chief among them all.” But God has delivered me, upheld me, guided me, and redeemed me. I sure don’t deserve it… but He did it for me.
I started college as a music major and business minor, thinking I’d be a record executive. I wasn’t crazy about all the practice time it took to be a vocal performance major, so I switched to advertising and marketing – it was a natural for me. My mom later told me that when I was 4 years old, I’d stand at the fence in the back yard and sing advertising jingles. Who knew?
My real passion was youth ministry. I took full loads of classes at Western Michigan University, but I worked “part-time” about 40 hours/week leading Campus Life clubs and youth events. And in my free time, I pursued the woman of my dreams. Debbie and I dated for 2+ years, and married in the middle of my junior year. We just celebrated our 38th anniversary, and I believe the best is yet to come.
I joined First of America Bank in 1981. I was on a couple not-for-profit boards… I had a great deal of authority and responsibility at the bank…and I became a Vice President of an investment firm. Yet, one of my buddies predicted I’d trade it all for ministry leadership before I was 25. He was right – I became the Executive Director of Kalamazoo Youth for Christ in June 1984 – one month before I turned 25.
I’ve always struggled with my weight. I’ve been athletic, but big… then bigger… then… I vividly remember having to step on the scale in 2nd grade in front of the whole class, and I was 83 pounds. Luckily, my friend Rob was 6-8” taller, and tipped the scales two pounds heavier. I’m glad heaven promises a glorified body; until then, I’m still working on it.
Our three daughters are each fantastic women and incredibly unique. We are very tight. Whether an annual vacation week together, an annual Tiger baseball game (I’m a die-hard Cubs fan), a musical production, or a game of Canasta… we enjoy doing life together.
I’ve been blessed to have a part in helping with or leading some really cool ministry efforts and having some great life experiences.
- I led a multi-day conference for 15,000 teens in Washington, DC.
- I have lunched in the White House, attended the National Prayer Breakfast, and attended the Dove Awards in Nashville (yes – I wore a bow tie and cummerbund).
- I got some private one-on-one time with soon-to-be-president George W. Bush two weeks before the election (he was one of the most genuine people I’ve ever encountered).
- I refereed college basketball games and coached both boy’s and girls HS basketball
- I captained several large-scale community faith events, and spearheaded ministry initiatives in Estonia, Bosnia, and Croatia.
- I’ve helped raise around $4M for ministry efforts.
There’s a quote that says we become like the people we spend the most time with. I can only hope I become more like my wife… she’s incredible. I have had the joy of having Dave as my best friend and “soul brother” the past 30 years. He can ask me anything… and does. There are a few other “soul dudes” I regularly spend time with as well, hoping I’ll become more like each of them in various ways. And Debbie and I “do life” with 3 other couples in a Bible study.
The “Mt. Rushmore” of my life consists of the following four men:
- My dad. He was a servant, and I’ve never met anyone who talked ‘ill’ about him. He instilled a love of sports in my life (but he never let me play youth football or Little League). He was the ultimate team player.
- Dick Epps. He was the first “mentor” in my life, intentionally taking time for coffee and talking about life and ministry. I am blessed to have him still in my life speaking wisdom and truth on a regular basis.
- Larry Russell. Although we don’t talk much now, he poured into my life during the 90’s and helped indoctrinate me to international ministry.He is the COO of the Lausanne Movement, and the first person who made me write “put your feet up on the desk to think and dream” creative time into my official job description.
- Dan Wolgemuth. Dan started in corporate world before becoming the President of Youth for Christ in 2004. I served in his leadership cabinet for a number of years, and I refer to him as a 413(b) kind of guy… Acts 4:13b “…they recognized that they had been with Jesus.” He remains an encourager/example in many ways.
I’m more of a “behind the scenes” guy than the “out front” person, but I do a fair amount of speaking. I keep my sword sharp in this area by serving on the faculty of Dynamic Communications Intl. under the leadership of Ken Davis. This talented group of people challenge and inspire me, and I believe that it is the single best investment of training any leader can make in themselves. And… I was told in 2011 that, “You officially have a big mouth.” By my dentist.
Stevie Wonder (a genius) once wrote, “Music is a world within itself, with a language we all understand.” Besides Stevie, I really enjoy listening to smooth jazz and artists like Wayman Tisdale; Chicago; Michael W. Smith; Elton John; Israel Houghton; Earth, Wind & Fire; and Steven Curtis Chapman. My parents took me to all-night gospel sings when I was eleven, so Southern Gospel quartets also sneak their way on my playlist. And my oldest daughter took me to Elton John – front row. Hence, the red glasses. I sang all night.
I don’t have a “bucket list,” but if I did, travel would dominate. Hawaii, New England, Australia, the Holy Lands, and an Alaskan Cruise would be at the top of the list. I’m starting to make plans now to be in Atlanta in April of 2020 to both (1) see the NCAA Final Four, and (2) take in a practice round at Augusta National for The Masters.
Reading and golf are two of my escapes. I finish a couple dozen books every year, and I make “cliff notes” of my reading and share them with clients and friends. As for the golf, I hit left-handed, so I hear “you should turn around and hit from the right side” often. Golf helps me practice self-control and choosing joy. And I never play alone.
I make a point to attend the Willow Creek Leadership Summit simulcast each August for two days of leadership training. With Debbie’s growing business as a Young Living Essential Oils distributor, we’re starting to do some of these training opportunities together, which is a blast. And the oils are amazing – they’ve radically changed our home.
I spent a fair amount of my life “out-of-balance” and have made some intentional strides in improving in the last 5 years. As a recovering listaholic and driven type “A”, journaling has been a big part of my recovery process, as well as trying to honor the Sabbath and getting away for intentional times of silence and solitude.
For the last ten years, I’ve picked a word to focus on for an entire year. It’s a great exercise, and it has spread to my entire family and many friends. For 2018, my phrase is ‘believe in miracles.’ Len Schlesinger is credited for coming up with the word CREACTION – Creative-Oriented Action. If I had to pick one word that best describes my life, that would be it.
OK – enough about me.
Let’s find out about you. Coffee? My treat.