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Now this is an interesting blogcoffee22.jpg . See Musings of a Christian Psychologist. Interesting.

You may want to read this post Who Owns the Pastor’s Sermons.” In a culture where there seems to be constant litigation, this is an interesting wrinkle. (Thanks to Michael Hyatt for linking to this site.)

Check out this interview. Stephen Colbert and Sean Kelly, Chair of the Department of Philosophy at Harvard. Author of All Things Shining.

You might read through Wade Hodges’ Preacher Geek series. This is a series especially for the preacher, primarily to give ideas and stimulate thinking. I read several of these and came away with a few ideas that I can then develop into my own messages. You can find this series here: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6.

Game Changer: Seek maturity in your relationships. OK, this is huge. Some ministers I’ve known have “ripped their britches” with a church by behaving in a manner that is immature emotionally. Immature behaviors include:

  • Reacting instead of responding.
  • Choosing to manipulate others instead of processing and working through a situation together.
  • Blaming others when things go wrong instead of taking responsibility.
  • Sabotaging someone who you differ with instead of being upfront and honest.
  • Constantly framing a situation in terms of either being with us or with them.
  • Exaggerating the position of those who differ from you or exaggerating the consequences of a decision. “We have 100 people ready to walk out of this church if we go in that direction.”

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Cold Weather. I live in Waco, Texas. Charlotte and I have not experienced weather like this since we left Kansas City, Missouri, almost 18 years ago. Yet, if you live in Chicago or other cities to the north, we can’t even begin to compare. So I won’t say anything more about the weather. coffee1.jpg

Each Thursday, I write this particular post for church leaders. Some who read this post regularly are ministers, elders and others who are interested in tools for ministry. The tools and resources vary depending on what come across over the past week.

Leadership Journal. There are so many very good resources available online to church leaders. Yet, one of the resources I continue to read in print is Leadership Journal. Yesterday, I received the Winter 2011 edition which includes articles by Gordon MacDonald, John Ortberg, Tim Keller, Mindy Caliguire and others. There is also an interview with Ken Sande. I especially look forward to the cartoons, which speak to most anyone who has spent much time with churches. You can check out Leadership online.

Edwin Friedman’s A Failure of Nerve. I am reading the newest edition that I purchased recently. (I read the first edition some years ago.) I read the first chapter and stopped. I need to let this sink in again. This kind of reading helps restore sanity to my own leadership.   

Game Changer. Some weeks ago, I listed a number of game changers for ministry. One of those was: “Take personal temptation seriously. Know that the evil one wishes to destroy you.” I can’t emphasize this one enough. Remember that temptation often begins as we allow certain thoughts, desires, and fantasies to find a home in our hearts/minds. We rationalize, thinking that such thoughts are no big deal, especially when we compare ourselves with others. Some ministers feel very lonely in their churches and become vulnerable to temptations that promise to give relief to that loneliness. What helps? Re-ignite a genuine friendship with your spouse. Practice the spiritual disciplines remembering that the goal is transformation into someone more like Jesus. Have a few people in your life with whom you can be very honest and who will speak truth into your life when necessary.

In the News. Faith and Reason is an interesting site (USA Today). One interesting article concerns Good Morning America’s search for a new “advice guru.” One of the finalists is Carla Barnhill, an evangelical. I find this interesting. Her blog is The Mommy Revolution .

About every ten days, I glance at Sally Quinn’s On Faith (Washington Post). Interesting.

There are many, many books, podcasts, blogs, websites, etc. Yes, I know there are far more resources than you can possibly digest. You may have the experience of being with church leaders only to come away feeling behind because they have read books you haven’t. Let me encourage you to not become discouraged. The idea is not to devour every resource that your fellow ministers are reading, etc. Instead, consider the possibility of simply being aware of significant discussions in the areas of faith and ministry.

Talk to ministers whose judgment you respect and ask them about the authors they especially listen to. Think of certain authors as friends or even mentors. For example, I decided many years ago that Eugene Peterson was worth listening to on almost any subject related to ministry. Consequently, I either read or am aware of most everything he writes.

I may be looking for a commentary or someone’s work on a particular book. I would rather have three or four of the best commentaries on a particular book than a dozen mediocre ones that I purchased simply because I saw them on Amazon.

Again, the point is not how many resources you consume. Just be a learner. Keep your mind sharp. Stay humble as you read and think. I am far more concerned about church leaders who read nothing, learn very little, and have no flame in them but the pilot light.

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1. You might want to read Quick Guide to a Balanced Life – the Four Essential Questions by Bob Buford. Good thinking.

2. Good discussion of Stanley Fish’s book How to Write a Sentence. The article, The Art of Good Writing appears in The Financial Times.

3. Margaret Feinberg is a creative writer. Here she lists the Ten Most Beautiful Books I Read During the Last Decade. By the way, have you seen Q blog (Gabe Lyons and others)?


4. On another note. Some church leaders feel terribly frustrated with their congregation, thinking the people really don’t appreciate what they (these church leaders) have to offer (I am speaking about both ministers and elders). Yet for some church leaders, what gets in the way is their own attitude. Nothing is worse than a church leader who promotes himself or seems to have a smug, condescending attitude toward others. There are some leaders whose insecurities seem to drive them, rather than the grace of God. I am not suggesting this is true with most church leaders. However, it seems to be true of far too many.   

5. I’ve been reading The Wall Street Journal (print) again after having been away from it for a number of years. I really enjoy the paper and am amazed at the number of interesting articles each day. Articles are more varied in topic than what I remember from earlier years. Culture. Human interest. Business. I skim through our local paper (Waco Tribune Herald) and another print edition of a newspaper every day. I also skim several online papers including the New York Times, Globe and Mail, Google News, and Yahoo News.

6. These notes are from talks by Tim Keller in Dallas at the recent Anglican 1000 Conference. You might look at notes from this talk and another talk. I read what Keller writes. He makes me think. Whether I agree or disagree, I am helped by reading his thoughts.

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(The following is part of a series I write once a week especially focused on particular concerns of church leaders. If this if your first visit to this blog and this doesn’t apply to you, please scroll down to other posts.)

1. coffee33.jpg I regularly read some book, article, etc. that is based on systems thinking. This reading helps me as I reflect on my own leadership. I just read Perspectives on Congregational Leadership. This is a useful book especially if you need a quick refresher on systems thinking as it applies to church leadership. I am about to begin reading Edwin Friedman’s A Failure of Nerve. I read the first edition a numberof years ago and found it helpful. I understand this edition to be even better and look forward to reading it.

By the way, Margaret Marcuson’s book Leaders Who Last: Sustaining Yourself and Your Ministry, is an outstanding book for church leaders. She does a wonderful job of connecting systems thinking with church leadership in a way that is very user-friendly.

2. For your own encouragement, you might read a post I recently wrote entitled “You Don’t Have to Be Your History.” (Based on this wonderful line from Flannery O’Connor.) You might also enjoy this post regarding worry, anxiety, and God’s care.

3. I am making a list of questions that many ministers wish elders would ask them. (I am specifically thinking of congregations which have some form of elder system in place.) Some of these questions (some are mine and some from a good friend) might include the following:

*Are you happy with the salary that we are providing? Does it seem fair?
*What can I be praying for?
*What can we do (as an elder group) to make your experience here (with this church) more satisfying?
*Is there anything we are doing as a group that makes life very difficult for you?
*Is there anyone at this church right now who is especially giving you a hard time?

What would you add to this list? If you have a particular question that you, as a minister, wish your elders would ask, please include it in the comments or write me:

4. What iPhone apps related to the Bible have you found helpful? Some of you might want to look at Scott Elliot’s post “Biblical Apps for the iPhone.” Some good resources.

5. One of the game changers in ministry is reading. Be sure to read this outstanding post by Donald Miller: “Do This One Thing and You Will Rise Above Your Peers” by Donald Miller. This is a very good post on the value and importance of reading. I can’t stress this game changer enough.

Reading well is not necessarily about how many books you might read in a year. It does mean you choose to read important books and even seminal books on particular subjects. It means you expose yourself to good thinkers. You read books that will challenge you and even provoke you at times.

Sometimes I feel completely overwhelmed by the sheer volume of books being released on the market. You may feel this way at times. Let me encourage you to focus on reading a few quality books. This is one reason why I am a regular reader of Scot McKnight’s Jesus Creed. I have read many books which I discovered on his blog. However, I have been especially helped by his book reviews. I may not read the book being reviewed but at least I am becoming familiar with the issues or arguments being presented.

Read good books, read regularly and feel good about what you are doing. Don’t worry about trying to read as many books as some of your peers. You will not always be able to read the latest from whatever authors might be popular among your peers. However, you can make reading a part of your regular, even daily, discipline.

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One of the game changers for ministers is to prepare each week to preach and teach as well as to put something in the “crockpot.” Here is another way of saying this:

Teach/preach this week but prepare for the future.


Every seven days, I preach a sermon. Sundays seem to come around with great regularity. Most preachers I know not only have to prepare a sermon each week but also have to prepare to teach Bible classes. (At one point in my ministry, I preached two different sermons each Sunday. Many preachers still do this.) No matter how you come at this, these presentations demand much preparation.

Yet, there are some texts and some subjects that take longer than a week to prepare. Quite often when I preach a particular series on Sunday mornings, it is something I have been working on for months. There are some sermons I have been thinking about for years.

When a minister must preach every seven days, it is very easy to preach something long before you are ready. Sermons that are “microwaved’ may be ready after a few days, yet after awhile you may realize that some topics and some texts need much more work. That is, some of the best preparation may be when a text or topic has been allowed to slowly cook in the “crockpot” of your mind over a period of weeks, months, or years.

“But how do I do this when I have so much preparation to do for this week? How do I have time to let anything cook slowly?”

  • Read something that has nothing to do with your sermon series or next class
  • Observe life
  • Listen to people
  • Pay attention to what is happening around you
  • Cultivate your curiosity

Take notes on your thoughts and feelings regarding these. Write down what is interesting. Don’t worry about how you might “use” it. Just let the crockpot do its work.

Read the Bible. Read outside your series or the book you are teaching in class. Pray each day and make notes regarding what you are praying about. I will say more about reading next week. For now, just think about constantly adding something to the crockpot.


What is one subject or text that you waited a long time (weeks, months, or years) to teach or preach? How did the wait contribute to your preparation and teaching/preaching?

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Each Thursday I write a post (ok, most Thursdays) entitled “Ministry Inside.” This post is primarily written for those who are in various church ministry roles. Yet others might find these comments and resources helpful as well.coffeemagic1.jpg

You might enjoy reading my blog via your phone. You can do this directly through a browser ( or through the app “Godhungry” if you have an iPhone. To download this app onto your phone, go to the iTunes store and do a search for “Godhungry,” or you can get it through the App store on your phone.

Russell Davies has written a thoughtful post entitled “How to be interesting.” What caught my attention is a great list that he gives the reader. Many of his suggestions are good ways to be present and stay fully alive. Some of his suggestions will help us see, smell, and hear the world again. Far too many ministers and church leaders get into deep ruts and find it hard to do good thinking or to change worn-out practices.

Have you seen Andy Crouch’s list: “The Ten Most Significant Cultural Trends of the Last Decade? This list made me think!

Last night, Charlotte and I began a marriage conversation with seven couples. We have not done this before. We hope to reflect on our own marriage and our attempt to live as Christ-followers in the context of marriage. Part of the evening included telling part of the story of our marriage.

For a number of weeks, I have been reflecting on “game changers” in ministry. One game changer is:

Be a student of your church and your community. Be observant.

Ministry always takes place in the context of a community. That is, we served real people who live in real places. Ministers ought to be good students of the people and the places where they live. Far too often a minister will enter a church and make statements that the locals find odd or even insulting. With some people, to talk about the opening of deer season might seem very normal while among people, such a topic might sound very odd. To talk about this morning’s chai latte may seem very normal among other people, while such a comment might seem out of place to others. There is nothing wrong with being an individual, however, I don’t want to continually communicate to the people in our church, “I am not one of you.”

It might help to know the people in the context where we minister. A minister who makes no effort to get to know and to appreciate his community can quickly communicate to others that he doesn’t really value the place where he is living.

Read good blogs! Read Scot McKnight’s Jesus Creed. Read Michael Hyatt’s blog. Read my friend Allan Stanglin’s blog. Read Tim Spivey’s blog. (Just a sample of good blogs.)

I regularly skim through three print periodicals in which I am primarily looking at book reviews. The publications that I skim through regularly are The New York Times Review of Books, The New York Review of Books, and Books and Culture. I find this to be a very helpful practice that lets me keep up with themes that are being addressed again and again. In particular, Books and Culture has been a lifesaver in terms of being introduced to significant biblical and theological writers.

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Each Thursday, I post something especially with ministers and other church leaders in mind. If you are not in the ministry but are simply a person who serves God and serves people, I hope you, too, will take something from this post each week.

Last week, I listed a number of “Game-changers” for ministers. Each week, I will elaborate on one of these.

Game-changer: The very best thing you have to offer a congregation is the presence of a godly person.


So many of us greatly underestimate the power of such a presence.

Far too many ministers put the emphasis elsewhere:

  • Some of us seem to think the best thing we have to offer is our formal education. Yes, there is something to be said for a person who has studied the Bible rigorously for a number of years. However, simply possessing a Bible degree does not necessarily mean that a person is being formed and shaped by the story contained in the Bible.
  • Some seem to think the best thing that we have to offer is our relevant, effective ministry skills and tools. It is important for a minister to retool and to stay fresh. However, simply possessing good tools and developing one’s skills does not necessarily mean that transformation is taking place. This is true for a person as well as a congregation.
  • Some may think that the best thing we have to offer is our experience, the accumulation of our years of “ministry success.” Unfortunately, such a perspective often leads to endless self-promotion that eventually overshadows Jesus and exalts the self.

The very best thing a minister has to offer a church is the presence of a godly person.

Yes, I know that ministers do a number of significant things in their work. Ministers preach, lead, offer care, and often share the Gospel in a variety of ways. However, there is no substitute for a minister’s godly presence in each of those roles.

For example, a minister may be a good preacher. He may handle the Scriptures responsibly. He may articulate the Gospel well as he proclaims the good news in a public setting. He may read an audience well and have a sense for appropriateness given the situation. However, there is something very powerful about preaching from a transformed life. There is something powerful about preaching when you know the Spirit of God has been at work in you. rearranging your heart/mind as he shapes you to fit the Gospel story found in the Bible.

Titus 2:11-14

11 For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. 12 It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, 13 while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.


If one’s own godliness (or one’s own spiritual formation) is of such importance in ministry, what might this suggest regarding a minister’s use of time?

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The following practices are important. In fact, these are game-changers for ministers.GameChanger_512x512.jpg

1. The very best thing you have to offer a congregation is the presence of a Godly person.

2. Manage yourself. Don’t live in reaction to an event in the past or to someone in the present.

3. Be a student of your church and your community. Be observant.

4. Teach/preach this week but prepare for the future.

5. Read. Read. Read. Good leaders read!

6. Take personal temptation seriously. Know that the evil one wishes to destroy you.

7. Seek maturity in your relationships.

8. Take a day off. Rest. Do something that brings you joy.

9. Be present in key pastoral moments, even with people you do not like.

10. Pay attention to your thoughts, emotions, and body.

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1. “Manage yourself.” These are the words of my friend Charles Siburt, longtime ministry professor at ACU. If you as a minister approach ministry from a systems perspective, there is nothing more important than managing yourself. Yet, managing yourself is not simply a matter of working harder or trying more. It is examining how you are functioning in your various roles (leader, minister, preacher, married person, parent, etc.) Quite often, to address your relationships in one sphere can have real benefit in other spheres.coffee22.jpg

For example, one might be a minister working with a group of church elders. Perhaps this person needs to improve his functioning with this group. Where does a person begin? Years ago, I heard Edwin Friedman (Generation to Generation) say that one of the best things a minister can do is deal with his own family of origin issues. I knew that I had some of these issues from the past but had never processed or worked through them. I reconnected with several family members in order to gain clarity about some of the issues that I was grappling with. I began to see how the way I was functioning within a church was very much related to the way I had functioned in my family of origin. This was extremely helpful.

We are whole beings or systems. One of the best things we can do as we seek to grow and mature is to declare that nothing is off limits and that we are willing to do the hard work of looking at how we have been functioning through the years.

2. I am reading Tim Keller’s new book, Generous Justice. This is an outstanding book. Keller makes the case biblically for why matters of justice ought to be in the sphere of ministry for a Christian individually and for the church collectively.

3. Random

Drew Dyck has written a fine post entitled “Why Do You Write?”

Daniel Offer has written a very good piece (posted on Michael Hyatt’s blog) entitled “The Leader as LifeLong Learner.”

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1. There is much to be said for listening. In the past month, I have been intentional about meeting with small groups of people in our community (outside our church family) in order to learn more about our city. I ask questions like:

  • What are people in your circles talking about? (Your family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, etc.)
  • How could a church be more helpful in this city?
  • What are people in this city anxious about?

I have gained so much by doing this. Again, I am listening to these groups and actually say little about our church etc. When I do speak in these gatherings, it is mostly to ask follow-up questions after someone has commented. I take extensive notes. One person said, “It is very nice for someone to genuinely want to know what I think.”

2. Are you aware that the newest edition of the NIV was released this week (online)? You can find it here. See Doug Moo’s introduction.

3. Far too many ministers underestimate the importance of pastoral care. I really don’t think one has to choose between being a good leader or being a person who cares for people pastorally. Ministry is about loving and serving people (in the best sense of those two words.) When one loves and serves a church over a period of years, credibility is built–usually. However, gaining credibility is not a given. If you live among a group of people as a minister for several years, they will learn that you can be trusted or they will learn that you are not trustworthy. If a minister proposes some initiative regarding ministry in the future, it is very difficult for a church to hear this if this minister has no credibility. However, if this minister does have credibility (which again typically comes through some years of genuine love and service), they will often give this person the benefit of the doubt.

This is not to say that a minister has to serve a congregation for years in order to lead or attempt an initiative. Rather, ministers should not overlook the importance of serving and loving the congregation.

Sometimes a minister does not have credibility, after being with a congregation, because of too many instances of poor judgement. A congregation wants to know that those who preach, those who lead various ministries, and those who in some way are a part of pastoral leadership consistently exercise good judgement in what they say, what they do, and the decisions they make.