Chris Russo's Blog

Begin with the end in mind

Death pathway

In John 17, we find Jesus close to the end of his earthly ministry and he is praying what is known as his High Priestly Prayer. In John 17:4 he says,  “I brought glory to you here on earth by completing the work you gave me to do.” Jesus was on earth for a mission. There is no denying that truth. Regardless of how we judge or perceive his work, it’s clear that he believed he did what he came to do. There is a lot we could say about that, but I want to talk for a moment about purpose. 

At the end of my life here on earth, there is a lot that I hope people will say about me. I hope to have accomplished a ton of stuff by then. There are places I want to see, people I want to meet and I want to know that I have lived life to the fullest. I honestly could write a book about all that I want to happen between now and then, but what’s the most important stuff? Loving God obviously is at the very top of the list. Loving my wife and kids well would fall right under that for me. Being a good pastor and carrying out my calling well also makes it to the top of the list, but what’s the bulls eye? What is the most important thing to focus on? They say that if everything is important, then nothing is important. So, what is it for you and me?

I think that what Jesus said in the above passage sums it up perfectly. “I brought glory to you here on earth by completing the work you gave me to do.” Jesus was given work to do by God and so have we. God has given you a specific work to do…did you know that? The reason you are still above room temperature is because that work isn’t done yet. If it was, it’d be time for you to get the eternal promotion. I can think of nothing better for us to be able to say at the end of our lives than that we completed the work God gave us to do.

So, if you’re on board with that, how do we go about engaging in and finishing the work God gave us? There is no formula for this. There are helpful principles, but there are no formulas. Each one of us is different and unfortunately, there isn’t a specific book of the Bible dedicated to each of us. Let me give you some ideas that will hopefully be helpful…

  1. Start a relationship with Jesus

In the preceding verse, John 17:3, Jesus says, “And this is the way to have eternal life—to know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, the one you sent to earth.” The conversation about what your work looks like can’t even begin until you begin a relationship with Jesus. He loves you, he died for you and he has a purpose for your life. In fact, in Revelation 3:20 Jesus is speaking and he says, “Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends.” Jesus is saying he wants to have that conversation with you. Your job is to open the door.

2.  Spend quality time with him daily

Having a relationship with Jesus is not about box-checking, it’s about pursuing the heart of God with everything you have. I’m not trying to guilt you into reading the Bible, but reading the Bible daily and writing your prayers in a journal are very helpful disciplines. Again, don’t confuse the vehicle with the destination. The goal is pursuing God’s heart and reading the Bible and praying are simple ways to do that.

3. Find some mentors

They could be mentors that you know in real life or distant mentors that you learn from through books, but we all need mentors. These are men and women that we look to for wisdom and guidance. They have walked in our shoes before and they can offer invaluable wisdom as we navigate life’s challenging waters. When it comes to finding mentors to have relationship with, I would start by asking some of these people to lunch. Maybe don’t ask them if they’ll be your lifelong mentor because that sounds like a pretty daunting task. Just start by engaging in conversation and make sure you let them do most of the talking. Your job is to take notes, listen and apply what’s being taught.

4. Surround yourself with life-giving community

The Christian journey was not meant to be done on our own. We were meant to find encouragement and support through deep and meaningful friendships. These relationships are worth the effort to pursue, so don’t take a backseat on this one. Initiate these friendships and be the one who is a catalyst for community. Make your house the place to hang out at and you be the one to invite the person to Starbucks. Don’t sit back and wait for these friendships to materialize out of thin air…go after them!

There is more I can say about this, but I want to honor your time and keep the focus simple. I want to be able to get to the end of my life and say that I completed the work God gave me to do. I don’t know what that work is going to look like and I don’t know how everything is going to pan out. I know I’ve done some of the work already and I have a sense that I still have a long way to go. To do that work, I need to hear from God by all necessary means. I need to be intimately connected with him through his word and in prayer. I need the support of life-giving community and I need godly mentors who can help guide me along the way.

There are a lot of things that we could make the focus of our life’s journey. We could make the target having lots of money, influence, friends and status. There isn’t anything necessarily wrong with these things, but the clearer the focus, the better off we’ll be. Jesus’ earthly ministry only lasted 3 years and he started a revolution that changed the world. His focus was on completing the work God gave him to do. My hope for us is that we’ll have the same focus and that by doing so, we can be a part of is plan to change the world.


“Dad, please take your shoes off.”


I love being a father to 3 boys! Isaac and Jonathan just started t-ball and it has already been such a blast to help coach them. There are definitely days where I feel like I’m making up the dad thing as I go along, but God has been so faithful.

For the past few weeks, JoJo (Jonathan) has been asking me, “Dad, please take your shoes off,” while I’m at the house. At first, I didn’t get why he was asking me that. I know he doesn’t care if I track mud in the house! I also know he probably doesn’t care if I feel comfortable or not…I mean, he’s 4!

What I quickly realized is that he wants to know that when I’m playing with him, I’m not planning on going anywhere else. In his 4 year old mind, when dad puts his shoes on, it’s about time for him to go. That means that when I play with him, it’s important to him that my shoes are off. That communicates to him that I’m here to stay and focus on him while we spend time together.

This is one of the biggest things I’ve learned so far about parenting…presence is everything! You don’t have to have all the answers and you don’t need to always have the best strategy, but you do need to wholeheartedly engage…consistently.

I think this can look like some key practical decisions we can make on a daily and weekly basis…

  1. Minimize phone time in the house

It’s all too easy to allow our minds to drift into iPhone/social media land. Minutes can fly out the window faster than we can count them and they are minutes we’ll never get back. Make the intentional call to set the phone aside and focus on your family.

2. Keep the house 75-80% clean

This may not apply to everyone, but I gotta say it! Unless you’re superhuman and are just always able to keep your house clean, don’t stress yourself out too much on this. Especially if you have small kids, give yourself some grace and realize that clean for you doesn’t need to look like clean for the husband and wife down the street without any kids.

3. Invest your full energy

I could easily rationalize giving Abbi and the kids a low percentage of my energy after a long work day. I could come up with all the excuses about how I provide for the family and they just need to give me grace, but I don’t want to roll like that. If they are truly at the top of my priority list under God, the quality of energy I give them needs to meet or exceed the quantity.

4. Have fun

I sometimes see parents who don’t seem to enjoy their kids. A family is a wonderful combination of play and purpose. You don’t want all play and no purpose because then you have a clown house…but you also don’t want all purpose and no play because that’s fun for no one. Make sure to have tons of fun with your kids.

“Dad, please take your shoes off.” This simple statement from JoJo has reinforced an extremely important parenting principle. Presence is everything and more important than the kids hearing me tell them I love them, they need to see it every single day with my bare feet (-;

God bless!



He was way too young…

matt ogrady

Last night I had the responsibility and honor of performing a memorial service for a young man who passed away at the age of 23. He seemed in perfect health and the autopsy has yielded nothing in terms of a cause. I had the daunting task of standing in front of a packed church to try to offer some comfort and biblical understanding that might help ease the grief of bereaved friends and family.

I mean, what do you say? This is a young man who came from a loving  home and lots of people loved and cared for him. The stories that people shared about him brought laughter and tears.

As I was prayerfully considering what I would share, Psalm 46 came to mind. You can look it up if you’ve never read it before, but I want to key in on one particular passage. Psalm 46:10 says, “Be still and know that I am God.” 

What do we do in a world where someone can drop dead in the prime of life without any kind of explanation? What do we do when the illusion of control is destroyed and we realize the extreme frailty of human existence? What do we do when we truly realize that our time on earth is fleeting?

Be still and know that he is God. To be still means to let go, to cease striving and stop worrying. It means that we release our death grip on life and recognize that we live on borrowed time. This isn’t to say that we live with a sense of apathy or indifference…not at all! On the contrary, it’s only as we let go and surrender to God that we are able to love God fully and love others unconditionally (the two things Jesus said sum up the purpose of human existence. See Luke 10:27).

Know that he is God. We need to recognize we are not the managers of the universe. Things ran fine before we came into the world and they’ll run fine after we leave. Our role as human beings is to walk in step with our Creator. (See Micah 6:8).

That church last night was not packed out by accident. Death can be an incredible teacher if we allow it to be. I learned something from this young man even though I didn’t have the privilege of knowing him. You find out what’s important in life at a funeral by paying attention to what’s said and what’s not said. Nobody was talking about how much money he had. They weren’t talking about all his trophies and every award he received. It’s not to say those things aren’t important, they’re just not most important. What people talk about at a funeral are the things that transcend death itself. They talk about the kind of person you were. The kind of husband or father or wife or mom. They talk about how loyal you were as a friend and how generous you were.

Life is all about investments. Every single day we make small investments with our time, talent and treasure that will have massive cumulative results. The question is, what are you investing in? I want to thank Matthew O’Grady for what he taught me last night. I did not have the privilege of knowing you, but you taught me to love more intentionally and to expend myself in the realm of relationships. Our relationship with God and with others will last for eternity. We would do well to spend the majority of our time and energy on things that will have lasting impact.


After 2 years in Columbia


As of a couple of days ago, Abbi and I have been in Columbia for 2 years! It’s crazy how time flies. One of the biggest things I’ve learned in this season is that you can’t walk with God and fully plan your life at the same time.

You see, when I was back in Charleston, I spent a lot of time trying to figure out what the future would look like. I imagined where I would go, what I would do and who I would do it with. I didn’t see anything wrong with this approach. I mean, my heart was in the right place and I wanted to serve God. I had contemplated planting a church in Tennessee, quitting ministry and going to law school and a whole host of other things. Needless to say, I didn’t know what I wanted to be when I grew up!

Then, on a regular day in Mt. Pleasant, I got a text message that would prove to be monumental for our family. I was asked to go into a meeting and was then asked to prayerfully consider the possibility of moving to Columbia to oversee Seacoast’s Columbia Campus. I had never even visited Seacoast Columbia, let alone thought about leading it. That night I went home and talked things through with Abbi. Both of us felt excited about the possibility and that next morning, at about 5:45am, I emailed some of Seacoast’s leadership and told them that Abbi and I would be honored to go if they wanted us to. The rest, as they say, is history.

As I’ve led Seacoast Columbia, I could write a book about all of the different ways that God has confirmed that we are exactly where he wants us to be. The way the move to Columbia worked out has forever changed the way I view the future. You see, I spent a ton of time trying to anticipate God’s direction for my life. I talked and thought about it in length with some of the wisest people I know. With all that thought and conversation, I never once considered being Seacoast Columbia’s campus pastor. If I couldn’t anticipate that move and clearly recognize that was God’s providence in my life, then why would I be so arrogant to think that I could anticipate whatever may come next?

So there you have it, God completely short-circuited my brain when it comes to thinking about the future. We can plan in the season that we’re in with the variables that we have in front of us, but there are variables that God has yet to introduce into your life that you simply cannot plan for. The best I’ve come up with is to work and plan hard in the season that you’re in while simultaneously trusting God to organize the steps for your future.

I don’t want to live a life that is marked by my control. I want to live the full adventure that God has for me. In order to live that adventure, my modus operandi needs to be characterized by trust and submission to God. So let me ask you…are you open to the adventure God has for you? Are you praying for it? Are you expecting the unexpected? There are certainly a host of risks that you accept by embracing this kind of life, but this is exactly what you were created for.

Discovering Jesus as King


You know, in our western culture, the idea of a king is somewhat foreign. When we hear words like “obedience” and “submission,” it’s part of our American spirit to cringe a little bit. We know what it’s like to see power abused and we don’t like the idea of being ruled. Government should exist to serve the people, but they better not tell us how to live our lives.

Don’t get me wrong, I love being an American and am very thankful for our country. I’m also grateful for the men and women who so sacrificially serve to defend it. That being said, I think this national spirit can get in the way of our relationship with God.

You see, the Bible not only refers to God as a Father, but also as a King. In fact, he is described as the King of kings and Lord of lords. (Revelation 19:16) When we begin to see Jesus as not just Savior, but also King, it changes things. Kings don’t merely give suggestions, they tell you what to do. When you enter into the presence of a king, you are quickly aware of the fact that it’s not about you. There is a reverent fear that enters your heart as you realize this is someone you don’t want to mess with.

In Ezekiel chapter 1, Ezekiel gets a vision of God and I want you to read his description of what he saw…

Ezekiel 1:25-28

25 Then there came a voice from above the vault over their heads as they stood with lowered wings. 26 Above the vault over their heads was what looked like a throne of lapis lazuli, and high above on the throne was a figure like that of a man. 27 I saw that from what appeared to be his waist up he looked like glowing metal, as if full of fire, and that from there down he looked like fire; and brilliant light surrounded him. 28 Like the appearance of a rainbow in the clouds on a rainy day, so was the radiance around him.

This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord. When I saw it, I fell facedown, and I heard the voice of one speaking.

The Bible is clear about the fact that there is a throne in the universe and that someone sits on it. This being created the stars, the planets, the earth along with you and me. This is the God of the Bible and he is the undisputed, undefeated King of heaven and earth. This King is not to be trifled with. I’m thankful that believers are able to call this King, “Father.” I’m thankful he is loving and gracious and kind, but I don’t want to forget the fact that he is also my King.

Not only am I his loved son, but I’m also his servant. At the end of the day, it’s his will and desires that need to take preeminence in my life.

My job is to submit to him. (James 4:7)

Many people don’t love the word, “submit.” It has some nasty connotations because of the abuse of power we have seen and experienced. That being said, God calls us to submit to him. I would venture to say we don’t like the idea of that primarily because we don’t trust him completely.

As we learn to trust him, submission goes from being a “got to” to a “get to.” The King of the universe created you and has a plan for your life. He’s not asking you to figure it out or have all the resources to pull it off. He does however, call for your submission. I would encourage you to think about that word….submission.

How does the thought of submitting to God sound to you? How does it make you feel? Why? These are questions that are worth asking. As a country without a king, it’s easy for us to dismiss the truth that Jesus is not only Savior, but also King. We cannot dismiss the latter in favor of the former.


Messed up in all the right ways


There is no question about it, having a baby changes you. Samuel is our third child, so going into this I felt like a pro but once again, my world has been messed up in all the right ways. For those of you I may not know well, I’m a creature of habit and perhaps more so than most. I get the same thing at the restaurants I go to because I don’t like to mess with a good thing. I have my morning quiet time in the same way every day. I basically work out the same every day. I fall into a rhythm and then pretty much go into autopilot. While others may accuse me of being boring or unoriginal, I just think I know what I like (-;

Then came little Samuel. He’s only 2 days old and already I feel like God is using him to change me for the better. A baby is anything but predictable. Sure, they pee, they poop, they cry, sleep and then repeat, but there is a lot more to it than that. Instantaneously you love someone so much and yet, there is so much you can’t do for them. Sammy has had some issues in his first couple days and as his dad, all I want to do is just fix it for him. I hate this slow progress thing. The name of the game in the hospital is to affect the variables you can affect and then basically let God do his thing. For a control freak like myself, this process is ridiculously painful. I’m one of the least patient people on the planet. I want everything and I want it 5 minutes ago! I’m trying to work on it, but my wife would probably tell you I haven’t made much progress in this arena. I’m all about finding the shortest possible distance between two points and hightailing it down that path.

A baby really has a way of propelling you to trust God. There is someone you care deeply about who is totally helpless and you cannot control them. It makes you stop and think about the frailty of life and how much of an illusion control is. When you really think about it, aren’t we all in the same position as a little baby? Sure, we can do all kinds of things for ourselves. We have our thinking, our reasoning, our resources, family and friends. Obviously there are a lot of differences between us and Samuel, but let’s take a deeper look. There is so much of life beyond the realm of our control. Every time we get into a vehicle, we can’t control what other drivers do. One swerve or bad decision from a passing motorist has the potential to totally alter the trajectory of our lives. I’m no scientist, but this idea is also prevalent when considering our biological makeup. There are many biological processes at work in our bodies that we can easily take for granted. Were any number of those processes to stop or go haywire, our idea of control would quickly fly right out the window. I could go on, but I’m sure you get the point.

Having a baby messes you up in all the right ways. If you allow it to, it fundamentally alters your heart posture in relation to God. You realize that you need to trust God with your baby because as much as you want to, you simply cannot do everything for him. This dynamic also has the ability to make you reflect upon your own helplessness before God and cry out to him as a child would. Perhaps this gets us one step closer to the dependence that God designed for us to live in when it comes to our relationship with him.

So Samuel, in 2 days you’ve already taught me more than I’ve taught you. Thank you, buddy. I hope that as your life progresses, I can be a dad who parents and leads on his knees recognizing that we were all created to live in total dependence and reliance on God.

Having a baby on Thursday!

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A listening ear

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Making eternal investments

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