So you wanna know the differences between N. Idaho and W. Washington?

2 years ago we moved from Coeur d’Alene, Idaho to Bellingham, Washington… and I thought you might enjoy the contrasts. I know we have!

N. Idaho – Republicans Everywhere.
W. Washington – Democrats Everywhere.

W. Washington – Recycle, ReUse, RePurpose everything!
N. Idaho – Don’t bother trying to recycle – it all goes to the same burn pit.

N. Idaho -Most popular vehicle is a Chevy Suburban.
W. Washington -Most popular vehicle is a Toyota Prius.

N. Idaho- 6″ inches of snow… you still have school today
W. Washington – 1/2″ of snow… shuts down the city.

N. Idaho – Homeschoolers everywhere.
W. Washington – same

W. Washington – other ethnicities and cultures are abundant & celebrated.
N. Idaho – you NEVER see 2 minorities on the same day.

N. Idaho – Everyone shoots and kills animals.
W. Washington – Animals have sweaters and ride in purses and strollers.

N. Idaho – Dress code is blue jeans and Carharts.
W. Washington – Dress code is skinny jeans and black frame glasses

N. Idaho – Traffic means you had to wait 45 seconds to turn left onto Hwy 95
W. Washington – Traffic means you’re going to be 45 minutes late today for no apparent reason.

W. Washington – Speeders are from Canada
N. Idaho – Speeders are from Montana

W. Washington – Highest Minimum Wage in the US
N. Idaho – Tips are subtracted from minimum wage server jobs

W. Washington – Bike riders are people who want to be healthy
N. Idaho – Bike riders are people who’ve had their license suspended for DUI

W. Washington -Wolf Lodge is a great place to vacation as a family
N. Idaho –  Wolf Lodge is the best steak house in the area.

N. Idaho –  Deer dart across the road in abject fear.
W. Washington – Deer lounge in the road and look at you like… “Get out of my yard!”

N. Idaho –  4 Seasons: Spring, Summer,Winter, Fall
W. Washington – 2 Seasons: Rain and August

And don’t get me started on the the annual multi-level marketing epidemic that invades N. Idaho every winter like an invasive species; or the fact that in my current city of Bellingham, it’s illegal for stores to put your groceries in plastic bags. I love dolphins too, but seriously people, this is inconvenient!



Texas can’t secede and neither can you.

After the election, you and 125,000 disappointed others signed a petition to secede from the rest of the country. I get it. You are frustrated with the election. You want to live where people reflect your values. You are tired of the constant assault on your belief system. I live in Washington State, where gay marriage and pot smoking were just legalized by the populous. You’re a conservative Christian. I get it. I’m just sick of the conversation.

I wonder how Dietrich Bonhoeffer would respond to our society today. I wonder how Christ followers in Egypt or India would respond to our woeful missives. I’m tired of hearing from Christians that are myopic and egocentric. I just don’t think the conversation plays well with Christ followers in other parts of the world or in other epochs of Christian history. Suffering is part of being a Christ follower. Not that I love suffering, or look for it, but it’s usually part of the deal.

So why choose suffering when we don’t have to?
Suffering produces a strong faith.

Why aren’t we more missional as Christ followers today? It’s as if we’ve forgotten what we’re here for. We are to be light in the darkness. Have you ever been in a cave? A place where it was so dark that when you held your hand in front of your face you could not see it? Even the smallest light shines brightly in the darkest places. In fact, one could argue that a light in a well lit area remains unseen.

Have we bought into the lie that we are here to create Heaven here on earth? Disappointment comes from unmet expectations. Said another way, disappointment comes from unrealistic expectations. Did Jesus come so that we could be comfortable? Did Jesus die so that we could create our own little slice of heaven here on earth? Were we promised a life from pain and conflict where we live in idyllic subdivisions that reek of Stepford?

Has our #1 value become the “pursuit of happiness?”
Have we become mere acquaintances of Christ instead of disciples?

You can move to the woods in Idaho or the suburbs of Dallas but sin and pain will still find you there. It is a misnomer to think that you can create a little utopia for you and your family anywhere on earth. And if you could, what kind of faith would develop in your life and that of your children? What is life without challenge? What is faith without challenge? It’s the wind that creates strong roots. Faith that is not challenged remains inert. Inactive. Look at the stories of faith that we admire and teach to our children… Joseph, Daniel, Peter; people who’s faith rose above their circumstances. And our heroes of faith from recent days: Corrie Ten Boom, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Jim Elliot. Would we have seen their unquenchable faith in happier settings?

Your faith does not need to be coddled. On the contrary, faith thrives in hard places. In fact, one could argue that faith’s light needs the dark to be seen.

Embrace the challenge. You are stronger than you think.
Your faith will thank you.

There may be good reasons to move to Texas or the mountains of Idaho: your health, the weather, a weapons friendly environment… But finding a safe place for your families’ faith isn’t one of them.


“The None Zone” – a 3 min video about the unchurched Northwest

“Video -The None Zone – click here”– 3 min

It’s not about guns.

My heart is broken over the 26 women and children who died during the school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut this week, just as my heart broke with Columbine, with Paducah, Kentucky and with every school shooting since the one that happened in nearby Moses Lake, WA on Feb 2, 1996. But this one is especially heinous. Little kids this time. Unfathomable. More innocence lost.

As a youth worker for 27 years, I have followed these tragedies with more than just a passing interest. Teenagers have been my life, my entire adult life. Good kids, troubled kids, kids at risk; I’ve literally worked with thousands and thousands of them and helped raised two boys of my own with my wife.

People are asking tough questions right now. How did this happen? Do we need police and metal detectors at every school? How can we make sure this never happens again?

Here’s what I know:

  • It’s much more complex than simply locking all the guns away.  I’m not a gun owner, but I know this: violence is bound up in the heart.  Ever since Adam and Eve’s son Cain killed his brother Abel, violence has been a part of the human condition. If it wasn’t guns it’d be knives. If it wasn’t knives it’d be rocks. You probably didn’t hear about the 22 children that were stabbed at a school in China on the same day as the shooting in Connecticut. (CNN story). In fact, Wikipedia cites 21 dead and over 90 injured in China’s school stabbing phenomenon since 2010, and sadly most have been elementary school children. Here’s a quote from the last paragraph of the CNN article. “A number of measures were introduced at the time, including increased security at schools across the country and a regulation requiring people to register with their national ID cards when buying large knives.” Similar questions, similar issues, different weapon of choice.
  • Societal Factors: While parenting is the single biggest influence in the life of a child, you and I both likely know some seemingly great parents with a teenager that has gone sideways on them and conversely a fantastic teenager who came from a horrible upbringing. It’s a bit of a conundrum. It’s not always a straight line from cause to effect. But something is happening in our culture that hasn’t happened before, so we need to ask: what has changed in our society in the last 15-20 years that could be contributing to this? I’m sure the loss of family is playing a role; but it’s more than just divorce; lots of kids are spending time isolated from what family they do have at home. Parents are overworked trying to stay afloat, while the internet, television and texting all contribute to kid’s isolation. There’s also no doubt that violence in our culture has increased exponentially; with video game industry equivalent to movie revenue now in the U.S., both taking in around 10 Billion each 2011. But there are millions of responsible gamers and movie hounds who don’t act out their fantasies in the real world. Mental Illness is also at an all time high in our culture. “Physicians wrote over 400 million scripts for psychotropic drugs in 2009, four times more than two decades ago, and enough to provide a script for every man, woman and child in the United States and Canada.”  [i]

It’s possible that any one of these could be a contributing factor in what we’re seeing happening in our culture, however, it’s also possible that the answer is:

  • D) None of the Above. Sin never makes sense. As deeply as we search, we may never really know what was going on in the shooter’s mind to drive him to do what he did. That’s because normal people under normal circumstances would never come to that same conclusion. Thankfully. That’s why the behavior is aberrant. We may never understand the reasons why.

Unfortunately, many times I have had the privilege ministering to a family who has just lost their child. It’s usually been a teenager who has died in some tragic accident. The parent’s pain is excruciating to watch. I’ve not seen any other pain that even comes close to losing your child. As a Pastor people often ask: Where was God when this happened? Why didn’t he prevent this? Why did God take my child?

First, I don’t believe God took these children. John 10:10 Jesus says that “The thief comes to steal, kill and destroy, but I have come that you might have life to the full.” God is the giver of life, Satan is the thief who steals it away.

Secondly, “Why did this happen?” This is a question that people can get stuck on forever. You will likely never get an answer to it other than that there is evil in the world and free will is God’s prime directive. Other people’s bad choices impact you and me. Why did this happen? is perhaps the wrong question.  At some point the question needs to morph into “What do I do now?”

Lastly, “Where was God when this happened?” I believe He is right there with us in our pain. He weeps when we weep. The Bible says in Psalm 23 “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me.” This verse tells us several things. First, God is with us in our darkest hours, even in the valley of the shadow of death, and secondly, that He will walk us through the valley. And while we will never forget, thankfully, this valley of death does not extend forever.

Please join with me in praying that Jesus will bind up the broken-hearted. And that this scourge of evil will cease in our Nation.

~Mark Moder

[i] Selhub MD, Eva M.; Logan ND, Alan C. (2012-03-27). Your Brain On Nature: The Science of Nature’s Influence on Your Health, Happiness and Vitality (p. 35). John Wiley and Sons. Kindle Edition.

So the election didn’t go your way?

Me either. Most would label me a Conservative Christian. I live in Washington State. And believe it or not, after the election this week I may be living in the most liberal State in the Union. On Tuesday, Washington became one of only 3 states to approve gay marriage by a vote of the people (along with Maine and Maryland), one of only 2 states to approve recreational pot smoking (along with Colorado) and we are already one of only 3 states who made assisted suicide legal (along with Oregon and Montana). It’s the trifecta of liberalism today. We have all three and we are the only State to have even 2 of the 3. Yes, I voted anyway this week, and everything I voted for failed. Candidates, social issues, fiscal policies; everything.  Wait, come to think of it there was one race where I had to choose between a Democrat and a guy from the Green Party. I think I picked the winner in that one but honestly I’m not sure.

But I’m not angry. I’m not whining. And I’m not moving out of the country.

Honestly, I’m tired of reading the vitriol and the ignorant rants of disillusioned Conservative Christians since the election. And it’s so not helping our cause.

Why should we be shocked that the culture does not agree with us? Is this new? Exactly when did we become convinced that our job was to create heaven here on earth? Did we somehow believe we were supposed to create some sort of Theocracy?

If this is you, you are in good company, however. The disciples too, were of the same mindset. They thought Jesus had come to establish His kingdom here on earth. But they were wrong. Dead wrong. Acts 1:5-7  His Kingdom is an Eternal one, and it’s not here and now. If you were crushed by the results of the election then it’s possible that you have bought into the same deception as the disciples before the resurrection.

Forgive me, but I was under the impression that this is not our home.  That our citizenship lies elsewhere. That we are ambassadors in a strange land. I see myself as a missionary to a people who do not know the Lord, to a people who have rejected my God. I am trying to be a missionary to people whose opinions of Christians are being shaped by the stupidity being spouted by those who are fed up and disillusioned by the results of this election.

Stop it. Change your mindset. Remember that this place is not our home. We are strangers, foreigners, missionaries, ambassadors. I’m not saying give up. On the contrary, stand up for what you believe in. Vote. Engage with respect. But most of all show love to those who believe differently. How I long for the day when Christ-followers are known more for what we love rather than what we hate. Jesus himself said as much, that we should be known for our love. John 13:34-35

People mostly free associate a Christian as an old white guy, with a placard, standing on the steps of the courthouse shouting about something he hates. Things will never change in this country until we flip this. We must become known for how excellently we love instead of being known for the things we hate. We must change, and the change I’m talking about is a change in our actions and attitudes, not party affiliation.

We will never create heaven on earth, so stop trying. Disappointment comes from unmet expectations, or in this case unrealistic expectations. I challenge you to be missional instead. Christ’s mission was to “seek and to save the lost.” As a Christ follower we are to follow him in His mission. His mission becomes our mission. And if that’s the case, as missional people, where should we want to live? Where the lost are abundant!

Jesus called us to be salt, not a salt lick. If we all bunch together that’s exactly what we end up becoming, a salt lick. In effect, we have abandoned the rotting flesh that our saltiness can preserve, and are saying, “you can come to us if you decide you need salt.”

Again, I challenge you, if you live where there are a bunch of folks who don’t believe like you do, please don’t move. Stay put and be salty. Dig into your community, love on your neighbors who believe opposite of you… you will discover they are not the enemy. If on the other hand, you live where there are a high percentage of Christians, people who think and believe like you, I challenge you to be missional and MOVE. Leave the place of comfort and go to the place of challenge and mission.

And when you move, move to Ohio. 🙂

~Mark Moder

Here’s a couple of my related blogposts you might enjoy:

Seattle & Portland are less Religious than Las Vegas. The None Zone – Infographic

The NW has lots of Nones.

We created this infographic to help illustrate what’s happening in the US right now. People are disassociating with religion at an alarming rate. Read my blog post “Rise of the Nones” for more detail.


The Rise of the Nones!

Religious Adherents by County 2010

Religious Adherents by County 2010

You may not have heard of the “Nones” yet, but you will. They are a rapidly growing group in the U.S. who claim no religious preference or no religion at all. They include Atheists and Agnostics but the majority are simply those who declare they have no religion or religious affiliation. Only 8 % of the U.S. adult population in 1990, their numbers have risen steadily since to now total 20%, 46 million Americans: a flat 1 out of every 5 adults and a startling 1 of every 3 adults under the age of 30, according to a new 80 page study released yesterday (and yes I read it all!) (Oct 9, 2012) by the Pew Forum on Religion in Public Life.[i]

none chart

There are “Nones” everywhere in the Northwest especially. So many in fact, that a few years ago the Northwest was termed “The None Zone” because there are more “Nones” located here than any other region of the United States.  In fact, “by comparison, there are twice as many “Nones” in the Northwest than there are in the Bible Belt.” [ii]

Here are a few interesting facts about the Northwest according to the most comprehensive study of its kind released in May 2012 by the Association of Statisticians of American Religious Bodies (ASARB), the “2010 U.S. Religious Census: Religious Congregations & Membership Study (RCMS), gives county by county details on congregations, members, adherents and attendance for 236 different faiths groups.[iii]

  • Oregon & Washington were ranked as #44 & #45 least religious states overall.[iv]
  • Of U.S. Metro areas with over 1 million people, Portland was ranked dead last in lowest % of religious adherents, with Seattle was ranked 3rd to the bottom, with LESS religious adherents than Las Vegas, Nevada.[v]
  • In fact, out of 942 Metropolitan areas, WA & OR accounted for nearly 1/3 of the top 5% least churched metro areas in the U.S., with Oak Harbor, WA ranking 10th lowest % of religious adherents. My town of Bellingham was ranked 54th lowest. (888:942)[vi]

Preachers and pundits will be trying to determine what all this new data means, but even a cursory glance paints a picture of the Northwest as one of the most unchurched regions of the country, along with the Northeast. Researchers expect this slide towards secularization to continue as the US follows the decline of the church in Australia, Europe and Canada.

And while I may not have much hope that we can stop the slide, I do believe that what we do is making a difference, one teenager at a time. It certainly made a difference for the 500 teenagers who made a decision for Christ last year through Youth Dynamics.

Thank you for supporting the missionaries of Youth Dynamics. No question there is need for the Gospel overseas, but this is our Jerusalem, our Judea; and we are glad to be waging war here in the States for the souls of America’s teenagers. Together we are making a difference.


The NW has lots of Nones.

“Rise of the Nones!”

Are you actually addicted to your smart phone?

New data suggests that it might be possible. It looks like your brain gives you a little dopamine push every time your check your phone for a new message.  Turns out we are wired for data. From way back our brain learned to reward us for finding essentials key to our survival, like food and water by giving us a little shot of dopamine. “New research shows that the brain also uses dopamine to reward information seeking.” 1  And once the dopamine reward system is engaged it continues to reinforce that behavior.

According to Wikipedia “Dopamine plays a major role in the brain system that is responsible for reward-driven learning. Every type of reward that has been studied increases the level of dopamine transmission in the brain, and a variety of highly addictive drugs, including stimulants such as cocaine and methamphetamine, act directly on the dopamine system.”

Dopamine can be good as it rewards behaviors necessary for survival, but it also has a dark side when it overwhelms our brain and elevates one type of reward over another, like drugs or alcohol over food. At the risk of sounding like an expert, which I’m not, this may explain why it’s so hard for us to pull ourselves away from our screens. It actually feels good when we get a text message. So like any potentially addicting thing, consume in moderation, watch that it doesn’t negatively impact your key relationships…. and for goodness sake, don’t forget to brush your teeth. Addicts always have the worst teeth.

1 Selhub MD, Eva M.; Logan ND, Alan C. (2012-03-27). Your Brain On Nature: The Science of Nature’s Influence on Your Health, Happiness and Vitality (pp. 40-41). John Wiley and Sons. Kindle Edition.

I'm not addicted. I just can't live without it.

“The Antidote for Tech” – How to minister effectively to an over-stimulated generation of teenagers.




I am not a luddite. In fact I am a BIG tech consumer, and just as over-stimulated as the generation of teenagers I work with. With so many distractions clamoring for our teenagers attention, how does a youth worker (or parent) minister effectively to teens in this culture? We will look at the science behind where we are and discover what you can do, to leverage the holes that the tech platform has given us to minister to the teenagers we love.

This will be my topic for Open Seattle next weekend. I’m really interested in your thoughts as I prepare mine. Is this a good subject matter? Do you have any resources you’ve come across? Things that work for you? I will post a more thorough blog on this after my talk next weekend. Here are the four points I am working with as of now:

  • Nature
  • Deep Relationship/ Discussions
  • Active Learning
  • Adventure Programming

Since this is a new type of conference, I thought I’d try open sourcing my talk a little. Give me your thoughts / feedback! What do you think? What can you add to the discussion?


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