Sex Trafficking, Pornography, and Domestic Violence | Influence Podcast


“Human trafficking is one of the most heinous crimes on Earth,” writes Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in the U.S. State Department’s 2019 Trafficking in Persons Report. “We must band together and build momentum to defeat human trafficking.”

I’m George P. Wood, executive editor of Influence magazine and your host. In this episode of the Influence Podcast, I’m talking to Dr. Sandra Morgan about one form of human trafficking: sex trafficking and how it relates to pornography and domestic violence.

Dr. Sandra Morgan is an ordained Assemblies of God minister and director of the Global Center for Women and Justice at Vanguard University in Costa Mesa, California. The center is dedicated to educating and training students and professionals locally and globally on collaborative strategies to prevent and counter human trafficking, equitably address immigration and migrant challenges, advocate for victims and promote human rights. The center’s podcast, which Morgan cohosts with Dave Stachowiak, is Ending Human Trafficking.

President Donald Trump recently appointed Dr. Morgan to a two-year term on the administration’s Public-Private Partnership Advisory Council to End Human Trafficking.

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The Emotionally Intelligent Pastor | Book Review


If you are a pastor, you know that people are your “business.” We’re not the CEOs of widget factories or the purveyors of goods and services. Instead, we have a heart like the apostle Paul’s: “My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you” (Galatians 4:19).

That heart is intensely relational. Paul’s analogy of his ministry to the “pains of childbirth” is apt. Pastoring brings the great joy of bringing new Christian life into the world. However, it involves great pain too. Serving others in this way is not easy, but it is worth it.

Because people are our “business,” and because our “business” is both worthwhile and difficult, we need to be wise in the ways of people. The Bible is filled with wisdom in this regard. So is the discipline of psychology, which has coined the term emotional intelligence to describe it. In The Emotionally Healthy Pastor, Jeannie Clarkson brings the Bible and psychology into fruitful dialogue.

Clarkson is a Christian psychologist. Her doctoral dissertation researched, in the words of its title, “Pastoral Burnout: The Results of a Study Examining the Relationships of Emotional Intelligence and Performance-Based Self-Esteem with Burnout among Pastors.” She founded and operates Christian Care Connection, a counseling service in and around Toledo, Ohio.

Clarkson defines emotional intelligence as “the ability to (1) understand the ways people (including you) feel and react, and (2) use this knowledge to wisely avoid or smartly solve relational problems” (p. 36). She goes on to demonstrate why emotional intelligence is crucial to pastoral ministry and explain how to develop greater emotional intelligence.

Her book utilizes the framework of Daniel Goleman’s Emotional Intelligence, grounding it in Scripture and showing its applicability to pastoral ministry. In addition to real-life anecdotes from her own experience and that of others, she uses the fictional experiences of three pastors—megachurch Jim, midsize church Bill, and smaller church Susan—to illustrate the kinds of scenarios where emotional intelligence can improve pastoral health and effectiveness.

For Clarkson, emotional intelligence consists of four elements (p. 42):

  1. Personal Insight: Highly emotionally intelligent [EI] pastors possess a better understanding of their own emotions than do others.
  2. Personal Mastery: High EI pastors control and regulate their own emotions and reactions better than others.
  3. Relational Insight: EI-savvy pastors read, understand, and empathize with the emotions and reactions of other people better than most.
  4. Relational Mastery: Pastors with high emotional intelligence are better at emotional reasoning and more skilled at effective, persuasive communication than others.

While some researchers lean toward understanding emotional intelligence as an inborn trait, Clarkson, like Goleman, leans toward interpreting it as a developed skill.

She devotes most of The Emotionally Intelligent Pastor to explaining what each of the four elements is and how to develop better skillfulness with it. A chart on page 40 helpfully summarizes her advice:

Sixteen Skills and Habits of Emotionally Intelligent Pastors

Personal Insight Personal Mastery Relational Insight Relational Mastery
Monitoring your emotions Resetting your mind-set Listening attentively Building trust
Tuning in to self-talk Managing emotional triggers Tuning in to others Managing expectations
Identifying emotional triggers Communicating directly Knowing your team Empowering others
Asking for feedback Maintaining your passion Learning the landscape Managing conflict

 

Although Clarkson’s overall framework is based on Goleman’s, her book is more helpful to pastors than his for two reasons: First, it cuts quickly to the basic elements of emotional intelligence and how to develop them without getting lost in the research details. Second, it applies emotional intelligence solely to pastoral ministry.

I conclude with a statement that Clarkson calls “the big promise of emotional intelligence”: “Greater emotional intelligence leads to reduced stress and increased influence.” If in your current ministry, you’re experiencing the opposite—increased stress and reduced influence—I encourage you to read The Emotionally Intelligent Pastor. I think it will help.

Book Reviewed
Jeannie Clarkson, The Emotionally Intelligent Pastor: A Guide for Clergy and Other Church Leaders (Indianapolis, IN: Wesleyan Publishing House, 2019).

P.S. If you like my review, please click “Helpful” on my Amazon review page.

A History of Christianity in the United States and Canada | Book Reviewers


When first published in 1992, Mark A. Noll’s A History of Christianity in the United States and Canada quickly established itself as one of the best, if not the best, treatments of the subject. The second edition of that book revises, updates, and adds to the original text. Its length (592 pages) and price ($55.00) will limit its readership to scholars and students in undergraduate and graduate institutions, who are likely its intended demographic. As a Christian minister in the U.S., however, I heartily recommend it to my North American colleagues who are past their school years because it will enrich their understanding of the development of our faith in these lands.

Noll divides his treatment of the subject into five parts:

  1. Beginnings (17th century)
  2. Americanization (18th-century)
  3. The “Protestant Century” (19th century)
  4. Tumultuous Times (20th-21st centuries)
  5. Reflections

As can be seen from these divisions, the book tells the story—or perhaps, stories—of Christianity in the U.S. and Canada chronologically, though he sometimes jumps ahead of the chronology in order to show organic connections across the centuries.

The book begins with a nine-page analytical Table of Contents that outlines the topics in each chapter, as well as a Preface that briefly describes the revisions, updates, and additions to the 1992 edition. The chapters do not contain notes, but each one concludes with an up-to-date list of Further Readings for those interested in pursuing the topic in greater detail. The book ends with a Bibliography of General Works and an Index.

As a layman to the academic discipline of history, I won’t pretend to offer an academic review of this text. Instead, let me identify several aspects of the book that stood out to me as particularly helpful:

First, as Noll himself notes in the Introduction, “The ‘plot’ of this text centers on the rise and decline of Protestant dominance in the United States. Along the way, full consideration is paid to Canadian contrasts, both Catholic and Protestant.” In large part, this is the story of “evangelical America,” which grew in the 18th century, dominated the 19th, and fractured in the 20th. If you’re looking for a historical explanation of why so many U.S. evangelicals believe that America is a “Christian nation” or feel that their worldview should shape American culture, Noll provides one of the best.

Second, my favorite chapter of the book, if that’s allowable in a personal review of an academic work, is chapter 11, “The American Civil War.” Noll divides the chapter into two sections: “The Civil War as a Religious War” and “The Civil War as Turning Point.” The war both reflected the “Protestant Century,” as each side was intensely religious, and began the unraveling of “evangelical America,” because though each side “read the same Bible” and “prayed to the same God,” as Lincoln put it, their common faith could not resolve their deepest differences. The title of an earlier book by Noll states the matter well: The Civil War as a Theological Crisis.

Third, the comparison to the development of Christianity in Canada, whether in its French Catholic or Anglo Protestant varieties, was informative and humbling. To be honest, I didn’t know much about Canadian history generally, and Noll’s book helped begin to fill that deficiency. In the concluding chapter, Noll writes, apropos of the running comparison of American and Canadian forms of Christianity: “despite a national history without the ideology of special divine blessing, Canada has enjoyed an even better objective argument for having enjoyed the history of a ‘Christian nation’ than does the United States.” That’s a bitter pill to swallow, but a medicine we American Christians might want to consider taking, if only to alleviate our symptoms of nationalist pride.

Fourth, and finally, Noll raises the question of where Christians should find meaning in their histories of faith in the U.S. and Canada. He writes: “the history of Christianity in North America, as opposed to the history of North American Christianity, might not be so much about the gain or loss of culture influence as about ‘signs of contradiction,’ moments when the faith offered something unexpected to a person, a problem, a situation, or a region” (emphasis in original). He offers numerous examples of these contradictory signs, but concludes with this one: “They are illustrated supremely by the black acceptance of Christianity, offered as it was with a whip.” There’s much to unpack in these two brief quotes, but for those concerned with the practice of authentic Christianity, they need to be unpacked, for they demonstrate the “theology of the Cross” impinging on how we understand and write our history.

A final personal note: I had the privilege of taking two classes from Prof. Noll when he taught at Wheaton College, from which I graduated in 1991. He wouldn’t remember me—I studied philosophy, not history—but I remember him and his excellence as a teacher. I’ve read the majority of books he’s published, and I can honestly recommend each one.

Book Reviewed
Mark A. Noll, A History of Christianity in the United States and Canada, 2nd ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2019).

P.S. if you liked my review, please click “Helpful” on my Amazon review page.

America’s Religious History | Book Review


American Christians, generally speaking, are ignorant of the history of their own religion in this country, let alone of other religions here. This is not due to a lack of excellent scholarly resources. If anything, there is a surfeit of excellent studies of American religion. The problem is that most Americans won’t read them because they are either too academic or too specific. (Or too long.)

Thomas S. Kidd is distinguished professor of history at Baylor University. His faith perspective is evangelical Christian generally and Southern Baptist specifically. His scholarly expertise is colonial and early U.S. history. Earlier this year, he published a two-volume survey, American History, for college students. Now, he’s published America’s Religious History, a single-volume introduction to that topic, also intended for college students—it’s published by Zondervan Academic—but readily accessible to a broad readership.

America’s religious history did not start with Christianity, of course, which was only introduced to the Western hemisphere beginning with Christopher Columbus in 1492. Kidd touches briefly on aspects of indigenous religious before colonization, but the main line of his story starts with first Catholic and then Protestant colonization efforts. While Catholicism always played an important role in the history of those lands that eventually became the United States, Kidd’s main focus throughout the book is on “the fate of Protestantism in America,” which is the nation’s “most powerful religious strain.” He does mention developments in other religions too, as well as in nonreligious, skeptical points of view.

As a Pentecostal Christian and ordained minister in the Assemblies of God, I was delighted by Kidd’s treatment of Pentecostalism in the last few chapters of the book. While I acknowledge that our tribe has problems—televangelist scandals, prosperity gospel preachers, etc.—our history also demonstrates a spiritual vitality and ethnic diversity that bode well for our future.

Kidd begins the book with three sentences that identify a thread running throughout America’s Religious History: “The story of American religion is a study in contrasts. Secular clashes with the sacred; demagoguery with devotion. Perhaps most conspicuously, religious vitality has existed alongside religious violence.” Readers looking for a chirpily cheery national history of Christianity specifically or religion generally will be disappointed by Kidd’s work. There’s much in America’s “lived religion,” its daily practice of faith, that is heartening, of course, but disheartening episodes abound too, especially when it comes to evangelicals and politics.

Kidd closes each chapter with a list of “Works Cited and Further Reading.” This list makes an excellent next step for readers who want go deeper on the historical developments surveyed in that chapter. While the publisher probably intends this book for use in a college classroom setting, I think it can also be used profitably by Sunday school classes, small groups, and book clubs. Or, of course, for the solitary reader seeking a better understanding of this nation’s religious history.

Book Reviewed
Thomas S. Kidd, America’s Religious History: Faith, Politics, and the Shaping of a Nation (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Academic, 2019).

P.S. If you liked my review, please click “Yes” on my Amazon review page.

The Coming Revolution in Church Economics | Book Review


Tithes and offerings are the standard model for financing a church’s ministry. Sure, a congregation may rent its sanctuary for weddings and funerals or its fellowship hall for community events, but the revenue generated by these rentals is tiny fraction of its income. In the coming years, argue Mark DeYmaz and Harry Li, that tiny fraction will need to grow. That growth is, as the book’s title puts it, The Coming Revolution in Church Economics.

DeYmaz is founding pastor of Mosaic Church of Central Arkansas, cofounder of the Mosaix Global network, and a leader in the multiethnic church movement. Li is senior pastor of Mosaic Church of Central Arkansas. Their church’s budget derives 70 percent of its income from tithes and offering and 30 percent from other sources, including a non-profit charity that receives state and local grants and a for-profit business that rents out a portion of the church’s facilities to businesses.

If you’re like me, you’re probably wondering why the authors think tithes and offerings need to be supplemented. I was raised as a pastor’s kid in what became a megachurch. I worked in several megachurches as a staff pastor. All three churches generated income through the standard model.

Only when I became the senior pastor of a small congregation did I begin to understand the need to cultivate additional revenue streams. We had declined significantly in attendance over the years, but we had the largest evangelical church auditorium in the city. During my years there, we rented our facilities to a much larger congregation without a building, then later to a smaller one in the same predicament. We needed that revenue to pay for much needed, but long deferred improvements to our physical plant.

I mention my personal experience because I was initially skeptical of the book’s proposal until I realized that what I had done out of necessity was something the authors were recommending as sound financial sense. In the coming years, DeYmaz and Li point out, tithes and offerings simply may not be enough to sustain a church’s ministries. The middle class is under increasing financial stress, people are increasingly giving to charitable causes other than religious ones, younger generations give differently than older ones, and the American populace is growing older and more diverse, all of which trends put downward pressure on the amount of money available to churches.

In response to these trends, DeYmaz and Li enumerate seven “directives” to prepare American churches for the future:

  1. Free your mind.
  2. Stop begging for money.
  3. Create multiple streams of income.
  4. Leverage church assets.
  5. Become a benevolent owner.
  6. Monetize existing services.
  7. Start new businesses.

The authors have implemented all of these directives at Mosaic Church with some success, as well as a few false starts along the way. Lest you think their advice is coming from a suburban megachurch, you need to know that Mosaic is a mid-size church with approximately 600 in weekly attendance. It was intentionally planted in a multiethnic, economically depressed part of Little Rock, Arkansas. It repurposed an old K-Mart with the idea of providing space for the congregation but also space for start-up businesses. In other words, the church is ministering to both the soul and the body of its community, to its spiritual and economic needs.

I’ll be honest and say I’m not sure that I buy the book’s argument 100 percent. I’m worried that its funding model may drag pastors into businesses for which they have no training or expertise. There are tax implications to churches owning for-profit businesses and receiving government grants for its separate non-profit charities. And the tension between religious liberty on the one hand and employment nondiscrimination and public accommodation laws on the other raise several caution flags in my mind.

DeYmaz and Li are mindful of these worries too and address them in the book. They recommend that your church not do anything without first performing due diligence with regard to the tax and legal implications of its decisions. I second that recommendation. Before you do anything, consult a knowledgeable attorney and accountant.

Still, The Coming Revolution in Church Economics is a worthwhile read, eye-opening in its description of trends and thought-provoking in its recommended responses to those trends. Like me, you may not agree with everything the book says, but it will help your church get ahead of the curve, financially speaking. Of course, the standard model of tithes and offerings must always be the main source of your church’s income. God’s people must support God’s work faithfully. But as economic trends continue to put downward pressure on voluntary giving, good and faithful stewardship requires that we invest our talents with an eye toward a profitable return.

Book Reviewed
Mark DeYmaz with Harry Li, The Coming Revolution in Church Economics: Why Tithes and Offerings Are No Longer Enough, and What You Can Do About It (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2019).

P.S. If you liked my review, please click “Helpful” on my Amazon review page.

P.P.S. Also, check out Mark’s article in the September/October 2019 issue of Influence magazine: “Move Over Generosity,” which is also available in Spanish.

Blue Moon | Book Review


Lee Child released Blue Moon, his 24th Jack Reacher novel, on October 29, 2019—Reacher’s 59th birthday. Like most 59-year-olds, Reacher is set in his ways: a committed vagabond who stays out of people’s way unless they cross his path, helping those who need it, hurting those who deserve it. And like Reacher himself, Lee Child’s writing is set in its way too. Readers know exactly what they’re going to get when they turn the first page.

Remarkably, the formula still works well. Reacher finds himself on a bus observing a young punk trying to figure out how to lift the large amount of cash an old man obviously holds in his coat pocket. The old man gets off the bus, the young man follows him, and Reacher follows the young man, just to make sure no harm comes to the old one. No good deed goes unpunished, however, and Reacher ends up helping the old man and his wife, who find themselves caught in an escalating war between violent Albanian and Ukrainian gangs. Throw in a plucky “petite and gamine” waitress with a backstory who wants to try something new every day, and Blue Moon unfolds inexorably toward its dénouement: the good guys win, the bad guys lose, and Reacher walks away.

My number-one criteria for suspense novels is that they keep me turning pages. Blue Moon does that. That page-turner quality has to be balanced against the reader’s willing suspension of disbelief, which all novels force us to occupy. My main beef with the past few Reacher novels is that the page-turner quality was starting to lose out to the suspension-of-disbelief quality. Blue Moon did better, in this regard, than its immediate predecessors.

Still, when I turned the last page, I started wondering: Why would a pretty thirtysomething waitress find a nearly 60-year-old homeless man attractive? Can a man who’s been on the road for 22 years—Reacher retired from the Army in 1997—stay at the top of his physical and mental game, as this story shows him to be? And can a guy who’s killed as many bad guys as Reacher really evade law enforcement as long as he has?

I suppose the balance between page-turning and believability has shifted for me over the last few novels, which would explain why I didn’t pick this book up the day it was published. Lee Child probably has a few Reacher novels left in him. And while I enjoyed this novel a little more than its past few predecessors, my interest in Reacher is flagging. I’ll give the 25th novel a read in honor of Reacher’s 60th birthday, but then I think I’ll be done. Reacher should be done by then too.

Book Reviewed
Lee Child, Blue Moon: A Jack Reacher Novel (New York: Delacorte Press, 2019).

P.S. If you liked my review, please click “Helpful” on my Amazon review page.

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