The World that Was


Life was different then. covid 5
202 had started with such, promise.
Life was flowing; it felt natural.

Finally, my wife and I felt settled. We felt like we were home. After starting off our marriage, our relationship, in the midst of transitions, in the midst of hardship, we were able to take a deep breath.


Winter Camp went off without a hitch (in the life of a Youth Pastor, that’s a big deal). We even moved from our apartment into a townhome. We were now in full stride, preparing for Phase 2 of life here in Charleston, of investing into SAYM.

These days feel like memories from long ago – or even just yesterday. It’s really hard to figure out what time is or means in this season.

But, as I’ve been sitting in quarantine, I’ve been processing, I’ve been reflecting, I’ve been analyzing the world that was and how we lived inside it. I’ve been processing life pre-pandemic, pre-Coronavirus, and who we were and who it was making us become.

As a Youth Pastor, I’m someone who is blessed to spend my time, my life, investing in Generation Z. It’s an honor and I’ve been blessed to do it on both coasts. As a Millennial pouring into this generation, I have a front row seat to where we were heading and where we are now heading. I also have a hand in helping coach Gen Z to become the type of people they want to be with the life they want to live.

As I’ve gotten to know Gen Z, I’ve seen their heart and their soul. I’ve seen what makes them tick. I love that they are passionate – they have the same passion and desire to change the world that us Millennials cultivated. They’ve seen us follow our desire to change the world and make a difference, but they have also seen how sometimes we either: a) didn’t follow through or b) saw that the world didn’t always go our way with a recession and all not allowing us to fully turn our dreams, our passions into reality.

So, in light of this, Gen Z, is driven. Probably the most driven generation there is. This drivenness coincides with their parents, usually Gen X, who have been able to build a good life for themselves, and help foster the ability for their student to be involved in just about everything. Therefore, Gen Z has become the busiest generation I’ve ever seen or heard of.


They want stability – that’s part of why they are willing to be so busy. The more they do now, the easier a scholarship will be. The more they do now, the better job they’ll get after college.

More. More. More.

Technology helps with that because Gen Z are the true digital natives – not Millennials. We remember a world without connectedness, without technology.

Not Gen Z.

Ah you think darkness is your ally? You merely adopted the dark. I was born in it, molded by it. I didn’t see the light until I was already a man, by then it was nothing to me but blinding!”

Bane, The Dark Knight

Every time I think of Millennials versus Gen Z with technology, I think of that conversation between Bane and Batman. Millennials merely adopted technology, Gen Z was born into technology, molded by it, and this season has blinded them (more on that in a future post).

Gen Z was hyper-busy and hyper-connected. It’s the world they knew.

I’ve never seen anything like it.

These High Schoolers were living the schedule that I lived in college. They were involved in everything and they were burning the candles at both ends.

It was admirable; it wasn’t something to fight.

It was something to coach them in how to use their time and how to find rest – healthy rest in Jesus. It was opportunities to coach them into figuring out what health looks like, what self care looks like, and how busyness is neither good nor bad. The key is how you are using your time in busyness – to become a more effective disciple of Jesus or not. Don’t let the busyness distract you from following Jesus.

This was the world that was: hyper-connected and hyper-busy.

Teaching Gen Z how to manage technology, not just busyness was part of my life. The key was understanding technology to them was not the same as it was for even Millennials. Technology made them connected and this connectedness means Gen Z has as much in common with people in different geographical regions than they do in their own sometimes. Their world is truly global.


Global pandemic.

Then, the global pandemic hit.

Technology became a crutch, a leash.

The routines of busyness got stripped away.

For the first time in their adolescence they are being forced to choose:
Who do I want to be? What do I enjoy? What do I want to do? Why was I so busy? Was that healthy? Do I really want to go back to that way of life?

Routinely, as I talk to my students about the world that was, this is the overarching questions I’m hearing them process.

As a Youth Pastor, I’m stoked.

I pray, Gen Z realizes this quicker than their predecessors. Bigger is not always healthier; busier isn’t always more successful; character matters most.

This is the world that was.
I pray this is not the world that will be when this is all over.
I don’t want to go back to that world.
I don’t believe the crazy, busy, hectic pace of life is what Jesus intends us as followers of Jesus to live.

I believe Jesus wants us to live intentional lives.
believe we must live unhurried lives.
I believe we must live interruptible lives.

Why have so many pastors flamed out, had moral failures, or left the faith? I believe it’s because we have been living a pace of life that we were not designed for.

It’s been my hope that us Millennials would learn this, see this, and lead the way as we change the future of the church. Now, thanks to the world that was being destroyed, I’m excited to see the beauty that comes from ashes.

I hope us Millennials are ready to invest in Gen Z and model to them how to live an unhurried life, an intentional life, the pace of life Jesus led in the Gospels where He could be interrupted on His way to heal Jarius’ daughter, by a woman who was bleeding who needed hope, needed healing herself.


Farewell to the world that was.

May we allow the time, the space, to not gaslight, not ignore, but let the beauty rise from the ashes.

Lessons from the Road :: Elk

I like seeing the unexpected.

That’s one of the things I so love about road trips – it’s an excuse to see the unexpected.

Sometimes, you have an urge, when you’ve researched your road trip a little, to take a turn off the beaten path, to a road less traveled. You decide to ignore your GPS. You decide that there’s a better experience waiting for you on a different road, towards a different destination.

One of these instances on this road trip we took, was the unexpected turn of seeing elk.


Elk, on the side of the road.

Have you ever seen elk on the side of the road? Have you ever seen an elk in person before? They are a massive, massive, impressive animal.

But truly, seeing a picture or documentary about elk – doesn’t do them justice.

They made our Honda CRV look tiny. Right next to us, these elk took our breath away. They left us speechless.

This experience, turned into one of our highlights of the trip.


Don’t take my word for it. Every now and again, slow down. You truthfully don’t know what you’re going to see.

It just may take your breath away.

You have to take risks. We will only understand the miracle of life fully when we allow the unexpected to happen.

Paulo Coelho

Lessons from the Road :: Dip

This isn’t the good kind of dip – like spinach and artichoke dip.
No, this dip is one that can damage your car.

If you’re going to fast and you’re not yet fully prepared for it – a dip can be super damaging. It’ll mess up you suspension. It’ll mess up your neck. It’ll even knock off your smart phone holder attached to your car vent.

Dips are no joke.

Go to fast and ruin your road trip.
Slow down and you’ll survive to keep driving.

The choice is truly yours.

So, my question for you, is how fast are you going?
Are you going too fast that you’re going to hit that dip and ruin your trip?
Can you slow down to see what the road is throwing at you?

Don’t hit that dip.

Slow down and enjoy life. It’s not the only scenery you miss by going too fast – you also miss the sense of where you’re going and why.

Eddie Cantor

Lessons from the Road :: Tsunami Evacuation Route

Road trips provide a chance to encounter scenarios and situations you wouldn’t normally.

For instance, the threat of tsunami’s.

In life, we can have a tendency to get comfortable, to get complacent, and ease into an out of sight, out of mind life.

Everywhere or anywhere you are, has its own unique situations. If you live by a coast – tsunamis; if you are near any body of water – floods; if you’re in California – earthquakes, fires, and droughts; if you’re on the East Coast – hurricanes. If you’re in Oklahoma – tornadoes; if you’re in Texas – belt buckles.

Dangerous situations and scenarios are constantly around us, but we tend to get complacent. We keep the dangerous reality out of mind, unless you happen to be an Enneagram 6 (then you become the disaster prepper with a bunker of goods for the Y2K threat).

Danger lurks around every corner – it’s true. We are always one phone call away from something that will rock and change our world forever. It’s always just one call away.

Thankfully, most of the time, these situations are out of sight, out of mind. Until something hits close to home and opens your eyes.

Or, until you’re on a road trip and encounter a ‘Tsunami Evacuation Route’ sign.

As a follower of Jesus, I have to remember I have a God who came to us, who chose to be us, who decided to face the same life problems that we do on a daily basis. I have to remember that Jesus knows fear; Jesus knows about trusting in God even when the world around us is scary, changing, and dangerous.

God is a safe place to hide, ready to help when we need him. We stand fearless at the cliff-edge of doom, courageous in seastorm and earthquake. Before the rush and roars of ocean, the tremors that shift mountains.

Jacob-wrestling God fights for us, God-of-Angel-Armies protect us.

Psalm 46:1-3

Lessons from the Road :: Bump

You ever been in a car, been driving along, nice and innocent, only to drive over something and feel your car jump up as you hit your head on the roof?

I bet you have.

It’s called driving over a bump.

Bumps, on a road trip, come and go.

Sometimes, if you’re lucky, there is a sign to let you know they are coming.

These signs let you slow down. They keep your eyes open. They make you more alert. These signs are there to keep you from damaging yourself or you car.

Don’t you wish there were signs like this for life, that would warn you a bumpy road was coming?

Bumps, usually, aren’t a catastrophe.
They are a mere annoyance.
A bump, on a road trip, won’t keep you from getting where you need to go.

But, it will make your trip less enjoyable. It may even make your spouse spill their coffee.


You want to avoid them for the sake of a harmonious trip, but sometimes you can’t.

Bumps are just there in your path, because nothing in following Jesus is easy or sunshine and roses all the time. I wish it was that way, but it’s not. It’s not how Jesus works. Sometimes, even when you’re on the right road, you have to go through a few bumps.

The name of the Lord is a strong tower, the righteous man runs into it and is safe.

Proverbs 18:10

Lessons from the Road :: Road Closed

And whatever town or village you enter, find out who is worthy in it and stay there until you depart. As you enter the house, greet it, if the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it, but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you. And if anyone will not receive you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet when you leave that house or town.

Matthew 10:11-14


We’ve all been there.

I’m sure your mere reading of that word, of ‘rejection’, is already conjuring something in your head, in your mind, in your soul. You’re remembering something – a particular time and place you were rejected. The time you hit a closed road.

Maybe it was being picked last for kickball during recess. It could be the first time you asked a girl out and she shot you down so epicly you thought you were a fighter pilot from Top Gun. You could have gotten fired or asked to ‘resign’. There was the time your family forgot you at home before leaving for Christmas vacation… Or, you’re still feeling your parents divorce.


Being let go.
Being left out.
Being held back.
Being told that subtle message you’re not good enough.

You’re not wanted.
Go home.
Don’t come back.
Don’t pass go and don’t collect your $200.

At some point in your life, you’ve hit a closed road. At some point you’re going to be rejected. There will come a point in life where someone or something will tell you that you are not good enough.

It’s not if, it’s when.

I hate to pop your bubble, if you’re an innocent child reading this – but it’s going to happen.

Someday, somehow, someone is going to tell you no.

At some point in time, you’re going to learn how God has wired you and who you’ve been created to be. You’ll use these to learn what God is asking you to do and who He wants you to become.

This road, this path, will not always be smooth or easy. As you pursue the process of walking into your calling – roads will close. Paths will disappear.

You will have to learn to bounce back.
You have to get back up.
You have to not let a closed road ruin you.

On a road trip, if you hit a closed road – this literally cannot end your road trip. You have a place to be and there is no way this little sign is going to stop you. However, most of our cars aren’t designed to knock down the barrier – but to find a new route, a new road.

Rejection doesn’t mean we throw in the towel. It means we change our approach, we change the relationship with the one whom rejected us, it means we try something different – not keep repeating the same road and the same path.

On a road trip a closed road can lead to an amazing detour.
Put your car in reverse, back up, and see what comes next.

Or in the words of Jesus (I’ll admit, slightly out of context), wipe the dust from your feet and move on.

Move on.

Lessons from the Road :: Rough Road

Friends, when life gets really difficult, don’t jump to the conclusion that God isn’t on the job. Instead, be glad that you are in the very thick of what Christ experienced. This is a spiritual refining process, with glory just around the corner.

1 Peter 4:12-13 (MSG)

When you’re on a road trip, driving along in your car, sometimes you find yourself on a rough road. A road with bumps, pot holes, and broken pieces of asphalt. It’s a road that really needs some work done on it so you can drive in peace, in safety, and in comfort.

Thankfully, if each state’s department of roads/transit has done its job, they have a sign up to warn you before hit the rough road.

Don’t you wish your life was like that?

Don’t you wish your life was like a thunderstorm advisory push notification forcing its way onto your phone?

Don’t you wish you would be warned to put on a helmet and wear a cup, because your life was about to get difficult?

Don’t you wish God would give you a sign that life was gonna get rough?

You know what the best part about the rough road sign is… It let’s you know difficulty is coming, to get ready, to be prepared – sure. But, it’s also telling you that it will pass. It will end. It will be over. It won’t last forever.

This rough road will pass.
It will pass.

You’re not stuck; you’re not going the wrong direction.
Everything is okay.
I promise you.
Trust the sign.

But, when you’re on the rough road – it feels like forever. It feels like your car is going to bounce off the road, or lose a wheel like a cartoon police car chase in Looney Toons. The rough road feels like it is destroying your car, testing your nerves, and making you sweat as you white knuckle your steering wheel just hoping to avoid that giant chunk of asphalt in the middle of the highway.

You just want to get through it, over it, and leave it behind. You’re ready for smooth roads, smooth driving, and getting out of this trial – out of this difficulty.

Simply, maybe too simply, maybe over simplifying it a tiny little amount, okay – a lot – just hang on. Hang on a little while longer. Persevere.

Just get through it.

The rough road won’t last forever. You can endure it. Don’t let it break you. Just persevere.

Keep your eyes on the road in front of you – don’t look behind you in the rear view mirror. Keep looking forward. Keep your eyes on the road.

Don’t get distracted.
The end will come.

Don’t let the rough road ruin your road trip; don’t let the difficult season poison your life.

Don’t jump to the conclusion God isn’t on the job…” I love the way Eugene Peterson translates that. Don’t let the rough road make you think you’re on the wrong path, that God isn’t on your team.

Remember God is with you, even when it’s bumpy.
Remember, beauty can come from ashes.
Remember, you are planted and not buried.

God’s got this.


Lessons from the Road :: Detours

The heart of man plans his way; but the Lord establishes his steps.”

Proverbs 16:9


One of the first things you notice about a road trip, is that no matter how much or how well you have planned – things won’t always go your way. There is going to be some issue, on some road, which will make it where you can’t follow the road you thought you were supposed to. It’s the moment where you become reliant on your GPS to reroute you and take you around your obstacle.

It’s also the moment where you decide to veer away from your GPS to see what lies off the path.

It’s a detour.

Life, like road trips, tend to give us situations, times where a detour is necessary.

Are you someone who makes a 5 year plan? Are you in middle school and already know where you’re going to college? Are you in high school and positive you know who you’re going to marry? Are you in college and certain you know what job you’re going to work after college? Are you in grad school and confident the PhD is next for you? Are you married and have already planned out where your future child is going to go to college?


We all make them; we all have them.

The question is, how tight do we hold on to them?

Are you someone who grips your plans tight, holding them with a close fist? Or are you someone who is willing to hold your plans with in your open palm?

I’m someone who makes plans. I’m also a verbal processor, so I make a lot of plans. If you were to look at the whiteboard in my office at any given moment, you may wonder just how exactly I plan to get everything done!

But, I make plans. I also make to do lists, because even my plans need plans.

This road trip was a chance for my wife and I to detox from plans gone awry. For the first time in months, we were able to actually follow a path, to follow a plan, to move forward into the next season. But, this came on the heels of having to take the biggest life detour, I think either of us had ever experienced before.


Sure, I’d detoured and moved to Seattle. Sure, I detoured and moved to Wenatchee. Sure, I’d transitioned out of jobs and seminaries.

I knew how to hold my plans and my life loosely.

If you had asked me, I would have told you I was a person who didn’t hold any aspect of my life with a closed fist.

Truthfully, that’s true.

Yet, this didn’t mean detours come easily for me.

This road trip was the chance where we were able to take our first positive step towards a new reality, towards our new road. Our time of detouring, of rerouting, was no officially over.


We all have to take them from time to time.

You can get frustrated or you can roll with the punches. The choice is yours.
You can hold to your plan or accept the new reality. The choice is yours.

I think of a quote I heard from the legendary former Dodgers announcer, Vin Scully:

If you want to make God smile go ahead and tell him your plans.

Don’t be afraid to take a detour every now and again. These detours can wind up being the best part of a road trip.

We took a detour and wound up leading us to a state park on the coast of Oregon; it wound to us seeing a heard of elk grazing in the open field. This was only made possible with a detour.

I wanted to turn around at one point. Figure out a quicker, shorter route, to get back on the road.

But, we would have missed this beautiful sight.


Make your plan.
Have a plan.
Don’t be afraid to veer.

Be willing to chart a new course.

Lessons from the Road

Happy Summer!

School’s out. The temperatures are getting warm. Baseball season stands in it’s fully glory. And chances are, you are planning some sort of summer vacation.

Speaking of vacation, have you ever been on a road trip?
A multi-state, cross-country, lengthy road trip?

What did you do?
What was it like?
Where did you go?
Were you a child on a road trip with your parents?
Have you been on one as an adult?
Do you want to do one again?

Personally, I love road trips. If flying wasn’t so darn convenient, I’d much rather have the John Madden treatment and just take a car/bus across the country the entire time.

Road trips just allow you for a chance to slow down and see something different, to see life from a different perspective. Literally, you are allowed to change your perspective one mile at a time.

You drive, you think, you connect, and you see your surroundings change. As you journey longer down the road you find yourself somewhere entirely new.

This winter, my wife and I got the chance to go on an epic, cross country road trip from the top left corner of the country to the bottom right corner of the country. We journeyed down the West Coast, then headed east through the southern part of the USA.

It took us 3 weeks.

We passed through 10 states, traveled at least 5,000 miles, drove over at least 300 bridges (lost track), had at least 15 different unique coffee shops (don’t ask how many ounces of coffee I consumed), and touched base with many different family members and friends.

This #WelchesGoEast road trip was fantastic.

And while I was on it, it got me thinking about life and the lessons it can teach us. It got me reflecting on this crazy road called life we all find ourselves on.

It led me to thinking through this series of posts I’m sharing with you: “Lessons from the Road”.

Lessons from the road – what we can learn from a long, winding, amazing road trip.

Join me over the summer as we talk about ideas such as: detours, rough roads, bumps, dips, tractor crossing, elk, tsunami evacuation routes, hydration, bathroom breaks, food, coffee, the views, journey vs destination, bridge ices before road, and emergency rooms.

Only Just Begun

What do you hope for?
What is it you are waiting for?
What have your waited for that you finally received?

Personally, I was very content single. I had been in relationships – some good and some bad. I had done well and I even failed a little. I learned and I grew – but none of them were the best.

So, I waited. Contently.

I hoped to be married, but trusted God and refused to waste my singleness.
I do not think I did; I hope I did not.

It freed me up to move to Seattle. It freed me up to leave home behind and create the fully adult version of Jonathon Welch.

I never thought about meeting my wife there. I did not even know how long I would be there for. I had no clue what was next.

This, for a man who is always adjusting his 5 year plan was freeing and daunting. Both at the same time if that is even possible.

I was asked to live in a season of what comes next.


Hope for more.
Expect more.

But know nothing.

Leave it all behind to trust the unknown.
To be expectant.

In Seattle, to my unexpected surprise – I met my wife, or at least the woman a year later I would ask to marry me and spend the rest of our lives together.

It meant, my singleness was up. At long last it was over. My time in the wilderness was complete. I had hoped and expected to be married. Now, at 31, it would be so.

I knew there would be transition from bachelorhood to marriage. I knew I found my partner for life and ministry. I knew we’d be settled in the Pacific Northwest for our first 3-5 years of married life. I knew it.

I knew.

My 5 year plan was back.

I knew our first year of marriage wouldn’t be perfect. Sunshine and rainbows all the time only exists in Hollywood romantic comedies. I knew it would not be easy all the time. I knew I would have to learn what it meant to be married or even a husband. I was not naive.

I mean, I am a pastor and a millennial.

I have had a front row seat to hard seasons of marriages. It is part of life. They come and they go. It just is. But I had heard about the season called the ‘honeymoon’ phase and I was excited for pure, married bliss.

I had hopes and expectations our first year of marriage would be filled with wine, chocolate, and… That we would laugh and love with deep community. That we would make a home together. That our jobs would flourish. That our relationship would thrive. That Jesus would be seen radiating from us.

I had a low bar of hope that we would finally get a year to not be in transition. That after several years of life being constantly in flux, we would actually be able to settle. To make home – together. To plant some roots.

But hopes and expectations are just that – hopes and expectations.

I do not mean to sound depressed, or passive aggressive, or even negative.

Simply, our hopes and expectations just do not always happen.

Truthfully, it is usually out of our control when they do or do not happen.

This first year of marriage was the shattering of a 5 year plan I had carefully created and crafted. It was the opposite of our hopes and dreams. It was not what we would have ever chosen for ourselves.

This year could have broke us. For a while it broke me. If you told marriage counselors our story – our year had every reason to break us. I mean, truthfully, I could imagine several times where it almost did.

Times where calling was doubted. Where we wondered if we heard and discerned God’s call properly. If somehow, we had made a mistake (with a job, not with each other). Would it have been better to say no? Did we just take the easy, low hanging fruit (even though there was nothing easy about saying yes)? 

Yet, in the midst of the storms, God made us like bamboo. We bent, but despite everything thrown our way, we did not break.

God wouldn’t let us.

We thought we were getting buried and we were at a loss for how to recover – for how to dig out of the hole we found ourselves in. That others had buried us in.

But, as we look back at it now, we were not buried – God was planting us.

Planting not burying.

See, when Joseph was thrown into the well by his brothers – I am sure he thought he was buried too. But, instead, Joseph was just getting started. That well, was his planter. He was planted and not buried. It was only his beginning.

So has this last year of our life been.

It has only been the beginning of our story; we refused to let it be our ending.

Or in the immortal words of Happy Gilmore:

It ain't over yet, McGavin. The way I see it, we've only just begun.

Now we head into year 2 and honestly, if you would have told either of us how the first year of our marriage was going to unfold last June – I can only imagine our reaction. If you would have told us we would celebrate our first anniversary with a trip to the Smokey Mountains in North Carolina – we would have figured we won a contest. If you would have told us South Carolina, the South, the East Coast, Mount Pleasant was going to be our home – we would have laughed.

But, here we are.

Today, there is no place we would rather be. We are loving every second of this adventure. We are so grateful for how God has been with us this entire year and made sure we landed not just on our feet – but healthy, in tact, and in a place that far exceeded what we could have asked for.

So year 2 – let’s do this.

Jesus, thanks for seeing us through this.

We’ve only just begun.