Gaining By Losing

Gaining by LosingGaining by losing … now that’s a foreign concept in our culture today, is it not? How do I gain if I lose something? It’s a foreign concept in the church as well. The American church, by and large, is all about attracting people to its building, building up a church and a big ministry, and growing, growing, growing. But what if that’s not the model that Scripture actually gives us? What if Jesus teaches us that there’s actually a different mindset we should have when thinking about advancing the Kingdom of God?

J.D. Greear, Pastor of The Summit Church in Raleigh/Durham, NC, argues just this. In his new book, Gaining By Losing: Why The Future Belongs To Churches That Send, Greear argues that churches should not be focused primarily on their numbers and in growing bigger and bigger, but should be focused on discipling, equipping, and sending out their members for the greater work of the ministry. Oftentimes this means sending out a large group of some of your most valuable members in order to help start a church plant across town, or even across the country. That’s the “losing” that we’re talking about. But as Greear makes abundantly clear, though it may seem that that particular church has “lost” those members, an even greater “gain” has occurred for the kingdom of God in the neighborhood, city, country, and world.

An Illustration

Greear likens it to the Middle school math illustration where students are asked to choose between receiving $10,000 a day for 30 days, or getting $0.01 doubled each day for the same period of time. Almost all Middle schoolers opt for the $10,000 per day because it seems like the greater amount, and offers the most immediate satisfaction. However, with this choice, the student will have $300,000 at the end of the 30 days, whereas the student who opts for the penny doubled every day would end the month with over $10.7 million!!

The point is this: Many churches and leaders opt for the “$10,000 a day” model. You tell Pastor “X” that you have a strategy that will grow his church by 1,000 per month for a year, or a strategy that will enable him to disciple 1 person per week, who in turn will disciple 1 person a week, and so on for a year, odds are he will choose the 1,000 per month growth strategy. Why? Because it feels much more gratifying. It has more immediate and tangible resultsHowever, we as churches and pastors need to get over the “short view” of ministry, only looking to what God would do in our church and through our ministry in the here and now, and adopt a “long view” of ministry. As Greear argues, “If we take the long view of ministry, growing and sending out disciples will take priority” (33).

And that is the goal of the book — to help the reader gain a long-term view of ministry, a view of ministry that God has given us, rather than one that we come up with. Greear says that his hope for this book is that it “helps you to see that your greatest kingdom potential lies not in your ability to gather and inspire your people at a weekly worship meeting, but in your capacity to equip them and send them out as seeds into the kingdom of God” (17).

“The question is not if we’re called to pour our lives out for the mission, only where and how” (47)

The Structure

So how does he help the reader see this? Honestly, this rubs against so much of modern-day church culture and growth strategy … so how does he convince the reader that this is biblical and the better strategy for every church to adopt?

After the introduction, he begins the book by laying the framework. He does so with a very helpful illustration, comparing the church to 3 different boats.

Many people, he says, see the church as a cruise liner. In this understanding, the church offers Christian luxuries to the whole family, catering to their needs and entertaining them. And if their church ever ceases to cater to an individual’s preferences, well then there are plenty of other cruise liners out there. This would be the model of many “mega-Churches.”

Others see the church more like a battleship. The church is made for the mission and fights for this mission with all its might. Now this is certainly better than the “cruise liner” model, but its problem is that it sees the church institution and staff as being the primary battle-fighters.

A better, model, Greear suggests, is that the church is like an aircraft carrier. Like battleships, aircraft carriers engage in battle, but in a different way. Aircraft carriers equip planes to carry the battle elsewhere. This is the way the church should function: equipping and sending (see pages 27-28).

Following the laying of the framework, Greear shares his own (painful) journey toward being a leader and a church that is primarily focused on sending, not gathering. This chapter was a very interesting, honest, and humble account of some of the things he saw in his own heart, and in the heart of his church, and how he went about correcting those things.

Following these two chapters are ten chapters with ten “plumb lines” that serve as directional markers for building the ministries of the Summit Church. He suggests that by adopting these ten “plumb lines,” and evaluating in light of them, your ministry can become one that is focused on sending and equipping rather than gathering and growing. Below are these Ten “Plumb Lines”

  1. The Gospel is not just the diving board, it is the pool
  2. Everyone is called
  3. The week is as important as the weekend
  4. A church is not a group of people gathered around a leader, but a leadership factory
  5. The church makes visible the invisible Christ
  6. The point of everything is to make disciples
  7. Every pastor is our missions pastor
  8. We seek to live multicultural lives, not just host multicultural events
  9. Risk is right
  10. When you’re sick of saying it, they’ve just heard it

Conclusion

Overall, I really enjoyed this book and found it quite helpful. I admit that my own heart gets sucked into thinking with the “gather and grow” mindset rather than the “equip and send.” Books like this are very helpful and needed correctives to these ways of thinking. I am very thankful for Greear’s ministry, his writing, and his honesty and humility to help pastors across the nation and the world learn from his mistakes and struggles in order to better equip, disciple, and send those in our churches out for the work of the ministry. I am confident that this book will stretch, challenge, and equip you to adopt this mindset as well.

In accordance with FTC regulations, I would like to thank Zondervan Publishers and Cross Focused Reviews for providing me a copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Praying With Paul

Praying with PaulPrayer is that spiritual discipline in which most of us long to grow, but in which few of us feel adequate. It is the great (often-neglected) privilege of the Christian to communicate with the living God of the Universe. Why is it, then, that so many of us struggle in our prayer life? How can we grow in the depth, effectiveness, and spiritual vitality of our prayers?

One book that is a GREAT help in this arena is by D.A. Carson, titled Praying with Paul: A Call to Spiritual Reformation. With the first edition of this book published over 20 years ago, Baker has recently released a new and updated second edition, reintroducing this wonderful book to a new generation of Christians.

“Where is our delight in praying? Where is our sense that we are meeting with the living God, that we are undertaking work that he has assigned, that we are interceding with genuine unction before the throne of grace? When was the last time we came away from a period of intercession feeling that, like Jacob or Moses, we had prevailed with God? How much of our praying is largely formulaic?” (xiv).

The book is a mixture of a little bit of practical advice combined with a much larger portion of meditations on some of Paul’s prayers. Carson says: “The chief purpose of this book, then, is to think through some of Paul’s prayers, so that we may align our prayer habits with his. We want to learn what to pray for, what arguments to use, what priorities we should adopt, what beliefs should shape our prayers, and much more” (xv).

In the book, Carson has 4 chapters focused on practical advice and general principles/wisdom  for prayer. These include the following:

  • Chapter 1 – Lessons from the School of Prayer
  • Chapter 4 – Praying for Others
  • Chapter 7 – Excuses for Not Praying
  • Chapter 9 – A Sovereign and Personal God

But the bulk of the book contains chapters consisting of meditations and principles drawn from Paul’s prayers recorded in Scripture. These include the following:

“Granted that most of us know some individuals who are remarkable prayer warriors, is it not nevertheless true that by and large we are better at organizing than agonizing? Better at administering than interceding? Better at fellowship than fasting? Better at entertainment than worship? Better at theological articulation than spiritual adoration? Better — God help us! — at preaching than praying?” (xiv).

As a book focused on meditating on the prayers of Paul, this book stands on very solid, authoritative ground — The Word of God. Where there is practical, personal reflections and advice, that is just that — advice. And there is definitely plenty of very good advice. But the strength of this book is that Carson stands on the authority of the Word of God, the authority of Paul’s prayers as recorded in Scripture. And as he meditates on these prayers, and draws principles and practices that should be present in each believer’s prayers, it is much more than the advice from a man, but is the example given from God.

As such, I would highly recommend this book to you. There are many very good books written on prayer, including 2 recent books that I have thoroughly enjoyed: Tim Keller – Prayer and Don Whitney – Praying the BibleEach of those have their place and are very good in what they are trying to accomplish. Right there along with those, I would add this book by Carson to my top recommended books on the topic of prayer. Especially if you are looking for an in-depth look at the example that Scripture itself gives for prayer, you need look no further.

Buy yourself a copy of this book today, meditate along with Carson on these passages, and you are sure to see an increase in the depth of your communication with the living God — in the depth of your prayers.

If you are interested, there is also a study guide to accompany the book in a small group format. You can check that out by clicking here.

In accordance with FTC regulations, I would like to thank Baker Publishers for providing me with a review copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review.

The Daring Mission of William Tyndale

The Daring Mission of William TyndaleAs I hold my English Bible right now, it doesn’t seem that dangerous to me to do so. In fact, as I look around my office, I have multiple copies of Scripture, in various translations, in the English language. My guess is that the same is true for you. Who would think that they would be persecuted, hunted, and eventually killed for having an English copy of the Scriptures.

Well that is just what happened to the English Reformer, William Tyndale, as he sought to translate the Scriptures into the native tongue of the English people. In his book on Tyndale, The Daring Mission of William Tyndale, Steven Lawson chronicles the life and ministry of this man as he embarked on a daring mission — to translate the Scriptures from the Greek and Hebrew into the every-day language of the common people.

“The calling of God upon Tyndall’s heart became a burning passion to see commoners read God’s unadulterated Word. Unfortunately, most people have never heard of this man and his vast contribution has been greatly undervalued through the centuries” (164).

Who Was William Tyndale?

Often overshadowed by the much more popular Reformers such as Luther and Calvin, Tyndale was a giant of a man in bringing the Reformation to England. Known as “The Father of the English Bible,” William Tyndale did something in the early 1500s that no man had done before — translated the Bible into the English language from the original languages of Hebrew and Greek. Tyndale’s Bible was not the first English Bible, but it was the first to be translated from the Hebrew and Greek rather than the Latin Vulgate. As such, it was a monumental feat, and one that certainly did not come without its cost.

Throughout his task, Tyndale faced outright opposition from bishops and cardinals, was chased around Europe by officials sent by high nobles with a price on his head, was tricked and conned into friendships that eventually resulted in his death, and was labeled as a heretic of the worst sorts, with names such as “a hell-hound in the kennel of the devil,” “a new Judas,” and “an idolater and devil-worshipper” (18).

The leaders of the English Church and country sought to squash Tyndale’s mission with everything they had, yet to no avail. Tyndale was utterly convinced that the people of England needed the Word of God in a language they could read and understand, not just in the Latin of the nobles who could then “tell” them what the Word said. He gave his life to completing this mission, and God blessed it. Though Tyndale was martyred for his work, his translation of the New Testament from the Greek, and most of the Old Testament from the Hebrew, became the basis for the King James Version, and every subsequent English translation that we are blessed with today.

“We want again Tyndales to tenaciously face the insurmountable obstacles before them and overcome them with zealous resolve for the glory of God. We need Tyndales who translate the Bible into the languages of forgotten people groups around the world. We need Tyndales to proclaim the gospel through the written page in the face of imminent danger. We need Tyndales who passionately love the Word of God to fill every pulpit, every seminary, every Sunday School class, every lectern” (164-165).

The Book

In his book, Lawson does a wonderful job of giving the reader an in-depth, interesting, and exciting look at the life and work of William Tyndale. He addresses questions such as “What steps did this chief architect of the English Bible take in order to produce his magnificent translation from the original languages?” and “What challenges did he have to overcome in order to present this extraordinary gift to the English-speaking world?”

If you have not heard of William Tyndale, or even if you have but know very little of his life and his work, I would 100% heartily recommend this volume to you. You will walk away with a greater appreciation of the man William Tyndale, but more importantly, a greater appreciation for the price paid for you to hold that copy of the Bible in your native language. And what better gift could Tyndale give us than that?

In the words of Steven Lawson, “May there be a renewed commitment to the sufficiency and exclusivity of this bloodstained Book” (28).

In accordance with FTC regulations, I would like to thank Reformation Trust publishers for providing me with a review copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review.

The Pastor’s Ministry

the pastor's ministryPastoral ministry is a unique calling in many ways. It definitely has its own demands, responsibilities, frustrations, challenges, and  joys that are really not shared by any other vocation. As such, the pastor is particularly subject to getting off course or off track in his pastoral ministry. Appointments, counseling, and home visits can quickly take away from sufficient study time, prayer, and leadership development. And vice versa. Pastors are called to be shepherds of the flock that God has given them … but what exactly does that look like?

A new book by Brian Croft, The Pastor’s Ministry, helps to add some clarification to just what exactly that looks like. What is a pastor supposed to be doing? How is his time supposed to be spent? What are the foundational things that the pastor should be focused on in seeking to fulfill God’s purpose on him as a shepherd? In this book, Croft makes it clear that in order for a pastor to remain steadfast in his life and in his ministry, he must know what exactly it is that God has called him to do — and then do it!

The guiding exhortation of the book comes from 1 Peter 5:2-4, and is summarized by Croft in a single sentence – “Be shepherds of God’s flock under your care until the Chief Shepherd appears” (15).

Working off of that summary of 1 Peter 5, Croft focuses on 10 key priorities that should be at the heart of every pastor’s ministry:

  1. Guard The Truth – A pastor much be committed to teaching the Word of God, willing to preach, teach, and defend its truth even when it is contrary to the culture
  2. Preach The Word – A pastor must faithfully preach the whole counsel of God, carefully explaining and applying the text to his hearers
  3. Pray For The Flock – A pastor must be a faithful intercessor for his flock, constantly bringing the needs of his church before God
  4. Set An Example – A pastor must be an example to his flock, modeling righteous behavior, confession, and repentance
  5. Visit The Sick – A pastor should be one who visits those who are sick and in need of care and encouragement, modeling and training his congregation to do the same
  6. Comfort The Grieving – A pastor should be one who comforts those grieving in the face of death, reminding them of the hope of the Gospel
  7. Care For Widows – A pastor is responsible to lead the congregation to provide care for the widows of the church
  8. Confront Sin – A pastor needs to confront sin and lead the church to exercise church discipline where needed, with the goal of repentance and reconciliation
  9. Encourage The Weaker Sheep – A pastor needs to model patience and persevering hope by working with those who are difficult, despairing, and challenging
  10. Identify And Train Leaders – A pastor is called to identify, train, and affirm leaders in the church, actively seeking out the next generation of leaders.

Each chapter in the book corresponds to one of these “10 Key Priorities.” Each chapter is clear, concise, and very helpful to anyone in pastoral ministry, or in any form of leadership in the church. At the end of the book, Croft also pays careful attention to drawing out the fact that the pastor must not only keep a close watch over his flock, but he must also keep a close watch over himself — over his own life. If a pastor focuses all of his attention on doing the “work” of the ministry, without giving careful attention to his own walk with the Lord, his marriage, and his family, his ministry may have the appearance of a strong ministry, but it will be just that — an appearance. Paul tells us very clearly to keep a close watch both on ourselves and on the flock (Acts 20:28). We must not neglect either!

I would strongly recommend this book if you are interested in understanding what it means for a pastor to faithful shepherd his flock. The book is certainly most helpful to pastors — to understand (or re-focus on) the key things that he should be focused on as a pastor. The book is also helpful to anyone in lay-leadership in the church, as he seeks to understand the pastoral ministry better. The book is helpful to any church member who wonders exactly what their pastor is, or should be, doing. Misconceptions concerning what a pastor should be doing abound to no end. This book will help put an end to some of those misconceptions and show the reader what a faithful, biblical, well-balanced pastoral ministry should look like.

If you fall under any of the above categories, I would absolutely recommend you get a copy of this book today by clicking here!

In accordance with FTC regulations, I would like to thank Zondervan for providing me with a review copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review.

FREE Giveaway!!!

I’m going to start something new here on Longing4Truth … something that we all like: Giveaways of FREE stuff!! 

For our first giveaway, I want to give you a chance to win a copy of the excellent book by Matt Chandler, The Explicit Gospel. I first read this book a couple of years ago and really enjoyed it. To see my full review of the book, click here

explicit gospelMany books have been written on the Gospel in the past few years: what it is, what its effects are on us, how it gives mission to the church, etc. Within all of these books, there seems to be two different camps as far as what authors are stressing. On one hand, you have the traditional, “Romans-road,” Jesus-as-my-personal-savior Gospel, which stresses the death and resurrection of Jesus and the call for men to repent and believe in Christ for the forgiveness of their sins. That is great, and absolutely true, but this camp rarely mentions the kingdom of God or Jesus as the Messiah. Then, on the other side, you have a resurgence of people such as N.T. Wright and Scot McKnight stressing the Gospel as the ushering in of the kingdom of God by His long-awaited Messiah, the God-man Jesus Christ. Again, all great and true, but this camp has swung the pendulum so far in the other direction in an attempt to correct the other side that they seem to neglect the personal salvation and forgiveness of sin aspect of the Gospel. Chandler’s book does a great job of combining these two aspects, what he calls “The Gospel on the Ground” and “The Gospel in the Air”

Rules:

To enter, all you have to do is 2 things (with an optional 3rd):

(1) If you aren’t already a follower, go to the right of this page and click the RED “Follow” Button

(2) Fill out the form below

(3) For an extra entry, share a link to this giveaway on Facebook or Twitter.

That’s it. The giveaway will end at midnight on Thursday, July 9 and the winner will be notified via email on Friday, July 10.

THE GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED

CONGRATULATIONS TO PAM HURT ON WINNING HER COPY OF THE EXPLICIT GOSPEL. BE ON THE LOOKOUT FOR NEW GIVEAWAYS COMING SOON!

Practical Shepherding

practical shepherding

Pastoral ministry is a calling that is incredibly multi-faceted — requiring training, education, and experience in a whole host of different areas. I believe that one of the most important aspects in that training is seminary education. In seminary, the pastor-in-training receives education relating to centrally important aspects of the ministry, particularly concerning correctly handling the Word of God.

However, try as hard as it may, the classroom is simply unable to fully prepare ministers for the practical hands-on aspects of ministry. Some seminaries are better than others at being intentional in this regard, but all of them, in the end, are a classroom and not “on-the-field” training.

While in Seminary at SBTS, one website that was quickly gaining popularity and was quite helpful to myself in the area of practical ministry was Practical Shepherding, put together by Pastor Brian Croft. The purpose of the website is to provide practical advice and resources for ministers. Well, the Practical Shepherding resources became so popular and influential that Zondervan chose to produce a whole series of books with the same name. There are 5 books in the series thus far:

  1. Visit The Sick
  2. Conduct Gospel-Centered Funerals
  3. Prepare Them To Shepherd
  4. Gather God’s People
  5. Comfort the Grieving

And two more are on the way, scheduled to release this August: Oversee God’s People and Pray for the Flock

Each of these books are small (around 100 pages each), but are packed with helpful and practical advice concerning the particular aspect of ministry that they are addressing. For example, the volume on conducting gospel-centered funerals contains practical advice on how long you should preach, how you are to work with the funeral director, where you should park at the funeral home, etc.

To be fair, a book cannot sufficiently prepare a minister for all of the practical aspects of the ministry either … Nothing other than hands-on experience can really do that. However, the book format does allow the new pastor to have this practical advice at his finger tips in a very accessible way.

At just around $10 each, I believe that every one of these volumes should be on the shelf of any new (or even seasoned) pastor. They are packed with incredibly helpful and important practical tips from wise and seasoned pastors. I would recommend that you at least grab one of them today and give it a shot. Odds are, you’ll be ordering the whole series not long afterwards.

In accordance with FTC regulations, I would like to thank Zondervan Publishers for providing me with review copies of these books in exchange for a fair and honest review.

On Guard

On GuardSome books you just don’t want to read, but you sincerely need to. Deepak Reju’s new book on child abuse was such a book for me. On Guard: Preventing and Responding to Child Abuse at Church is a book that few will necessarily want to read or enjoy reading, but one that should be required reading for anyone in any level of ministry in the local church.

Deepak Reju is the Pastor of Biblical Counseling and Family Ministry at Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington DC, where Mark Dever serves as the senior pastor. He has been a contributing author to a few books on the topic of biblical counseling, but this is the first book that he has been the sole author of (other than a children’s book on the kings in the Bible). And it is a much needed one.

As you read the book, you will become quickly aware that the church is a very vulnerable place, and child abusers attack that vulnerability. Sadly, but truly, many churches hear about child abuse cases throughout the nation, even in churches, but still think, “It could never happen at my church.” Sadly, it’s just not true. It can. It most certainly can.

“Sexual offenders are not dumb. They are deliberate and calculating. The very thing Christians see as strengths — love for others, a trusting disposition — perpetrators see as weaknesses on which they can prey … Why do you think that sexual offenders try to infiltrate churches? Because many know that most churches don’t even bother checking criminal records. They’re too busy. They’re small enough that they feel they know everyone. They don’t think that convicted sexual offenders will come to their church. Why bother checking criminal records when the person is a nice, respectable guy?” (9).

The Structure

So how is the book structured? There are three sections in the book. In Section 1, Reju lays out the nature of the problem, the incredible responsibility that we as parents, pastors, and leaders have to protect our children, some of the false assumptions we make, etc. In short, the first part is just laying the foundation, showing the reader that this is a problem in our world, and this is a danger for our churches. We must not take this lightly. We must not think it couldn’t happen to us. The minute that we think that is the minute that we are at our most vulnerable.

In Section 2, the author offers 8 strategies for protecting against child abuse. This is the meat of the book, in that it helps churches take concrete, practical steps in making their church a safer place for children. The 8 strategies that Reju offers are:

  1. Creating and Implementing a Child Protection Policy
  2. A Check-In and Checkout Process
  3. Membership
  4. Screening and Verification
  5. Building Design
  6. Training Your Staff and Volunteers
  7. Preparing Church Leaders, Parents, Children, and Teens Before Abuse Happens
  8. Getting to Know the People and Resources in Your Community

Finally, Part 3 offers the church 3 strategies for responding to child abuse. The simple fact of the matter is that as churches, we can (and should) do absolutely everything that we can to prevent against child abuse; however, with the sinful world that we live in, we will never be able to protect perfectly. So the church needs to know what to do and how to respond if a case a child abuse were to happen. And how does the church counsel and help the congregation as a whole and the victims in particular in the wake of a case of child abuse? All of these things are covered in Part 3.

Then at the very end of the book, the author offers some very helpful appendices with guides and examples related to the 8 strategies offered in part 2. These include a guide to writing a child protection policy and an example of a screening application. These will serve as some helpful, practical tools for a church to begin to implement some of the strategies laid out in the book.

Conclusion

The topic of child abuse is one that disturbs me, as it should. as I was reading this book this last week, I came across the video below, which you may have already seen, that even further brought the need for this book home to me. Now this is not in the context of a church, but it is an illustration of just how easily it is for our kids to be lured away by predators

Honestly, this book disturbed me. It was hard for me to read. But it was incredibly good for me to read. As someone who is about to become a parent here in the next week or two, it terrifies me to think about this sort of abuse potentially happening in my church. I have to admit: I would be among those that would (wrongly) think, “I know it happens … but not in my church.” This book definitely opened my eyes to be a better informed and alert parent and pastor. And for that, I am incredibly thankful for this book. Thankfully, we have quite a few of the strategies that the author recommends in place at our church. But that does not mean we are perfect, and we need to constantly be on guard to make sure that we are protecting our children at our church as we are called to do. And so do you.

I would encourage you, if you are a pastor or ministry leader of any kind, to not only get a copy of this book for yourself, but for your whole pastoral and leadership team. This is a serious matter, and one that we cannot (and should not) put off for one more day. We have been given an incredible and weighty responsibility to protect our children. This book will be a great resource for you as you seek to do just that.

In accordance with FTC regulations, I would like to thank New Growth Press for providing me with a review copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review.