Top Posts for October 2010

In case you missed them, here are the top posts for the last month:

  1. Links of the Week (vision casting, sexual detox, cross centered thinking, being anti-Christian, Christianity and yoga, and Men’s health best weight loss tips).
  2. The Role of Men in the Family
  3. Why Did Jesus’ Mom Need to be a Virgin?
  4. Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream
  5. What Attracts People to Church?
  6. Planning a Preaching Calendar
  7. Church Greeters and Hand Sanitizers
  8. My Weight Loss “Secret”
  9. How to Plant a Church in 3 Minutes
  10. Being a Pastor’s Wife

What I’m Reading This Summer

Anyone who knows me knows I love a good book. We just wrapped up Nehemiah this past weekend, which means I am heading into summer. This summer will be different for me in a few ways. I am taking a break, which is much needed after getting Revolution off the ground. Ava starts kindergarten, which will usher in a whole new world.

Every summer I set a goal of reading at least 10 books on a variety of topics. Some for my personal leadership, parenting/marriage, future sermons (this summer I’m prepping for The Perfect Kid series), my own spiritual journey and for fun. I didn’t list the fun ones (usually novels). This summer I’m planning to read David Baldacci’s King & Maxwell series. Katie and I are also planning on watching Lost this summer as we have never seen it.

So, if you are curious, here are the books I’m hoping to read this summer:

Links of the Week

  1. Scott Thomas on Spiritual dryness. This is a convicting blog post, wow.
  2. The one question ministry leaders need to stop asking.
  3. The biblical qualifications of a pastor. These qualifications should be the goal of all Christian men.

Deep Church: A Third Way Beyond Emergent & Traditional

Just wrapped up Jim Belcher’s book Deep Church.

I know there have been countless reviews written on many blogs about it, many of them dissecting the chapter on the gospel. My initial thoughts are, this is a must read for any pastor. This book, more than any other book, clearly articulates what a missional church looks like within our world today.

It is that good.

In fact, this book more than any other describes the journey of Revolution and where we are headed in many ways. Now, since Revolution is different from Jim Belcher’s church, it does not lay out everything about us as a church, so don’t take that as gospel. But, if I had to pick one book that articulates my view of church, this would be it. It is next on the reading list for our staff and elder teams.

What this book did that no other book has been able to do is clearly and fairly lay out the differences between the emerging and traditional church conversation. Too many books lay out straw man arguments and then blow them over. What I appreciated about Belcher’s views is how easily his journey corresponded with my journey.

I grew up being a part of the traditional or a seeker sensitive church. While there were aspects of those churches I enjoyed and saw a lot of value in, there were things that I did not like. When the emering church conversation began for me while I was in college, there was a lot that I appreciated about it. The longer the conversation went, I began to see problems with it. As doctrines were questioned and traditions let go of that I held to, I struggled with what to do.

I remain an insider and an outsider to the emerging conversation. There are many areas of emerging theology and ministry with which I wholeheartedly agree. They desire many of the things I embrace, and they dislike many of the things I don’t like about evangelicalism. But I also have deep misgivings about areas of their thought and practice. I am caught in between, and am comfortable with this ambiguity. It allows me to learn from both the traditional church and the emerging church as I follow a different route – the deep church.

This is where Belcher’s boook begins. How to move forward from here.

He looks at the emerging church and the traditional church viewpoint on a variety of issues. He talks through the strengths and weaknesses of both and offers a third way. This third way is often right on. A few times I found myself scratching my head wondering if he was really offering a third way or just throwing one of the views out, but overall, I felt like he found legitimate third ways for each of the issues he tackled.

Belcher describes the deep church as a centered set church, which is, “a church that is defined by its core values, and people are not seen as either in or out but rather by their relationship to the center. In this sense, everyone is potentially part of the community. These churches are Christ-centered. Centered-set churches see the gospel as so refreshing that lovers of Christ will not stray too far from him. And outsiders will be drawn into the community like thirsty pilgrims seeking water.” If that doesn’t sum up the vision for a church, I don’t know what does.

But the question is often asked how you reach those who don’t know Jesus while growing up those who do. Do you have to sell out for one or the other to be a church?

As part of a centered-set church, the pastors at Redeemer (Belcher’s church) attempt to preach and lead worship in a way that is sensitive to the seekers in our midst. Humbled by our own sin and need for the gospel, we remember what it feels like to not believe. We don’t want to be bombastic or arrogant know-it-alls. We don’t set up unnecessary boundaries for those who are searching for meaning. But this does not mean we are not confident about the Well in our midst. We are not hard postmoderns. Our confidence is in Christ, not ourselves. When it comes to the gospel, we are confident, even dogmatic, because the message comes from God’s revelation. He has spoken to us in his Word and made the message of salvation clear. Thus we confidently proclaim the existence of the Well in our midst. Through preaching, liturgy, weekly Lord’s Supper, and a community of believers united in Christ, we want to provide a cup of living water to a dying world. We want to see others drawn to the source of life.

What I most appreciated about the book was how Belcher seemed to move past the typical discussions and arguments and got the heart of the problems. He was able to move past the fluff to the real issues and offer real solutions as a way forward for a church that wants to be on mission, true to the Bible and still be a light to a dying world.

Spiritual Readiness

I am in a lead pastor coaching network with Nelson Searcy. One of the things he talks about is the area of spiritual readiness. Many churches and pastors (and Revolution/I) operate with a “wait and see” approach.

Here is what I mean:

  • Ask a church how they follow up with new believers and they will say they will know when they have one.
  • Ask when the next baptism is scheduled and they will say, “When we have someone to baptize.”

The point is, God works in people’s lives and in churches who are ready for Him to work. We need to be spiritually ready.

We started taking a proactive approach in the recent months. We put a baby/child dedication on the calendar without having anyone ask for it and had 3 families.

We put a baptism on the calendar for February 20th, even though we don’t know how many we will baptize. If you want to be baptized, just email Christe LePeau.

We raised up leaders to start a student ministry when we had 1 or 2 students. Since starting to plan and making it public, we have almost 10 in less than a month!

Bottom line. God moves in churches that are ready and expect Him to move. That is what being spiritually ready is all about. Asking God to move and then being ready for Him to move.

Primal: A Quest for the Lost Soul of Christianity

Just finished Primal by Mark Batterson. Easily his best book to date. I have known Mark since we lived in Baltimore and his writing has always been a challenge and an encouragement to me. This one did not disappoint.

In this book, Mark explores the great commandment. He is right on when he says,

“The great commandment is the lost soul of Christianity. If Jesus said that loving God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength is the most important commandment, then doesn’t it logically follow that we ought to spend an inordinate amount of our time and energy trying to understand it and obey it? We can’t afford to be merely good at the Great Comandment. We’ve got to be great at the Great Commandment.”

The problem for churches and Christians in general is that we do very poorly at the great commandment. This bleeds over into every aspect of our lives. If we love God as we should, with our whole selves, it will impact everything else in our life.

What Mark does, is he breaks down the great commandment. What does it look like to love God with our heart, our soul, our mind, and our strength. Too many Christians just work on 1 or 2 of these aspects and leave the other ones to the side. This leads to followers of Jesus that are missing something and ultimately, poor examples of Jesus to our culture and people “who tried Jesus but it didn’t take.”

What I appreciated most about this book is that you could hand this book to someone exploring Christianity, a brand new Christian or someone who has been following Jesus for 30 years and they would be equally impacted by it.

Sam Rainer on How Generations View the Bible

The Barna Group recently released research that reveals how attitudes about Bible usage are changing across generations. They interviewed over 1,000 people in five separate studies. They defined each generation in the study: the Mosaic generation (ages 18 to 25), the Busters (ages 26 to 44), Boomers (ages 45 to 63), and Elders (ages 64-plus).

You can read the full report here, but below are some of the differences they found between generations:

Less Sacred – While most Americans of all ages identify the Bible as sacred, the drop-off among the youngest adults is striking: 9 out of 10 Boomers and Elders described the Bible as sacred, which compares to 8 out of 10 Busters (81%) and just 2 out of 3 Mosaics (67%).

Less Accurate – Young adults are significantly less likely than older adults to strongly agree that the Bible is totally accurate in all of the principles it teaches. Just 30% of Mosaics and 39% of Busters firmly embraced this view, compared with 46% of Boomers and 58% of Elders.

More Universalism – Among Mosaics, a majority (56%) believes the Bible teaches the same spiritual truths as other sacred texts, which compares with 4 out of 10 Busters and Boomers, and one-third of Elders.

Skepticism of Origins – Another generational difference is that young adults are more likely to express skepticism about the original manuscripts of the Bible than is true of older adults.

Less Engagement – While many young adults are active users of the Bible, the pattern shows a clear generational drop-off – the younger the person, the less likely they are to read the Bible. In particular, Busters and Mosaics are less likely than average to have spent time alone in the last week praying and reading the Bible for at least 15 minutes. Interestingly, none of the four generations were particularly likely to say they aspired to read the Bible more as a means of improving their spiritual lives.

Bible Appetite – Despite the generational decline in many Bible metrics, one departure from the typical pattern is the fact that younger adults, especially Mosaics (19%), express a slightly above-average interest in gaining additional Bible knowledge. This compares with 12% of Boomers and 9% of Elders.

You can read the rest of the post here:  Church Forward

Spiritual Warfare, 30 Day Sex Challenge and You

First a note on spiritual warfare. There are different opinions about it within the church.

You have the guy who sees a demon everywhere, in a Starbucks cup, in the dark and at McDonald’s. Some do not believe spiritual warfare is real and so whenever it comes up they think you are nuts.

Here is the reality, the Bible is clear about a few things:

  • Satan is real
  • Jesus is real
  • Demons and angels are real
  • There is a world we do not see, the spiritual realm
  • All of us who pray believe in this spiritual realm or else we wouldn’t pray

The Bible is also clear about what happens whenever you take a step in the direction of following Jesus and doing what He wants. In this case, the 30 day sex challenge. The 30 day sex challenge is designed to help couples raise the level of intimacy, bring them closer together and teach them to meet each other’s relational, emotional and physical needs. For those who aren’t married, it is designed to train them to have integrity, boundaries, allow Jesus to meet their needs as opposed to looking for those needs to be met by someone that is not supposed to meet them (ie. boyfriend, girlfriend, fiance’ or porn).

In case you realized it or not, doing the 30 day sex challenge is right up the alley of what Jesus wants in our lives, it is a step in the direction of living biblically. Now, you can live biblically without doing the challenge, so don’t misunderstand. But, when you decided to do the challenge, you also invited Satan to come and hang out in your life. Anytime, we take a step in the direction of following Jesus and the Bible, we invite Satan. We don’t invite him, but he comes anyway.

If you haven’t already, here is a warning. Get ready for the world you do not see to come and hang out in the world you live in.

If you are not married, over the next month as you try to have integrity and purity, as you try to live a Godly life, Satan will do everything in his power to stop that. He will do everything in his power to bring temptation into your life, make you busy so you forget to meet with God, he will do everything in his power to keep you from keeping your commitment.

If you are married. He will do everything in his power to make sure you do not connect with your spouse. Whether that is making you too tired, making sure the kids keep walking in, you will fight more in the next month than you did last month, you will find reasons why you don’t want to do the devotional guide together.

Why?

You are becoming more like Jesus.

So, have patience. When this happens, take a deep breath, pray alone or as a couple. Get another person or couple to walk with you (who is doing the challenge, in case you don’t know, a high percentage of our church is doing this) somoene who can pray for you and ask how it is going.

And know this, the goal of following Jesus is to become like Jesus. The fact that Satan is taking notice means you are going in the right direction.

Perspectives and Expectations

Our perspectives mean everything to us. It is how we see the world. It is how we rate and know reality. We know if someone is friendly based on our perspective.

While everyone knows this, we don’t often talk about how our perspectives affect our expectations.

Based on our how I see the world, how I see a person, how I see God, I know what to expect. Have you noticed, when it comes to expectations, they are always met. We are rarely disappointed in life because we make sure our expectations are met.

If we expect to not like something, we will do everything in our power to not enjoy it. If we don’t like someone, we perceive them to be not worth our time, we will make sure they stay in that category. We will find something about them to keep them in the “I told you they were like that” category.

Church and God are the same way.

If we perceive God to be distant, doesn’t answer my prayers, doesn’t speak to me, doesn’t move in my life. Guess what? We will make sure he continues to be like that. We will make sure He stays distant, He doesn’t answer our prayers (mostly because we won’t pray) and He will not speak to us because we won’t give Him the chance.

Going to church is the same way.

If we are convinced that it is a waste of time, God will not move, we come expecting to be bored and expecting God not to move and expecting to get nothing out of it. Guess what? That’s what you will experience. You will miss God moving, because you won’t be looking for it. You will be bored because you will not allow yourself to engage.

How I Read

I often get asked how I read as much as I do and if there is a way I choose the books I do.

I constantly have a running list of books, on my blackberry and on my profile on Amazon. Whenever I hear about a book from several people, it gets put on this list. I have to hear about it from several people for it to make the list. Too many leaders are not critical about choosing their books and therefore they end up wasting their time on bad books. If you are going to spend the time to read, read the right books.

What are the right books? Books you have heard about from multiple people, books that will stretch you. Read books by people you agree with and disagree with. Don’t just read from the approved author list of your church tradition. Read from them all. I am amazed at how much I learn from those I disagree with simply because of the questions they force me to wrestle with. This is one of the reasons I read every book Brian McLaren writes. I probably disagree with over half of what he writes, but he challenges me to think through what I believe.

Right now, I am reading several books for multiple reasons.

As a LEAD Team we are working through Bill Hybels book Courageous Leadership. As a staff, we are reading Dave Browning’s Deliberate Simplicity. Our small group just finished God, Marriage & Family. I have spent the last several months researching the Sermon on the Mount for our next series. I am beginning to research the series we are doing in the Spring on the book of Nehemiah.

I try to have multiple books going at the same time on a variety of topics:  leadership, preaching, church, marriage, parenting, and something that is challenging me personally in my journey with God.

When I get burned out, I pick up a novel and then get back to the reading list.

The reason? Leaders are readers, plain and simple. The one thing every growing, healthy, effective church has in common is a lead pastor who is growing as a leader.