Archive for the ‘5 Things’ Category


What We Can Learn from the #icebucketchallenge

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you have undoubtedly had your Facebook timeline inundated with friends, family, and celebrities doing the #icebucketchallenge. Everyone from people you don’t know to Mitt Romney (in a suit!), former President George W. Bush, and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell have dumped large buckets of water on their head to raise awareness and support to fight ALS. I recommend a short article by my ERLC colleagues Andrew Walker and Joe Carter to help you discern where to allocate funding for ALS research.

But I want to think through what helpful things we can learn about why this successful viral campaign worked.

1) It was easy to understand and easy to execute.  Very simple. Take a bucket of water and pour it over your head (or have someone pour it over your head), record it, post it, and tag someone else who has 24 hours to do the same thing. It’s easy to do, costs no money, and takes a few minutes to execute.

2) It humanized people. Think about it. Because of the cause behind the campaign, we saw famous people doing to themselves what we would not ordinarily see them do. There is a curiosity of seeing a politician in a suit drenched with water. #icebucketchallenge gave people an excuse to do a fun quirky thing and support a good cause.

3) It raised awareness in a non-traditional way. Regardless of what you think about this viral trend, you have to admit that more people know about ALS now than they did a few weeks ago. “What is ALS?” has been a conversation in offices, backyards, and church lobbies around the country. How many people opened up their smart phones and said to someone else, “Did you see ____ do the ice bucket challenge?” It proved you can advocate serious issues without taking yourself too seriously.

4) It leveraged new media well. This campaign leveraged new media tools everyone has: a smartphone with video and social media accounts. This type of campaign would have been difficult to execute ten years ago. But today, everyone knows how to capture video on their phones and everyone is online. Most of all, it was painfully easy to do, requiring little technical expertise (however, it did require some . . . bucket expertise. See this link for all the challenges gone wrong!)

5) It was original. So many social media campaigns that “try to go viral” don’t because they are copycats of other campaigns. No doubt there will be many who will try to ape the #icebucketchallenge and a) be less successful and b) annoy everyone with a lame copycat. Being first and being original and being creative always wins.

6) It asked for money without doing the standard “ask.” This campaign invited people to participate in the campaign and actually become fundraisers without even realizing it. Each time someone accepted the challenge and then nominated someone else, they were, in effect, asking them to support a cause financially. People are more willing to give of their time and resources when they feel empowered and invited rather than accepting a typical, top-down appeal for money.


What Dad taught Me: 5 Invaluable Principles I Use Every Day

My dad is a quiet man, more comfortable working with his hands than delivering a speech or writing an essay. But this doesn’t mean Dad wasn’t a teacher. Dad’s life spoke to me in ways that I still think of today. Most of these lessons were simply by following his example.

My father grew up in a broken home. He didn’t know his real father until he was fourteen years old. He dealt with the devastating effects of alcoholism and was forced to grow up fast. While still in high-school, he got up early to work at a bakery, using this income to support his mother (my grandmother) as she helped raise six children with my father’s step-dad.

While in his late teens, my father came to faith in Christ through the ministry of Billy Graham. He later met my mother, a Jewish girl who converted to Christianity, and they got married. I’m the oldest of three children.

Dad was a blue-collar guy, a licensed plumber, who has always been known for the quality of his work. It wasn’t the specific job he did but the way Dad carried himself that taught me the most about life, about manhood, and about living out the gospel. These five lessons are ones I’ve adopted as I seek to honor the Lord with my life:

1. A real man acknowledges his dependence on God. Even though my father is a rugged, hardworking, “man’s man”, he has always been unafraid to admit his weakness and need for Christ. I remember getting up every morning and seeing my father, up early, reading his Bible.

Now to be sure, I’m not a morning person, so my sons don’t find me up early reading the Bible. I do my Bible reading at other times, mostly at night. But I have tried to carry Dad’s dependence on the Word with me. Dad taught me the value of making Scripture the center of a family’s life. I think this is why all three of his children are actively following Christ to this day.

2. A real man takes his family to church every week. I guess I didn’t realize the importance of this until I became a father and had my own children. It was just assumed that every Sunday we went to church. There was never a question. No matter what was going on that week, no matter how tired Dad was, no matter who was playing whom that Sunday, we were in church. Dad had a pretty iron-clad policy: if you stayed home sick, then you were sick that whole day. You didn’t play hooky, pretend to be sick, and then play outside on Sunday.

For a young man, this is an important visual statement. Kids need to see their fathers faithfully leading them to church every week. This tells the family that worship of the risen Christ matters so much so that we voluntarily set aside a day each week in worship. What’s more, a real man invests and is involved in the work of a Bible-believing church. Dad gave himself, his time, his money, and his talents to the work of the Kingdom. I hope that one day my kids will say the same thing about me.

3. A real man works hard to provide for his family. Again, I didn’t realize how rare this is until I grew older and observed the sad lack of purpose and vision among contemporary men. Dad modeled what it looks like to get up every day, whether he liked it or not, and go to work for the family. Plumbing is a hard job. It’s physically demanding and requires focus and discipline. But Dad never wavered in his commitment to provide for us.

I remember asking Dad, “Dad, do you ever get tired of doing this every single day?” His reply, “Son, yes. I do. But then I remember that I don’t get tired of eating. I don’t get tired of having a house. I don’t get tired of seeing my kids’ needs taken care of. So I quickly get ‘untired’ of working.”

Great answer. Not every day at work, even in your chosen vocation where you are working in your giftedness, is a day at the beach. Many days are mundane. Some are frustrating. Some days you want to quit, even in the best of jobs. But a real man, a man of God, labors to provide for the ones God has called him to love and serve. By God’s grace, I’ve tried to carry on this work ethic, and it will benefit me my entire life.

4. A real man loves his wife unconditionally, in good times and bad. My parents have been married for thirty eight years. There have been many hardships along the way. My mother endured seven miscarriages. She’s been afflicted by illness. Dad has seen his own share of health challenges and, lately, unemployment struggles as the housing industry in the Chicago area has suffered. Dad has taught me, through it all, the value of simple, everyday faithfulness. Not all of life is easy. Many seasons are hard and difficult and make you want to get up and walk away. Dad’s faithfulness in good and bad seasons has shown me what a real man does: he endures.

I pray it’s said of me that I have the same character and faithfulness Dad exhibited. He isn’t perfect and neither am I. We are both in need of God’s amazing grace to cover our many sins. But if I could be half the man Dad has been in his life, that would be enough for me.

5. A real man is a living witness of the gospel in the daily grind of life. This is related to point #3. Dad not only worked hard, he took pride in his work. I remember asking Dad when I was working alongside him at 14 years old why he cared that the drain pipes we were installing inside the walls had to be so straight. “Nobody will see them,” I said. “But, Son, I will see them. God sees them. That matters.” Dad did his work with excellence, even staying an extra hour to get that one thing right that didn’t much matter to me. But it does matter, because the work we do with our hands reflects the Creator. He’s given us a job to do, and we should do it well–to His glory.

Dad’s work was his witness to an unsaved and watching world. The construction trades are not exactly a haven of clean-living. Dad never heard of the words missional and incarnational. He just got up every day and did the very best job he could. And this work was a witness. He was unafraid to vocally share his faith on the job, even though those opportunities were rare. I can tell you, however, that everyone who worked with my father knew he was a Christian, mostly because of the quality work he did.

Too many people in our day and age don’t know the treasure of a great father. I’m grateful, by God’s grace, that I do. In fact, my father is one of my heroes because he showed me what it looks like for a Christian man to live out his faith in the nitty-gritty, daily grind of life, among a lost and sinful people. And I’ll never, ever forget it.


Three Things to Consider Before You Hit “Send”


Today communication has never been easier. Most of the time this is good, allowing us to communicate good news quicker, to socialize with family and friends, and, in emergencies, get in touch with people faster. It also allows us to publish our thoughts at lightening speed. Most of the time, this is good. But not always. The ease of pressing “send” has not always brought out the best in people–even God’s people.

I’ve often said that James 1:19 has never been more relevant and never more ignored: “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger.” Slow to speak sounds like an old-fashioned relic from another era. How quaint, we moderns say, to actually be “slow to speak.” Why, that blog post, that tweet, that Facebook rant must be posted. And it must be posted now or I’ll lose clicks.

Following Christ means following him even in the way we engage online. I’ll admit that if this verse from James hits anyone, it hits me first. As disciples of Jesus, we can and should do better. So here are three things we might try to consider before we hit “send” on that tweet, status update or blog:

1. Did I get my facts right? 

If I’m writing about a news story or reacting to growing controversy, did I get all the facts or is my response a knee-jerk reaction? What’s more, am I believing the worst about someone with whom I disagree? Am I leveraging incomplete and sensational bad news to advance my argument? Or have I slowed down enough to read the best of the other side, process their arguments and respond with charitable disagreement? Of all things, we should be about the truth; not just the objective, orthodox body of Christian truth passed down from generation to generation. We should also be about the truth in every situation, even the truth about those with whom we most vociferously disagree.

One of the things you learn in seminary, at least from the best scholars, is to present the other side’s argument so well, so accurately, that he could recognize it. We ought to do that with our online discussions. But this takes a bit of work, it might mean not writing that blog post and not reacting so quickly to breaking news. Thankfully, Christians have the freedom to not be controlled by their passions, but by the Spirit of God (Gal. 5:22-23).

A neglected part of the truth is resisting caricatures and stereotypes. It is so easy to simply tag an entire group or tribe, with whom we disagree, as the problem or the enemy. In reality, there are diverse views in every denomination, association and network. I always cringe when I see lazy generalizations of networks to which I belong, because I know how wrong they often are. I’m guessing that same reaction happens when I carelessly do this to others.

2. Did I obey this oft-neglected verse? 

Galatians 6:10 says Christians should “do good, especially to those of the household of faith.” This means we should give other believers the benefit of the doubt. It’s so much easier to do the opposite. Today there is so much self-loathing among Christians online, a rush for us to beat up the Church or, rather, “those Christians.” There isn’t a sense of loyalty anymore to at least give our brothers and sisters in the Lord the benefit of the doubt, to say, “That brother or sister was purchased by the same blood of Jesus that secured my redemption. I at least owe them respect, dignity and the benefit of the doubt.”

Jesus said we were to be known by our love for each other (John 13:35). We have a strange way of showing love. Now, to be clear, this doesn’t mean there is no room for substantive, even sharp disagreement. Jesus isn’t speaking to his disciples about a kind of fuzzy, touchy-feely love that’s all unicorns and no weight. Paul, at times, showed love by sharply rebuking those in error (1 Cor. 4:21).

And yet, when writing to Christians about the Church, we should do as Paul did: always with a heart of love. And I’m not just talking about loving the people with whom we agree, who are in our tribe, but we should love Christ’s church. Some of the rants, blogs and tweets I read from Christians reflect such a near-hatred for the body, the bride, for whom Christ shed his blood. We forget that Jesus loves the Church (Eph. 5:25). Even though the Church disappoints, sins and fails, Jesus still loves the Church. When writing, posting and speaking, everything we say about Christians, to Christians, should at least reflect this reality. Sometimes we must defend the truth against error, sometimes we must stand against brothers and sisters for the sake of the gospel, sometimes we have to do and say things that are unpopular. Even so, in all of that, we should do it with tears, with reluctance and with a kind of heartbroken love for the Church.

3. Did we envision the real person we are criticizing? 

There are a lot of things we say behind a keyboard that we’d never say to someone in person. That’s because there is something about speaking to a flesh and blood person, measuring the reaction in their eyes and face, and weighing its effect on the heart. But keyboards and touch-screens reduce our communication by a dimension. You can’t convey tone in a blog post, tweet or a Facebook rant. This is why, even in an age of email, text and phone, some things are best said in person.

So when we go off on a rant against a particular group of people with whom we disagree, we should first envision an actual person. Perhaps it’s a friend, a relative or a coworker. If they read what we just wrote, how would it make them feel? Would they at least know, despite our disagreements, that we love and care for them? Would they think we were fair to them? Would they feel we took gratuitous shots?

Digital communication is a helpful tool, in many ways. But it can also remove the personal touch, the layer of one-to-one relationships of community. We’d do well to remember, as Tim Challies says, that “pixels are people.” That person with whom we disagree is not an avatar,  an entity or a static head-shot. He or she is a person created in the image of God and deserves respect.


What Are Your Goals for 2014? Here are mine

Yesterday I poo-poohed New Year’s posts on Twitter:

And yet here I am, today, sharing a New Year’s post. I thought I would share my goals for 2014. By making them public, it gives me some accountability and perhaps it will help inspire others to set some good, God-centered goals. New Year’s is a great time to reevaluate, to set aside the past, look to the future, and pray with Moses, “Lord, teach us to number our days so we may apply our hearts to wisdom.” (Psalm 90:12). So, without further ado, my five goals for 2014:

1) Get in better physical shape. Frankly, I’m probably in the worst shape of my life. I intend to get back in shape by losing weight and exercising. Weight Watchers has always worked for me, so I’ve signed up and will start attending weekly meetings and following the plan. Yes, I know this doesn’t work for everyone, but it works for me and it’s balanced and nutritional and reasonable, given my travel schedule and other factors. (and please, though I know you mean well, don’t send me your diet books, new formulas, or special powders. I’m sure they work wonders for you, but I’m not interested).

2) Continue pursuing my Master’s degree. Since I recently moved to Nashville, I recently transferred from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School to Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. SBTS has an extension center in Nashville and also offers convenient online and hybrid courses. I’ve already started one for this winter term. Studying takes extra work and takes away some other pleasures, but in the long run, it will be worth it both to honor the Lord with my mind and equip me for my current and future callings.

3) Spend quality time with my wife and kids when I’m home. This is something I honestly struggle with. It’s hard for me to be home when I’m home, if you know what I mean. It’s difficult to put down my phone and be present. It’s not that I think my work is more important than my family, it’s just that I really love my job and have struggled to shut it off when I walk in the door. I’ve done pretty well, I think, as a husband and father, but this is one area where I really need the Lord’s help. I know I have much room for improvement here.

4) Lead my team with intentionality, purpose and quality. This year I really want to equip and encourage the coworkers who work on my team at ERLC. I’m praying for the Lord to mold me into a leader worth following and a servant of those I’m called to follow. I have high hopes that this will be a great year for us as God uses us to represent Southern Baptists in the public square and to help equip Christians to think through important issues of ethics and culture.

5) Become a more intentional giver. I’m not sure what this will look like, but Angela and I both feel compelled to invest more in Christ’s Kingdom, where “moth nor rust does corrupt nor thieves break thru and steal”  (Matthew 6:19-20).



5 Tips to Establish Yourself as a Writer

I have people ask me all the time how to get started writing. I suspect there are many who enjoy putting words together and just don’t know how to get going. Maybe they are intimidated by the idea of writing a book or a long-form piece to a journal or magazine. Or even the idea of “blogging” and social media scare them. Here is the best advice I can give them. I hope this helps you if you are reading it:

1) Get started somewhere, even if it’s small. My advice now is to just get started. Create a blog and start putting your best stuff online. Michael Hyatt’s book, Platform is a great way to get started, though I advise you not to be intimidated and think you HAVE TO DO ALL OF THIS RIGHT NOW. Start with a free service like Tumblr, Blogger, or any of the others. Select a nice template, come up with a creative name and maybe tagline and then GET STARTED. Besides blogging, you might try to query some magazines or periodicals. The best way to do this is to purchase Sally Stuart’s Christian Market GuideFind publications that might be a good fit for your writing style. Start, maybe, with devotional publications, curriculum publishers, etc. You might also consider guest-posting on popular blogs that offer content in your niche. Blogs are consistently in need of new content, so you might contact the proprietors and see if they are interested in your ideas. But do take risks and get started.

2) Publish that first piece. I talk to a lot of would-be writers and I hear the same thing, “I have this thing I wrote, but I’m not sure . . .” My advice is to get that piece of writing as good as you can get it and then publish it on your blog. Then get started writing another piece and publish it on your blog. The only way to get better at writing is to . . . write. You need to write hundreds, then thousands of pieces before you get good. Then you’ll discover that you’re only marginally good and need to write another hundred, if not another thousand to get better. But, for Heaven’s sake, stop perfecting that first piece like it’s the Mona Lisa. It’s probably not. Publish.

3) Have confidence that in time, good writing gets noticed. It’s my own personal law of creativity that the best stuff gets noticed. So before you try to sell yourself ahead of time, write in the trenches, write in obscurity for a good long time and actually get good at writing. Trust the process and know that if you consistently put your best content online, if you grow, if you’re open to critique and change, then you’ll get discovered. You will. Case in point: I’ve been writing for about 15 years. But I’ve only been seriously blogging for about 5 or so. I still don’t have one of the most highly trafficked blogs in the blogosphere, but after I committed to working hard and putting good stuff online, I got noticed. People starting reading my stuff, linking to it, passing it along. I think this goes back to a good theology of work. We work, we develop our gifts, not so we can get a fat contract or be rich and famous, but to the glory of God. The work itself matters, not who sees it and what happens. God sees it. So do your best work, even if only one human reads it. And, typically, you will get noticed and good things can happen.

4) Don’t be the one who pesters everyone to tweet, link to, or give you attention. Maybe this is a pet peeve of mine, but don’t be the guy who on Twitter tags someone famous and says, “You might like this . . . .” or “I wrote this, can you tweet it out.” Look, if your writing is good, people will notice. That’s not to say there is something wrong with promotion or marketing. Not at all. If you believe in your message, you want it to get out there. Still, there is a crass way to do this that skips all the steps it takes to be good enough to be well read. Don’t take that shortcut. Write well and you won’t have to convince anyone to read your stuff.

5) Don’t build your platform on outrage. There is a increasingly rich market for “evangelicals who are not like other evangelicals.” Controversy sells and generates clicks. And for a short season, this formula works. But over the long haul, if this is your game, you’ll end up running out of steam and having to generate outrage to keep your rapid fan base happy. But is this the way of Christ? Is the way to glorify God with your gifts? And do you want to be that guy know solely by what you are against? Now, an important caveat to those, right now, queuing up blog posts to say that I’m part of a secret cabal stifling dissent: there is a place for thoughtful, robust, substantive, even satirical critique. But always check your motives and make it your mission to be creative, tell your story, take risks, and use your gifts to glorify God.


5 Things to Consider Before Rebuking a Christian Celebrity

The new online world has flattened leadership. Most of the time this is good, increasing accountability and allowing undiscovered talent to rise. But there is a downside. Criticism now comes easier, with the click of a “send” button on a variety of media tools, you can “call out” Christians with whom you disagree. I would argue that a few rules should guide our online rebukes. Here are five questions I try to ask myself before writing critically about someone:

1) Do you have all the facts? 

Proverbs 18:3 seems wise counsel in this social media age: “If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame.” We mock news organizations when, in their rush to break news, get the details wrong. But when Christians do this, pushing out accusations against people they either a) don’t know or b) don’t know except from afar, they look foolish, not only to those who do know all the facts, but also in the sight of God.

We should be wary, really wary, about writing about, acting on, publishing information based on hearsay, half-truths, etc. We shouldn’t simply read headlines and react to them. We should read the full story and know the whole truth before opining. Once the facts are out, there is a place for winsome, thoughtful critique. But we have to guard against a carnal desire to believe the worst about people with whom we disagree, which violates the law of love (1 Corinthians 13:7).

2) Am I the best person to write about it? 

Just because I’m a blogger and I have a Twitter account doesn’t mean I’m the best person to opine on someone else’s poor choices. There is a carnal pride in being “the one who took down so and so”, but this is not the spirit of Christ. I’m not saying we shouldn’t have thoughtful, sober, robust engagement with ideas we consider unbiblical. What we believe matters. If God has given a gift of writing, speaking, and teaching, we should employ those wisely for the good of His Church. But each of us must know his place.

There have been controversies about which I’ve had opinions, but I’ve not felt I was the best or most qualified person to write on them. There are others with more respected voices, whose platforms cry out for a response. Sometimes its better to admit, “I’m not the best one to write on this.” Sometimes its wiser to simply retweet or link to someone who might be more thoughtful and biblical, whose experience and proximity to the situation is deeper than my own.

3) What are my motives here? 

Let’s be honest here: controversy sells and many are willing to sacrifice unity for a few more clicks. Some topics are like catnip for bloggers. But we have to ask ourselves: what is the motive here? Am I building a platform on the mistakes and foibles of others? Am I a Christian tabloid, trafficking in all the stories that will make people click? Is my ministry, over the long haul, building up the body of Christ or tearing it down? Note: this doesn’t mean everything we write has to be toothless mush. There is a needed place for robust, deep, theological reflection. There is a place for warning the body of Christ about aberrant theologies that can shipwreck souls. But before we write, we should ask ourselves, “Am I doing this out of genuine concern for my fellow brothers and sisters in the Lord or am I doing this to increase my platform, to create controversy to help sell books, build traffic, etc?”

I haven’t always done this well, but God is teaching me to steward my words with caution. I can think of two instances in the last six months where I was deeply convicted by the Spirit of God to not publish something out of impure motives.

4) What’s my tone? 

There is such a gotcha mentality among some precincts of the Christian blogosphere. There are some who thrive on the misfortunes of others, ready to pounce on the smallest infraction. Ready to expose the falleness of the leaders they despise. Some leaders have made mistakes that they should answer for. Some eschew accountability and have created protective bubbles that keep them from genuine shepherding. But there is also a tone of nastiness among those who would gleefully expose them, an elevated sense of self among some Christian bloggers and journalists that looks for the smallest character flaws through which they can ram their Titanic agendas.

There is a place for winsome, public rebuke. But it should be done with tears, not glee. 1 Corinthians 13:6 says that love doesn’t “rejoice in iniquity.” We could all adopt a better tone. We could do without the sort of snarky, arrogant put-downs found too often online among God’s people. We should remember that at the very least, the person with whom we disagree was made in the image of God and very likely is a brother or sister in the Lord knit to our souls by the blood-bought sacrifice of Jesus at Calvary. We need to realize that there is a way to be right about an issue and yet sin in the way we deliver the truth. Humility is the oil of human relationships.

5) If this was read publicly in 25 years, would it make me blush with embarrassment? 

This last one is a hard one, because those of us who have spent our adult lives putting words together have work we hope nobody ever sees. We even have published pieces that, in hindsight, we wonder what in the world we were thinking. But, as we are composing that blog post or that article, especially ones we know will be controversial, we should ask ourselves: “Am I giving this my best effort?” “Will I read this in a few years and be embarrassed about it?”

I’m not simply talking about the quality of writing, but of the people about whom I wrote. Will what I write damage relationships? Is what I wrote fair? Is what I wrote kind and loving? Is what I wrote even true?

Bottom Line: The bottom line for all of us is that we should heed the words of James 1:19: “Let every man be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger.”



5 Important Attitudes About Work

Today is Labor Day and good opportunity to think about our views of work. I wrote this article for Homelife Magazine on five important attitudes about work. Here is an excerpt:

American Christians have a rather uneasy relationship with work. On Sunday, the lay person hears an impassioned message about sacrifice, self-denial, and the mission of God. He might be treated to a stirring testimony of a wealthy CEO who gave up a promising career to enter “full-time” ministry.

Then, Monday morning happens. He takes his place on the factory line, at a desk, in a garage, or behind the wheel. The guilt and shame surge up inside of him, for he thinks that if he were truly committed to Jesus, if he were part of the A-team of Christians in the world, he wouldn’t get a check from a “secular” corporation or small business, but from a Christian company such as a church or a parachurch organization.

I’ve lived on both sides of this secular-sacred divide. My dad is a plumber. He’s a committed husband and father who’s given himself in service to his church. But still he’s … just a plumber. He’s not a pastor or missionary or worship leader. At times, I’ve felt that Dad was made to feel as if he were on God’s junior varsity. As if his entrance into glory won’t be met with the same applause as those who delivered the sermons on Sunday.

I’m also a pastor and have had to guard against unwittingly shaming the hardworking lay people I serve, simply because I’m privileged to work, full-time, in the business of church. Some pastors might consider themselves more dedicated and more like Jesus than those who sling it in the real world, getting their hands dirty in jobs that seem less than sacred. Although the pastoral and missionary callings are sober, serious endeavors, they don’t ascribe any more glory to the sinners who occupy them. Moreover, if faithfulness is God’s measure of success, everywhere you serve is God’s theater.

This divide between secular and sacred is an unhealthy one. I believe it stems from an incomplete theology of vocation. So I offer five important attitudes when it comes to the arena in which we spend the majority of our lives: the workplace.

Read the rest of the article here:


5 Things I Learned in Canada Last Week

So last week my wife and I came back from a week of preaching and teaching and fellowship on Prince Edward Island in Atlantic Canada. I was honored to be one of the speakers at The Gospel Coalition, Atlantic Canada. We had an absolutely lovely time up there and I wanted to share with you about some of our experiences:

1) It’s an honor to be invited to share God’s Word with any audience. I hope this feeling never wears off, but every time I’m asked to preach somewhere, I feel a tremendous privilege. To hold in our hands the very precious words of the living God and to be used by the Spirit of God to teach His people is a gift of grace. For someone to trust me to handle the Word before their people is a job I try not to take lightly. All pastors and Christian speakers should realize that nobody owes them a platform or a pulpit or a speaking engagement. These are opportunities God graces us with as a generous Heavenly Father.

2) God’s creation never ceases to amaze. PEI is a beautiful slice of earth, with it’s beautiful stretches of farmland and rolling hills and forests. I was most captivated by the red sands and cliffs on the Atlantic shore. It’s no wonder that Lucy Maud Montgomery, author of Anne of Green Gables and many other books, considered this, her homeland, a window into Heaven. Angela and I had a conversation with a PhD student from Chicago who was studying in PEI and he admitted to us that the stunning beauty makes him doubt that all of this could have simply happened. We, of course, told him of our faith in the Designer, the Triune God who spoke this beauty into existence. So, in the 21st Century, the Heavens are still declaring the glory of God, are they not?

3) The gospel has the power to unite people into a special family. It’s pretty remarkable, but after five days together with our hosts at the conference, the wonderful Grace Baptist Church of Charlottetown. Angela and I said often last week about how much we loved these good people and how much it seemed as if we’d known each other for a long time. We came to serve through preaching and teaching and conversations, but we came away far more refreshed than what we gave out. The music, the preaching from the other men, the conversations, the fellowship, the food, the hospitality–all revived and refreshed our souls. What a gift it is to be among God’s people united by grace.

4) Hospitality is a gospel-empowered gift to others. I’m not sure I’ve ever met a more generous, hospitable group of folks like the people at Grace Baptist. Steven Bray, Dan Thomson, Jeff Eastwood, Jim Newsome, and Jason Biech are a passionate team of elders leading this church to love the gospel more. And this love for the gospel was poured out in the way they cared for everyone who attended the conference. Jim and his wife, Betty housed us in their beautiful Bed and Breakfast. They drove us, fed us, and took care of every need with a spirit of grace and love.

5) Modesty is an underrated gift for a pastor. I saved this one for last, because it’s the best. By modestly I mean humility and grace. I had the chance to get to know two pastors, Mike Bulmore and Paul Martin. I had known of these men, but had never spent significant time with them. Mike is the Senior Pastor of Crossway Community Church in Bristol, Wisconsin, just a few minutes across the “Cheddar Curtain” from where we live in the northwest suburbs of Chicago. Angela and I really got to know Mike on this trip. We flew out to PEI together (three flights, including a harrowing near-miss of a flight from Toronto to Charlottetown), we rode from our guest house to the conference together, we sat on panels together, we ate together. You really get to know a man when you spend that much time with him. Mike was as gracious and fun and willing to engage important discussions as any pastor I’ve met. He was genuinely interested in our lives and shared about some of his own experiences in ministry and family.

Paul Martin was much the same way. Paul is the Senior Pastor of Grace Fellowship Church in Toronto. I had known Paul only for being “Tim Challies’ pastor.” But spending this much time with him, driving, speaking, eating, etc, I came away with a wonderful respect and genuine friendship. We laughed together, shared stories, and just enjoyed the camaraderie. Paul also shared one of the most moving messages on the dignity of human life that I have ever heard, drawing from his own experience as the father of a disabled son.

From both Paul and Mike I saw a wonderful example of faithful, biblical pastoral ministry. Both are modest, mature, kind, and wise. Neither exhibit an ego nor took themselves too seriously, though they take the ministry seriously. It’s no wonder that among pastoral qualities listed in many New Testament passages is the idea of sobriety, maturity, a sort of balance and grace. From Paul and Mike I saw that demonstrated in action. With such an emphasis on platform, celebrity, and visibility in the evangelical world, these two pastors were examples of modest, faithful, humble ministry.

Bottom Line: We had a great time of ministry and built lifelong friendships. To God be the glory.