Archive for the ‘Friday Five’ Category

Aug
22
2014

Why Pastors Should Pause

Pausing is one of the hardest things for me to do and it seemed even harder when I was a pastor. I think this was for two reasons: a) I loved the work of pastoring: studying, writing, counseling, leading, visioneering, etc b) I have a hard time pausing and reflecting. But I was always convicted by the model of Jesus, who took time to get away. So by not every pausing, I was basically saying I’m better than Jesus. That’s never a good position to be in. So we made sure, every year, to go on vacation and get away and unplug. Or at least do our best to unplug (My wife probably doesn’t think I unplugged as much as I should.). This year we went to the beach and basically did nothing for two weeks: reading, watching our kids swim, and eating. It was great.

This idea of rest is why I so enjoyed this interview I did with Chris Maxwell, the author of a great new series called, Pause. His latest installment is Pause for Pastors: Finding Still Waters in the Storm of Ministry. Here is a snippet from my interview with Chris for Leadership Journal: 

Ironically, it sometimes seems like those in ministry are the least likely to pause, with a busy workload caring for others. Why it is so important for leaders to find times of solitude?

There are so many times I have let what I do for God take the place of being with God.

When I first started serving as a lead pastor, I did not want to do that. I set aside time for personal spiritual formation. But, over the years, things changed. I needed to do more and accomplish more. People needed me – or, maybe I needed to be needed. We live in a driven, obsessed world even in church business. Fortunately, I learned the importance of returning to pause. The books in this series – Pause,Pause for Moms, and Pause for Pastors – come from my heart and the hearts of other writers who hope to remind ourselves and others about the now. As I wrote this book, along with stories from a variety of other pastors, we invited ministers to slow the pace and find the beauty of now.

You can read the rest of it here:

 

Aug
01
2014

Some recent interviews

I had the privilege of interviewing a few church leaders on a variety of issues:

  • Here I interview pastor David Platt of Brook Hills Church in Birmingham, Alabama and author of Radical and Multiply on the need for Christians in the West to speak up about the persecution of Christians in the Middle East and elsewhere: 

  • Here I interviewed Dr. David Uth of First Baptist Church Orlando on ethnic diversity in the local church:

  • Here is a print interview with Jen Pollack Michel on her new book, Teach Me to Want about the reorienting of our desires. It’s a fascinating book. One the questions I asked was this: 

I remember growing up hearing a lot of messages bashing desire–they implied that what we love and like should not be important. Obedience is better. But you are saying this is an unbiblical dichotomy.

Yes, I’m absolutely pushing back on this idea that obedience has to be difficult and undesirable. The New Covenant actually reconciles desire and obedience. God’s Law, written on our hearts, affects a new unity between our beliefs and behaviors and desires. What we get as a result isn’t just obedience—but obedient desire.

One example of this in the New Testament is the “cheerful giver” in 2 Corinthians 9. Why does God love the cheerful giver? Shouldn’t he just celebrate our financial gifts, no matter our attitude in giving them? Isn’t the point our obedience? Not entirely! God wants us to want to give.

Read the rest of the interview here: 

Jun
21
2014

What The Church Needs

This week I had the privilege of interviewing the new President of the Southern Baptist Convention, the largest Protestant denomination in the country, Ronnie Floyd, the Senior Pastor of Cross Church in Northwest Arkansas. I’ve had the chance to meet Dr. Floyd and am inspired by his heart for evangelism and his desire to the Church awakened with revival and prayer. One of the questions I asked him was: What is your vision for the next two years of Southern Baptist life. In the first part of his answer, he said this:

I will call upon us to cry out to God in extraordinary prayer for the next great spiritual awakening in America. No great movement of God ever occurs without being preceded by the extraordinary prayer of God’s people.

You can read the rest of his interview here.

May
31
2014

What Do Do With the Nones?

What will ministry look like in an increasingly post-Christian age? James Emery White, a pastor and researcher, joins the fray with a fascinating new book, The Rise of the Nones. If you are not familiar, “Nones” describe the increasing number people refusing to affiliate themselves with any faith group. There is a lot of conjecture about how big this group is, what the date says, etc. James has a very thoughtful perspective. I had the chance to interview him this week for Parse, the Leadership Journal ministry blog. I asked him what Christian leaders should do with all of this data:

As pastors and church leaders survey the data on “nones,” how would you counsel them to approach their ministries in this new era?

Too many churches are taking an Acts 2 approach in an Acts 17 world.

Well, the entire second half of the book delves into this question, but here’s an overarching theme: I would suggest they move from an Acts 2 model to an Acts 17 model. By that I mean that in Acts 2, you had Peter addressing the God-fearing Jews of Jerusalem. On a spiritual scale from one to ten, they were probably on an eight. They believing in God, the Old Testament Scriptures, heaven and hell, and a promised Messiah. That’s a lot to begin with! And Peter fashioned his approach accordingly. Fast forward to Paul in Acts 17. On our imaginary scale, they were probably about a two. Paul didn’t approach them as God-fearing Jews, but as the (at best) agnostics that they were. He had to start with creation and work his way forward. He understood that evangelism, for that group, would involve both process and event. Too many churches are taking an Acts 2 approach in an Acts 17 world.

You can read the rest of the interview here:

May
23
2014

Misunderstanding Forgiveness

Leslie Leyland Fields had a painful relationship with her father, a journey of pain, healing, and forgiveness she outlined in a beautiful piece for Christianity Today. This was part of a brand new book, Forgiving Our Fathers and Mothers, Finding Healing from Hurt and HateThis is such an important book for many who endure difficult relationships with their parents.

I had the chance to interview Leslie for Leadership Journal about her own story and about forgiveness. Here is one of my questions:

Do you think many of us have a misunderstanding of what forgiveness is?

Yeah, there are a lot of misconceptions out there. Here are two of the biggest I see: People expect forgiveness to be a one-time event rather than a process and rather than a daily practice I think there’s a reason Jesus teaches us to pray “And forgive us our debts as we forgive out debtors” right after “give us this day our daily bread.” And people expect forgiveness to take away all the pain. It doesn’t. If your father didn’t show up for your graduation or your mother just kicked you out of her house, you’re going to feel hurt, no matter how forgiving you are. And you should feel hurt! Forgiveness is not about being pain-free; it’s about being like Christ, pouring out the mercy we received—undeservedly—to the ones like us, who don’t deserve it either. It’s not a bullet-proof vest. In some ways it even makes us more vulnerable.

You can read the entire interview here:

May
17
2014

Thirsty for Transcendence

My friend Drew Dyck thinks we’ve domesticated God and we’ve done so at our own spiritual peril. Drew is the managing editor of Leadership Journal (where I am a contributor) and the author of a brand new book, Yawning at TigersI finished reading this book a few weeks ago and I highly recommend it. Drew takes aim at our flimsy theologies and delivers a powerful, holistic view of God in a creative way that makes for a thoroughly enjoyable read.

I had a chance to interview Drew this week for my Friday Five feature at . . . you guessed it . . . Leadership Journal. That’s called synergy, folks! Anyway, here is one of the questions I asked Drew about Yawning at Tigers: 

We seem to like a God of love, but not so much a God of holiness and even, say, wrath. Why?

I get why it’s tempting just to camp out on God’s love and acceptance. To speak of divine holiness is to risk turning people off. Yet at the same time I think people are thirsty for transcendence. There’s a deep-seated desire to be in the presence of something majestic and powerful. When we sideline God’s transcendence, we deny them that encounter.

You can read the entire interview here:

May
02
2014

The Life of a Christian Athlete

What is it like as an athlete living in the spotlight? What’s it like for a Christian athlete? I had the chance to speak to someone who has counseled many athletes, Dr. John Tolson. He’s out with a terrific book, Take the Knee which contains lessons he shared in the Dallas Cowboys locker room. Whether you are a sports fan (like me) or not (in which case you should repent), you’ll enjoy this interview I think. Here’s a snippet:

We’ve seen, in the last few years, the rising popularity of Christian athletes such as Tim Tebow, Tony Dungy, Ben Zobrist, and a few others. Some are criticized for making their faith too public and others for making it too private. How do you counsel Christian athletes?

Learning to be a servant leader in the most basic things is critical for the Christian athlete because as their teammates who aren’t Christians watch them it can have a powerful impact.

There’s a balance that’s necessary, and wisdom is needed in knowing how to share your faith and show it. If a non-Christian sees a guy pointing to the sky after he scores a touchdown, a lot of times he has no idea what in the world that means. Again, I think it takes a great deal of wisdom to know how to portray your faith especially in that arena. Actually I think that there are more productive ways that a Christian athlete can make a difference for Christ. Number 1: Make sure that you are living your faith consistently in your private life as well as your public life. Number 2: Be a servant, even in the locker room. I’ve seen guys in the locker rooms of various teams and they’ll throw stuff all over, they don’t pick up after themselves but leave it to the paid personnel, etc.

Learning to be a servant leader in the most basic things is critical for the Christian athlete because as their teammates who aren’t Christians watch them it can have a powerful impact. How they talk needs to be consistent with their faith; sometimes the language they use on the field and in the locker room is different than what they use in the public arena. Reaching out to teammates who are hurting and beginning to walk with them, encourage them, and hopefully eventually lead them to Christ. And then I think being available at any given moment to be used of the Lord in someone’s life.

Read the entire interview here:

Apr
18
2014

Preparing Our Hearts for Easter

How should Christians prepare their hearts this Easter? I asked this of Andreas Kostenberger, research professor of New Testament and Biblical Theology at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest and author of the new book, The Final Days of Jesus coauthored with Justin Taylor. It’s a terrific resource, harmonizing the gospel accounts of Jesus’ arrest, trial, death, and resurrection.

What advice would you give Christians in preparing their hearts this Holy Week?

Take Easter week as an opportunity to reflect on the essence of your faith, on what the gospel is all about. Make sure you understand the key elements of the biblical story of Jesus’ final days on earth so you can pass it on to others, especially to the next generation.

That’s why I’m particularly excited to use The Final Days of Jesus as a tool with my own children as we read through what happened each day of Easter week – Palm Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, etc., and discuss the significance of all the events culminating in Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection. We watch the videos posted on the Crossway website, we read the relevant Scripture passages and the associated commentary, and we spend time talking about what Jesus did for us and thanking him for it in prayer. Let’s not succumb to busyness or be so anti-liturgical that we react against traditional ways of Easter observance and miss out on the opportunity to reconnect with the heart of our faith—Jesus crucified, buried, and risen (1 Cor 11:3–4).

Read my entire interview here: