Thursday’s Influence Online Articles

Today, over at

  • Chris Colvin suggests five habits for getting out of the ministry bubble.
  • Mike McCrary offers four suggestions about how to finance your church plant. Mike is a friend and new colleague at the Assemblies of God national office. He is director of funding for the Church Multiplication Network.
  • John Davidson interviews Nick Wiersma of Convoy of Hope about how your church should respond to disaster.

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#InfluencePodcast with Hal Donaldson

Over at, my Influence Podcast with Hal Donaldson is up. Hal is cofounder and president of Convoy of Hope and a friend. He’s also author, with Kirk Noonan, of Your Next 24 Hours, just out from Baker Books. We talk about why America needs more kindness and how the Church can take the lead in being kind.

Take a listen to the podcast! My review of the book is here.

Review of ‘Your Next 24 Hours’ by Hal Donaldson

Kathleen Connors unwittingly started a chain reaction of kindness when she paid for a family’s meal at the L&M Diner in Barre, Vermont. Over the next 24 hours, 46 other patrons paid it forward and purchased meals anonymously for other customers. Connors found out that “kindness is seldom followed by a period,” Hal Donaldson writes. “One act of kindness can be the opening sentence in a volume of goodwill.”

Donaldson is president of Convoy of Hope, which he cofounded with his siblings in 1994. Since then, Convoy has distributed $1 billion of food and emergency supplies to 80 million people in the U.S. and around the world. He and his siblings were the beneficiaries of the kindness of church folk who took them in when their dad was killed and their mom seriously injured in a drunk-driving accident. “Out of anger and bitterness,” he writes, “we could have chosen a life of crime or greed.” Instead, out of thankful hearts, a charity was founded that has brought help and hope to millions.”

We often hear stories of random acts of kindness. The challenge Donaldson poses in Your Next 24 Hours is to make the day before you “day one of a more rewarding life” (emphasis in original). To help you do that, he offers 22 short chapters about how kindness can make a lasting difference in your home, workplace, school, and community. Each chapter ends with “Kind Ways,” action steps to put kindness in action. The book is written winsomely, with stories from popular culture illustrating biblical principles about kindness, gratitude, and the power of hope.

I’m a friend of Hal’s and a fan of Convoy of Hope, so I’m happy to recommend both him and the organization he leads. But I also thoroughly enjoyed this book and the advice it offers about how to make acts of kindness a nonrandom part of each day.

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

P.P.S. This review originally appeared at and it is republished with permission.

The World Wide Religious Web for Friday, January 13, 2012

HAPPY FRIDAY THE 13TH! Do you suffer friggatriskaidekaphobia (aka, paraskevidekatriaphobia)?

LAW OR GOSPEL? Why the Bible Is Not a Book of Laws.

But I don’t believe the Bible is fundamentally a moral power tool. The Bible is not a law book as much as it is a gift book, not so much about living right as about being right with God because of what he has done for us in Jesus Christ.


So, again: Jefferson Bethke is on to something good and right. But we are on to something good and right to make the right distinctions, lest we put ourselves in the Pharisaical place of saying “I thank you God I’m not like those religious people.”

AN OPEN LETTER: Marriage and Religious Freedom: Fundamental Goods That Stand or Fall Together.

In short, the refusal of these religious organizations to treat a same-sex sexual relationship as if it were a marriage marked them and their members as bigots, subjecting them to the full arsenal of government punishments and pressures reserved for racists. These punishments will only grow more frequent and more severe if civil “marriage” is redefined in additional jurisdictions. For then, government will compel special recognition of relationships that we the undersigned religious leaders and the communities of faith that we represent cannot, in conscience, affirm. Because law and government not only coerce and incentivize but also teach, these sanctions would lend greater moral legitimacy to private efforts to punish those who defend marriage.

Therefore, we encourage all people of good will to protect marriage as the union between one man and one woman, and to consider carefully the far-reaching consequences for the religious freedom of all Americans if marriage is redefined. We especially urge those entrusted with the public good to support laws that uphold the time-honored definition of marriage, and so avoid threatening the religious freedom of countless institutions and citizens

WHERE TO BEGIN… The Trouble with Ed Young’s Rooftop Sexperiment.

Such “over the top” moments—and was there ever a more apt time for the description?—are troubling indicators of our woefully deficient discipleship patterns on matters of marriage and sexuality. The problems that the Youngs are trying to address are, alas, very real. Yet as is often the case, their solution is at best incomplete.

THOUGHTS ABOUT HAITI RELIEF: When “Effectiveness” Is Not Effective.

As the months and years wind on, we must continue this work of love and care, work that often seems—earthly-speaking—to accomplish too little. Perhaps now more than ever, we must remain faithful to our work there; now that the news cameras have left and the initial wave of relief teams has gone home. We must continue working hard to bring effective and efficient solutions to the problems Haitians face—designing effective programs, monitoring them well, and holding ourselves accountable to bringing results that are in our power to bring, and praying fervently for this troubled country. And we must also be willing to be reckless in offering the eternal things of love, gratitude, and kindness.

Meanwhile, why not give to Convoy of Hope?

SCARY, BUT TRUE: Justin Bieber’s Ecce Home.

It is entirely possible that Justin has more of an influence in the young-person-you-love’s life than any clergyperson — living or dead — does. That sounds scandalous, I know, but it’s true.

FAITH & POLITICS: “An Awakening of Conservative Christians”: Rick Santorum on Faith and Politics.

FORTY PERCENT: Conservatives Remain the Largest Ideological Group in U.S.

FINALLY: Kardashians no longer sought-after celebrities, insiders say.

HEH: My Faulty Moral Standards (Which I’d Like to Think are Better than Yours).

The World Wide Religious Web for Thursday, January 12, 2012

PERSECUTED IRANIAN CHRISTIANS: Wood personally requests release of Iranian pastors, church members.

After paying respect to the country of Iran through recognizing its prominent reference in the Bible, Wood states his letter is born out of concern for followers of Jesus who are being detained for reasons that violate the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that Iran has signed. He then requests the release of Rev. Farhad Sabok Rouh; his wife, Shahnaz Jizani; and two other members of the Assembly of God in Ahvaz, Iran, who were arrested on December 23, 2011. Wood follows this request by asking for the release of Rev. Youcef Nardarkhani, who has been held since October 2009 and faces execution.

RELATED: With the Help of God They Dare… by yours truly.

HAITI, TWO YEARS LATER: God and Suffering: Remembering the Haitian Earthquake of January 2010. And you can do something to feed Haitian children by donating to Convoy of Hope.

UNANIMOUS DECISION: Church Wins Firing Case at Supreme Court.

“This is a huge win for religious liberty,” said Douglas Laycock, a University of Virginia Law School professor who represented the church at the Supreme Court’s oral arguments in October. “The Court has unanimously confirmed the right of churches to select their own ministers and religious leaders. It has unanimously held that the courts cannot inquire into whether the church had religious reasons for its decisions concerning a minister. The longstanding unanimity in the lower courts has now been confirmed by unanimity in the Supreme Court.”

See also What Comes After Hosanna-Tabor, The Administration’s Embarrassment.

IN OTHER RELIGIOUS FREEDOM NEWS: Court Deems Sharia Law Ban “Unconstitutional.”

This fight over the Oklahoma Sharia law ban isn’t over by a long shot, but this decision definitely highlights its futility. If Sharia opponents can’t name a single instance of Islamic law being used in the state courts, what exactly is the point of banning it — beyond vague and unsubstantiated fears?

THE SCANDAL OF THE EVANGELICAL MIND? Service Is Not Scandal: Responding to Mark Noll.

Instead of taking a tradition-building approach to intellectual life, I hope we evangelical scholars celebrate and deepen our current practices: teaching undergraduates, popularizing academic insights, working directly to change the world through service and applied research, and offering institutional and personal support to the small number of evangelical scholars who excel at theoretical and basic research. And along with all this, we should continue to worship and serve through our churches, provide hands-on care to our loved ones, and do good works in the world. From the vantage point of the modern academic prestige structure, this may not look like an exemplary life of the mind, but it may be one way to enjoy “the life that truly is life” (1 Tim. 6:19). In a time in which work tends to overtake life, an approach that both relishes the intellect and keeps it in its place is a pearl of great price, and we should display it readily even in settings where it is not recognized as such.

PENTECOSTALS & THE NATURALISM BIAS: Counting Christian Noses. (By the way, what’s up with the photo of snake handlers? These people aren’t representative of Pentecostals.)

Behind all the numbers collected so assiduously by Lugo, Johnson et al. looms a vast challenge to the taken-for-granted naturalism in Europe and North America: The majority of global Christians (and, needless to say, the majority of all religious people in the world) question this naturalism, and behave accordingly. Will this challenge diminish with greater affluence and higher education?  Possibly.  Thus far it doesn’t look like it. Thus it would seem that an important dialogue is still outstanding.

PROBABLY NOT, BUT IT’S STILL BAD: Presidential Politics at Its Worst?

Just because American politics has always been uncivil and negative does not mean that we have to like it. Toxic political discourse and personal attacks might help candidates win elections, but it will not solve the multitude of problems that we face as a nation.

I am growing increasingly skeptical about whether a Christian can win a national election without compromising his or her faith. Humility, charity, and a commitment to the common good will not get anyone elected in our present political culture. Yet this is precisely what our culture needs. Unfortunately, such an approach to politics would probably come across as quite foolish to most Americans, including many Christians.

YEP: Be Missional, Not Superficially Contextual.


RELIGIOUS AFFECTIONS MEETS SURPRISED BY JOY: The Case for “Sense of the Heart” Apologetics.

WHAT A DIFFERENCE A DAY 10 YEARS MAKES: Ten Years of Changing Attitudes on Gay Marriage.

DON’T TELL MY MOM: Clothing Matters: What We Wear to Church.

BUMMED I DIDN’T MAKE THE LIST: Top Ten Sermons of 2011.

The World Wide (Religious) Web for Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Joe Carter writes, “There are three groups of people who consistently have a detrimental affect [sic] on American politics: Republicans, Democrats, and pollsters.” The post has nothing to do with religion, but you can’t beat its opening line.

Perhaps the problem is pols or pollsters, however, but the polled. In a separate post, Joe links to a Gallup survey which found that “Americans Believe There Are More Homosexuals in the U.S. Than There Are Catholics.” Joe blames TV.

Republicans, Democrats, pollsters, misinformed Americans, TV producers—that’s getting to be a pretty long list of groups who consistently have a detrimental effect on American politics.


Last week, an F5 tornado devastated the town of Joplin, Missouri, which is located about 70 miles from where I live. The Assemblies of God—my denomination—is involved in relief efforts there. My father, who is general superintendent of the AG, visited Joplin and interviewed local-area pastors and a Convoy of Hope representative about the AG’s relief efforts. Here’s the video:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

If you’d like to help Convoy of Hope by volunteering or by donating money, click here. Convoy has some excellent videos on their homepage.


Make sure to read David Brooks’s column, “It’s Not About You.” (Has he been reading The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren?) I loved the final paragraph:

Today’s grads enter a cultural climate that preaches the self as the center of a life. But, of course, as they age, they’ll discover that the tasks of a life are at the center. Fulfillment is a byproduct of how people engage their tasks, and can’t be pursued directly. Most of us are egotistical and most are self-concerned most of the time, but it’s nonetheless true that life comes to a point only in those moments when the self dissolves into some task. The purpose in life is not to find yourself. It’s to lose yourself.


David Bentley Hart won the 2011 Michael Ramsey Prize for his book, Atheist Delusions. It’s a great book, erudite, witty, and cutting in all the right places.


“Protestant, Catholic graduates differ.” Well, duh. They’re Protestant or Catholic, after all. More specifically, however: “The graduates of Protestant Christian schools have different traits than those who attend Catholic and non-religious private schools, U.S. researchers say.” What kinds of difference are we talking about?

  • Divorced less and had more children than their Catholic and private school peers.
  • Participated in more relief and development service trips.
  • Have lower incomes, but were more thankful for what they have in life.
  • Attended less competitive colleges and attended fewer years of college.
  • Talked less about politics, participated less in political campaigns and donated less to political causes.

Did anyone other than me notice that Protestants were “more thankful” and “talked less about politics”? Accidental correlation? Necessary causation? We report, you decide.


Shane Claiborne has this to say about the “emerging church”:

So all that to say, I find the “emerging church” language, at least the Emergent™ brand, utterly unhelpful. So I will not spend much energy, beyond this note, to try and defend, or for that matter destroy, what seems to me little more than a brand name for a product no one can identify. There are many great things that have come out of the “emerging church” discussions and communities. People have been reminded that discontentment is not a curse but a gift to the church. Many of the conversations have reminded people that they are not alone as they dream great dreams for the church. And that we have to constantly re-imagine what it means to be Christ’s body in our age and context — but no one needs a brand to dream those dreams.

I am shocked—shocked!—to say that I (mostly) agree with his assessment.


Over at First Thing’s Evangel blog, Gayle Trotter interviews Bryan Caplan about his new book: Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids: Why Being a Great Parent Is Less Work and More Fun Than You Think. My favorite bit is his response to Amy Chua, author of The Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother:

So in her book she says that on the one hand, as a dutiful Chinese daughter-in-law she could never actually argue with her mother-in-law, but nevertheless she said she had to ignore all her mother-in-law’s parenting advice because she knew that it was doomed to fail and I would have to say, “Why would you say that her advice is doomed to fail when your husband, her son, is a Yale law professor and a best-selling author?” Seems like that is a very strong piece of evidence against you that someone can raise a child in a way that you think is totally unacceptable and not only does he become a huge success, but you married him.

That last sentence is priceless.


Over at the online version of my magazine, my friend Joel Pertulla writes about reaching those who have walked away from the faith.


Religion and politics quick round (h/t RealClearReligion):

Update on Convoy of Hope Relief Efforts in Haiti

The Assemblies of God has been channelingThrough Convoy of Hope, the Assemblies of God has been channeling needed humanitarian resources to victims of the Haiti earthquake. In this video, Dr. George O. Wood (my dad) interviews Kary Kingsland about what’s happened so far.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

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