January 2008

“Oh my gosh! The baby is being born right now!”

I held my wife’s hand as she lay on the hospital bed, in labor with our fourth child, Graham Anthem.

It had been a difficult pregnancy, not so much physically, but spiritually.

At 32 years old, a decent ministry career, and a rapidly growing family, we both sensed the Lord calling us to close one chapter in our lives and open another. I started dreaming again. Not just ordinary dreams, but dreams I sensed were from God. Dreams about seeing God move powerfully in the world. Dreams about being in the middle of a wave of God’s Spirit in our generation. Dreams about a youth movement that would shake nations. Sometimes they came at night. Sometimes they simply etched themselves on my mind as I prayed and talked with God.

I had some candid conversations with God during that time:

“God what are you doing today? How can I be on the edge of what You’re doing today? Could there be another Jesus movement in our generation? What do we need to do to prepare for it? What can we learn from past moves of God to prepare for a new movement in our generation?”

Dreams of a new student movement took shape. I saw students traveling from campus to campus, multiplying simple, creative expressions of church. I didn’t understand it at first. Sometimes God shows us things we don’t yet understand. Soon, the Lord spoke to me, “Erik, remember, this vision is not about campuses; it’s about nations.” I knew what I dreamed of wasn’t a clever way to do “college ministry.” It had to do with fulfilling the Great Commission.

Jen and I never imagined the adventures and the nations where our dreaming would take us – the joy, the beauty, and, at times, losses along the way.

As news of our pregnancy came that year, we felt we were pregnant with something spiritually as well.

As Graham grew in Jen’s womb, I spent six months praying about how also to respond to the dream growing inside me. It soon became clear many things would need to change about how I saw “ministry”, the church, my job, my marriage, and my family. Jen and I spent the next six months praying often, sensing a transition was coming. Those were difficult times; but they were also some of the deepest times of closeness with God I’d ever known. Though I had experienced some “success” in ministry, I was riddled by doubts and fears. During those six months, God began to Father me through those fears…and lead me to overcome them.

Are the dreams in my heart good? Can I do it? Isn’t it dangerous to step out on a precipice with God and try something new and different? What if no one understands? Will I be alone? What if I fail? 

I discovered God is a Father who raises His sons and daughters to overcome their fears – not to hide from them. This is what God did for me during that time. He led me to face everything I’d ever been afraid of – and overcome them. I believe our true destiny – the fullest expression of living life in a way that matches the deepest longings of our heart – is directly related to facing the things we fear and letting God show His power through us to overcome them.

At the end of those six months, the time came for Graham, our 4th child, to be born.

After 14 hours of labor, Jen’s body wasn’t producing whatever it needed for Graham to be born. The doctors had given her medication, but it wasn’t working.

In the evening, a nurse came and examined Jen again. She said,

“You’re only dilated to a ‘2’. If your body doesn’t kick in to gear really quickly, we’ll have to do a C-section. For whatever reason, this baby doesn’t feel it’s ready to be born.”

She then left the room. (Women need to reach a level of ‘10’ dilation before a baby can be born.)

I realize a C-section is fairly common, but at that moment I felt something stir deep inside me. I can’t fully explain what happened to me next, but I felt the Spirit of God come upon me. The might of a father welled up inside me, and I knew what I needed to do. I looked at Jen’s body and said:

“Son, the time of your birth has come. As your father, I command anything blocking your birth to be removed in the name of Jesus. Now, son, be born!”

I don’t even know completely why I said it. I felt a little dumb, wondering if the doctors were standing outside the room, eyeing me with suspicion.

Right then, the nurse walked back into the room. Jen asked her, “Will you check my level of dilation again?”

The nurse said: “I just checked you, honey. Your body can’t change that fast.”

“I felt something shift in my body after you walked out,” Jen replied.

(She tactfully omitted the story of her enthusiastic husband commanding the baby to be born when she stepped out of the room for a minute.)

The nurse complied and examined her again. “Oh my gosh! The baby is being born right now! I can see His head!”

I stood there stunned, watching a miracle take place before my eyes. My body pulsed with Holy Spirit joy and wonderment.

Two pushes later, my son Graham was born. It was a miraculous birth.

As I held Graham in my arms in the hospital room, crying tears of joy, the presence of God was so thick I felt I could reach out and touch it. As his father, I began to speak blessings over my son, giving him a name that Jen and I agreed on and calling forth the destiny I believed God had planned for him.

Suddenly, I heard the Lord speak two things:

“Go ahead, Erik, build your school. And honor your father.”

The same day Graham was born, The Student Church Planting eXperience (SCPX), a reproducible school for equipping students to make disciples and grow new movements of the church, began. It had been gestating for quite a while. Now was the time. Just as my words as a father called forth Graham, the heart of God the Father was calling forth a new student movement.

A week later, during a historic, tear-filled time with my friend, Pam Arlund, the fabric of SCPX began to take shape. We soon realized this was more than a training: God was using SCPX to grow spiritual families with His heart for the nations.

Here is a small sample of pictures from the last few years. These glimpses show not just a movement taking shape, but sons and daughters of the kingdom rising with a “Permission Given” mindset to pursue their dreams with Father God, make disciples, and grow spiritual family, the church, in their generation.

Michael gets baptized by his sister, Meghan, at UT 2010. Movements on the campus can effect entire families.

Michael baptizes a new disciple a short time later. This is movement ... disciples make disciples who make disciples...and so on

Prayer and joy

Miriam, a Taiwanese student, baptizes a Chinese international student at SCPX UNLV 2009.

David baptizes his friend, Dustin, who he led to the Lord after being on the brink of suicide. As spiritual families of simple churches grow, they sometimes grow into a base for the region. This picture happened at The Hub, a prayer and mission base for the SCPX family outside Pittsburgh, PA.

Jaeson and I praying for the first students ever led to Jesus during a SCPX. These were Native American students at the first SCPX at Haskell Indian Nations University in 2008

Sometimes the "evangelism" students practice is so simple. Hang out on campus, play guitars, have fun, etc. Do whatever you love to do and meet people -- Jesus shows up!

Students pray for healing on campus. This was particularly fun for me to watch, because right next door, a loud, obnoxious debate about Christianity was happening. Meanwhile, these students are out loving lost people and demonstrating God's kingdom.

Students at UT Austin. These student leaders have planted around 20 simple churches the last few years, but, more importantly, are growing as a spiritual family together and spreading to new campuses and cities. They are sending a church planting team to Detroit this summer.

Students planting simple churches learn the values of Loving God, Loving Each Other, and Loving the Lost

Students head out to meet people and share Jesus on a weekend night at the bars.

Myles, Lindsay, Meghan, and a team of interns take the SCPX heart into the urban core, planting churches among urban youth in KC.

Student leaders take SCPX to a closed nation in Central Asia, 2010. The principles of SCPX work anywhere for sparking creative, indigenous expressions of the church

An oft-repeated experience: The Fish family traveling to a new campus.

Hudson watches Sarah getting baptized at SCPX Oregon State University 2011

Alex, an extraordinarily creative student and recording artist from Arizona, baptizes a new Jesus follower at a SCPX in 2009. This student was from an unreached minority ethnic group from SE Asia

The greatest joy I've seen in the churches birthed through SCPX? Students learn that the church is held together by authentic, loving friendships. This gives me great hope for the church in the next generation.

Jasmine, Meghan, Jonathan, Courtney, Nadia, and others at SCPX for HBCU's in Atlanta. 2011

Students Pray

Brad McKoy, a spiritual dad to many SCPX students. Students at SCPX learn to make disciples and plant simple churches - while learning to walk in relationships with spiritual parents.

My kids play in the surf while a bunch of people get baptized in the Pacific Ocean. This was during one of several trips to the YWAM Kona base.

Our family traveled about 10,000 miles together that first year, making friends, loving on students, and raising up new leaders. I've been back and forth across the nation ever since, building friendships, planting churches, and growing spiritual family. Here, I take a moment for heart to heart time with my son. During our travels we grew so much as a family - during times of work, celebration, love, discipline, and fun. It was challenging to figure out how to travel as a family, but I wouldn't change those times for the world.

This summer marks the 5th anniversary of the birth of SCPX. To date, SCPX has mobilized over 2,000 young leaders from 20+ nations. 

I realize the fruit has less to do with theories and models. It has more to do with modeling for the next generation how to live as spiritual family. It’s less about “heady” teaching and more about showing people how to experience Jesus in everyday life together. The fruit I’ve seen has less to do with building an organization and more to do with inspiring a movement where the next generation has permission to dream with God as they answer His call to make disciples.

I’ve seen it all over the world – the Holy Spirit comes on the youth when they are empowered to create church for their generation – and as spiritual parents walk with them both when they succeed and when they fail. The dream grows because a lot of good friends, hundreds of partnerships, and a cadre of courageous students are catching God’s heart for their lives, the church, and the nations. Almost five years in, it’s moving beyond the campus.  The next generation is learning to express God’s heart for their families, the city, the marketplace, the arts, education, and in the nations. It’s the Jesus way … seeking the kingdom everywhere.

Now, we’re giving SCPX away to others. You can start a student movement wherever you are – teach people to paint the world in the primary colors of God’s kingdom: Love God, Love Each Other, and Love the Lost. This is where movements begin. This is where spiritual family grows. This is Church.

Permission Given: A Guide to Do Your Own SCPX

Here’s a guide to help you create your own SCPX wherever you are. There are probably other SCPXers ready to come help if you need it. Contact me through the “Connect” section of my blog to ask for help.

You have permission. Permission to dream bigger; to love deeper; to overcome fear; to believe greater; to enjoy life with God more fully – as you help catalyze a next generation movement of the Holy Spirit in your region … and beyond.

Growing God’s Family,


  1. anj

    Happy anniversary SCPX! And happy birthday Graham!

    Thanks so much for sharing your journey… for someone who’s in the “having seen things I don’t yet understand” stage, it’s so encouraging to see how one God-given vision is being brought into fruition.

    Many blessings to you, the ministry and your family! 🙂 anj

  2. Leo Lawson

    Erik and Jen,

    Sitting in a crowded room reading this post, I strained to hold back the tears, rejoicing in the births of natural and spiritual children. Though I just heard it from you in your home a few weeks ago, my heart ‘hears’ your heart and God’s heart in this. You are privileged to serve the coming generation in this way! May I be so privileged!

    Grace! Grace!!!!!!

    Your cheerleader,

    Leo Lawson

  3. Peter

    Great to hear your testimonies and the ways the Lord works at the recent events here in the Indy area.
    God bless you and yours,


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