Tools That Work

My Experience in the Virtual Church

Church for me now includes:

Dozens of friends in the YouVersion Bible app. We encourage each other when we see one another highlight verses or finish reading plans. I get to passively look over their shoulder, and seeing them in the Word encourages me.

A conference line prayer call with a small group of guys every Thursday at 6:30a. 

Two email chains with dozens of Christian brothers on them who I know will pray for me or direct me to good counsel when I need it. 

A Slack channel with brothers in the SF Bay Area in regular dialogue, sharing ideas, job leads, Scripture verses, and more. 

A Google Group of guys from across the USA for an 8 week study on "Love that Overcomes" so we can work on our marriages. 

A Facebook group of guys called Holy Smokes that love to smoke stogies and talk Jesus. 

Regular phone and Zoom videoconference calls with my mentors and advisors in Dallas, San Jose, Boston, Colorado, places other than my home of Philadelphia.

What's my point?

Church to me is now at least nation-wide, sometimes international, aided by technology. 

This is not at the expense of my involvement in my local church, the place I go most Sundays. Rather, the two compliment each other as a network of Christians with different gifts and roles. 

And, with each example from above, the group often moves from digital to analog aka real life meetups, and when we do, we're more familiar with where we're at, where we've been, and how to move forward together.

This is deeply encouraging to me.

I hope it is for you too!

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and ball the more as you see the Day drawing near.
— Hebrews 10:24–25

Tools That Work

900% Increase in Church Welcome Results

Last week I had lunch with a brother in Christ and elder in my local church. He's the kind of guy who literally puts his phone number out there for anyone to call him. And many guys do, about one per week on average. 

Many of these guys say they want to get connected in the church in some way. In the past, this brother would send an email listing out the various groups guys could join, figuring that based on time and location, they'd select the best fit. 

The response rate on this old way of outreach was 1 guy out of 10 would respond to the email.

After a recent conversation where we talked about how striking it was for me in California when a guy reached out to buy me coffee and just get to know me, this brother decided to try a new tactic.

Now he emails guys with a simple request to get coffee and get to know them so he can help guys figure out where to connect.

The response rate on this new approach is 9 out of 10 guys respond to the email.

That's a 900% increase in response rate in under 60 days!!!

So what can we take away from this?

  1. People like to connect with people, not programs and groups.
  2. We need people willing to put their name and number out there.
  3. This takes time and commitment, this elder has had 10, maybe 20 coffee appointments over a couple months, which he just counts as the cost of making disciples.

Adventures in Faith

Here's My Schedule, As Related to Church Priorities

Sometimes I think it's helpful to know, very practically, what people do with regards to their faith.

I remember when I met Francis Chan wanting to just ask him, how much do you pray and when? Where do you go to pray. Real practical details!

So anyway, one thing I've realized about myself is that it's really helpful for me to have blocks of time scheduled in my calendar to pray, read Scripture, and be with other Christians so that God can work through all of those things.

Here's what that looks like right now:


10:00a   Get to church 30 min. early to talk to people

All-day   Whitney and I literally block Sundays from work and big trips


6:30a        I hop on a 60 min. call to pray with guys from the Philly New Canaan Society Chapter

5:30p        I hop on a 45 min. call to talk life with New Canaan Society guys from across the country


All-day     I typically fast, replacing meals with prayer


6:30a      I meet guys from my church for breakfast and to check-in on life, we also often read a book

6:00p     Monthly a group of guys talks life as part of the New Canaan Society Philly Chapter


7a   Once a month I grab breakfast with guys from the New Canaan Society Philly Chapter

11a   Every week I hop on a 1-hour call with a dear brother to talk about our ministry in common, writing about our faith journey

Above and beyond this, there is my own unscheduled time in Scripture, in prayer, and in fellowship, which has times of intensity and times when it is less so. I like that it isn't schedule or formulaic, but I also very much appreciate the discipline and rhythm that this schedule has provided for my faith.

By no means am I saying this is the right amount, for some its not possible, for others it wouldn't be enough. I yearn for a time when I do far more, Whitney and I are eyeing volunteering to at church and admire people who are more active in ministry or leading worship and all the extra time that entails. 

In closing, as I've alluded to in this recent blog post about building a deep church family, I think making these kinds of sacrifices of time are essential, not to mention Biblically sound, and I hope this is helpful and an encouragement to some of my brothers and sisters in Christ.

Adventures in Faith

My Jewelry is All About My Wife


I met this morning with a guy who, despite only sitting in-person with him 2 or 3 times, he is very dear to me, or as we Christians say, he's my brother in Christ (Matthew 12:48-50). And the cool thing about the body of Christ is that God gives spiritual gifts (1 Corinthians 12), and this particular brother, he has the gift of prophecy. This means that He get's "words" from God, and here's what he said to me this morning, as we chatted at Harvard Business School...

It went like this, after chatting for 45 minutes, I asked him if he had anything I should write down, meaning, is God giving you anything for me?

He said that he was given a picture of the meaning of my ring as symbolic of the bond that Whitney and I have together, which is very strong, and has God at the center. He asked me if that had any resonance with the wedding ring that I wear. 

I told him that, yes, I had selected this design for a very strong exterior (tungsten) with a beautiful interior (rose gold). 

But even further, I told him, shortly after I met Whitney, while we were still dating, I had a piece of jewelry designed to represent our union. The charm melted down a lot of my old jewelry, representing a new beginning, and the gold was formed into the letter "W" for Whitney and "R" for Ryan interwoven, with a diamond at the center, representing Jesus.


And finally, I added, over just the past week, I've been thinking "in the back of my thoughts," really in my soul, about what it would be like to love Whitney more fully. To hear her, love her for who she is, devote myself more fully just to her and to knowing her. Nobody knew about this conversation, and here was this brother with this word from God encouraging me forward in the strength of this union.

This was a fun start to my day in Boston, and another example of how fellowship with believers brings about a "different world" that is encouraging as it shapes in truth and molds one into the image of Christ.

Adventures in Faith

Wow, I Just Changed 3 Marriages?

On a recent business trip, I reached out to a friend on a whim. I don't always visit him when I'm in his town, but I had a sense that on this particular trip, I needed to do so, but didn't know why. 

Anyway, he was available and so we met up and had a really rich conversation. I ended up feeling like I had some really specific things to share with him. Neither of us expected to have the kind of conversation that we had, but we both left feeling really uplifted by it. I was glad I followed "my gut" to reach out to him.

A few months went by and I didn't think about our time together, and then I got this email from him...

Bro -

Unbeknownst to you, one of the things I took from our last conversation while together was that I need to be praying with my wife like you are doing with Whit.

Since the morning after our meeting I’ve been waking up early and praying with her every morning and it has made a huge difference in our relationship….I mean huge.  

Throughout this time, two guys in my men’s breakfast group expressed issues and I told them about what you did for me through this suggestion.  They both have begun to do this and report significant improvements in their marriages.

You’ve had an impact on three families and thought you should know.  

Hope you’re well.

Now, to be clear, this is nothing special about me at all, it's God, and here's what I mean:

1. That sense I had to visit my friend, God puts those ideas in people's minds, it happens to me numerous times each week, both on the giving and receiving end. It's a normal part of walking with Jesus and having his Holy Spirit active in your life. 

2. The things I said to my friend were very simply from my experience praying and applying Scripture to my own life. So in a sense, I just shared Scripture with him that had come to life in the world in a way that resonated with him and drove him to action.

3. If you knew the backstory on how I met this friend, and the details of our relationship, it is so clearly wild that we even know each other. There is simply no other reason that God has connected us for exactly these kinds of exchanges. 

As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.
— Proverbs 27:17

Adventures in Faith

The Body of Christ = Prayer Coverage

Got a call last night from a dear brother in Christ, he's a pastor in Connecticut, among other things. Anyway, I listened to his voicemail this morning, it was him praying for me and for my family for three minutes and it changed my whole day, maybe more.

As I listened to it, my spirit leaped--what he was saying was not him just saying stuff, it wasn't a normal prayer, it stirred something inside me deeply, it changed my day.

And this particular brother has a habit of doing this. I literally have received so many calls from him (and humorously 9 out of 10 go to voicemail) that it quickly ate up all my voicemail space. These voicemails are such a treasure that I opened a Dropbox storage account just to save them.

By the way, often his voicemails go beyond the three minute limit per message for 2, 3, even 10 messages in a row. He's someone who is praying in the Holy Spirit, he's sharing real truth, and that's why these gems are so valuable to me that I save them and go back and listen to them.

I have dozens of messages like this, not just from this one brother, but others too. Am I sharing this because I'm special and want to rub it in your face? Not at all.

I'm sharing this because I believe this is supposed to be the common experience for the Christian living in fellowship of the church body. And just going to church doesn't guarantee you this experience. In fact, I'm just coming off a year when Whitney and I were searching for a church where, in some ways, these kinds of calls from brothers was a big part of what church meant to me. 

The reality is that these calls, the timing, the words that are spoken, knowing that God is putting you on the mind of someone else at just the right time, they become deeply touching evidence about how real and good God really is.

So what do you do if this isn't happening for you? Here's what I propose:

1. Hang around other people who want to pray. Maybe the're at your church, a Bible study, it could be anywhere. Listen for clues that they might be praying and offer to join them. You'll find that many churches have prayer as part of their regular routine.

2. Don't be discouraged if/when you don't start getting calls from people praying for you. The sad reality is that most people are overcommitted and don't actually pray for themselves, let alone other people. 

3. Start to pray for other people that are around you. And pray that God would put people in your life to pray for you.

4. Keep your eyes and ears open. Sometimes God sends us people but they don't look like what we'd expect and we miss it. Look for opportunities to connect with people who want to give and receive prayer.

5. Ask for prayer. Humble yourself enough to share details about what's going on in your life, be vulnerable and ask for prayer. 

As you put yourself out there, and forge new and deeper relationships, undoubtedly over time, God is going to start putting people around you that are praying for you, and God is going to use those people to show you how incredible he is, and its going to change your life. 

Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.
— James 1:6
Praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints.
— Ephesians 6:18