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Three Books For New & Aspiring Pastors

When someone is considering stepping up into spiritual leadership at our church we have them read three books. These books are required for interns considering ministry or ordination and for those becoming elders. If you're thinking about ministry as a vocation then I would strongly encourage you to read each one. Ideally read them with someone in ministry to hone your sense of call and your understanding of the vocation of ministry. Under the Unpredictable Plant  by Eugene Peterson is what you need to know about the leader's soul! Peterson uses the prophet Jonah as a model of ministry: flawed and used by God. He highlights the importance of God's word and prayer. Peterson lays out the importance of obedience to God in all things. Finally, he reminds us that ministry is geographical who and where we serve matters because people matter to God! Blue Parakeet  by Scot McKnight is a great survey on how to understand and apply scripture - the church  leader’s primary tool!  McKn

Begin As You Mean To Go On

Long-term ministries have great potential for churches and pastors. I'm passionate about them and want to help pastors stay in it to win it, but every long-term ministry starts as a short-term ministry. The old guy was once the new guy! Charles Spurgeon said, "Begin as you mean to go on, and go on as you began, and let the Lord be all in all to you." I think this is good advice!  My original plan for BGCC was 5 years and now I’m getting ready to celebrate 17! I used to ask others about where things were at the church, now everyone asks me. I used to collect stories about the history of the church, now I'm the one who shares them. One of my favorite roles at church is coaching young potential pastors. I love welcoming interns to our staff so they can check out ministry and decide if it’s for them. I love helping them discern their strengths and areas for growth as a pastor.  They often want to know what do I love about my job? They want to know if the things I do appe

Common Sense Christianity

“God has a specific will for my life” is a teaching that has wreaked havoc on countless Christians! It has left believers paralyzed, afraid to make a single decision without a divine sign from heaven. It has led others to quit after failing in what they thought was God’s will. It has even led some to walk away from a God who they think led them down a path to heartache, bankruptcy, and brokenness. When these broken people come into our offices or our churches we pastors have told them, “Pray harder. Listen better. God has a message for you.” I think this is spiritual malpractice and I’m sorry for the times I’ve done it.  I’m tired of fatalistic faith and poster platitudes. If God is in control, why are there so many choices to make? If it “must have been God’s will” when I failed, why should I even try? If “I can do all things through Christ,” then why can’t I fly? We live in a world that is so real and demands so much from us. Yet, when we come to church we’re told, “Don’t worry - God

Pastor Friends

Pastors who have long tenures generally have good friendships with other clergy members in their community. Lifeway Research found this as one of their top ten traits of a healthy long-term pastor . If you’re in ministry then you know it can be a lonely place! You know you need other pastor friends, whether you have them or not. I’ve got a great church and amazing leaders, but there is something unique about the pastoral role. You get paid to do what most people volunteer to do. People assume your job is easy because you’re always with Christians. They assume you only work one day a week. Others might assume you work much more, but that you’re always visiting with people who are glad to see you. This all looks good on paper, but in practice Christians aren't always nice, the job is 24/7, and not everyone is glad to see you! The weight of sins confessed and the sorrows of others we carry can sometimes be overwhelming. I remember once after calling social services and discovering the

Intellectual Humility

If you think you know what you're talking about, then there's a good chance you don't. Cornell University psychologists David Dunning and Justin Kruger devised a series of tests to assess individuals skills and knowledge. They then asked the participants to rank themselves on how they thought they performed. Those who scored in the bottom 25% of these tests ranked themselves as scoring around 62%. In other words, those who knew the least thought they knew the most. You can read more about this "Dunning-Kruger Effect" here at Psychology Today. This should remind us to be a a little more humble. We all have something to learn, even if we don't know it! We don't know what we don't know and we need humility when it comes to our beliefs.  Unfortunately many Christians act as though their limited knowledge of scripture makes them an expert in biblical interpretation, church history, politics, medicine, international trade, mechanics, and animal husbandry. Wh

Option C Church

We are being sorted into silos - thought silos. In the past your entire community read one or two newspapers and heard the same stories. They watched the same few broadcast channels and got the same news. Today we all have our own news feeds customized by algorithms to what engages us most. (Watch The Social Dilemma for an eye-opening peek behind the digital sorter that is grouping us without our knowledge.) If you’re not on social media (first congratulations) you’re still being sorted. For a fun experiment go to MSNBC.com , then FoxNews.com , and scroll the headlines. Unless there’s been a major disaster, you'll have to scroll past a couple stories to find some commonality. It’s like these two news sources are from different countries - different planets. We don't mind because we KNOW we’re right and those who disagree with us are wrong. They might also be evil or just plain dumb. We know this is true because we live in an echo chamber. We hear the same perspective again and

Hot Topics

Why should we talk about hot button issues? Didn’t Jesus just preach the gospel?  He preached that the kingdom of God was at hand (Matthew 4:17). He warned how his kingdom would upset the powers at work (Luke 19:23-30)! He called Herod a fox (an insult in Luke 13:32), the Pharisees snakes (Matthew 12:32), he told Pilate he only had borrowed power (John 19:11). He pronounced woe on the wealthy (Luke 6:24). He declared the temple was an empty shell (Luke 21:5-6, John 2:19). He even taught about taxes (Luke 20:22-25). Jesus waded into explosive situations. Just read Matthew 5 and the "Sermon on the Mount" where he blew up the teachings of his day including adultery and murder - lust and hate. He wasn’t afraid to talk about greed and possessions. He thought someone could have too much (Luke 12:16-21). If Jesus went there why don’t we?  I’m not Jesus. You’re not Jesus. So, none of us should feel free to proclaim, “Thus saith The Lord” after our opinions. But, we should have the co