Sarah Bessey is an Author, award-winning blogger and speaker. Her first book Jesus Feminist: An Invitation To Revisit The Bible’s View Of Women (Howard Books, 2013) is a critically acclaimed work that is written with poetic rhythm, a prophetic voice and a deeply biblical foundation. Her new book is Out of Sorts: Making Peace with Evolving Faith, released November 2015.
If you were to ask Sarah who she is, she would probably say, “I am one of those happy-clappy Jesus followers with stars in her eyes. I’m an uneasy pacifist, a Kingdom of God focused woman, postmodern, liberal to the conservative and conservative to the liberal in matters of both religion and politics, a social justice wanna-be trying to do some good, and a nondenominational charismatic recovering know-it-all slowly falling back in love with the Church.”
And the truth is, in addition to her selfevaluation, Sarah Bessey is a strong, intelligent, articulate woman. She speaks with authority and stands before an audience poised, confident and vulnerable as she talks about the intersections of a spirit-filled life: About her own faith and spirituality, about what love looks like for us, about being a mother, women’s issues, social justice, and her own struggling journey.
In addition to writing books and her blog, Sarah is also an editor for A Deeper Story and a monthly contributor at SheLoves Magazine. Her work has also appeared in Conversations Journal, ChurchLeaders.com, Her.meneutics (Christianity today’s Blog for Women), Converge Magazine, Relevant Magazine, Today’s Christian Woman and a handful of other places.
When she is not traveling around North America speaking, you can find her at home in Abbotsford, British Columbia with her husband Brian, and four children, Anne, Joseph, Evelynn Joan and Maggie.
Sarah speaking at the IF:GATHERING, introduction by Jennie Allen:
Nadia Bolz-Weber is the author of two New York Times bestselling memoirs, Pastrix: The Cranky, Beautiful Faith of a Sinner & Saint (2013) and Accidental Saints, Finding God in All the Wrong People (2015). She is an ordained Lutheran pastor (ELCA) and the founding pastor of House for All Sinners and Saints in Denver, Colorado. Nadia travels domestically and internationally as a speaker and has been featured on NPR’s Morning Edition, On Being with Krista Tippett, CNN and in the Washington Post, Bitch magazine, The Daily Beast, Fresh Air with Terry Gross, The Atlantic and More magazine. International media coverage includes BBC World Service and The Guardian and features in magazines in Germany, Poland, and Switzerland. Nadia lives in Denver with her family and her Great Dane, Zacchaeus.
“Nadia Bolz-Weber has probably done more than any other pastor in recent times to poke therapeutic fun at the misdemeanors and flaws of overly-churched Christianity and Christians. The passion behind her words, however, is as deeply pastoral as it is God-drenched and liberating….thus the affection as well as the respect that attend her and her work wherever she goes.”
– Phyllis Tickle, author of “The Great Emergence”
“Unforgettable, hilarious, insightful, self-effacing, ironic, and Lutheran – not words that go together every day. Pierced and tattooed, theologically deep, a mom, a fire-and-Pentecost progressive preacher, a stand-up comic … also an unlikely list of descriptors. A gifted writer, a liturgical acrobat, an honest and outspoken sinner-saint, the person you should invite to your next event where you need a deep, engaging, and surprising speaker – I could only be talking about Nadia Bolz-Weber.”
– Brian McLaren, author of A New Kind of Christianity
“Nadia Bolz-Weber is what you’d get if you mixed the DNA of Louis C.K., Joey Ramone and St. Paul. She is by far my favorite tatted-up, cranky pastor ever. “
– A. J. Jacobs, author of The Year of Living Biblically
MIKE & SALLY BREEN
When you listen to Mike and Sally Breen speak, you are caught up in the incredible passion they both share for the church, it’s mission, and the discipling of it’s people.
He led a church re-plant in inner city London, England and in Sheffield, England, under his leadership St. Thomas’s grew to become the largest church in England in 2000. Later that year he launched a team that began a church planting movement in Europe that planted over 1400 churches in 4 years.
In addition to his calling as a church planter and pastor, Mike has authored over 20 books including the best selling, Family on Mission (3DM Publishing 2014), Building a Discipling Culture (3DM Publishing, 2011), Covenant and Kingdon (3DM, 2010), and the three book A Passionate Life series (Cook Communications, 2005).
As a speaker, Breen is in demand across the United States, Europe and Australasia. He speaks regularly in Colleges and Universities that include Azusa Pacific University, Wheaton University, Oklahoma Baptist University, Fuller Seminary, London Theological College, Durham University and Cambridge. He is equally sought after in Mega Churches (Crossroads Church – Cincinnati, OH, Grace Midtown – Atlanta, GA, and Discovery Church – Orlando, FL), as well as Conferences and Festivals (Verge, New Wine – Holland, Denmark Summer Festival, North American Mission Leaders Conference).
While Mike and Sally often travel together, they are often booked for events separately. As a writer and speaker, Sally is an innovator in her own right. She covers topics for women’s and mixed groups around the world which include: The Integrated life, The Faithfulness of God, Children, Marriage, and Dating (with or without Mike), The Rhythm of Life, Health patterns, Family on Mission.
Mike and Sally live in South Carolina, where they founded 3DM, a movement/organization which has now spread to 5 continents, training thousands of leaders and churches in how to move to a discipling culture and missional mindset. They have been married 34 years and are the proud parents of three adult Children and two grandchildren.
Mike and Sally speaker together and separately on a number of different topics, here are their main areas of concentration:
• Church Growth
• (Launching) Missional Communities
• Spiritual Multiplication and Reproduction
• Developing Healthy Spirituality
• Family on Mission
• Living an Integrated Life
• The Life of Jesus
• The Life of Paul
• Spiritual Issues In The Market Place
• 5 Capitals
• Integrated life
• Faithfulness of God
• Children, Marriage, Dating
• Rhythm of Life
• Health Patterns
• Family on Mission
AUSTIN CHANNING BROWN
Austin Channing Brown began her journey as a racial reconciler in college with an experience called Sankofa-a three-day bus trip exploring black history sites throughout the south. On this pilgrimage that she came face-to-face with her own history, shared the experience with others, and-for the first time in her life-watched friends become transformed by learning about African American history and racism.
Austin earned a master’s degree in social justice from Marygrove College in Detroit, Michigan. Building on her Sankofa experience and the foundation of her graduate work, she has directed a short-term missions site on the west side of Chicago, creating interactive opportunities for youth to engage in issues of poverty, injustice. She also served on staff with Willow Creek Community Church, developing strategies and programming around multiculturalism. Currently she serves as resident director and multicultural liaison for Calvin College, in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Austin travels the country throughout the year sharing her message at colleges, universities, conferences and churches. She has been featured at the Justice Conference, Why Christian? Conference, Christians for Biblical Equality International Conference, the University of Northwestern, the CCDA National Conference, the Salvation Army ONE Conference and Focus on the Family: Focus Leadership Institute, to name just a few.
Racial justice, reconciliation, and womanhood have continued to be the core of her message. She writes about these topics on her popular blog austinchanning.com and as a regular contributor to Today’s Christian Woman. She has also contributed to Her.meneutics, Relevant, and A Higher Calling.
She is married to her best friend, Tommie, an attorney in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and adores her little puppy, Mowgli.
DIANA BUTLER BASS
Diana Butler Bass is an author, speaker, and independent scholar specializing in American religion and culture.
She holds a Ph.D. in religious studies from Duke University and is the author of nine books, including Grounded: Finding God in the World—A Spiritual Revolution (HarperOne, 2015) and the widely influential Christianity After Religion: The End of Church and the Birth of a New Spiritual Awakening (HarperOne, 2012). Her other books include A People’s History of Christianity: The Other Side of the Story (HarperOne, 2009), nominated for a Library of Virginia literary award, and the best-selling Christianity for the Rest of Us: How the Neighborhood Church is Transforming the Faith (2006) which was named as one of the best religion books of the year by Publishers Weekly and was featured in a cover story in USA TODAY.
Diana regularly speaks at conferences, consults with religious organizations, leads educational events for religious leaders, and teaches and preaches in a variety of venues. She writes at The Huffington Post and The Washington Post and comments on religion, politics, and culture in the media including USA TODAY, Time, Newsweek, CBS, CNN, FOX, PBS, and NPR.
From 1995 to 2000, she wrote a weekly column on American religion for the New York Times Syndicate. She is a contributing editor for Sojourners Magazine has written widely in the religious press, including Christian Century, Clergy Journal, and Congregations.
From 2002 to 2006, she was the Project Director of a national Lilly Endowment-funded study of mainline Protestant vitality—a project featured in Newsweek, U.S. News and World Report, and the Los Angeles Times.
Dr. Butler Bass is the recipient of numerous grants and awards including the Frank S. and Elizabeth D. Brewer Prize of the American Society of Church History and an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree from The General Theological Seminary in New York. She also serves on the board of Public Religion Research and is an advisor on the project for a National Museum of American Religion in Washington, D.C.
Additionally, Dr. Butler Bass has taught at Westmont College, the University of California at Santa Barbara, Macalester College, Rhodes College, and the Virginia Theological Seminary in subjects ranging from church history, American religious history, history of Christian thought, to religion and politics, religion and race, and congregational studies.
She and her family live in Alexandria, Virginia.
When Jonathan Catherman stands before an audience, the listener is immediately impressed by a man who speaks from a depth of knowledge, fueled by his passion for learning and learners.
The foundation for Jonathan’s experience is a result of 23 years of work in private and public education, including the last eight years as a Senior Consultant for FranklinCovey Education. As a sociologist and educator, he is dedicated to understanding the mindsets, skill-sets, and toolsets that best develop the character and capabilities of today’s emerging leaders.
His internationally bestselling book The Manual To Manhood (Revell:2014) is used around the world in schools, boys clubs, and youth organizations. The book and corresponding 1Million “Men In The Making” group mentoring resources serve as a trusted approach to engage boys in practicing the basic life skills and character traits they need to become confident and capable young men.
As a speaker, Catherman has graced the public platform in leading Universities (Harvard, Stanford, UCLA, University of North Florida, George Washington University, The University of Texas, Austin), civic organizations (YMCA, Mr. Dad, Young Life, People to People) along with countless schools, teacher organizations, district faculty gatherings, churches, and military family support events. His success in the development and delivery of youth mentoring resources and programming in inner-city schools garnered Jonathan the 2016 President’s Volunteer Service Award, Martin Luther King Drum Major for Service Award, and the Maryland National Guard Child & Youth Program Support Service Award. Additionally, he received the Best of 2015 – Focus on the Family for his radio interview with President, Jim Daly.
His contagious energy and passionate speaking style engages and inspires while his clear vision and practical instruction clarifies what leadership principles and structural relations empower greatness in people and organizations.
Jonathan and his bride Erica have been married for 20 years and have two sons with whom he is co-writing his next book, THE MANUAL TO MIDDLE SCHOOL due out Spring 2017. Their family enjoys the warmth and hospitality of North Carolina where they call a small community near Charlotte home.
Mentoring Men In The Making
Layers To Leadership
The Strength To Lead
MENTORING MEN IN THE MAKING
As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another. Thus is the call for fathers, teachers, coaches, and community leaders to hone the life skills and moral character of young men in the making through the purposeful model of mentoring.
THE STRENGTH TO LEAD
Do you have it? How to build it? Where to use it? When to share it?
THE LAYERS TO LEADERSHIP
To standing up, standing firm, and standing out as a leader requires understanding the differences between MEMBERSHIP, STEWARDSHIP, and LEADERSHIP. Participation in each is key to the success of all emerging leaders seeking to guide themselves and others to a better future.
Today’s young people possess incredible potential to transform the world. Armed with vision for a better future and the belief that significance is the true measure of success this emerging generation can use their voice and influence to transform our world in ways never before believed possible.
Palmer Chinchen is an author, speaker, pastor…and expatriate. His newest books True Religion: Taking Pieces of Heaven to Places of Hell on Earth and God Can’t Sleep: Waiting for Daylight on Life’s Darkest Nights challenge the dispassion of generations past. He is convinced we can do more to stop injustice, end extreme poverty, and spread beauty.
Drawing on his years in Africa, Palmer has become a national voice calling for innovation and an entrepreneurial spirit to promote sustainability and fair-trade and to change what is not right in this world. The heart of his message is, “Give your life away to change this world and God will change you.”
Palmer grew up deep in the Sappo jungle of Liberia, Africa where the only way in and out was by prop plane. Today he is the lead pastor at The Grove (Phoenix, AZ area), a uniquely creative gathering of Christ-followers who live on-mission locally and globally.
He is available to speak at colleges, universities, seminaries, churches and conferences on issues of justice, spiritual formation and a Christian response to disaster and poverty. Most recently he has spoken at Biola University, Liberty University, Moody Bible Institute, Mississippi College, Cedarville University, and was the keynote speaker on the Hungry for Love Tour with Leeland, Sanctus Real and The Afters. He regularly blogs for the Huffington Post and has written for CatalystSpace and Reject Apathy.
Palmer’s latest book The Barefoot Tribe: A Manifesto for a New Kind of Church was released by Howard Books in 2014. Palmer hosted the first international Barefoot Tribe Gathering in Phoenix, Arizona and looks forward to hosting the second Gathering in Fall 2016.
Palmer holds a PhD in Educational Studies from Trinity in Deerfield, IL and an MA and BA in Intercultural Studies from Biola University.
Apart from speaking on the core message of Barefoot Tribe, Palmer also speaks widely on the following subjects:
• Spiritual Formation in the Critical Years
• Art, Creatives and Christian Spirituality
• Live On Mission : What it Really Means to Be Missional
• God Can’t Sleep : Discovering Purpose Through Pain and Suffering
• The Transforming Experience : How Cross-Cultural Ministry Transforms Our Spirituality
• imago Dei : Showing Every Person Dignity and Respect Regardless of Race, Nationality, Ethnicity, Immigration Status, or Any Other Factor
• Dream : The Quest for Purpose
• Technology and Tradition : How Electronics Affects Our Worship and Shapes our Faith
• Barefoot Tribe : A Christian Response to Injustice and Oppression
• Becoming the Expatriate : 10 Things Everyone should Know Before Ministering Cross-culturally
• Disequilibration of the Soul : How Responding to Poverty and Affliction Changes us Spiritually
• Shalom: Our Call to be Persons of Peace — Not Violence and Aggression
• Do: Boldly Doing the Good News of Jesus
• True Religion : Taking Pieces of Heaven to Places of Hell on Earth
• Hipster Faith : Why They Love Jesus but Not So Much His People
Over his eclectic journalistic career, Jeff Chu has interviewed presidents and paupers, corporate execs and preachers, Britney Spears and Ben Kingsley. As a writer and editor for Time and Fast Company, he has compiled an award-winning portfolio including stories on hit-making Swedish songwriters (a piece for which he went clubbing in Stockholm); James Bond (for which he stood on a beach and watched Halle Berry emerge from the waves over and over); undercover missionaries in the Arab world (he traveled to North Africa and went to church); and the decline of Christianity in Europe (he prayed). His acclaimed book, Does Jesus Really Love Me? which earned the cover of the New York Times Book Review — features his reporting on Christianity and sexuality across America. One of Jeff’s prized possessions is a print of a quote from former Senator John Warner, who once told Jeff: “You’re a good little interviewer!”
As a speaker, Jeff’s experience has been equally as compelling. He has stood before audiences in Catholic, Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian and an array of other denominational and non denominational churches across the country. He has given lectures at major colleges, universities and seminaries, including (to name a few) Princeton, Yale, Fuller, Calvin, Syracuse, and Hope. He has also graced the stages of the Library of Congress’s National Book Festival in Washington and the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, Fast Company’s Innovation Uncensored and Innovation by Design gatherings, as well as the Progressive Youth Ministry, Gay Christian Network, Why Christian?, and Room for All (Reformed Church in America) conferences.
Jeff grew up in California and Florida. He went to high school in Miami, at Westminster Christian, where he sat behind Alex Rodriguez in Mr. Warner’s world history class. He’s a graduate of Princeton and the London School of Economics. And he will tell you that he is a writer today largely because of two people: Carmen Gonzalez, his second and third-grade teacher at Black Pine Circle Day School in Berkeley, California, who taught him about storytelling, and Charlotte Grimes, whose one-semester journalism seminar at Princeton – the only journalism course he ever took – taught him that he was not terrible reporter and might even someday be a good one. Jeff has received fellowships from the Phillips Foundation, the French-American Foundation and the International Reporting Project, and in 2012, was part of the Seminar Debates in Religion and Sexuality at Harvard Divinity School.
Chu is the nephew and grandson of Baptist preachers, and currently serves as an elder at Old First Reformed Church in Brooklyn, New York. He loves the San Francisco 49ers, the Book of Ecclesiastes, and clementines.
Homosexuality and the church
Cultivating gracious conversation on divisive issues
Justice and American Christianity
The power of storytelling
Finding meaning and purpose in business
Empathy and journalism
Writing about faith
Ashley Cleveland says the best thing about her is that she is broken. This seems an odd statement for someone who has won three Grammy awards and two Dove awards, is a published author and the subject of a forthcoming documentary. But Ashley has found that it is the low road of the gospel, the path of decrease that defines us as followers of Christ. She knows from experience that out of the ruined places come genuine faith, freedom, relationship, understanding, compassion, and service to others. In other words, life itself. This is the message of her music and her memoir, Little Black Sheep.
With eloquence, disarming candor, and humor, Ashley recounts her story saying that she and her sister ‘…unwittingly came tumbling into a well-designed household that had already begun to reek of alcohol and silence’. She is the child of highly accomplished parents from Knoxville, Tennessee, who were both alcoholics. Her father was a deeply closeted gay man. After divorcing him, her mother took a career in sales, uprooting her daughters to the San Francisco Bay Area. Combined with a powerful genetic predisposition, the collapse of her family and ensuing displacement set Ashley on a path of self-destruction that resulted in severe alcoholism and drug addiction.
In the midst of repeated failures and devastation she was brought to a standstill through a crisis pregnancy. She encountered a merciful God whose message to her was: “I am not who you think I am.” He lifted her out of despair and rebuilt her life, stone by stone, filling it with purpose, relationship, usefulness, and recovery—all things she did not believe possible for herself.
Her musical career has been a critical success. Ashley was the first woman nominated for a Grammy in the rock gospel category and the only woman to win the award three times. She easily travels between Christian and secular venues. Recently she played the Austin City Limits Festival on Saturday and a large Austin church on Sunday.
Ashley says she goes everywhere, belongs nowhere, and that her set list remains the same—regardless of venue. She is acclaimed for her distinctive songwriting, her love of hymns and traditional gospel music, and her powerful singing, which have routinely landed her albums on year-end top ten lists.
Ashley appears regularly at conferences, women’s retreats, and other events, speaking on topics including:
The Writing Life: Metaphor and the Path of Faith
Receiving and Extending Forgiveness—In That Order
The Gospel Versus the Heroic Journey
Ashley’s current retreat topic is: The Treasure of Our Stories (details)
All Ashley’s appearances include music—individual and collective. She accompanies herself on guitar and sometimes includes her husband, Kenny Greenberg, a renowned Nashville session guitarist and The Academy of Country Music guitar player of 2012.
Ultimately her message is one of hope, or as she puts it in the closing paragraph of her book:
“I am ever reminded that I am the little black sheep who was rescued by the One who is the Shepherd and the Lamb of God, the Redeemer who lived in human frailty and easily inhabits mine. To live is Christ; to love is Christ. Christ is all and in all.”
Here’s What People are saying about Little Black Sheep:
“This book … delivers me face-to-face with a God who just might be good news. To say that I enjoyed the book is far from the truth. I devoured it. Wept. Raged. Swore. And said Yes again to Jesus.”
Dan B. Allender, Ph.D., Founding president of The Seattle School of Theology and Psychology
“Ashley Cleveland is one of my favorite singer-songwriters, whose life and music are deeply rooted in her faith and nurtured by the love of God. In Little Black Sheep, she honestly shares her own human vulnerabilities, and joyfully offers her amazing gifts. Ashley’s music is always moving, and her story is deeply inspiring. Ashley’s hymn singing has been church for me on many Sundays! In script and song, Ashley shows us how God works in one life at a time and through us to the whole world. Don’t miss this.”
Jim Wallis, president, Sojourners
“I had barely started the first chapter of Little Black Sheep and I already knew that the lump in my throat and the teary laughter that oddly accompanied it would be with me for the entire read. They were. I laughed and cried the whole way through, so grateful for Ashley’s honesty and for God’s hold on her. I’m glad we are family. And for what it’s worth, Ashley spoke a lot of truth into my life during those rag-legged years before her sobriety. Thank you, Ashley, for writing all of this down. Your narrative voice is compelling, and your story begs for the answer we are all asking: Can we be loved … and if so, will we be changed by it?”
Amy Grant, singer/songwriter
“Ashley Cleveland, singer of sensitive honest songs, has a way with words and the plain story of sin and mercy she tells here is hauntingly powerful. Some readers will undoubtedly find her to be broken bread for their starving souls.”
J.I. Packer, author of Knowing God
“Funny, smart, tender, honest—Ashley’s memoir Little Black Sheep is a wonderful story of redemption. It will fill your heart with hope.”
Sally Lloyd-Jones, Author of the Christian Book Award winning Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing
“Though it is an autobiography, Little Black Sheep is not really about my friend Ashley in the end. It is not about her life as much as The One who gave her life and redeemed its brokenness. That she could tell such a complete and compelling story in so few pages is a testimony to a gifted writer.”
Michael Card, Bible teacher, songwriter, and author of A Sacred Sorrow and The Biblical Imagination Series
IAN MORGAN CRON
Ian Morgan Cron is a bestselling author, speaker, counselor, and Episcopal priest. He draws on an array of disciplines and resources – from art and poetry to contemplative practices and literature — to awaken people to what it means to be people of faith, both human and spirit.
In 2007, Ian published his widely acclaimed first novel, Chasing Francis: A Pilgrim’s Tale, which offers a historical account of St. Francis of Assisi’s life, woven into the compelling narrative of a 21st century pilgrimage. Ian not only revisits St. Francis’ teachings – his radical identification with the poor, his environmentalist theology, his dedication to peacemaking – but also shows how deeply they resonate in our contemporary spiritual moment, some 800 years later.
Ian’s 2011 spiritual memoir, Jesus My Father, the CIA, and Me, was a Wall Street Journal bestseller and a featured title in the Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers program. It received accolades from Rob Bell, Richard Rohr, and the Most Reverend Dr. Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, among others.
Ian has presented at conferences, churches, seminaries, retreats, and universities around the world. With transparency, humor, and insight, he facilitates conversations on topics ranging from Twelve Step spirituality to ancient contemplative practices. At his core, Ian is a storyteller; he weaves his knowledge into narratives that illustrate, rather than merely instruct. His stories engage the imagination and speak to the skeptic and believer that live within all of us. He can tailor his presentations to help individuals and communities of various backgrounds discover God at work in their own unfolding stories.
Ian has spoken at Willow Creek, Berkeley Divinity School at Yale University, Denver Seminary, the Catalyst Conference, the International Arts Movement Encounter, Story 2011, the Center for Action and Contemplation with Richard Rohr, Belmont University, the Wild Goose Festival, Mars Hill Church in Grand Rapids, Laity Lodge, The Storyline Conference with Donald Miller, and alongside Amy Grant and Becca Stevens at An Evening of Stories at the Country Music Hall of Fame. Ian most recently shared the stage with Ricky Skaggs, Sara Watkins, and others at the Tokens Show in Nashville’s historical Ryman Auditorium.
New Offering in 2015 – Enneagram Workshop!
Ian is also a student and teacher of the Enneagram, an ancient personality typing system that identifies nine types of people and how they relate to one another and the word. The Enneagram is a powerful tool for understanding why we behave the way that we do, and how our motivations are largely determined by personality. It provides a framework for how we can begin to live into our most authentic selves, and also reveals the wisdom that each personality type can offer to others. The Enneagram is therefore not just a powerful tool for personal growth, but also an ongoing journey of transformation that we can take with our families, romantic partners, co-workers, and faith communities. In daylong workshops, Ian can provide an overview of Enneagram system, describe the nine personality types, and speak to the myriad ways in which the Enneagram can enrich our spiritual lives. The enneagram is perfect for leadership, marriage and parenting seminars, church staff and lay-leadership training, corporate settings, non-profits, and boards of director retreats.
In addition to writing and speaking, Ian is the curator of the Conversations on Courage and Faith Series at Christ Church in Greenwich, Connecticut, which in the past year has hosted Nobel Laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu, author and Medal of Freedom Winner Maya Angelou, theologian N.T. Wright, Krista Tippett, Christian Wiman and Richard Rohr, among others.
Ian holds a BA from Bowdoin College, an MA in Counseling from Denver Seminary, an MDiv from New York Theological Seminary, and is currently completing his doctorate in Christian Spirituality at Fordham University.
Lillian Daniel is a pastor, teacher, writer, and speaker whose honesty and wit have taken her from the National Cathedral in Washington D.C. to the Festival of Homiletics in Denmark. Wherever she goes, Lillian brings a deep understanding of scripture and how it can be practically applied to everyday life.
Her most recent book, When Spiritual But Not Religious Is Not Enough: Seeing God in Surprising Places, Even the Church (Jericho, 2014), makes a provocative case for why religious community matters. Earlier books further explore Lillian’s commitment to making religious life real. This Odd and Wondrous Calling: The Public and Private Lives of two Ministers shares stories about ministry from the inside. And Tell it Like it is: Reclaiming the Practice of Testimony tells the story of one church’s attempt to get people to talk to each other about, of all things, God.
As an editor at large for The Christian Century Magazine, and a contributing editor at Leadership Journal, Lillian’s words and work can be found in The Huffington Post, Christianity Today, Relevant Magazine, Books and Culture, The Journal for Preachers, as well as in the United Church of Christ’s daily email devotionals that boast over 20,000 subscribers.
She has taught preaching the University of Chicago Divinity School, Chicago Theological Seminary, and Yale Divinity School, where she received the 2010 distinguished alumni award for “Distinction in Congregational Ministry.” Equally comfortable in convention centers, classrooms, lecture halls and church pulpits, Lillian has spoken at Duke Chapel, Princeton Seminary King’s College London, and Queen’s University Ontario.
Making An Argument for Religious Community in a Multi-Faith World
Forgiveness and Other Counter Cultural Ideas
Why the Church Matters in a Culture of Narcissism
The Changing Religious Landscape and the Rise of the Religiously Unaffiliated, a.k.a. the “Nones.”
Is Your Church Answering Questions No One is Asking?
RACHEL HELD EVANS
Rachel Held Evans is a New York times best-selling author and popular blogger who writes about faith, doubt, and life in the Bible Belt. Her books include Faith Unraveled (2010), A Year of Biblical Womanhood (2012), and Searching for Sunday (2015). With millions of visits each year, her blog has become a renowned online hub for conversations about Christianity and culture.
Rachel has been featured on The View, The Today Show, NPR, Slate, The BBC, The Washington Post, The Atlantic Monthly and Oprah.com. She also serves on President Obama’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships.
Her popularity as a writer also keeps her busy speaking across the country. She has spoken at The Festival of Faith and Writing, The Q Conference, Trinity Wall Street, Princeton University, Austin Theological Seminary, Eastern University, Baylor University, The Gay Christian Network Conference, The Wild Goose Festival, and a wide range of retreats, conferences, universities, and churches. In 2015, in partnership with Nadiz Bolz-Weber and Jim Chaffee, she launched the Why Christian Conference, which features fresh, diverse voices responding to the question of why they continue in the faith.
Her popularity as a writer also keeps her busy speaking across the country for retreats, conferences, universities and churches. Some of her most recent events have included Q, The Writer’s Symposium by the Sea at Point Loma University, Baylor University Chapel, Fuller Theological Seminary, Abilene Christian University Summit, Mars Hill Church (Grand Rapids), Gordon College, Eastern Nazarene College, Hope International University, The Wild Goose Festival, The Story Conference, The Southern Festival of Books, and Soularize.
Rachel lives with her husband, Dan, in Dayton, Tennessee — home of the famous Scopes Monkey Trial of 1925. Dan and Rachel were thrilled to welcome their first child, Henry, in February 2016. They worship at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Cleveland, Tennessee.
Cathleen Falsani immediately captivates her audience with her energetic passion and natural humor as she draws them into her deep pool of knowledge. She brings cultural relevance, spiritual depth, and firsthand experience to her topics.
An award-winning religion journalist and the new Faith & Values columnist for the Orange County Register in Southern California, in the context of faith, Cathleen has interviewed and written about many world-renowned personalities. From Bono, Anne Rice, and Barack Obama to Elie Wiesel, John Patrick Shanley, and Hugh Hefner, each has opened up to Cathleen about the most intimate parts of their life—what they believe, what they don’t, and why. Her writing offers a fresh, occasionally controversial, and always illuminating look at the beliefs that shape our culture and our lives.
A Connecticut native and granddaughter of Italian and Irish immigrants, Cathleen is a graduate of Wheaton College, the alma mater of the Rev. Billy Graham as well as horror film director Wes Craven. (She has a great affinity and admiration for both.) She holds a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University as well as a master’s degree in theological studies from Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary. She was a 2009 Divinity School Media Fellow at Duke University, a Gralla Fellow in Jewish Studies at Brandeis University, and was the 1996 Stoody-West Fellow in Religious Journalism. She is currently in the process of discerning a call to return to seminary to pursue a Master of Divinity degree this time around.
Cathleen is a sought-after public speaker having presented lectures and talks at colleges, universities, civic organizations, houses of worship, and large faith-based conferences nationwide, including the Catalyst Conference, the Wild Goose Festival, Point Loma Nazarene University’s Symposium by the Sea, the National Pastors Convention, the Los Angeles Book Festival, the Festival of Faith and Music, and the Festival of Faith and Writing, St. James Episcopal Cathedral in Chicago, WomenChurch, Dominican University in Chicago, and California State University in Sacramento, to name just a few.
She is author of the critically acclaimed The God Factor: Inside the Spiritual Lives of Public People (Farrar, Straus and Girox, 2006), Sin Boldly: A Field Guide for Grace (Zondervan, 2008), The Dude Abides: The Gospel According to the Coen Brothers (Zondervan, 2009), BELIEBER: Fame, Faith and the Heart of Justin Bieber (Worthy Books, 2011), and the forthcoming Disquiet Time: Rants and Reflections on the Good Book by the Skeptical, the Faithful, and a Few Scoundrels (coedited with Jennifer Grant and published by Jericho Books, Fall 2014).
Cathleen was the religion writer and columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times from 2000 to January 2010, and a longtime contributor and columnist for Religion News Service. From August 2011 to December 2012, Cathleen was the Web Editor and Director of New Media for Sojourners, where she ran its popular God’s Politics blog. She also was a contributing editor and columnist for Sojourners magazine.
Cathleen has covered her diverse “God beat” from locations as far afield as Vatican City, Vedic City, Ireland, Germany, the Caribbean, the West Wing, the Playboy Mansion, and the dugout at Wrigley Field. She was honored as the 2005 James O. Supple Religion Writer of the Year by the Religion Newswriters Association, and has twice been a finalist for the Templeton Religion Reporter of the Year award.
Her work has appeared in Rolling Stone, Christianity Today and Christian Century magazines, as well as the Chicago Tribune, the Washington Post, the Toronto Star, Kansas City Star, Madison Capital Times, the Harvard Divinity School Bulletin, CNN.com, and other publications in North America and Europe. She has appeared as a commentator on CNN, Oprah Winfrey’s “Soul Series,” National Public Radio’s “The Story” and “Weekend Edition,” BBC World Service, FoxNewsChannel, Moody Radio, WGN-Radio, NPR’s “Day to Day,” The Tavis Smiley Show (on PBS), and a host of other radio and television venues.
Cathleen has been married to the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author, Maurice Possley, since 1997. In 2009, after twenty years living in Chicago, they moved with their son, Vasco, to Laguna Beach, California. Vasco, who was born in Malawi in East-Central Africa, became a permanent part of the Possley family on June 1, 2010, when his adoption was approved by the High Court of Malawi in Blantyre.
Under the Influence: The Literary World Through Eyes of Faith
Three Chords and the Truth: Inspiration, Confession, and Faith in Rock ’n’ Roll
Vasco’s Heart: How two award-winning journalists saved the life of a boy from Malawi as he transformed theirs.
The Cultural Unicorn: How to navigate politics and religion as a journalist who happens to be an evangelical Christian and a Democrat
The Dude Abides: A look at Film and Religion
Sacred Friendships: Look Around You. These people are your tribe, your traveling companions, and just maybe your Anam Cara (soul friends).
Why I Have a Crush on Papa Frank: Evangelicals, Pope Francis, and the Third Great Awakening
Sin Boldly (or Just Say Yes!): A Field Guide for Grace
Where My Girls At? Professional Women and a Ceiling Called Church
Bob Goff is the New York Times Best-Selling Author of Love Does, as well as an attorney who founded Restore International, a nonprofit human rights organization operating in Uganda and India. Bob often appears at various leadership and university events, inspiring current and future influencers to get to the “do” part of life.
With a team of dedicated people, Restore International has pursued justice for the needy. Restore worked with Uganda’s judiciary in bringing to trial over 200 cases, including those involving children who were languishing in jail without trial. In India, Restore investigated and intervened to relieve minor girls from a life of forced prostitution, leading to the identification and arrest of over 80 perpetrators. Restore now has a school in Northern Uganda called the Restore Leadership Academy.
Bob’s inspiration has been fueled by the friendships he has developed with others around the world who desire to pursue strategic ways to help people in need.
As an attorney, Bob shares leadership in a Washington law firm, Goff & DeWalt. Additionally, he serves as the Honorary Consul for the Republic of Uganda to the United States. He is also an adjunct professor at Pepperdine Law School where he teaches Nonprofit Law, and Point Loma Nazarene University where he teaches Business Law.
Tony Hale developed a strong, national fan base with his hilarious role as ‘Buster Bluth’ on Fox Television’s smart, Emmy Award-winning series Arrested Development. He can currently be seen staring in HBO’s Emmy nominated series Veep alongside Julia Louis-Dreyfus.
During his college years at Samford University, Tony became a follower of Christ–a decision that became essential in forming the foundation he needed for decisions he would make throughout his career in the entertainment business. When speaking to faith-based audiences, Tony strives to help listeners understand the power and sway of false motivations and the perils of obtaining one’s professional goals only to discover that real value is found in family, friends and the timeless message of the Gospel.
Tony receives the best response when he tells his own story, how he reached his goals, what that trek cost him and what he learned along the way. Without fail, the Question and Response that takes place throughout his presentation is energetic, honest, engaging and helpful. Since Arrested Development is a fan favorite for many people, when time permits, a 20-minute screening of a specific episode before or after the presentation becomes a useful source to launch conversation.
In 2005, Brian Hardin, a music producer from Nashville, Tennessee, woke up from a dream in which he felt he should “podcast the Bible.” Having never had that kind of passion for ministry in the past, he tried to shake off the notion, but after several days, it seemed he was getting a clear directive from God to move ahead.
Relying on his technical experience as a music producer and engineer, he was able to figure out how to produce and broadcast the podcast. Within a few months he posted his name and e-mail address and invited people to join him for the daily readings. “I had about 250 e-mails before the end of the first day,” he said, “and within six months we had 200,000 downloads.” Today they are approaching the 60 million download mark. Along with the general awakening to God’s Word, there’s been an endless stream of e-mails from disenfranchised believers who have found a place of healing because of daily interaction with the Bible.
Since that first podcast, Brian has produced daily readings—seven days a week for seven plus years. Wherever the path of life takes him, the Daily Audio Bible (DAB) will be broadcast. “I’ve done the program all over the world,” he says, “Africa, India, Europe, the Middle East, South America and all over the United States and Canada. Wherever I go I take the DAB family along. We’re never alone, we have each other.”
Brian became the founding pastor of the Four Winds Mission in Spring Hill, Tennessee. In 2012 he wrote Passages: How Reading the Bible in a Year Will Change Everything for You (Zondervan, 2012), and served as the general editor on the NIV Passages Bible (Zondervan, 2012). In addition to the podcast and writing, Brian speaks fifty-plus days a year at churches and gatherings around the world, telling anyone who will listen, “The Bible is the best friend you’ve never had. It’s honest with you, can cheer you on, tells you the truth, shares the counsel of the ages and can change your life.” In October 2015, Brian will launch 18 months of touring around the US, UK and Australia with the Reframe Conference a one-day event that guides registrants into a true and authentic relationship with their Creator.
Brian and his wife, Jill, live outside Nashville with their five children. He continues his theological studies and escapes to any mountain he can find as often as possible.
SUSAN E. ISAACS
Susan E. Isaacs is a comedienne and author with many credits in film and TV (Planes Trains & Automobiles, Seinfeld, Parks and Recreation, et al.) and an alumnus of the LA-based Groundlings comedy troupe. Susan toured with author Donald Miller presenting her memoir, Angry Conversations With God, which was named a top religion book of the year by Publisher’s Weekly.
Susan speaks and performs at leading conferences and universities (Catalyst, Festival of Faith and Writing, International Arts Movement; Pepperdine, George Fox, Azusa Pacific, Baylor, et al.). Her “Writing your Spiritual Autobiography” seminar is her most-requested seminar. She also speaks on the Christian’s role in entertainment and media, addiction and recovery, the power of the Lament, and living out your faith in a post-Christian culture.
Susan holds an MFA in screenwriting from the University of Southern California. She taught graduate screenwriting at Pepperdine University, and currently teaches a variety of subjects at Azusa Pacific University including screenwriting, sit-com acting, and sketch comedy writing and performance.
SHOW, SEMINAR AND SPEAKING TOPICS
Angry Conversations with God
Susan’s one-women show based on her critically acclaimed book by the same title.
Approx. 70 minutes
Writing The Spiritual Memoir
Do you have a story you need to tell? A story only you can tell? A story you can no longer not tell? Author Susan E. Isaacs will discuss notable memoirs and why they worked, and give you the courage to craft your story into something valuable for you and others. She’ll lead you in a series of exercises to find your story’s spine, your dramatic question, and give you eight essential story points to shape your work. You’ll have time to brainstorm on story ideas, and you’ll leave with tools to continue your work. Bring pen and paper; you’ll be writing in class.
Let Your Life Speak
Susan Isaacs’ more than twenty years in film and TV has given her perspective on how a post- and even anti-Christian environment views faith. “Tell someone in Hollywood you’re a Christian and they assume you’re a Tea Partyer, own an AK-47 and think Obama is a gay Muslim terrorist.” Susan speaks about developing relationships that honor God without preaching and letting go of the debate of “who’s in and who’s out.” Christians can argue until the cows come home, but it is your life – how you live and treat others, how you listen to differing opinions– that speaks loudest. Susan champions a new way of being a Christian in the world: learning how to “Yes, and” rather than “No, but.”
Church Girls’ Drugs
Keynote Address or Interactive Seminar
Christians are not immune to the dysfunction and addictions in contemporary culture. You may not use hard drugs, but are you addicted to food? Prescription drugs? Gossip? Facebook? Susan talks frankly about her own fall down the rabbit hole and her unconventional road back to God, church, and emotional health. It takes more than a “just say no” or “pray about it” to stop an addictive behavior and get into recovery. This seminar covers sensitive topics, including sex, eating disorders, alcoholism, the 12 Steps and healing prayer. Note: Organizations wishing to book this seminar should have adequate follow-up resources, such as prayer teams and counselors, to information on programs in the community such as AA or ACA.
The Power of Lament
Keynote with Q&A
When Christian stores are littered with books on the ten steps to five keys of three spiritual successes, it’s hard to find permission to feel sad, angry or disappointed. What are we so afraid of, losing our salvation? Falling into a hole that is too deep for God to reach us? Susan discusses the biblical model of lament: crying out, even complaining to God – to his face, rather than behind his back. It is through lament that we get honest before God. And it is also through conflict and trial that God shapes our character. Susan discusses key passages in the Bible, moments in her own life, and worship music, to illustrate healthy and unhealthy lament. There is a way to be honest about our pain and also give God the opportunity to show us hope and have last word. This can be done as an interactive writing workshop, or keynote address with optional Q&A with the audience.
Keynote Address with Q&A
A 1930s film critic said, “theaters are the new church of the masses, where people huddle in the dark watching people in the light show them what it is to be human.” Over sixty percent of Americans don’t go to church. But they go to movies or watch TV, and that’s where they’re getting their theology. Whether you’re a pastor or an aspiring artist, how can you utilize or create art to invite discussion and make people hungry for heaven? Susan has an MFA in screenwriting and over 20 years experience working in the TV and film business. In this seminar she looks at a variety of popular films and programs that “show rather than tell” the truth of God and man’s longing for Him. Clips can include Tree of Life and Lars and The Real Girl to “Battlestar Galactica” and “Rev.” Selections can tailored to taste and sensitivity of the audience.
Did you love the show “Who’s Line Is It Anyway?” Are you an ace at charades? What does improv have to do with God? Well, if Anne Lamott is right and “Laughter is carbonated holiness,” then come get your holy on. Get out of the pew and onto your feet. Learn the basics of improv and the important skill of listening. This is a great resource for team building, communication, letting off steam and having fun. If you have a drama group or arts group, improv is a great way to generate ideas for future development.
Dedicated to service, Kathy Khang has spent 19 years with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship/USA working with students, along with writing and speaking as an important voice in the evangelical church on issues of student discipleship, women’s equality, and racial reconciliation.
During her almost two decades with IVCF Kathy oversaw multiethnic training and ministry development for staff and students. She’s worked in Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin as well as spending 10 of those years as the campus staff for the Asian American InterVarsity chapter. Additionally, she served as director overseeing undergraduate ministry to more than 300 students at Northwestern University, Evanston, IL.
An alumna of Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism, Kathy worked as a newspaper reporter in Green Bay and Milwaukee, WI before going on staff with InterVarsity.
Kathy is a regular speaker across the country at everything from North Park Theological Seminary, Moody Bible Institute, Wheaton College, Q: Women & Calling, National Youth Workers Conference, the Wild Goose Festival and countless churches, InterVarsity chapters and conferences across the country.
As an author, she co-authored More Than Serving Tea (IVP, 2006) – exploring faith, gender, culture, and ethnic identity from the distinct perspective of Asian American Christian women. She is has contributed to The Covenant Companion, Inheritance Magazine, Conversations Journal and the NIV Bible for Women along with regularly blogging at www.kathykhang.com.
As an activist, she was also one of the authors and organizers behind the landmark Asian American Open Letter to the Evangelical Church addressing systemic racism, and she partners with other bloggers, pastors, and Christian leaders to highlight and move the conversation forward on issues of race, ethnicity, and gender within the Church.
Most importantly, Kathy loves Jesus and can’t get through a week without coffee, yoga, nail polish, and laughter. She and her husband live in the north suburbs of Chicago and are honored to be the parents three amazing young adults.
MIHEE KIM KORT
Mihee Kim-Kort writes about the intersection of faith and real life. Her charming, funny demeanor disarms the listeners as she communicates the truth of God’s presence in the everyday and ordinary.
Mihee was born in Seoul, Korea and immigrated to the United States with her parents shortly after her birth settling in Colorado Springs, Colorado where she was baptized in a Methodist church before her family joined the local Korea Presbyterian (PCUSA) church. It was here that she learned about faith from an African American, who was a respected Elder and teacher in the church as well as a little old lady that was the wife of the former pastor of the white Presbyterian congregation that shared their building.
During her undergraduate studies she skipped many classes to snowboard, checked out lectures from radical and interesting writers and teachers, and joined various Christian fellowship groups. She also began to experience a shift from traditional evangelicalism to a more progressive, inclusive faith focused on justice as found in the teachings of Jesus Christ.
After seminary, Mihee was ordained as a Presbyterian (PCUSA) minister with degrees in divinity and theology from Princeton Theological Seminary and English Literature and Religious Studies from the University of Colorado, Boulder.
Since finishing her education Mihee has been busy! She has written three books: Yoked: Stories of a Clergy Couple in Marriage, Family and Ministry, Streams Run Uphill: Conversations with Young Clergywomen of Color, and Making Paper Cranes: Toward an Asian American Feminist Theology. She can also be found on platforms across the US as a keynote speaker for conferences, colleges/Universities, retreats and churches.
And as if that wasn’t enough, Mihee’s day job includes: juggling her time as a wife to another Presbyterian minister, a mother of three (5 year old twins and a year old toddler), ministering to college students as the staff person for UKIRK @ IU, a part-time youth ministry, itinerant preaching, rabble-rousing around Bloomington, IN and liking too many posts on Facebook and admiring people on Twitter and Instagram.
Vocation: God’s Call to Be Loved
Cultivating Belonging for Young People in Church
(pronounced Sol-vey Light-houg)
Dove Award-winning recording artist Solveig Leithaug is hesitant to admit that she is an internationally loved singer-songwriter and masterful guitar player. In fact, her twenty-five years of phenomenal success is not the result of a desire to “get ahead” but simply an outpouring of support from people across the globe who have connected with her music and her heart. Her gentle-yet-powerful gift for writing and communicating a song catches listeners by surprise and invites them into the joys and challenges that have refined her artistically and spiritually.
With fourteen solo recordings, including her newest release Finding Home, and three best-selling children’s recordings to her credit, Solveig consistently breaks new ground with each release. Her music is a brilliant blend of heart and art, fitting for a wide variety of events and venues of all sizes. She has served as a guest artist at official Parliament functions, national and international conferences and television broadcasts, cathedrals, prisons and inner-city outreach events. She is featured on the Billboard chart-topping Gaither Homecoming Series and her live performance of “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms” was featured on the Gaither Homecoming DVD entitled How Great Thou Art.
Award-winning songwriter Gloria Gaither comments on Solveig’s ministry: “Listening to Solveig singing is like the pure vibrations of an innocent soul. She bypasses our cynical scar tissue and stylistic prejudices and goes–like the laughter of a child–straight to the heart.”
An ordained minister since 1994, Solveig is a commentary writer for Thomas Nelson’s Women of Destiny Bible and contributed devotionals for Thomas Nelson’s 2012 Gaither Homecoming Bible. She currently serves as a founding board member for Compassion International Norway.
Summarizing her goal as an artist, Solveig states: “Whether performing with a band, full orchestra and choir, or alone with my guitar, my prayer has always been that my music will be an artistic bridge of hope, connecting the listener to their Creator.”
In addition to her roles as artist, musician, writer and humanitarian Solveig is first a wife to Jim, a mom and a stepmom. Her family resides near Nashville, Tennessee.
Producer, composer, musician, singer Phil Madeira has made a life for himself in the arts. Whether writing songs for artists like Alison Krauss and Garth Brooks, touring with Emmylou Harris, or playing any number of instruments on hundreds of records, Phil is no stranger to creativity.
Madeira’s associations are varied and deep. He is a member of Emmylou Harris’s band The Red Dirt Boys, putting him an elite group of amazing bands that the legendary Ms. Harris is known for assembling. He has recorded with hundreds of artists including the iconic duo The Civil Wars, Buddy Miller, jazz legend John Scofield, Amy Grant, Keb’ Mo’, Mavis Staples, Toby Keith, and young heartthrobs The Band Perry.
Phil is an oft-behind the scenes character in the music business. His 2012 production Mercyland: Hymns For The Rest Of Us features singers Emmylou Harris, Buddy Miller, The Carolina Chocolate Drops, The Civil Wars, and other high profile artists, but also includes a rare appearance on mic by Madeira himself. The project of new spirituals was created to offset what Madeira and his collaborators believed to be a toxic gospel, touted by warmongers and hate wagers.
The reviews are in on Phil’s Mercyland project:
“Gorgeously lyrical” – The Nashville Scene
“Exquisitely produced” – Folk Alley
“Every human being on the planet should listen to this and take heed …” – Maverick, UK
2013 brought with it Phil’s first solo record of this century, pm, a project inspired by his Mercyland success, but far different. Introspective and dark, Madeira trawls the river of life and comes up with a very human string of pearls. Loss, the blues, brokenness, and a little hope thrown in make for a compellingly real record.
As if his first solo outing in over 15 years isn’t enough, Madeira debuted as an author with his spiritual memoir from Jericho Books, God On The Rocks: Distilling Religion, Savoring Faith, in June of 2013.
Phil appears in Nashville regularly at the world famous Station Inn, holding court with an amazing array of musicians and guest singers.
A Phil Madeira performance is a rich experience, as Phil weaves stories and song with masterful musicianship, whether he appears as a soloist or with a backing band. His masterful guitar playing will take you from the Delta blues to Hillbilly Heaven with nods to Bob Dylan and George Gershwin en route. Phil is funny, poignant, direct, and at times jarring- and always entertaining.
Mike McHargue is a speaker, writer, technology executive, self-ascribed nerd and co-founder of The Liturgists with Michael Gungor. He travels the country helping believers and non-believers understand and know God in an age of incredible scientific insight.
As a youth, Mike was a fat, nerdy kid with a love of computers and a proclivity to take things apart. The son of a football player and a cheerleader, he possessed no discernible athletic talent but was rather a prodigy of all things digital who taught himself to program in second grade, and started a successful consulting business in high school.
At 25, Mike was a husband, father, deacon, Sunday school teacher, and vice president at a successful ad agency. When life seemed like it couldn’t get any better, Mike’s dad called a family meeting to announce the end of Mike’s parents’ marriage after an affair.
Mike fell into a tailspin, and over the next two years of obsessively searching Scripture to change his dad’s mind, he lost confidence in Scripture, prayer and ultimately, God. Mike became a closet atheist.
In spite of Mike’s efforts to continue the façade of a Baptist deacon, eventually Mike’s wife found out about his unbelief and did what any good wife would do; she called his mom. In response, Mike’s mom did what any good Christian mother would do; she prayed for a miracle. That miracle came through a conference with Rob Bell, which let to a new understanding of God and faith, all of which culminated in an undeniably mystical experience with God on the shores of the Pacific ocean.
This experience was too powerful to ignore or explain away, and it started Mike on an involuntary quest: reconciling the God he experienced with the reality of science.
Through the transformation of Mike’s blog on technology and marketing to a focus on science and spiritually he discovered that there were hundreds, if not thousands of people across the country who, like he, were unable to reconcile science and spirituality and make peace with God.
Since his return to faith Mike has become a popular speaker at conferences, retreats, churches, and colleges across the country where he is affectionately known as “Science Mike.” He recently appeared at SYMC, 2Days with Rob Bell, Granger Community Church, Hosanna! Lutheran Church, Bloom, Florida State University, and Nyack College.
It was through interaction with Michael Gungor who was in the midst of a similar spiritual crisis that Mike was able to share his story leading to Gungor’s renewed faith and a deep friendship. Their relationship spawned the birth of The Liturgists, a collective of artists and creators who seek to make beautiful, evocative work that celebrates science, faith, and art in a Christian context. Contributors so far include: Shauna Niequist, Rob Bell, Rachel Held Evans, Amena Brown, The Brilliance, Sleeping at Last, Nichole Nordeman, Peter Enns, and others. The group has released chart-topping liturgies and The Liturgists Podcast is listed in the Top 100 podcasts on iTunes.
In Addition to The Litergists podcast, Mike has his own podcast called Ask Science Mike which consistently lists in the Top 30 on iTunes Religion & Spirituality.
When Mike isn’t on the road, he lives in Tallahassee, Florida with his wife Jenny, two daughters, and one motorcycle.
When Jesus Came Into My Brain: This is my personal story of losing God through atheism and finding him again through science. This is Mike’s most requested talk.
How Your Brain is Wired for God: Many secularists accuse believers of participating in mass delusion, but is belief in God unnatural? I cover research from Oxford on dualism, the God Gene, anthropological research into the psychology of believers, and well documented research of how children’s understanding of God grows to demonstrate that belief in God is a natural behavior of all human brains.
Walking with Doubt: Many people question the basics of the Christian faith, but long for spiritual community and meaning in life. What does it mean to be a follower of Jesus who isn’t sure if God is real? How can someone like that “drop their nets” and follow Christ? And how can people who are secure in their faith best help others who struggle to know God?
How Science Can Change your Prayer and Make You Closer to God: Neurologists and anthropologists have done tremendous research into prayer and meditation practices. In the process, science had honed in on the church practices that are the best at helping people feel closer to God and experience the positive physical, cognitive, and emotional benefits associated with prayer. This talk shows how to apply the insights of this research in your own prayer life.
Darwin & Genesis – Making Sense of Science and Creation: The ongoing battle between the Disciples of Darwin and Young Earth Creationists make headlines all the time, but neither of these groups represent a majority in America. Science does an amazing job of explaining how our world came to be, while belief in God provides meaning and community to billions of people. Are God and Evolution mutually exclusive, or is it possible to understand science and honor God?
Understanding the Worship Wars: Have you ever noticed that people come to radically different conclusions even when offered the same information? We see this at play in religion, politics, sports, art, and even Thanksgiving dinner. Where do these different ways of viewing the world come from, and why do they cause so much conflict? Spiral Dynamics is a theoretical model of how human consciousness changes the world, and then reacts to those changes—and it also helps us understand the conflict that plagues the Church.
WHAT PEOPLE ARE SAYING ABOUT MIKE:
“I honestly don’t know whether I’d still be a Christian or not if I hadn’t met Mike. I consider him to be one of the most interesting and important voices in American Christianity right now.”
Michael Gungor, Dove Award winner, Grammy nominee, and singer/songwriter
“Science Mike is way too funny to be as smart as he is and way too honest, touching, insightful and entertaining to be ignored. What I mean is, I resent his multiple talents. Any time he’s speaking my ears perk up like a dog hearing a can opener, and yours should, too. Also, feed your dog.”
Pete Holmes, Comedian and Host of You Made it Weird with Pete Holmes
“Mike McHargue is one of the smartest thinkers of our time. His understanding of the Universe, and its intricacies, is inspiring and beautiful beyond measure. I can only assume that as a child, he took all of his toys apart and put them back together again just to figure them out. With that same wonder and curiosity, he lays out every tiny, confusing piece of Science and Religion on the table, and we as his readers and listeners get to watch and learn as he pieces it all together.”
Ryan O’Neal, Authro, Sleeping At Last
“[Mike] is someone filled with wonder and awe, who looks at the world and in the facts and pain and science and poetry and heartbreak sees something beautiful at work, and he has the uncanny ability-maybe the better word would be power-to explain and describe and articulate that something beautiful like few people I’ve ever heard.
Mike is a rare talent, a rare voice, a rare soul.”
Rob Bell, New York Times Bestselling Author
“Mike McHargue’s message reminds us that we can believe in God, love Jesus, and use our brains all at the same time. He speaks with knowledge, humor, and compassion for those of us whose faith journey has led to some very unexpected places. He helped me on my own journey, and I am willing to bet that there are people in your community that he can help as well.”
Rob Carmack, lead pastor, Collective Church, Ft. Worth, Texas
“Mike’s presentation at Granger on neuroscience and prayer was unique, engaging, and insightful. We were trying to reach an eclectic audience of seekers and believers, academics and laypeople, and he connected across the board. The impact of his time is still being felt in the ongoing conversations and new steps of faith he provoked. But maybe the best part about Mike’s visit was that his humble, thoughtful demeanor on-stage was matched in every other interaction we had leading up to the event and during his time in town. He was a joy to work with. I can’t recommend him highly enough.”
Jason Miller, Teaching Pastor, Granger Community Church
“Mike is the best kind of nerd – an engaging storyteller that strikes the perfect balance of being both smart and accessible. His story and willingness to tackle difficult questions of faith and science is a gift to all of us.”
Carter Sample, High School Pastor, Hosanna! Lutheran Church
Elisa Morgan was named by Christianity Today as one of the top fifty women influencing today’s church and culture and is one of today’s most sought-after authors, speakers, and leaders. She has authored over fifteen books on mothering, spiritual formation, and evangelism, including She Did What She Could: Five Words of Jesus That Will Change Your Life, The NIV Mom’s Devotional Bible and most recently, The Beauty of Broken.
For twenty years, Elisa Morgan served as CEO of MOPS International (www.mops.org). Under her leadership, MOPS grew from 350 to over 4,000 groups throughout the United States and in thirty other countries, influencing over 100,000 moms every year. Elisa now serves as President Emerita.
As a speaker, Elisa has spoken for a very diverse list of audiences. From national and regional Women’s Conferences (Women of Faith, Synergy, Women of Vision, Extraordinary Women), Denominational and Para-church Conferences (Assemblies of God, Evangelical Presbyterian, Youth for Christ International, Children’s Pastors Conference, Christian Leadership Alliance, Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability), to churches across the country, Elisa’s message of surprising personal honesty and insightful biblical challenge always connects and inspires. Furthermore, as one of the very few long-serving female CEOs in the evangelical nonprofit arena, Elisa is a highly respected speaker on leadership issues and a effective keynote for NGO and non-profit fundraising events.
In January 2014, Elisa became a cohost of the syndicated radio program Discover the Word, a daily fifteen minute real-time conversation around the written and living Word of God. As the publisher of FullFill (www.fullfill.org), a free digital magazine for women of all ages, stages, and callings, her current mission is to mobilize women to invest their influence in God’s purposes.
Elisa received a BS from the University of Texas and an MDiv from Denver Seminary. She served as the Dean of Women at Western Bible College (now Colorado Christian University) and on the board of ECFA (Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability). Currently she serves on the board of Denver Seminary.
She is married to Evan (Senior Vice President of Global Ministry Efforts for RBC Ministries) and has two grown children and one grandchild who live near her in Denver, Colorado. At the moment, her favorite thing to do is to walk her enormous rottweilers, Wilson and Darla, in the free space behind her house. If you were watching, you wouldn’t know for sure just “who” is walking “who.”
TOPICS AND EVENT PACKAGES:
“The Beauty of Broken” (Stand Alone or 1-3 talk series)
Stand Alone: “The Beauty of Broken”
There is no such thing as perfect – in families, in leadership, in life. Yet hope emerges through understanding that our brokenness – placed in God’s redeeming hands – may be our most beautiful offering in our world. In this powerful presentation, Elisa Morgan shares from her own life to reveal ways in which God both loves and uses the broken for his beautiful purposes in our world. (Various scriptures including Isaiah 53:5)
One – Three Talk Series:
1. “The Unexpected Beauty of Broken Us”
2.”The Beauty of Broken Family Values” (Three specific values from book TBD)
3.”A Beautifully Broken Legacy”
“She Did What She Could” (Stand Alone or 2 talk series)
Stand Alone: “She Did What She Could”
Most of us care. We really do. We care about poverty and injustice, about orphans and the sick. And yet, weighed down by the everyday load of bringing home a paycheck, putting food on the table, and taking care of our family demands, we question our ability to make a difference. Bombarded by one celebrity help-the-world-athon after another, we shrug our shoulders in futility and do absolutely nothing. Enter SDWSC. Based on the woman who anointed Jesus’ feet with expensive perfume in Mark 14, SDWSC provides overwhelmed, yet service-seeking, significance-starved readers a realistic response to the seemingly unmeetable needs around us. (Mark 14:1-9)
Two Part Series:
1. “She Did What She Could”
2. “What IF We Did What We Could?”
“Twinkle” (Stand Alone or 2 talk series)
Stand Alone: “Twinkle”
When Jesus said, “You are the light of the world,” he meant it. There is no “Plan B”. We can all share our faith in real and everyday ways, “twinkling” like stars in a dark world that desperately needs the light of Jesus. Based on Philippians 2:15-17, Elisa will guide us past the “I Can’ts” (“I don’t know the answers, I have a tiny light…) of lifestyle evangelism towards the “I Cans” (I can be a friend, I can never give up). Together we’ll discover, “Yes, we can!” (Philippians 2:15 and various Scriptures)
Two Part Series:
2. “Light the World”
“Naked Fruit” (Stand Alone or 1-3 part series)
Stand Alone: “Naked Fruit”
The fruit of the Spirit is more than being nice. It’s what we look like when we look like Jesus. Join Elisa Morgan as she gets past the peeling into the real meaning of these nine qualities. (Galatians 5:22-23)
One – Three Part Series:
1. “Naked Fruit”
2. “Getting Past the Peeling”
3. “The Orchard”
Authentic Personal and Spiritual Development:
“Doorways to Forgiveness”
“Deeper in the Word”
“Lessons from the Desert”
“Hearing Aids for the Word of God”
“Freely Receive, Freely Give”
“Starting Up a Start Up Ministry”
“Be the Brand”
“Issues in Successful Succession Planning”
“Maximizing Women in Leadership”
“Mentoring: Use it and Loose it”
“Listen to the Stones”
“Ears to Hear”
JENA LEE NARDELLA
In 2004 when most 22 year olds, fresh out of college, are looking for their first job, traveling Europe or moving back in with their parents, Jena Lee Nardella was on her way to Nashville, TN to co-found Blood: Water Mission, with Grammy Award winning band, Jars of Clay.
Over the past 11 years, under her vision and leadership, Blood: Water has become an internationally renown equipping agency that partners with African grassroots organizations to address the HIV/AID and water crises. They have brought clean water access to more than one million people through their 1000 Wells Project, funded health clinics, and provided treatment, care and support for communities affected by AIDS.
In addition to her work at Blood: Water, Jena is a popular speaker on college and University Campuses, churches and conferences around the world. In 2012, Nardella was invited by President Obama to pray for the nation in front of a TV audience of 20 million. She has been honored as an Epoch Award Winner, as GOOD Magazine’s GOOD 100, and as one of Christianity Today’s 33 under 33 Christian leaders shaping the next generation of faith.
As a writer, She has contributed to numerous books including Hope in the Dark and The Revolution: A Field Manual for Changing Your World, and has been featured in the films Sons of Lwala and Unconditional Love. Her first book One Thousand Wells: How an Audacious Goal Taught Me to Love the World Instead of Save It will release August 2015 (Howard Books, Simon & Schuster).
Jena and her husband, James, have one son, Jude, and split time between Nashville, Tenn. and East Africa.
Enuma Okoro is a Nigerian-American award-winning author, speaker and spiritual director. With a professional background in Communications, Psychology and Theology, and her uniquely diverse global and cultural experience, Enuma’s work embraces the dynamics of effective communication, the classic spiritual traditions, and the contemporary arts. She writes, speaks and consults on numerous issues and topics based off of four key areas:
1. Identity and Belonging in a diverse world
2. Women and the transformative power of personal narratives
3. Professional and social communities and the importance of a collective and shared narrative
4. Spiritual formation, growth and holistic wellness
She is a widely sought-after speaker at colleges, universities, non-profit organizations, religious institutions, and conferences across the United States, Europe, Africa, and Australia. She was most recently listed as one of seven top Young Influencers of the next generation by Catalyst. In June 2012 Okoro had the honor of being the first woman of African descent to preach at the historic American Church in Paris, France. (Martin Luther King, Jr. was the first man of African descent to preach there in October of 1965).
Her first book, the spiritual memoir Reluctant Pilgrim: A Moody, Somewhat Self-Indulgent Introvert’s Search for Spiritual Community (Fresh Air Books 2012), was a winning finalist of the 2010 USA Best Books Award and received the 2011 National Indie Excellent Book Awards Winning Finalist in “Spirituality and African-American Non-Fiction.” Enuma is also the author of Silence (UpperRoom 2012) and co-author with Shane Claiborne and Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove of Common Prayer: Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals, (Zondervan 2010).
Enuma’s fourth book, Talking Taboo: American Christian Women Get Frank About Faith (White Cloud Press 2013) is written with Erin Lane and a part of the I SPEAK FOR MYSELF series.
Her work has been featured on ABC’s Good Morning America, CNN, The Washington Post, The Huffington Post, NPR, The Michael Eric Dyson Show, Weavings Journal of the Spiritual Life, Sojourner’s Magazine, Burnside Writer’s Collective, Faith and Leadership, Christianity Today, Her.meneutics, Neue: The Magazine for Leaders Shaping the Future of the Church, The Christian Century, Red Letter Christians (Tony Campolo and friends) and more.
Christian Piatt had a Bible (literally) thrown at him when he was kicked out of his youth group for asking too many questions about God, Jesus, and the Christian faith that he would end up running from for much of his life. After painstakingly regaining his faith, this author, speaker, preacher, musician, spoken word artist and editor received a God-given platform to help reconcile what Christianity claims to be with what it’s intended to be.
Over the past 12 years Christian has utilized his many talents (either separately or together) to creatively expand his sphere of influence from the podiums of Chapman and Texas Christian University, to the chapels of Drury, Jarvis Christian and Culver-Stockton College, and to the stages of The Wild Goose Festival and the Soularize Conference. Wherever Christian is, his words, music and spoken word poetry minister deeply to a generation of young people who are defecting from religion in response to years of hypocrisy and abuse.
In addition to his personal appearances he reaches a larger and more diverse audience through his on-air appearances on Carol Howard Merritt’s God Complex Radio, Doug Pagitt’s Radio Show, State of Belief Radio with Welton Gaddy or as the co-host of Homebrewed Christianity’s CultureCast.
In 2004, Christian co-founded Milagro Christian Church in Pueblo, Colorado with his wife, Rev. Amy Piatt. Currently he serves as the Director of Premium Content for the interfaith website, Patheos, and as the Director of Growth and Development for First Christian Church (DOC) in Portland, Oregon.
Christian is the creator and editor of the Banned Questions book series, which include Banned Questions About the Bible, Banned Questions About Jesus and Banned Questions About Christians . He co-created and co-edited the WTF: Where’s the Faith? young adult series with Chalice Press, for which he also co-edited the book Split Ticket: Independent Faith in a Time of Partisan Politics, and contributed a chapter to Oh God, Oh God, Oh God: Young Adults Speak Out About Sexuality and Christianity.
Christian’s first book, LOST: A Search for Meaning, came out in 2006, followed by MySpace to Sacred Space: God for a New Generation in 2007, which was co-authored with his wife, Amy. In 2012 Chalice Press published his memoir on faith, family and parenting called PregMANcy: A Dad, a Little Dude and a Due Date. In August 2014 Jericho will release Piatt’s first hardcover book called postChristian: What’s Left? Can We Fix It? Do We Care?
In addition to his books, Christian is:
LECTURE/ WORKSHOP TOPICS:
PostChristian: What’s Left? Can We Fix It? Do We Care?
(60-120 minutes – could be expanded to more detailed workshop format)
The influence of Christianity is changing dramatically in the western world. We are an increasingly “postChristian,” culture, in that Christianity no longer is the dominant value system at the center of our cultural identity. How did we get here, and what can we do about it? Should the institutional church be saved? Does the world really need the church? Christian Piatt walks through his “Seven Scandals of Christianity” and “Seven Christ-Like Virtues” in an attempt to help people stop being more Christian and start being more Christ-like.
Art as Justice: Birthing Hope in a Violent World
(Three 45-minute talks or one 120-minute talk)
The world tells us that, when confronted with oppression, injustice or violence, we have two choices: do nothing or respond in-kind with force. But Jesus pointed to a radical “third way,” using creative nonviolent engagement. Learn how the arts can be used to more deeply engage people, mobilize them to action and even subvert unjust systems, all while being inspired by the Gospel.
Evolving Justice: From Retribution to Restoration
If we want Biblical justification for seeking revenge, we don’t have to look any further than, “Eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth.” But given that the rule of the land before this was “Avenge sevenfold,” this new model of justice actually was an effort to limit the escalation of violence by retributive means. So when Jesus told people to turn the other cheek, he was perfecting the intent of the old law by taking it a dramatic and important step further. Whereas retributive justice is concerned with what is fair and with getting even, restorative justice is concerned with what is right and with making things whole again. The call of the gospel is to the latter, and Christian Piatt walks us through what this looks like in our world today.
Banned Questions about the Bible/Jesus/Christians
(Time can vary based on event. Can be lecture or workshop.)
We’ve all had those nagging questions about our faith that we’ve been afraid to ask at one time or another like, “What does the Bible really say about homosexuality?”, “Does hell really exist?” or “Can I still be a Christian and not believe the Bible is literally true, word for word?” Christian Piatt uses his three-book series about these banned questions as a springboard into rich conversation about all of the things we’ve always wanted to know about our faith but didn’t know how to ask, and how we can go about creating space in our faith communities for healthier, critical though, dialogue and creative exploration.
Cultivating Love Greater Than Our Differences
(5-6 hour workshop)
We all enjoy privilege in certain ways in our lives. But usually, our privilege is invisible to us until we don’t have it anymore. Naming and applying this privilege toward racial, sexual, gender, age and other kinds of reconciliation is a Gospel call, but one that many Christians fail to do well on a daily basis. Christian Piatt leads a workshop on faith-based cultural competency skill development that is essential for any church, religious leader or practicing Christian to practice in order to be relevant in a fractured, pluralistic and increasingly dynamic world.
Tales of a Male Preacher’s Wife
(from 60-minute lecture to 3 workshops)
Every time someone tells Christian Piatt’s wife, Rev. Amy Piatt, that she preaches pretty well for a girl, he has to bite his lip. He’s also not too crazy about when they tease him about being a pastor’s wife, and ask if he can make a mean green bean casserole. He’s a man, even if he does work at home, pick up the kids from school and cook most of the meals. But if all of the traditional gender roles are up for grabs, what does it mean to be a man in today’s world? And are such questions good or bad for the Church? Christian explored gender, sex and sexuality from a postmodern perspective, helping both men and women find new ways to claim their identities as embodied, spiritual beings. While some Christian’s are trying desperately to return to some nostalgic notion of traditional gender roles, Piatt celebrates the opportunity to live into what each of us was perfectly created to be, rather than what the world – or even the church – tells us we’re supposed to be.
Rev. Kerlin Richter is currently the Rector of Saint David of Wales Episcopal Church in Portland, Oregon. For two years she was the founding priest of Bushwick Abbey, a new creative Episcopal Church in Brooklyn, NY.
When she stands in front of an audience one is captivated by her story of falling madly in love with Jesus, the Bible and church in her early 20’s when she was already a tattooed opinionated feminist. “Jesus healed me of apathy as much as he healed any leper on any road to Jerusalem…” she recently told the capacity audience at the Why Christian? Conference in Minneapolis, MN.
Kerlin is the former Editor of Hip Mama, a counter-cultural feminist parenting zine, Additionally she has been a painter, a writer, a substitute teacher, a waitress, a librarian, a personal assistant, a tax preparer, an ice-cream scooper, an art restorer, a barista, a nanny, an accounts receivable clerk, a potter, an art supply seller, a dishwasher, and a graphic designer.
But now, she says, she is bone-achingly grateful to be a priest.
And why is this? It’s because Kerlin is now “…working for something so much larger and more magnificent than can be seen…spending life delving deeper into the mystery of Christ’s death and resurrection, and seeing this earthy church as a beautifully expressive poem of that very truth.”
Kerlin is a passionate lover of Jesus, She plumbs the depths of our ancient and precious stories and practices, and tethers them to this beautiful and broken world we live in, to anchor our lives to the story of love. She is a space maker, a people connector, and a liturgical poet.
She married the nice guy from the bar 13 years ago and is the mother of an 11 year old Rubik’s cube addict with impeccable fashion sense.
Deidra Riggs is a national speaker, an editor, and the founder and host of Jumping Tandem: The Retreat, a bi-annual event for writers, authors, entrepreneurs, and other fabulous people who have an amazing dream. She is wise, thoughtful, and approachable. Deidra is not afraid to tackle though topics, but does so with grace and vulnerability. She is a storyteller who creates safe space for for navigating creative and cultural tension. Deidra invites listeners to pull up a chair to the table and engage with others, with their own questions and doubts, and with the God who knows and loves them beyond belief.
Deidra has been a featured speaker at Q Women, TEDx, and The City Gates Initiative, as well as several women’s events, including Allume, Winsome Retreat, and the Beautiful Life Conference, and Compel. She is a contributing writer for Encourage, and her work has been featured online at the Washington Post and Today’s Christian Woman.
Deidra is the author of Every Little Thing: Making a World of Difference Right Where You Are. Her second book will release in the spring of 2017. Deidra and her husband are the proud parents of two adult children, and the happy inhabitants of an empty nest. they live in Lincoln, Nebraska.
What Others Are Saying
“Deidra Riggs is not only a phenomenal speaker, but also a delightful human being. Working with dozens of speakers over the years as a Conference planner and host, I highly value the way that Deidra can tailor a message to the audience in a way that is poignant, relevant, and encouraging. Unafraid to tackle hard topics, Deidra speaks with grace and eloquence that moves the listener from a beginning place to somewhere far richer in the end.” – Logan Wolfram, Allume Conference CEO and Host, Speaker, Author of Curious Faith: Rediscovering Hope in the God of Possibility
“Deidra has the unique ability to take a room of 400 women and create an atmosphere that makes it feel like you are sitting with friends around the kitchen table. Her conversational style connects with the hearts of women and leads them to deeper places of becoming ok with who they are and who God created them to be. Her challenging perspective prompts reflection and change, and yet is covered in love and grace.” – Jen Sandbulte, Compel Conference Coordinator
“Listening to Deidra speak is like sitting in her living room, talking with friends. Her words invite you into that kind of space. Humble and confident, challenging and hopeful, authentic to the core. Deidra graciously takes us to places we might rather avoid and gives us the courage and eyes to see the redemption waiting to happen.” — Kim Hyland, Winsome Retreat Founder and Host.
Celebrating your right-here-right-now life: You can stop wishing your life away, and begin now to live fully — without guilt or shame — sinking deeply into the skin you’ve been given, the place where you live, and the on-purpose way God created you to be.
Encountering the God of the wilderness: Finding hope in the darkest places and hopes corners of living.
Writers, Artists, Entrepreneurs and Other Fabulous People Who Have an Amazing Dream: Exploring imagination as a gift and inheritance from God.
Get Home Safely: Talking about racism, the Church, and common ground
Jo Saxton is a leader, visionary, and practitioner that church leaders and lay people need to hear!
Born to Nigerian parents and raised in London, Jo has spread her message for the past twenty years across the UK and North America. She has served as a pastor at St. Thomas Church in Sheffield, England, and in a wide range of churches in the United States. In 2009 Jo went to work for 3DM where she continues to serve while writing books, speaking around the world, and planting a church with her husband.
Her message encourages people to engage in missional living and discipleship. Her message specifically equips women for leadership and influence and inspires all believers to engage the world in the same way God does—by going out rather than just reaching out.
Jo has spoken at colleges, universities, and seminaries, including Liberty University, Bethel University, Virginia Baptist College, and Fuller Seminary. She has addressed conference audiences at Q, Catalyst, Simply Youth, and the National Day of Prayer, as well as denominational gatherings for the Virginia Baptist Women, Salvation Army, Evangelical Covenant and Foursquare Church, Lutheran Congregations on Mission for Christ and North Star Church Network.
In her book More than Enchanting: Breaking Through Barriers to Influence Your World (IVP Books, 2012), Jo discusses the central role of women in the church and how to handle the juxtaposition of the biblical model and the current marginalization women find in their churches, neighborhoods, cities, and society. High Heels and Holiness: The Smart Girl’s Guide to Living Life Well (Hodder, 2012) is a discipleship guide for young adult women, and Real God, Real Life (Hodder, 2011) explores the desire for a deep faith in a life that works. In addition to writing books, Jo blogs at 3DM and Today’s Christian Women.
She and her husband Chris have recently planted Mission Point Church, in the Minneapolis area, where Jo serves as one of the pastors. Jo loves running, good music, reading, and laughing loudly with family and friends over a great meal. Jo and Chris have two amazing daughters.
John Sowers grew up without a father, like millions of other children in America. But unlike many children, John had the benefit of faithful mentoring. Now John is telling everyone who will listen about the difference a mentor makes in the lives of the fatherless.
John has spoken at the White House. He also has spoken at Texas A&M, Auburn University, and Oklahoma Christian University; Story conference in Chicago, Catalyst conference, the Justice Conference, Storyline, and the Cove; and at Saddleback Church in Orange County, California; Rolling Hills in Portland, Oregon; and Life Church in Oklahoma City, to name just a few churches.
John was honored as a Champion of Change by the White House in 2012. He is President of the Mentoring Project, a movement that inspires and equips faith communities to rewrite the stories of fatherless youth through mentoring. He is the author of the critically acclaimed Fatherless Generation: Redeeming the Story (HarperCollins, 2010) and The Heroic Path: In Search of the Masculine Heart (Jericho Books, 2014).
John and the Mentoring Project have been featured on CNN, Maria Shriver/NBC, and Fox News and in Christianity Today and Relevant magazines.
Close friends and fellow authors have this to say about the quality of John’s life and the depth of his message.
“Love is a force. And John’s brand of love is a force of nature. He relentlessly loves his wife, his daughters, and strangers like he’s doing a cannonball. He is a fierce and loyal advocate. He is a hero for the fatherless. Best of all, he is my friend.”
—Bob Goff, author of Love Does
“John Sowers is living proof that God can take fatherless boys and turn them into men of integrity and excellence, men who lead movements and love their wives, and even men who write books. I am very proud of him, and he is very proud of me.”
—Donald Miller, author of Blue like Jazz, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, and Scary Close
John received his Master of Divinity from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and his doctorate from Gordon–Conwell Theological Seminary. He enjoys remote places, knife making, mythopoeia, and the Boston Red Sox. He is active on Twitter and Instagram, @johnsowers, and lives in Oklahoma City with his wife, Kari, and two daughters.
Suzanne Stabile is a highly sought after speaker and teacher, known for her engaging laugh, personal vulnerability and creative approach to Enneagram instruction.
The Enneagram is an ancient personality typing system that identifies Nine Personality Types that are expressed individually and in relationship to others. Unlike Marston’s DiSC™ Assessment or the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator™, the Enneagram acts as a unique tool for understanding and explaining human behavior, and the underlying motivations that drive behavior and the gifts we all have for the transformation of non-productive encounters with others.
As an internationally recognized Enneagram Master, Suzanne has conducted over 500 Enneagram workshops over the past 25 years. She has spoken to College audiences that include Baylor and Drury Universities, Hendrix College, Perkins School of Theology (SMU) and Brite Divinity School (TCU), hundreds of churches across America including First Baptist, Austin, Frist Presbyterian, and Broadway Baptist, Ft. Worth, TX and teaches regularly in the Baylor Health Care System, in Dallas, in both the Cancer and Transplant Hospitals.
Additionally, she has taught at Richard Rohr’s Center for Action and Contemplation and has been a keynote speaker for a number of Conferences offered by the CAC. She taught with Father Rohr to an international audience in Assisi, Italy, on The Enneagram and Paradox. Other events Suzanne has spoken at include The North Texas Conference of the United Methodist Church, Christianity 21, The Festival of Courage and Faith in Greenwich CT, the Emerging Christianity and Telemachus Conferences, the Southwest Regional Gathering of the Disciples of Christ, and Laity Lodge.
Suzanne received her B.S. in Social Sciences from Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas where she also completed additional graduate work in the Schools of Sociology and Theology. She has served as a high school professor, the first women’s basketball coach at SMU after Title IX, and as the founding Director of Shared Housing, a social service agency in Dallas.
When she is not on the road teaching and lecturing, Suzanne is at home in Dallas, Texas with her husband Rev. Joseph Stabile, a United Methodist pastor with whom she co-founded Life in the Trinity Ministry and the Micah Center. She is the mother of four children and grandmother of six.
Becca Stevens is many things…an author, speaker, social entrepreneur, founder and president of Thistle Farms, the largest social enterprise in the US run by survivors. She has been featured in the New York Times, on ABC World News, NPR, PBS, and CNN.
In 2011, the White House named Becca a “Champion of Change”. Recently, she was featured in the PBS documentary, “A Path Appears,” named Humanitarian of the Year in 2014 by the Small Business Council of America as well as the TJ Martell Foundation, inducted into the Tennessee Women’s Hall of Fame and was conferred an honorary doctorate by Sewanne: The University of the South.
When Becca speaks the listener is struck by her earnest, empathetic delivery infused with her personality and sense of humor. Her message is honest and she offers groups a way to move from fear and cynicism into inspired action. . She is always willing to work with the theme of the event, but her common topics include:
• Burning Desires: Where our passion meets the world’s needs.
• Bold Leadership
• How Thinking Locally Impacts the World.
• The Art of Healing and Truth-Telling.
• The Place Where Justice and Healing Meet in Social Enterprise.
• Justice Tea Parties: Drinking tea from around the world.
• Consider the Thistle: a Model for Discipleship.
• Loving the World Lavishly.
• Faith of our Farmer.
• Wives Tales and Snake Oils.
She regularly keynotes at national events, business gatherings, morning worship in churches as well as universities and colleges across the country inspiring young adults to live into their ideals. She is an international voice for the growing global movement for women’s freedom and a fervently hopeful and determinedly loving champion for the marginalized.
She lives in Nashville, TN where she serves as an Episcopal priest and lives with her Grammy-winning songwriter husband and three sons.
Filmmaker/writer/producer/recording artist Steve Taylor earned his “Renaissance Man” stripes (Prism magazine) from a body of work that’s garnered him multiple Grammy, Billboard, Telly, Addy and Dove awards and nominations.
As a filmmaker, he is the director/co-writer/producer of Blue Like Jazz, based on Donald Miller’s New York Times bestselling memoir. The movie had its world premiere in March, 2012 at the South By Southwest Film Festival, and was released theatrically nationwide via Roadside Attractions (Winter’s Bone, Margin Call). The film’s unique funding garnered national press due to its then record-setting raise of $345,000 from 4,500 backers on Kickstarter.com. His debut feature, The Second Chance, had its nationwide theatrical release in 2006 via Sony Pictures Releasing.
His career as a recording artist earned him two Grammy nominations for Meltdown (1984) and Squint (1993), and his resume as a producer includes the Platinum-certified Sixpence None The Richer and their worldwide smash hit “Kiss Me.” He is also the producer of three Gold-certified albums for Australian pop/rock band Newsboys and has written the lyrics to most of their biggest hits, including “Shine,” “Breakfast,” and ASCAP Song of the Year “He Reigns.”
As a speaker, Steve has delivered keynote addresses to the National Youth Workers Convention and shared his story and wit at festivals, chapel services and master classes around the globe, including Stanford University, England’s Greenbelt Festival, New Zealand’s Parachute Festival, the University of Texas at Austin, New England’s Soulfest, The University of Mary Hardin-Baylor, Lee University, Greenville College, John Brown University, Dordt College, Colorado Christian University and many others. Additionally, Steve was recently named filmmaker-in-residence at Lipscomb University’s new Film and Creative Media Master’s Program.
His topics and master classes include:
The Art of Courage
Producing Movies (for the primate and the sophisticate)
A Challenge to Faith-based Filmmakers
Directing as Discipline
Listening To Your Screenplay
Steve lives in Nashville, Tennessee with his wife, the artist D. L. Taylor, and their daughter.
Growing up as a conservative pastor’s kid in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, Sarah shattered the glass ceiling of her family’s expectation and traditional upbringing to become the first woman in her family to graduate from college. She earned a masters degree in Medical Science from Yale School of Medicine, and then studied Journalism at Columbia University’s School of Journalism.
Her forward trajectory came to a grinding halt when she was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 27. After she lost everything, she moved from the east coast to Portland, Oregon, with just a suitcase of clothes, and started over. She had a chance encounter with a Somali refugee family on the train in Portland and developed a relationship with them. While she taught the single Somali mom and her five daughters how to live in America, they taught her how to love and be loved again.
The details of Sarah’s and the Somali girls’ story of survival, recovery and redemption are recorded in her memoir, The Invisible Girls (Jericho Books, 2013). The proceeds from the book are going towards a college fund for the five Somali girls featured in the book.
As a speaker, Sarah is a regular at retreats, churches, colleges and conferences. She was recently featured at Donald Miller’s Storyline Conferenceand named one of 40 Women Under 40 who are challenging taboos of the Christian Faith by the I Speak For Myself initiative.
The Invisible Girls was chosen as the First Year Experience book for incoming freshman at Mississippi State University, where Sarah delivered the convocation in August 2014. Sarah has also written for several magazines such as Relevant Magazine, Burnsidewriters.com and Christianity Today.
She is a spokesperson for Vanity Fair Lingerie’s Women Who Do campaign, which features women who are making a positive difference in their communities.
TOPICS AND EVENT PACKAGES:
Navigating Life and Faith as a Woman
Singleness: A Hole In The Wall Or A Doorway? Single Talk (Details)
Singleness: A Hole In The Wall Or A Doorway? Weekend Retreat (Details)
The Theology of Suffering and Cancer Survival
God’s Heart for Invisible People (Details)
HIGH SCHOOL – I’m Just Like You (Details)
COLLEGE – So You Want to Change the World (Details)
WOMEN’S RETREAT – Compassion (Details)
WOMENS RETREAT – Finding God in the Storm (Details)
SANDRA VAN OPSTAL
Sandra Van Opstal, a second generation Latina, is the Executive Pastor at Grace and Peace Community on the west-side of Chicago. She is a liturgist and activist who is passionate about re-imagining worship that mobilizes for reconciliation and justice.
In her fifteen years with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, Sandra mobilized thousands of college students for God’s mission of reconciliation and justice in the world. Sandra served as Director of Worship for the Urbana Missions Conference, Chicago Urban Program Director, Latino National Leadership Team (LaFe), and Northwestern University Team leader (Multiethnic fellowship).
Sandra’s influence has also reached many others through her leadership and preaching on topics such as justice, poverty, racism, racial identity, reconciliation, and global mission. She has been featured at Wheaton College, North Park University, The Justice Conference, Evangelical Covenant conferences, Willow Creek Association conference, and various churches. Sandra serves as a board member for Evangelicals for Justice and the Christian Community Development Association. Sandra is also the Worship Director for the Lausanne Younger Leaders Gathering in Jakarta, Summer 2016.
In addition to her ministry experience, Sandra hold a Masters of Divinity from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Illinois and has been published in multiple journals. She has authored Small Group Leader’s Handbook, Glod’s Graffiti Devotional, The Mission of Worship and The Next Worship.
MATTHEW PAUL TURNER
When Matthew Paul Turner stands in front of an audience, one can be assured that the presentation of this author, blogger, speaker, and a leading progressive voice in evangelicalism will be will be funny, entertaining, poignant, and direct, but never boring!
Whether he’s retelling the story of a Sunday school teacher who set a Barbie doll on fire to explain hell or sharing the 400 year old story of a Puritan named Anne Hutchinson, who helped shape God into the deity that Americans worship today, Turner is always a storyteller. And his primary goal is to use the power of story to bring laughter, insight, emotion, and truth. Most of all, Matthew loves talking about God’s story and how it relates, shapes, reveals itself in life’s big and small moments.
As a speaker, Turner has taken this story to Colleges and Universities (Baylor, Bethel, Concordia, U of Wisconsin, Belmont, Colgate, Olivet, Missouri Baptist, Florida Southern, to name a few) Festivals (SoulFest, Cornerstone, and Lifefest) The Echo Conference and on tour with The Afters, Bethany Dillon, Matt Maher and Future of Forestry.
As a writer, Matthew has authored or coauthored nearly 20 books, including Our Great Big American God (2014), Churched (2008), Hear No Evil (2010), The Voice (a bible translation, 2012), The Coffeehouse Gospel, Everything You Need To Know Before College (2006),, and The Christian Culture Survival Guide(2004). Additionally, he has written for The Washington Post, USA Today, Relevant, Christianiy Today, The Daily Beast, Yahoo, and many other publications.
What sets Matthew apart from today’s throng of Christian communicators is his talent for combining thoughtful, often opinionated commentary about a variety of faith-related topics with poignant, spot-on wit and self-deprecating insight. Lauded by Publishers Weekly as “one of Christianity’s fresh voices” and revered by some as the “Christian David Sedaris,” Matthew Paul Turner communicates what lots of people are thinking and unwilling to say aloud.
In 2006, Matthew launched the blog JesusNeedsNewPR.net as a platform to discuss various aspects and opinions regarding Christianity and American Culture. The humorous and thoughtful blog rapidly acquired a large and loyal fanbase. Four years later, in March 2010, Matthew overhauled the site with a self-hosted domain (MatthewPaulTurner.com) and a refined strategy. In the past 19 months, more than 4.5 million people have visited MatthewPaulTurner.com, and many have become daily readers.
Matthew, along with his wife, Jessica, and their children, Elias and Adeline, live in Nashville, Tennessee. In addition to writing, raising children, and volunteer work, Matthew is also a live music enthusiast, a novel woodcarver, and an amateur photographer.
HERE’S WHAT PEOPLE ARE SAYING ABOYT MATTHEW:
“Matthew Paul Turner has written a fascinating biography of God–specifically God’s sojourn in America. This book is enlightening, funny and filled with so many historical insights, I found myself uttering ‘Aha!’ at least twice per page.”
—AJ Jacobs, New York Times bestselling author of The Year of Living Biblically
“OUR GREAT BIG AMERICAN GOD by Matthew Paul Turner combines history, social commentary and good writing into a powerful work that tells us just why we Americans are all so crazy-God made us do it! If you want to understand America, read this book.”
—Frank Schaeffer, author, And God Said, “Billy!”
“In this book Matthew Paul Turner gives us a glimpse into how the church in America has been trying its best to destroy Christianity, and gives us some hope that it might just survive regardless.”
—Peter Rollins, author, The Idolatry of God
“I read Matthew Paul Turner books for two reasons, he’s been a good friend for years and his ideas always challenge me. The question, “Who have I made God out to be?” is a critical one to wrestle with, and this book provides the gym for the match.”
—Jon Acuff, New York Times best selling author of Start
“Whip-smart, wry, acerbic, and surprisingly tender, OUR GREAT BIG AMERICAN GOD is a grand family tree of the union between God and America. As a Canadian who is often baffled by—while still very influenced by—this great big American God, I found Turner’s book enlightening, bold, and downright funny.”
—Sarah Bessey, author of Jesus Feminist
Jamie Wright (better known in some circles as Jamie the Very Worst Missionary) is an Author, blogger, and speaker made popular by her passion to challenge the status quo within the Church, in particular, calling for financial, ethical and personal transparency for the modern Christian Missions movement. With blunt honesty and sharp humor, Jamie speaks candidly from her personal experiences as a woman, mother, pastor’s wife, and missionary abroad, boldly laying out the messy realities of life and faith, the true cost of justice, and the real price of grace.
Variously described as refreshing, disarming, relatable, approachable, authentic, and hilarious, Jamie speaks and writes the way she talks with a good friend over a hot cup of coffee. Her unique voice and fresh perspective have allowed her to connect meaningfully with an immensely diverse audience. She is polished enough for the suburban soccer mom, but gritty enough for the urban sex-worker, with just enough nerd to interest the academic theology geek, and a vocabulary to make the reddest of rednecks blush; Jamie invites everyone to the table. She makes space for us to examine our practices and the attitudes that drive them, encouraging a healthier interchange between the Church and the world.
Jamie has traveled the globe as a writer and/or speaker for non-profit organizations, such as World Vision (community development) and The Exodus Road (anti-slavery and rescue work in SE Asia). She has been invited to speak at churches, universities, and conferences across North America, including Christianity 21, Epiphaneia: Survival of the Weakest, George Fox University, Gardner Webb University, Broom Colloquium, Abilene Christian University, Hardin Simmons University and District Church, as well as many women’s events, and as Emcee for charity fundraisers.
When she’s not airport hopping, Jamie can be found at home in Northern California where she spends most of her time watching Netflix with her giant bearded husband, or crying on the floor of her office while she writes her first book, Badass Christian, available 2017 (Convergent).
A few favorites:
Social Justice in a Social Media World: We are more aware, more compassionate, and more socially responsible than ever before, but are we really changing the world with insightful Facebook posts, clever tweets, and perfectly framed Instagram photos? Not really. So how do we translate all this knowledge, passion, and energy into a significantly better world?
Make Missions Make Sense: A close look at the good, the bad, the ugly, and the just plain stupid things we do in the name of Christian Missions, and some sensible (and shocking) ideas for how to do it better, and affect real, lasting change on a global level.
Me Too: Two little words that have the power to change everything.
Ken Wytsma is a lover of history and culture, remembers seeing the Allman Brothers Band live in 1995 and can’t understand why more people haven’t seen the movie The Shawshank Redemption. Though he grew up as a strong extrovert, these days you’re more likely to find Ken with headphones on in an airplane and in search of a few moments of quite solitude.
Ken came to faith at age twenty-two at Clemson University and has been on a quest to understand the heart of Christian spirituality ever since. His belief that faith is a lived reality is behind his love for the local church, belief in the value of Christian community, and passion for wrestling with the deep questions of life in pursuit of a biblical, authentic, and lived-out Christianity.
A gifted communicator, Ken is known and loved for his transparent and easy style and ability to help others understand their world and faith in new and relevant ways. With degrees in engineering, philosophy and theology, Ken naturally connects with a broad audience.
Ken is a blogger and writer with articles appearing in RELEVANT Magazine, Church Leaders, Huffington Post, Worship Leader Magazine and more. His first book, Pursuing Justice: The Call to Live and Die for Bigger Things, was published in 2012 by Thomas Nelson Publishers.
Ken is the lead pastor of Antioch in Bend, Oregon, which he helped start in 2006. He is also the president of Kilns College, a graduate-only school, where he teaches courses on philosophy and justice.
In 2010, along with the creative communities of World Relief and Kilns College, Ken founded The Justice Conference—an annual international conference that has introduced tens of thousands of men and women to conversations and organizations related to biblical justice.
At the core, Ken is driven by his hope and faith in Christ and believes God is still looking for a few people idealistic enough to think we can change the world—because, as he says, “if God didn’t want us to change the world, he wouldn’t have told us to try.”
Ken lives in Bend, Oregon with his wife, Tamara, and their four daughters (along with two dogs and four hamsters—all female.)
“The most important thing Ken Wytsma has done is listen. He has listened to the victims of injustice, and he has listened to the God of justice. And now he is speaking and writing and organizing about the things he has heard. He has a fire in his bones that has sparked from the urgency that comes from reading the Bible in one hand and the newspaper in the other. Like a growing number of Christians, Ken is convinced that our faith is not just a ticket into heaven and a license to ignore the world around us, but our faith fuels us to love those on the margins and compels us to interrupt the patterns of injustice. Ken is in love with Jesus, he is a man of prayer, and he is also a leader who has realized that we have to become the change that we want to see in the world around us.” Shane Claiborne, author, speaker, and recovering sinner.
“This isn’t a generic blanket endorsement for a leader I admire from afar. I know Ken. I’ve spent time with Ken. I’ve met his family. I’ve engaged in numerous endeavors with Ken and I respect this man – not just the public person but also when he’s not on a platform. While Ken doesn’t have all the answers, one of the reasons why I really respect Ken is that this asking the important questions and helping the wider Church to do so as well. But it’s not just merely asking questions for the sake of having a more robust theology about justice, and leadership…but to ultimately, help us more thoughtfully, prayerfully and passionately follow Christ.” Rev. Eugene Cho, Lead Pastor, Quest Church
“I’ve known Ken Wytsma for a long time and have seen his innovation and thought leadership impact both church and culture. Ken is a uniquely gifted teacher and a collaborative leader of character and integrity. His voice and message will challenge you to know God deeper and inspire you to creatively pursue your calling in the world.” Stephan Bauman, President & CEO World Relief
Karen Spears Zacharias is an award-winning author, a former crime-beat reporter, and a provocative storyteller. This Gold-Star daughter grew up besotted by the wildly disarming stories of her Appalachian kinfolk. As a young girl Karen would often pester her mother throughout the day with the question of “Why ?” Her mother wasn’t much interested in the whys of life. She responded to Karen’s insistent questioning with “Why does it matter? Are you writing a book?”
Turns out Karen would go on to write plenty of books, although, no one is more surprised by that turn of events than Karen and a goodly number of her former teachers, old boyfriends and a dubious pastor or two. “I never dreamed I’d become a writer,” Karen says. “I grew up with simple ambitions – I wanted to stay out of jail and avoid dismemberment. So far, the latter has been much easier to accomplish than I’d imagined.” A vocal advocate on behalf of the local institutionalized church, Karen credits the community of Rose Hill Baptist Church in her hometown of Columbus, Georgia with loving her to Jesus.
Family drama drove this military brat from her beloved South to her adopted Northwest home. “My mother was an emotional long-distance runner,” Karen says. “She coped with my father’s death in Vietnam the military way – she packed up and moved every three years.” After her father’s death, the family moved from Hawkins County, Tennessee to Columbus, Georgia, and eventually to Portland, Oregon.
It was a graduate school professor who pulled aside the 38-year-old mother of four young children and told her she was as writer. Karen laughed at the suggestion. “I grew up in a trailer in West Georgia. I could barely spell, much less write.” But the professor insisted that she make time to write daily. Karen’s career was kick-started by a controversial humor column she wrote titled “Marriage, Motherhood and Money.” That was followed up by a feature story about a Jesus-loving sister to a Charles Manson devotee. Talk about your family dramas
Karen began her first journalism job on her 40th birthday, proving once more that while it’s never too late to get started, older people have to work harder and drink less. Fortunately, like most mothers, editorializing comes naturally to Karen. Her commentary has been featured in the New York Times, Newsweek, CNN, USA Today, and on Good Morning America and National Public Radio.
As a speaker, Karen is a popular figure at colleges, universities, churches, military bases, conferences and retreats. She has spoken at the Children Justice Conference, Louisiana State University (LSU), George Fox University, The Library of Congress in Washington D.C., Fort Benning, Louisiana State New School University in New York City, University Mississippi State, and a myriad of churches and other venues across the country.
She has authored six books, including the beloved bestseller Will Jesus Buy Me a Doublewide?’ cause I need more room for my plasma TV (Zondervan), the military memoir, After the Flag has been Folded (William Morrow), and her latest, a work of fiction, Mother of Rain (Mercer University Press), recipient of Berea College’s 2013 Weatherford Award for Best in Appalachian Fiction.
Karen has been married for 35 years to Tim Zacharias, a former missionary kid turned teacher. They have four children, one grandchild and two dogs with literary names, Portia and Poe. When she isn’t traveling and speaking or writing books, Karen teaches First Amendment Rights at Central Washington University in Ellensburg, Washington. Karen serves on the national advisory board for the Vietnam Women’s Memorial Foundation and the Vietnam Wall Memorial Foundation Education Center. She lives in Hermiston, Oregon where she serves as Literacy chair for Altrusa’s One Book One Community read.
God Don’t Waste A Hurt
How do we trust in a caring God in the midst of a hurting world? Pain and suffering are often the stumbling blocks to faith. But for some they are the leaping point into a deeper intimacy with God and with each other. Personal testimony from the many journeys and encounters as a writer and a journalist that have served to build Karen’s own faith.
Scripture Reference: Genesis 50:20, II Corn. 1: 3-4
When the Church Gets it Right
This is message of encouragement to the church. There are plenty of people speaking to what’s wrong with the church in America today. Karen brings a different perspective, a powerful word about the many ways in which the church of America has gotten it right and continues to get it right.
As Millennials leave the traditional church in droves, and churches are in danger of declining enrollments and involvement, Karen shares her personal testimony of how Rose Hill Baptist loved a 12-year old child to Jesus. She issues a challenge to the critical spirit that is sullying the Bride of Christ: Who will love neglected children and the marginalized to Jesus when the Church closes shop?
Scripture: Joel 2:16, Acts 2:42, Hebrews 10:25
Human Remains: The Aftermath of War
On the heels of the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, Karen, herself a Gold-Star daughter, sat down with widows and children and spoke to them about their loved ones. These are their stories. The pain of war doesn’t stop with the bombing, not for these families. What are the challenges these families face? How can we best reach out to them? Where does a young war widow go to find community? Where is God in the midst of war?
Scripture: James 1:27
The Walking Dead: The uncreative life
Everybody born comes from Creator trailing wisps of glory, says poet Maya Angelou. Yet, so many of us plod through life anticipating a coming apocalypse or spiraling out of one. The Walking Dead seek isolation, not community. The Walking Dead seek ways to anesthesia, rather than to engage. Asked to identify the characteristics of God the one they fail to recognize is beauty, for God as beauty escapes them. The Walking Dead mistake entertainment for joy, sex for intimacy, pleasure for creativity.
We are made in the image of Creator God. We are at our very best, our most fully engaged, our most glorious when we become co-creators alongside him. This 40-minute talk takes a look at the ways in which many people are doing just that. A singing waitress. A merciful car mechanic. The artist painting fresh hope.
Scripture: Ps. 104: 1-24
Where’s Your Jesus Now?
Perhaps the most important question any Believer will ever have to answer. In that moment of crisis, where is He? How we respond to that question – a question meant to mock Believers – carries more weight than a lifetime of sermons or a dozen apologists. The problem is that all too often the Believer ends up repeating the question rather than answering it. Drawing on her experience as a reporter, Karen shares powerful stories of people who didn’t flinch in the face of their greatest fears. They answered the question with unwavering confidence: He’s right here.
Scripture: II Timothy 1: 7
Will Jesus Buy Me a Doublewide?
In the wake of the economic collapse of 2008, Karen traveled the country interviewing people from all walks of life, asking them the same questions: What is your relationship to God? And what is your relationship to money? She interviewed homeless people as well as a woman who made $40 million in less than 10 years.
In this 30 minute talk Karen challenges the formula theology that has been woven into the very fabric of our democracy and our faith communities: Belief in God + Obedience to God = Prosperity from God. It’s a terrific theology as long as life is going our way. But what happens when we lose the job or a home? When the wife walks out or a child is diagnosed with cancer? The formula leaves us with one of two conclusions: We weren’t obedient, so God withheld his blessings. Or we didn’t have enough faith, so God withheld his blessings. Either way we are left feeling either guilty or anger. This is an inside glimpse at how the prosperity gospel is eroding faith in America.
Women’s Retreat: Messages of Faith & Prayers for the Ailing
A two-day event: Friday night session, Saturday morning and afternoon session. Employing the wisdom, insights and storytelling of primitive folk artists, Karen leads participants into a deeper intimacy with God as the Poet. This is a call to a more reflective life, an exploration of what it means to live our lives as sacred art.
Women’s Retreat: Ladies of the Abbey
A two-day event: Friday night session, Saturday morning and afternoon session. Taking cues from Downton Abbey, Karen invites participants to consider the theology that undergirds the strong-minded women depicted by the Dowager Countess, Lady Grantham, and Lady Crawley. A humorous and entertaining time of sharing what it means to live in community with women, to draw strength from one another, and a serious consideration of what happens when we fail to do that.
High School/Colleges: The Danger of the Artificial: Lessons from a chicken:
It’s a paralyzing problem. Intelligent people are being seduced by the artificial every single day. The problem is they can’t see what they don’t see. And they can’t see what they don’t want to see. In this 40 minute talk, alternatingly funny and deadly serious, Karen shares how a chicken taught her the dangers inherent in leading an artificial life. And how that same chicken taught her the importance of belonging to a community committed to caring for the least of these.
Scripture: John 21:15-19, Roman 5:20-21
Writing Workshop: In Lieu of Flowers, Send Fried Chicken.
Do you know how to create truly unforgettable characters? Are you hamstrung on the plot? Can you write in a manner that will garner the attention of agents and editors? This inspiring workshop will explore the twists and turns of character development and dive deep into story structure for both fiction and non-fiction writers. Karen will share sure-proof exercises and insights designed to motivate writers to their next level. Typically a 2.5 hour workshop but can be adjusted as needed.
WHAT PEOPLE ARE SAYING ABOUT KAREN:
“If this writer Karen Spears Zacharias should turn evangelist, the stadium will be full every night.”
Sonny Brewer, author of The Poet of Tolstoy Park
“If Fanny Flagg got religion she’d be Karen Spears Zacharias. Karen is trailer trash wonderful, a guilty pleasure: like eating chicken fried steak with mac & cheese during Bible study.”
Susan E. Isaacs, author, Angry Conversations with God
“At a time when authenticity seems to be in short supply, Karen provides a genuine voice for things that matter most. Faith, loyalty, integrity, compassion, and thoughtful patriotism are themes she weaves into a tapestry of transforming and inspiring stories. She can also make me laugh for days while making me think about things in new ways.”
Dan Morris Dothan District Alabama West-Florida Conference of the United Methodist Church
“Karen Spears Zacharias is not only entertaining and informative but has a message the church needs to hear. She has that unique ability to get us all to laugh and while our mouths are open, she give us soemthing to chew on!”
Pastor Kevin Lobello. First United Methodist Church – Griffin, Georgia
“Karen Spears Zacharias is the evangelical Anne Lamott. Reading her gives you instant commonsense as well as an infallible eye for tommyrot, and she wraps her gifts in humor, sass, spunk, and biblical wisdom. She’s golden.”
Scot McKnight, author of The Jesus Creed
“If the prosperity gospel had a heart, Karen has stomped that sucker flat . . . Whether you live in a mansion on a cliff, a shack by still waters, or in a single-wide on cinder blocks, this is a worthy read.”
Wm. Paul Young, author of The Shack
“I have been a ‘have’ and a ‘have not’ in my life. I have found in my walk with the Lord, as Karen illustrates so well in these beautiful stories, that the riches he desires for us have nothing to do with money. I love a writer that’s not afraid to walk with real people and speak the truth of their lives. Keep shining your light Karen!”
Jeff Foxworthy, comedian
“You have a huge fan in the Allman Brothers Band of heathens. Thank you for being brave enough to stand up and be one of our prophets. We desperately need you.”
Oteil Burbridge, bassist and vocalist, Allman Brothers
“Karen Zacharias is the rarest, most valuable kind of speaker and writer. Not only does she transport her audience to the real-life scenes she describes through vivid storytelling, but she also explains the technical details of creating nonfiction work in a clear way, so that fellow writers can follow those blueprints and begin to achieve better results as essayists, memoirists, journalists, and other chroniclers of events and lives. Thanks to Karen’s guidance, her audience is able to convey what happened and what it all means.”
George Weinstein, Program Chairman of the Atlanta Writers Club
“I recently had Karen Spears Zacharias as one of my hand-chosen speakers for my annual Pulpwoood Queens Book Club Author Extravaganza and her speech was one of the highlights of the event. Of the thirty authors featured, Karen was by far the crowd favorite! Everyone was inspired.”
Kathy L. Patrick, Founder of the International Book Club, Pulpwood Queens Beauty & the Book
Mother of Rain: A novel (Mercer University Press), 2013 Berea College’s Weatherford Award for Best in Appalachian Fiction.
A Silence of Mockingbirds: The memoir of a murder. (MacAdam/Cage), 2012
Will Jesus Buy Me a Doublewide? ‘Cause I need more room for my plasma TV (Zondervan), 2010.
Where’s Your Jesus Now? (Zondervan), 2008.
After the Flag has been Folded (William Morrow), 2006. Borders Original Voices
Benched: The Memoirs of Judge Rufe McCombs (Mercer Univ. Press), 1997. Nominee: Georgia Author of the Year.
- SARAH BESSEY
- NADIA BOLZ-WEBER
- MIKE & SALLY BREEN
- AUSTIN CHANNING BROWN
- DIANA BUTLER BASS
- JONATHAN CATHERMAN
- PALMER CHINCHEN
- JEFF CHU
- ASHLEY CLEVELAND
- IAN MORGAN CRON
- LILLIAN DANIEL
- RACHEL HELD EVANS
- CATHLEEN FALSANI
- BOB GOFF
- TONY HALE
- BRIAN HARDIN
- SUSAN E. ISAACS
- KATHY KHANG
- MIHEE KIM KORT
- SOLVEIG LEITHAUG
- PHIL MADEIRA
- MIKE MCHARGUE
- ELISA MORGAN
- JENA LEE NARDELLA
- ENUMA OKORO
- CHRISTIAN PIATT
- KERLIN RICHTER
- DEIDRA RIGGS
- JO SAXTON
- JOHN SOWERS
- SUZANNE STABILE
- BECCA STEVENS
- STEVE TAYLOR
- SARAH THEBARGE
- SANDRA VAN OPSTAL
- MATTHEW PAUL TURNER
- JAMIE WRIGHT
- KEN WYTSMA
- KAREN ZACHARIAS