Posts Tagged ‘Friday Five’


Christianity As a Word-Centered Faith

Today I interview Karen Swallow Prior for Leadership Journal. Karen is one of my favorite voices in the evangelical world. She’s a fun follow on Twitter. Karen Swallow Prior is Professor of English at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia. She is the author of Booked: Literature in the Soul of Me and a contributing writer for Christianity Today. I love Karen’s work, because she urges the Church toward a rich and robust love of literature. 

One of the questions I asked her was this:

Why is it important for followers of Christ to read deeply and read well?

Christianity is a Word-centered faith. That term—“Word”—takes on layers of significance, all of which are meaningful and relevant to our faith. Because Christ is the Word and the Bible is God’s revealed Word, it is clear that Christians have a special calling to the understanding of words—and therefore the Word. Neil Postman famously points out in his classic treatise, Amusing Ourselves to Death, that the prohibition of graven images in the Ten Commandments suggests that the Judeo-Christian God is one who is to be known through rational, abstract language rather than the immediate, sensory experience of images as seen in the idol worship of the surrounding pagan cultures. If we know God through reading the Word, then the practice of reading—deeply, faithfully, and well—helps us to do that. Furthermore, reading demanding works of literature that require our time and attention can foster the very spiritual disciplines that enable us to slow down, attend, and heed the Word of God. As our society reverts increasingly to an image-based culture, our calling as a Word-centered people becomes even more compelling and resonant.

Read the rest of the interview here:


Rewarding the Generious

Today I had the chance to interview Michael Hyatt, former CEO of Thomas Nelson and one of the most influential bloggers in the blogosphere. Hyatt is a popular speaker on issues of leadership, publishing, and platform. His latest book, Platform is a New York Times bestseller. I asked Hyatt about the idea of platform-building, which has drawn some critics:

Critics of the platform approach might say that it leads to a narcissism and self-promotion as opposed to service and substance. How would you respond to that?

I think it’s actually just the opposite. Social networks reward those who are generous. With the exception of some celebrities whose antics provide entertainment value for their followers, those who focus too much on themselves don’t build large followings.Those who succeed at the social media game add value, offer assistance, and point to content their followers will find useful. Those who do the best job of serving, grow the largest tribes.This is not to say that social media technologies are without problems, but I don’t think narcissism is one of them. I am far more concerned about what they are doing to our brains and the disintegration of our private and public selves.

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The Cadence of Good Preaching

Today for Leadership Journal, I interview my friend, Glenn Packiam, a pastor and songwriter in Colorado Springs. Glenn is a fellow Leadership Journal contributor and the lead pastor of new life DOWNTOWN, an extension of New Life Church.

He is the author of several books, including LUCKY: How the Kingdom Comes to Unlikely People and Secondhand Jesus. His latest is Discover the Mystery of Faith.Glenn also recently released an accompanying worship album.

I asked Glenn about the nexus of pastoring and songwriting:

You’re both a songwriter and a pastor. How does your creative side affect your preaching and leading?

A good sermon is, in many ways, like a good song. It has to have a solid hook that sums up the theme, something that will stick in their hearts and heads long after it’s over. It needs to have good verses that develop that theme and build up to it. There is a cadence to preaching that is also quite a bit like worship leading. Oftentimes as a worship leader, I wouldn’t know how many times we’d sing a chorus, or when we’d go to the bridge until the “live” moment. Preaching has that same feel for me. Sometimes riffing on an idea unexpectedly, letting the intensity build with a cadence of parallel thoughts and phrases, become the best moment of the sermon!

But I think the thing I’ve learned most about leadership from songwriting comes from the experiences I’ve had co-writing. In a co-writing session, you’ve got to check your ego at the door. You’ve got to work together to make the song the best it can be, regardless of who’s contributing more. Each person comes prepared, but holds their ideas loosely. And there’s a knowledge up front that credit is going to be shared evenly. We work in an environment that cultivates collaborative leadership. The lessons from co-writing apply as we work together on sermons, projects, events, and services. And it’s not because one person couldn’t have done it alone; it’s because we believe that we are better together.

via Out of Ur: Friday Five: Glenn Packiam.


Finding God in the Mundane

I interviewed Michael Kelley this week for Leadership Journal. Michael is one of my favorite writers and teachers. His book, as I’ve said numerous times, Wednesdays Were Pretty Normal is a fantastic, raw, journey of faith.

Well, Michael is out with a new and interesting book, BoringI like this idea, because it’s the kind of counter-cultural message Christians need to hear. His premise is that consistent, ordinary faithfulness in service of God can, in it’s own way, be radical. One of the questions I asked him was this:

Do you think many faithful Christians feel a twinge of guilt because they are not headline-making world-changers?

I think they do, mainly because of conversations I’ve had with people very close to me. I think about the stay at home mom who spends a bulk of her day changing diapers and wrangling kids. I think of the office job guy who commutes the same route every single day. The temptation in those people is, because of what seems like drudgery, to escape. I wanted to encourage those people with the book by saying that meaning and significance isn’t found outside those ordinary arenas; it’s found inside when we begin to see the constant presence and work of God in the mundane.

Read the entire article here:


Every Member Has a Role

Today, for Leadership Journal, I talk to Thom Rainer, CEO of Lifeway Christian Resources. I always enjoy Thom’s insights on leadership and church life. His podcast Rainer on Leadership is a great listen and his blog is a go-to source for leadership content.

I asked Thom about this latest book, I Am a Church Member where he challenges Christians to take their local church involvement seriously:

In your latest book, I Am A Church Member, you give guidelines for what “faithful church membership” looks like. Does the average Christian understand his or her responsibility as a church member?

No. We have failed to communicate the biblical tenets of church membership. For the typical church member, membership means rights and perks. But the biblical concept of membership means that we serve, we forsake our preferences, and we seek unity in the body. In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul reminds us that every member has a role, and every member is to function and serve. In 1 Corinthians 13, he reminds us that we offer this service on the basis of sacrificial and unconditional love.

Read more of the interview here:


Teaching Civility

Today I interview the fascinating Mark DeMoss, president and founder of The DeMoss Group, the leading public relations firm for Christian organizations. DeMoss has represented organizations such as The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, Prison Fellowship, and The American Bible Society.

A few years ago, Mark launched The Civility Project, aimed at shaping a more civil public discourse. The idea was to get public leaders to at least agree to be civil with each other, even as they disagree. But after two years, hardly any signed up for the pledge.

I asked Mark if he thought Christian leaders should teach civility. As a pastor, I’ve tried to do this, but I often get pushback from Christians who think being civil equals being a compromiser. Mark disagrees.

Should pastors and church leaders make the teaching of civility a priority?

Yes! There are plenty of Scriptures to support that answer. For example, “In lowliness of mind, let each esteem others better than himself.” Phil. 2:3 “Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one.” Col. 4:5 And then, “Let all that you do be done in love.” 1 Cor. 16:14 I strongly believe it is never an option for me to claim Jesus Christ as Savior and behave in an uncivil manner with anyone, under any circumstance. Never.

Read the whole interview here:


People Are Hungry for Substance

Today I interview Stephen Miller for Leadership Journal. Stephen is a singer/songwriter and the worship pastor for The Journey Church in St. Louis. I’ve enjoyed Stephen’s music and his leadership in the Christian music world. His latest book is somewhat provocative: Worship Leaders, We Are Not Rock Stars. 

You’re part of a growing movement writing hymns for the church and recapturing old hymns. How do you explain this new popularity?

People are hungry for substance. There is a reason so many of the old hymns have stood the test of time and we still have them today. For the most part, hymn writers were pastors and theologians whose primary concern was teaching powerful, right doctrine to their congregations in a memorable way. We have the privilege of standing on the shoulders of these giants and building on the foundations they laid in order to shape the Gospel in our people. A lot of my generation and the one coming after me has decided hymns are for their grandparents, so I personally want to take those songs and revamp them for a new context that would appeal to modern musical sensibilities. At the same time, there is certainly a recurring biblical mandate “to sing a new song”. There is a tension there. While we have the privilege of church history, we should not cling to the past so hard that we abandon what God is doing here and now. The same principles that guided the hymns writers who have gone before us are good rails to work from. Let’s write singable, memorable songs that teach people who God is, what he has done, and who we are in light of that, and then respond in worship.

Read the rest of the interview here:


Relationships of Worship and Delight

This week I had the privilege of interviewing Gary Thomas, the author of several books, including, Sacred Marriage, Sacred Parenting, and others. My wife and I have been personally blessed by Gary’s work and we have used them in our ministry.

I asked Gary about communicating a biblical model of marriage in a culture that has largely rejected it:

How can church leaders communicate that model of marriage in a winsome way?

First, of course, we need to “communicate it” through our lives. The consequences of pastoral failure in marriage can be severe; I’ve seen entire youth groups turn away from or at least grown significantly colder toward God as a result of a pastor’s fall.

Second, we have to show the joys of spiritual partnership. Selfishness gets boring, so trying to build marriages on self-centered ends wont work; its a short-term fix.Creating a sense of spiritual purpose, partnership, and connecting marriage more closely to worship should become a part of who we are and what we do before its something we say and talk about. But once we are living it out, let’s be bold. I tell young people, “How does Hugh Heffner know that sleeping with hundreds of women is more fulfilling than sleeping with one woman thousands of times? He’s never done it Gods way and doesn’t know what he’s talking about! Instead, he gets in a pathetic, selfish relationship with a woman who could be his great-granddaughter, and I’m so supposed to listen to him about the pleasures of eros? No thank you!”

I think young people respect it when we push back and say that, in the end, Gods way is the best way. We don’t have to be ashamed, because Gods way really IS the best way! Sadly, many Christians DO punt on their long-term sexual intimacy in marriage, and it shows. We need to cultivate relationships of worship and delight so that we can speak boldly out of worship and delight.

Read the entire interview here: