Category Archives: Church

What I am reading now … Or at least attempting to


This is the time of year where the academic types publish their summer reading lists.  Everyone who is a “celebrity ” seems to publish some sort of list like this.  Since I am not an academic type (meaning that I am not a professor or an administrator at an academic institution currently – although I am looking for a place to serve in either a local church or academic institution)

I don’t have a summer break per se like those who work in academic institutions, but I try to read several books each year as time permits.  So, let’s dive into the stack (from top to bottom):

  1. Work Rules – by Laszlo Bock – this book I have been wanting to read for some time.  Mr. Bock is the leader of Google’s people function. If a company like Google can provide such wonderful perks for their employees and people are wanting to work there, then maybe there is something I can learn about employee satisfaction and retention?  I just started this book earlier this week.  What will motivate me to finish it is that it is due back to the library on June 29th – stay tuned for a book review.
  2. Who Moved My Pulpit? – by Thom S. Rainer – this book was released on June 1st, 2016 and I was chosen to be on the launch team.  We were provided a number of free books to give away to others.  I will mail out 12 books this week to friends in ministry.  I also have a few to give away here on the blog, so leave a comment if you would like a book.  If you are chosen, then I will mail you a book free of charge and hope that it will be a blessing to you.  I am enjoying this book because it deals with the ever present issue of change within the local church and how church members and pastors respond to change.  Here is a great quote from this book: “Sometimes the confused include those who want to hang on to some tradition for their own sense of security and comfort.” (pg. 22)  This book is definitely worth reading, even if you are not a pastor because it will tip over some of your own sacred cows in the process.  Stay tuned for a more detailed review.
  3. The Art of Work by Jeff Goins – this is a book that I read when I first purchased it, and I am now attempting to re-read and transcribe what I highlighted into Evernote for future reference.  This is a great book to help one discern one’s calling in life.  I am re-reading this to make sure that I didn’t miss anything the first time around.  Another reason I am re-reading this is because I am struggling with what I am supposed to be doing with my life.  I spent four years in Bible college, eight years in seminary and now six years post seminary and I am not doing what I have trained to do, serve in local church ministry as my vocation.
  4. The Pyramid and the Box by Joel Tetreau – this is a book that I have had in the stack for sometime but now it has been moved up.  Joel is a pastor friend who pastors in Gilbert, AZ and is a fellow alumnus of Central Baptist Theological Seminary of Minneapolis, MN.  I will probably read this book when I finish Who Moved My Pulpit since the subject matter is similar in both books. From what I have read of this book so far tells me that this work is something that new and experienced pastors should read and glean much from it.
  5. The 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene/Joost Elffers – This is a book that I have owned for sometime and have started it and stopped it several times.  The bright orange color stands out in the stack and after seeing a Facebook post on this book, I decided to read this book from start to finish and not quit this time.  I realize that this is a secular book and I am looking forward to reading it and looking at it from my Christian worldview point.  I can imagine that there will be things that I will disagree with from an ethical standpoint and other things that I can learn from it without an ethical conflict or conundrum.
  6. Whatever The Cost – by David and Jason Benham – this is a book that I picked up when the Benham Brothers spoke at the First Baptist Dallas Men’s Conference in April 2016.  I had heard of the Benham Brothers through their ups and downs with the media over their reality TV show which never aired because they took a bold stand for Christ.  This book tells the story behind the story of what happened to them with regard to their reality TV show and how it opened their eyes to what is going on in the media and the tremendous pressure that is placed on the media by activist groups and sponsors.
  7. Living Forward – by Michael Hyatt and Daniel Harkavy – this is a book that I preordered before it came out and was able to score a good book at a reasonable price along with some really great bonuses.  I served on Michael Hyatt’s launch team for his book Platform when it first came out.  This is a book that is similar to Jeff Goins book – The Art of Work.  I stopped reading at Chapter 7 – Dedicate One Day because I have not had one day that I can do what this chapter is wanting the reader to do.  When I find a day, then I will resume reading.
  8. Don’t Fire Your Church Members – by Jonathan Leeman – I want to read as much as I can on church government and really understand why I consider myself a congregationalist.  This book would run in tandem with Joel Tetreau’s book The Box and the Pyramid.  There is a shift in some churches to abandon congregational government and move to an elder rule type government which inevitably makes the average church member feel that they have no input into any decisions in church life.  This book reinforces that congregational government is Biblical and should not be abandoned for religious political correctness.
  9. Every Child Can Succeed by Cynthia Ulrich Tobias – I ordered this book from Amazon at the recommendation of my brother in law who is a former school administrator. We were having some difficulties with my son in school and this book was recommended to us.  I have read most of it and I have discovered my learning style which in turn helped me to discern his learning style.  I also was able to gently refer this title to the school administrator at my son’s school – hopefully he will read it.
  10. Clutter-Free Christianity by Robert Jeffress – I received this book as a gift after attending the Step One class and luncheon at First Baptist Dallas.  I have always enjoyed reading Robert Jeffress even before I joined First Baptist Dallas.  I remember one of the first books that I read of his entitled Guilt-Free Living.  This book appeals to me because I am a planner and an organizer by nature.  I hate clutter and chaos.  My desk at work is neat and clean.  Don’t look at my office at home.  It is cluttered and these books are stacked on a tray.  I really work at staying organized but it is currently a work in progress as I also attempt to go paperless using Evernote as well.  I have read the first two chapters in this book.
  11. How To Make Wise Decisions by Robert Jeffress – Another book by my pastor.  This book also appealed to me to re-examine my calling in life.  You know this must be a controversial book when on page 10, Dr. Jeffress wrote that his own brother wrote him a 4 page letter begging him not to write this book.  I appreciate that he didn’t listen to his brother and he wrote the book. When I finish reading it, if things haven’t become clearer to me about my calling in life, I will definitely attempt to see if the Pastor will give me some time so we can have a conversation.
  12. Dangerous Calling by Paul David Tripp – Shamefully this is another book that I have had for a long time.  I started reading it, would get convicted about something I read, stop reading it for a time, then resume and get convicted again and stop reading it. I finally gave up and decided to start reading it from start to finish.  This also falls in line with several other books that I am reading with regard to calling and vocation.
  13. Baptist Distinctives by Kevin Bauder – Kevin was one of my theology professors while I was in seminary and I learned a great deal from him during my early seminary years while I was trying to figure out what I really believed.  I started reading this book while on vacation at Christmas but stopped after our vacation ended.  I hope to resume this at some point
  14. Battling Unbelief by John Piper –  I had never heard of John Piper until I went to seminary in 2002 and did not realize who he was and where he served until I had gone through a semester of seminary.  Unfortunately, my schedule did not permit me to attend a service at Bethlehem Baptist Church while I lived in the Minneapolis- St Paul area and I have never met John Piper.  I am however thankful that God has chosen to use him in a way that serves the body of Christ as a whole.  I started reading this book shortly after we moved to Texas because my whole life was in an upheaval after moving away from MN and still not being in full time ministry and trying to find a local church and all the disruption that was going on in late 2014.  Unfortunately, I stopped reading and I am not sure why.  I plan to resume reading this book at some point

I have set some goals for myself to read and in some cases re-read some books the remainder of this year.  I am not sure how I will do.  I hope that by sharing this list, it will be a help and a blessing to someone.  I am not famous or a celebrity but here is my reading list.  Enjoy and leave comments as you are able!

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Being a guest speaker can be tough

Being a guest speaker can be tougher than being a pastor.  Before you take issue with what I just said, please hear me out.

The reason why I say that is because when one is invited somewhere to speak and you do not know much about the church congregation or their struggles, it can be very difficult to know exactly what to preach that will meet the needs of the congregation.

It can also be tough because sometimes there can be a lot of travel involved. Last weekend, I drove over 300 miles roundtrip from home to preach at a church in Iowa.  We left on Friday afternoon and went to my in-laws and then we left for church Sunday morning around 8:15 am and did not get back to my in-laws until almost 9:00 pm that night.  Thankfully Monday was the Labor Day holiday.

I am not in any way trying to minimize a permanent pastoral role, but just wanting people to understand that life can be a bit challenging for those of us who can only gain speaking engagements outside of our local congregations. I appreciate the opportunities that I have. They tend to ebb and flow and are not consistent.  Since I cannot seem to land a pastorate, this is the route I must take for now.

A tale of two churches

The last two Sundays I had the opportunity of visiting two different churches with two entirely different outcomes.  I am purposely not naming either church in order to be fair.

Church #1 – I visited this church on a Sunday evening in the DFW area.  The evening service started at 6pm and I arrived just before 5:45.  I parked in the visitor parking and then went inside.  There were no greeters at the door I entered.  I made my way into the lobby and there was no one at their Visitor Center.  I walked into the auditorium and sat about five rows up from the back row on the left side.  People were milling about and some were hurriedly trying to get a laptop hooked up to a projector.  I was just observing and watching.  I was definitely overdressed with khakis, dress shirt, and sportcoat.  I figured that someone would say hello or ask if I was a visitor.  I watched people walk up and down the aisles and talking with one another.  The service started with singing and then announcements and eventually the youth pastor got up to speak (but at the time I did not know who was speaking).  I have to say that I was a bit taken aback that I could sit in a church auditorium and no one recognized that I was a guest and no one spoke to me.  During the closing prayer,  I decided to slip out quietly and leave.  I was very disappointed, but also very thankful for our church that we have people stationed at each entrance door that serve as greeters to engage everyone with a friendly greeting as people enter, members and guests alike.  We also have ushers at each entrance of the auditorium to provide a bulletin and a handshake and friendly greeting.  At minimum, a guest to our current church would be engaged with two people before they found a seat in the auditorium.  Far from my experience at church #1!

Church #2 – We arrived about 15 mins before the morning service started and we were greeted by a gentleman who was in the foyer greeting people as they came in.  We were then greeted by the Pastor and his wife (Disclaimer – I know the Pastor and his wife very well, but the church people did not know we were coming or who we were) We were then given a brief tour of the church facilities and were seated for the service to start.  We were greeted warmly by several people who did not know us but recognized that we were guests.

Two churches – Two Sundays…. what do you think makes the differences between the two churches so marked and different?  Do you think churches have to be taught to recognize guests and engage them?  Are some churches just not “guest friendly”?  This experience made me very thankful for our current church and I sent an email to our pastors letting them know my appreciation for the things we do to engage guests.  We may not get it right, but at least we work at it and try to engage those who come to worship with us.

Incidentally, I drove by church #1 on my way to church #2 on Sunday and did not give a second thought about returning.  Someone once said,”You only have one chance to make a good first impression!”

An article that needs to be read

Are you a pastor?  Then you need to read the article that I am linking to.

Are you called to preach?  Then you need to read this article also.

It is a severe indictment against our churches if an article like this has to be written.  I am thankful for Brian Croft writing this article. He has written what many people are probably thinking.   Hopefully some churches and pastors will put into practice what he has written about.

With those brief comments…..read here

After you have read, then please feel free to comment.

Are you in a church where other men outside of the pastor and staff are not given opportunities to preach and refine their preaching skills?  If so, I would like to hear your story.

Accountability is not a bad word…

First, I would like to apologize for the lack of posts recently.  I realize that if I want people to read, I have to post!

I have been thinking a lot in recent days about accountability.  Some people are quite negative on the subject,  I do not understand why, but they are entitled to their opinion.

There are various facets of accountability – family, job, church, etc.

Accountability is defined as an obligation or willingness to accept responsibility or to account for one’s actions. [Definition taken from the Merriam-Webster Dictionary-Online]

I am thankful for the various facets of accountability that are in my life.  I am thankful that I am held accountable for my actions on the job.  I have to abide by a code of conduct and I am given a performance review each year that holds me accountable for certain tasks and goals.  I am thankful for familial accountability.  I have certain responsibilities as a father and a husband.  It is not enough for me to be there for dinner each evening and make sure the bills and obligations are paid on time.  I need to shepherd my family.  This is a role that I am becoming more aware of and I am working in the new year.

One aspect of accountability that I am aware of but seems to be misunderstood or lacking is that of accountability among brothers and sisters in Christ within the local church.

Hebrews 10:23-25 reminds us

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering , for He who promised is faithful. And let us consider one another to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the day approaching.

When was the last time you exhorted someone or you were exhorted when you were in attendance at your local church?  I am not referring to the preaching of the Word, but rather one on one ministry between you and another believer.  When was the last time someone encouraged you regarding love and good works?  Church membership has fallen on hard times, especially in the Bible belt where “everyone is a church member or in church”.  Is church membership to resemble a country club membership or a social club?  Unfortunately, I think that church membership has declined in our culture and partially due to a lack of understanding of the true meaning and purpose.

Is it wrong to hold other church members accountable?  No, in fact it is one of the keys of church discipline (Mt 18:15-17).  Most church covenants have a statement or two regarding mutual accountability.  The church I currently attend has the following statements:

.. to walk together in Christian love;

We further pledge to watch over one another in brotherly love; to remember each other in prayer; to aid each other in sickness and distress; to cultivate Christian sympathy in feeling and courtesy of speech; to be slow to take offense, but always ready for reconciliation…

How can we accomplish these things effectively if we really do not know anyone or have meaningful relationships within the local church?  We talked about this in our Men’s Bible Study last week.

Unfortunately, we hear about a brother or sister in Christ who has fallen into sin and their fellowship is broken with the Lord and eventually with the local church. When you hear about these things, pray for the person(s) involved, then ask yourself this question, “Is there something I could have done to prevent this from happening?”    There are people around us who do not feel that church membership is not important and as a result they resist accountability of any sort and most times do not possess a teachable spirit.  The Bible does give us an admonition regarding how we are to handle such persons.  Again, we see that it involves a form of accountability.

2 Timothy 2:24-26

24 And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, 25 in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, 26 and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will.

2 Corinthians 13:5

Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you are disqualified.

 

So as we look to the end of 2012 and to the beginning to 2013.  How are you executing your responsibilities as a believer not only to be accountable, but to also hold others accountable as well.  Not in a Pharisaical manner, but rather in a loving Christ-like manner.

I would like to hear from you.  Has someone held you accountable within the context of the local church?  Was it a positive experience?

 

 

Congregational Government Works

Courtesy of morguefile.comTonight at our church we had a business meeting involving a weighty matter regarding the sale of some property that we have owned for several years. We have probably heard the horror stories about business meetings that have gone bad.

Thankfully, we had a good meeting and our business was taken care of.  The things that stood out to me about this meeting were as follows:

  • Our pastor gave us a brief challenge regarding the need to pray diligently, listen carefully, etc.
  • There were people from all walks of life, young, old, etc.  I did notice that there were a fair amount of children there and they were able to see something take place that was done with decency and order.
  • Everyone had the opportunity to ask questions.  Many good questions were asked.
  • We did not rush to complete our business, but there was a thoughtfulness in the presentation of the business, the motion that was made and seconded and the vote that was eventually taken.

I can appreciate a church that seeks to make wise decisions in both large and small matters.  There are some who believe that congregational government is wrong or unbiblical.  My point in writing this was not to debate this issue, but just as a reminder that Congregational government within a local church works, if done properly.

Have you seen a time where congregational government worked well?  No horror stories please!