Announcing My New Book: Awaiting a Savior

As some of you may know, this year, I started sending out proposals to publishers related to a book I’d wanted to write for a while. (I’ve talked a bit about what I’ve been learning through it in the past.) After many months of prayer, effort, one or two mild panic attacks and a couple of really, really nice rejection letters, I’m pleased to announce that my new book, Awaiting a Savior: The Gospel, the New Creation and The End of Poverty, will be available October 1, 2011 from Cruciform Press!

Awaiting a Savior follows the storyline of the Bible to examine the problem of poverty—where it starts, where it ends and how we can faithfully respond in the meantime. I’m unbelievably excited to share this book with you (and it’s been killing Emily and me to not really be able to say too much publicly about it until now) and I’m very thankful to Kevin, Bob and Tim at Cruciform for allowing me to do so. The titles they’ve released so far have been excellent and I’m glad to have been added to the line-up.

In the weeks ahead, I’m looking forward to sharing some excerpts from the book as well as any cool things that may come up surrounding it. I would really appreciate you joining us in prayer as we prepare for the book’s release—and I’d love it if you’d pre-order a copy (which will be available in both print and digital editions for you e-book readers).

Looking forward to sharing more soon!

A Humble Mind

Yesterday John Stott died surrounded by his loved ones and listening to Handel’s Messiah. He was 90 years old. Stott’s ministry has been a great blessing to many, myself included. Stott’s The Living Church was one of the first books on pastoral ministry that I’d ever read (although I’m not certain why I even picked it up initially). Looking back, it was one of the books God used to send me along the path I currently travel in terms of ministry.

One of the things I love about Stott is the importance he places on humility in the life of the preacher and his preaching. Between Two Worlds, his classic work on preaching, offers this wonderful insight. At this point, I am going to take the advice given and “get out of the way” to let his words speak for themselves:

Humility of mind is to be accompanied by humility of motive. Why do we preach? What do we hope to accomplish by our preaching? What incentive impels us to persevere? I fear that too often our motives are selfish. We desire the praise and the congratulations of men. We stand at the door after the Sunday services and feast our ears on the commendatory remarks which some church members seem to have been schooled to make, ‘Fine sermon, pastor!’ ‘You really blessed my heart today!’ To be sure, genuine words of appreciation can do much to boost a discouraged preacher’s morale. But idle flattery, and the hypocritical repetition of stock phrases . . . are damaging to the preacher and repugnant to God. . .

The true preacher is a witness; he is incessantly testifying to Christ. But without humility he neither can nor wants to do so. . . . ‘No man can bear witness to Christ and to himself at the same time. No man can give the impression that he himself is clever and Christ is mighty to save.’ . . .

The most privileged and moving experience a preacher can ever has is when, in the middle of the sermon, a strange hush descends upon the congregation. The sleepers have woken up, the coughers have stopped coughing, and the fidgeters are sitting still. No eyes or minds are wandering. Everybody is attending, though not to the preacher. For the preacher is forgotten, and the people are face to face with the living God, listening to his still, small voice. Dr. Billy Graham has often described this experience. I remember hearing him address about 2,400 ministers in the Central Hall, Westminster, on 20 May 1954, at the conclusion of the Greater London Crusade. The third of his twelve points emphasized the power of the Holy Spirit, and the liberty in preaching which he had felt as a result. ‘I have often felt like a spectator,’ he said, ‘standing on the side, watching God at work. I have felt detached from it. I wanted to get our of the way as much as I could, and let the Holy Spirit take over . . .’ It is precisely here that humility of motive comes in. ‘I wanted to get out of the way.’ For it is all to easy to get in the way, to intrude ourselves between the people and their Lord.

John Stott, Between Two Worlds: The Challenge of Preaching Today, pp. 324- 326

Preaching and Pragmatism

Yesterday Steven Furtick posted a very helpful article on his blog. There, he shares his concern that if we who preach are not careful we’re going to become like the Pharisees. Furtick explains:

When describing the Pharisees and what they did to the people through their teaching, Jesus said: They tie up heavy loads and put them on men’s shoulders(Matthew 23:4).

What’s interesting is that when we read that, we automatically despise the Pharisees and assume they had bad motives. But if you study their history, their motives were actually very good. . . . Their driving motivation really was to help by giving people things to do. But in their desire to make the Bible applicable, they actually created burdens that weighed their people down.

Here’s how I think this happens today. We do a sermon series on marriage, which in itself is great. But then we say things like “you need to do these 15 things with your spouse to have a great marriage.” Or we do a series on joy, and we then give them the 7 steps to attaining it. We’re trying help, but without realizing it, we’ve actually burdened people who were already carrying such a heavy load.

While he is certainly not against offering practical application, this was particularly helpful for me to read today. For the past week and a bit I’ve been writing a chapter on biblical generosity for a book I’m working on, and something I’ve noticed over and over again in many preachers’ efforts to encourage a greater level of giving, they tend to resort to an extremely hard line position on giving that leads those who meet the target feeling proud and those who don’t feeling beat up. While the motivation isn’t necessarily bad, the pragmatic approach (“people aren’t giving enough so tell them to give more”) eliminates grace and room for the Holy Spirit to work in people’s lives. In light of this, a great concern that I have about how I’m presenting my application points is that I don’t want to be guilty of doing the same.

Good application always—always—leaves room for the Holy Spirit to work whatever the subject, whether marriage, parenting, joy or generosity. Though it’s much more difficult, it’s a greater gift to our hearers.

Lord, Do It Again!

Tim Keller, Collin Hansen and Nancy Leigh DeMoss discuss the need for revival (even though Reformed types are a bit freaked out by the term):

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Hansen recently wrote A God-Sized Vision: Revival Stories that Stretch and Stir, a new book looking at the revivals God has sent throughout history to build His church and grow His people. I’d encourage you to give it a thorough read.

What is the Church’s Role in Culture?

What is the church’s role in culture? How does the church equip members to carry out their callings in the world? Pastors Matt Chandler, Michael Horton and Tim Keller discuss:

(RSS Readers: Can’t see the video? Please click through to watch)

What’s your take on the subject? What stood out most to you in the discussion above?

Identifying Future Leaders and Preachers

Bryan Chapell, David Helm and Mike Bullmore discuss how to identify future pastors within your local congregations:

(RSS Readers: Please click through to see the video)

Listening to this conversation was particularly encouraging and challenging. Encouraging because I’m incredibly grateful that there are organizations like Simeon Trust that exist to help train future pastors and preachers. Challenged particularly because of the comments on teaching in children’s ministry. Penny and Lisa (our children’s ministry leaders) have been asking me to do this. I suspect that I’m going to have to sometime in the near future.

Pastors, what measures do you have in place to identify future pastors within your congregations? Young guys, if you’re feeling like you’ve got a call to ministry, what opportunities are you taking advantage of—and what areas of your character stand out as one in which you need to grow?

[Video HT: John Starke]

The Pastor and Succession Planning

Very encouraging conversation between D.A. Carson, John Piper and Tim Keller about planning for the next season of their respective ministries and stepping down from leadership:

(RSS readers, if you’re unable to see the video, please click through to the post.)

Succession planning has long been a topic of conversation among a number of my friends and associates. Not because we’re eager for those who are in authority over us to step aside, but because it’s actually very encouraging for those under authority to know that those in authority are thinking about these things. Their eye is not simply to what God could accomplish through them, but looking to leave their churches and ministries in a place where more can be done.

Pastors, do you have a succession plan? Are you sharing it with your congregation?

HT: Collin Hansen

Evangelistic vs. Doctrinal Preaching: Is That The Right Question?

The first conversation from the Elephant Room was on preaching to build attendance vs. preaching to build attendees. Over on his blog, James MacDonald posted parts one and two of the dialogue between Steven Furtick and Matt Chandler. Unfortunately, the embed on Furtick’s opening statement isn’t working, so I can only show Chandler’s response. I’d highly encourage watching part one on James’ blog:

(If you’re reading from the RSS or email, please click through to see the video.)

Having watched both clips, I definitely appreciate where both men are coming from and their (in my mind) equal passion for seeing the gospel go forth. However, I couldn’t help but wonder if maybe we’re asking the wrong question when we talk about evangelistic vs. doctrinal preaching. Maybe the question isn’t so much one of building attendance vs. attendees as it is this:

What is the purpose of the corporate gathering? Is the Sunday gathering primarily for nonbelievers or for the believer?

Or am I also asking the wrong question?

Let’s chat in the comments.

What’s the Role of a Pastor’s Wife?

Is the Pastor’s wife to be the “co-pastor,” the church’s “First Lady,” or just another member?

What role should the wife of a Senior Pastor have in the church? Steven Furtick, Greg Laurie and James MacDonald offer their takes here:

(Can’t see the video? Please click through to the site)


James MacDonald’s closing remark in this clip is particularly insightful:

We’re to love our wives. . . . the way we treat our wives in public is a signal not only to our own wives but to our congregation of what that’s supposed to look like . . . and I just don’t think there should be any further expectation beyond that…

This brings up an important question, not just for pastors, but for all Christian men:

How are we treating our wives in public? Do we treat them better in publicly than privately? Do we treat them better privately than publicly? Are we striving to be consistent in how we show honor to our wives wherever we are?

HT: James MacDonald

A Few Lessons I’m Learning

Several months back, I mentioned that I’m writing a book and haven’t said too much about it since publicly. There are reasons for that, obviously, most of which amount to I haven’t had much to say.

However, I thought I’d give you a quick update on where things are at with it and what I’m learning through the process.

1. Having good friends and contacts is essential. The deeper I get, the more I realize that if you don’t have a good network to help, you’re going to have a hard time getting your foot in the door. On top of that, good friends and contacts who are willing to give you constructive feedback on what you’re doing will make the process that much easier. The feedback (and encouragement) I’ve received from Trevin,Tim, Dan, Andrew and Amber in particular has made even the process of submitting proposals that much easier.

Which brings me to my next point…

2. Submitting to publishers is not for the faint of heart. It can really hurt to get rejected, particularly if what you’re working on is something you’re sure God has put on your heart to write.

3. Rejection can be really encouraging. I’ve sent a proposal to six publishers at this point and have already received my first rejection. Believe it or not, I was really encouraged by it as the editor (a friend of a friend, incidentally), let me down really easily and reminded me that I can write real good when I’m trying.

4. Get an established author to show you how they write book proposals. I had no idea how to write a book proposal when I started this thing. At all. Fortunately, my friend Dan Darling gave me the down-low. I am unbelievably grateful for this. So grateful, in fact, that I will hyperlink to himTwice. [Read more...]

Everyday Theology: You Need To Feed Yourself

Who is responsible for a Christian’s spiritual health—for his or her growth in the faith, in understanding the Scriptures, and progressive increase in personal holiness?

The answer might seem obvious. It’s you, right? If you’re a Christian, you need to take ownership of your growth in understanding the Scriptures and pursuit of holiness in Christ.

But is it your responsibility alone?

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard a pastor say something like this:

“It’s not my job to feed you—you need to feed yourself.”

And, if I had to be honest, nearly every time I’ve heard it, it’s made my skin crawl.

Why? Well, consider John 21:15-17 with me:

When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep…” (John 21:15-17 ESV)

In this passage, the restoration of Peter, Jesus asks him three times:

“Peter, do you love me? Do you love me more than these other men? Do you love me?

Just as Peter denied Jesus three times, so three times Jesus asks this question. And each time, Peter responds “Lord, you know that I love you.”

Now look at the response that this love brings. Three times, Jesus gives Peter this command:

Feed My lambs.

Tend My sheep.

Feed My sheep.

This command is so imperative that Jesus gave it three times in response to Peter’s profession of love—so what does He mean?

At the risk of being obvious, Jesus means exactly what He says: “Feed My sheep.” [Read more...]

Are Multisite Preachers Losing the Value of Being a Shepherd?

Interesting commentary from Perry Noble and Matt Chandler:

(RSS Readers: Can’t see the video? Click through to the site.)

Chandler’s point is particularly interesting: Because preachers can become disconnected regardless of the size of the church where they serve, the question is not so much a multisite one as a pastoral-shepherding one. If so, it leads to a couple of questions to consider (and ones I’d love to get some feedback on from a few of the pastors reading):

  1. Do you agree or disagree with the assessment that it’s not so much an issue of the multisite model as it is the temptation for pastors to disconnect from one-to-one shepherding?
  2. Is the question, even if viewed as a pastoral-shepherding one, even the right question? Does it create a division between shepherding and preaching that doesn’t necessarily need to exist?
  3. How do you structure your time to “balance” one-to-one and congregation-wide shepherding?