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Mark Altrogge

  • My Big, Hairy, Audacious Goal... It’s Not What You Think

    In 1994 Jim Collins and Jerry Porras wrote Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies, a book which encouraged every company to come up with BHAGs, or Big, Hairy, Audacious Goals, which they would attempt to accomplish in a certain time frame.

    A few years ago a pastor friend of mine once told me that he and his leadership team had set a BHAG for their church for one year. I believe it was to double in size. They planned how to attract more people, how to double their small groups, double their small group leaders, children’s ministry, etc. I believe he encouraged his leaders and church members to have individual BHAGs. I can’t remember if they encouraged giving BHAGs. Of course, he had at least one personal BHAG.

    “Did your church achieve the BHAG?” I asked.

    “No,” he said laughing, “of course not. We didn’t even come close.”

    Maybe BHAGs work for companies and even for some churches. But I would submit that the Bible encourages a different kind of BHAG. Here’s the Big, Hairy, Audacious Goal that I am going to shoot for this year: to be faithful. Better yet, I want to be faithful in a few small things.

    The Bible doesn’t encourage us to pursue greatness, but to be faithful servants. To be faithful in small things.

    A faithful man will abound with blessings, but whoever hastens to be rich will not go unpunished. PR 28.20

    “One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much.” LK 16.10

    And he said to him, ‘Well done, good servant! Because you have been faithful in a very little, you shall have authority over ten cities.’ LK 19.17

    Paul, the author of much of the New Testament, who planted numerous churches and advanced the spread of Christianity in much of the known world of his time, didn’t consider himself to be great. He regarded himself as a servant, a steward, and said the following:

    This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found faithful. 1 CO 4.1–2

    Paul wanted to be faithful. Sure he made plans—he planned to visit certain cities in the hope of spreading the gospel. But often his plans were thwarted. He wound up in prison. Yet even in prison he sought to be faithful and spread the gospel in the prison.

    So, this year my Big, Hairy, Audacious Goal is to be faithful in little. The works God gives most of us are ordinary and mundane. Caring for our children, pastoring a small church, teaching sixth graders, working on an assembly line, being a secretary—these certainly don’t feel glorious. But God isn’t impressed with talent or “great” accomplishments. He’s looking for faithfulness.

    If you’re looking for somewhere to start, I’d encourage you to be faithful in a couple things. First, in taking in God’s word. To me, this is one of the most important habits to cultivate. If only for a few minutes each day, read or listen to the Bible. Secondly, prayer. Again, if you’re not in the habit, take a few minutes each day to pray. Spend a couple minutes in thankfulness and lift your requests to him. Of course, you can pray throughout the day as well.

    Seek to be faithful where God has placed you. Faithfulness is more important than talent or gifting. If we’re faithful in small things, God will increase us and cause us to be faithful in more and more. We don’t have to set Big, Hairy, Audacious goals. Besides, who wants to do something that’s big and hairy?


    Mark Altrogge has been senior pastor of Sovereign Grace Church of Indiana, Pennsylvania, since 1982. He has written hundreds of songs for worship, including “I Stand in Awe” and “I’m Forever Grateful.” Mark and his wife, Kristi, have four sons and one daughter. Find out more on his blog, The Blazing Center.

  • The One Phrase that Can Diffuse Any Argument

    Want to know how to diffuse an argument? Want to know how to cool the flames of a heated debate?

    The other night my wife and I were talking with my daughter and son-in-law about the early years of our marriage. Kristi and I had plenty of challenges our first year or two as we were adjusting to our new life together. We were committed to making our marriage glorify the Lord, but when two human beings—even two believers in Jesus—come together, their desires and sins often come into conflict.

    Kristi told my daughter, “I would get very heated at times and raise my voice. I had done that in my family since I was a child. I had to be right. And I would keep arguing and arguing to prove my point. But in our arguments your dad would often state his side, then he’d add, ‘But I could be wrong.’ That would diffuse the argument. And eventually I realized that coming out of an argument as ‘right’ was not as necessary as being humble. Eventually I began to realize that I could be wrong about things, even if I felt 99% sure I was right. So, I began to force myself to say ‘I could be wrong’ when arguing about things. At first it felt totally unnatural to say it, but as I practiced saying it, it became more natural. And I began to realize how good it was for our marriage not to always expect Mark to always cave in to me, but it was important for us both to leave the possibility open that the other person could be right and I could be totally wrong.”

    I’m glad Kristi remembers it this way, but I know that I didn’t always respond well in our conflicts. I thought I was right. I pushed for my position. I was proud. But if I happened to respond in any humble way in our conflicts part of it may have been that early in my Christian life I was taught that we all have blind spots—things about ourselves that we can’t see. We can think we’re right and yet not see something that is glaringly obvious to others. And I also remember being taught this Scripture from Proverbs:

    Do you see a man who is wise in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him. (PR 26.12).

    A biblical “fool” is a wicked person, a God-hater, not just a silly person. And there is more hope for a biblical fool than a man who is wise in his own eyes. A man who thinks he is right all the time. A man who thinks he can’t be wrong.

    Only God is omniscient. Only God is never wrong. Only God is infinitely and perfectly wise. God is the only one who perfectly knows the motives of our hearts. He knows why we do things, what is best to do, and he understands every aspect of every situation. But we, who are fallen creatures, even when made anew in Christ, are limited and fallible. All of us are wrong at times. Even when we’re sure we are right. We may have right information but wrong motivation. We may be intelligent, but the most intelligent of men don’t know everything.

    This doesn’t mean we can’t discuss things, make our points, state our observations, etc. But we must always guard against pride. It’s always lurking there, ready to raise its ugly head. At least in my heart it is. We must always guard against being wise in our own eyes. We should always try to be teachable, even when being addressed by someone much younger or less experienced.

    So keep this little phrase in your back pocket: “I could be wrong.” Believe it. Even when you think you are right. Remember we all have blind spots and are not the ultimate judge of all things. Beware being wise in your own eyes. Lord Jesus, help us to be humble.


    Mark Altrogge has been senior pastor of Sovereign Grace Church of Indiana, Pennsylvania, since 1982. He has written hundreds of songs for worship, including “I Stand in Awe” and “I’m Forever Grateful.” Mark and his wife, Kristi, have four sons and one daughter. Find out more on his blog, The Blazing Center.

  • The Best Way To Spend Your Life

    Complete 1 Thessalonians 1:9:

    For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to…

    1. Have your best life now
    2. Become the person you were intended to be
    3. Be fulfilled
    4. Develop yourself to your full potential
    5. Make a name for yourself
    6. Find the love of your life
    7. Make a difference in the world
    8. Get your act together
    9. Do great things
    10. Serve the living and true God

    If you chose number 10 you were correct.

    Let me put the whole verse together:

    For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God… 1 Thessalonians 1:9

    This is what the Christian life is all about – serving the living and true God. It doesn’t matter how we serve him. We may serve him in large ways or small ways. That’s up to him. But the point is is we are to live to serve God. Whether our lives improve or not. Whether we find success in this world or not. It’s not about success. It’s not about personal fulfillment. It’s about serving the living and true God.

    In fact at times our lives will not “improve.” They will get harder. We will be persecuted. We’ll suffer trials of various kinds. But that doesn’t matter as long as we are serving the living and true God.

    At times it won’t seem worth it in this life (though it always is). But it will definitely be worth it in the next life.

    Years ago I heard someone preach a message on this passage:

    For David, after he had served the purpose of God in his own generation, fell asleep… Acts 13:36

    The preacher said this is what it’s all about – to serve God’s purpose in our generation. Not our own purposes, not our own selfish ambitions, but God’s purpose. This really affected me as a young believer and I wanted to do this. And I wrote a song about it– the music is kind of corny now but the words are still true:

    I want to serve the purpose of God in my generation
    I want to serve the purpose of God while I am alive
    I want to live my life for something that will last forever
    Oh I delight, I delight to do your will.

    Do you want to live your life for something that last forever? If we live for anything else we are living for things that will pass away.

    David served the purpose of God in his own generation and fell asleep. Wouldn’t it be great if people said that about you at your funeral? “She served the purpose of God in her generation.” Wouldn’t that be great to have on your tombstone? “He served the purpose of God in his generation.”

    Lord Jesus, help us live to serve the living and true God. Let us serve your purpose in our generation.

  • Forgive Each Other – Sounds Simple, Right? Wrong.

    Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. Colossians 3:12-13

    God commands his children to forgive each another.  For this reason: He has forgiven our incalculable debt against him, so we should forgive those who sin against us. 

    Seems straight ahead and simple, right? Maybe not quite so straight ahead and simple as it seems on the surface.

    We live in a fallen world, and both Christians and non-Christians sin against each other. And very often in devastating ways. Sadly, even Christians fall into horrible sin at times and it can be life shattering when you are sinned against. Sin causes anguish, sadness, and misery. So when someone sins against you, I would not say you just quickly and flippantly say, Oh well, I forgive you, that’s ok. Everything back to normal.

    If someone hurts or betrays us and then asks forgiveness, it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t talk about that sin and how it hurt us. It doesn’t mean we just brush it under the carpet and move on. Sin is devastating. It can take time to get to the place where we can forgive and restore the relationship.

    There have been times in the past I have been too quick to encourage people to get together with someone who has sinned against them and grant forgiveness.

    And forgiveness doesn’t mean there shouldn’t be consequences. Certain sins might even involve calling the police, even though someone repents. If I go out and irresponsibly charge $20,000 on my credit card, then ask my wife’s forgiveness, even though she forgives me, I will have to pay that money back. I’ll have consequences for a long time. 

    And even when we forgive someone, that doesn’t mean we must immediately trust them. Sin shatters trust. It can take a long time to earn trust again once it has been shattered.

    Forgiving others takes the power of God. We can’t do it in our own strength. But Jesus can help us. If you are struggling with unforgiveness or bitterness toward someone, cry out to God to help you. Seek counsel, talk to a trusted mature Christian or your pastor. If you know someone was sinned against in a significant way, and worked through it and came to a place of forgiveness, get together with them and seek their insights.

    Forgiveness and reconciliation should be a goal believers work toward for the glory of God. Colossians 3:13 says “you also MUST forgive.” Unforgiveness and bitterness aren’t options. We’re working out our lives together. I need you to forgive me when I sin against you, and I must forgive you as well because God has forgiven us in Christ. 

  • About Mark Altrogge

    Mark Altrogge has been senior pastor of Sovereign Grace Church of Indiana, Pennsylvania, since 1982. He has written hundreds of songs for worship, including “I Stand in Awe” and “I’m Forever Grateful.” Mark and his wife, Kristi, have four sons and one daughter.

    Find out more on his blog, The Blazing Center.