Posts Tagged ‘Friday Five’


What Does Calling Look Like?

How do we best prepare young people for their future vocation and calling? This is a question Christian parents, pastors, and influencers continually face. My friend, Alex Chediak has come out with a brilliant new book Preparing Your Kids for College. Alex is an educator who has thought through these issues in great depth. His book is a practical new resource for parents. I had the chance to ask him a few questions for this week’s Leadership Journal. Here is one of my questions:

Seems the church does a good job telling teens about following Christ, but not so well in helping them flesh out what that calling might look like. How can we be better at this?

Too many teens have a truncated view of Christianity in which prayer, Bible reading, evangelism, and worship services are important, but everything “secular” is somehow useless at best and contaminated at worst. Spiritual disciplines are vital, but Christian teens need a vision for glorifying God in the classroom, in the lab, in the library, on the sports field, in orchestra practice, in a part-time job, and everywhere else. The Bible teaches us to love God with all our minds. Teens should love learning because God gave them a brain, and he calls us to develop it in order to make the most of our talents. High school is a time to prepare for adulthood.

One idea would be for youth groups to occasionally bring in adults to talk about how they seek to glorify God and love others through their employment. High school is the ideal time for teens to identify their interests and talents (in terms of potential college majors or vocational directions). Let’s help them also find Christian adults who work in these fields—science, business, health care, and so on—who can talk to them about it, giving them accurate expectations of what college and the career would be like. For example, in the book I cite a Barna Group youth poll conducted in 2009, which found that 52 percent of teens aspire to science-related careers, but only 1 percent of church youth workers said they had addressed issues of science in the past year. If the youth pastor isn’t comfortable talking about it, a guest speaker could be invited. We don’t want to give teens the false impression that “Christians don’t do science.”

Read more here:


Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus

Nabeel Qureshi grew up in a Muslim home, but came to faith in Christ after a search for meaning and truth. He tells his conversion story in a new book,  Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus: A Devout Muslim Encounters ChristianityI had the chance to interview Nabeel today for my weekly Leadership Journal blog. This is one of the questions I asked him:

What finally drove you to a point of decision between Islam and Christianity? What was holding you back—and what finally drove you forward?

The first thing that had to happen was that someone had to show me the truth about Christianity. Only when I saw the truth would I be able to assess whether I would follow it or not. David didn’t just tell me why he believed in the gospel, he showed me how we could be confident it is true and therefore everyone should believe it. The historical evidence he provided for Jesus’ death and resurrection, as well as Jesus’ claim to be God, made all the difference. When I contrasted the evidence for Christianity against the evidence for Islam I knew that intellectually there was no comparison. So I asked God to reveal himself to me in truth, through dreams and visions. All those things, combined with actually reading the Bible, are what drove me forward to the point of accepting Christ.

Read the entire interview here:


Thomas Kidd on Christians and History

Last week for Leadership Journal, I interviewed one of my favorite historians, Thomas Kidd. Kidd is professor of history at Baylor University, and the author of books including Patrick Henry: First Among Patriots. He is currently writing a biography of George Whitefield for Yale University Press. It was a fascinating discussion. Below is one of the questions I asked him.

There is a temptation for evangelicals to either sanitize American history, or ignore it. But you call for a third way of knowing, understanding, and learning from our history.

Yes. George Whitefield (the preeminent evangelist of the First Great Awakening and subject of my current book project) spoke of how Christians sometimes make a “pious fraud” out of the heroes of the past. We might be tempted to act as if the people we admire in the past were entirely sanctified saints who never made any mistakes. It is interesting that the Bible never adopts this approach: the great heroes of the faith, from David to Paul, were often also some of the worst sinners.

Some Christians who are also great admirers of the American founding generation are also tempted to fashion the Founding Fathers as exemplary saints, too. This is even more problematic, not only because the Founders weren’t all perfect Christians (and, in some cases, weren’t Christians at all), but it can turn them into heroes of a quasi-Christian patriotic faith. American civil religion is dangerous and something Christians should avoid, no matter how much they admire the founding generation’s accomplishments. Admitting that someone like George Washington was imperfect (he owned slaves and refused to take communion at church, for example) is not only honest, but it helps us remember that all humans, no matter how noble, are flawed by sin and the limits of our culture.

You can read the rest of our discussion here:


Preaching as a Craft to Be Cultivated.

I love preaching. I love the act of preaching and I love listening to preaching. There is something wild and mysterious and beautiful about God’s Word flowing through a flawed man empowered by the Holy Spirit as a primary delivery method for spiritual change.

This week I had the chance to interview Matt Woodley, managing editor of, an excellent resource for pastors and church leaders. Our conversation was wide-ranging, really. I queried him on plagiarism, fact-checking pastors, etc. But my favorite part was reading Matt’s thoughts on the act of preaching itself. Here’s a question I asked him:

If you could give one piece of advice to an up and coming pastor or church leader about preaching, what would you tell him?

Love preaching. It is a craft like mending shoes, fixing cars, throwing a curve ball, writing poetry, performing surgery, teaching British literature, and so on. You can grow as a preacher. So apply yourself to the craft. Learn from other preachers. Read good sermons (and reading is better than listening). Get feedback. And for Christ’s sake (and I mean that literally) stop being so defensive about your preaching! My gosh, it’s not like a sermon is your child or something. But when it comes to preaching, decide right now that you will be a lifelong learner of the craft.

But on other hand, don’t take your preaching too seriously. You aren’t primarily a preacher. You are a child of God. You are a member of the body of Christ. You are a friend, spouse, and parent. Your identity is not wrapped up in how well you preached last Sunday. So read and do lots of stuff that have absolutely nothing to do with your role as a preacher. Preachers who just preach are really boring. Be an interesting person, do interesting stuff, go to interesting places.

Read the entire interview here: 


Is Power Always A Bad Thing?

How should followers of Jesus think about the use of power? That’s a question Christianity Today executive editor Andy Crouch addresses in his latest book, Playing God. I had the chance to ask him about this and other questions in a wide-ranging interview for Leadership Journal. Here’s an excerpt:

Your latest book, Playing God ventures into what you might call the “third rail” of evangelicalism, the idea of power. It seems we are afraid of power—is that due to so many examples of corruption and tyranny?

Evangelicalism inherits the legacy of dissenting churches that were disenfranchised (by choice or by others’ force) from their culture and the more established churches, and folks who found themselves in a minority position. It’s also a movement that has always leaned towards individualism and away from institutionalism, for better and for worse. So it’s not surprising that power is a topic that has seemed distant or downright dangerous for many evangelical Christians. Power is what Rome or the Church of England had in the 18th century, or the mainline Protestants had in the twentieth century, or “the culture” has today—not something “we” have.

But I’ve discovered that almost no one really thinks they have power. Everyone can quickly come up with a list of people who are more powerful than they are. And this can become an excuse for not being accountable for the power we do have. I think it’s time for us to be more honest in owning the fact that we have power.

It’s easier to do that when you come to believe, as I argue in the book, that power is not the same thing as violence and domination. Power is meant for flourishing, and especially the flourishing of the vulnerable—and in fact, the vulnerable do not flourish unless others exercise power. This is true for every single one of us, by the way, not just the poor—because all of us were babies. Every human being has been and will be vulnerable; and every human being, created in the image of God, has power that can be used for the flourishing of others. With that perspective, it’s not something to be afraid of, but something to be accountable for.

Read the entire interview here: 


A Theology of Technology

How do Christians handle technology? We we blindly accept it all forms as neutral? Do we withdraw in a sort of isolationist rejection? Fascinating questions we must tackle as faithful followers of Jesus during the digital revolution. These are the questions Craig Detwiler discusses in a fascinating new book, iGods. I had the change to chat with him this week over at Leadership Journal. Here’s a snippet of that conversation:

If you could counsel church leaders, how would you advise them to approach, in their teaching and personal life example, an adequate theology of technology?

As with entertainment, the temptation seems to be disengagement or overindulgence. How do develop a maturity that welcomes the wonders and gifts of technology without letting our devices drive our decision-making?

I’ve been rereading Scripture with an eye on technology, wondering how to translate enduring truths into contemporary terms. For example, can we call God the original technologist? Perhaps it is helpful to talk about Genesis in terms of engineering and aesthetics. We know that Jesus was more than a carpenter’s son, but do we also realize the Greek word for “carpenter” was tekton? Perhaps the “magic” that we associate with the iPhone isn’t so far removed from the original Designer.

I haven’t heard enough pastors talking and modeling digital discipleship. If our congregants spend hours each week involved in social media, then how do we follow God and craft a winsome witness via our smart phones? In the 21st century, we all have the capacity to be narrowcasters, with the possibility of becoming broadcasters. That is a remarkable moment to preach and teach within.

We also might find ourselves distinguished by our ongoing belief in the sacredness of the body, the need to relieve physical and psychic pain and suffering via presence—from chicken soup to bedside prayers. I’m confident the Spirit will continue to lead us towards acts of kindness towards our neighbors and into the farthest corners of the Internet.

You really should read the rest of this interview here:


Mark Buchanan’s Writing Rhythm

Mark Buchanan is one of my favorite authors. He’s a pastor, a teacher, and a man who can really turn a phrase. I had the chance to interview Mark last week for Leadership Journal. One of the questions I asked was this:

What is your writing rhythm? Are you an early morning writer, a late-night writer?

I write almost everything I produce—books, blogs, or articles—in a 4–5 hour block every Friday. I awake around 6:30 AM. I exercise, shower, eat, make coffee, read 2 chapters of Scripture and a few pages each of theology and history. Then, around 9 AM, I fire up the computer, and buckle down. I usually write until 2:00 PM (with a brief lunch break around 12:30). I try to finish shorter magazine pieces (under 1000 words) in a single sitting. Longer pieces, in two. When I”m working on a book, I don”t grant myself permission to leave until I’ve produced a minimum of 1500 words. Most trade books are 65,000 words. At the rate of 1500 words a week, I need 43 weeks to complete a book—roughly 10 months.I do, however, block out two to three 5 day writing blitzes when I’m moving toward a book deadline—at least one just to write, two if needed, and one just to edit the complete manuscript. For the writing marathons, I write 12-14 hours each day, and require of myself a minimum of 4000 words a day—so I can write roughly a third of a book in one 5-day block. In the editing marathon, I typically edit about 10 hours a day.

Read the entire interview here:


The Most Anti-Female Practice In the World

Yesterday I interviewed Marian Liatuad, editor of Today’s Christian Woman and Church Law and Tax Report for Christianity Today International. I was excited to interview Marian, because she has fascinating interests. Besides her writing and editing, she’s a marathoner, running to raise money for charity water and she’s an outspoken advocate for the unborn, particularly against sex-selective abortion. She wrote a terrific book, War on Women. 

You’ve written extensively about the practice of sex-selective abortions, calling a ban on them a “no-brainer.” Why don’t you think more feminists are speaking up about this practice?

I called a ban on sex-selective abortions a “no brainer” because at the time I wrote this, there was legislation being floated on Capitol Hill that included language about prohibiting sex-selective abortions. Some argued that this was added to create a lightening rod with the issue. Gendercide (the intentional killing of unborn girls) doesn’t happen commonly in our country, but the U.S. is standing by silently while it happens elsewhere in epidemic proportions. Hardly anyone—feminist or otherwise—is speaking up on this issue. Most alarming—the church is virtually silent on this issue. I wrote War on Women in hopes of lighting a fire in the church to rise up and confront the horrific genocide that’s happening around the world. Sadly, it’s been radio silence. Very disheartening. Feminists are especially silent on the matter, which is ironic consideThe ring their pro-female posture. Sex selective abortion is the most anti-female practice the world has ever known, and yet I know of no feminist who is talking about it. Primarily, this is because to talk about sex-selective abortion is to risk giving up ground hard-won since Roe v. Wade. You can’t talk about gendercide without conceding that at some level and at least in some circumstances abortion must be banned.

Read the rest of the interview here: