Category Archives: Random Thoughts

What is Adulthood anyway? Ice Cream For Breakfast Part 1

This is part of a series called Ice Cream for Breakfast. To see more, click here.

Welcome to adulthood. Yes, I know you might be in your late 20s to late 60s as you’re reading this, but regardless of how old you are you probably haven’t had anyone actually welcome you to adulthood. Unless you grew up in an African tribe or you’re Jewish, there was no ceremony. If you’re like me, you subconsciously expected to gain some measure of knowledge and confidence between the ages of 17 and 22. That it would just fall on you one day in a burst of sudden enlightenment. Maybe it would be a bit like that scene in Dragon Ball Z where the Eldest Namek puts his big green hand on Krillin and suddenly he’s better at fighting?


and then Krillin dies because that’s what Krillin does.

Or maybe it would happen like fraternity initiation, after the “hell week” that is being a teenager you get abducted and pulled into a group of other adults wearing robes and all the guys get hip holsters for their phones & a book of dad jokes while all the women get short, layered haircuts and mom jeans.

I hear they're back in style!

I hear they’re back in style!

Hey, apropos to nothing – don’t you think it’s super lame when someone starts a speech on a topic by giving you the Websters definition of the topic? I mean how lazy and boring a way to start a topic right?

Full Definition of adult

  1.  fully developed and mature :  grown-up

  2. of, relating to, intended for, or befitting adults <an adult approach to a problem>

  3. dealing in or with explicitly sexual material <adult bookstores> <adult movies>


That third one gets me – and I have to say, when I hear the world “Adult” to describe anything that’s where my mind goes. I was outside of a Supercuts the other day (insert bald joke here) and I saw a big sign that said “Adult Haircut $9” I found myself thinking amusedly -“Wow, what does that entail?”

Anyway – back to the topic at hand, you’ll notice that among the definitions there isn’t anything about being prepared for life, contributing to society, or not being a jerk. The closest we get is the word “mature” though given the context I’d suspect that Mr. Webster probably meant biologically rather than emotionally. No, there is no part of adulthood that includes the preparedness for what is to come. No one comes to your door to make sure you’re not having ice cream for breakfast. Nor does adulthood come when you are prepared. Adulthood sneaks up on you . . . you don’t even see it coming . . . and then one day . . . you find yourself  . . .

reading the home depot circulars like its your new Toys R’ Us. Or the first time you get a “late on your rent” notice. Or when you’re in a room full of teenagers who are laughing at a fart joke and you’re just angry at them all for not appreciating what you’re trying to teach them. Or you make your first payment on a retirement plan. Or maybe its when you turn 25, or 30, or 35 (because then you start checking a new box on forms and that’s crazy.) Or maybe it’s the first time you notice that you feel sore after a day of moderate activity or you start feeling tired around 10pm instead of 2am.

Did you pause and read it? Congrats you're an adult now.

Did you pause and read it? Congrats you’re an adult now.

Whatever it is – you’ll have that moment – and that’s when you have to admit, that childhood is over.

So are your best years behind you?


I want to be honest with you. It is quite possible that you have peaked already. Some of you might read this and say “i knew it!” Others will defiantly say “not me!” Or “That’s never true!” But we all know people who peaked in high school – they were big fish in little ponds – usually they were well-liked decently successful people by high school standards – but they just haven’t realized their potential.

But the good news? You don’t have to peak in high school or college. You can move on and keep growing, but you also need to accept that the growth is going to look different – slower, even imperceptible. This is tough, because for most of us up until around age 17 or 18 you were having to buy different size clothes because you were actually growing up so it was easy to measure your growth visually. Plus your environment changed every year. You “Leveled up” and got a new set of teachers every year and a new school every few years. Your daily activities were varied, because once you learned one thing you eventually moved on to something new.


Now life looks wildly different. You’re going to look about the same for 10-20 years, but somewhere in there your body will start to work against you. In my case I went bald by age 29. I think I might accept it by age 32. Your metabolism slows, and unless you have a good work-out ethic you’ll probably gain some weight. Your schedule will become mind-numbingly repetitive. You’ll wake up the same time every day, go to work, leave around the same time, come home, once you set your mind to being healthier you’ll eat a lot of the same things over and over again. You’ll shop at the same places – and for the first time your atmosphere won’t change unless you choose for it to, and make a major life change.

Now, some people will get more interesting jobs that let them travel and do cool stuff – but probably not you. You’ll see them post about their travels on facebook and you’ll think that you made the wrong choice settling into a career like the one you’ve chosen – you should’ve done something more interesting riskier. Or perhaps you like the regiment – the same-ness is comforting. You feel content with life – you don’t need all that adventure. You’re happy to view the photos on facebook.

It’s no wonder some people peak in high school – this adulthood thing is pretty boring most of the time.  I mean no one opens a fortune cookie expecting to find a message that says “Things are basically going to stay about the same – and that’s really ok” but that is often the case with adulthood. It goes on with only incremental change and while you may not accomplish your dreams you’re still alive and contributing to society, and that’s something right? Right?

Well, not really. Most of us want something more, but the trouble is that we don’t know how to get there. We’re so busy rolling the boulder up the hill every day that we never stop to ask what the end goal is, or evaluate how close we are to actually accomplishing what we set out to do. And yet we do it, over and over again. And we call it being a responsible adult. If we see someone who isn’t rolling their rock up the hill every day we tend to get incredulous. And often for good reason – many of them are just saying at home on the couch, rolling a virtual rock up a cyber-hill, claiming it makes them happy. These folks are often avoiding adulthood, and who can blame them? Adulthood looks boring and pointless from the outside, especially if you’ve only ever been around people who’ve been doing it wrong their whole life. Maybe people who are rolling the “real” boulders up the hill are on a metaphorical couch; sitting comfortably in their own mediocrity, doing the same tasks without thinking of what’s coming next. Shhh; don’t ask me about next year, I want to watch the latest season of Game of Thrones this weekend, not plan for the future. (Ok sure you can still binge watch something once in a while and still be productive, but at the very least the two are diametrically opposed unless your job is to review Television)

These days all of society is avoiding adulthood in many different ways. Some people avoid adulthood by embracing something adjacent to adulthood apart from actual maturity; employment, parenthood, or simply having a few glasses of wine in the evening, you know, for your heart. None of these things are bad, but chasing after any of them alone will not guarantee you’re being a responsible adult.

Trouble is you can’t get the freedom to eat your ice cream for breakfast without reaping the results. So when someone is sitting on their couch late in the evening re watching the same show in netflix for the 100th time, overweight, bored, and yet somehow content in their unhappiness, wondering why their best years are behind them; I have hope and a challenge.

Are you best years behind you? Only if you let them be. If you spend your years living in the “glory days” of high school or college then you’ll never move on. You’re so busy wishing life had turned out differently that you don’t stop to think about what you could to make it turn out differently for you in the next stage. If you play your cards right you’ll get to have an important role no matter watch age you are. For the first 20 years you’re a student. For the next 20 years you’re a worker. For the next 20 years you’re a leader and for the last 20 years you’re a mentor. Some people only like one stage. Some people want to skip stages. Others have to be dragged, kicking and screaming, from one stage to the next.

If you decide that your best years are behind you, then there are and there is nothing anyone can do about it. If you want the best to be ahead of you, you need to get off the couch and go be (choose your inspirational closing line from below)

A. the change you want to see in the world

B. the magic that makes dragons take flight in the mind of a child

C. the hero we don’t deserve, but the one we need

D. Archduke Ferdinand of Austria

(PS. Don’t be D, cause all you’ll do is get assassinated and start WWI and no one else will remember you for anything else)

We need a New Definition of Adulthood

The New Adulthood is taking responsibility, but isn’t just taking responsibility, it’s also adding value to the world by being a good friend, and informed citizen, and an over all wise person. Having children doesn’t make you an adult, thinking about the entire next generation and how you can leave a legacy for any and all of them to benefit from your life – that’s real adulthood. Having a job, even a well-paying one, doesn’t automatically give you passage into true adulthood. Being someone who is pursing a calling that makes you come alive, that will awaken the fire and passion that drives you to seek out wisdom and maturity and contribute more than the minimum. Truly realized adulthood, is as NT Wright talks about truly realized humanity; It’s when we’re fully alive in Christ as we’re meant to be.

So over the next several entries I will be discussing from the view of a Christian Millennial, how I believe we all can take responsibility for our lives, how we can pursue our calling and contribute to society, and how we can interact with each other in this postmodern, social-media, over-connected, information-addicted, frustrated, confused, and divided world.

This is part of a series called Ice Cream for Breakfast. To see more, click here.

Stop being crazy about mental illness

It might start with an elevated heart rate. Then you can’t catch your breath. It feels like you’re looking at your life through thick, foggy lenses. You can’t stop the wave of panic. Then it subsides and you wonder when it will return. You start waiting for the other shoe to drop. You don’t want to do anything for fear of triggering those feelings again and you think you might never return to a normal life. At the prospect of never feeling just “ok” you start to feel low. You disconnect from family and friends and you can’t get motivated to do anything. This is the cycle and anxiety and depression and I’m far more familiar with it than I’d like. If you’re one of several million Americans who suffer from these symptoms you’re not alone and you need to speak out and seek healing.

When people talk about physical disease, there’s an understanding that it’s a normal part of life. People get sick, and many people have chronic diseases that limit their diet, or may occasionally cause them to stay home when they have a flare up. But thanks to Hollywood when people hear the words ‘mentally ill’ they often picture a deranged psychopath or some dangerous doctor Jekyll/Mr Hyde type. In reality mental illness is a relatively normal part of life, just like physical illnesses. And, just like physical illnesses, mental illness can have a variety of causes. Some people think mental health is only determined by life experience and genetics, when in reality, your mental health can be hugely influenced by diet and exercise, viral diseases and even bacterial infections.

It’s a bigger problem than the Flu

[milestone_box animation=”fadeInUp” count=”26″ title=”Percent of Americans with anxiety or depression”] [milestone_box animation=”fadeInUp” count=”20″ title=”Percent of Americans who will get the flu”]

26% of Americans are dealing with some kind of mental illness right now. I say ‘right now’ because not all mental illnesses are life-long, many last a few years and some last shorter than that. In 2013 there were over 41,000 suicides in the US making it the 10th most common cause of death in the US. 20% of Americans will get the Flu this year and on average it causes fewer annual deaths than suicide (36,000 compared to 40,000), and yet we spend more time talking about, avoiding, and treating the Flu. We need to think of it like a physical disease – like asthma or bad allergies.

We need to treat it like a physical disease

Because it is; mental disorders are combination of factors, but persistent anxiety and depression disorders have many causes that are more closely linked to physical health. As long as we’re seeing depression as a mysterious ‘boogy-man’ disease we can’t treat it. Just like a cold, allergies, asthma, or the flu, a person suffering from an anxiety or depression disorder can’t help it. They don’t always know what’s causing it, they can’t choose when it happens and they can’t just “snap out of it.” The worst forms of anxiety and depression don’t have any obvious triggers. No reasonable person would tell a diabetic (a condition that can be caused by diet or by genetics) to not take their medication. Nor would anyone say that by taking medication an asthmatic not following God’s will. The medication used by anxiety and depression sufferers has saved many lives, and while it’s not always a long-term solution, it gets people to a place where they can think clearly enough to address their issues.

Treating it like a physical disease doesn’t de-spiritualize it, nor should it remove all responsibility from the sufferer. I think people in the church believe that if we call someone’s struggle with depression an “illness” that we’re somehow excusing it, or we’re saying that the person cannot do anything about it and therefore is absolved of responsibility. If a person has the flu, do we still not pray for God’s healing? We still treat physical diseases as if they had a spiritual element. By the same token, if someone doesn’t get a flu shot, doesn’t take care of themselves, doesn’t wear a jacket in the cold, misses sleep, and doesn’t eat healthy – would we be surprised if they got the flu? Their immune system in compromised and it was their fault. In the same way people can do things that put themselves in an unhealthy mental state, and yes it is their fault and they need to realize that. Once someone has the flu, do we say it’ll just pass and tell them to get back to work? No, they need to go see the doctor, rest, and take meds. Visiting a doctor, seeking treatment, taking medication – these don’t remove the spiritual element from illness.

Causes of mental illness

The first step in dealing with depression or anxiety is understanding where it comes from. If you can determine a likely cause then you’re more likely to be able to find an effective treatment. Having said this, most will have an issue caused by one factor and exacerbated by other factors, as such it is good to examine each area and consider lifestyle changes that will put you on a track toward spiritual, emotional, and physical health all at once as it can’t hurt anything to get better.


In the midst of explaining the physical aspects of mental illness we don’t want to lose sight of the spiritual aspects. After all it’s like Paul says,

[parallax_quote animation=”fadeInUp” author=”Ephesians 6:12″]“For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.”[/parallax_quote]

In Matthew 8, Luke 8, and Mark 5 we have an example of one of the few passages to occur in all three of the synoptic Gospels; Jesus casting the demons out of the man called “legion.” Obviously this is a dramatic example, but the fact that all three Gospel writers wanted to include it goes toward the fact that they saw the need for hope and healing in a world where many people were probably struggling with lesser demons. Note that according to scripture demons can cause physical illness as well – so if you want to victim blame Christians for being mentally ill because it “must be” caused by demons, you have to apply the same logic for anyone suffering from a physical illness as well.

The good news is that Christians have authority to cast demons out. Sounds crazy but its true. Luke talks about this a lot in his gospel, which is interesting because he was a physician, and likely saw the link between the spiritual and the physical.

[parallax_quote animation=”fadeInUp” author=”Luke 9:1″]“Then he called his twelve disciples together, and gave them power and authority over all devils, and to cure diseases.”[/parallax_quote]

Later on in Luke talks about how the very name of Jesus casts out demons

[parallax_quote animation=”fadeInUp” author=”Luke 10:17-19″]“And the seventy returned again with joy, saying, Lord, even the devils are subject unto us through thy name, And he said unto them, I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven. Behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy: and nothing shall by any means hurt you.”[/parallax_quote]

Being far from God is another cause of depression and anxiety. I hesitate to say this one because this is the most misused cause, but it is a cause. For some reason, with all the many different potential causes this is the only one some Christians pick out. While being far from God is a cause of depression, I haven’t met many Christians for whom this was the cause. Many Christians struggle with anxiety and depression despite being active in a church, engaged in prayer, plugged into a small group, and reading scripture. If you haven’t ever struggled with a mental illness be careful about the way you assume it works.


This is the most obvious one to most people, but also the one that can take the longest to untangle if left untreated. It’s normal to experience depression and anxiety if something happens in your life that makes you depressed or anxious, but if you don’t deal with those normal emotions in a healthy way, you may be setting yourself up for more depression and anxiety later on. Most of us are terrible at being honest with ourselves about what is causing our depression and anxiety and yes, there are often deep-seeded causes from our childhood that may need to be discussed.

It is also normal to feel depressed or anxious if you’re not living in community with people, or if you’re having trouble connecting with friends, or family. Sometimes the emotional cause has to do with personal goals and life focus, and while it isn’t the only cause, being exclusively focused on yourself is almost a guaranteed recipe for depression and anxiety, this can lead to a frustrating spiral effect; you think about yourself and you get depressed, you think about your depression and wonder if things will ever change and you get more depressed and anxious. Throw in a little guilt for feeling so self-focused and you’re a prefect, self-sustaining storm of angst.

I want to emphasize that I’m not talking about normal emotions that occur in the immediate wake of tragedy, or because of a specific circumstance to which the normal response would be depression. Getting upset about bad things is a healthy emotional response. However, if after the upsetting circumstance has passed, or if you are still finding yourself having trouble coping with a loss even years later, that is likely a sign that you need to treat it as an illness.


We now know better than ever that many common mental illnesses can be glitches be in our DNA passed from parent to child. This isn’t any different from genetic causes for heart disease, high blood pressure, cancer, and auto-immune diseases. But just like with those diseases there are ways to curb risks and be proactive about dealing with your predisposition. This also does not mean that sufferers have to be victimized by their biology. “I was born this way” has never been ok with God because thanks to Adam, we’re born sinful, and God has given you the power to over come your flesh through the Holy spirit.


There are many different physical causes of mental illness that doctors are only just now beginning to understand. Really anything that can cause you physical illness can cause or contribute to mental illness. Viruses, Bacteria, Physical trauma, Diet & gut flora, (lots of research supporting this now) and a sedentary lifestyle can all contribute to your mental state. Too often we don’t account for the fact that being obese, being sedentary, eating unhealthy foods, and even just getting sick can have a profound impact on the way your brain is functioning and lead to systemic problems in our regular thought patterns that, if unaddressed, lead to worse and worse things.

Treatment for Mental illness

It should be liberating, and very encouraging to know that there are many effective ways to treat mental illness. And while most treatment takes time, making a plan to fight back can be in and of itself a therapeutic act. While most mental illnesses have a variety of factors, its important to understand how to treat them based on their cause that way you can form a plan of attack and begin to be proactive. Think of it like the the fable of the bird that chipped away at the mountain by pecking his beak at it, only each time you return the bird gets a little bigger and a little stronger.


Prayer – you’re thinking ‘of course you’d say prayer, you work at a church’ we’re not the only ones: “The findings add to the growing body of research confirming a connection between a person’s perceived relationship with God and mental and physical health. In fact, a recent study by Oregon State University found that religion and spirituality result in two distinct but complementary health benefits. Religion (religious affiliation and service attendance) is linked to better health habits, including less smoking and alcohol consumption, while spirituality (prayer, meditation) helps regulate emotions. Another recent study by Columbia University found that participating in regular meditation or other spiritual practice actually thickens parts of the brain’s cortex, and this could be the reason those activities tend to guard against depression — especially in those at risk for the disease.” (source here)

Reading scripture – Today in Frazer’s contemporary worship service Emily Roach talked about a doctor who encouraged her to read scripture as a part of her mental health regimen. Reading a Psalm a day is an example of a simple prescription for spiritual peace. And having a readular scripture and prayer quiet time will help you be sure that you’re not feeling depressed simply because you’re far from God.

Attending church & Going to a small group – according to a study by the university of Maryland found that people who are happier engage in a few common activities “We looked at 8 to 10 activities that happy people engage in, and for each one, the people who did the activities more — visiting others, going to church, all those things — were more happy,” Dr. [John] Robinson said. (source here)

Serving others – even secular psychologists are seeing this “People who volunteer tend to have higher self-esteem, psychological well-being, and happiness” – Mark Snyder, a psychologist and head of the Center for the Study of the Individual and Society at the University of Minnesota (source here) Think about the dead sea versus the sea of Galilee. The dead sea only ever receives, yet nothing can live in it. What’s more is despite the fact that it only has water flowing into it, it’s water level is receding and we can’t figure out why. The sea of Galilee has water flowing in and and flowing out. Not only is the water level staying healthy, it has a whole resort-like atmosphere and fishing economy built all around it. It is what Jesus commands us to do:

[parallax_quote animation=”fadeInUp” author=”John 13:34″]“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another”[/parallax_quote]

So if you’re not serving you’re actually being disobedient. Matthew five has Jesus’ sermon on the mount, probably the most well-known part of this is the beatitudes. They’re the ones that all start with “blessed are the…” which is another way of saying “happy are the…” Just read those and do them – I don’t want to copy and paste them all here and make this entry even longer – so I’m going to ask you to just go and read your Bible.


Counseling – Counseling isn’t for ‘crazy people’ any more than marriage counseling is for bad marriages, or going to the doctor is for people who don’t take care of themselves. Anyone can benefit from going to a counselor. And just like physical therapy, it can take several sessions to feel the benefits. The greatest benefit of a counselor (and the reason that counseling is the best treatment in all circumstances) is the fact that they’re an objective observer who can help you develop a plan for fighting your depression. Keep in mind that finding a good counselor can take time, don’t give up if you don’t click with the first one you visit. This might be the most important step you can take, so take the time to make it happen. Counseling isn’t free, but it’s worth it.

Expressing it to close friends and family who know you well – try to explain your feelings to your family, guys this is especially difficult and you don’t have to take forever and draw it out. It might just be as simple as saying to your wife “I really miss my dad tonight” or calling a friend up and saying “I saw something that happened on TV that reminded me of the car crash.” Or simply admitting  “Work really has me feeling down today” You don’t have to analyze it; you don’t have to draw it out, just talk about it. The more you talk about it the easier it is to deal with it. And you also gain allies who can help you through things. If you currently don’t have any friends then visit a few churches in your area until you find some. Also, try not to dump your issues out on the table the first time you meet them – wade in slowly.

Exposure therapy – when trauma happens in our life the natural tendency is to shield ourselves from anything that reminds us of it. This often makes things worse as it can eventually cause a person to withdraw from everything: work, relationships, and church. As hard as it is, it is just common wisdom that little by little you have to be willing to expose yourself more and more to things that may trigger depression or anxiety. This, coupled with counseling and the support of allies who know your struggles, is an important part of overcoming trauma. You may even consider working up to sharing your own story as a goal in this.


Parents who have dealt with anxiety or depression can be proactive about seeing the signs of it in their children and teaching them early on about how to manage it so they might be able to overcome it in adulthood.

Don’t be afraid of medication or counseling – both can be helpful, especially when you’re being overseen by a Christian doctor. Counseling is always helpful for someone who wants to get better. At the risk of sounding like a drug commercial – talk to you doctor. Seriously. If someone in your family suffers from depression and you have symptoms of it too, it might be something to talk about with a physician or a counselor.

There are counseling therapies to help change your thought patterns, just because your parents struggled with this doesn’t mean you have to also.


Physical causes can be cumulative and the only way to be sure that none of them are the cause is to see to all of them; a healthy life style goes a long way to dealing with depression and anxiety.

Frazer has an activities center, they’d love to help you make a lifestyle change that might help assuage symptoms.

Lots of simple diet changes can contribute to a healthier mental state Google “depression/anxiety diet” to read more about it.

Stay healthy – simple things that we all know to do, like avoiding disease, getting enough sleep, and not overexerting ourselves all make huge strides to reducing symptoms of mental illness

You’re not Alone

In addition to the millions of people out there who struggle with mental illness today, many of our church leaders both past and present suffered from some form of mental illness at some point in their life.

David’s psalms indicate many times that he dealt with both anxiety and depression and called out to God over it.

Some believe Paul’s “thorn in the flesh” in 2nd Cor 12:7 could’ve been related to anxiety or depression – it may have even been panic attacks.

Martin Luther may have struggled with depression when he was young, and wrote much about how to address depression in the church.

John Wesley was very depressed in the wake of his failed missionary journey to the US and some believe he may have had some obsessive compulsive tendencies.

Modern church leaders like Erwin McManus, Louie Giglio, and Carlos Whittaker have all been honest about their very real, very had struggles with mental health. Giglio was almost bed-ridden for three months due to what’s called “fear of death syndrome” about eight years ago. McManus has always been very honest about his life-long struggle with anxiety. Carlos Whitaker has a brief, honest blog entry where he confesses his own anxiety struggle.

Things to keep in mind

It isn’t (always) self centered – often times people assume that those who deal with anxiety and depression are simply too self focused. Certainly self centeredness can cause depression, but not all people who struggle with anxiety or depression do so because of self centeredness. Also, for a person who is struggling in the midst of also being self focused, it isn’t helpful to tell them that they’re too self-focused. They need to arrive that on their own. It’s better to assume there are other causes and focus on those to help them get to a healthy enough place to be able to see themselves.

Mental illness is temporary – even for chronic mental illness sufferers, with the proper help, you can work toward a life that overcomes your illness such that when it does rear its ugly head, it doesn’t have to take over your life and withproper treatment you spend less time dealing with it and more time living your life. There is hope for healing and it can come in many forms. Never get tricked into believing that your illness will last forever. It can get better if you seek help

You may need to deal with the physical and emotional causes before you can effectively deal with the spiritual causes; James talks about this when he says

[parallax_quote animation=”fadeInUp” author=”James 2:16″]“If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it?”[/parallax_quote]

Or consider the fact that when Jesus talks about doing for the “least of these” in Matthew 25 he talks about meeting physical and emotional needs.

Total rabbit trail here: Psychologist Abraham Maslow identified this in 1943 when he developed what we now call “Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs” Basically it works like this: If you’re about to die because you’re sick or starving, you don’t care about your safety. If you’re worried for your safety, you’re not as concerned about your emotional needs, if you’re emotionally compromised at a deep level you’re not as concerned with being productive or being respected by your peers, if you’re not being productive or respected, you’re not going to be able to do all those wonderful things that us humans do best like think critically, be creative, overcome prejudices and accept difficult facts. – while spiritual needs exist at every level of the hierarchy of needs, we can be of more use to God the more our physical and emotional needs are taken care of.


You have to decide that suicide is not an option. If you are reading this and you are and have recently found yourself considering suicide, please know that it is not the answer and my home church and I so much want to help your realize that. Do not be embarrassed; millions of people deal with suicidal thoughts. Whatever lies you may be telling yourself, know that the truth is this: The creator of the universe loves you and we here at the church want to help get you to a place where you can experience that love fully, so please let someone know if you’re struggling.

Why is it so prevalent in the US? Some people point to the statistics that say that US has higher occurrence of anxiety and depression than other developed countries because of our affluence, that may be true. Keep in mind it also might be true that we are better at diagnosing it, and in some cases we may over-diagnose it. (We’re keeping children’s ADD diagnoses out of this discussion for now) Well first I would point you back to Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs, which does show us that as more of are needs are met that new needs arise. Next I would also point to the obesity epidemic and repeat; physical health is inextricably linked to mental health. And finally consider this: if Satan sees that in the US we have the most advanced medical tech and we’ve conquered most major diseases, how would he choose to attack us next? He’d attack in a way that would go unnoticed until it was too late.

To those who have friends who deal with this:

First off, you need to understand that if you’ve never dealt with clinical anxiety or depression you cannot understand how it feels, and knowing that will be the most helpful thing in helping us. You will need to be patient and you cannot be bothered by repetition as you may hear the same thing thousands of times and you may have to repeat the same comforting words thousands of times. “This will pass” and “this is temporary” and “you’re going to make it through this” are usually helpful if said in a loving spirit.

Being told to ‘snap out of it’ isn’t as helpful as you might think. Similarly telling someone who struggles with anxiety that the object of their anxiety isn’t really an issue will only ever make things worse. Imagine if you knew that aliens were coming to kill us all, being told that it was crazy wouldn’t make you calm down either would it? You don’t have to agree with the cause of the anxiety to recognize the reality of the anxiety itself. The same goes for depression. The quicker you acknowledge the legitimacy of a person’s pain the sooner they can start on a path to healing.

To those who suffer from anxiety and depression:

We, the church, want to be part of your healing. We believe that depression is a spiritual struggle and we’d to talk with you and offer counseling. We do offer counseling in our chruches, but we know that because of the stigma of mental illness for some it’s a struggle to come to a church. If you’re from Montgomery, AL where I live, I highly recommend the Samaritan counseling center here in town. I’ve enlisted their services for my own struggles. Focus on the family offers a great counselor locator to tell you where to find Christian counselors. If you don’t jive with your first counselor, don’t’ give up. It may take a few tries to find a good fit.

I’d believe that I speak for all of the evangelical Christian church when I say that we all want to be a community of people who can be there for you in these times. Which is why at Frazer, the church where I work, we believe one of the greatest steps you can take for your own mental health is to join a small group. This isn’t group therapy, but it is community and having a support network is one of the best steps you can take for your emotional and spiritual health. You can find out details about small groups at Frazer here. But if you don’t live in Montgomery, I still really encourage you to seek out a church where you can be yourself and speak honestly about what’s happening in your life.

It’s all connected, the physical, the mental, emotional, and the spiritual. Getting healthy in one will help you with the others. So spend time with friends, make time for cardio, meditate, eat healthy, and if you don’t know Christ as your savior I’d like to introduce you. Meet me at church this Sunday.

I hope you find this helpful

No, droves of Christians are not actually freaking out about the Starbucks Cups

Now, can we quit talking about it?

If you’re like me, your news feed has been lit up in the past 48 hours about this issue. I will be brief.

Through the various pages and accounts I manage, I have access to about 20,000 friends/fans/followers online. Most of the people in that group are Christians, and while that is a relatively small number in comparison to the whole internet, I would argue that it still represents an accurate sampling of the evangelical church and it is far more than required for a scientific study. In this crowd I have not seen a single person – not one – actually say that they are upset about the Starbucks cup.

But, oh boy, I’ve heard about the cup. Everyone, christian and non-Christian, is outraged over the total idiocy/hypocrisy/Pharisaical nature of these hoards of “Christian” fools who are supposedly saying that Starbucks’ removal of snowflakes and ice skates from their red cup is somehow getting away from the true meaning of Christmas. (Which is snowflakes apparently, who knew?)

So where did it come from then?

It started last week when a conservative news site (I’m choosing not to post the link on purpose to not give them any more traffic) known for its huge sweeping over-statements posted something about how the move to a solid red cup away from last year’s snow flake design is some how a sign of impending doom for Bible-believing Christians who want to say “Merry Christmas” without getting pepper sprayed in the face.

This article would’ve gone on without any notice except a few news sites got hold of it and turned it into a story about how Christians are upset about something stupid again! It’s almost like the whole internet makes money based off of how many clicks it can get on crazy, inflammatory headlines…

The source most of the internet probably heard it from was Buzzfeed, that bastion of journalistic accuracy. Buzzfeed posted a link to the original article and five tweets – FIVE TWEETS – by angry Christians some of whom clearly had little understanding of what was happening as it seemed like they may have thought Starbucks was a former Christian denomination that had fallen from grace, based off these tweets.

[parallax_quote animation=”fadeInUp” author=”seriously”]IT WAS FIVE TWEETS [/parallax_quote]


Yes I’m sure there were many more than five to be found elsewhere and yes there are many more now, but I was amazed when I found the buzzfeed article. I was sure there would be HUNDREDS of angry tweets about the red cup based on the backlash. But no, turns out this “controversy” didn’t have much of a movement behind it at that point. This article only served as fuel for the fire and anything else – on either side – has grown from there.

You hadn’t heard about this last Thursday had you? No? Because the initial article had been up since early Wednesday morning. No one cared before this whole thing turned into clickbait. (Update: Some have said that it started with the youtube video of the guy talking about it, or by Donald trump. Both of those were responses to the original article, as they were posted 4 days later, the day after the buzzfeed article.)

It Breaks Science

This disproves Newton’s third law, you know, that says every action will have an opposite but equal reaction, because the initial action was some yellow journalism on an obscure, foreign site. The reaction has been to fill my feed with pictures of the red cups that could stretch around the planet twice.

So what I’m saying is this: we need to get NASA involved because this kind of controversy could be the breakthrough we need to get to Mars! It only takes a tiny little bit of “controversy” to fuel an enormous reaction.

So let’s quit calling this vast minority of people idiots and get back to what we should really celebrate this December – the new Star Wars movie.

My last day in my 20s: What I’d wish I’d known then, and what I hope to do next.

This entry is more to express my feelings, goals, and blessings at this point in my life.  As well as maybe to offer some thoughts on what I’d wish I’d known when I was 20, so that anyone who’s younger than me might could benefit from my ignorance.

When I turned 20

I remember having a moment on September 17th, 2005 – it was my sophomore year of college. That evening was Asbury’s Fall Variety show which always came together last minute and seemed to be comprised of a lot of duct-tape and chewing gum to keep the wheels from coming off the bus. Dodderidge Holland, a gymnasium with a stage at one end that was itself held together by duct-tape and prayer, was the location of these events and, showing no regard for fire code, it was totally packed that evening. The act I was a part of, a dance-heavy rendition of Tunak Tunak Tan, an Indian pop song sung by the incomparable Dahler Mendi, was to be last act of the evening and the show was already half-way through. Between the staggeringly poor acoustics and the total lack of air-conditioning, all compounded by a room crammed full of college students sitting on the floor, the show was neither particularly audible nor was it comfortable to watch.  I’ve never been too good at sitting down within a couple of hours of a performance. As such I sneaked out the back and sat on the steps next to reasoner green, across from the old library (that would eventually become the new student center.) I remember this moment because that was when it hit me: I was no longer a teenager.

One of the characteristics that really makes me a Millennial is the fact that I never enjoyed growing up. Some call us the “Peter Pan” generation. Because there were many who put off getting their license and other rights of passage that would push us toward independence. But unlike my parents’ generation, we Millennials never said anything like “don’t trust anyone over 30” – to the contrary ours was the first generation to respond to the US high school exit survey by saying that our heroes were more likely to be Mom and Dad than a young, hip celebrity or athlete. So while I wasn’t looking forward to leaving my childhood behind, I remain hopeful that future generations will continue the trend back to respecting and seeing the value of the generations who have come before them, because after all it’s like Christine Cain said, If you live as if there aren’t generations that have come before you, you’ll be in danger of forgetting that there will be generations after you.

To people in their teens and early 20s, here’s what I’ve learned

So, here’s what I wish I’d known that night in September of 2005.

A coworker of mine printed a dozen of these out today and posted them all over the break room

A coworker of mine printed a dozen of these out today and posted them all over the break room

  • You don’t have to get it all right over the next ten years – I knew that my 20’s weren’t a throw away decade, as talked about in this great TED talk, but I was more convinced of the opposite; that because I was given so much in my childhood, that I was going to be expected to save the world by the time I was 29. If you wonder why this is, just look at the Millennials. We’re a generation full of people many of whom simply invented an app, launched a website, or started a non-profit and seem to have experienced instant success. We celebrate those successes, but often we don’t realize that there are many people who don’t experience that kind of success until they’re in their 40s or 50s and not only is that ok, it might actually be preferable. Mark Zuckerberg may be my age, but far more common is the story of those who climbed the ladder of success over years of diligent and hard work to receive a well-deserved place in their career, family life, and community. Yes we can all name a dozen people who, “by the time they were my age” had already accomplished unprecedented things. There are also thousands of other successful people who weren’t over-night successes. And how many of those meteoric rises ended up being a flash in the pan? A relative blip on the radar? When you’re put into a position of influence, wouldn’t you rather be aided by a decade or two of wisdom and experience? Take advantage of this time to soak it up. Don’t just sit back, but don’t feel rushed to have accomplished a certain amount before any age milestone – take this time to focus on learning and putting in several good years of solid work that you can be proud of, even if it doesn’t look like the most impressive thing on a resume. The point is you’re getting better at being who you’re called to be so that when the opportunity arises you’ll be ready for what’s next.


  • Learn from the mistakes you make, and take note of the lessons others are learning – You’re going to have some of your biggest screw ups before you reach 40. (I say 40 because I want to make it clear that I don’t think I’m out of the woods yet) and while you’re never going to be perfect, young adulthood is the period wherein you’ll be making some big life choices and you’re probably going to get a few of them totally wrong. You’re going to also get lots of little things wrong as well. THAT IS OK. DON’T FREAK OUT. Ok, the reality is you will freak out, because you’re young and you don’t know better. But take comfort in the fact that we’ve all done it and will do it and that it’s how we learn. Failure is OK. Not learning from failure is not OK! If you experience something that isn’t pleasant in your life and you never take the time to ask the question “what was my role in that, and how can I improve next time?” Then you’ll smuggle your baggage into the next job, relationship, project, or season of your life. Also, as a bonus during your 20s you’re probably going to see a few friends go through some rough times – maybe they’ll be their fault, maybe they’ll just be the harsh reality of life, but don’t miss an opportunity to learn from their circumstances – oh and don’t miss an opportunity to be there for a friend, aside from that fact that you will probably need them to help you out later, it’s just the right thing to do.


  • Set goals that are solid, but don’t limit what God wants to do with you – When I was 20 I was convinced that it wasn’t a good idea to have really solid and specific goals. I still believe that to a large degree, but I wish I’d realized more that often times God works in our goals and, as long as we’re willing to change course, having even a somewhat vague ambition can be the primary way God accomplishes his goals through you. When I was in high school I had lots of specific ideas of what I wanted to do. Then I realized the foolishness of having your life planned out. We’ve all seen people who either didn’t get what they wanted in life and couldn’t handle it, or tried to force their goals to come to fruition through some tragic means. At the same time, having absolutely no idea of what God’s calling looks like can result in a life without intention. I was so focused on being available for what God called me to do, that I didn’t realize that I was using that as an excuse not to set the God-sized goals he was calling me towards. While I had some general ideas of what I wanted to do, you have to take intentional steps to accomplish God’s calling, it’s not as if filmmakers typically get handed the reigns to direct a feature film without having first directed a short film. I’ve heard it said like this: God can’t drive a parked car. While I knew this on one level, I wish I had been more intentional about setting some of those Goals and following through with them regardless of where I was, not goals that are so specific that they put God in a box, but goals that gave God an opportunity to work out his calling in my life. As such you may have some hard primary goals that are more abstract. And some secondary goals that are more concrete, though they may change as life happens.

  • Focus on the problem not the solution – I know, this sounds like the opposite of what you normally hear, but hear me out. I have to give total credit to Ken Roach for this wording, but he identified something that I’ve learned recently. I think part of the way that we can set Goals that are being obedient to God is by making them Goals that are based around attacking a problem rather than making them Goals about enacting a specific solution. For example you may be called to help impoverished children and you have a really creative plan for doing work with inner city kids, but when you try it, your funding runs out and you have to drop it to start a new job somewhere so you can support yourself.  You didn’t fail at fixing the problem, you just failed at enacting a specific solution. When you’re first starting off in a career, ministry, family, non-proft, or any other group, job, calling or community, you’re going to come up with an idea that is the obvious solution. It’s 100% for sure the right solution. It’s the plan that clearly everyone will see needs to be enacted to fix the problem. Only they don’t see it that way. And not only are you ignored, but the window closes on the opportunity for you to execute your perfect solution. This may have been because you were wrong, or it may have been because they were wrong, but now it doesn’t matter. You need to be willing to let go of your ‘solution’ and be willing to come at the problem from a different angle. We see this all the time when people change careers because they realize they want to attack the problem at it’s root. I’ve known of an insurance salesmen who became a nurse, a prison guard who became an educator, and a advertising executive who became a pastor.  These people were willing to change careers because they had a clear focus on the problem they were supposed to be attacking, and realized that they needed to change the solution. It may not be as extreme as changing career paths, it may be simply changing goals within your career, but rarely does someone’s first plan end up being the plan that they get to carry out, so don’t get upset when your first solution doesn’t work right away. Be willing to come up with a new one. Keep in mind that if you are a hammer, the whole world might appear to be a nail, but don’t be disappointed when you realize that there aren’t any nails around. God will use you somehow, don’t limit him by saying it only has to be in this one way.


  • In short, even when you reach 30 your life is still very much ahead of you – one of my favorite talks that I’ve heard at Catalyst, my favorite leadership conference, was given by Craig Groeschel in which he talked about the relationship between the younger and older generations in the church. While addressing the younger leaders he said “Don’t over estimate what God wants to do with you in the short-run and don’t underestimate what God wants to do with you in the long run.” In a culture obsessed with youth, it’s hard to keep in mind that your life doesn’t have to end at 30 or 35, or 40 or 50. Sometimes I feel a little disappointed when I compare myself to my friends who are married and starting to have kids. But then I think about the fact that when my parents were both 30 I was still seven years down the road for them and nowhere on their life’s roadmap. In your 20s when things aren’t going the way you think that should’ve gone, or when something happens and it feels like your dreams have been crushed, or when you start dealing with a new challenge that makes you wonder “is this the new normal?” just know that it doesn’t have to be the end of your dreams. You may just need to attack the problem from a different angle, or you may need to get to work and gain some more wisdom and experience, or you made need to set some new God-sized goals and run after them. No, you won’t live forever, but you still have plenty of time to leave a legacy.

Counting my Blessings

It is easy for me to take stock of the things that I had hoped to accomplished at this point in my life and simply wallow in my disappointment. Being totally single at 30 is a bit of a let down, but if I’m honest I’m actually more happy about being single now than I was a few years ago. (before responding to that statement be sure that you’ve read my blog entry on how to encourage single people) I have had a number of huge blessings over the past ten years and I want to celebrate them, I really am just thanking God for these things, but if you think you’ll be tempted to compare your accomplishments to mine, skip this. I won’t hit everything, but here are a few things that stick out to me, at least today.

I thank God for:

  • The birth of more nephews and nieces, bringing the total to 5 nephews and 4 nieces.
  • A Loving Family that has offered support to me in many different ways, even when I wasn’t very lovable.
  • The rest of my time at Asbury, some of the most fun, fulfilling, meaningful years of my life so far.
  • Going to the 2008 Olympics to be part of the Broadcasting in Beijing will remain one of the high points of my life.
  • More recently going to Israel Greece and Rome with NT Wright.
  • Getting a play produced here at the church, and seeing the surprising ways God used it.
  • Never having been in a messy relationship that ended poorly. I probably don’t praise God for this enough.
  • My house. This is one I can easily take for granted, but the fact that I’m a home owner is pretty amazing when I think about it.
  • My many friends, new and old, near and far. In my 20s I’ve lost a few and gained others. The friendships I have now are stronger than ever.
  • My dog Zeus, I’ve only had him for a year and a half, but he’s been the cutest means of grace God’s given me yet.
  • My small group – it’s been through many iterations, and God has been at work in and through it all the way.
  • Reawakening my passion for writing; something that I loved as a child, and realized is a means of Grace for me as an adult.
  • Jujitsu, Ultimate Frisbee, and jogs around my neighborhood – I’m grateful God’s given me ways to keep from being a total couch potato
  • Getting half way through Grad school – my midpoint review will be next month, there’s no way I could’ve done it without God’s help, especially through family and friends.
  • God’s continued daily provision for my life.
  • A (mostly) able body, a (relatively) sound mind (I mean, it could be worse, right?)
  • Hard experiences that taught me important lessons.
  • Dark times that drew me closer to God.

My goals for the next ten years.

In the interest of practicing what I blog, I want to have a few abstract Goals that are primary, that I can use as the “problem” so that if these others don’t work out, I can change course knowing that the ultimate goals remain intact, but also have a few specific, secondary goals that are opportunities for me to trust God with my talents:

Primary/abstract goals: (the what)

  1. Find new ways to reach my generation (the millennial generation) for Christ
  2. tell stories that are truthful and make people laugh
  3. Advance (however that might look) in my field (whatever that may be)
  4. encourage and teach other Christians

Secondary/ Specific goals: (the how)

  1. Finish grad school, earning my MFA
  2. Direct my first feature film
  3. Get a book published
  4. Do more teaching at the college level

As I said, I think that while I’ve hid behind the guise of “being available” for God’s calling, much of why I’ve resisted too-specific goals in the past has to do with a fear that I’m not actually capable of accomplishing them. The funny thing is that I haven’t become more brave, in fact I’ve probably become more convinced than ever that I cannot accomplish these goals. I do believe, however, that I’ve grown in my faith such that I now realize that I was never supposed to chase after these for my sake, and therefore I shouldn’t be depending on my own strength to accomplish them. I’m looking forward to the next ten years. I know they’ll be challenging, and know God will work in every part. My prayer is that the next ten years will be dedicated to Christ and that he’d bless my creativity more this decade than he has ever before. I pray that his had will be upon me and that he’ll give me peace.

Protected: Israel Trip Part 2: One Big, Empty Tomb

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Bryan Kelly

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Bryan Kelly is the founder and executive director of Common Ground Montgomery. They exist to encourage and foster community in the Washington Park neighborhood of west Montgomery. Offering training, bible study, classes, and gatherings for people to build gospel-centered relationships common ground is an awesome ministry. You can find out more about their ministry at


Protected: Israel Trip Part 1

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I’m going to Israel!

Yup. In just a few days I’m going to be boarding a Plane to the Holy Land. How did this happen? Well I owe it all to my good friend and former colleague, Ben Greenhoe who works for Zondervan Publishing in their video department. He contacted me a few months ago and asked if I’d like to take a freelance job that would take me to Israel, Greece and Rome and be part of a crew shooting a Study with NT Wright. I of course said no, then I slapped myself in the face and said OF COURSE!

If you’re not familiar with him, NT “Tom” Wright is a former Anglican Bishop who is considered by many to be one of the greatest Biblical thinkers alive. He’s kind of a big deal. He’s written many books and his office smells of rich mahogany. I actually don’t know that last part for sure, but I’m just guessing that it would. My small group did a study on Romans that he wrote and I’m working on cramming as much of his literature into my brain before I go so that we can talk shop. He’s kind of a genius and I’m excited to meet him.

I leave this coming Sunday, June 28th and will return to Montgomery on July the 12th. In that time we’ll be visiting the major sights in Jerusalem and Nazareth as well as Corinth in Greece and Rome in Italy. I’ve never been to any of these places nor have I ever taken a trip quite like this one wherein we’ll be hopping between countries and taking footage wherever we go.

I am not a camera man for this event. I’m the audio tech. I’ll be holding the mic and making sure that the sound is not distorted. I find that sort of beautiful, because isn’t that kind of the job of Christians to be the mouthpiece of God and make it so others can hear him clearly? And if we’ve done our jobs right no one will even see us or think about us being there. I’m kind of the low man on the totem pole, but I’d make coffee for the crew if it got me a trip like this. I feel especially blessed to have this kind of opportunity and I’m hoping to be posting updates, photos, and maybe a few videos while I’m there, it depends of course on the availability of WiFi and our work schedule, so there are no guarantees, but check back here for updates as they’re available. Also, follow me on Instagram and twitter, both are @WilliamHAdams

Lastly, I want to ask for your prayers, not only for safety, but also that God would bless this project. I believe it will have capacity to speak some great truths to people and really bring scripture to life in a new way for those who are more visual learners.

Thanks for following and reading!

Ken Roach and Patrick Quinn

[podcast][/podcast]end tag

On this episode of the Brio podcast, I talk with Ken and Patrick about their new book How to Ruin Your Child in 7 Easy Steps. It’s a quirky look at the 7 Deadly sins and how to tame them in your own life while nurturing virtues in your children. The book is available now at many major retailers.

What camera should I buy for my church?

I get this question a lot so I thought I’d write a blog entry to explain it.

Short answer: It Depends.

you can ask this question to 20 video guys and they will give you 20 different answers according to their philosophy on what is most important. To me it often comes down to a debate on these four issues: Price, Quality of Image, Features, Ease of Use. There is no camera that falls perfectly in the center of this Venn diagram. Screen Shot 2015-05-05 at 4.51.58 PM

So you have to make a choice, do you want cheap? Do you want easy? Then you may not end up with anything that has very good image quality or ease of use. Do you want cheap, but don’t mind it being hard to use? Then you might be able to get something a little better looking, but be prepared for the learning curve if you’re not a pro already.

The DSLR dilemma

Many of the coolest looking videos coming out of churches these day were shot on a SLR – that is, a fancy photo camera that also shoots video – or a Mirrorless camera with the same body type as an SLR. DSLR stands for “Digital Single Lens Reflex” camera. The “Reflex” refers to the fact that the image you’re looking at through the viewfinder is reflected from the lens, through a penteprism to give you the most accurate image to what your camera is actually seeing. Recently “mirrorless” cameras have become a popular option; they remove the mirror and have an electronic viewfinder which gives the option of showing readout info over the image that wasn’t available to traditional SLRs. For the sake of this entry I’m going to group both mirrorless and SLR cameras together and refer to them both as DSLRs because they are mostly the same kind of camera. DSLR camera rigs usually result in amazing image quality, and can be relatively affordable but they can require some know-how to get them to look (and especially sound) as good as they can. There are a number of challenges with DSLRs:

  • Rolling Shutter – DSLR cameras have what’s called a “rolling shutter” this means the image is being refreshed from top to bottom instead of all at once (which would be “global shutter”) This effect causes images to distort when the camera is panned or zoomed quickly, or when something moves quickly past the camera, resulting in images that look like the one below. Rolling shutter is worse on some cameras than others. Most Nikon DSLRs have very bad rolling shutter, much worse than canons which is part of the reason most people won’t be buying Nikon cameras for video. The more popular cameras such as the Canon 5D, 7D, T2i (and higher), and the Panasonic GH4 have slightly better rolling shutter than most cameras, but don’t think that a higher price brings less jello-frame. Sony’s A7s which is in the higher end of this category has terrible rolling shutter, though otherwise it is a great camera. Rolling shutter can be easily avoided with the use of shoulder mount rigs, stabilizers, and good shooting technique, but it is a factor that pretty much all DSLR users have to contend with to some degree. VM_MakingMovies2_05
  • Sound – the issue with sound on DSLRs is basically boiled down to the fact that no DSLR-type cameras come with professional audio inputs. Many of them don’t have audio inputs at all. This is one of the problems that makes DSLR shooting quite complicated at times. The built-in mic is basically useless for anything but reference. If you use the on-board audio input you’ll still often end up with sub-part audio as it is not balanced and many cameras have an auto gain or noise reducing ‘features’ that actually make it worse. The most common way around this is to record using an off-board audio recording device. In the past few years there’s been an explosion of audio devices for this purpose; some of which even mount directly to your camera. After recording this audio you then have the added step of syncing your audio and video – a process that is thankfully now automated in most editing programs, but still takes time. zoom_h6_connections
  • Ergonomics – DSLRs are not intended for long walk and talk video shooting. As such it’s almost impossible to hold the camera steady without investing in some kind of rig that puts the camera’s weight on your shoulder. This adds to the price, sometimes offsetting the cost-saving potential of working with SLRs to begin with. Also these really don’t solve the issue that many of the buttons and features you’d like quick access to, are often buried in on-screen menus, rather than being available at the flick of a switch. Rigs are often a bandaid and none of them turn the camera into a shoulder mounted camera, they just improve slightly on its handling – which brings me to my next point…Dslr_Rig_Shoulder_Mount_RL_02
  • Rigs – as mentioned above, DSLR owners will usually invest in camera rigs that help with the ergonomics, but they often have to take into consideration mounting an audio recorder, a shotgun mic, a electronic view finder, a counter weight, a external video recorder, follow focus, matte box, tripod adapter plate, grip out riggers, top handles, cages to protect your camera, and a battery back to power everything. This gets very cumbersome and makes shooting much more complicated every time you set up and tear down.

Traditional video cameras come in two flavors: professional and consumer. While most retailers make the distinction of professional based on the audio inputs, I believe that a professional video camera should also either have 3 CCD chips or at least a 1/2″ CMOS chip. Anything less than that usually results in lower image quality than most pros would stand for. Pro cameras should also have removable lenses. By the way, if anyone ever uses the word “prosumer” (a mash up of pro and consumer) to describe a camera – don’t take that person’s advice, that’s what amateurs call their consumer equipment to make it sound better. Plus the stuff that usually gets called that is often the worst of both worlds; not great price, not great quality.

To get the same image quality out of a pro video camcorder will cost you exponentially more than a DSLR, but video cameras are far easier to use than DSLRs and you can get much better sound quality out of them without buying any external recorders. Many of the features that you have to buy to add on to DSLRs are built into traditional video cameras, such as electronic view finders, ND filters, and shoulder mount-ability. Higher end video cameras often come with lots of cool features that really give you that “wow” factor.

How much should I spend

As much as you can. That may sound frivolous, but I mean it. I’d say spend at least a dollar for every person in your church, but that should be a lower limit. Why spend money on cameras? Because we’re telling the greatest story ever told! When people see work that looks really low quality, they’re not going to take it seriously and poor quality doesn’t glorify God. At the same time I know we don’t have unlimited budgets so I’ve prepared a range of cameras from $500 to $15000 for you to look through.

So, what camera should I buy?

I’m going to give you a few different recommendations and I’ll be the first to say that these may go out of date, but I’ll also say that not all technology advances the way phones, tablets , and computers do. Many people still use the same cameras they bought five years ago and are happy with the results. Cameras tend to go in at least 2-5 year cycles, so if you buy a camera that is a newer model it will be up-to-date for around 3 years on average and could be functional for up to ten years depending on the model. (Unlike your phone which will be out of date next year or your computer which was out of date by the time you finished this sentence.) I’m going to give them a rating based on the four factors I mention above. The rating is on a scale of 1-10, ten being the best. I would like to clarify that a rating of 10 doesn’t mean that it’s the best there is, it just means that among the cameras that I’m discussing it’s among the best. So here are a few recommendations.

Bear in mind that this list is primarily for Field cameras, that is, cameras that you’re going to use out and about – not for recording services. If you want to record services, I’ve made a note of the two cameras on this list that will work for that purpose, but if you’re really wanting to knock that out of the park you’re going to have to drop some major coin on at least three cameras, a switcher, and several expensive pieces of infrastructure, so this list isn’t addressing that set up.

1 – The Cheap, and Easy option

Screen Shot 2015-05-06 at 10.08.04 AM

The Canon Vixia HF R series – Cheap, Easy, but bad image quality (especially in low light) and very few useful features.

Picture Quality – 1

Ease of Use – 10

Features – 3

Price – 10 ($400-$500)

I debated even putting this one on here, but often times I get asked, “what’s the cheapest thing you’ll recommend?” The Vixia series is the best consumer series of cameras. You can actually spend up to $2000 on a high end vixia, though I don’t recommend it as you can get a better camera for that price. The HF R series is constantly changing. At this point I’d recommend the HF R52, but really any Vixia camera close to $500 will be similar; very easy to use, very affordable. The image quality will be acceptable for many applications, but it will look like consumer video. Also the camera itself looks like a consumer video camera, so don’t expect people to take you seriously while you’re using this thing.

2 – The inexpensive, good image quality option

Screen Shot 2015-05-06 at 9.42.00 AMThe Canon T5i – Great image quality, Inexpensive, decently easy to use, but lacking in features like audio inputs

Picture quality – 7

Ease of Use -5

Features – 3

Price – 9 ($700 with a lens)

Canon makes a load of great consumer model DSLRs that do video well. The T5i is one of them, but really if you get a T2i or higher you’re getting basically the same camera with some minor feature enhancements. Its audio feature set is limited and options with frame rates are also limited. The picture quality is awesome in day light, but can get a little rocky in lower light situations. While it is easy to use for most, to take full advantage of the camera’s capabilities will require some knowledge. Having said that, it’s possible for an amateur to get a really good image out of this camera with a limited knowledge and some tutorials online. The biggest disadvantage is audio. If you’re wanting to capture audio, this is not your camera. You will need a seperate recorder such as a Zoom H4n or Tascam’s DR-40. Another disadvantage is the record limits. The camera can only record up to around 12 minutes at a time. Shooting film-style, this isn’t a big deal, but longer form programs make this camera useless, unless you hack the firmware with something like “Magic Lantern” that adds several missing features, but will void your warranty and could mess up your camera since it is a share-ware program. Also there are many features that professionals look for that won’t be included such as higher frame rates, zebra striping, or professional video outputs. To get this most out of the camera you’ll also want to spend more on lenses. The cool thing about buying lenses for the T series is that you can get glass that will fit higher-end cameras (as long as you get APS lenses and not APS-C lenses). Lenses (pros often just call them “glass”) are a good investment as they’ll outlast your camera and can be used across many different kinds of cameras given the right adapters.

3 – The Easy, good feature set option

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The Canon XA35 OR XA30 – Very Easy to use, good feature set, mediocre image quality, medium price

Picture Quality – 5

Ease of Use – 7

Features – 5

Price – 5-6 ($2000 for XA35 $1500 for XA30)

This is most often the first camera I recommend. While the image quality is not stellar, it’s still better than most consumer cameras. It has professional audio inputs (Two XLR plugs) and it has a decent size sensor. It also has professional exposure settings. While it is easy to use, it’s not stellar at anything – the price for quality is just OK, the feature set is only OK. It’s a very solid camera, but it isn’t an amazing camera. With no removable lenses and no high frame rate features, it gets the job done, but won’t wow anyone. Having said that, it’s more than enough for many churches and will give a boost in image quality and audio quality over other options, so in many ways its the closest thing to being better of both worlds, though it’s far from the best.

XA30 vs 35 – so what’s the difference between these two versions of the camera? (aside from $500) The 35 comes with professional HD outputs this is only necessary if you’re doing a multi-camera set up and live switching. I mention this because if you ever plan to do a multi cam set up in the future you should spring for the XA35 because it will leave you more flexibility for that.

4 – The low-price professional option

The JVC GY-LS300 and Panasonic Lumix G Vario 14-140mm – It’s got some cool features, pretty great image quality, decently easy to use, but it ain’t super cheap

Picture Quality – 7

Ease of Use – 4

Features – 7

Price – 4 ($2600+500 lens, $3100 )

Just to prove that I’m not a total Canon fan boy, I’d like to note that my first real professional camera that i’m recommending is a JVC. This Camera has the same size sensor as much higher end cameras. With professional audio inputs, it’s the full package. It also has removable lenses, but unfortunately JVC doesn’t make lenses so you’ll have to purchase a lens separately. Any of panasonic’s micro 4/3 power lenses SHOULD do the trick, but be prepared to return them if they don’t From the research I’ve done people say they work, but any time you’re working with two different brands, you’ve got to be flexible. With an adapter you can even make this guy take canon lenses and there are lots of options that open up from there, but if you want good cinema lenses Rokinon’s micro 4/3 lenses are pretty solid. It also comes with a shotgun mic and can be shoulder mounted out of the box. In some ways I’d say that this guy is the best for the money. It’s the most price/image quality you can get at this price point. This is another one where investing in good lenses is a necessity if you want to take full advantage of what you’ve got. Perhaps the greatest strength of this camera is that it will work well shooting live events as well as field work. The rest of the cameras below are great for field work, but wouldn’t really work in event production, especially in a multi cam situation. This guy (and the XA20 above) are really the best on this list if you’re wanting to capture worship services, especially if you want to do it from multiple angles, but that’s another blog entry.

5 – the cheapest way to 4K

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The Panasonic GH4

Picture Quality – 8

Ease of Use – 3-4 (depending upon what you add to it)

Features – 5-8 (depending upon what you add to it)

Price – 3-5

camera only ($1200, rigged out $3,500+)

Ok I do get questions about 4K – what is it? Do we need it? Should we spring for it? 4K is a standard that’s approximately 4 times High Definition video. It is absolutely not necessary and I doubt that it will ever reach the market saturation that HD has because it only really makes a difference if your screen is over 60 inches. It’s kind of a digital version of film (film lovers, please don’t get onto me for saying that) Why would you want 4k then? For a few reasons: Capturing video in 4k gives you lots of options in post with stabilizing, cropping the image to get a new angle, and having the highest possible quality and color info coming into the edit. It also does ensure that if 4k does take hold in the market you’ll have footage that’s ready for it. It also just looks great; if you can afford to go higher quality, why not? If you ever think you might want to show your work in the real movie theater I’d recommend shooting and editing in 4K, but if you’re wanting to get to that place you don’t need to be taking my advice, you need to be going to film school. One consideration to take with 4K is the fact that it does take some substantial editing hardware; a high end work station and fast hard drive to support the higher bit rates as well as some good monitors to be able to see all the detail.

6 –  The simplest truly high quality fella

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The Canon C100 has great image quality right out of the box, with a big sensor and a great feature set, but it is down right expensive.

Picture Quality – 8

Ease of Use – 4

Features – 7

Price – 3 ($6000 with lens)

Canon’s “C” series has some of the best cameras available, but all of them come at a price premium. This is the first camera on this list with a “Super 35” sensor. This is the largest sensor you can get short of “full frame” and if you’re getting really serious about your video I wouldn’t go any smaller than this. The C series cameras all have amazing image quality that doesn’t require much tampering with in post, but the cameras tend to be awkward to use ergonomically. With XLR ports and the ability to tack on canon glass, this guy is the littlest brother in the C series, but he is by no means a low end camera. The C stands for Cinema, so basically you’re getting a digital cinema camera. I should specify that in this case I’m talking about C100 NOT the C100 mk II which is a better camera, but also carries a $2k mark up. The original C100 is still in production as of the writing of this blog, but it may go out of production soon, in which case I’d still recommending seeing about getting one used or refurbished as it is mostly the same camera at a much better price.

7 –  The classic DSLR option

Screen Shot 2015-05-06 at 11.23.14 AMThe Canon 5D mk III – If you want just plain amazing video without having to work too hard, here it is.

Picture Quality – 9

Ease of Use – 3-5 (depending upon what you add to it)

Features – 3-5 (depending upon what you add to it)

Price –  2-4 ($3000 with a kit lens – $8,000 fully outfitted)

Here’s the deal: The Canon 5D is a truly amazing camera. Some would say it’s the best option. I have friends who swear by it. It will never be beaten in their eyes. Is it the best camera there is? Not at all. Does it produce phenomenal images? For certain. An episode of House M.D. was shot with nothing but canon 5D mk IIs. There are even shots in Marvel’s avengers that were taken with this guy. He’s a beast. He’s an amazing camera. However, without investing a considerable amount of cash in lenses, rigs, external recorders, and other features, you’re never going to get the kind of results that are possible with this camera. You can just spend $3k and you’ll get a camera capable of taking really great images, but to make this camera all it can be, you’ll need to spend another 2-5 grand.

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What makes it so amazing? It’s the first camera on this list with a full-frame sensor. Actually it’s predecessor, the Mark II was the first full frame camera capable of video that cost less than $50k. It started the large-sensor revolution in video cameras. Full frame means that it’s equal to the size of a 35mm film exposure. What that means is that it takes less light to get a clean, smooth looking image, it also means that it doesn’t take much work to get that really cool looking bokeh (the cool shallow-focus backgrounds we all recognize as a component of cinematic, professional looking images). Finally a large sensor allows for you shoot wider angles, so you can get those big establishing shots more easily.

What are the downsides?  The 5D cannot record more than 15 minutes without either hacking its software (using magic lantern) or adding an external recorder. For most film-style shoots this is fine because it’s very rare for a single shot to go on more than a few minutes, but if you’re trying to record an event, it’s a big limit. Also, as with most DSLRs the audio options are pretty limited and without hacking the software you’re stuck with an irritating auto gain “feature” (which can be disabled on the less expensive GH4) Also as with all DSLRs it requires a rig if you’re going to go hand held, as the ergonomics are not built for video.

8 – The best DSLR option

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The Sony A7sii -The best all-around if you’re going to go with an DSLR rig.

Picture Quality – 9.5

Ease of Use – 3-5

Features – 4-6

Price- 2-4 ($3.5K with a lens – $8,000+ fully outfitted)

While not technically an SLR (it doesn’t have a mirror) it retains the popular SLR form factor and is, in every way, an equivalent to or better than any other full-frame DSLR camera. To canon fanboys this may be controversial, but objectively the A7s is a better camera than the 5D if only for two reasons: the A7s has phenomenal low-light performance. The 5D has really good low-light performance, but the A7s can shoot in near darkness and still get a usable image without much noise. The other reason is that Sony has a pretty affordable add-on option ($700) that adds XLR ports to the A7s. The original A7s is cheaper than the A7sii, the main two differences are the recording capability and the stabilization. The A7s shoots in 4k, but only the A7sii can record in 4k on board. For the original A7s, 4K recording requires a separate recorder. The other difference between the the original A7s and the A7sii is the biggest downside to the A7s; it has notoriously bad rolling shutter, making it a poor choice for high-action shooting and almost impossible to use handheld without some kind of stabilizing rig. This is mostly compensated for in the A7sii by adding image stabilization to the sensor itself allowing for two-stage stabilization, both in the lens and in the sensor. This isn’t perfect, but it allows for much smoother images and greatly reduces rolling shutter. A small downside to both the original and the A7sii is the fact that because it is a Sony camera it uses Sony lenses (which are just ok) but again a lens adapter can allow it to use canon lenses.  As with all other DSLRs you can just buy the camera and the lens and start shooting with it, but to get the full use of this guy you’ll want to invest in lenses, LUTs, and other add-ons, which means that it is not very easy to use to it’s fullest capabilities.

9 – A truly professional 4K Camera with amazing features

Screen Shot 2015-05-06 at 12.23.23 PMThe Sony PXW-FS7 – A truly incredible camera, and a price that may seem high, but is low for what you get.

Picture Quality – 10

Ease of Use – 2

Features – 9

Price – 1 ($10,000 with lens $15,000 fully outfitted)

This is the camera that my current place of employment uses as our standard field recording tool. I love this camera. It features a super 35mm sensor. It records in 4k natively. It can take up to 4 XLR inputs (with an available extension from Sony) and is shoulder mountable right out of the box. Sony offers several great add-ons that enhance the already robust feature set of this camera such as adding professional battery mounts, 12G SDI outputs, onboard Pro-res recording, off-board RAW recording, more flexible rigging options and others. My favorite feature of this camera is the over-cranking. It can shoot up to 180 frames per second continuously resulting in really smooth slow-motion. It also can shoot in S-Log 3, which results in a really high-dynamic range image than can be brought into color correction and tweaked to look like film. To use this camera you need to spend a considerable time learning it, even if you’re a professional I recommend taking an online class to learn how to utilize this camera best. LUTs and color-correction would also be good to study-up on. This guy is not for amateurs or hobbyists. Canon’s C300 Mark II is in a similar category as far as feature set, but starts at six grand premium over this fella and doesn’t have any specs that rank higher. Canon fanboys will be angry at my for not including the C300, but to me it either needs to be full-frame or come down in price to have a place on this list.

10 – (BONUS) The One Peter Jackson Uses


RED EPIC – I just wanted to mention the RED camera

Picture Quality – 20

Ease of use – 0

Features – 20

Price- 0 ($50,000)

RED is a camera company that was founded by the same guy who owns Oakley sunglasses. They have several camera models now, but the Epic is the one worth mentioning. It is what was used to shoot the Hobbit Trilogy among others. While digital hasn’t cought up with film, this is the closest it comes. It shoots in 5K and results in images that most people can’t distinguish from film. As far as digital cinema goes these guys are also very affordable even at their $50k price point. I don’t have to tell you they look good, go watch the Hobbit.


Before I wrap this up I want to mention lenses for a moment. the best camera can’t produce great images without great lenses. Sony, Panasonic, Canon, and others each have their own standard of lenses. In addition there’s the PL standard which is used for cinema lenses. The option that is going to give you the most flexibility (both in price and in number of lenses) is Canon lenses. No matter the camera, you can find an adapter that will make your canon lenses fit to it. When you buy canon lenses make sure they’re full-frame or APS lenses not APS-C. This will give you more flexibility as you move up the ladder and generally these are going to be better lenses anyway. Rokinon makes a very affordable set of cinema lenses that result in some great images for an affordable price. On the higher end, Zeiss makes some great glass that fits canon which are just incredible. Whether you start with a T2i, GH4, or A7s I recommend investing in canon glass, because even if you eventually move up to a FS7, a C300, or even a RED EPIC, you can use that same glass on any of those higher end cameras.

Good Luck

Researching for a large purchase of any kind is hard work, and you always run the risk of something newer and better being released as soon as you purchase your new piece of equipment. If you have any questions feel free to comment below – I may have left something out, or I might be able to clarify it for your specific needs. Blessings!