The danger of overextending your reach

mic-podium

A friend of mine recently lamented the blessing and curse of podcasts. The blessing is obvious, and the danger is equally so: podcasts can “ruin” us for ordinary pastors. There’s a dangerous temptation to treat podcasts as our pastors, and to forsake biblical community for a hyper-individualized spirituality.

But there’s another danger we don’t talk about quite as much: the danger to the pastors who are extending their reach beyond their local church.

You might be reading this and thinking, what on earth could be dangerous? After all, many pastors write books every year, podcast their sermons, and write blogs. Some even find themselves speaking at conferences, of whom the majority of attendees are undoubtedly not members of their congregations.

There’s nothing wrong with any of these things, certainly. So why do I have a concern? Because there’s a question we always should be asking: is trying to extend our reach taking away from our primary ministry? 

Now, I absolutely believe pastors should write books (at least, those who can write). I’d go as far to say as pastors are obligated to share the wisdom and insights they’ve gained with the larger body of Christ, and more specifically, with younger pastors and leaders.

But many pastors who are asked to write books aren’t asked because they’ve demonstrated they can write, or they have the accumulated wisdom of a lifetime of ministry. They just have a lot of people showing up on Sunday.

Whether or not a pastor has the chops to write a book, start a blog or start a podcast, the temptation to pursue these things is enormous. But in the pursuit of these things, it’s easy to start cutting corners, even unintentionally. Research gets reduced or outsourced. Sermon prep is virtually non-existent. Counselling and community are sidelined. The result? Once-excellent communicators become unconsciously incompetent (which inevitably leads to becoming dangerously stupid). Congregation members begin to feel neglected. Frustration builds, and eventually something’s going to give.

In the attempt to extend their reach, I fear many church and ministry leaders are in danger of destroying their ministries, and may not even realize it.

When I was working on my books, one of the challenges I faced was securing endorsements. I tried to get Kevin DeYoung to endorse Awaiting a Savior. I didn’t succeed, obviously (although I suspect it would have sold more if I had). But you know what? I am so thankful I didn’t. Why? Because his church has set up accountability structures to prevent outside activities from negatively affecting his ministry to his congregation. 

This is the kind of self-aware church leader we need more of—the kind who understands the danger of overextending his reach. Leaders who know they can’t really trust themselves to know how much is too much, and who surround themselves with men who will tell them what they don’t always want to hear.

Links I like (weekend edition)

In the ten minutes Gmail was down…

Aaron Earls recounts the harrowing ordeal—with GIFs!

Helping someone through a salvation experience

David Platt:

As we walk in the presence of Christ, we’ll have opportunities to make new disciples of Jesus. We’ll have the privilege of inviting people to turn from their sin and trust in Jesus as Savior and Lord. This won’t happen because of our cleverness or evangelistic prowess; it will happen because of the convicting work of the Holy Spirit.

But how should we handle these moments on a practical level? What should we say and what should we do when God grants us the privilege of harvesting a new follower of Christ?

Why I am Pro-Choice

Lore Ferguson:

No one is arguing for the abortion of three and four year olds, but three and four year olds have similar decision making abilities as infants. Of course there is a small gap of maturity, but a child who cannot zip her coat or tie her shoes, whose father has to lift her to put his money in a meter to park a car she can’t drive—how limited is her ability to choose?

We cannot know how any child’s life will turn out, but shouldn’t we give them the basic right to choose? Or, less even, the ability to learn to make choices?

Oh, Oh, Ooh, Ooh, La, La, Whoa

Bob Kauflin:

…recently an increasing number of modern worship songs feature syllables like “oh, ooh, and whoa.” Generic syllables can be enjoyable to sing and can provide a musical segue that involves the congregation. They also can carry meaning as they give expression to a burst of emotion that either respond or lead into lyrics that actually say something. My good friend Matt Boswell reminded me that Paul begins his doxology in Romans 11:33-36 with “Oh,” the depth of the riches… There are times when an emotional “oh!” is the most appropriate lead in to a life-transforming truth.

But something more has been happening. Crowds are singing lengthy portions of songs using vowel sounds rather than actually singing words. Is this a good thing? Does it matter?

Looking forward to seeing how worship leaders respond to this piece.

Burning away misconceptions about “holy fire”

Lyndon Unger:

If you entered the faith via a Charismatic church (like me), one of the most quickly re-defined terms was “fire”.  “Fire” used to be what you called the results of tossing a match on something flammable, or maybe something you did with a gun.  Now it meant something way different. In Charismatic circles, there is often talk about “fire” of some sort: Holy Fire, Divine Fire, Heavenly Fire, the Fire of God, etc.  The idea of “fire” is basically paralleled with one or more of the following ideas: spiritual passion, having an emotionally intense worship/church service, really “getting serious” with God (or some form of personal revival), or some sort of outpouring of divine power on a person/church meeting/event resulting in a renewed passion of some sort (i.e. evangelism) or various “manifestations” of the Holy Spirit (i.e. euphoria, tongues, healings, prophecies, “miracles”, holy laughter, holy glue, holy vomiting, barking, crying, being slain/laid out in the spirit, visions, trances, screaming, physical pain, teleportation, etc.). I had generally gone along with the Charismatic usage of the term “fire” with regards to passion or zeal, and not really questioned it since the term is often used in non-Charismatic circles in nearly identical ways. But, as I’ve grown in my knowledge of the Lord and his word I’ve found myself continually questioning my own assumptions and understandings and going “back to the drawing board”.  When we speak of “fire” in the previously mentioned ways, are we using the term in a proper Biblical sense?

Links I like (weekend edition)

Dear Daddy in Seat 16C

Shanell Mouland:

I sat Kate, my 3-year-old who has autism, in the middle seat knowing full well that there would be a stranger sitting next to her for the duration of this flight. I had to make a quick decision and based on her obsession with opening and closing the window shade, I figured she might be less of a distraction if she sat in the middle. I watched the entire Temple basketball team board the plane, and wondered if one of these giants might sit by Kate. They all moved toward the back. She would have liked that, she would have made some observations that I would have had to deal with, but she would have liked those players. I watched many Grandmotherly women board and hoped for one to take the seat but they walked on by. For a fleeting moment I thought we might have a free seat beside us, and then you walked up and sat down with your briefcase and your important documents and I had a vision of Kate pouring her water all over your multi-million dollar contracts, or house deeds, or whatever it was you held. The moment you sat down, Kate started to rub your arm. Your jacket was soft and she liked the feel of it. You smiled at her and she said: “Hi, Daddy, that’s my mom.” Then she had you.

In Praise of Fat Pastors

Jared C. Wilson:

Sort of.

One of the greatest men my wife and I had the privilege of being shepherded by used to wear his pants very high on his waist. His belt was practically underlining his chest. He looked like a dork, and it was distracting when he stood before the congregation. So one of the creative guys at the church “took one for the team” and took him aside one day to recommend he wear his shirts untucked. He did, and the sight was much better. But what I loved about this pastor is that he had zero idea this was an issue. I mean, I’m sure he thought he looked fine — he wasn’t unkempt, just uncool — but obviously worrying about his image wasn’t even on his radar.

By contrast, I used to see another area pastor at the local coffee shop in the same town who was pushing sixty and was rockin’ — or thought he was — the embroidered jeans, Affliction tees, leather cuffs, and frosted bedhead. Professing to be cool, he became a fool.

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Here’s a quick recap of this week’s Kindle deals:

5 Ways to Teach Your Children to Hate the Ministry

Ed Stetzer:

To put it bluntly, a lot of pastors’ children hate the ministry. My team interviewed 20 pastors’ kids who are adults now. They provided some insights that were both inspiring and disturbing.

Children with a pastor-parent can grow to hate the ministry for many reasons, but there are five guaranteed ways you can make sure they hate being a pastor’s kid (PK).

Accepting My Alternative Lifestyle

Thabiti Anyabwile:

I had a very profound moment this week. I sat with a dear sister from the church, catching up on life and ministry. We spent the first half hour loudly praising God and exalting Him for His grace and mercy. Somehow we began to discuss some current issues in Cayman, together lamenting the pain and sorrow we see in so many lives. Then she said something that arrested me. She said, “I’ve had to admit that I am the one living the alternative lifestyle.”

That comment blew back the clouds and I could see in the clarifying light of biblical truth.

How QuarkXPress became a mere afterthought in publishing

When I was in college, and through the first half of my career as a graphic designer, QuarkXpress was the go-to software. Now, it’s dead. This article does a great job explaining why, and issuing a strong warning to all software companies (and organizations in general).

Get serious about your studies (recap)

Get-Serious-About-Your-Studies

Studying the Bible is an essential for the Christian. Yet it seems far many of us seem to take it for granted, myself included. If we study the Bible at all, it’s as a chore—”I have to do this”—instead of a privilege—”I get to do this!”

A couple weeks back I shared a series called “get serious about your studies,” looking at a number of practical tools intended to help us study the Scriptures. Over four posts, we covered:

This kind of series is really fun for me to write, not just because it gives me a chance to point you to helpful tools, but because it gives me a chance to remind myself of the tools I have in my own toolkit. It is so easy to become lackadaisical, to lose focus… and it’s for this very reason you and I need to be diligent to study the Word, to invest ourselves in it and be mastered by it as we seek to grow in our understanding of God through the Scriptures.

If you’ve not already done so, I’d encourage you to read these for yourself—and, if you think I’ve missed anything, please let me know!

Book Review: The Next Story by Tim Challies

About a year and a half ago, work issued me my first iPhone. My wife and I to that point had been trying to avoid having a cellphone and were at a point where we couldn’t really do so much longer, simply because if I wasn’t at the office, she’d have no way to reach me (nor would anyone at work unless I was near a wi-fi connection).

Then the iPhone came home. And in some ways, it was glorious. We were able to communicate when necessary. Work could always find me when they needed me… Then we started to see the downside of this new device in that we became very, very aware of the connected-ness in a way that we hadn’t been before. Then there was the distraction. I’m naturally a fidgeter and began to find myself almost unconsciously grabbing my phone and begin fiddling with it. Before long, I found myself asking, “Who is in control here—my phone or me?”

Tim Challies gets this question. As a web developer and longtime blogger (in addition to being a pastor and author), Challies sees and interacts with digital technology on a regular basis—so much so that he’s found himself asking the same kinds of questions:

Am I giving up control of my life? Is it possible that these technologies are changing me? Am I becoming a tool of the very tools that are supposed to serve me?

These motivated him to write The Next Story: Life and Faith after the Digital Explosion, where he seeks to help readers build not only a theoretical and experiential understanding of technology, but a theological one as well.

The first three chapters of the book are spent dealing with the theological, theoretical and experiential background of technology. On the theological side, Challies is quick to note that God’s command to the first man that he subdue the earth and have dominion over it (cf. Gen. 1:28) implicitly commands us to create technology, whether it’s a hammer or a computer, and this creative impulse is glorifying to God: [Read more...]

Around the Interweb

Should You Read 100 Books in 2011?

Trevin Wax offers a challenge:

Last year, I challenged Kingdom People readers to set a reading goal in 2010 and I offered some tips for how to reach that goal. Because I chose a high number (100) in the post title, I received some pushback from readers who thought my challenge was unrealistic or unhelpful. I responded by affirming the benefit of setting a goal and clarified that the actual number is not what is important.

This year, I’m not asking the question “Can you read 100 books in 2011?” Instead, I’m asking a different question: “Should you read this many books?” Is it wise to set a high reading goal? Is it beneficial?

Read the rest.

Also worth reading

Trevin Wax: An Open Letter to Steve Jobs

Free stuff: ChristianAudio.com’s free audiobook of the month is The Pursuit of Holiness by Jerry Bridges.

Theology: Know Your Heretics – The Gnostics

Mark Altrogge: The Sure Sign of Self Sufficiency

Contest winners: The winners of the Slave contest are… A.W. Hall, Ricky Kirk, Nathan Harbottle, Ryan Higginbottom and Darrin Trammell. You’ll be receiving one copy of Slave for you, and another to give to someone else. Congratulations and thanks to all who entered!

In Case You Missed It

Here are a few of this week’s notable posts:

A review of Slave by John MacArthur

John Piper: Will We Worship or Will We Curse?

A.W. Tozer: You Are What You Worship

Dear Song Leader…

J.C. Ryle: All About Doing, Never About Believing

An update on my Memory Moleskine: Memorizing Philippians 1:1-11

Get Serious About Your Studies: Choosing Your Digital Tools

Over the last few days, we’ve looked at study Bibles, a great reference tool, systematic theologies and reading plans. But what about the internet?

Technology has made Bible study easier than ever. With many terrific online tools available, I want highlight just a couple:

YouVersion

YouVersion is an extension of LifeChurch.tv‘s online ministry, allowing men and women around the world to read the Bible online in the translation of their choice and make notes.

YouVersion.com offers you dozens of Bible translations—allowing you to pick the one you're most comfortable with!

YouVersion also offers a variety of reading plans, including Canonical (straight through the Bible), “First Steps” plans for new believers, and more. [Read more...]

The Internet in 1993: "It's like human fellowship, only more precise."

Isn’t it amazing how technology has changed over the last 17 years?

Watching this archive footage from the CBC reminded me just how quickly things have progressed.

In 1993, people online were generally courteous. They used their real names.

And there were no watchbloggers.

Amazing.

Around the Interweb (05/02)

Jennifer Knapp & Larry King: Why We Always Lose This Debate

In light of Jennifer Knapp’s recent interview on Larry King, Trevin Wax offers some thoughtful insights into why we “always lose” in the public debate about homosexuality:

“We’re all sinners” comes up again and again in discussions like this. In her Larry King interview, Knapp realized the power of having the pastor admit that he too is a sinner. Once she received this admission, she had the upper hand in asking, “Then why are you judging me instead of me judging you?”

Whenever the discussion centers on “homosexuality is a sin… but we’re all sinners,” the traditionalist inevitably comes across looking like he is singling out homosexuality as a worse sin than all the rest. His protests to the contrary always ring hollow.

But this is the wrong way to frame this debate. We are not saying that some of us are worse sinners than others or that homosexuality is a worse sin than pride, stealing, etc. We are not categorized before God as “better sinners” or “worse sinners.” Instead, we are either unrepentant or repentant. True Christianity hinges on repentance. The pastor on Larry King Live eventually made this point later on in the broadcast, but the rhetorical damage had already been done.

If we are to reframe this discussion along biblical lines, then we must emphasize the necessity of repentance for the Christian faith. The point is not that the pastor and the Knapp are both sinners. It’s that the pastor agrees with God about his sin, while Knapp remains in her sin without repentance. That is why he is questioning her Christianity, for Christian teaching makes clear the necessity of repentance as the entryway into the Christian family.

Ultimately, the debate is not about homosexuality versus other sins. It’s about whether or not repentance is integral to the Christian life.

Read the rest. It’s well worth your time and consideration.

In Other News

Darryl Dash: We Need Gospel Movements, Not Just Better Churches

Technology: Steve Jobs shares his Thoughts on Flash

Jared Wilson: Ten Reasons to Under-Program Your Church

In Case You Missed It

Here are a few of this week’s notable posts:

My notes from D.A. Carson’s message at The Gospel Coalition conference in Hamilton, Canada, Christian Faithfulness in the Last Days

A review of Dr. Carson’s latest book, Scandalous: The Cross and Resurrection of Jesus

Don’t study theology, but do study theology

More wisdom from Spurgeon on faith & obedience

Around the Interweb (04/04)

7 Miles

Matt Chandler explains why the idea that Jesus didn’t really die on the cross is ridiculous:

In other news

The Ten Most Surprising Things About the iPad (via Z)

Jared Wilson shares “10 big reasons why Easter giveaways are a FAIL

Wisdom, Complexity and Chilling the Heck Out

In Case You Missed It

Here are a few of this week’s notable posts:

An interview with Adrian Warnock, author of Raised with Christ

“Too Staggering a claim to remain neutral” – Mark Driscoll and Gerry Breshears on the Resurrection

Maybe the problem is we’re not frightened enough

Martyn Lloyd-Jones on the dishonesty of unbelief

Kindle comes to Canada

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more about “Kindle comes to Canada“, posted with vodpod

 

So there was some exciting news today: The Kindle is coming to Canada. But there’s a catch: It doesn’t have the full capabilities. No browser. No blogs. And it may not even have access to the full library of books available.

I’ve been curious about the Kindle and e-book readers for some time, but have never really had an opportunity to see what one is capable of. Sony’s e-reader is interesting, and I’m really curious about the much rumored Apple iTablet or Mac Tablet (or whatever it may be called) but I don’t know…

I really love the texture of printed books, the feel of one in my hands and the ability to write notes in the margins. That’s not something I can do on any existing e-reader as far as I know.I’m not against the idea of e-books. Generally the only ones I’ve read have been PDFs that I’ve read either on my iMac or my laptop, which is fine. And in all honesty, the idea of a good e-book reader is very appealing, especially if it had the functionality to transfer quotes and references into articles (I can dream, can’t I?). Plus, storage would be mighty handy.

But what about you?What do you think about the Kindle?

Are you open to the e-book format?

What are the pros and cons in your mind?