In a 2019 article for InfluenceMagazine.com, Mark Entzminger wrote: “[A] poorly designed or implemented safety plan can not only damage the church’s reputation in the community but, more importantly, it can also damage the heart and spirit of a child for a lifetime.”
He was talking about emotional, physical, and sexual abuse, but what he said also applies to the spiritual life of a child. There is such a thing as spiritual abuse, and it’s the job of church leaders to keep their kids spiritually safe.
I’m George P. Wood, executive editor of Influence magazine and your host. In this episode of the Influence Podcast, I’m talking to Mark Entzminger about why churches must put the spiritual safety of their kids first and how they can do so. Entzminger is national director of Children’s Ministries for the Assemblies of God (USA).
“While God can (and does) interact with individuals in a vacuum,” writes Don Everts, “he often uses the household as a reliable laboratory for discipleship.”
In this episode of the Influence Podcast, I’m talking to Everts about three characteristics of spiritually vibrant homes. This conversation arises from his book, The Spiritually Vibrant Home, published earlier this year by InterVarsity Press.
Don Everts is a writer for Lutheran Hour Ministries and associate pastor at Bonhomme Presbyterian Church in St. Louis, Missouri.
This episode of the Influence Podcast is brought to you by the Assemblies of God, publisher of the Church Relaunch Kit.
For more than a month, public health orders have closed church doors through the United States in order to slow the spread of the coronavirus pandemic. When those order are lifted, don’t just re-open your church, relaunch it! The Church Relaunch Kit offers church leaders valuable insights about relaunching your church’s ministries to the community.
To download this free resource, as well as other related resources for your church, go to COVID19.AG.org.
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, which according to Comer is “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.
In this episode of the Influence Podcast, I’m talking to John Mark Comer about how to ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life and ministry. I’m George P. Wood, executive editor of Influence magazine and your host.
John Mark Comer is pastor for teaching and vision at Bridgetown Church in Portland, Oregon, whose mission is to practice the way of Jesus, together, in Portland. He is also author of The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry, published by Waterbrook.
“Americans today are less involved in spiritual conversations than we were twenty-five years ago,” writes Don Everts in his new book, The Reluctant Witness. In this episode of the Influence Podcast, I talk to Everts about why this is the case and what we need to do to have better spiritual conversations.
Don Everts is a writer for Lutheran Hour Ministries and associate pastor at Bonhomme Presbyterian Church in St. Louis, Missouri. He is also author of several books about evangelism, most recently, The Reluctant Witness: Discovering the Delight of Spiritual Conversations, published by IVP Books.
For free online resources about how to engage in better spiritual conversations, go here.
And to read my review of The Reluctant Witness, go here. If you like my review, please click “Helpful.”
“Too often,” writes Donna Barrett, “prayer looks like an activity on a sports field. You know, a select group of athletes make up two teams who are in fantastic shape, well-practiced, and highly trained. They do their thing at such a level of expertise that the spectators in the stands are awed and amazed. Though a fan may toss the ball around in their backyard, that person knows full well they can’t play at the level of the pros down on the field.”
In this episode of the Influence Podcast, Influence magazine’s executive editor, George P. Wood, talks to Rev. Donna Barrett about how to level the prayingfield so that everyone in a church can pray. Barrett is general secretary of the Assemblies of God (USA) and author of Leveling the Praying Field: Helping Every Person Talk to God and Hear from God, published by Gospel Publishing House.
P.S. Here is a linkto Ken Sande’s Relational Wisdom website, which was discussed in this podcast.
If Christian book publishing trends are any indication, contemplative spirituality is a hot topic among Christian readers — hotin the dual sense that it arouses intense interest as well as intense opposition. Proponents claim it is an ancient Christian practice capable of deepening a person’s love for God and neighbor. Opponents counterclaim that it is biblically subpar, smacks of medieval Catholicism, and opens the door to New Age mysticism.
In this episode of the Influence Podcast, I’m talking to John Coe and Kyle Strobel about whether contemplative spirituality is Christian, and if so, how. Coe and Strobel are professors at Biola University in La Mirada, California. Both are active in the university’s Institute for Spiritual Formation, Coe as the director and Strobel as a teacher. They are the editors of Embracing Contemplation: Reclaiming a Christian Spiritual Practice, published by IVP Academic earlier this year.
“We are all living according to a specific regimen of habits,” writes Justin Whitmel Earley, “and those habits shape most of our life.” Even more, “they form our hearts.” In The Common Rule, Earley outlines a “rule of life” or “program of habits” to help readers fulfill the biblical commandment to love God and neighbor (Matthew 22:34–40).
Earley calls this program “the common rule” because it has to do with “common practice by common people.” Its focus on laity rather than clergy distinguishes it from the well-known “rules” of Benedict or Augustine, although its basic purpose is the same as theirs. The common rule consists of eight habits, four daily and four weekly.
The daily habits are:
kneeling prayer three times a day,
one meal with others,
one hour with the phone off,
and Scripture before phone.
The weekly habits are:
one hour of vulnerable conversation with a friend,
curate media to four hours,
fasting from something for 24 hours,
and setting aside a day for sabbath.
Earley distinguishes the habits along two other spectrums. The first spectrum pertains to whether the habit helps us love God (sabbath, fasting, prayer, and Scripture before phone) or love our neighbors (meals, conversation, phone off, curated media). The second spectrum has to do with embracing the good (sabbath, prayer, meals, and conversation) or resisting the evil (fasting, Scripture before phone, phone off, and curated media).
One of Earley’s crucial insights throughout the book is that our habits reflect (and reinforce) our beliefs. He cites the early years of his career as a mergers-and-acquisitions lawyer as a cautionary tale. To keep pace with his colleagues, to take just one example, he would pick up his phone to check his emails and formulate replies even before getting out of bed. As he thought about why he did this, he came to realize that he was drawing his identity and worth from others’ opinions of him. “Unless I’m well regarded in the office, I’m not worth anything,” he writes, describing that period.
By contrast, when he began to practice the daily habit of reading Scripture before picking up his phone, he began to draw his identity and worth from a different source. “Daily immersion in the Scriptures resists the anxiety of emails, the anger of news, and the envy of social media. Instead it forms us daily in our true identity as children of the King, dearly loved.”
Our habits, then, are what Earley calls “liturgies of belief.” Regardless of what we say we believe or value, habits reveal what we really believe and really value. “Our habits often obscure what we’re really worshiping,” Earley warns, “but that doesn’t mean we’re not worshiping something. The question is, what are we worshiping?”
That’s an excellent question, one that all eight habits of the common rule force us to face as we examine our habitual behaviors.
I highly recommend The Common Rule. It is a helpful little volume that will repay careful reading and re-reading, especially if you start putting its habits into practice. The book can be read individually, but perhaps the best way to read it is in a group whose goal is to grow in love for God and neighbor together.
Book Reviewed Justin Whitmel Earley, The Common Rule: Habits of Purpose for an Age of Distraction (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Books, 2019).
Kurt Vonnegut included a philosophy joke in one of his novels. It looked like this:
“To be is to do.” — Socrates
“To do is to be.” — Jean-Paul Sartre
“Do be do be do.” — Frank Sinatra
I can’t vouch for Vonnegut’s take on Socrates or Sartre, but I will say this: Any person who can be as well as they do lives as well as Sinatra could sing.
Ken Shigematsu opens Survival Guide for the Soul by distinguishing between doing and being. Drawing on an insight about Genesis 1–2 by Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik, Shigematsu speaks of “Striving Adam” and “Soulful Adam.” These are not two different Adams, but two different ways of describing tendencies within all people. “One part of us strives to impact the world around us through our work and effort,” he writes. That’s doing. “And another part of us seeks soulful connection through relationships with people and by experiencing ultimate reality.” That’s being.
Ideally, we should keep our striving and our soulfulness together. But in the modern world, which emphasizes achievement, fame and success, Striving Adam has the upper hand, and Soulful Adam gets shoved aside. In response, we need to reemphasize meaning, not so that we can ignore achievement, but so that we can bring our striving back into balance with our soulfulness.
As Christians, Shigematsu argues, soulfulness begins and ends with understanding that we are God’s beloved. “Knowing that we are deeply loved by our Creator frees us to pursue a life of significant, enduring achievement — a life that is not driven by fear and anxiety but one that springs from a deep well of joy and gratitude for the love and grace God has shown us.”
At a surface level, all Christians know that God loves them. It’s written in black and white on the pages of Scripture. It’s painted blood red on the cross of Christ. But that surface knowledge too often doesn’t make it into the deep parts of our souls, where our emotions and passions govern. To move knowledge of God’s love from our heads to our hearts, we need spiritual disciplines.
Shigematsu discusses seven spiritual disciplines — he calls them “survival habits of the soul” — throughout the book. They are meditation, Sabbath, gratitude, simple abundance, servanthood, friendship and vocation. Each of these is a way of tuning out and tuning in. Tuning out worldly voices that tell us we are only as good as what we achieve, and tuning in to God’s voice that tells us we are truly and deeply loved.
“May you live more and more fully into the knowledge that the Creator of the universe cherishes you as a son or daughter,” writes Shigematsu at the book’s end.
That’s a good prayer for every soulful striver.
Book Reviewed Ken Shigematsu, Survival Guide for the Soul: How to Flourish Spiritually in a World That Pressures Us to Achieve (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2018).
“Superficiality is the curse of our age,” writes Richard J. Foster in Celebration of Discipline. “The desperate need for today is…deep people.” These words ring as true in 2018 as they did in 1978 when Celebration of Discipline was first published. And spiritual disciplines are still the way to produce depth. As Foster summarizes the matter in the book’s new Foreword, spiritual disciplines are “the means God uses to build in us an inner person that is characterized by peace and joy and freedom.” If you’re looking for help in overcoming the superficiality and distractedness of the current age, start with this book, which is forty years young.
Book Reviewed Richard J. Foster, Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth, 4th ed. (San Francisco: HarperOne, 2018).