Remedial Christianity



Hey everyone, this fall I celebrate my 20th fall kickoff in campus church ministry!  (I am feeling OLD)  The last 3 weeks have been a whirlwind of preparation, prayer and excitement.  I thought it might be nice to share with you a brief overview of some of the highlights!   (this is for all of you that wonder….what exactly do these people do?)


A little collaboration for our leadership team

Aug 13-14th : Staff Orientation.  As our leadership team has grown, we have realized the importance of pulling together every year to get re-oriented as to our vision, methods, and processes.  We spent two entire days reviewing the big questions (Why are we here?) & small (how do you update this google doc?) in preparation for the coming school year!

Aug 15th : Listening Seminar.  We spent the day learning (relearning?) some VITAL listening skills that we will use every day here on campus. Our friend Rick Keith a pastor from our sister church, New Life Church, graciously came down from Ann Arbor to teach us how to love Buckeyes better.  SUCH a key ministry skill for all of us.


Aug 16: Jon & Gretchen Moore’s wedding. Love these guys.

move in service

Aug 18-20th: Staff Retreat.  Now that all the administrative & management details were covered, the leadership team of h2o took a couple days for spiritual reconnection and refreshment.  It was a fabulous time of bonding , but more importantly, a time of prayer and reflection on God’s Word. Great way to start the new year.


Worst Golfers Ever?


Aug 20th: Sammy and Savita have their first day of school at Metro middle school.

Aug 21st: Prayer and Fasting.  Probably the best work of the whole year.  We just spent the day asking for God to move powerfully on our campus and in our city.

Aug 22nd: MOVE-IN Day. Campus was an absolute zoo.  Our students were everywhere trying to connect with & serve the new arrivals.

Aug 23rd (morning): Move-In Service.  Despite the fact that many students hadn’t moved in yet, and the freshmen had only been around for 24 hours, 500+ folks filled the Great Hall Mtg room at the Union as we kicked off our new sermon series on Galatians — “How the Gospel Redefines Everything”

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Two of our newest staffers, David & Becca, get ready for communion

fired up

Who’s fired up??

standing room only

Worst seats in the house…


Aug 23rd (afternoon): Involvement Fair.  We had a HUGE team of students volunteer to help us at involvement fair, where we met thousands of new students.  We gave away 3000+ bottles of water (which was good because it was HOT), and took hundreds of spiritual interest surveys.

inv fair2inv fair

Aug 23rd (evening): Leadership Community Kickoff. I forgot to get a picture, but there was about 125 of h2o leaders there to worship and dream about what God might do this year in our midst.  We are praying for our theme passage of I Thessalonians 1:4-8….that the Gospel would come with power, that we would become imitators of Christ, and that the Word of God would RING OUT at OSU and in Columbus!


Aug 24th: We tried something new this year, called “The Plunge”. A mtg specifically geared towards freshman. The goal was for them to meet our saints and learn about “how to survive their 1st year at OSU”.  This seemed like a huge success.  We had over 200 freshman there, and it was quite engaging and interactive.  We are praying that many of them decide to jump right into our small group community as a result!


Aug 25th- Aug 29th:  Chalking.  Flyering.  We went to every welcome week event that OSU hosts and made it our goal to CONNECT WITH PEOPLE.  Meet them. Love them. Serve them.  And provide some fun, relational alternatives for new students over that 1st week on campus.

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Is h2o among OSU’s “opportunities in Chemistry”. We decided YES!

Aug 26th- Aug 28th: h2o coffee tent.  In an effort to love and serve students during their first few days of classes, we set up a coffee tent starting at 8am on the Oval.  We just gave out free coffee as people passed by, and struck up conversations.  Nothing to sell.  No huge agenda.  Just wanted to let people know we were there and we cared about them.  As the day wore on and it got hotter, we switched to lemonade and popsicles.  This guy is named Jarrod, and this is his very first time tasting coffee.   A future coffee addict I’m sure.



h2o city core team

Aug 27th: h2o City core team meeting. Our ever growing community of young professionals & couples, called “h2o city”, had their first core team meeting for the fall. There were 50+ folks there to pray and dream about our future. God has great things in store here!

Aug 30th: Kickoff Sunday.  Labor Day weekend.  Brutal Thunderstorms.  And yet, God still filled up Hitchcock Hall with men and women who were eager to worship Him.  Afterwards our amazing team of volunteers still managed to grill hundreds of burgers and dogs & God even stopped the rain just long enough for all to have our Meat & Meet.  (I have no idea who came up with that name)  It was so good to connect with old friends and meet new ones.


Sept 1st: Labor Day.  I went golfing.  Then I took a nap.



LT 1995

My last post was all about my wonderful marriage to Heather Shah and I realized after publishing it that although it was nice, it didn’t really hit on the question that I am ASKED MOST about our relationship…..

“How did you know that she was THE ONE?”

So today I will reveal that mystery.

It was the fall of 1994. I was working as an engineer and volunteering with our church on the campus of the University of Michigan.  Heather was a Junior and had just gotten back from Leadership Training that summer.  She was all fired up for Jesus.  She was spiritual, and a servant, and feisty….and super cute.

I was interested.  I will spare you the boring details of us hanging out & eventually dating.  {This is primarily because I was so random and wishy-washy, and I violated every principle that I so passionately teach guys about today}  Let’s just jump to the summer of 1995.  We had decided to date a few weeks before and now I was in Myrtle Beach SC taking a bible class being taught to our collegiate staff.  (we had professors from Moody Bible Institute come down to teach us week-long intensives….so much fun)

Well, one day when I was in bible class, I was bored and daydreaming.  I know that sounds terrible & i REALLY do love the bible, but I’m also pretty sure I have some undiagnosed attention issues.  Anyway, I was crying out to the Lord and asking for insight while doodling Heather’s name over and over on my notes.

At one point I had a flash of insight.  I spelled out her name.  HEATHER TANS. Then I decided to assign a number to each letter based on where it was in the alphabet (A=1, B=2, C=3…)  Then I added it up.  Her name added up to 119.

Inspired, I then did the same with JONATHAN SHAH.



The Lord had spoken.  I had found my soulmate!  A month after I arrived back from LT, I proposed, and we have lived happily ever after.

(I will pause here while you all go and compute your numbers & the numbers of your spouse, boy/girlfriend, or crush)

I know what you are thinking right now….“Jon, now what??  OUR NUMBERS AREN”T THE SAME!”

Well, don’t be discouraged.  It doesn’t mean you can’t have a decent relationship.  You can still love God, have a mediocre marriage and probably even reproduce.  You just won’t be SOULMATES like Heather and I.

Ha! Just kidding.

Well, I’m not kidding about our names adding up to 119.  That was true.  But I would definitely NOT encourage you to use this method to determine who to marry.  That would be stupid.

God has made moral decisions very clear in scripture.  But what about the “non-moral” ones?  Like who to marry… what job to take…where to live?

Does God have specific decisions He is just sitting back and waiting for us to discover?  Where if we choose correctly we experience the life of blessing God desires for us, but if we miss, then we have failed and live out our days wandering in a life of mediocrity?

That’s a lot of pressure.

And for many of us, we can get so DESPERATE to make the “RIGHT” decision that we will cling to anything that sounds convincing….

  • Examining Circumstances.  (“we’re in 4 classes together, this is clearly God at work!”)
  • Setting up Criteria.  (“she meets 74 of the 81 ‘essentials’ that I read about in this book”)
  • Building a consensus of people who agree that it sounds like a fine idea.  (“most of my friends & my dog all really like him”)
  • Random numerology created in a classroom stupor (ok, I’m probably the only one to ever do that)

The problem is, when our emotions get involved, most of us are EXPERTS at justifying anything.  And we KNOW this.  So then we get even more stressed and anxious.  And paralyzed.  What if we choke?!?

That ever happen to you?

What if there was another way to think about these questions?

Listen to what Kevin DeYoung says in his book, “Just Do Something”:

“Does God have a secret will of direction that He expects us to figure out before we do anything? The answer is no. Yes, God has a specific plan for our lives. And yes, we can be assured that He works things for our good in Christ Jesus. And yes, looking back we will often be able to trace God’s hand in bringing us to where we are.  But while we are free to ask God for wisdom, He does not burden us with the task of divining His will of direction for our lives ahead of time….I’m not saying God won’t help you make decision…I’m not saying God doesn’t care about your future.  I’m not saying God isn’t directing your path and in control amidst the chaos of your life.  I believe in providence with all my heart.  What I am saying is that we should stop thinking of God’s will like a corn maze, or a tightrope, or a bull’s-eye, or a choose-your-own-adventure novel.”

Isn’t that a freeing idea?  Let me confess something…

I never did figure out if Heather was “The One” before I married her.

No one had ever told me that I needed to do that.  In fact, in other news, I’m still not sure I even know what ‘soulmate’ means.

DeYoung continues…

“God is not a Magic 8-ball we shake up and peer into whenever we have a decision to make.  He is a good God who gives us brains, shows us the way of obedience, and invites us to take risks for Him.  We know God has a plan for our lives. That’s wonderful. The problem is we think He’s going to tell us the wonderful plan before it unfolds.  We feel like we can know – and need to know – what God wants every step of the way. But such preoccupation with finding God’s will, as well-intentioned as the desire may be, is more folly than freedom.

The better way is the biblical way: Seek first the Kingdom of God, and then trust that He will take care of our needs, even before we know what they are and where we are going. “

Ironically, years before this book was written, my mentors had modeled for me similar ideas.  Serve the Lord. Occupy yourself with what you DO know.  Ask for wisdom.  And trust that He will lead you in the way you should go.

This is how it worked itself out in my life…

1.  I prayed a lot.  

First and foremost about MY OWN walk with the Lord.  Am I following Him? Am I committed to His mission?  Do I have the right view of marriage?

Then I prayed about Heather.

2. I got a TON of input.

From people who knew me, who would speak candidly into my life & are spiritually mature.  (this is NOT the time to surround yourself with simpletons and “yes” men)

3.  I scoured the Bible for wisdom and principles to apply. 

(Yes, there ARE biblical principles to apply here, and a TON of good books with thought provoking questions to consider)

My recommendation to anyone who is considering marriage now or in the future is to pick up the book, The Meaning of Marriage – by Tim Keller.

4.  I took a risk and committed myself to loving this woman for the rest of my life.

In my mind, it has always been a choice.  And a risk.  God has invited me to love this woman, and I gladly accepted.

And now she IS “The ONE”.

Maybe that is why for the vast majority of our marriage I have felt that it’s a privilege to be married to Heather & not a burden.

18 years.  So far, so good.


PS {By the way….I would encourage anyone wrestling with God’s Will and direction to get ahold of this little book by DeYoung. He provides interesting thoughts on why this preoccupation with making the “right” decisions can breed fear and passivity in our lives}


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This is one of my favorite pictures ever.  It was from last summer at Leadership Training in Colorado.  I was helping Meghan up a hill, and then turned around to see this….Isaac & Savita sharing a moment.   This sums up my DREAM for my children.  Each different.  Personalities.  Gifts.  Relationships.  Each going to follow a different path and mission laid out by God.   But along the way they will be tight.  There will be a bond between them that will bend but never break.  It will be strained but never snap.  They will look out to the future together.

And when I read the NT…I see that same vision for the the church.  Passages such as Romans 12:3-8 & I Corinthians 12 speak of this reality.  Everyone who is “in Christ”.  Whoever believes in Christ & finds their righteousness in Him alone.  They are One body. One family. One household.  All together we are the children of God….(John 1:12, Ephesians 1:5)

But is this what we experience?  Is this what the world sees in us?

I talked to a student awhile ago about spiritual questions he had,  and shared a bit about Christ.  He stopped me at one point and said…”I don’t know man, I appreciate that you are talking to me about this stuff, but it seems like all you Christians do is fight and argue with one another.  Maybe you should get your house in order


I wanted to argue with him, but his comment hit home.  Sometimes it is so sad to see the casual way Christians will dishonor other Christians…

  • We will openly criticize, slander & gossip about our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ.
  • We will let conflict be unresolved.
  • We will let our speech dishonor & air our dirty laundry in public.  (the internet = in public by the way)
  • We will see other churches or ministries as the “competition”

Now there is nothing wrong with disagreement in a family. Nothing at all.  It HAS to happen.  And sometimes it is serious.  But so often it turns to dishonor and disrespect…

Even worse, sometimes we will sell one another out TO TRY AND IMPRESS OUR CULTURE.  We hear subtle (and not so subtle) messages like this in Christendom all the time.

“We’re not like them.  We…..(are more relevant)….(are more traditional)….(are smarter)….(love the city more)….(love the campus more)…..(love justice more)….etc…”

“You’ve been waiting for a church like us!”

Yes, I confess, I have been guilty of at least 3 of those statements at different times.  So sad.

I don’t know how God “feels” about all of that.  But I do know that few things cause me more sorrow than seeing my kids disrespect or dishonor one another.  When they sell each other out, or point the finger, or try to impress their friends at the expense of their siblings….my heart breaks because I know that this is not the way it should be.

We are family.  And that is important.  Just like Gene Hackman reminds us in  Wyatt Earp.   (Ok, he goes too far in that one, but if you replace “blood” with “Jesus” you get closer to the right idea)

The same is true with the Church.  There is something SO MUCH BETTER FOR US.

So as I wrap up this little series, here’s a few thoughts on how we get our “house in order”…


It’s not just your biological family, or your small group, or your local church, or your “tribe” of churches….this call to honor is for ALL your brothers and sisters in Christ.

“For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.  For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.”

– I Corinthians 12:12-13

There will be men and women from every NATION and TRIBE and PEOPLE and LANGUAGE worshipping Him for eternity! (Rev 7:9)  We have to stop honoring a handful of our family members and decide to (as best we can) honor and respect them all.


This is the GREAT MYSTERY OF THE GOSPEL!  That God has taken Jews, Gentiles, slaves, free and made them all ONE IN CHRIST.  What sort of power could do that?  What sort of power could tear down all the divisions, and the hatred and animosity and bring unity?   Where diversity is real & celebrated and revolves around Christ.

And no one can get an attitude or arrogant, because WE WERE ALL ADOPTED!  No one “belongs” in this family more than any other.  We are like this crew…..(ok, only one of them was adopted into our family, but you have to love this picture)

3 kids

That is our God.  This is our Family.

 “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.  By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

– John 13:34-35

Every time we stop to honor a brother or sister, it turns the ways of the world on their head.  It is subversive.  It is a tangible manifestation of the Gospel.  God is honored and the world takes notice.

(a great example of that in a recent blog post by Tullian Tchividjian on his public recent ‘break-up’ with the gospel coalition.  i don’t know too much about the conflict, but the apology captured the beauty of honor/respect in the midst of disagreement)


I visited Lifepoint Church in Lewis Center OH this summer.  No one knew I was coming…but I know and respect the leaders there and thought it would be fun to worship with their community.  As the service started we had a wonderful time praising and honoring the Lord,  then pastor Dean came up to preach. Before he began, to my surprise he said, “we have a special guest here….Jon Shah from h2o church is visiting…and then blah blah blah (insert really nice stuff here)” He then cracked a joke about me being from Michigan and moved on.

But right afterwards, a lady in front of me turned around and shook my hand and said, “it is a real honor to meet you.”

Huh?  I had no idea who she was.  Or why she would consider it an honor to meet me.   But it didn’t seem like the typical Christian pleasantry, she seemed very sincere.

And it nourished my soul in a way that took me by surprise.


Because serving Christ can be hard.  For people in some cultures it can bring mockery and even persecution.  Sacrifice and pain.  I haven’t experienced much pain, but it can be lonely and sad.  It can be heart-breaking and hard work.  There is suffering.  Jesus guarantees it. (Jn 16:33).  The NT writers speak of it often.

And the honor and kindness of our family can help us stay encouraged and filled with faith.

A kind word.  An unexpected compliment.  A surprise gift.

They are reminders from our brothers and sisters.  A message from your Father.  KEEP GOING.  IT IS WORTH IT.  YOUR FATHER IS PLEASED.  YOUR FAMILY IS WITH YOU. WE RECOGNIZE AND HONOR GOD’S GIFTS AND WORK IN YOU.

And WE ALL NEED THIS.  Even the coolest, more secure leader you know.

Even the smallest messages of love and honor give LIFE.  And God’s Kingdom moves forward.


In my mind, every time we honor our brothers and sisters we subvert our “me-first” culture.  We challenge our pride and remind ourselves what is REALLY true.  We protect ourselves from thinking too highly of ourselves.

Showing honor to your brothers and sisters is literally practicing humility.  It is acting in line with the Gospel and letting it take deeper root in your life.  “To honor the other person is one way of holding in check the innate human tendency to honor oneself unduly.” (I read this somewhere)

Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.   – Romans 12:10 ESV

A simple verse.  An incredibly high call.  But one worth fighting for.  Let’s get our house in order.

PS If you made it through all 6 posts…thanks for reading…I hope it was encouraging in some way.