J.R. Briggs

Attempting to behold the miracle long enough without falling asleep

  • Fail: Finding Hope and Grace in the Midst of Ministry Failure

    July 17, 2014 // 2 Comments

    Fail (FINAL COVER)

    It’s been quite some time since I’ve written new content on the site and there’s one big reason for it: the past year I’ve been working on two book projects with InterVarsity Press. I’m just now coming up for air.

    I’m proud to announce that the first project has been released: Fail: Finding Hope in the Midst of Ministry Failure. Thank you to so many of you for your encouragement, support and help along the way the past several months. I am grateful to work with a great publisher in IVP, whose team has been tremendous to work with.

    Here are a few links about Fail that you may find helpful:

    You can find the book here (or, if you are looking for a great alternative to Amazon, check here).

    And, if you’d like to stay in touch, here’s my Twitter account. 

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  • A great description of our charmingly eccentric Jesus community

    May 8, 2013 // 1 Comment

    Doug Moister, the pastor I have the privilege of serving alongside of in the context of The Renew Community, recently wrote these thoughts for our church’s weekly email. It was such a great summary of our charmingly eccentric Jesus community I thought I’d pass it along:

    “How would you describe Renew?” I am asked this question many times throughout a month as I interact with people inside and outside of the Church and I always begin with this statement: “Renew is unique.”

    We don’t own a building, we gather alternating weeks in the gym of the Lansdale Boys and Girls Club or in homes across the region and we have an intermission in the middle of our gatherings.

    We value stories, communion, giving, prayer, worship, dialogue during the teaching, skeptics, dreamers and children.

    Our one rule is simple: no perfect people allowed.

    We push and remind each other that we are followers of Jesus who have been called to be “missionaries cleverly disguised as neighbors, coworkers, students, employees, business owners, managers, designers, steel workers, chemists, retirees, stay at home parents, IT people, contractors, sales people, healthcare professionals, teachers and family members.”

    We pursue authentic Jesus community which doesn’t mean there are not messes; on the contrary, it is messy but Jesus is in the midst of our messiness.  We are concerned with how people growing and being shaped to be more like Jesus.

    Our Uniqueness says a lot about who we believe God is and how he interacts with us.

    Our gatherings are not a time to come and be entertained, but a time for us to enter into sacred dialogue and conversation with the Holy Spirit through the Scriptures.

    Our house churches enter into authentic community where we are vulnerable with one another and the Lord. Our house churches force us to see church not just as a building or a meeting place with stained glass and a choir but Church as People who are beloved children of God.

    I am blessed to be a part of this unique community!  It continues to challenge and shape the way I think about our relationship as individuals and a community partnered to Jesus and I want to challenge you to think about how what we do shapes the way we think about God…”

    I, too, am blessed to be a part of this unique community and to serve alongside of a great pastor like Doug.

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  • Seeking to be the Home Depot of the Kingdom of God

    May 6, 2013 // 0 Comments

    Every few months I carve out some time to step back and view the entire landscape of what is going on around me.

    Recently I stepped away from the daily flow of traffic and spend time in reflection with a specific focus on the efforts we’ve made with Kairos Partnerships, the initiative we created about 18 months ago. I was incredibly encouraged by the significant ways we’ve been able to walk alongside of pastors, church planters and leaders in various fields, sectors and ministries.

    brandIn many ways, we see our unique contribution to others as the Home Depot (“You can do it. We can help.”) of the Kingdom of God. (Lowe’s tagline works well also: “Never stop improving.“)

    We aren’t the experts or the ones with all the answers, but we have experience and an outside perspective that many leaders need to help navigate their contexts with greater effectiveness and faithfulness through a relational approach that includes training, offering resources and tools and asking probing and incisive questions. 

    It’s a privilege to walk alongside of pastors hungry and eager to grow personally and in their leadership roles. More specifically, I realized we’ve had the privilege of working alongside of great leaders in organizations, schools, non-profits and churches including:

    The Kairos team has had the privilege of working with leaders representing over 30 different denominations through speaking, consulting, training and coaching.

    In addition, we’ve been coaching pastors and leaders in various parts of the country including Pennsylvania, Georgia, Minnesota, Florida, New York, Illinois, Indiana, Delaware, Texas and New Jersey.

    If our team can walk alongside of you – either personally or as an organization, church, school or non-profit – in any way, we would love to talk to you. If we’re Home Depot of the Kingdom, then we’re here to help you with that leaky faucet of ministry conflict, decide which new light fixture to install in your vision or plan for that remodeling job in your organizational structure you’ve been thinking about for a while.

    We also depend upon the generous donations of others who believe in the vision of Kairos Partnerships. If you are interested in knowing more about how you can partner with us financially you can find out more here. 

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  • [7] questions speakers should ask before they open their mouths

    May 2, 2013 // 0 Comments

    mic 2


    As a speaker, teacher, presenter or preacher, it’s important we know two things: our material and our audience.

    Nancy Duarte in her fabulous book Slide:ology: The Art and Science of Creating Great Presentations asks seven poignant questions to know your audience:

    1. What are they like? Understand them on a personal level. 
    2. Why are they here? What motivates them to hear anything you have to say?
    3. What keeps them up at night? What fears or dreams do they have? What issues or problems are they facing?
    4. How can you solve their problem? What’s in it for your audience? How are you going to help them?
    5. What do you want them to do? So what? What’s the clear action when you are done?
    6. How might they resist? What barriers exist that could keep them from adopting your message and carrying it out?
    7. How can you best reach them? What would work best to make this most effective (i.e. room set up, temperature, volume, power points, humor, length of time, visuals, etc)?


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  • Debriefing from the Epic Fail Pastors Roundtable in Chicago

    April 30, 2013 // 1 Comment

    On Friday night and Saturday we held another Epic Fail Roundtable event, this time at Northern Seminary in the Chicago area.

    It was a rich time but, as to be expected, when you host a space for wounded and discouraged pastors to talk openly about failure you get a lot of weighty stories emerging to the surface. This event was probably our most diverse group – from staff members of large megachurches to journalists/reporters curious about the event to intrigued pastors who wanted to know more about this unique space to even some repeat attendees from other Epic Fail events.

    And, of course, some pastors who have gone through some failures of epic proportions, including a young pastor with an international preaching ministry who was so broken by his failure about a month ago that he could hardly look anyone in the eyes during the two days. I’m proud of the pastors and leaders who share their stories with courage and authenticity. These spaces truly are sacred because of it. Pastors: thank you. You know who you are.  

    It was excited as we added two new team members to the Epic Fail events team who helped lead throughout the time: Mandy Smith, an Australia-American who pastors in Cincinnati, OH and Adam Gustine, who serves as a catalyst for missional expressions in Mishawaka, IN.

    This topic and these events are incredibly heavy. My wife will tell you I am not myself for about 48 hours after each event, as I carry the stories home with me. It takes two days for the fog to lift again. I’m convinced more than ever that this stuff is needed, its necessary and its assisting in the healing of pastors who need grace and space to hear from Jesus, but it comes at a personal cost. It’s worth it, but man, it’s heavy.

    What sustains is knowing God is in control and there are stories of healing that emerge on the other side of these events.

    If you’re interested in hosting an Epic Fail event in your context (either one day, two days or three days in length) let us know. We’d love to share a bit more of what a partnership might look like.

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  • The goal of marriage: happy incompatibility

    April 23, 2013 // 0 Comments


    “Being human, not one of us will ever have a relationship with another person that doesn’t have a wrinkle or a wart on it somewhere. The unblemished idea exists only in ‘happily ever after’ fairy tales. I think that there is some merit to a description I once read of a married couple as ‘happily incompatible.’ Ruth likes to say, ‘If two people agree on everything, one of them is unnecessary.’ The sooner we accept that as a fact of life, the better we will be able to adjust to each other and enjoy togetherness. ‘Happily incompatible’ is a good adjustment.” 

    -Billy Graham


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  • Move-in day and the goodness of kingdom chaos

    April 17, 2013 // 0 Comments

    This past weekend, with the help of tremendous friends, my family moved into a home three blocks up the street. The past five years we’ve been in a rental. It was what we needed for the time, but we were fortunate enough to buy a home we love. We are excited to share it with friends, family and neighbors.

    As I type this, there are boxes everywhere in our new home. Making our way through the jungle of boxes is difficult for our personality. We are people of order and organization. We like to get things done, make progress and get organized. We want to unload every box immediately, but we know we can’t (though we try very hard in our attempt).

    There are limitations for sure; when its almost 1 am some things should wait until the morning. We’ve had to grow into being comfortable with the desk lamp sitting in the corner, the box of nicknacks on the floor, the picture frames leaning against the wall by the coat rack and the fact you can’t find your belt. Occasionally you find something you’ve been looking for (i.e. “Honey, I found the shower caddy!”) bringing a moment of simple elation and surprise. It’s just the nature of moving into a new place.

    This past weekend I attended the inaugural Missio Alliance conference in Washington D.C. There were so many stirring conversations, presentations and discussions, but the phrase kingdom chaos kept coming to me throughout the time. I don’t think anyone said it during a presentation or plenary session; it was a phrase that came to me and stuck. In many ways I wonder if kingdom chaos is a lot like our new home right now. The kingdom is where we have a new home, but it is not perfectly organized. It is chaos – healthy chaos – chaos nonetheless.

    It reminded me of the stirring presentation by Dr. Amos Young who spoke on the interrupting nature of the Spirit. He asked a simple question a few different times during his session: Am I willing to be interrupted by the Spirit?

    In Acts 2 when the Spirit shows up the question the people asked was, “What does this mean?” That remains the question! The Spirit interrupts our circumstances, but he often does it through the other. The Spirit is no respecter of interrupting. The Spirit also interrupts the status quo (friends, life, finances, etc) in Acts 2. New communities and new cultures emerge because of the Spirit. The interruption of the other is inconveniencing and yet its where new life truly happens.

    Then Dr. Young said something I had never considered before. He said, to be missional means to be entirely content to be interrupted by the Spirit. You cannot be missional if you do not have a deep trust and dependence upon the Spirit.

    When you move into a new house you are interrupted by others who are wanting to help: “Where does this box go?” “Do you have a pair of scissors?” “Can you unlock the back door?” “Where’s your bathroom?” “I’m assuming the weed eater goes to the garage, is that right?” “Do you have a bandaid?” “Where is the ladder?” “Does this lamp go up to your office?” It’s hard to stay focused on move-in day. It is chaos, but it is good chaos. Change is happening. Good change. We are living into a new reality. It is much like kingdom chaos.

    In addition to the phrase kingdom chaos I also have a new question: Am I willing to be interrupted by the Spirit? 

    And, truth be told, I would really just like to find which box my socks are in.

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  • The open secret about pastors

    April 8, 2013 // 2 Comments

    Click on the image to enlarge.

    And pray for your pastor. 

    pastoral pressures

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  • Churches and brothels on the same street

    April 5, 2013 // 0 Comments

    A clipping from a newspaper in Australia:

    brothel complaints

    This brings up a whole series of questions, doesn’t it?

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  • Writing: sitting down and opening a vein

    April 3, 2013 // 0 Comments

    The blog posts have been slower and less frequent than normal lately because the deadline to the first of two manuscripts is quickly approaching. If you’re a writer you know that writing is hard. Really hard. Recently, my editor posted these “encouraging” thoughts on writing. I thought I’d pass them along to you.

    “First of all, if you want to write, write. And second, don’t do it. It’s the loneliest, most depressing work you can do.” Walker Percy

    “Writing is easy; all you do is sit staring at a blank sheet of paper until the drops of blood form on your forehead.” Gene Fowler

    “Writing is so difficult that I often feel that writers, having had their hell on earth, will escape all punishment hereafter.” Jessamyn West

    “There’s nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and open a vein.” Red Smith

    “It should surprise no one that the life of the writer – such as it is – is colorless to the point of sensory deprivation. Many writers do little else but sit in small rooms recalling the real world. This explains why so many books describe the author’s childhood. A writer’s childhood may well have been the occasion of his only firsthand experience.” Annie Dillard

    “In general, very little happens to a writer. Now do you understand why we put so much emphasis on artificial reality? Our actual reality is insufferably dull. A Federal Express delivery is far and away the most dramatic event in my day.” Philip Yancey

    “I turn sentences around. That’s my life. I write a sentence and I turn it around. Then I look at it and I turn it around again. Then I have lunch. Then I come back in and write another sentence. Then I have tea and turn the new sentence around. Then I read the two sentences over and turn them both around. Then I lie down on my sofa and think. Then I get up and throw them out and start from the beginning.” Philip Roth

    “Every writer I know has trouble writing.” Joseph Heller

    “The first draft of anything is [poop].” Ernest Hemingway

    “Writing is just having a sheet of paper, a pen and not a shadow of an idea of what you’re going to say.” Francoise Sagan

    “Writing is no trouble: you just jot down ideas as they occur to you. The jotting is simplicity itself – it is the occurring which is difficult.” Stephen Leacock

    “Writing is a form of therapy. Sometimes I wonder how all those who do not write, compose or paint can manage to escape the madness, the melancholia, the panic fear which is inherent in the human situation.” Graham Greene

    “The secret of good writing is to say an old thing a new way or to say a new thing an old way.” Richard Harding

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