How to Settle Your Soul After an Unsettling Year | Influence Podcast


This past year was an unsettling one. I like to think of it as the Year of Three Ps: pandemic, protests, and politics. Each one fomented conflict, but taken together, they were a conflict force multiplier. And that doesn’t even taken into account the normal stressors we face every year.

How can followers of Jesus Christ experience settled souls in the midst of unsettling times? That’s the question I’m talking about with Dr. Jodi Detrick in this episode of the Influence Podcast. I’m George P. Wood, executive editor of Influence magazine and your host.

Dr. Detrick is a personal coach, public speaker, and most recently author of The Settled Soul: Tenaciously Abiding with a Tender God, published by Gospel Publishing House. An ordained Assemblies of God minister, she loves to talk to people at the heart level about things that matter most.

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

My Year in Podcasting | 2020


I host the weekly Influence Podcast. Below are the 35 conversations I hosted with a variety of Christian leaders this past year. For all episodes, visit InfluenceMagazine.com/Podcast.

And if you’re looking for past years’ podcasts, here are the links: 2019 Podcasts |  2018 Podcasts | 2017 Podcasts | 2016 Podcasts | 2015 Podcasts.

Episode 238. Diane Langberg, “Christ Used His Power Redemptively, and So Should We!”

Episode 237. Mark Batterson, “Seven Habits That Reduce Stress and Increase Productivity”

Episode 236. Gary Tyra, “The Dark Side of Discipleship”

Episode 235. David Docusen, “Becoming a Church that Crosses Racial and Economic Divides”

Episode 234. Priscilla Pope-Levison, “Eight Models of Evangelism”

Episode 233. Beth Grant and Crystal Martin, “Moving the Ministry of Women from Theology to Practice”

Episode 232. Chris Colvin and Dick Hardy, “Improving Your Preaching in the Coming Year”

Episode 231. Jeffery Portmann, “Pioneers, Settlers, and the Local Church”

Episode 230. Don Everts, “The Better Way of Neighborly Love”

Episode 229. Karl Vaters, “After COVID, What?”

Episode 228. Jason Sniff, “Taking Your Small Group to the Next Level”

Episode 227. Scott Sauls, “Outrage Culture vs. Gentle Jesus”

Episode 226. Joshua Chatraw, “A Better Way of Doing Apologetics”

Episode 225. Eric Kniffin, “Where Is the Supreme Court Going with Religious Freedom?”

Episode 224. Mark DeYmaz, “The Multiethnic Church as a Solution to Racism”

Episode 223. Mark Entzminger, “How to Make Your Church Spiritually Safe for Kids”

Episode 222. Alex Bryant, “What Racial Reconciliation Requires”

Episode 221. Tim Enloe, “Baptism in the Holy Spirit”

Episode 220. John Davidson, “How to Relaunch Your Church”

Episode 219. Chuck DeGroat, “The Narcissistic Leader”

Episode 218. Jay Kim, “After Digital Church, What?”

Episode 217. Don Everts, “Messy Prayers, Loud Tables, and Open Doors”

Episode 216. Alan Ehler, “How to Make Big Decisions Wisely”

Episode 215. John Davidson, “How to Lead When Your Church Is Closed”

Episode 214. Jason Thacker, “What Christians Should Know about Artificial Intelligence”

Episode 213. Joe Dallas, “When Someone You Love Is Gay”

Episode 212. Dr. Brandon Crowe, “A Biblical Approach to Productivity”

Episode 211. John Mark Comer, “How to Ruthlessly Eliminate Hurry from Your Life and Ministry”

Episode 210. Meghan Musy, “How to Read Proverbs for Preaching”

Episode 209. Dan Busby and Warren Bird, “What Effective Board Governance Looks Like”

Episode 208. Tommy Barnett, “The Power of ‘What If?'”

Episode 207. Doug Clay, “What’s Happening in the Assemblies of God Today?”

Episode 206. Amy Farley, “Ministry in the Aftermath of Sexual Violence”

Episode 205. Matthew Kim, “How to Improve Your Preaching in 2020”

Episode 204. Scott Wilson, “Setting Your Church’s Agenda with Prayer”

Christ Used His Power Redemptively, and So Should We! | Influence Podcast


“Jesus uses his power to protect, to expose, and to restore dignity,” writes Dr. Diane Langberg in her book, Redeeming Power. “He calls his people to be in the world using our power under his authority, displaying his character by speaking truth, shedding light, and tending and protecting the vulnerable. How does this become a reality in the lives of individual Christ followers?”

That’s the question I’m exploring with Dr. Langberg in this episode of the Influence Podcast, the final episode of the 2020 season. I’m George P. Wood, executive editor of Influence magazine and your host.

Dr. Diane Langberg is an internationally recognized psychologist and experienced counselor. She directs her own counseling practice, cofounded the Global Trauma Recovery Institute at Missio Seminary in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and serves on the board of GRACE (Godly Response to Abuse in a Christian Environment). Her most recent book is Redeeming Power: Understanding Authority and Abuse in the Church, published by Brazos Press.

P.S. I reviewed Dr. Langberg’s Redeeming Power here. If you like my review, please click “Helpful” on my Amazon review page.

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

Harnessing the Power of Tension | Book Review


Sam Chand argues that “tension is both inevitable and, at least in many cases, desirable in life and leadership.” If his argument seems counterintuitive to you, Harnessing the Power of Tension is a must read. Rather than avoiding tension, Chand counsels leaders to lean into it in order to experience the synergy that results from balancing competing interests and concerns. Leaning into tension doesn’t mean allowing destructive conflict, however. Properly managed, tension leads to greater creativity, teamwork, and productivity, whether at home, business, or church.

Book Reviewed
Samuel R. Chand, Harnessing the Power of Tension: Stretched But Not Broken (Stockbridge, GA: Whitaker House, 2020).

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

Becoming a Church that Crosses Racial and Economic Divides | Influence Podcast


Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “It is appalling that the most segregated hour of Christian America is 11 o’clock on Sunday morning.”

King said this about race in 1963, but it is still largely true today. According to sociologist Michael O. Emerson, a multiracial or multiethnic church is one in which at least 20% of attendees do not belong to the majority race or ethnicity. In 2019, just 23% of churches crossed that threshold.

And there is evidence of a growing class divide in church attendance, with working class Americans less likely to attend church than middle class Americans, at least among whites.

The questions pastors and other church leaders need to ask themselves is this: Does this concern me? And what can I do about it? Those are two questions, among others, that I am asking David Docusen in this episode of the Influence Podcast.

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

David Docusen is author of Neighborliness: Finding the Beauty of God Across Dividing Lines. A credentialed Assemblies of God minister, he has 20 years of ministry experience as a pastor, church planter, and community developer.

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Tempered Resilience | Book Review


Leadership is difficult under the best of circumstances. Under the worst of circumstances — say, a global pandemic combined with state-mandated lockdowns — it can push leaders to the breaking point. To avoid breaking, leaders need to develop resilience.

According to Tod Bolsinger, resilience “is not about becoming smarter or tougher; it’s about becoming stronger and more flexible.” In his new book, Tempered Resilience, Bolsinger outlines  for Christian leaders “a process of reflection, relationships, and practices during the act of leading that form resilience to continue leading when the resistance is highest.”

Bolsinger is a speaker, executive coach, former pastor, and author who serves as associate professor of leadership formation and senior fellow for the De Pree Center for Leadership at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California.

He begins the book by defining leadership as “the transformation and growth of a people — starting with the leader — to develop the resilience and adaptive capacity to wisely cut through resistance and accomplish the mission of the group.” This is a helpful definition for two reasons.

First, in the context of a local church, this understanding of leadership reminds pastors their job is to accomplish the mission of the community they lead. Their job, according to Ephesians 4:12, is to “to equip [Christ’s] people for works of service.” Leadership, in other words, is not so much what the leader does, but what others do because of what the leader does.

Second, Bolsinger’s definition emphasizes the development of character, especially in the leader. Leading people through change is not a connect-the-dots picture. Anyone can draw a line from 1 to 2, 2 to 3, 3 to 4, and so on. Real life is not that simple. There are neither numbers nor dots. So leadership must focus on the development of the character of the leader.

That character is tested when the people begin to resist change. And people always resist change. When they encounter resistance, leaders often experience “failure of nerve” or “failure of heart.”

Bolsinger contrasts those two failures this way: “If failure of nerve is being too soft and accommodating to lead change, then failure of heart is becoming so hardened and brittle that leading the change process is changing the leader for the worse.” Resilience is the ability to bend but not break

So, how do leaders develop that capacity?

Using the forge as a metaphor, Bolsinger describes resilient leadership development as an ongoing, fourfold process of “heating, holding, hammering, and tempering.” If you’ve ever seen blacksmiths at work, this process is easy to picture in your mind. Blacksmiths place an ingot of steel in the fire, grab hold of it with tongs to pull it out, hammer it against the anvil, then stick it back in the fire. Then they repeat the process.

Applied to leadership rather than steel, the forging process looks like this:

  • heating “through leading and reflection”;
  • holding “through personal and professional relationships”;
  • hammering “through spiritual practices and the practice of leadership”; and
  • tempering “through rest and slow release of leadership responsibilities.”

Notice that in the heating and hammering phases of the process, resilient leaders emerge “through leading” and through “the practice of leadership.” There are some things you can only learn by doing them. Leadership is one of them. Resilient leaders lead by leading and then by learning from their successes and failures.

This past year has been difficult for many reasons: impeachment, pandemic, civil unrest, natural disasters, a presidential election. It has left many hoping next year will run its course more quickly and smoothly.

Without claiming the mantle of a prophet, however, I wonder whether American churches will face different but equally challenging circumstances in the coming year. What if church members have grown accustomed to not attending church and don’t come back? What about the increasing numbers of “nones” who have neither a formal religious affiliation nor a felt need to get one? What about a culture that seems increasingly post-Christian, and in some cases even anti-Christian?

How will all these challenges — and many, many more — affect the cause of Christ in America?

I can’t answer that question. But I can say with a high degree of confidence that those churches that thrive in challenging times will be led by resilient pastors who bend with the circumstances, but never break from the gospel. Those churches will adapt and grow.

That being the case, you might want to read Bolsinger’s book.

Book Reviewed
Tod Bolsinger, Tempered Resilience: How Leaders Are Formed in the Crucible of Change (Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 2020).

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

P.P.S. This review originally appeared at InfluenceMagazine.com.

Moving the Ministry of Women from Theology to Practice | Influence Podcast


This podcast begins with a paradox: On the one hand, the Assemblies of God recognizes the credentialed ministry of women at whatever level God has called and empowered them. On the other hand, AG women often face barriers to ministry leadership simply because they are women.

In this podcast, I’m talking with Beth Grant and Crystal Martin about how to resolve this paradox, that is, about how to move the ministry of women from something we affirm theologically to something we practice routinely.

I’m George P. Wood, executive editor of Influence magazine and your host. Beth Grant is co-founder and executive director of Project Rescue, an international ministry to survivors of sex trafficking; an executive presbyter of the Assemblies of God; and author of Courageous Compassion: Confronting Social Injustice God’s Way. Crystal Martin is director of the Assemblies of God’s Network of Women Ministers, director of Cross-Cultural Missions for Chi Alphacampus ministry, and associate pastor of Central Assembly in Springfield, Missouri. Both women are ordained Assemblies of God ministers.

Pioneers, Settlers, and the Local Church | Influence Podcast


“God calls people to pioneer,” says Jeffery Portmann, “and simultaneously He calls others to become settlers.” Portmann isn’t talking about the settlement of new frontiers, however. He’s talking about ministry through the local church.

In this episode of the Influence Podcast, I’m talking to Portmann about why the Church needs both pioneers and settlers, as well as how best to be one or the other.

I’m George P. Wood, executive editor of Influence magazine and your host. Jeffery Portmann is executive director of the Church Multiplication Network, the church planting arm of the Assemblies of God (USA). He authored “Developing Leaders from Within” in the July/August 2020 issue of Influence magazine.

After COVID, What? | Influence Podcast


“With the massive disruptions we’re facing as a result of the COVID-19 crisis of 2020 and beyond, the problems could not be more disruptive or obvious,” writes Karl Vaters. “From the lockdowns, to the unspeakable pain of the illness and death of loved ones, to the colossal financial upheavals, it is likely that we’ve never faced such a long-term disruption in our lifetimes, possibly even surpassing those that resulted from the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.”

In this episode of the Influence Podcast, I’m talking to Karl Vaters about what churches—especially smaller churches—can do to recover from the massive disruptions of the COVID pandemic. I’m George P. Wood, executive editor of Influence magazine and your host.

Karl Vaters is teaching pastor at Cornerstone Christian Fellowship in Fountain Valley, California; a small-church leadership guru; and author of The Church Recovery Guide, published by Moody. (He’s also a longtime friend and fellow Assemblies of God minister.) He blogs regularly at KarlVaters.com.

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

Leading Small Groups That Thrive | Book Review


I vividly remember the first small group I led. It was Sunday morning, I was a seminarian in my early twenties, and I was wearing a suit. (Men still did that in the early 1990s.) I arranged metal folding chairs in a circle, welcomed the attendees, and spent the next 45 minutes lecturing them.

When it was over, a woman asked if every session would be a repeat of that morning’s performance. I took umbrage at what I perceived to be her questioning of my teaching abilities. She didn’t return for the second session. After a couple of months, nobody else did either.

The group failed, but it wasn’t the group’s fault. It was mine. I had not led the group well.

John Maxwell says that everything rises and falls on leadership. That sounds pretty egotistical, until you remember that he also defines leadership as influence. A true leader influences others. Or, as Howard Hendricks has put it, “Your measure as a leader is not what you do, but what others do because of what you do.” A leader catalyzes change in others.

In Leading Small Groups That Thrive, Ryan T. Hartwig, Courtney W. Davis, and Jason A. Sniff identify five things catalytic small group leaders can do to “maximize the benefits that result from thriving, transformational group experiences.”

Hartwig and Davis are social science professors at Christian universities, and Sniff is a small groups pastor at a multisite church in Illinois. Their interest in effective small group leadership flows out of transformational experiences each of them had in small group settings.

What makes Leading Small Groups That Thrive unique is its original research. The authors surveyed approximately 1,000 small groups members, leaders, and pastors. They used Steve Gladen’s “Spiritual Health Assessment” as a baseline questionnaire, but they also asked members questions about group practices such as time commitment, conflict, and leader characteristics. Small group leaders were asked additional questions about issues such as small group priorities, leadership development, and commitment to the group.

Some of their findings are counterintuitive. For example:

  • “The more time a group spends in prayer, the less a group contributes to its members’ spiritual growth. In contrast, the more time the leader spends in prayer, the more the group contributes to spiritual growth.”
  • “The more time a group worships together and talks through logistics and announcements, the more it contributes to its members’ spiritual growth.”
  • “Groups that place less emphasis on discipleship see more spiritual growth among their members.”
  • “The most effective groups were either really small (fewer than eight members) or pretty big (more than seventeen members).”
  • “Newer groups that had been meeting for less than three months contributed the most to individual spiritual growth. … On the other hand, we discovered that outstanding group practices can counteract the decline in impact that occurs as groups age.”

These counterintuitive research findings are interesting, of course, but the heart of the book is a research-based model of five actions catalytic small group leaders take. They 1) articulate purpose, 2) set the stage, 3) cultivate shared ownership, 4) stimulate meaningful conversations, and 5) embrace difficult conversations.

Each of these points is worth discussing at length, but since I started this review with my personal failure to stimulate meaning conversation among my small group members, let me park there for a few paragraphs.

The problem with the way I led my first small group is that I felt my job was “dispensing information” rather than “facilitating transformation,” as the authors put it. “In the most effective groups,” they write, “members contributed equally to discussion and talked among themselves, rather than speaking solely to the leader.” This discuss-among-yourselves approach works because it turns members from passive listeners to active participants. Everyone now has an informational and relational stake in the conversation.

Interestingly, such robust discussion resists the tendency of older groups to become less effective: “when groups engage in high-quality discussions, they can almost entirely counteract the decay they would otherwise experience over time. Simply put, quality discussion creates continued spiritual growth.”

The authors go on to offer detailed, practical advice about how to ask better questions in a strategic sequence, how to set up the room for better discussion, and how to facilitate the conversation with purpose and flexibility. I do not doubt that my first small group would’ve been much more effective had I followed the authors’ advice. Unfortunately, I had to learn these lessons through trial and error, but you can learn those lessons better from this book.

I’ve focused on better discussion because this was where I failed my first small group, but Hartwig, Davis and Sniff’s book offers sound advice about all the topics it addresses. If you’re a small group leader, or want to be one, or if you’re a small groups pastor who wants to provide a good resource to your leaders, I recommend Leading Small Groups That Thrive.

Book Reviewed
Ryan T. Hartwig, Courtney W. Davis, and Jason A. Sniff, Leading Small Groups That Thrive: Five Shifts to Take Your Group to the Next Level (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2020).

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.

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