Tag Archives: church

Man Alive!

Are you a mentor? Are you a men’s small group leader? Do you disciple men? Here’s a really good book to check out if you lead or are involved in ministry to men. Patrick Morely has been producing resources for men and men’s ministries for years. This latest book from Morley may be his best to date.

In eight chapters and just 184 pages Morley lays out a model for an 8-week study – ideally with a small group of men. In chapters2-8 he zooms in on a separate “primal need” that I think most men will identify with:

2- To feel like I don’t have to go through life alone.

3 – To believe – really believe-that God knows. loves. and cares about me personally.

4-To believe that my life has a purpose – that my life is not random.

5-To break free from the destructive behaviors that keep dragging me down.

6-To satisfy my soul’s thirst for transience, awe, and communion.

7- To love and be loved without reservation.

8-To make a contribution and leave the world a better place.

Each chapter includes a few questions for reflection and discussion.

I personally found chapter 8 – “How A Man Makes His Mark” – to be interesting and helpful. Morley describes the final ‘primal need’ like this:

“Every man feels a deep need to make a difference, to make his life count, and to leave the world a better place. Yet in the crush of daily duties, this powerful need often gets misdirected or ignored.” (p. 164.)

Morely adds this observation:

“I’d say that 90% of Christian men don’t go much further than professing faith. They’re saved but stuck – inside the stadium but not in the game. Their lives seem pointless, and they hate it.” (p. 165)

I’ve seen this so many times. Men going through the motions of being a Christian. They go to church most Sundays but don’t become engaged in the worship or the message. They don’t sing and barely remember a single point of the message by the time they pull out of the parking lot. They’re not in a small group and they don’t have any real friends in the church. They attempt to find meaning and significance in their work, their hobbies, or through their favorite professional sports team.

At the age of 55 I look ahead to the next 10-12 years of full-time ministry. I’m not content to go through the motions of life and ministry for those years. I want desperately to make a difference for the Kingdom. I want to see men transformed by the Gospel so that their lives have meaning and significance. I want to see men become the men they really want to be – better husbands, better dads, better men.  That’s why I lead 3 separate men’s groups, am coaching 3 men, and am working to develop a full-throttle men’s ministry team. I believe that introducing me to “Man Alive” will help me accomplish those goals.

Check out the Man Alive website for more resources.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Waterbrook Multnomah Publishers as part of their Blogging for Books program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Plan C

It was the opportunity all second chair pastors dream of: to step into the pulpit on the biggest Sunday of the year and preach to the largest crowd of the year! Well, maybe that’s an exaggeration. Maybe you have bigger crowds on Super Bowl Sunday.

This time last week all of our staff was doing well. No one complained of illness. Everyone was looking forward to our Good Friday and Easter services. Plan A was a go.

Then there was Wednesday.

That was the day that the sr pastor called in sick. Later he texted that he had “walking pneumonia!’ At this point we were still sticking with Plan A. I started popping Vitamin C.

On Thursday the sr pastor waved off his participation in the Good Friday service. I met with our Worship Pastor to find out the direction for both Good Friday and Easter (just to be safe). Then the Youth Pastor and I hatched Plan B: I would speak at the Good Friday service and he would be prepared to speak Easter Sunday if needed. Almost as an afterthought he added that he was not feeling real well, either. Our children’s director was also sick! More Vitamin C. Lot’s more.

On Friday we were told that our sr pastor would not be able to preach on Easter Sunday! When I contacted the youth pastor to give him the news it became clear that his health was declining and he was in no condition to begin preparing for Sunday. Plan C (me speaking at both Good Friday and Easter) became the working plan!

As it turned out, neither the sr pastor nor the youth pastor was able to attend either Good Friday or Easter. Our musicians, technicians, performers, greeters, ushers, and other volunteers rose to the challenge and all of the  services came off without a hitch! Easter was our biggest Sunday in the past year.

For me, it was the first Easter Sunday I had preached in nine years. I don’t expect to ever get another opportunity to do so. I enjoy preaching but I don’t enjoy the preparation. Preaching weekly is not something that I want to do again right now. I like my role as a second chair leader. I have much more freedom and flexibility to develop ministries with men, discipleship coaching, and community outreach. This role fits my strengths and personality quite well and is the role I have filled for 14 of my 29 years in ministry.

My one word of advice to all second chair leaders is to keep a Plan B and a Plan C filed away. Don’t wait until the day before the most important day in your organization’s year to hatch a back-up plan. Do it today! And keep it fresh so that you can implement that new plan with out much effort. I didn’t do that. So in the middle of two event-filled days I had to prepare to pinch hit twice. Oh, and be sure to take lots of Vitamin C!

(My thanks to Ryan Johnsen for the photo!)

When have you been called on to step in as a second chair leader?

When have you been unable to go on and had to call on a second chair leader?

God-Imaging Christ Followers

In his book, Disciple, (Crossway) pastor and author Bill Clem plows new ground for those of us who seek to fulfill Jesus’ command to go and make disciples. Clem begins with the premise that we have all been created by God to his image-bearers: “…God created man both to image God and to be in relationship with others (with both God and humans).” (p. 17)  That may not be a new idea to most. Clem continues: “A person who is spiritually dead, separated by sin from oneness with God, is a distorted image bearer, and though there may be ways in which God is seen, the image portrayed will be seriously impaired and distorted.” (p. 18) Still haven’t seen anything new? Keep reading!

“To see Jesus on the story of God means that we look at everything God has done, including every person God has put into his script, and we discover how all image God like Jesus did.” (p. 38) “Our value in God’s eyes is not determined by what we can do above and beyond his design for us but in the inherent nature of how we function in relationship to him, to others, and his creation. It is our relationships that truly bear the image of God.” (p. 60) “We started by saying everyone images God on mission to one degree of distortion or another. If this is true, then being on mission may not be about what help you can offer as much as about partnering with unbelieving image bearers already imaging (although distorted) the God they don’t know.” (p. 72).

I take that to mean that as I serve on committees in my community, interact with city leaders and officials, or join community service groups (that may or may not be connected to my church) that the members of all of these groups were created as image bearers of God (even if they don’t acknowledge it) and they are carrying out God’s mission even if their image-bearing is distorted. So when I join them in what God is already doing through them in my community, the labor of my efforts bear the image of God and so do my relationships with these fellow image-bearers! That was new to me.

From this starting point Clem explores several implications for the Christ-follower. Here are several chapter headings:

4. Identity distortions

5. Worship

6. Worship Distortions

7. Community

8. Community Distortions

9. Mission

10. Mission Distortions

The final two chapters (11. The Plan & 12. Multiplication) are the nuts and bolts of establishing transformational discipleship relationships in your life and in your church. It’s an extremely helpful book. One that has challenged me to re-tool my worn and weary method of discipleship for something much more profound and foundational. I found this statement on pp. 65-66 to be extremely challenging for me personally: “…if someone is oriented toward imaging God, then the disciple-making process will be more transformational than an informational set of verses and lessons.” “…I don’t see how teaching people that they are image bearers of God and asking the question, “How will this action or attitude image or distort the God of the Bible?” could be more basic to the nature of living as followers of Jesus. This perspective has tone our baseline (1 John 2.6).”

Second Chair leaders: If you lead a men’s ministry or small group ministry I would encourage you to get your hands on a copy of Clem’s book and explore ways that you can implement these concepts in your ministry. If you do, let me know about your plans. It would be great to dialogue with you. If you are a small group leader this book could be helpful for you although the average small group may find the content and the assignment sections following each chapter to be deeper than most other small group materials. (That’s not necessarily a bad thing!)

Josh Harris’ “Dug Down Deep!”

Quick – what comes to mind when you hear the word “theology?” For most of us we think of academic, complicated, dry, commentary. You won’t think of any of those words while reading “Dug Down Deep” by Joshua Harris. In fact, it may take you a little while to realize that you are actually reading a theology book.

“Dug Down Deep” is a systematic theology for a new generation of Christ-followers. This is no Berkhoff, or Erickson, or even Grudem-like book (nothing wrong with any of those three – I actually own and use systematics by all three). Harris approaches theology as a narrative. As you learn more about the author’s life, his father’s life, and even the church where he serves you will also learn about salvation, sanctification, the Holy Spirit, justification, atonement, and much more.

Harris states theological concepts in very clear and understandable terms:

“When we study the doctrine of God, there should be a sense of awe in our hearts. We should be like children with a telescope under a starry night sky. Then we will be filled with amazement that Someone so great – so transcendant can be known and seen by us. We will rightly feel small and insignificant as we realize how great and powerful the God we’re beholding really is. The more you learn of who God truly is, the more incredible his invitation to know him becomes.” (p. 51)

As a second chair leader with responsibilities for small groups, discipleship,  and adult ministries I found  the Reflection and Study Guide found in the back of each copy of “Dug Gown Deep” to be a great feature. It’s a resource that could be very useful for personal or small group study. I’m considering using it with a men’s small group that I am currently forming.

I especially recommend “Dug Down Deep” for those who think they have no interest in theology or those who think that theology is too difficult (or uninteresting) for them. “Dug Down Deep” will challenge that thinking and open up a new world of appreciation for biblical theology. Along the way the reader will come to know and love God in a richer and fuller way.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Waterbrook Multnomah Publishers as part of their Blogging for Books program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Coaching 101

I’ve recently started a journey to gain some ministry coaching skills with the eventual goal of becoming certified as a coach. I’ve searched several websites, friends, and organizations to find the process that seems to fit me best and have landed with CoachNet Global. Their website is filled with resources and online classes. Their emphasis on coaching as ministry resonates better with me than the coaching for income emphasis I’ve come across at others sites.

The centerpiece of CoachNet’s basic training is the book Coaching 101 by Robert Logan and Sherilyn Carlton  which I’ve just finished. In this book the authors focus on the basics with an opening chapter defining what coaching is and isn’t (it’s not counseling, advising, instructing, or managing) and then developing their “Five Rs” of a good coaching process. Here’s their summary of the coaching process from page 29 – each of which are developed in appropriate detail in chapters 2-6:

  • Relate – Establish coaching relationship and agenda
  • Reflect – Discover and explore key issues
  • Refocus – Determine priorities and action steps
  • Resource – Provide support and encouragement
  • Review – Evaluate, celebrate, and revise plans

The final two chapters help the prospective coach by presenting several guidelines for developing effective coaching relationships (chpt 7) and steps to getting started as a coach (chpt 8).

This short volume (120 pages) would be an extremely valuable first step for those exploring a coaching ministry or those who just want to develop some foundational coaching skills. I found the book to very helpful in establishing a personal plan of action that will lead to certification and an effective way to fulfill my ordination charge – to equip God’s people for works of service.

The next book that CoachNet recommends is Developing Coaching Excellence. Other coaching books that are in my reading stack include: Co-Active Coaching, Becoming a Professional Coach, Christian Coaching, and Coaching Questions. They will all eventually be reviewed here.

I’m convinced that coaching is a tool that all second chair leaders should have. It’s a very effective way to help leaders (especially volunteers) find success and fulfillment in their personal lives and in their role in your organization. Coaching turns the conventional autocratic management practice on its head through the use of questions rather than directives. Those questions are not, “Did you do what I asked you? Why not? When will you get it done?” But are more like, “What are you working on? How is that going for you? What obstacles are you facing? What resources do you need to finish? Where can you find those resources? What are you going to do next?”

These are skills that I have lacked over the years and would have served me well in a variety of postions I’ve held. I’m excited to begin this journey, but like most adventures I wish I had started earlier!

I Am A Follower

It is rare when a book comes along that is truly transformational. Leonard Sweet’s I Am A Follower is one such book.

Sweet is part prophet (both foretelling and forthtelling), part annoying eccentric, part wise sage, and part poet. You can’t read Sweet without a reaction and that is certainly true in this current volume. The main subtitle is: The Way, The Truth, and Life of Following Jesus. The tiny subtitle of I Am A Follower is: It’s Never Been about Leading. That should tell you a lot abut what you will read between the covers of this book.

Sweet identifies (and I think, correctly) that for the past 3-4 decades the church in N. America has suffered from an obsession with leadership.  How many books, seminars, conferences, articles, sermons, have we heard, taught, written, or preached on the subject of leadership? I myself was a charter subscriber to Leadership Journal 35 years ago. I have embraced a mantra of creating “More disciples, more leaders, and more churches.” Everywhere you turn in the church today there is cult of celebrity around ‘successful’ leaders. And have you noticed that “successful” always means “bigger”? Always.

“One of the greatest myths about leadership is that bigger is always better. I predict that future societies will recognize the fallacy of this myth and that the three mantras for the society will be these:

  • Live more with less.
  • Make little large.
  • Upscale by downsizing.”     (p. 151)

I found that much of Sweet had to say resonated with my own recent personal pilgrimage. Over the past several years I have intentionally pursued the title of Executive Pastor. I have skills and experience that would seem to indicate that I could perform XP functions with ease. Recently I came to realize that the greater role would be to do something less! (I think this fits with Sweet’s second point above.) I am now working to spend more of my time in discipleship coaching rather than ministry administration. I will be investing in men and women to coach them to become better equipped to carry out their ministries and to grow as followers of Jesus. I don’t really see this as a diminished role – except where it would appear on an organizational chart! My desire is to return to my original ordination charge, “…to prepare God’s people for works of service so that the body of Christ may be built up.”

If you are a church leader at any level you should read this book. If you are a Christ follower at any stage in your journey you should read this book! I believe that this would make a great book for group study for church staff, board, small groups, or even couples together. I just finished reading I Am A Follower and I plan to read it again.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their Book Review Blogger program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Generous Justice

A century ago the conservative “fundamental” believers in the church came to believe that social ministries were at best a distraction from the spiritual ministry of the church if not a sign that these more liberal believers in the church had traded the true Gospel for a watered-down social gospel. This divide continued well into the 1980’s and 90’s but has recently shown signs of reversal.  Through a variety voices a new commitment to “seek justice” is emerging in churches. Timothy Keller is one of those voices.

Keller’s Generous Justice is a brief volume (189 pages) that serves as a clarion call to followers of Jesus to extend grace and justice to those in our communities who are impoverished and oppressed. In this book Keller presents a thorough and balanced study of scripture to support that call. “Like Isaiah, Jesus taught that a lack of concern for the poor is not a minor lapse, but reveals that something is seriously wrong with one’s spiritual compass, the heart.” (p. 51).  In other words, if you don’t care about the poor your spiritual health is in serious trouble!

Especially helpful are two chapters (5 & 6) that provide a strong argument for why we should do justice (Chpt 5) and how we should do justice (Chpt 6). Ministry leaders will find these two chapters to be immensely helpful in shaping and clarifying their own journey of doing justice. Second chair leaders will be able to tap into a good resource to use when coaching and mentoring. There is also good material here for small groups to wrestle with.

I personally found the final chapter – Peace, Beauty, and Justice – to be the most helpful and motivating. As one who has used the simple word “Shalom” to sign off on most of my correspondence for the past 30 years, Keller’s description of four forms of shalom breathed new life into my use of the term. He identifies physical, emotional, social, and spiritual shalom. (p. 174).

Why should you read Generous Justice? Consider Keller’s final sentence: “A life poured out in doing justice for the poor is the inevitable sign of any real, true gospel faith.” (p 189). The rest of the book serves as his basis for making that claim. Read it to find out if you agree or disagree with his. conclusion.

For a more extensive review of Generous Justice be sure to check out joelws.com