The Power of “What If?” | Influence Podcast


“Throughout my life,” writes Pastor Tommy Barnett in his new memoir, “God has continually prodded and prompted me to ask, ‘What if?’” He goes on to say, “Through all these years, ‘What if?’ has been quickly followed by ‘Why not?’ and then ‘Wow! God is doing amazing things.’”

In this episode of the Influence Podcast, I’m talking to Pastor Barnett about this what-if-why-not-wow dynamic of spiritual leadership. I’m George P. Wood, executive editor of Influence magazine and your host.

Tommy Barnett is the Global Pastor of Dream City Church in Phoenix, Arizona, founder of the LA Dream Center, and chancellor of Southeastern University in Lakeland, Florida. He is author, most recently, of What If? My Story of Believing God for More…Always More, published by ARC Resources. It goes on sale Tuesday, February 4, 2020.

 

This episode of the Influence Podcast is brought to you by My Healthy Church, distributors of Tru Fire Curriculum:

Children’s leaders often feel worn down by curriculum that doesn’t give them what they need to be effective. Tru Fireprovides leaders with engaging lessons and empowers them to connect kids to the Holy Spirit so that they can feel confident their kids are developing lifetime faith through experiences with God they’ll never forget.

To download free sample lessons, visit TruFireCurriculum.com.

P.S. This podcast is crossposted from InfluenceMagazine.com with permission.

Recommended Reading for Leaders | Influence Magazine


In each issue of Influence magazine, I identify three leadership books that I recommend for pastors and other church leaders. Here is my list for the January-February 2020 issue, which is crossposted from InfluenceMagazine.com. If you like my recommendation, please click “Helpful” on my Amazon review page, the short URL for which is listed after each recommendation.

MORE LESSONS FROM THE NONTPROFIT BOARDROOM
Dan Busby and John Pearson (ECFA Press)

Good governance is crucial to every organization, including the Church, and a healthy board is crucial to good governance. In this book from the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability, Dan Busby and John Pearson offer timely advice about how a board can govern with “effectiveness” and “excellence,” all the while addressing the “elephants” that complicate its work. The book concludes a chapter on NonprofitScore, a free online tool to help your board assess its health across six elements (ECFA.org/score).

Amazon: https://amzn.to/38ICP50.

THE EMOTIONALLY INTELLIGENT PASTOR
Jeannie Clarkson (Wesleyan Publishing House)

Jeannie 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.” In The Emotionally Intelligent Pastor, she outlines the habits that will help you gain “insight” and “mastery” in both the “personal” and “relational” aspects of your life and ministry. The payoff? “Greater emotional intelligence leads to reduced stress and increased influence.” What pastor doesn’t want those things?

Amazon: https://amzn.to/2O75Wai.

THE LEADER’S GREATEST RETURN
John C. Maxwell (HarperCollins Leadership)

“There is nothing in this world that gives a greater [return on investment] to a leader than attracting, developing, and multiplying leaders,” writes John C. Maxwell. “It’s the key to success for any country, family, organization, or institution.” Though written with a broad readership in mind, The Leader’s Greatest Return holds obvious applications for Christian ministry. It outlines 10 steps you can begin taking today to invest in the people who will multiply the effectiveness of your ministry.

Amazon: https://amzn.to/315q4z5.

The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry | Book Review


John Mark Comer lived many pastors’ dream. He led a growing congregation (adding 1,000 adherents annually for seven years running) in the Pacific Northwest (one of the nation’s most secular regions). You’d think he’d be happy, but he wasn’t. He was burnt out, enduring most pastors’ nightmare.

Busyness, “where your life is full with things that matter,” wasn’t the problem. The problem was hurriedness, “when you have too much to do and the only way to keep the quota up is to hurry.” Jesus was busy, but He never hurried. Hurry is of the devil. So, as Dallas Willard once remarked to John Ortberg, who wrote the Foreword to this book, giving it its title: “You must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life.”

To ruthlessly eliminate hurry, Comer maintains, you need to establish a rule of life, “a schedule and a set of practices to order your life around the way of Jesus in community.” At the heart of this rule are spiritual disciplines, especially silence and solitude, Sabbath, simplicity, and slowing.

These are not the only spiritual disciplines. They are crucial to unhurrying your life, however. Solitude and silence tune out the “noise,” both external and internal, that so easily distract your attention. Sabbath reminds you that God created the world, and it still spins on its axis without your frenzied efforts. Simplicity of lifestyle eliminates the desire for “more” that so often drives our nonstop work. And slowing is just that: taking time to be present in the moment.

These disciplines aren’t just good ideas, though. They’re Jesus’ practices, which He invites us to imitate. “Follow me!” isn’t just a call to belief, after all; it’s a call to walk in Christ’s footsteps, to practice His way of life.

“In the years to come,” Comer concludes, “our world will most likely go from fast to faster; more hurried, more soulless, more vapid; ‘deceiving and being deceived’” (2 Timothy 3:13). The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry urges readers to put on Jesus’ easy yoke (Matthew 11:30). Only by moving slowly but deliberately will we find our soul’s rest, for Christ’s “yoke is easy” and His “burden is light.”

Comer did not write merely for pastors. His book is suitable for a wide readership. But pastors, only by slowing down will you be able to busy yourself helping others find rest for their souls too. In this matter as in others, you cannot lead where you have not followed first.

Book Reviewed
John Mark Comer, The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry (Colorado Springs, CO: Waterbrook, 2019).

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

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

What’s Happening in the Assemblies of God Today? | Influence Podcast


Welcome to the Influence Podcast, a collection of inspiring and challenging conversations, aimed at empowering the entire spectrum of church leadership, from lead pastor to lead volunteer

In Episode 207, I’m talking to Doug Clay about the good things God is doing in the Assemblies of God. I’m George P. Wood, executive editor of Influence magazine and your host. Doug Clay is general superintendent of the Assemblies of God. He will share his unique perspective on our Fellowship after a brief word from our sponsor.

This episode of the Influence Podcast is brought to you by My Healthy Church, distributors of Including Children with Disabilitiespart of the Momentum Training Series.

Whether you already have children in your church with disabilities or just want to be prepared for all students, this resource will show you how to share the love of Jesus with everyone who enters your class. Including Children with Disabilities is also available in Spanish.

For more information visit MomentumTrainingSeries.com.

P.S. This podcast is cross-posted from InfluenceMagazine.com with permission.

Resilient Faith | Book Review


Christianity in the United States is a mile wide but an inch deep.

The faith, especially its Protestant variety, has exerted considerable influence on the nation’s history and culture. A supermajority of citizens continue to identify themselves as believers. On the whole, evangelical churches — where evangelical serves as a theological descriptor, not a political one — are holding steady even as liberal Protestant congregations and Roman Catholic parishes shed adherents.

Despite these things, many Christians feel that their influence on the broader culture is slipping away. A partial explanation comes from the last two decades’ rapid rise of the “Nones,” that share of the populace that picks “None of the above” when asked by pollsters to select their religious affiliation. Radical shifts in public opinion about moral issues such as same-sex marriage, drug use, and voluntary euthanasia constitute an additional explanation. And the once unheard-of criticism of Christian charities, such as the Salvation Army, for continuing to uphold biblical standards of sexual morality offers still another explanation.

None of these explanations, it should be noted, entail that America has entered a post-Christian phase. They do indicate that the nation is trending that way, however. If that trend worries you, I encourage you to read Gerald L. Sittser’s Resilient Faith: How the Early Christian “Third Way” Changed the World.

Sittser is professor of theology at Whitworth University in Spokane, Washington, where he also serves as a senior fellow and researcher in the Office of Church Engagement. In Resilient Faith, he offers an account of how the Early Church forged a “Third Way” between accommodation to the surrounding idolatrous culture and isolation from it. He states his thesis at the outset of the book:

[T]he early Christian movement became known as the Third Way because Jesus himself was a new way, which in turn spawned a new movement — new in theology, in story, in authority, in community, in worship, and in behavior. Christian belief was so new, in fact, that it required Christians to develop a process of formation in the Third Way to move new believers from conversion to discipleship. … Rejecting both accommodation and isolation, early Christians immersed themselves in the culture as followers of Jesus and servants of the kingdom of God.

Over time, this third-way approach gained followers, and with increased followership, increasing influence. By the time Constantine converted to Christianity in A.D. 312, Christians already constituted a significant, though occasionally persecuted, minority within the Roman empire. Over the next century, they became the only legal imperial religion. The once powerless Church became powerful.

Ironically and tragically, this power began to deform the Church. The Third Way became the First Way, integrity giving way to accommodation. Whereas the early Christian movement assumed that idolaters needed a rigorous form of discipleship, the so-called catechumenate, to mold converts into the faith and life of Jesus Christ, the post-Constantinian Church began to assume that everyone under the sway of a Christian emperor was Christian by default. The real faith of early Christians became the nominal faith of Christendom.

And that tension between the real and the nominal brings us back to the feeling so many American Christians have that our cultural influence is slipping away. If it is — and I believe that it is — how should we respond?

One response is simply for American Christians to engage in cultural and political warfare. While I am a proponent of informed Christian engagement in politics and culture, I worry that this response, however effective it may be in the short term, is ineffective in the long term. Sittser captures the gist of the dilemma when he writes:

If anything, the harder Christians fight, the more precipitous the decline will be, for cultural power and privilege will come at an increasingly high price. Christians will either accommodate until the faith becomes almost unrecognizable, or they will isolate until their faith becomes virtually invisible.

The better response — the one called for by Jesus Christ himself — is the way of discipleship, “baptizing [the nations] in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19–20). According to that way, success is not defined in terms of the accrual of political power or cultural influence, though they may come, but by fidelity to the Lord Jesus Christ regardless of whether they come. He is the Way, so His way must become our way too.

Until American Christians decide that fidelity is more important than power and privilege, their Christianity will continue to be a mile wide and an inch deep, though getting narrower and shallower every day.

Book Reviewed
Gerald L. Sittser, Resilient Faith: How the Early Christian “Third Way” Changed the World (Grand Rapids, MI: Brazos Press, 2019).

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

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

Ministry in the Aftermath of Sexual Violence | Influence Podcast


According to the National Sexual Violence Research Center, “One in five women and one in 71 men will be raped at some point in their lives.” The center also reports that “one in three women and one in six men [will experience] some form of contact sexual violence in their lifetime.” These statistics show that sexual violence affects millions of women and men.

But when was the last time you heard a sermon or Sunday school lesson about sexual violence? If churches aren’t aware of or talking about the problem of sexual violence, how can we effectively minister to those who have experienced it?

That’s the question I’m talking to Amy Farley about in Episode 206 of the Influence Podcast. I’m George P. Wood, executive editor of Influence magazine and your host. Amy Farley is an ordained Assemblies of God minister; senior pastor of an international church in Southeast Asia; and a survivor of sexual violence.

She’ll bring her unique perspective to bear on this topic in today’s podcast.

 

This episode of the Influence Podcast is brought to you by My Healthy Church, distributors of Sticky Lessons, part of the Momentum Training Series.

Get the tips you need to teach lessons that stick in kids’ memories, are thought about over and over again in quiet moments, and get discussed at kitchen tables.

For more information visit MomentumTrainingSeries.com.

A Little Book for New Preachers | Book Review


Matthew D. Kim is associate professor of preaching and ministry at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in South Hamilton, Massachusetts, as well as director of its Haddon W. Robinson Center for Preaching. He describes A Little Book for New Preachers as “a primer or introduction to preaching focusing on the characteristics of what makes for effective sermons and faithful preachers” (p. 14). Kim divides his material into three parts:

  1. Why Study Preaching?
  2. Characteristics of Faithful Preaching
  3. Characteristics of Faithful Preachers

In a cultural era in which preaching is often denigrated, Kim makes a case for both the practice and formal study of preaching in Part One. After outlining several reasons for preaching, Kim concludes: “Preaching is essential to the life of God’s people because understanding and applying the Word of God is essential” (p. 52). The goal of preaching, in other words, is “to make disciples” (p. 44, cf. Matthew 28:19–20). Preaching is not the only way to do this, of course, but the Church has long found it to be an important, if not the most important way to do it.

Part Two turns to three characteristics of “faithful preaching: interpretation, cultural exegesis, and application. The material on interpretation and application is good. I especially appreciated the chapter on cultural exegesis, however. “Every congregation consists of people from different personal experiences, cultures, and backgrounds,” Kim writes, “even if outwardly they seem homogeneous” (p. 72). And that applies doubly outside a church’s four walls. The goal of cultural exegesis is “not to compete with the culture but rather to comprehend it for the sake of effective proclamation of God’s Word” (p. 73). I encourage pastors to pay attention to this chapter especially, and to consider reading Kim’s longer book, Preaching with Cultural Intelligence (Baker Academic). Those of us who preach need to know the cultural blind spots we all too often have when reading and preaching the Bible.

Finally, Part Three identifies three qualities preachers need to have to be effective: being pastoral and loving, being a person of character and integrity, and being prayerful and Spirit-led. “Preaching ability and charisma are inadequate to sustain a long-term, fruit-yielding ministry,” Kim writes (p. 106). Character is needed. In its absence, preachers are tempted to “fall into various destructive patterns of sin, which abruptly curtail their ministries and hurt their families and congregations” (p. 107). At the end of the day, the quality of the preacher matters as much as the quality of his or her sermons. Your whole speaks, not just your words.

Although Kim wrote his Little Book for “new preachers,” old preachers—which includes me—can read the book profitably as a refresher on homiletical basics.

Book Reviewed
Matthew D. Kim, A Little Book for New Preachers: Why and How to Study Homiletics (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2020).

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

How to Improve Your Preaching in 2020 | Influence Podcast


Preaching and teaching God’s Word is an essential skill in pastoral ministry, whether you’re a senior pastor, youth pastor, children’s pastor, or the like. As with any skill, your preaching can improve with intentional practice. In Episode 205 of the Influence Podcast, I talk with Matthew Kim about how to improve your preaching in 2020.

I’m George P. Wood, executive editor of Influence magazine and your host.

My guest is associate professor of preaching and ministry at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in South Hamilton, Massachusetts, as well as director of its Haddon W. Robinson Center for Preaching. He is author of A Little Book for New Preachers (IVP Academic) and Preaching with Cultural Intelligence (Baker Academic), among other books.

This episode of the Influence Podcast is brought to you by My Healthy Church, distributors of Balanced Budget, Balanced Life:

People don’t plan on having money troubles, which is exactly the problem: they don’t plan! Rollie Dimos shows you how to make a biblically sound financial plan and stick to it. Get back the time and resources you need to stop stressing out about money, and start enjoying the balance of a truly abundant life.

For more information visit BalancedBudgetBalancedLife.com.

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: