“When you’re trapped inside a social system where you constantly have to work for your own superiority and can slip into inferiority in a moment, you are inevitably very insecure. That is the honor/shame hierarchy. God doesn’t participate in such a system.” Richard Rhor

How do I tell you my friend, my neighbor, my wife, my daughter, my brother, my sister that you are fearfully and wonderfully made, forgiven, accepted, brought in, empowered, loved?

For that is my calling. That is primary what God wants of me: to pass on to you what He has given me – to pass on truth and grace. Once you understand, then that’s your calling too.

Many times I don’t know how to do it and I feel so helpless. I don’t feel smart enough to figure out how to get beyond your resistance. Sometimes I am lost in my own insecurity and am afraid to try. But in my heart of heart I so want to. For when I meet you there in that true place of worth and forgiveness, acceptance, brought in, empowered and loved, it is like being in the light and we have true connection with one another and for that moment I am living with you in the real, not in the dark.

What I found is the only way I can fulfill such a duty is by letting my brokenness lead, the brokenness He has reached in deep to meet me there, to reduce me and inso freeing me.

Sometimes grace is wonderfully terrifying.

I hope to meet you there.


“Oh I will show them through this drill. They will get it.”
“Oh they didn’t get it. Got to try another drill. Then they will get it.”
“They still didn’t get it. Why didn’t they get it. Ok try something else.”
“Argh! They still didn’t get it. They will never get it. Why try something else. Just accept they won’t get it.”

This same internal dialog can occur for the counselor, teacher, mentor, pastor, and even parent. It is the frustration of someone who thinks they have the ability to control the outcome of another’s development.

Coaching, like teaching, mentoring and even parenting can seem like a course of futility. I am reminded that such frustration is not the issue of the one I try to coach. It is my issue of control. “If I do this, they will do that.” That is a control issue.

Coaching is a matter of serving. It is a matter of coming along side in the journey of learning. It is giving perspective, guidelines, encouragement and structure. But we don’t use those to control, thinking we can control the outcome. They may not get it.

But by grace, they do get it. Not of a work of the coach no matter how clever and wise but in some moment of mystery it happens. They develop because it is in the divine design of human development. That development will not happen without an environment that gives structure and support. But we delude ourselves if we think we with the right structures and supportive actions will make the results we want in a young person’s or anyone of any age’s life. So as coach or counselor or pastor or mentor or teacher or parent, we only act out of serving, cooperate with and have faith in the Grace Designer and stay the course because we are responsible to lead and called to care and remind ourselves that we are not in control of results.

Trust and Obey as the old song goes.


“It’s been said that “leadership is best caught not taught.” There’s of course a few lessons about leadership we can pick up from a lecture or conference. But these tend to focus on the outward aspects of leadership that get too much airtime—the methodology, the look, the 10 steps. The inward stuff of leaders, without question, must be caught. You can’t just be lectured to about humility, authenticity, brokenness, honesty, integration, wholeness. These things must be modeled. The best teachers of leadership, therefore, take their students past the classroom and invite them on a journey of discovery, where they are compelled to go deeper and explore the crevasses and caverns of their soul. These teachers can make this invitation because it’s a journey they themselves have undertaken many times. Jon Warden is preeminently this kind of teacher. He is one of the best instructors I know who actually journeys with students, and not just teach at them.” (Regarding Jon’s leading pastors on exploring their brokenness in a mentoring modular for pastors)

Dihan Lee
Associate Pastor of Grace Covenant Church
Lead Planter of Renew Church LA


“Jon’s work with the students in our chapter is analogous to an expert surgeon. He knows exactly what our students need in order to be a more healthy disciple of Jesus and knows exactly where to make the precise cuts. He lets us bleed just enough to get rid of the poison and then graciously introduces who Jesus is in a way that binds the wound and gives glory to God. He knows how to lead students into difficult places and cares enough to show students the light of Jesus. He is a fearless speaker, knowing that his words will cut deep, but knowing that the healing of Jesus is worth it. He is also thorough and accommodating, doing what is necessary in order to fulfill the call that God has given him in any given retreat or conference setting. I would highly recommend him to any group that needs to experience the deep healing of Jesus.”
HC Yang
Campus Staff Member
Northwestern University InterVarsity


Last fall (September) we invited Jon to visit our community and spend a weekend teaching material from his newly released book, “Resisting Grace”. Jon facilitated a three day retreat (Fri pm – Sun am) where he taught four times, but also made himself available for appointments on Saturday afternoon.

Jon is a creative and life-giving teacher. Sharing from deep encounters with Jesus throughout his life of suffering and struggle, Jon painted for us through visuals, through hands on exercises, through personal story and Scripture, a vivid and compelling picture of God’s grace that has left a lasting imprint on those who attended the weekend. Jon offered us helpful paradigms around words like brokenness and resistance that gave us language to talk with each other about why we struggle to experience and receive the grace of God. We are thankful for our time with Jon and highly recommend him to any community looking to grow in their understanding of God and His marvelous grace.

Joshua Koh
Congregational Pastor
Vancouver Chinese Alliance Church (Canada)

Our compromised solutions sabotage any pursuit of meeting our needs.
Need of acceptance/Need of belonging/Need of competence
– compromised solution of people pleasing may result in be popularity but not for who you are but for the image you put forth, sabotaging the only way to get acceptance, the risk to be real.
– compromised solution of withdrawing (avoid rejection) may result in not facing potential rejection but left with being on the outside, sabotaging the only way to belong, take the risk to join.
- compromised solution of critical control (pointing out other flaws or manipulating others to do what you want) may result in inflating your sense of power but left in not knowing true authentic giving and receiving.

Sunday morning was traumatic for the Warden family. It was triggered by us simply being a few minutes late and Joelle not having a seat by her good friend, Emily, at church service. Didn’t know it at first but she was clearly visibly upset. Upset enough that MJ took her out of service to find a quiet place alone with her to try to comfort and talk to her. Fifteen minutes later I proceeded to look for them. They were far in the outskirts of the building, sitting on two seats in a very big hallway, all alone. Joelle was feeling left out and didn’t want to go to Sunday School class because she was too upset.

Actually it was kind of a long weekend of feeling left out for her. That night before her friends had a sleepover without her (not because she wasn’t invited but simply because 1. Joelle doesn’t do sleepovers well and 2. She had a basketball game the next day and I didn’t want her all tired out.). She did okay with not having the chance to be with them and she did get to hangout with them until she had to go home. But I think there was leftover residue of feeling left out. So when she saw her friend surrounded and no chair open for her in the front of the service, she fell apart.

So what does a parent do? Do we force her to go to class no matter what she feels? “Buckle up and get in there. That’s life deal with it”
Do we try to reason and empathize endlessly, hoping she will get it and be rational enough to go back on her own? “Emily didn’t know you were at church and so she didn’t know to save you a seat.”
Do we just skip it and let her sulk in the hallway? Or just pack our bags and go home?

So it dawned on me to simply reflect back to her how what she was doing was sabotaging any possibility of her getting what she wanted. That is, that she wants not to be left out and rather to be received and accepted by her friend. I had to unpack that a bit with her and told her that if she chose to withdraw and stay away from class and Emily she would not be able to feel belonging and wantedness. Her solution to deal with her hurt was interfering with what she most dearly longed for. If she stayed in the hallway, she sabotages any possibilities, though it may be less risky. If she went to class, it would be more risky but the possibility to get what she longed for was there.
She resisted quite a bit. She still didn’t want to go. But we were not going to sit and sulk with her. MJ and I would go to service and get her after it was done.
She did agree to go to class, with fear and trembling. Once in, her friend Emily welcomed her, as did other classmates, and she was no longer was left out.

We often resist the means of getting our deepest longest met because of the level of risk and connection to the pain of an unmet need much like a ten year old would do. Risking is scary. Acts of faith can be filled with fear. At the door to the Sunday School class MJ very patiently waited with her until she could open the door and go in. I gave her a big hug of encouragement and love. Then she walked in.

It is hard to navigate with our children such places of authentic struggles and not teach them our own compromised solutions. It’s hard to be brave ourselves in risking by standing in the vulnerable place. But that is the place of grace. That is the place of true possibility of deep heart needs being touched. The risk is that there is no guarantee. Needs may not be touched, may not be met. Only possibility.

The alternative in our compromised solution has no possibility at all.

At Grace Conference 2013
How God is about the business of defining us.

If we are honest in our practical theology (the belief we live out), we would say change first then grace. The emphasis on what we do, the steps we need to take, be it noble or be it desperate, overshadows the truth of grace. Resisting Grace attempts to flip back this theology to being right side up again: Grace first, change follows. Individuals, families, communities and nations change, not because of the mustarding of moral efforts but because love has been experienced first and so we love.

Richard Rhor is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors. We may comes from different places of the kingdom but I have felt a kindred spirit with him. I want to know the mystery, the mysticism of grace in my life and pass it on the my wife, my child , my friends and to the world.

Moralism Instead of Mysticism, Richard Rhor

God always entices us through love.

Most of us were taught that God would love us if and when we change. In fact, God loves you so that you can change. What empowers change, what makes you desirous of change, is the experience of love and acceptance itself. This is the engine of change. If the mystics say that one way, they say it a thousand ways. But because most of our common religion has not been at the mystical level, we’ve been given an inferior message—that God loves you when you change (moralism). It puts it all back on you, which is the opposite of being “saved.” Moralism leads you back to “navel-gazing,” and you can never succeed at that level. You are never holy enough, pure enough, refined enough, or loving enough. Whereas, when you fall into God’s mercy, when you fall into God’s great generosity, you find, seemingly from nowhere, this capacity to change. No one is more surprised than you are. You know it is a total gift.

Adapted from Following the Mystics Through the Narrow Gate
. . . Seeing God in All Things (CD, DVD, MP3)

moanalua gardens

Hey Jon,

Thanks so much again for speaking to my students. I was ministered to very powerfully, as well, as your teaching helped challenge deep-seated shame and brokenness in my own life, too.

I’ve included some messages below from students thanking you, as well!

Eve- Thank you so much for being so open and vulnerable with us. Your love of your daughter, family, us, and God was clearly shown to us. Your wisdom from your struggles inspired many of us to take a look at our shame and not sulk in it but rejoice in the lessons it has taught us and the beauty that can come from it. Basically, thank you so much for taking the time out of your busy schedule to spend quality time with us over a short weekend. We learned a lot!

Jessi- thank you for being different than any other speaker we’ve had before, and for making us sit in our brokenness so that we could seek out God’s work, and love, and grace in all aspects of our lives. your deep love and creativity was truly inspiring.God bless

Daniel- Thanks for challenging us (me for sure) to engage with our brokenness in a way that makes us aware of it. It was an incredible weekend to be able to bond as a community of broken people. May God bless you and your family…in brightest day, and blackest night. #CORPSforCHRIST

Amber Kim- Thank you Jon for sharing understandings that God showed you with us. God truly used your words as an answer to prayer – for AAIV’s community and for myself personally. Thank you for being creative and choosing to go with not the norm of retreats. I believe our God is a creative God and He definitely used your mind to show us that! One last thing, thank you for sharing with us the incredible godly love you have for your daughter and wife. May you and your family be continually blessed to bless others!

Loua- Thank you Jon for challenging me to continue to grow in my faith. Specifically, reminding me of my brokenness and how God’s persisting grace continues to redeem us over and over again. Your message and the vulnerability you showed us at this retreat made it so much more valuable to me this year. Thanks.

Michael- I must say, Jon, your story definitely got to me. Some of the things that you have gone through are similar to my worries for the future. It was nice to see someone who has been through those issues and seems to be doing pretty well in the end. Your messages definitely challenged me, and I am still working on processing and wrestling with some of the questions and challenges. You were definitely a GREAT speaker, and I hope we meet sometime again. Prayers for you and your family, and I hope life treats you well! God bless!

Cathy- Jon, thank you for opening my eyes to hidden brokeness and sharing lessons, both biblical and personal. Your vulnerable sharing made your teachings all the more genuine and made me reflect on my own character. I confronted some scars, and also found healing. We as his people may constantly battle with shame, but in God there is grace that always redeems. Again, thank you so SO much for all that you have done. I truly hope we have the chance to meet again.

Amanda- Hi Jon, Thank you so much for giving up your time to come and share God’s word with all of us. Truly, through this retreat, I have learned of my brokenness and shame and was truly ashamed of them. I am reminded that God’s grace overshadows what pain I may be going through. I thank God for speaking through you to us to show us that we are broken somehow but because of His love for us, we are redeemed. I am so touched by your genuine faith and love for God, as well as for your daughter. May God continue to bless you and your family just as you were a blessing to all of us.

Aimee Brown Hi Jon It’s always great to dive into God’s word, but I think it’s really great is to see how it’s lived out. Not many people are willing to put themselves out there and be vulnerable in their weaknesses. I’m really thankful for how you were able to demonstrate your openness to God’s will, even through the struggles and brokenness of life, and was encouraged in hearing your perspective of persistent grace. Glad we got to share this weekend with you. Thank you!


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