The Internet's Best Practices for Ministry

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Welcoming Guests and First Impressions

The sermon starts in the parking lot, and the impression you make for your guests on Sunday morning during the first 10 minutes will be indelible.

Technology and The Church

Leveraging technology for ministry can be an incredible blessing. But it can also be fraught with problems and pitfalls. Learn how to use technology well.

Vision and Leadership

Our God longs for leaders to request of Him to do that which they cannot. Faith filled vision, leadership and risk are key ingredients for ministry.

Preaching and Communication

You know and understand how challenging it is to communicate. It is hard to get and capture people's attention. Learn how to communicate effectively.

Creativity and Innovation

Being creative means asking the right questions and making new associations. Discover new and creative ideas for your ministry.

Life Only Has Meaning If...

from Tony Reinke

Timothy Keller writes the following in his book The Gospel in Life: Grace Changes Everything, Study Guide (Zondervan, 2010), page 40:
Why do we lie, or fail to love, or break our promises, or live selfishly? Of course, the general answer is “Because we are weak and sinful,” but the specific answer is that there is something besides Jesus Christ that we feel we must have to be happy, something that is more important to our heart than God, something that is enslaving our heart through inordinate desires. The key to change (and even to self-understanding) is therefore to identify the idols of the heart.”
After explaining the idolatry theme more closely from Romans 1:18–25, Galatians 4:8–9, and 1 John 5:21, Keller lists particular categories for personal reflection. The idol categories include the following:

“Life only has meaning/I only have worth if…
  • I have power and influence over others.” (Power Idolatry)
  • I am loved and respected by _____.” (Approval Idolatry)
  • I have this kind of pleasure experience, a particular quality of life.” (Comfort idolatry)
  • I am able to get mastery over my life in the area of _____.” (Control idolatry)
  • people are dependent on me and need me.” (Helping Idolatry)
  • someone is there to protect me and keep me safe.” (Dependence idolatry)
  • I am completely free from obligations or responsibilities to take care of someone.” (Independence idolatry)
  • I am highly productive and getting a lot done.” (Work idolatry)
  • I am being recognized for my accomplishments, and I am excelling in my work.” (Achievement idolatry)
  • I have a certain level of wealth, financial freedom, and very nice possessions.” (Materialism idolatry)
  • I am adhering to my religion’s moral codes and accomplished in its activities.” (Religion idolatry)
  • this one person is in my life and happy to be there, and/or happy with me.” (Individual person idolatry)
  • I feel I am totally independent of organized religion and am living by a self-made morality.” (Irreligion idolatry)
  • My race and culture is ascendant and recognized as superior.” (Racial/cultural idolatry)
  • a particular social grouping or professional grouping or other group lets me in.” (Inner ring idolatry)
  • My children and/or my parents are happy and happy with me.” (Family idolatry)
  • Mr. or Ms. “Right” is in love with me.” (Relationship Idolatry)
  • I am hurting, in a problem; only then do I feel worthy of love or able to deal with guilt.” (Suffering idolatry)
  • My political or social cause is making progress and ascending in influence or power.” (Ideology idolatry)
  • I have a particular kind of look or body image.” (Image idolatry)
Then he looks more closely at the first four categories:

If you seek POWER (success, winning, influence)…
  • Your greatest nightmare: Humiliation
  • People around you often feel: Used
  • Your problem emotion: Anger
If you seek APPROVAL (affirmation, love, relationships)…
  • Your greatest nightmare: Rejection
  • People around you often feel: Smothered
  • Your problem emotion: Cowardice
If you seek COMFORT (privacy, lack of stress, freedom)…
  • Your greatest nightmare: Stress, demands
  • People around you often feel: Neglected
  • Your problem emotion: Boredom
If you seek CONTROL (self-discipline, certainty, standards)…
  • Your greatest nightmare: Uncertainty
  • People around you often feel: Condemned
  • Your problem emotion: Worry
For more information check out his workbook and DVD.

(ht: Tony)

Seven Kinds Of Prayer To Soak Our Bible Reading


from Ed Stetzer's blog, quoting John Piper:

In 1998, John Piper preached a message, 'Open My Eyes That I May See' based on Psalm 119:17-24. In that message he mentions seven kinds of prayer to 'soak' our reading of Scripture.

Seven Kinds of Prayer to Soak our Bible Reading

But since our text is Psalm 119:18, 'Open my eyes, that I may behold wonderful things from Your law,' we should let this psalmist show us how he prays more generally about his reading of the Word of God. So let me close with a little tour of Psalm 119, and show you seven kinds of prayer with which you can soak your Bible reading this year.

We should pray . . .

1. That God would teach us his Word. Psalm 119:12b, 'Teach me Your statutes.' (See also verses 33, 64b, 66, 68b, 135). True learning of God's Word is only possible if God himself becomes the teacher in and through all other means of teaching.

2. That God would not hide his Word from us. Psalm 119:19b, 'Do not hide Your commandments from me.' The Bible warns of the dreadful chastisement or judgment of the Word of God being taken from us (Amos 8:11). (See also verse 43).

3. That God would make us understand his Word. Psalm 119:27, 'Make me understand the way of Your precepts' (verses 34, 73b, 144b, 169). Here we ask God to cause us to understand - to do whatever he needs to do to get us to understand his Word.

4. That God would incline our hearts to his Word. Psalm 119:36, 'Incline my heart to Your testimonies and not to [dishonest] gain.' The great problem with us is not primarily our reason, but our will - we are disinclined by nature to read and meditate and memorize the Word. So we must pray for God to incline our wills.

5. That God would give us life to keep his Word. Psalm 119:88, 'Revive me according to Your lovingkindness, so that I may keep the testimony of Your mouth.' He is aware that we need life and energy to give ourselves to the Word and its obedience. So he asks God for this basic need. (See also verse 154b)

6. That God would establish our steps in his Word. Psalm 119:133, 'Establish my footsteps in Your word.' We are dependent on the Lord not only for understanding and life, but for the performance of the Word. That it would be established in our lives. We cannot do this on our own.

7. That God would seek us when we go astray from his Word. Psalm 119:176, 'I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek Your servant.' It is remarkable that this godly man ends his psalm with a confession of sin and the need for God to come after him and bring him back. This too we must pray again and again.

(ht: Ed)

Do Leaders Need To Be Holy?


from Chris Car:

Do leaders need to be holy? Your answer to this question is probably an automatic ‘Yes!” or perhaps ‘Of course!”

And yet of all the resources available on leadership today (there are currently almost 350,000 available at amazon.com) I do find the issue of personal holiness missing from most discussions on leadership, even among those who serve in ministry. There are plenty of books and articles about rules or laws of leadership, keys to leading an effective team, how to be not simply good but great, and how to use your gifts to their maximum potential. But there appears to be few people discussing the vital issue of personal holiness in the life of a leader.

How important is personal holiness in the life of a leader? Before I answer that with my thoughts on the matter, answer it for yourself – how important do you view your own holiness to your success as a leader?

My answer to this question is that personal holiness is the most important issue to leadership success. I realize that this is a fairly bold statement, so let me take a moment to back it up. My belief in the importance of personal holiness comes from the foundational truth that as believers our ultimate goal in life is to bring glory to Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 10:31, Col. 1:18). Flowing from that, our goal as leaders should be to lead in such a way that our followers are influenced to pursue Christ’s glory as well. Our ability to glorify Christ is in direct proportion to how holy we are becoming (2 Cor. 3:18).

Robert Murray M’Cheyne, a Scottish pastor in the mid-19th century once stated, “my people’s greatest need is my personal holiness.” I couldn’t agree more. Without personal holiness, a Christian leader has no foundation with which to lead.

You might not consider personal holiness to be a vital issue if you aren’t a pastor or a ministry leader. I would challenge you to reconsider. If you are a business owner and your employees (or customers) know you are a believer, you will be unable to lead them effectively if you aren’t living out what you claim to believe. If your integrity or morality is in question (which they likely will be if you aren’t pursuing holiness) you cannot be an effective leader.

So, how do we pursue holiness? 

First and foremost, we begin by focusing on Christ. 2 Corinthians 3:18 tells us that as we look at Christ the Holy Spirit transforms us into His image, with ever-increasing glory. Something about simply focusing on Christ makes us more like him (1 John 3:2).

Second, we must be faithful in our study of the Word. In John 17:17, Jesus prays “Sanctify them by truth, thy word is truth.” We become holy as we get into the Word and the Word in turn gets into us.

Finally, we become more holy through prayer. As we pray and seek the Father’s face, He pours out the Spirit and draws us closer to him (Acts 4:31, Jude 20).

As God is holy, let’s continue to strive to be holy in all we do (1 Peter 1:15), setting an example for our people to follow.

When The Devil Accuses

For those of us in vocational ministry, we understand those times when we are confronted by the accusations of the enemy. Yet, even though facing those attacks of the enemy can be difficult, I greatly appreciate Martin Luther's bold and confident words that confirm and affirm who we are in Jesus Christ.

“When the devil throws our sins up to us and declares we deserve death and hell, we ought to speak thus: ‘I admit that I deserve death and hell. What of it? Does this mean that I shall be sentenced to eternal damnation? By no means. For I know One who suffered and made a satisfaction in my behalf. His name is Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Where he is, there I shall be also.’” 

— Martin Luther Luther: Letters of Spiritual Counsel

Praying For Your Pastor




from Joe Thorn

There are a number of ways we should be praying for our leaders in the church, here is an encouragement for you to pray for your pastors and their preaching in 4 specific ways.

Pray fervently…

FOR THE WORD TO BE AT WORK IN HIS HEART

Before he preaches the word to others your pastor needs to experience the word himself. Pray that he would search the Scripture to know God and his truth personally, and then bring that to the people. Ask God to impress on him the practical implications of the doctrines revealed in the text, to convict him of his own sin, and work grace in his heart. Ask God to make his message the offspring of Bible and belief, bearing the distinguishing marks of truth and passion.

FOR JESUS TO BE EXALTED IN HIS MESSAGE

The goal of his preaching should be to make much of Jesus, bringing him before the people with clarity and conviction. So, pray that whether he is in the Old or New Testaments, hitting a passage heavy on law or gospel, that he would be led to point his hearers to the gospel hope of pardon and peace in Jesus Christ.

FOR THE SPIRIT TO EMPOWER HIS PREACHING

As gifted as your pastor may be, he remains a weak and sinful man in himself. The only hope he has for his preaching to carry power is the Holy Spirit's ministry of conviction, conversion, and counsel. Pray for The Holy Spirit to do what only he can do--empower the preaching of a mere man who holds out the words of life with trembling hands.

FOR HIS SATISFACTION TO BE FOUND IN JESUS

Preachers often struggle with feelings of failure after they step away from the pulpit. Mondays can be times of doubt and frustration for many ministers. Pray that your pastor would be so satisfied with what he has in Christ that even if he lost his way while preaching he would remain confident that Christ has neither lost him nor his word. Ask God to give your pastor such confidence in the Spirit's power and the Scripture's sufficiency that should his last sermon fail to live up to his standards, his hope remains steadfast for God can use any man's preaching, no matter how deficient, as long as he gives the people the word. Pray that your pastor would have the mindset that "success" is simply faithfulness to God, and fruitfulness determined by God.

(ht: Joe Thorn)

5 Keys To Sermon Prep That Will Bring Power To The Pulpit



from Alistair Begg:

I remain fascinated by the variety of approaches that preachers take in preparing their sermons. In our preparation, as well as in our delivery we must ‘to our own selves be true.’ When I am asked to summarize my method of preparation, I mention the following points, which I learned from the late Leith Samuel….

1. Think yourself empty. As strange as it may sound, we must be careful to ensure that we do not avoid sound thinking. The temptation to respond emotionally to a passage (this is how this makes me feel) is not unique to our listeners. If we are to have ‘thinking’ congregations it is incumbent upon us to be ‘thinking’ pastors’! We do not want to be uncertain by the time our study ends, but it is surely right and proper to begin with the perspective, ‘I must know what this says, and I must learn what this means.’

2. Read yourself full.

3. Write yourself clear. Aside from the essential empowering of the Holy Spirit, if there is one single aspect of sermon preparation that I would want to emphasize, it is this. Freedom of delivery in the pulpit depends upon careful organization in the study. We may believe that we have a grasp of the text, only to stand up and discover that somewhere between our thinking and our speaking things have gone badly awry. The missing link can usually be traced back to the absence of putting our thoughts down clearly.

4. Pray yourself hot. There is no chance of fire in the pews if there is an iceberg in the pulpit! Without prayer and communion with God during the preparation stages, the pulpit will be cold. In 1752 John Shaw reminded the incumbent pastor beginning his charge in Cambridge, Massachusetts: ‘All will be in vain, to no saving purpose, until God is pleased to give the increase. And in order to do this, God looks for prayers to come up to His ears. A praying minister is always the way to have a successful ministry.”

5. Be yourself, but don’t preach yourself. A good teacher, like John the Baptist, clears the way, declares the way, and then gets out of the way.

4 Surefire Ways To Make A Bad Decision



As a leader you have to make tons of decisions, and granted not all of them are going to be winners. But suffice it to say, there are several things, that if you do will almost guarantee a bad decision.

Please others - you will never make everyone happy. With every decision you will please some and anger others - there are only few times that axiom may not hold true -  but don't bet on it. So don't even try to please others in your decision making. It will only make you crazy and neurotic.

Take the path of least resistance - often times the best decisions aren't always easy. They will require sacrifice and hard work. A decision may require a lot of risk and may ask you and your organization to venture into uncertainty. Yet it is usually the the decisions that ask from us the greatest cost that will have the biggest and best pay off and results.

Make it too quick - certainly there are many decisions that don't require a lot of deliberation. Should I get a scoop of vanilla or chocolate? Should I get that extra helping at dinner? Those are the kind of decisions that you don't have to think too hard about. But there are many decisions in leadership that will require you pause, evaluate, deliberate, seek council, pray and even wait. How will you know you shouldn't move too quick? A couple of hints will be - if your leadership isn't aligned. Or if there are unknown and missing information prohibiting you from being able to make an informed decision. Or perhaps you even have a check in your spirit. If you sense you need more time to pull the trigger on a decision, then it is worth putting the pause button on making that decision.

Make it too slow - Now it sounds like I am speaking out of both sides of my mouth. Yet for some leaders their issue isn't that they are quick and impetuous, rather they are afraid and fearful leaders and are too slow to settle on a decision. Therefore deliberating too long can cause an organization or person to miss strategic and timely opportunities. If you take to long to make a decision you run the risk of paralysis of too much analysis.

What would you add to this list?

The Day In The Life Of A Mobile Teen

Here are some interesting stats from the infographic below.

  • 75% of teens have phones. (this stat probably is higher)
  • A typical teen sends 49 texts a day
  • 54% of teens text their friends every day
The point of this infographic and it's stats is that teens are inseparable from their phones and their preferred mode of communication is still texting. So let me ask, why are so many youth groups still relying on email (or even Facebook - which is becoming more passé among teens) as their primary mode of communication?

There are all kinds of helpful and easy to use programs and services, such as ProTexting and EZTexting  (many with a cost attached- but definitely worth it). How are you using and leveraging technology and their phones to communicate and connect better with your youth?


(ht: YouthMinistryMedia)

5 Ways Churches Fail At Social Media & How To Do It Well


Doing social media isn't necessarily hard, per se, but it can be difficult to do it correctly. Too often as I've worked with churches, ministries, organizations and even businesses on their social media, I have seen 5 consistent issues that short-circuit and undermine their effort and good intentions.

1. They try to be something they are not. Social media isn't about slick marketing - rather it needs to be about authenticity, showing people an authentic, real and genuine vantage point about who you and your organization really are.

2. They start well, yet don't persevere. I have seen too many social media ghost towns - social media sites without any posts or engagement for months or even years. Ministries have good intentions and know that they need to be on social media, therefore they want to try to do everything and be everywhere - yet after a couple of months, they end up doing nothing at all. It actually hurts you and your organization to have social media platforms, like Twitter and Facebook, that are absent of any content or conversation. It is better to focus on succeeding on one or two platforms that are best for organization - than trying to do everything.

3. No one in their organization has responsibility for it. Who is going to post on your Facebook page? Is it your pastor? Ministry team leaders? Church secretary? What are the expectations? What are the social media guidelines for those tasked with the responsibility? These are all questions that need to be addressed and ironed out as you and your organization begins engaging with social media. Using social media must be an intentional endeavor - it isn't just going to "happen"!

4. They use their social media as just a bullhorn. Social media isn't about shouting at people stuff and announcements. It isn't simply an online newsletter. Certainly social media will inform. It will inform those in your organization about your activities and opportunities. But it must go well beyond that. It must connect. You connect through conversation. You must have a conversation with those who engage you within social media. Are you asking people questions? Are you listening? Are you responding to people's comments or concerns?

5. Their social media is not connected to their greater whole. Your social media platforms should be a part of your entire online presence. They shouldn't just exist out there on their own. For instance, your Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest pages should be pointing people to your organization's main website. It should compliment and be an extension of your main site. Yet in return, your main website should be linking and pointing people to your social media platforms. There needs to be synergy and integration among all the parts. Social media needs to part of your organization's entire online eco-system.


Also, if you want some additional social media tips, check out the New Media Project's video of Nadia Bolz-Weber, Eugene Cho, and Tony Lee discussing their social media tips.


Don't forget to follow me and Ministry Best Practices on Twitter! @BillReichart - @BestMinistry

More Than We Ever Dared Hope


“The gospel of justifying faith means that while Christians are, in themselves still sinful and sinning, yet in Christ, in God’s sight, they are accepted and righteous. So we can say that we are more wicked than we ever dared believe, but more loved and accepted in Christ than we ever dared hope — at the very same time.

This creates a radical new dynamic for personal growth. It means that the more you see your own flaws and sins, the more precious, electrifying, and amazing God’s grace appears to you. But on the other hand, the more aware you are of God’s grace and acceptance in Christ, the more able you are to drop your denials and self-defenses and admit the true dimensions and character of your sin.”

— Tim Keller

Paul's Letter to the Galatians: Living in Line with the Truth of the Gospel - (Redeemer Presbyterian Church, 2003)

The Importance Of An Abundance Mentality For Leaders

“The opposite of a scarcity mentality is an abundance mentality. With an abundancy mentality we say: “There is enough for everyone, more than enough: food, knowledge, love … everything.” With this mind-set we give away whatever we have, to whomever we meet. When we see hungry people we give them food. When we meet ignorant people we share our knowledge; when we encounter people in need of love, we offer them friendship and affection and hospitality and introduce them to our family and friends. 
When we live with this mind-set, we will see the miracle that what we give away multiplies: food, knowledge, love … everything. There will even be many leftovers.”
 – Henri Nouwen

I love this quote by Henri Nouwen. It communicates so well the Law Of Abundance and why it is important to live with an abundance mentality. When we release and give ourselves away - our resources multiply. Having that abundance mentality is also key for leaders. Too often in our churches and ministries we think that our resources are static, limited and scarce. Either we believe...

  • We don't have enough money to do that
  • People are just way too busy to get involved or serve
  • People are maxed out in their giving
  • We can't encourage programs or opportunities outside the church because if people serve or give outside our church, it will take away from our church's resources and programs
Those are all scarcity mindsets. That mindset believes we're all competing for the same money, people and resources. But that simply isn't true. A scarcity mindset puts limits on our thinking. We cap off the capacity of resources available to us. We believe that all we have is all there is and all that we can see and we think that no additional resources will be available to us.

Rather an abundance mindset believes the opposite. It says that when a person gives...whether it be of their time, talents, resources or money - it only increases their heart and capacity to give - and they will likely only give more in the future and therefore more resources will become available. An abundance mindset allows us to see beyond our current situation and reality to what God may do just around the corner. An abundance mindset is KINGDOM oriented. An abundance mindset says.....

  • Let's partner with like-minded organizations that share our mission and vision
  • Let's release our people to serve outside our own church or organization
  • Let's not be concerned with who get's the credit or recognition
  • Let's celebrate and pray for other churches and organizations
Do you and those in your leadership exercise an Abundance Mindset?

Why We Need To Attend Church


When I first became a Christian, about fourteen years ago, I thought that I could do it on my own, by retiring to my rooms and reading theology, and wouldn’t go to the churches and Gospel Halls; I disliked very much their hymns which I considered to be fifth-rate poems set to sixth-rate music. But as I went on I saw the merit of it. I came up against different people of quite different outlooks and different education, and then gradually my conceit just began peeling off. I realized that the hymns (which were just sixth-rate music) were, nevertheless, being sung with devotion and benefit by an old saint in elastic-side boots in the opposite pew, and then you realize that you aren’t fit to clean those boots. It gets you out of your solitary conceit.
-C.S. Lewis, God in the Dock

More often than I like, I hear of individuals and families who tell me that they do "church online". Usually that involves gathering in their living room, turning on and sitting in front of the computer to "do" church. It is unfortunate though to talk about "doing" church because church isn't something to "do", rather it is something to "be". We are called to be the church to one another and to a world in need of hope. The church isn't a task to be done, rather it is a living organism, a family, a people.

I think Lewis' remarks above certainly challenge the notion of doing church online. Connecting with your church online while you are sick or traveling may be an OK "Plan B". Yet making online church your regular mode of church attendance, I believe is a dangerous thing.

To be a part of Christ's church is to be with God's people, even with all of our messiness. When we are in relationship with one another's messiness and brokenness we learn how to forgive, to repent, be patient, to love and to receive love and grace from others.

As part of a church community we allow God's people to speak grace, truth and love into our life- being Christ to us, sharpening us (Prov. 27:17) and helping us to grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus.

Can online church be a substitute and surrogate for being with God's people? I believe not. What do you think? 

The Top 20 Books On Theology

Want to take a deep dive into the study of Christian theology? These books are a good start. These are Ministry Best Practices' top 20 books on theology - which encompass both systematic and biblical theology.  Here is the list below:

  1. Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine by Wayne Grudem
  2. Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Christian Belief by John Frame
  3. Christian Theology by Millard Erickson
  4. Historical Theology: An Introduction to Christian Doctrine by Gregg Allison
  5. The Inspiration and Authority of the Bible by B.B. Warfield
  6. Ethics for a Brave New World by John and Paul Feinberg
  7. Christianity and Liberalism by J. Gresham Machen
  8. The Church by Edmund Clowney
  9. Pilgrim Theology  by Michael Horton
  10. Systematic Theology by Louis Berkhof
  11. The Institutes of the Christian Religion by John Calvin
  12. According to Plan: The Unfolding Revelation of God in the Bible by Graeme Goldsworthy
  13. God’s Big Picture: Tracing the Storyline of the Bible by Vaughn Roberts
  14. An Old Testament Theology: An Exegetical, Canonical, and Thematic Approach by Bruce Waltke and Charles Yu
  15. New Testament Theology by George Eldon Ladd
  16. New Dictionary of Biblical Theology: Exploring the Unity & Diversity of Scripture by Rosner, Alexander, Goldsworthy, Carson
  17. The Goldsworthy Trilogy: Gospel & Kingdom, Wisdom & Revelation by Graeme Goldsworthy
  18. A New Testament Biblical Theology: The Unfolding of the Old Testament in the New by Dr. Gregory Beale
  19. A Commentary of the New Testament Use of the Old Testament edited by D.A. Carson and Dr. Gregory Beale
  20. Biblical Theology: Old and New Testaments by Geerhardus Vos
Would you add any additional books to this list?

How To Handle Criticism Without Destroying Your Heart




As pastors and ministry leaders we practically face some degree of criticism on a daily basis. The question then becomes for us, how do we handle and deal with criticism in a manner that doesn't destroy our heart, allowing us to become cynical, disillusioned and negative? Tim Keller has some helpful thoughts on how to avoid that pitfall:
The biggest danger of receiving criticism is not to your reputation, but to your heart. You feel the injustice of it and feel sorry for yourself, and it tempts you to despise not only the critic, but the entire group of people from which they come. ‘Those people…’ you mutter under your breath. All this can make you prouder over time. Newton writes: ‘Whatever…makes us trust in ourselves that we are comparatively wise or good, so as to treat those with contempt who do not subscribe to our doctrines, or follow our party, is a proof and fruit of a self-righteous spirit.’ He argues that whenever contempt and superiority accompany our thoughts, it is a sign that ‘the doctrines of grace’ are operating in our life ‘as mere notions and speculations’ with ‘no salutary influence upon [our] conduct.’ 
So how can you avoid this temptation?  
First, you should look to see if there is a kernel of truth in even the most exaggerated and unfair broadsides. There is usually such a kernel when the criticism comes from friends, and there is often such truth when the disapproval comes from people who actually know you. So even if the censure is partly or even largely mistaken, look for what you may indeed have done wrong. Perhaps you simply acted or spoke in a way that was not circumspect. Maybe the critic is partly right for the wrong reasons. Nevertheless, identify your own short-comings, repent in your own heart before the Lord for what you can, and let that humble you. It will then be possible to learn from the criticism and stay gracious to the critic even if you have to disagree with what he or she has said.
-Tim Keller


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Don't Waste Your Life


In light of eternity, the years we live on this earth are relatively small. Therefore we should want our life to count.

As John Piper says in his book, Don't Waste Your Life - "God created us to live with a single passion to joyfully display his supreme excellence in all the spheres of life. The wasted life is the life without this passion. God calls us to pray and think and dream and plan and work not to be made much of, but to make much of him in every part of our lives."

This infographic below illustrates just how our time is spent and the ways we can reclaim time and the opportunities wasted.

Don
by Andi.M.. Browse more data visualization.

What The Church Needs Today

These are thought provoking words from E. M. Bounds....
What the church needs today is not more machinery or better, not new organizations or more and novel methods, but men whom the Holy Ghost can use—men of prayer, men mighty in prayer. The Holy Ghost does not flow through methods, but through men. He does not anoint plans, but men—men of prayer.
- Preacher and Prayer

And in regards to the church and their pastor....
A prepared heart is much better than a prepared sermon. A prepared heart will make a prepared sermon.
- Power Through Prayer 

Therefore the measure of our church's success isn't assessed on the size of buildings and budgets, but rather on it's ability to develop and form men and women whose lives are consumed by the love of Christ and who manifest a deep, abiding dependance upon Him.

The Future Hope For A Christian Culture

Is it possible for society to have redemption and renewal? Is the Christian faith still relevant in the very global world of today? Os Guinness declares in his latest book, Renaissance - The Power of the Gospel However Dark the Times, a hopeful YES!

If you are familiar with Os Guinness and his writings, you know the thoughtful cultural analysis that he brings to the church through his writings. And in his latest book, Os Guinness asserts that we are in a time of renewal, of change and of continuous reformation. Os Guinness punctuates that point in chapter one stating that we can believe God for "a movement that is led by the Spirit of God, which involves the people of God returning to the ways of God and so demonstrating in our time the kingdom of God, and not in word only but in power with the plausibility of community expressions."

Throughout the book, Os Guinness answers such questions as:
  • What does it mean to have a Christian renaissance today?
  • What historical examples can we rely upon?
  • Why must we rethink megachurches, statistics, etc..?
  • What effect does modernity have on the church?
  • What is it problematic to be reactionary to issues in the church and society?
  • How can we possibly have hope amidst all that is plaguing the church?
The book comes out on August 11th and you can preorder the book HERE


How Our Idols Impact Each Other



Our idols aren't merely personal and private - they impact others. In other words, even though it is necessary to address those areas in our life that serve as counterfeit gods, their impact isn't merely personal and private - it affects the people around us. It affects those in our family. It affects those within our churches. It affects those who we lead or work with.

Mentioned in one of my previous sermons on this issue were two quotes about the impact of our idolatry upon others:

N. T. Wright in Surprised By Hope (HarperOne, 2008):
One of the primary laws of human life is that you become like what you worship; what’s more, you reflect what you worship not only back to the object itself but also outward to the world around. Those who worship money increasingly define themselves in terms of it and increasingly treat other people as creditors, debtors, partners, or customers rather than as human beings. Those who worship sex define themselves in terms of it (their preferences, their practices, their past histories) and increasingly treat other people as actual or potential sexual objects. Those who worship power define themselves in terms of it and treat other people as either collaborators, competitors, or pawns. These and many other forms of idolatry combine in a thousand ways, all of them damaging to the image-bearing quality of the people concerned and of those whose lives they touch. (p. 182)
In other words, idolatry—while at root a heart issue—not only affects the sinner but also the community. Idols dehumanize the heart and cause us to act inhumanely towards others.

This idol-projecting point is also made Mark Driscoll’s book Doctrine (Crossway, 2010):
If we idolize our gender, we must demonize the other gender. If we idolize our nation, we must demonize other nations. If we idolize our political party, we must demonize other political parties. If we idolize our socioeconomic class, we must demonize other classes. If we idolize our family, we must demonize other families. If we idolize our theological system, we must demonize other theological systems. If we idolize our church, we must demonize other churches. This explains the great polarities and acrimonies that plague every society. If something other than God’s loving grace is the source of our identity and value, we must invariably defend our idol by treating everyone and everything who may call our idol into question as an enemy to be demonized so that we can feel superior to other people and safe with our idol. (350-351)
The call for all Christians, but especially pastors and ministry leaders is to quickly identify and apply the gospel to our idolatry. Because failure to do will have a grave impact on the churches we pastor and the people we shepherd. Our idolatry isn't merely personal, it affects and impacts others.

Quotable Friday

Here are some thought provoking and inspiring visual quotes shared this past week on social media. Don't forget to follow Ministry Best Practices on Facebook, Twitter and Google+ where these and many other inspiring articles, quotes and pictures are shared daily.





Most Common Mistakes In Ministry Leadership

Here are several of the most common mistakes that those of us in ministry leadership make. And I can tell you from personal experience, I have fallen prey to several of these mistakes at one time or another. And although not all of these mistakes and failures and necessarily fatal - they will often derail you, distract you and discourage you in the ministry that God has called you to do.

  • Treating Ministry as an Idol
  • Not Creating Boundaries Around your Devotion to God
  • Always Reacting and Putting Out Fires
  • No Personal Accountability
  • Forsaking Family - putting them on the altar of ministry
  • Talking to Much/Not enough Listening
  • Not Being A Life-Long Learner
  • Failing To Delegate
  • Not Developing Others Around You
  • Not Hiring Well
  • Not Celebrating the Wins - a tendency to focus on the negative
  • Exaggeration 
  • Prayerlessness
What can you add to this list?

4 Unavoidable Things That Leadership Will Cost You



So often we think that being the leader is all about the perks and acclaim. But being a leader has a price and a cost. It will demand and ask from you many things. Here are just a couple of things that leadership will cost you:

Being misunderstood - many people are not going to understand the decisions you make. They may judge you harshly and assign motives to you that don't exist. As a leader you can't always (nor should you always) be able to explain the why's behind every decision you have to make. Many times the reasons and rationales behind a decision are complex and contain sensitive and confidential information

Not always being liked - as a leader you will displease others. If you have a people pleasing personality, then being a leader will constantly frustrate you. Many people are very easily offended, and often as a leader you will be the lightning rod of their angry, frustration and disappointment.

Sleepless nights - being leader carries with it weightiness. And as a leader you will struggle with worry, fear and anxiety. The weight of the scope of your responsibility or the magnitude of the decisions you need to make will press in on you. Certainly as a spiritual leader, you need to take that worry and fear to the feet of Jesus. But needless to say, as a leader you will find yourself doing that on a very regular basis.

Security - being a leader means that you aren't "flying under the radar". You are putting yourself out there and making decisions that may cost you your job. I have know leaders that felt compelled to make bold decisions, because they felt that it was best, and yet by doing so it cost them the security of their own job and leadership position. Being a leader makes you vulnerable and makes comfort and job security risky.

5 Simple Ways To Add Fuel To The Creative Process



Feeling dry? Feel like you're tapped out of creative juices? Here are a couple of simple ways you can add some creative fuel to the tank.

Be a reader - Creatives fill the creative tank by reading. But don't just read about subjects and topics in your industry - rather cross-train. Read about other industries and things outside of your professional space. Most creative ideas come from making new associations from two divergent fields. Be a reader!

Be silly and play - Most creatives know how to play. Most of us are just way too serious. Play and laughter allows you to relax and, in effect, connect with your inner child. And as you know kids are some of the most creative people. 

Change your setting - Get up and change your surroundings. Get out of your home and office to a new place and location. Studies have shown that places like coffee houses, with their level of white noise and activity, can increase creativity and productivity -  HERE.

Engage in non-linear thinking - Forget outlining. Outlining or making lists is a linear approach to creative thinking and often makes it difficult to see new and fresh connections. Rather jot down your ideas in a mind map. Mind maps are free flowing and therefore spur the opportunity to be creative.

Listen to comedy - Why does comedy work in making you laugh? Because comedy is built upon making creative associations. Listening to good comedy is like calisthenics for the brain. It can help get your creative brain firing and energized.

App Of The Week - Canva



Rarely do I discover an app that is incredibly useful and at the same time, really wows and impresses me, but recently I've been using a new jaw-dropping online app for designing graphics. If you've ever needed a brochure or graphics for a website or even an infographic designed for your church or ministry you know just how hard it is to learn tools like Adobe Illustrator and you know how expensive it can be to hire a designer. Now there is an option -  Canva, Canva lets you do design high quality graphics effortlessly. Let me show you a couple of samples.

In addition to the header photo up top, here are some of the graphics that I've created using Canva:








Canva walks you through every step of way. If you want Canva will give you suggested templates that match Facebook, Twitter or Google+ headers. It provides high quality graphics for your text, sample layouts and a great selection of font choices. At a nominal cost, Canva provides high quality stock photos, or you can upload your own. Also with Canva, you can use their filters and photo editor to make your photos pop.

I truly think that Canva is a game-changer - especially for churches, bloggers, ministries and non-profits who need high quality graphics and design but often don't have the budget or expertise to always pull it off. The learning curve to use Canva is not steep at all, you'll be up and running making eye-popping graphics in no time at all.

Ebook Deals For Your Library




Here are some great Christian ebook deals that you don't want to miss...all at $5.99 or below!

One Selection is FREE!
Jesus the Evangelist by Richard Phillips

A Woman’s Wisdom by Lydia Brownback—99¢
Gospel Wakefulness by Jared Wilson—$1.99
Otherworld: A Novel by Jared C. Wilson -  $2.99
One Perfect Life by John MacArthur—$2.99
All God’s Children and Blue Suede Shoes by Ken Myers—$2.99
Seeing the Unseen by Randy Alcorn—$2.99
The Ever-Loving Truth by Voddie Baucham—$2.99
God’s Love by R.C. Sproul—$2.99
When Children Love to Learn edited by Elaine Cooper—$1.99
Retro Christianity by Michael Svigel—$1.99
Life’s Biggest Questions by Erik Thoennes—$1.99
Grounded in the Gospel by J.I. Packer—$2.51
Paul Meets Muhammad by Michael Licona—$2.51

When Missions Shapes the Mission by David Horner—$2.99
Creature of the Word by Matt Chandler, Josh Patterson and Eric Geiger—$2.99
Disciplines of a Godly Man by Kent Hughes—$2.99
Radical Womanhood by Carolyn McCulley—$2.99
In God We Trust by Steve Ham—$2.99
The Duty of Pastors by John Owen—99¢
The Genesis Factor by David Helm and Jon Dennis—99¢

Magnifying God in Christ by Thomas Schreiner—$4.99
Old Story New by Marty Machowski—$4.99
Simple Church by Thom Rainer—$4.99
The Man of Sin by Kim Riddelbarger—$3.99
Understanding Spiritual Warfare: Four Views—$3.99
Praying Backwards by Bryan Chapell—$3.99
Recovering Redemption by Matt Chandler—$4.99
Gospel Truth, Pagan Lies: Can You Tell the Difference? by Peter Jones—$5.99

Is Your Gospel Too Small?


A gospel which is only about the moment of conversion but does not extend to every moment of life in Christ is too small. A gospel that gets your sins forgiven but offers no power for transformation is too small. A gospel that isolates one of the benefits of union with Christ and ignores all the others is too small. A gospel that must be measured by your own moral conduct, social conscience, or religious experience is too small. A gospel that rearranges the components of your life but does not put you personally in the presence of God is too small. 
- Fred Sanders, The Deep Things of God

I remember hearing years ago from pastor and teacher Jack Miller, that as Christians, we need to "preach the gospel" to our hearts and lives every day. In other words, we don't graduate from the gospel. The gospel isn't merely some set of propositional truths that we affirm only to become a Christian and then after our conversion it then carries no application or relevance. No, the gospel is more.

Rather the love and grace of the gospel is the beautiful and majestic reality that we must live in, sit in and let permeate us every day. The gospel not only saves us from eternal separation from God for all eternity...but the gospel saves us to live a changed, renewed, powerful and transformed life every day.

If you are anything like me, I have short term memory loss. I can easily forget. Yet more tragic than simply forgetting where I parked the car, I can forget at times that I am loved and fully accepted by Jesus. How is that possible? It becomes possible when I allow the stresses., failures and pressures of the day to overshadow Christ's love for me. Or I choose to listen to the voices of the world and the enemy define me by their lies. That is why I must double down on the gospel. Through the Word, I need to press down into my heart that I am accepted and loved by Jesus, and that no circumstance, feeling or failure can change that fact.

I need to be reminded of what Paul said in Galatians (4:4-7) "But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God."

In Jesus, I am a son or daughter of the King. I am deeply loved and accepted because I am united with Jesus. I need to apply these truths to my life every moment of every day. As Elyse Fitzpatrick says in her book, Because He Loves Me
"In order to grow in Christlikeness, we’ve got to intentionally apply the gospel to everything we are and everything we long to do. We’re not to sever our obedience from [Christ's] perfect sinlessness nor disconnect our mortal life from his resurrected life. We’ve got to understand ourselves in the light of our new identity, seeing ourselves as we truly are: sinful and flawed, loved and welcomed. Only these gospel realities have enough power to engender faith, kill idolatry, produce character change, and motivate faithful obedience."
Although these truths are true for every Christian, they are definitely no less true for every pastor or ministry leader. Ministry is an incredibly tough, stressful and lonely job (as we've spoken about HERE, HERE and HERE). Therefore as ministry leaders, we need to drink deeply of the gospel. The gospel must become for us a giant anchor that we constantly cling fervently to.

We can't allow the gospel to become too small. What about you, is your gospel too small?

Our Nation's Founding And Faith - Quotes


"For my own part, I sincerely esteem it [the Constitution] a system which without the finger of God, never could have been suggested and agreed upon by such a diversity of interests." - Alexander Hamilton (1787 after the Constitutional Convention)

"The propitious smiles of Heaven can never be expected on a nation that disregards the eternal rules of order and right which Heaven itself has ordained." - George Washington, 1789

"This is all the inheritance I can give my dear family. The religion of Christ can give them one which will make them rich indeed." - Patrick Henry (Last Will and Testament)

“July 4th ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance by solemn acts of devotion.” - John Adams

"The highest glory of the American Revolution was this - that it connected, in one indissoluble bond, the principles of civil government with the principles of Christianity." - John Quincy Adams

Who Attends America's Megachurches?

by Warren Bird:
“As the Baby Boomer generation (born 1946-1964) passes on, megachurches are also dying off.” I see statements like that often in the public media, but all the evidence says they’re just plain wrong, based on a major research project I did with Scott Thumma. Instead, the larger the church the greater the percentage of young adults go there on average.
See how people of different ages break out within megachurches in this infographic below:


(ht: Leadership Network)

A Beautiful Mess


John Stott, in his preface to his book, Basic Christianity, makes this sobering statement,
“Hostile to the church, friendly to Jesus Christ.” These words describe large numbers of people, especially young people, today. They are opposed to anything which savors of institutionalism. They detest the establishment and its entrenched privileges. And they reject the church — not without some justification — because they regard it as impossibly corrupted by such evils.
I have heard people say, "I love Jesus, but I hate His bride". If anyone said to me, "Bill I love you but I hate your wife Lauren." I might just have to pop them one! You can't diss a man's wife. When you insult my wife, you insult me.So is the same for the church and Jesus. They are intricately linked. You can't separate the two. But unfortunately many people do.

Approximately 22 million Americans say they are Christians and have made a faith commitment to Jesus Christ. Yet those same people say that although commitment is still important to them, they have struggled with faith or relational issues and therefore quit going to church.

Maybe you haven't gone so far as to quit the church, but perhaps you don't have a lot of hope in it. Perhaps you are just coming on Sundays and going through the motions, but you don't see how the church is really relevant to your life or see any purpose in going deeper into the Christian community.

If you feel this way, perhaps you feel you have some very good reasons why.

  • Perhaps in the past you have faced from the church condemnation and judgment. You've seen in the church involved in acrimony, with back biting and gossip. Or perhaps you've witnessed a church split.
  • Perhaps you've just felt the pain of loneliness or feeling disconnected from the church.
  • Maybe you've been unsure of where you fit into the church.
  • Sometimes you might feel confused or overwhelmed by the church's expectations.
  • Perhaps you've been burned out, felt unappreciated or forgotten.
Maybe you feel as if the church has failed you, the CHURCH just looks like a complete MESS!

Phil Yancey in his book, Soul Survivor; How My Faith Survived the Church, ponders his own disenchantment with church:
I have spent most of my life in recovery from the church. Every writer has one main theme, a spoor that he or she keeps sniffing around, tracking, following to its source. If I had to define my own theme, it would be that of a person who absorbed some of the worst the church has to offer, yet still landed in the loving arms of God.
The church is a Mess. But it is a Beautiful Mess. This is because the church belongs to Christ.

St. Augustine wrote, “The church is a whore, but she is my mother.” Yes, the church is definitely flawed. But we should not give up on it.

In the book, Letters to a Young Evangelical, Tony Campolo urges young evangelicals not to give up on organized religion and the local church in particular.
“Because as Augustine made clear, the church is still your mother,” he wrote. “It is she who taught you about Jesus. I want you to remember that Christ loves the church and gave himself for it (Ephesians 5:25) … Christ’s church is called his bride (2 Corinthians 11:2), and his love for her makes him faithful to her even when she is not faithful to him.
Through the ages, God has used the church to keep alive and pass down the story of what Christ has done for us … and has kept the world aware that Christ is alive today, offering help and strength to those who trust in him.
There will be times when your church will fail and disappoint you.

If you are a part of a church community, be assured that community will fail and disappoint you.

But regardless of the church's failures and messiness, Christ will never fail you.

You can't give up on the church, because it is intricately tied to Christ. Cling to Jesus and remember that this is Christ's Church and He is the chief cornerstone (Eph 2:20).

Yes, the church can be a mess, but it is a Beautiful Mess.

The Expulsive Power Of The Gospel On Our Idols




Because the idolatry of our hearts is not just a failure to obey God rather it is a setting of the whole heart on something besides God. Idolatry can’t just be remedied only by repenting that you have an idol, or using willpower to try to live differently. In the past I've preached to my church about how we need the expulsive power of a higher affection to address our idols - that higher affection is the beauty and power of the gospel.

Here is how the expulsive power would work in terms of the 4 core idols we face as Christians - Power, Approval, Comfort and Control. 

  • Your idol of approval will melt away and be overshadowed by the expulsive power of the gospel which tells you that you are deeply loved by Jesus and that you are fully accepted by Him. 
  • Your idol of control will evaporate and be diminished by the expulsive power of the gospel which reassures you that you need not fear failure - that you can live with abandonment and complete trust - because you know that what Jesus accomplished on the cross was complete and sufficient. 
  • Your idol of power will disappear and be overtaken by the expulsive power of the gospel which tells you that you need not have to strive anymore, Jesus strived for you. Jesus fully and completely obeyed where you and I could not. 
  • Your idol of comfort will dissolve and be forgotten by the expulsive power of the gospel which invites you into His rest and has taken all your cares, fears and burdens upon his shoulders on the cross.