This has surely been an eventful week! Social media has been ablaze with discussion on whether Syrian refugees should relocate to United States. Here is my take on it. Feel free to disagree. Let’s just keep it civil.

  1. Risk.

One of the most common responses many share is the element of risk. I get it. It is risky. All the vetting in the world will not guarantee that unsavory elements bent on destruction will be kept at bay.

Yet…before we refuse help to those that need it most, please consider this. The gospel is risky. So is following Jesus.

It was risky for missionaries to go to foreign land where they were eaten, beaten and killed. They put their families at risk, many of them going to preach with a one way ticket.

It was risky for the disciples to share Jesus’ message across the world. Most died as a result.

It was risky for people in Nazi Germany to hide in their homes Jewish people. They put their families at risk of death.

There are many words to describe discipleship. Safe is not one of them.


  1. Responsibility.

Just because there is a possibility of harm, does not preclude me from the responsibility of loving and caring for the least of these. Pictures of that baby washing ashore eats at me every day. I have kids and grandkids. What if that was my situation? What would I do? It is my belief, and you may well disagree, that the choice is not between helping the least of these or keeping my family safe. It is between saving the least of these or following a biblical command. The more I think about it, the more convinced I am.


  1. Refugees.

We usually reject what we don’t know. Let’s do away for a moment with political rhetoric and posturing, tracking lists or rabid dogs analogies. These are people. Kids like yours. Women like your mom. Men like your brother. The bigger question I seldom hear asked is this: What causes people in that region to think blowing themselves up is a better choice than their lives? (thanks Yamil for that question) What is going on that they would think that putting your child on an overcrowded boat is a better idea than staying where you are? What a wonderful time to follow the many commands of Jesus regarding the least of these. Many years from now as people look back what will they say about the church? A post-Christian wrote me this week:

“You Christians are amazing. Although this is an unscientific poll,

but a quick browse through my FB pages I see that many of the so called Christians,

are the one refusing to accept the refugees, and the so called godless heathens

are the ones calling for compassion and charity to them.”


Somehow, we need to find a way to do better. I believe we can.

Stop eating C.R.A.P. —  November 6, 2015 — 1 Comment

Stop eating C.R.A.P. That was the teacher’s encouragement in a weight loss seminar I attended. I didn’t work.

Hi. My name is Roger. I work out 6 days a week, drink plenty of water, and still struggle with my weight. The culprit?


It stands for:

Carbonated drinks and coffee

Refined sugars

Artificial preservatives and additives

Processed foods

I want to share my story of weight loss and gain, and loss and gain, with the hopes of encouraging you in your journey.

It’s been close to a year now, since my wife and I started putting the desire to get healthier into action. We have lost around 32 pounds and KEPT IT OFF. We are exercising regularly and eating better. Not perfect. Better. Here is how we are doing it:

  1. Guilt, shame and imposition did not work.

I’ve always been a vegetarian so that part was easy. But it is perfectly common to see vegetarians that are unhealthy. I know. I was one of them. I was out of shape, and added a couple of pounds every year. That doesn’t seem like a lot, except that it went on for around 15 years. I don’t aspire to know all the answers as far as what works, but what I do know DOES NOT is shaming, guilt and imposition. I had an acquaintance who was extremely involved in veganism. His approach was to make me feel less than, stupid and incapable. I ran the other way. If you want to change someone, explain and set an example, leave the enforcing to the Holy Spirit,

  1. Desire and goals are two different things.

Desire is what you want. Goals have timelines, deadlines and are:




We did not set out to lose 100 pounds. We just took it day by day, doing T25 this week, then the next week, then the next. We haven’t stopped.

  1. I decided.

That phrase was key. If you notice, most of the conversations with people that achieve something important, forgive, or overcome obstacles have that phrase somewhere in there. We decided to start working out. It wasn’t our anniversary. Birthday. New Year’s resolution. It was 17th of December. A day just like any other. We don’t promise. We decide. Promises keep you living in the future, frustrated about your past. A decision involves the present. Today. Whether I feel like it or not.

We are not where we would like to be. I still eat C.R.A.P. on occasion. But it’s improving. Understanding that I am after progress and not perfection, after my goals and not yours, has helped.

Pray for us. Share your story and tips about what worked for you.

I decided.

We’re more famous than bacon! For such a small denomination we are certainly in the news a lot lately. Two items in particular have propelled us to the forefront:

1. Ben Carson running for president.

2. Bacon (and other processed meats) as a source of cancer.

Here is an opportunity not to be missed. There are three things you can do (and shouldn’t do) as an Adventist:

1. Contact your elected officials to share what your particular congregation is doing.

Its concerning to me that in many towns the local Adventist church has little connection with elected officials. We are not in the business of endorsing candidates but we can leverage the attention to let people know we exist and are active in the community. I met recently with the US Congressman for Georgia and was able to secure help for a health fair we are doing next year part of COMPASSION 100k. Use a three step process:

Meet with them, ask them what the town needs, do that!

2. Be compassionate as you share the news of the cancer causing meat.

A smug winner is as bad as a sore loser. The way some of us are acting on social media demonstrates a lack of empathy for the people we want to win over. Posting the story is excellent. Smug comments like “I told you so” or “take that you meat eating savages” are not. Our denominational emphasis on health can open many doors, if done in a healthy way. By the way, let’s make sure not to cherry pick stories. There was one last week also about the benefits of dark chocolate. Please don’t send me a link about dark chocolate, just send me some.

3. Use social media advertising.

This article by Rodlie Ortiz is especially appropriate now and a must read:

Once again, with our name recognition increasing, leverage that attention to drive people to check you out. According to the latest research, a “cause” will raise the interest of the “nones” in your church. So as I finish today let me ask you three simple questions:

When are you contacting your elected officials to share what your church is doing and ask what the city needs?

How are you using social media to let people know where to find you?

Are you being respectful as your share the new findings on health?

And last but most important,

When was the last time you had some dark chocolate?

Let me know what your church is doing in the comment section.


Evangelism that Works —  October 19, 2015 — 3 Comments

“Evangelism is dead.”

If I had a nickel for every time I heard that phrase, I’d have like $200.00 worth of nickels, which is a hassle to carry around, but I digress.

You know what else is a hassle to carry around? A church that is internally focused!

The solution? Evangelism.

But evangelism is dead.

Or is it?

For the last 3 years I have had an average of 3-6 reaping meetings a year in various churches, in various cities, with diverse and multicultural composition. This is what I found:

The demise of evangelism has been greatly exaggerated.

Here are some samples from THIS year:

*Last week we concluded a 34 church, Atlanta city wide evangelism where close to 400 were baptized.

*Lexington Kentucky. 500 members 4 churches. 50 baptisms.

*Jackson Mississippi over 60 baptisms. Deep South, Baptist country.

*We keep them at around 40% higher than average.

Let me share some principles of a workable model that may be beneficial.

  1. Preparation matters.

We do it with a nine month preparation model. This works with small and big churches. It sometimes seems like it doesn’t work, but after constant repetition it starts to stick.

Preach about it.

Talk about it in every board.

Take your leadership team in visitation to unbelievers.

Focus on that 5% that have the gift. Spend money on them. Give them free resources. Send them to trainings. That 5% will make the difference. You may not be able to baptize 400 but you will always have some people in the pipeline. The more you spend in the prep time, the more people stay at the end of the meetings.

  1. Cause matters.

This is brand new research from “The Rise of the Nones” study. Evangelism that does not have an active, intentional, ongoing community/social justice component will find it harder to attract unbelievers. (check out the book with the same title, its awsome)



This is what we are doing:

Used Season of Service material.

March Against Violence

Compassion 100k (100 projects, 100,000 hours of donated work and funds)

Whatever you do, do something.


  1. Eliminate excuses and find workable models instead.

This are some of what I hear:

This area is too hard, too many unchurched people.

This area is too hard too many churched people.

Please pick one, because both can’t be true! If you looked at the world today, it’s a miracle ANYONE comes to faith. Yet they do.


Don’t despair. Try different models, try different dates, try different approaches, but please, TRY IT!

The Power of a Church Plant

Five Things Ignite Fellowship Church Plant is Doing Right

A while back a group of youth and young adults, concerned about the disconnection from church by their peers and worried about their salvation decided to start a church called Ignite. Last year a Pastor Kendall Turcios was assigned and the church has grown. It targets and it is led mostly by Millennials.

I visited the church last weekend. This is what I learned:

1. The power of friendliness.

Although the first impressions team could have done a better job at the door it was more than made up when I entered the sanctuary. The atmosphere was friendly, the people that participated in the platform were real and the pastor and his family were approachable. People will put up with a lot, if they find warmth and friendliness.

2. The power of a testimony.

The person who did the prayer shared about her life and how she came to Ignite after being far from God for years, got re-baptized and has brought her family with her.

Another participant shared how she drives close to an hour to attend, because of the deep impact Ignite has made in her life.

Testimonies work. Its 10,000 better than a flyer in the mail. They are relatable, repeatable and real. Use them.

3. The power of excellence.

Music was well done. The connection cards, information booth, signage, and platform décor all connected with their logo (see below) One of the principles I teach to churches is the need to eliminate as much as possible the “cringe factor”. That’s when things happen in church that are distracting, mediocre or just plain weird for outsiders. There was little of that here.

4. The power of service.

They were kicking of the Season of Service, a 40 day intentional service oriented program that has benefited churches all over the division. It’s very easy for a church to consume itself with itself. Ignite has woven service into all they do. I am excited to see what results they have after the 40 days.

5. The power of grace orientation.

A young man approached me at the end of the service. He said: “I have been attending and studying with Adventists for seven years. I heard today that God accepts me as I am. I am very close to making a final decision.” Grace is attractive, transformative and foundational. If Jesus is lifted up…


If you’d like to know more about Ignite here are the points of contact.

Edwin Gabriel Vargas

Here are two questions I’ve been meditating on the last couple of months:

How do some leaders stay fresh and relevant, while others live at the cutting edge of mediocrity?

Who will tell me truths I need to hear?

We all have blind spots. One of the attributes of a good leader is that he/she has someone in his life who is willing to:

Tell the truth

Stand by you and help you grow.

Public success does not always mean pure intentions. Lies may get you to the top faster, but only the pure unadulterated truth will take you AND keep you there.

We need people that have our best intentions in mind to keep us honest in our professional journey. If you don’t, you will suffer from three things:

*You will coast instead of soar.

*You will repeat mistakes instead of improve.

*You will grow irrelevant instead of impactful.

Here are three principles:

  1. Understand the difference between harmful critic and helpful truth-teller

Both tell you something you may not want to hear, a hard uncomfortable truth. The difference is between them is that the harmful critic throws a stone at you and stands back. The helpful truth teller will throw a stone at the problem and stays until the issue improves, however long it takes. We need to be able to distinguish between the two.

  1. The more successful you become, the less truth tellers you will have.

This is called the CEO disease. People around you will hesitate to confront you, especially if there are outward signs of success. Here is an article that explains the term CEO disease: Since loving truth tellers are few and far between, you must be intentional in creating a culture that values truth telling.

  1. How to get a friendly truth teller on your team.

Create that culture through words, print and practice. We don’t want to be toxic, but we do want to be truthful.

Pray for discernment.

Seek them out.

Give them permission.

My wife and I have a practice in our home. We sit our kids down once in a while and ask them to tell us where we are coming up short as parents. Instead of making us weaker, it has improved our parenting and taught them a valuable lesson: transparency in the atmosphere of acceptance always leads to growth.

So, who tells you the truth, lovingly?

Leaving well —  September 9, 2015 — 1 Comment

Eventually we all leave. No matter the reason, there is a good way to leave and a bad way to leave. Even after a messy divorce from your previous employer there are things to keep in mind to make the transition to the new position a smoother one:

  1. Prepare the people around you for your exit.

You can prepare the people around you. Here are two examples:

  1. One pastor I know sat with his board and told them: “a new pastor is coming. He/she is probably going to change some things I did. I want you to know I am ok with it and I am praying that you will be supportive of his vision.”
  2. Another pastor got to a district and found a previous pastor in his members’ homes, attending birthdays, and lending an ear. He excused by saying he can’t help in people see him out. Yes you can, dude, yes you can.
  1. Prepare yourself for the exit.

No matter where you go, news from that previous assignment will make their way to you. Prepare by making a solemn promise to yourself that you will not intervene, help, or get depressed because of what is happening. You did your time, and the people where you are deserve your undivided attention. You don’t need to keep in touch, don’t need to perform weddings and Quiceaneras unless it’s your sister and even then think twice.

  1. Resist the urge.

Don’t be bitter, don’t throw social media bombs, and don’t do the passive aggressive song and dance. Just leave. No one repented from angry words they never got a chance to say. If you were reassigned or let go unjustly time has a way of showing it and vindicating you. If you were the one mistaken, angry outburst and bitter posts only complicates things.

Leave well.

What are some recommendations you have found helpful as you have left?

A couple of years back my good friend Jose Cortes Jr organized a march against violence in New York. I always wondered what it would look like to do the same in other cities. Thanks to his template, last Sabbath afternoon the members of over 40 churches in the Atlanta area totaling close to 1,000 people gathered in Plaza Fiesta in Atlanta to walk together and align ourselves with peace and not violence. We were able to impact thousands of onlookers, get over 25k hits on social media in one day because of press coverage, and let the community know we care.

This was part of concerted effort in Atlanta where we finished a SEASON of SERVICE with thousands of acts of kindness with eternal impact. (

Here are the benefits I saw:

  1. Changes perceptions of the community.

The comments on the Facebook page from the news outlet reveal the positive impact that the community had towards the church. Comments like “it’s about time the church did something that matters” and “thank you Adventist church” were common. In case you had not heard, Christianity has an image problem, specifically with millennials. This helped the community see we care about what they are going through.

  1. Changes lives of victims.

Without revealing too much as a result of the activity a life was saved, a victim of domestic abuse was delivered from a horrible situation and when they saw hundreds marching felt empowered to say enough. I’m pretty sure they are not the only ones.

  1. Changes perspectives of our members.

Some members were hesitant but at the end saw the impact we did. We were able to pray, build relationships with law enforcement as well as the media and property owners of the mall we walked around. The owners which were skeptical at first, invited us back for a Christmas concert or other similar activities.

Here is the process we used in 10 steps:

  1. Pick a date 3-6 months in advance.
  2. Pick the cause. We chose End it Now campaign because its worldwide, recognizable and a felt need in our community. Here is the website for artwork, videos etc.
  3. Secure permits. At least 3 months before. Talk to the police and if applicable the property owners of where the march will take place.
  4. Promote like crazy. Ask people to bring posters that say our name. The Youth Federation (UJAM) was instrumental. Check out all the pictures of the event as well as videos here  
  5. Expect some pushback. Any idea that matters will. Don’t let it disturb you.
  6. Wear similar colors. (Check out the sea of white above)
  7. Let the media know through press release at least one month prior, then 2 weeks, then the week of.
  8. March. Usually 1-1.5 miles is great. Have flyers available with information of upcoming events you may want to promote that help the community.
  9. Have a short ceremony to end. Pray, a short speech and thanks, maybe an instrumental number.
  10. Clean up your area.


Any questions, please let me know.