This Week's Recommendations

This Week's Recommendations

1.      The Danger of Forgiving Too Fast: Mike Glenn tells a story and then offers this sober wisdom, "My mom rushed me back to the oral surgeon who looked at me and said something I’ve never forgotten. “Mike, you healed too fast.” When I asked him what he meant, he said the gum tissue where he had made the incision had closed before the wound could totally drain. When that happened, the bacteria were trapped causing a major infection... I’ve ended up retelling that story a lot—especially to my friends who have been wounded and hurt. They want to forgive. They want to deal with it, move on, and get past the pain. In their rush to get over it, they heal too fast and trap the anger, bitterness, and hurt inside before it can drain out. Just like our bodies, our souls can get infected. If we fail to properly treat our wounds, the anger, embarrassment, and hurt will fester into bitterness and despair."

2.      These Two Statements Changed My Ministry: Dave Travis writes that 30 years ago the first statement shook and changed him, "The first statement came from Kennon Callahan: 'The day of the professional pastor is over. The day of the missionary pastor is here.'"

3.      What if Solomon's Example Was Bad, Not Good? Ian Duguid takes the provocative position that Solomon's example is negative, not positive in Song of Solomon. It's an interesting position. One doesn't have to agree with the position itself to agree with Duguid's main point, " But by connecting the song with the name of Solomon, with all his sexual brokenness, the writer reminds us that there are many dangers associated with marriage and sex. It is not easy to find the right person, or to be the right person, and faithfully waiting for that person is perhaps the hardest part of all."

4.      People Aren't Yes or No Answers: Stephen Altrogge with a great article on addressing the heart behind the pointed questions, "Behind every yes-or-no question is almost always a series of deeper questions, struggles, fears, and challenges. When someone asks me whether abortion is wrong, there’s usually much more lying beneath the surface. The question is simply the tip of the iceberg... When someone asks me whether homosexuality is a sin or whether abortion is wrong, is it simply because they’re curious about my opinion? Are they just searching for a conversation topic? Probably not. Simple questions about massive issues are like weeds with a roots that runs incredibly deep. The questions themselves are connected to things much deeper and more profound happening in a person’s life. Giving a simple answer is like plucking the weed without dealing with the root. It doesn’t solve the issue."

5.      How Evangelicalism Has Shifted Over 50 Years: I wish these graphs were clearer, but their content is fascinating. Some of the interesting facts: since 1970, Mainline Christianity has shrunk from 30% of the population to 10% and those who say they don't have any religious affiliation has gone from 5% to 20%.

Who We Pray We Will Be

Who We Pray We Will Be

In this brief series I have shared how significant the process of creating our staff culture document was for our staff. The document represents who we are when we are at our best. In that sense, it is a hope, it is a prayer we have lifted up to God. “Lord, by your grace, shape us to be this kind of team,” we have offered up to God.

My wife and I were recently doing couples counseling with a couple who had experienced such a series of letdowns in their marriage they were fearful to commit to even the most modest of changes for fear of failure. But, whether it is physical health, or your organization, there is no hope for change without the risk of the offering of prayers and dreams for what you want to become.

Below is our staff’s prayer for who we desire that God would shape us to be. You will see the value stated first, then a brief statement of what we believe that value is, and then ways we can measure that value. We are working on a longer document currently where we want to share stories of ways our staff has watched that value lived out as a team. This is a living document and likely will look different in six months than it does today. We see that as a good thing.

By his grace, we have already begun to see the small works of his transformative power among us. We have worked hard to press this into our lives and work together. I encourage you to take that risk with the team God has placed you on. If you have a staff culture document, I would love it if you would share yours as well.

This Week's Recommendations

This Week's Recommendations

1.       White Evangelicals Also Want Stricter Gun Laws: Surprising findings from Pew. Rob Schenck says, “The perception that all evangelicals have a kind of bloodlust for firearms, that’s not true, particularly when it comes to under-40 evangelicals and their pastors.”

2.       Stop Delegating! Shawn Lovejoy argues that delegation isn't true leadership. " Empowerment, on the other hand, has everything to do with the benefit of the other person and the entire organization." 

3.       Why It Was Not Good to Be Alone: Mike Leake argues that the primary reason it wasn't good for Adam to be alone wasn't physical or emotional, it was theological, " So the fundamental reason why it was not good for Adam to be alone was not because of a need to fulfilled within Adam, but rather because of a deficiency in his ability to accurately image God. He couldn’t make the invisible kingdom visible while he was alone because the invisible kingdom is a community. Adam needed Eve to accurately reflect God."

4.       Why Do I Believe in Credobaptism? Stephen Kneale makes a succinct argument for why we should baptize believers, not infants. One of his arguments is, " The Great Commission is that portion of scripture in which Jesus tells his followers to ‘go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.’ This same command, the order of which seems significant, is picked up by the disciples who insist that their hearers ‘repent and be baptised’."

5.       Folegandros Island, Greece: A drone flies over the beautiful island. 

Choosing Our Values

Choosing Our Values

Like individuals, every organization has a unique beauty. But like individuals, no organization is without warts. The sooner you can look your organization in the mirror and make an honest appraisal of your beauty and your warts, the better. It’s a dead end to either become obsessed by your warts or to become infatuated by your beauty.

By God’s grace, New Life’s staff culture is more beautiful than when I arrived two years ago. There are lots of reasons for that, but none more significant than the process we went through a year ago to create a staff culture document and then to begin to invest time and energy toward making strides toward our staff culture document.

The process of choosing those values was messy, but the mess was important. Ultimately the process took just less than three months. I share our process not because I think we navigated the process perfectly or that we’ve arrived or that I would recommend the same exact process for another organization, but because there were important points of learning along the way for us that I hope can benefit you.

1.       We committed to a process

Not everyone was thrilled that we were taking a significant amount of time to walk through developing a document that, to some, either didn’t seem to offer much hope for change, or was so obvious it didn't seem to need to be stated with a document. But everyone agreed that for it to truly be our staff's document, we all needed to take ownership. Furthermore, we agreed with the simple ground rules that our staff culture values would be those which represented “who we are at our best.” That spoke to the pessimists in the room, who might be tempted in such a document to focus on the warts.  And it spoke to the optimists in the room, who might be tempted to include values that are great, but aren’t reflective of who we are.

This Week's Recommendations

This Week's Recommendations

1.       Three Predictors of Porn Use: Jay Stringer explains, "Perhaps you’ve found yourself not able to turn off your allure to porn. If so, a far more beneficial approach to recovery than combating lust is to focus on the themes that drive and necessitate your use of pornography. Until these themes are transformed, you will find yourself in the same, pernicious cycle of pornography use."

2.       How to Heal the Damage Caused by Family Conflict: Mark Gregston wisely reflects, " Not following up on hurtful actions of confrontations to either correct the mistakes you’ve made or affirm the relationship is what allows conflict to cause damage to your relationship with your child.   Remember that you’re not only resolving issues that you have with your child, but, more importantly you are setting the example of conflict resolution and teaching your child how to admit fault, assume a position of humility, and ask for forgiveness for any wrongdoing; all characteristics in a person’s life that are more caught than taught."

3.       5 Honest Struggles Church Leaders Don't Want to Admit: Carey Nieuwhof with a good reminder of the lies leaders can easily get entrapped by, "Greater faithfulness should result in greater impact in ministry. Pursue God, and pursue a great mission. Both are critical. But God doesn’t reward the most faithful with the best results."

4.       The Best Preacher in the World: David Murray says, " Every church needs two preachers. We need a human preacher, one who is visible, audible, tangible. But we also need a divine preacher, one that is invisible, inaudible, and intangible. I’m speaking of the Holy Spirit, without whom the work of the human preacher is in vain."

5.       Girl Scout Marketing Meeting: Jon Crist will have you laughing at the silliness of the Girl Scout's marketing plan.

Breakfast is Served

Breakfast is Served

Culture eats strategy for breakfast.

Just about a year ago we went through an exercise as a staff that has proved one of the most important things I’ve done on staff at any organization. It was messy and it took way longer than we thought it would take (about two months), and the end result wasn’t shocking or ground-breaking, but despite all of that, the exercise was a fulcrum point for us as a staff and as an organization.

What did we do? We created a staff culture document, which named our values as a staff. In the third post, I will share the full document, but in this post, I will share the values we chose and why I am convinced staff values are so important. In the next post I will share what the process looked like.

Our values are:

  1. Humble
  2. Loving
  3. Prayerful
  4. Hard Working
  5. Fun
  6. Collaborative
  7. Trustworthy

We are far from the first organization to create a staff culture document and our values are not unique. In fact, there may be organizations out there who might share our exact seven values. But the process of putting the document together was invaluable for us as a staff. And the values themselves have become anchoring points for who we are and who we aspire to be.

This Week's Recommendations

This Week's Recommendations

1.       Are you Addicted to Your Phone? Research finds that 40% of cellphone usage is compulsive. I'm guilty as charged: "Finding that the average user unlocked their phone more than 10,000 times a year — or about 28 times a day — the researchers identified about 4,000 phone interactions a year as being “compulsive” (i.e., the owner had no particular act in mind when engaging). Equally eye-opening was the finding that the highest decile of smartphone enthusiasts — or the top ten percent of users — opened their device 60-plus times every 24 hours."

2.       The Dangers of Success: Paul Alexander captures some of the most significant dangers of success succinctly. One of those are our motives: " It’s easy to hide our motivation and heart in the apparent external success of the churches we’re building. I’m not saying every church leader has poor motives, far from it! But it’s easy to ignore motive when you’re experiencing success."

3.       Leadership Comes Back to the Home: Rich Holdeman on the significance that the office of elder is reserved for those who manage their household well, "Good managers know the people that they manage.  They know their strengths and weaknesses, likes and dislikes, fears and aspirations.  Simply put, good managers put the people under them in positions where those people can grow and succeed.  Really good managers do this in such a way that when things go well, the people under them get all the credit.  Conversely, when things do not go well, good managers take the heat.  Because good managers have the well-being of those they manage in mind, people love to work for them."

4.       In Defense (Somewhat) of Self-Help: Samuel James with a fair critique for those of us who consider ourselves above the self-help genre, "For all my Christian culture’s scorn of self-help, couldn’t we at least have talked about actually living life in a non-theoretical, non-gospelly cliche way? One of the things I am having to slowly unlearn is the idea that having good theology is the most important thing in life. I cringe even as I write that sentence, because for years to even think a sentence like that indicated, I believed, a willingness to embrace bad theology."

5.       Pano Photography Awards: Spend some time with this jaw-dropping collection of photographs. What a world God has created!

This Week's Recommendations

This Week's Recommendations

1.       Netflix Thinks You're Bored and Lonely: Trevin Wax pushes back on the way our culture thinks about boredom, "The entertainment industry expects us to see boredom as bad, which is why advertisers, sponsors, filmmakers, and game-makers collaborate to create shows, movies, and games that will capture our attention and keep us preoccupied. There’s money to be made in eliminating boredom. But is boredom always a problem, or could it be a possibility? Talk to people whose job it is to make things with their hands or create things in their head, and they’ll tell you that great things happen when your mind runs free."

2.       Ruth Graham Didn’t Waste Her Life: Dave Boehi reflects on the lessons we can learn from the beautiful marriage of Ruth and Billy Graham. He reflects on Ruth’s sacrifice, “One writer for The Washington Post wrote, ‘What a sign of those times, one might say. Or, how sad. The world will never know what else Ruth Graham … could have accomplished …’ What the world often fails to understand is that God often calls people to set aside their own plans in order to follow Him … and then He uses them in greater ways as a result.”

3.       Evidence of Evangelical Political Pragmatism: A discouraging survey I recently came across. Self-described evangelicals' position on how important a politician's morality is has shifted dramatically since the 1990s. And not in a good way.

4.       High-Stakes Leadership: This Read to Lead podcast with Constance Derickx is loaded with good stuff. Derickx definition of courageous impatience and patience particularly struck me.

5.       Why (almost) No One Wants to Host the Olympics Anymore: The 2004 games garnered 12 bids from around the world. Zeeshan Aleem reports that the next two summer and winter Olympics received a total of two bids each. Why? Former cities who hosted the Olympics are littered with unsightly abandoned facilities and a huge price tag for the honor: "Pyeongchang, South Korea, built a brand new Olympic stadium to host the Winter Games this year. The 35,000-seat stadium cost $109 million to build. And it will be used just four times before it’s demolished."

This Week's Recommendations

This Week's Recommendations

1.       13 Things a Pastor Should Never Tell a Congregation: I've heard at least half of these. And Amen the critique of each one. The first three on Joe McKeever's list: "1. 'I’m thinking of quitting. I haven’t decided. Pray for me.'; 2. 'I’m no theologian.'; 3. 'God told me to tell you … '"

2.       How to Re-Shape Your Conscience: Michael Taylor with sage advice for a reality we all face, " For most of us, the normalization and celebration of sin has become so pervasive in the entertainment we grew up enjoying that it can be difficult for us to discern whether or not God is pleased with our lifestyle. There is often a cognitive dissonance between what we believe about God and his law and how we live. So, how are Christians meant to navigate this complicated issue?"

3.       What is Reformed Theology?: Benjamin Vrbicek answers this question by focusing both on the historic and theological components: "When we seek God through Scripture and church dogma, we can be made right with God only through Christ, his mother, priests, and saints, by trusting in God’s grace and the sacraments, as long as we do enough good works alongside our faith.”

4.       A Visual Representation of Just How Split Our Politics Have Become: There truly is no middle ground any longer. And both parties have reduced their platforms to a particular set of issues. " The data viz designer Mike Cisneros has mapped out the political positions of every member of Congress ever, starting with the first Congress in 1789 up until the 115th Congress that’s currently filling the news cycle with so much anguish. The central visualization is a giant scatterplot, where positions are mapped based on how conservative or liberal each Congress member is economically and socially."

5.       Carnival Scam Science: This really fun video tells you the science behind what you already know: carnival games are rigged against you.

Why I Need You to Help Me Do What I’m Supposed to Do as a Pastor

Why I Need You to Help Me Do What I’m Supposed to Do as a Pastor

Moses was crushing it. The people loved him. He had lines out the doors for those who were hoping to hear a word from God or a word of wisdom from Moses.[i] Then his father-in-law, Jethro, showed up and told him he was leading poorly, not well.

Moses had every reason to not listen to Jethro’s advice. There were no real indicators Moses’s leadership style wasn’t working. And yet Moses heard Jethro’s advice, and humbly heeded it.

In Ephesians, Paul makes it clear that this is no mere stylistic choice for a godly leader. Healthy leadership is characterized by “equip[ing] the saints for the work of the ministry.”[ii] Did you catch that, healthy leadership isn’t characterized by doing “the work of the ministry” but rather by equipping the congregation to do the work of the ministry.