Head, Heart, and Hands: Three marks of a holistic Pentecostal ministry


On any given day, an Assemblies of God pastor may read a scholarly commentary in preparation for Sunday’s sermon, counsel a church member who is experiencing an emotional crisis, and help a poor family in the community pay its bills. Pentecostal ministry is holistic, in other words. It encompasses what we believe, what we feel and how we behave — our head, heart and hands, respectively.

The biblical foundation of this holism is the Great Commandment (Matthew 22:34–40). Asked to name “the greatest commandment in the Law,” Christ Jesus answered by quoting Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

The Great Commandment is not the gospel, it needs to be emphasized. “This is love,” writes the apostle John:“not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as anatoning sacrifice for our sins” (1 John 4:10). God’s love for us in Christ is the gospel. The Great Commandment merely summarizes our response to the gospel. God’s love for us precedes our love for Him and makes it possible.

And not only for Him, of course, but for others. John goes on to write: “Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen” (1 John 4:20). Our love for others does not stop at our front porch or our neighbor’s front door, however. God commands us to love not only those who are like us — neighbors, brothers and sisters — but those who are unlike us too. This means that we ought to love the “foreigner” (Leviticus 19:34) and our “enemies” (Matthew 5:44).

A cool head that discerns truth. A warm heart that invites relationship. An open hand that gives freely to the poor. These are the hallmarks of a holistic Pentecostal life and ministry.

This is fundamental Christianity: God’s love for us calling forth our love for Him and others.

So, how do we grow in our love? How do we keep the Great Commandment in ever-increasing measure? Especially as pastors, how do we stay on the leading edge of love?

For me, this is where the head-heart-hands schema becomes important. That schema reminds me that my love for God and others must be characterized at all times by a cool head, a warm heart and open hands. Love cannot be a fraction. God does not want one-third of our love or two-thirds. He wants the whole of our love. Our lives and our ministries must be characterized by orthodoxy(right belief), orthopathy(right feeling) and orthopraxy(right behavior).

Head. I have quoted 1 John 4 twice already, but permit me to quote it again, for the chapter begins in an interesting way. “Dear friends,” John writes, “do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God … ” (verse 1).Notice two things right away: First, John assumes that God continues to speak to His people. There are “spirits” — which I take to mean “gifts of the Holy Spirit” — that come “from God.” A cool head, an orthodox mind will be open to hearing from God.

Yet, by the same token, that cool head will exercise discernment “because many false prophets have gone out into the world” (verse 1). How do we know the difference? John offers a doctrinal test focused on the Incarnation: “Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God” (verses 2–3).

Paul offers a similar doctrinal test focused on the lordship of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 12:3). These are not the only tests, of course, but they are fundamental. My takeaway from these passages is this: In my love for God and others, my mind should be curiouswithout being credulous, and what helps me keep that dynamic is a constant focus on Christ, who is himself “the wisdom of God” (1 Corinthians 1:24).

Heart. The heart is the seat of human emotion. Here is where our deepest loves and hates, hopes and fears reside. And these deepest affections and emotions shape our actions. Christ Jesus said: “A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of” (Luke 6:45). No wonder, then, Scriptures exhorts believers, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it” (Proverbs 4:23).

A warm heart, an orthopathic heart, is fairly easy to diagnose, in my experience. In Galatians 5:19–23, the apostle Paul differentiated between “the acts of the flesh” and the “fruit of the Spirit.” What’s interesting to me is that the acts of the flesh are fundamentally selfish and have the effect of pushing people away. By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit describe a healthy self whose personality pulls people closer. A loving, joyful, peaceful, patient, kind, good, faithful, gentle and self-controlled personality is an attractive one. Like the sun acting on planets in our solar system, a warm heart pulls people into its orbit.

In my love for God and others, do my affections and emotions selfishly pushothers away, or do they pullpeople into a deeper relationship with me — and, through me, with God?

Hands. Orthopraxy, right action, is part and parcel of Christianity. In the apostle Paul’s immortal formulation of the matter, we are saved by grace throughfaith forworks (Ephesians 2:8–10). A deedless Christianity is a Christless Christianity — in other words, a contradiction in terms.

But while we ought to follow Christ in every area of life, the Bible emphasizes our duties to the poor, weak and powerless in particular. So, Christ Jesus says, “whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me” (Matthew 25:40). His brother James asks, “If one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it?” (James 2:16). The apostle Paul writes, “Command [wealthy believers] to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share” (1 Timothy 6:18). This is why I like to describe orthopraxy as an open hand.

In my life and ministry, is my hand open to all, but especially the poor, the weak and the powerless in my community? Do I seetheir needs and take actionto meet them?

A cool head that discerns truth. A warm heart that invites relationship. An open hand that gives freely to the poor. These are the hallmarks of a holistic Pentecostal life and ministry.

P.S. This article first appeared at InfluenceMagazine.com. It is reposted here by permission.

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Leading from Your Gut | Book Reviewi


“I have a bad feeling about this” is not just a well-worn linefrom the Star Wars movie franchise. It’s also a gut-level experience many leaders have when making important decisions. It can be a positive experience too: “I have a good feeling about this.”

Leaders often ignore their gut when making decisions. They believe it’s best to base decisions solely on external data, not internal feelings. Dr. John Townsend thinks that’s only half right: The premise of Leading from Your Gut is this: “Great leaders succeed by harnessing the power of both the external world and the internal world.”

Townsend is a New York Timesbestselling author, leadership and organizational consultant, and psychologist. He is founder of the Townsend Institute for Leadership and offers counsel from a Christian perspective. Most of the examples in the book come from the business world, but Townsend also shows the relevance of his advice to ministry and other non-profit forms of leadership.

Leading from your gut is leading by intuition. Our intuition is not always right, of course, but it’s not always wrong either. Every leader can recall specific instances when the data pointed one way and their gut another, so they followed the data, only to have the negative results prove their gut right. I certainly can.

Why does this happen? Because leaders have developed an intuitive feel for things based on long experience that they can’t always provide reasons for. The gut is nonrational, in other words, but not irrational. Along with developing the ability to interpret data correctly, leaders need to hone their intuition. To help them do that, Leading from Your Gut outlines thefive aspects that shape a leader’s internal world — values, thoughts, emotions, relationships and transformation.

In my opinion, the chapters on emotions alone are worth the price of the book. “Your emotions have a function, a purpose, a role. When you understand this role, you can harness your emotions to lead others well,” Townsend writes. They “exist as a signal to you. They alert you that something is going on, something you need to pay attention to and deal with. That somethingmay be an event outside of you or one inside.” He then goes on to describe the signal function of both negative and positive emotions, and how recognizing the signals can change the way you lead.

Leading from Your Gutdoesn’t absolve leaders from their responsibility to lead from the data. To be successful, leaders should know their “business,” whether it is making widgets or making disciples of all nations. But they should also know themselves.

Book Reviewed
John Townsend, Leading from Your Gut: How You Can Succeed by Harnessing the Power of Your Values, Feelings, and Intuition(Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2018).

P.S. If you found my review helpful, please vote “Yes” on my Amazon.com review page.

P.P.S. I wrote this review for InfluenceMagazine.com. It is crossposted here with permission.

Serving God in a Migrant Crisis | Book Review


Millions of people are on the move today. They cross international borders fleeing war or persecution, seeking better economic prospects, or both. How should Christians respond?

A 2016 Lifeway Research surveyof 1,000 U.S. pastors revealed ambivalence. On the one hand, “Most pastors say Christians should lend a hand to refugees and foreigners, and believe caring for refugees is a privilege.” On the other hand, “pastors say their churches are twice as likely to fear refugees as they are to help them.”

Patrick Johnstone, writing with Dean Merrill, thinks Christians need to be more hopeful: “I firmly believe that for Christians today, the current migrant surge is not a problembut a potentiality” (emphasis in original). He surveys the state of global immigration today, outlines a biblical and practical case for welcoming immigrants, then identifies what Christians individuals, churches, and relief agencies can do.

I largely agree with Johnstone. As a Christian in America, I believe we are a big enough and wealthy enough nation to welcome immigrants. The strengths of Johnstone’s book are that it humanizes the immigrant crisis, shows why fears of immigration are overblown, and outlines  biblical attitudes about and actions toward “foreigners.”

The weakness of Johnstone’s book is that it doesn’t wrestle with questions of law or public policy in a sustained or realistic way. On a handful of occasions, Johnstone concedes that he is not arguing for “open borders.” He then criticizes existing legalimmigration policies, even as he downplays the problem of illegalimmigration. “The needs of real people—God’s highest creation—must always trump political arguments and personal fear.” If immigrant need always trumps policy, then what’s the point of trying to enact policy in the first place?

So, read Serving God in a Migrant Crisis to see how you and your church can respond to immigrants and refugees both at home and abroad. But if you’re looking for Christian guidance on immigration policy, keep looking.

Book Reviewed
Patrick Johnstone with Dean Merrill, Serving God in a Migrant Crisis(Downers Grove, IL: IVP Books, 2018).

P.S. If you found my review helpful, please vote “Yes” on my Amazon.com review page.

Disruptive Witness | Book Review


“The work of conviction and calling is the Holy Spirit’s,” writes Alan Noble, “but different times and cultures present different barriers to hearing and comprehending the good news.” Some of these barriers are bad ideas, which can be overcome through good apologetics. Others are cultural trends that are harder to spot because they shape the warp and woof of daily existence.

In Disruptive Witness, Noble identifies two such trends: “(1) the practice of continuous engagement in immediately gratifying activities that resist reflection and meditation, and (2) the growth of secularism, defined as a state in which theism [i.e., belief in God] is seen as one of many viable choices for human fullness and satisfaction, and in which the transcendent feels less plausible.”

Together, these trends create what Noble calls “distracted, buffered selves” (emphasis in original). People in the developed world are distracted by technology and buffered from the transcendent by a pervasive secularism that teaches this world is all there is, so make whatever meaning of it you can. In such a culture, religion is possible, as long as it is understood merely as a subject value rather than an objective fact.

After explaining what technology and secularism has done to Christian faith, Noble outlines a strategy for “disruptive witness.” This strategy centers around reorienting “personal habits,” “church practices” and “cultural participation” in ways that de-emphasize technology and open people’s hearts and minds to the possibility of the supernatural.

Disruptive Witnessis a timely, relevant work of cultural diagnosis, thought-provoking even if you don’t agree with all of Noble’s prescriptions.

Book Reviewed
Alan Noble, Disruptive Witness: Speaking Truth in a Distracted Age(Downers Grove, IL: IVP Books, 2018).

P.S. If you found my review helpful, please vote “Yes” on my Amazon.com review page.

P.P.S. This review is cross-posted from InfluenceMagazine.comwith permission.

P.P.S. I have an interview with Alan Noble about the book here:

Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now | Book Review


Like many others, I find it difficult to imagine life without social media. I use Facebook and Twitter at work to share articles fromInfluencemagazine, the Christian leadership magazine which I edit. They account for a large percentage of the traffic on the magazine’s website. I ignore them at professional peril.

I use Facebook and Instagram at home to share information and pictures with my family and friends. They help me keep in touch with people who are important to me but don’t live close by. Although I get most of my news from websites, I also click on the links to news articles and op-eds that these people share in Facebook and Twitter.

These professional and personal uses of social media sound benign, so why does my wife complain that I’m on my phone too much? Why do I feel compelled to check it compulsively throughout the day? And why do I so often feel negative emotions like sadness, anger and jealousy after spending time on Facebook?

Technology always begins as a tool to help us exercise control over nature. After a while, however, it becomes our master, in effect exercising control over us. If you don’t believe me, try replacing your smartphone with a dumbphone, or try giving up social media for Lent. If you can do so, great! If not, then perhaps you have a problem.

Jaron Lanier stakes out a radical position on social media in his new book, Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now. Here they are in his own words:

  1. You are losing your free will.
  2. Quitting social media is the most finely targeted way to resist the insanity of our times.
  3. Social media is making you into a [jerk].
  4. Social media is undermining truth.
  5. Social media is making what you say meaningless.
  6. Social media is destroying your capacity for empathy.
  7. Social media is making you unhappy.
  8. Social media doesn’t want you to have economic dignity.
  9. Social media is making politics impossible.
  10. Social media hates your soul.

Lanier is not an anti-technology Luddite by any stretch of the imagination. He is a computer scientist — a founding father of virtual reality, in fact — and is well regarded throughout Silicon Valley.

Nor is he writing from a religious perspective, despite his usage of terms like free willand soul. He’s not religious in any conventional sense, as far as I can tell. His political opinions are far to the left of mine and those of the readers of my magazine. And his occasional use of profanity — I had to come up with a less offensive term for Argument 3 above — can be distracting.

So, why would I recommend Christian leaders — pastors, educators, etc. — to read this book? I can think of at least three reasons.

First, Lanier is concerned with issues related to the common good. Lanier’s ten arguments are morally fraught. They deal with the character of the individual in relationship to others, especially on matters of public importance. No one wants to live in a society overrun with unempathetic jerks who twist the truth and tell lies, robbing workers of their economic dignity and politics of its effectiveness, all the while making everyone deeply unhappy. Right?

Second, Lanier’s sixth arguments is that social media destroys people’s capacity for empathy. It does this by cocooning users in a “filter bubble” where they are increasingly exposed only to others whose viewpoints expressly match their own. This exacerbates the tendency to lump people into “us” and “them,” where “we” are always on the side of righteousness and “they” are always on the side of wickedness. When we break out of that bubble and deal with real people and their actual arguments, we realize that reality is more complex that social media lets on. Because “they” also are concerned with the common good, “we” can make common causeon issues where we agree, even as we realize that we will continue to disagree (strongly, even) on other issues.

Third, as a tech “insider,” Lanier has unique insight into the business modelthat drives social media and leads to such negative results. He calls his explanation “the BUMMER machine,” where BUMMER is an acronym for “Behaviors of Users Modified, and Made into an Empire for Rent.”

Think of it this way: Facebook and other social media provide its services free to billions of users. How can it afford to do that? Because its users are not its customers, they are its products. Social media sucks up an enormous amount of data about you — birthdate, address, location, workplace, political interests, searches, friendship networks, etc. — repackages it and sells it to others. Some of these users, social media’s actual customers, have largely benign goals, i.e., marketing and selling affordable products you’re interested in. Others — Lanier cites the Cambridge Analytica particularly — have less benign goals.

To make money, social media have to figure out ways to keep you coming back for more, which it does through constant surveillance and subtle manipulation.  This is the point of argument 1 about the loss of free will. As Sean Parker, the first president of Facebook, once explained it: “We need to sort of give you a little dopamine hit every once in a while, because someone liked or commented on a photo or a post or whatever…. It’s a social validation feedback loop…exactly the kind of thing that a hacker like myself would come up with, because you’re exploiting a vulnerability in human psychology….”

Some things, once you see them, cannot be unseen. For me, Lanier’s book had that quality. It made me think about social media, my use of them, and what widespread usage of them are doing to us in a new and disturbing way. I haven’t been fully persuaded to delete my social media accounts, obviously, since you’re reading this on one social medium or another. But perhaps drawing attention to Lanier’s arguments will help in some small way to resist social media’s BUMMER tendencies and contribute to a happier, healthier, and more humane common culture.

Book Reviewed
Jaron Lanier, Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now(New York: Henry Holt, 2018).

P.S. If you found my review helpful, please vote “Yes” on my Amazon.com review page.

London Rules | Book Review


London Rules is the fifth book in Mick Herron’s acclaimed Slough House series. Slough House is where MI5 houses agents it can neither fire nor put in the field, hoping they quit of their own volition instead. And it’s governed by a profane unhygienic Cold Warrior named Jackson Lamb who keeps things running, if not altogether smoothly, and not without a bit of blackmail of the higher ups.

In this installment, there are terrorists loose in England; political shenanigans involving an MP, the MP’s pundit wife, the Prime Minister, and the PM’s favorite Muslim politician. On top of that, someone’s trying to kill Slough House’s resident computer expert, whom no one at the house actually likes, but in an “us” versus “them” world, Slough House protects its own. That’s London Rules.

Mick Herron gets compared to John Le Carre, which is meant to be a compliment. I think it’s a bad comparison, though, because while Herron is a lovely writer, his plots aren’t as convoluted as Le Carre’s, and his descriptions of people and relationships frequently leave me laughing. I never smile at George Smiley. The suspense is still good, though.

If you haven’t read any of the Slough House books, start with Slow Horses and read them in order. You need the backstory to understand this book. If you like Slow Horses, you’ll like the entire series. If not, there’s no point in reading this book either.

Book Reviewed
Mick Herron, London Rules (New York: SoHo Press, 2018).

P.S. If you found my review helpful, please vote “Yes” on my Amazon.com review page.