Posts Tagged ‘ministry’


How to Pastor Single Adults

Lisa Anderson is the editor of Boundless, one of the finest resources for young adults in the evangelical world. She’s also host of the Boundless Podcast, where she interviews leading thinkers on issues of singleness, sexuality, marriage, and culture. I had the chance to interview Lisa this week for Leadership Journal. I asked her questions on singleness, sexuality, and ministry. This is one of the questions:

Some pastors and church leaders face a tension between encouraging marriage and yet not diminishing the gift–and even calling–of singleness. How would you advise them?Pastors need to invite singles into the life and leadership of the church, treating them not as “kids” but as functioning adults with vital spiritual, emotional, and physical assets for the congregation.

There’s a delicate balance between encouraging single young adults in their current life stage and experience while still elevating marriage and acknowledging that marriage is in most people’s future. Over 90 percent of single young adults want to get married, but pastors understandably don’t want to make singles feel like second-class citizens, so instead they say very little about marriage to singles. An awkward silence ensues, leaving singles feeling unheard and misunderstood. Pastors need to invite singles into the life and leadership of the church, treating them not as “kids” but as functioning adults with vital spiritual, emotional, and physical assets for the congregation. They then would do well to hear singles out. For women, this means hearing their hearts’ cry for marriage; for men, it may mean challenging them to consider marriage sooner rather than later. Either way, real relationships, accountability and a significant amount of grace is needed to open the conversation and remind everyone involved that singleness is a gift for a few, but a season for most. Let’s move people with biblical intention in the direction they need to go.

Read more here:


The Power of a Mentor

You can’t underestimate the power of a mentor. I know that because six years ago, a man came into my life who would shape me in profound ways. This month I had the chance to write about this man, Bill Swanger, and his impact. Here’s an excerpt:

Bill became one of my best friends during my five years of pastoral ministry. On several occasions, early in my tenure, he saved me, literally. He showed me how to pursue change in a way that didn’t alienate members. He taught me how to deal with conflict in a graceful, humble way. More than anything, Bill showed me what it looks like to shepherd God’s people. “Make the ministry about God and about people, Dan, and you will do well,” he frequently said.

In my years of ministry I’ve had the privilege of meeting many church leaders. I’ve learned a lot from their years of experience. Some people collect baseball cards, artifacts, or books. But I collect mentors, downloading wisdom and grace for crucial life choices.

But none have impacted me like Bill. He never once said, “Want me to be your mentor?” He just stepped right in, meeting me for monthly breakfasts, lifting me up during trials, and serving me as a coach. Bill cried with me. Laughed with me. Grew with me. He opened up his life and shared his deepest frustrations and greatest triumphs. And even though he and I ministered in two different generations, the gap never hurt our friendship. It only enriched it.

Read the whole thing here: 


My Prayer Before the Illinois General Assembly

I had the honor of delivering the convocation on Monday afternoon before the Illinois General Assembly in Springfield. I was graciously invited by the state representative whose district includes Gages Lake, Rep. Sam Yingling. I brought my eight-year old daughter, Grace. We are kindly hosted down in Springfield by my friends, Dan and Linda Anderson and their seven children. Dan is the director of Brazil Gospel Fellowship Mission. I also had a terrific time of fellowship with Shaun Lewis, who ministers with Capitol Commission  Shaun reaches out to the representatives, senators, supreme court justices, and staffers with Bible studies, prayer and any counseling they need. I also had the chance to catch up with some good friends: Rep David McSweeney, Rep. Tom Morrison, and others. Grace and I also got to tour the fabulous Abraham Lincoln Library and Museum. If you are ever in Springfield, you must stop there.

The prayer itself was a little nerve-wracking. I’ve done quite a bit of public speaking and preaching and praying–so I’m not usually that nervous with this stuff. But when the presiding speaker spoke my name and I stepped up to the giant lecturn to pray, I did get a few butterflies. I prepped last week by looking at the prayers of several who have prayed before the assembly. Then I wrote it out to the approximate length of what the prayers are.

I wanted to accomplish three things: a) sincerely pray on behalf of the families of the representatives. Politicians are so despised these days, I wanted to be the one person who prays for their well-being and strength. b) represent Christ well in this public forum. I was determined to pray a Christian prayer to our Lord, Jesus Christ. I didn’t worry about any retribution and, to the credit of those who invited me, I had no warnings on that. And the previous convocations included Christ. c) I wanted to offer a prayer asking for wisdom and guidance for our state in the many issues that face us.

At the end of the day, I hope I was a service to the men and women who serve Illinois in the general assembly. I hope I represented my Lord well. And I hope even this prayer might cause some, even one, to ask questions that might lead them to come to Jesus in faith.

Below is my prayer:

Prayer of Convocation

Illinois General Assembly

Monday, May 20th, 2013

2:00 PM

 Dear Heavenly Father. We offer our humble gratitude for the gift of freedom as Americans, forged over 200 years of messy democracy and protected by the blood of our fighting men and women. Let us be ever mindful of the many peoples around the world who are not as free, as prosperous, as blessed as we are.

 We are grateful to live in the beautiful and diverse state of Illinois. For the leaders who have risen from this hallowed chamber. For the movements birthed here on our rich soil.

 We ask humbly for your blessing on our great land. We offer prayer for the leaders today who serve you, here, in this town. As you have commanded us, we pray for them. For their families while they are away. For their safety while they serve here. For their integrity and wisdom in shaping the laws that will shape our future.

We are thankful for each representative who has stepped out of his ordinary life to serve in leadership here. They have spent countless hours campaigning and now serving. They have given up precious time and resources. They have sacrificed their privacy, putting their lives and their families’ lives on public display. Care for each representative, each senator, each staffer and all of the family members in a special way.

I pray that you’re Spirit visits this place in a powerful way. I pray these men and women find the fortitude to lead well. Give each leader rest, refreshment, and a clear mind. We ask you to move our leaders to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly before their God.

Help each lawmaker to consider your command to love our neighbor as much as we love ourselves, mindful of the dignity and worth of each human life, created in the image of God. Help them not to forget the poor, the immigrant, the marginalized, and the unborn. Help them create laws that support the institutions that make our communities flourish, that encourage and sustain healthy families, that give hope to those struggling to find their way.

We ask your forgiveness for yielding, too often, to the temptation to forget you in our national and political life. For the times we reject your gracious providence. For confusing courage with incivility. For confusing liberty with license. For substituting our own agendas for yours. For putting our own interests above those we serve. For the tendency to abdicate our responsibility to deal with the tough problems.

Lord, we ask for your grace this day as these men and women endeavor to govern the people of this great state. May they realize that their power is limited, granted to them by your gracious decree. Help them wield this power with caution and humility.

We long for the city to come whose builder and maker is God. We’re thankful for the gift of your Son, who has offered entrance into this kingdom by his sacrificial death and miraculous resurrection.

Grant each of these legislators fresh grace today.

In the name of your son, Jesus Christ, we pray, Amen.



Friday Five: Darryl Dash

I’m privileged to chat today with my good friend, Darryl Dash. I first met Darryl after finding his excellent blog. Then we had some email correspondence. Finally, we had the chance to meet face to face when I visited Toronto for a media appearance last year. As a young pastor, I was grateful to learn from his experience.
Darryl is a pastor and blogger and, most recently, a church planter at the newly formed,  Liberty Grace Church in Liberty Village, Toronto. He previously served as pastor of Richview Baptist Church and Park Lawn Baptist Church, both in west Toronto. Darryl is married to Charlene and has two children, Christina and Josiah.
When did you first discern the call to pastoral ministry?
I think I was only 6 or 7 years old. I would force my sister, age 4, to sit down and listen to my sermons. There’s one surviving cassette tape of my preaching from this era, but I don’t hate anyone enough to force them to listen to it.
As a young adult, I really wanted to dismiss this call as a childish thing, but I couldn’t shake it. My church affirmed the call to pastoral ministry, and I began the process of studying and getting some practical ministry experience.
You were successfully pastoring a growing church in Toronto. What would prompt you to leave this “safe” ministry and plant a church in an unchurched community in Toronto?
Twenty years ago I never heard much about church planting, so I didn’t even consider it. That began to change in the past ten or so years, but I figured that planting is for twenty-year-olds and not me. I remember reading Tim Keller’s article “Why Plant Churches?” and wishing that I could plant a church. I also remember sitting around a table with other pastors. Four were church planters; two of us weren’t. The four who planted had growing and thriving ministries, and the two of us who weren’t felt like we weren’t getting the traction we needed.
When I began to sense that it was time to make a transition, I looked at a few options. I could have gone to another established church, and I could have taught at a seminary, or I could church plant. I took a church planter assessment and was accepted. The more we talked to church planters, the more we sensed that this is what God is calling us to do. I thought of taking a safer option, but knew that it would be for all the wrong reasons.
I have to be honest: I’m not the typical church planter. I’m in my 40s. I probably don’t fit all the personality profiles. I’m not a rock star. But we have an inescapable sense of call that’s been confirmed by others. I’m learning to trust God in new ways.

Is there something that makes ministry in Canada, specifically Toronto, unique as opposed to other areas of North America?
In some ways, Toronto is like everywhere else. I like what Lloyd-Jones wrote: you don’t have to become a miner to know what miners need. We’re all the same in the end. People in Toronto have all the same needs as people who live anywhere else.
On the other hand, Toronto is a tough place. I know of someone who lived in New York and then moved to Toronto for a year. He would often invite people to come to church with him. In New York, ten people a year accepted his invitation and attended church. In Toronto, he couldn’t find one person to accept his invitation. Someone’s said that Toronto makes Seattle look like the Bible belt.
Frankly, I like it. People don’t pretend to be Christian. The only exception to this would be recent immigrants, who are more receptive to the gospel. The need here is real, but Toronto is not fertile ground. Apart from the Spirit, we’d be sunk.

What has been the most surprising aspect of church planting in your short experience? 
I’ve been surprised by the level of spiritual attack. I should have expected it, but I didn’t. I’ve had more spiritual attack in six months of church planting than in ten years of pastoring an established church. That surprised me.
I remember Justin Buzzard saying that God seems to break church planters the year before they plant a church, or the year after. It turns out that seems to be right.

You’re also a frequent blogger. How does blogging intersect with your ministry and vice-versa?
Blogging helps me think about the issues of life and ministry in light of the gospel. It’s also a discipline in my life, like working out and reading. When I stop blogging, it’s usually a sign that I’m not being as disciplined as I need to be.
The best part about blogging is that it builds relationships. I’ve met people through the blog that have become friends, and they’ve enriched my life greatly. That is, by far, the best part about blogging. Just this morning, a pastor-friend reflected on reading my blog for the past five or six years. He commented on the trajectory of my life and ministry, and encouraged me. It’s hard to beat that.

Immigration Policy and Ministry

The Gospel Coalition is running a two-part blog series I coauthored with Matthew Soerens of World Relief on the sensitive subject of gospel ministry and immigration policy.

In the first part we concentrated on a pastor’s role in shaping the attitudes of Christians toward immigrants, both legal and illegal.

In the second part, we dived into specifics in terms of legality, laws, and advocacy for a more updated system.

This is an important conversation for the Church and something many ministries are wrestling with. I appreciate The Gospel Coalition’s willingness to engage this issue.


5 Leadership Lessons I’ve Learned in 4 Years

I’m nearing my fourth years as Senior Pastor at Gages Lake Bible Church, which means I’m just beginning. I’m still learning. John Maxwell need not fear. I won’t be dethroning him from the position of Leadership Guru anytime soon.

However, being on the job has taught me a few things about leadership, especially for young guys. Some of these lessons I’ve learned the hard way, others through the wise mentoring of older men. Here are five:

1) Young Leaders Must Resist the “push-off” model of ministry. 

In their book, Sifted, Larry Osborne, Francis Chan, and Wayne Cordeiro talk about the tendency of young leaders to get their leadership energy by “pushing off” the perceived mistakes of other ministry models. They use the example of an Olympic Swimmer, who gains forward thrust by pushing off the pool wall. For leaders, it could be their legalistic, fundamentalist background that they despise, so every decision is made through the lens of how their parents or pastors or professors “got it wrong.” Or it could be the desire to be distinct in your community, so you’re going to sell yourself as the “only” version of your ministry in town. I’ve also seen the tendency to “pendulum-swing.” So if the staff culture you left was very lax, you’re tending to enforce a more rigid culture. Or if the staff culture you left was too rigid, you’re “the grace guy.”

The problem with a “push-off” model is that the forward thrust from the pool wall eventually loses energy. You need energy to sustain you in the race. I believe this must come from your own personal walk with the Lord and your own study. I have found that God may use a negative previous environment to push us toward something better, but ultimately our leadership must be based, not on what we don’t like elsewhere, but what God is teaching us in the present.

2) Young Leaders Need Old Guys

There is a fallacy in the world that younger is better. Young leaders have charisma, vision, energy. This is good and God uses this. But there is one vital component to leadership that we young guys lack: wisdom. Wisdom born from experience. And the only place to get this is by subordinating our ego and listening to older men. This means several things. First, we need to realize that we don’t have all the answers, that we are sometimes wrong, and that perhaps the previous generation had some wise and important things to say.

Young energetic leaders tend to think that the old guys are washed up, that they are out of touch with today’s generation. And maybe some of them are, but for the most part, older, experienced pastors are fonts of spiritual wisdom. Use them. I’ve made it a practice to cultivate relationships with some experienced pastors. Why? Because they know things I just don’t know. They know the Word. They’ve made difficult choices. They’ve wrestled with the discouragements and fears that come my way.

I think every young pastor should have at least one, if not two or three older pastors who are speaking into his life. He’s woefully under-equipped if he does not.

3) We Must Die to Our Messiah Complex

If you’re a young guy in ministry, somewhere along the line you felt you were the answer to what the world needs. Or at least the answer to what your church or your community needs. But the truth is that you are not the answer. Jesus is the answer and you and me are simply humble representatives. We may have gifts and talents, but those too were created and distributed by God.

And here’s what I’ve discovered: People sense when you have too high an opinion of yourself. It creates a frustrating and chaotic leadership environment. It shuts off your ability to listen, learn, grow, and apologize. The Scripture reminds us in many places that God “resists” the proud but “gives grace” to the humble (James 4:6; 1 Peter 1:5). My friend, you and I need grace in our ministry. We don’t need God’s resistance.

The bottom line is that gospel ministry is a privilege, a stewardship. It was here long before we arrived on the planet and will be long after we are gone. I’ve learned that the sooner I get over myself, the easier and better it is for me to lead. You’ve got to die to yourself.

4) You are responsible for the culture you create

Someone once said that sons do in excess what fathers do in moderation. This is true in leadership. I recently preached through the book of James. What struck me as I studied James 3 is just how pointed this chapter is for Christian leaders. At the end of the chapter, James contrasts two different Christian cultures. One is characterized by chaos, dissension, fear, and strife. The other by peace, love, harmony, and joy. James is quick to remind us that the former is not a leadership culture that reflects Heaven, but earth. In other words, if you’re culture is constantly beset by strife, there is a leadership problem. Leaders set the tone. What we emphasize, what we celebrate, what gets us angry is what we are telling people we believe is most important.

I’ve seen this played out vividly. Faithful church members will act on those things we have told them are most important to God. So if we find that people our churches are overly legalistic, it’s not enough to say, “Well, that’s not what I meant or intended.” There’s a communication problem. They’re getting the wrong message. On the flipside, if we find people are casual about church or flippant about following God, it’s not enough to say, “People just don’t get it.” No, they do get it, we’re just delivering the wrong message.

I’m not saying a leader is responsible for every action of those who follow him. People make their own choices. But I am saying that the words we say, the emphases we make, the actions we model–have far greater impact than we realize.

5) You Must Put the Work In

There is no app, no download, no program that will enable us to circumvent hard work. Yes, we’re fueled by the Holy Spirit. Yes, our ministry is grace-driven. But God does not reward laziness. God honors hard work. This means we’ll have to study on some Saturdays when we’d rather be watching sports. We’ll have to travel to the hospital when we’d rather be reading a good book. This means we’ll need to get our hands dirty with some areas of ministry that are “not our gifting.” Good messages require lots of study and hard work. There is no shortcut. Discipleship requires time and effort and money and patience. A loving family means an investment of our best time and efforts. Prayer and Bible study require discipline.

The ministry requires late nights and sweat and toil. Paul said that he “worked harder than them all (1 Corinthians 15:10). I don’t think he was bragging, just letting people know that doing God’s work requires  . . . work. It’s not evil. It’s not belittling. Work honors God. Pastors can be workaholics, but pastors can also be lazy. We must fight both tendencies.

Key Quotes to Tweet

  • There is one vital component to leadership that we young guys lack: wisdom  Buffer
  • I've learned that the sooner I get over myself, the easier and better it is for me to lead.  Buffer
  • What we emphasize, what we celebrate, what gets us angry is what we are telling people is important  Buffer

Friday Five: Lin Johnson

Lin Johnson is one of the most influential people in Christian publishing as a writer, editor, and instructor. Perhaps here biggest contribution is her annual Write to Publish Conference, held every year on the campus of Wheaton College. Personally, the Write to Publish Conference has had more influence on my writing career than almost any other factor. It’s one of the premier writing conferences in the country.

Lin is Managing Editor of The Christian Communicator, Advanced Christian Writer and Church Libraries and is the author and co-author of more than 60 books, including Christian Education: Foundations for the Future, Extracting the Precious from 2nd Corinthians, Encouraging Others, and The Book of John from The Smart Guide to the Bible Series. Lin specializes in Bible curriculum and is a Gold Medallion Book Award recipient. She’s a sought-after teacher at writers’ conferences across the country and internationally. Lin was kind enough to stop and answer some questions about Christian writing:

You’ve been a writer and editor for a long time, but perhaps you are best known for helping writers get their start in Christian publishing. What motivates you to continue to educate and assist the next generation of writers rather than seek your own “fame and glory” as it were?

One of my spiritual gifts is teaching, and training writers is a way to use that gift. A great thing about teaching is the ripple effect of influence that goes far beyond a classroom or conference. As I assist people in honing the craft of writing and getting published, their words, in turn, will influence thousands of people I’d never be able to reach.

Write-to-Publish (WTP) has been around for almost 40 years. How did it get started?

It started in 1971 (and missed a couple of years) as a two-week, credit-only, summer-school course at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. Eleven years later, it became a one-week workshop to allow more people to attend, then morphed into a conference format a few years later. I worked as assistant director for almost 10 years.

In the early ‘90s, Moody decided to drop several conferences; and Write-to-Publish was one of them. The school gave me the rights to the name, the mailing list, and cassette masters for past conferences.

However, I didn’t have the upfront money to run it as a conference, so I organized a few Saturday seminars at Moody and Wheaton College. Then in 1996, with several interest-free loans from fellow congregation members, I started it as a conference again at Wheaton College.

Why is a conference like WTP so crucial for a writer to break into the marketplace? 

So much of getting published these days is the result of networking, of who you know. At a conference like WTP, you have the opportunity to meet editors and agents who are looking for manuscripts—or they wouldn’t take the time to be there. Plus you get to know other writers who may provide introductions to their editors or agents and share writing leads later.

A conference is crucial for book writers. Every year more book houses close to looking at unsolicited proposals, so it’s difficult to sell a book without an agent. And few agents are interested in writers who haven’t sold books. The way around this Catch-22 situation is attending a writers conference since book editors go to them, looking for new writers.

What are the common mistakes a first-time conference attender might make at a conference like WTP? 

The biggest mistake I see is going to a conference with a myopic focus on selling one or two specific manuscripts, usually books, instead of being open to what God has in mind. His plan is always so much bigger than ours.

Another mistake is not getting to know other writers who attend the conference. Yes, editors are the ones who buy manuscripts; and you want to get acquainted with as many as possible. But networking with writers can pay off in many ways: lifelong friendships, prayer/accountability partners who motivate you get more writing done, passing along your name to editors for other projects.

If you could give one piece of advice (besides attending WTP!) to an emerging Christian writer, what would it be? 

Learn the craft and the market. Editors are looking for polished manuscripts that won’t take a lot of time, which they don’t have, to edit. Learning the craft involves knowing the structure for different types of manuscripts and genres, practice, knowing the proper manuscript format, getting feedback from a critique group or writing partner, and more practice.

Learning the market involves finding what publications and houses take the types of manuscripts and topics you write (the Christian Writers’ Market Guide makes that task easier), following writers guidelines, and analyzing at least one issue of a periodical or a book-house catalog/website. As a magazine and newsletter editor, I get dozens of articles and queries a year that have nothing to do with the audience and type of periodical. Those are guaranteed rejections.


Can We Build the Church By Being Against the Church?

It’s hard to read a Christian book or blog post or to hear a sermon without hearing some overt or implied criticism of some part of the evangelical Church as a whole. That’s not even counting the Twitter feeds of Christians.

I’m reading a terrific book right on the centrality of the gospel by one of my favorite author/preacher/bloggers. It’s a book that is both challenging me and inspiring me. But even this favorite author can’t resist the easy stereotype of “most churches” or “most Christians” or “The Church is . . . .” It seems nearly impossible for us to build up our ministries without having to use another expression of Christian ministry as a foil.

I know this because I do this myself. In my forthcoming book, I spend a considerable time pushing back against the pressure to be perfect among 2nd Generation kids. I felt (and still feel) it was a legitimate criticism. And yet I wonder at our motives. Are we genuinely concerned about the perceived blind spot in this generation’s evangelical movement or are we simply trying to provoke so as to build our own tribes? Are we being truly prophetic or are we trying to position ourselves as more pure than our ministry brothers?

These are questions worth asking ourselves, I think. Now please understand that this is not a plea for squishy, doctrine-free tolerance. I loathe the progressive movements that advocate tolerance for everyone except those whose beliefs they despise. Doctrine is important. Warning our flock about the dangers of aberrant theology is vital for their spiritual lives.

But we could all do better at examining our motives and check our facts. Scoring cheap points in a message or blog post or book based on broad stereotypes of the Body of Christ is both intellectually lazy and an insult to the Bride Christ loves.

I want to be faithful in shepherding my flock, which includes speaking the truth about what’s false. But I don’t want to build my ministry on the foundation of someone else’s failures (perceived or real). Let’s build our ministries on the unchanging Word of God as our source, on the radical nature of the gospel message. And let’s remember that we ourselves are fallible, flawed messengers easily prone to our own errors of judgment.