How to Read Proverbs for Preaching | Influence Podcast


When I went off to college, my mom concluded every letter she sent me by quoting Proverbs 3:5–6:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
and he will make your paths straight.

Those verses capture the essence of the Book of Proverbs. They teach us about God, our relationship to Him, and how we ought to live in a pithy, memorable way. Indeed, the whole book is filled with gems like this one. That probably explains why Proverbs is so popular with Christians.

And yet, anyone who has preached or taught from the book of Proverbs knows that it’s harder than it looks. This is especially true if you’re trying to organize an expository series on the book. In this episode of the Influence Podcast, I’m talking to Dr. Meghan Musy about how to read Proverbs for preaching. We’ll talk about both how to interpret individual proverbs as well as how to organize a sermon or series on the book.

I’m George P. Wood, executive editor of Influence Magazine and your host. Dr. Meghan Musy is an ordained Assemblies of God minister and assistant professor of Old Testament at Evangel University in Springfield, Missouri.

 

 

What Effective Board Governance Looks Like | Influence Podcast


“Church boards exist in all shapes and sizes, and they vary across theologies and tradition. But what if you compared those boards that view themselves as ‘effective’ against those who do not? What would you learn?”

That’s the question asked in Unleashing Your Church Board’s Potential, a new study by the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA). It’s also the question I’m asking Dan Busby and Warren Bird in Episode 209 of the Influence Podcast. I’m George P. Wood, executive editor of Influence magazine and your host.

Dan Busby and Warren Bird serve with ECFA, whose mission is “Enhancing trust in Christ-centered nonprofits.” Busby is president of ECFA,  and Bird is vice president of Research and Equipping. Both are published authors. Most recently, Busby coauthored More Lessons from the Nonprofit Boardroom with John Pearson, and Bird coauthored Liquid Churchwith Tim Lucas.

This episode of the Influence Podcast is brought to you by My Healthy Church, distributors of MEGA Sports Camp, a unique VBS that makes it easy to reach new families.

Children’s ministry leaders often feel frustrated and disappointed that their summer outreach program doesn’t bring in new kids. MEGA Sports Camp gives leaders a fun, unique summer outreach program so that they can welcome new families, engage new volunteers, and impact the community.

To find out more, visit MegaSportsCamp.com.

What If? | Book Review


“Throughout my life,” writes Tommy Barnett, “God has continually prodded and prompted me to ask, ‘What if?’” He continues, “Through all these years, ‘What if?’ has been quickly followed by ‘Why not?’ and then ‘Wow! God is doing amazing things.’” Barnett is Global Pastor of Dream City Church in Phoenix, Arizona, and founder of the Los Angeles Dream Center. What If? is the story of his life and ministry, and a reminder that the best way to learn how to lead is to observe how leaders live.

Book Reviewed
Tommy Barnett, What If? My Story of Believing God for More … Always More (Birmingham, AL: ARC Resources, 2020).

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

P.P.S. I interviewed Tommy Barnett for Episode 208 of the Influence Podcast. Take a listen!

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.

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