Tag Archives: second chair

God Wants You To Be Holy

Every once in a while you hear about a book that someone reads every year. Screwtape Letters, Elements of Style, My Utmost for His Highest, or The Complete Calvin and Hobbs.  The Hole In Our Holiness will certainly make the annual reading list for thousands who take following Jesus seriously.

Kevin DeYoung makes the case for a holiness deficit in the N. American church with three penetrating questions:

1) In Romans 16.9 Paul writes, “Your obedience is known to all.” DeYoung asks, “Is this even what you want to be known for? (p. 12)

2) Based on Rev 21-22 heaven is a holy place. DeYoung asks, “If you dislike a holy God now, why would you want to be with him forever?…..You would not be happy there if your are not holy here.” (p. 15)

3) Are we Great Commission Christians? “The Great Commission is about holiness. God wants the world to know Jesus, believe in Jesus, and obey Jesus.” (p. 16)

What follows is a thoughtful book on our responsibility and the necessity of our cooperation in the pursuit of holiness and the inherent perils in that pursuit. He addresses the importance of understanding the gradation of sin: “When we can no longer see the different gradations among sins and sinners and sinful nations, we have not succeeded in respecting our own badness; we have  cheapened God’s goodness.” (p. 72). When we get complacent in the pursuit of holiness DeYoung warns “…some Christians are stalled out in their sanctification for simple lack of effort. …. And they need to fight, strive, and make every effort to work out all that God is working in them.” (p. 90)

Chapter 7 is an important and profound treatment of the doctrine of our union with Christ. This chapter alone is worth the modest price of this fine book! Here’s just one example of DeYoung’s pointed and powerful writing: “In effect God says to us, ‘Because you believe in Christ, by the Holy Spirit I have joined you to Christ. When he died, you died. When he rose, you rose. He’s in heaven, so you’re in heaven. He’s holy, so you’re holy. Your position right now, objectively and factually, is as a holy, beloved child of God, dead to sin, alive to righteousness, and seated in my holy heaven – now live like it.” (p. 105). That will preach! And it will provide great encouragement to those who struggle to live up to their calling every day.

Toward the end of the book DeYoung clearly identifies the importance of personal holiness: “We think that relevance and relate-ability are the secrets to spiritual  success. And yet, in truth, a dying world needs you to be with God more than it needs you to be “with it.” That’s true for me as a pastor and true for you as a mother, father, brother, sister, child, grandparent, friend, Bible study leader, computer programmer, bank teller, barista, or CEO. Your friends and family, your colleagues and kids – they don’t need you to do miracles or transform civilization. They need you to be holy.” (p. 145).

It’s a short trip from holiness to legalism and we are often either very eager to make that trip or take just 1 or 2 wrong turns and end up at a destination that is not where we intended to go. What DeYoung writes in The Hole In Our Holiness can be very prescriptive and preventative in keeping us on the road to holiness. Don’t miss the last paragraph. It might be the most powerful paragraph in the entire book!

As a coach and second chair leader I recommend this book to all who want their lives to reflect the reality of their union with Jesus Christ. Personally, I found this short book to be filled with balanced and accurate interpretations of what the Bible teaches on the topic of personal holiness. The thoughtful reader will find plenty of encouragement and challenging motivation from it. And if you don’t have a book that you read annually, I would encourage you to make The Hole In Our Holiness that book.

This. Changes. Everything!

It was a seminal moment for me.

I recently attended a week of CORE coaching training put on by the good people of CRM. In a group of 30 active and aspiring coaches we were pulled, pushed, and stretched into a new way of helping people discover what God is already doing in their lives and how he is already speaking to them. Simply put it was the finest training experience of my life!

For most of us (and certainly for me) whenever we are in a group discussion or review we always want to offer our solutions. After all, our vast experience and superior knowledge on the subject is just what the other person or the group needs at the moment! It was nice of them to ask your opinion because you certainly have one!

Coaching isn’t like that. At the heart and soul of coaching is the art of asking questions that guide people through a process of self-discovery to a solution that they design and choose. The coach doesn’t offer solutions, tell about their own experience, or tell them what they “ought” to do. The goal in coaching is for the coach to speak only 20& of the time! The strength of this process is that people are much more likely to implement a decision that they made themselves than a decision that is forced on them.

Throughout the week we had several practice live coaching sessions with other group members. These were usually limited to 15-20 minute sessions while an actual coaching session is more likely to last anywhere from 45-90 minutes. But I was amazed at how much coaching could be accomplished in such a short period. It was one of those practice sessions that changed everything.

I was in a coaching triad where we did a ’round-robin’ series of three coaching sessions Each member of the triad had a turn as a coach, a coach, and an observer. It was a 20-minute session of epic life transformation! That got my attention. I left that training committed to pursuing coaching as a central component to my ministry and life. I’m already in the process of inviting several people to enter into a coaching relationship that will help them make some important life decisions and achieve some significant goals in life and ministry. I’d be happy to talk with you about how a handful of coaching sessions could be beneficial to you, too!

The Gospel of Yes

Mike Glenn makes a significant contribution toward bringing clarity back to a simple Gospel message that has been buried by confusion and clutter in recent decades. How many of us have come to understand the Gospel as “the Gospel plus?” Plus a dress code, plus a list of do’s and don’ts, plus a certain translation of the Bible. Enough already!

Glenn begins our journey toward a simpler Gospel with words like these found on p. 12:

“When you accept the “yes” of Christ’s redemptive grace and respond with the “yes” of faith, everything finds its rightful place. Your life finds order, meaning, and the right fit in your community. Finally you can relax in who God created you to be. If a decision before you doesn’t serve your “yes” in Christ, then the response is ‘no.'”

A few pages later Glenn adds: “”Saying ‘yes’ allows you to focus on what matters.” (p. 17)

Somewhere along the way we began defining God’s love and grace and the heart of the Gospel in negative terms. Certainly God is against some things. The same things we are all against. Things like stealing, lying, murder, adultery, etc. Those are terribly destructive behaviors that God (and all of us) should be against. But  this fascination with defining the Gospel in negative terms has been destructive, too.

“For far too many of us, Christianity has been narrowed down to sin management. Sure, we all want to get to heaven. But under the sin-management paradigm, getting to heaven is no longer about Jesus’ sacrifice on our behalf and his invitation to follow him in new life. The focus on sin makes getting to heaven a matter of keeping score.” (p. 26)

Hang around church for more than just a few years and you will know all about keeping score. I’ve had people hand me a bulletin from the church they visited while they were on vacation so that I would know that they went to church. Have to keep that perfect attendance streak intact! We are consumed with avoiding wrong behavior and we excel at letting people know what we are against!

“Simply not doing wrong isn’t enough. Being against sin isn’t the same as being for Christ.” (p. 27)

But ask the typical co-worker, neighbor, or unchurched relative to describe the Christians they know and odds are that they will begin with a list of things they think that Christians are against: drinking, dancing, same-sex marriage, movies, public schools, voting democrat!

“We have concluded that avoiding hell is more important that following Christ in any practical, daily, risky way. So we shut ourselves off from the world and the God who created it. This is why the gospel of Jesus Christ is such a shock to many Christians. We assumed Jesus would come to earth and say “no.” We never expect him to preach “yes.” But his message should not come as a surprise. He came, he said, to preach the message of his Father, and his Father has been saying “yes” all along. The champions of our faith – Abraham, David, Mary, and all the rest – are simply those who heard and believed the “yes” of God in Jesus. They heard the same “yes” that God spoke to call creation itself to life.

And we are invited to hear that same “yes” today.” (p. 34)

Glenn takes these basic concepts and applies them in various ways. He addresses the “yes” in creation, in the cross, and in the resurrection. He challenges his readers to consider the “yes” of forgiveness, of authentic relationships, of simplicity, and more.  If reading these excerpts from “The Gospel of Yes” have grabbed your attention then I would encourage you to read the rest of the book. There’s a simple discussion guide included in the back of the book that covers the 15 chapters in 7 sessions. “The Gospel of Yes” could be read individually, used in a small group, or with your church staff or leadership group. It is a book that should be read by all those who seek to follow Jesus and those who have grown weary of keeping score.

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.”