Leaders Who Bring Life to Their Teams

18 09 2018

9780735290945If you are going to be the president of an organization that exists “to unify and equip leaders who love the Church” then you might want to know a thing or two about leadership.  Tyler Reagin, President of Catalyst, has taken on the subject in his newest book entitled The Life Giving Leader:  Learning to Lead from Your Truest Self, published by Waterbrook.

Reagin has had the opportunity of sitting under the leadership of Andy Stanley and has been influenced greatly by some of the leading leaders in the world including Craig Groeschel, who wrote one of the two forwards (the other is written by Andy Stanley).

Reagin unashamedly approaches leadership from a Christian perspective and encourages Christians to embrace their lives as leaders in this book.

His premise in this book is that we should breathe life into the people that we lead and spends the entirety of this book showing how that can be accomplished.  He encourages us to not see people as an interruption to our day but rather that they are our day.

I appreciated his words on self-awareness, something that I have struggled with in the past.  There have been plenty words spilt on awareness so I was happy to read discussion on this topic.

He ends his book with a discussion on a leaders call to sweat, sacrifice, surrender, and serve.  I found these chapters convicting and helpful.

Reagin in my opinion does a great job of balancing hard work with the need for down time and family.  He sets an example to his own team in this area.

All in all I believe that this is going to be a helpful book for those who wish to lead.  It certainly will go well with this year’s Catalyst theme:  Fully Alive.

I received this book from the publisher for an honest review.  I honestly liked the book.  You will too.


Encouragement for the Small Church Pastor

5 09 2018

41qsejNasDL._SX326_BO1,204,203,200_In over 25 years of ministry I’ve been to several church conferences.  I will admit that there have been several times where I’ve come home either feeling guilty for not pastoring well because I didn’t measure up to the success that was displayed at the conference, or I’ve come home and tried to implement their blueprint for our ministry when it just didn’t fit.  In the end it almost seemed like a worthless pursuit.  Since 90% of the churches are composed of 200 or less people, it makes sense for somebody to focus on the small church.

Karl Vaters speaks to the small church pastor in his newest book:  Small Church Essentials, Field-tested Principles for Leading a Healthy Congregation of Under 250 published by Moody Publishers.  Finally, there is a book for the rest of us.

Vaters authored The Grasshopper Myth: Big Churches, Small Churches, and the Small Thinking that Divides Us (2013), speaks extensively at conferences on the topic of the small church, and writes a blog on small churches for Christianity Today. He has put a lot of thought on the subject.  He even pastors a small church and shares stories in his book on how he has had to overcome many of the challenges in his pastorate as small church pastors all over.

One of the first things Vaters does in his book is alleviate this feeling of insignificance that small church pastors may feel at times because of the size of his church. He grows through great lengths to show that small doesn’t necessarily mean unhealthy and that our goal should be becoming a great small church.  Personally I found this very encouraging.

What I found helpful was the practical advice given in this book on tackling the issues and problems that arise in a small church, that a larger church doesn’t have.  From dealing with difficult people to dealing with a lack of resources, there is some truly helpful tidbits in this book.  I even found myself convicted a few times for how I’ve handled things recently.

All in all I believe that this will be a helpful book for small church pastors.  I could see small church pastors meeting together to go through this book.

I have always been a small church pastor and probably will remain in that role.  In closing I believe that there is a special place in Heaven for those pastors who work 40 hour weeks while pastoring a flock.  I’m thankful for the opportunity to read this book.

I was provided a copy of this book by the publisher for an honest review.  I’m thankful for the opportunity.

Great Book on Battling Sexual Sin

15 06 2018

41qeSqVJniL._SY346_There is hardly a few weeks that go buy that I don’t have a conversation with somebody about sexual sin.  Whether it is a young man struggling in the church that I pastor or it is seeing it first hand as the male that I’m ubering around in my car is trying to convince the girl with him to come back and cuddle just a bit, it is evident that we do live in a broken world.  Paul David Tripp talks about this world gone crazy in his book Sex in a Broken World:  How Christ Redeems What Sin Distorts, published by Crossway.  In this book he doesn’t deny that we are sexual beings, but we live in a world that is not sexually healthy but is deeply broken.  In this world God does not promise us that we will not struggle, but rather He has given to us the best gift ever in it—Himself.  As a matter of fact according to the author, “The cross is our guarantee that in all our struggles with sex, no matter who we are and what those struggles may be, God will give us everything we need.  If He willingly gave us His Son, we can rest assured He will gladly supply what we are not able to supply for ourselves.”  There can be victory in this area of our lives!

In this book Tripp takes a close look at the brokenness of this world but challenges the Christian to not use that as an excuse to chase sin.  He encourages the Christian to take a good long look at his/her own heart and ask the question of whether or not your heart is controlled by a higher pleasure of God, which is greater than any other pleasure you could seek.  The question is this:  Is God the master of my heart?  Everything else falls into place after that.  In this book the author goes in great detail to show us that we must have a heart-controlling love for God that can protect us in this world that we live in.

Tripp completes his book with some practical advice on how to find victory in this area of your life.  He points to hope found in the gospel and in the power of God.  He says, “When you begin to understand that you’ve been invited to a meal that will never end, that you’ve been welcomed to the King’s table forever, you’ll quit looking to sneak a bite at other tables.”  Understanding what we have in this relationship with God, goes far in the victory we all need.

This is going to be a book that I keep close.  It is going to be a book that I recommend time and time again because of the pervasive nature of this sin and this sinful world that we live in.  I found many of the truths in this book to be applicable not only to sexual sin, but any sin.  This is one that you need on your shelfs not just for yourself, but for those you love.

I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Does Your Church Welcome?

17 04 2018

765452You never get a second chance to make a first impression.  That is something that I have personally reminded my first impressions team at the church that I pastor.  That statement and more like it were reinforced to me in Thom S. Rainer’s book Becoming a Welcoming Church, published by B&H.

In this book Rainer challenges us to think through whether or not we are as welcoming as we think that we truly are.  When we take an honest look into the mirror, we find that when we think that we are friendly and welcoming, we are really focused on ourselves and not outsiders.  It is so easy to get complacent and therefore lacking in this area.

This short book by Rainer encourages you to look at your church from the eyes of an outsider.  Discussions about signs, websites, safety, cleanliness, greeters, and welcome centers are vital.  They are short but concise.  He touches so many areas of the church in so little time.  What I like about this book is that this is something that I can hand to my leaders and be assured that they will read it.

Each chapter has a list of discussion questions that could help you or a small group think deeper about your own situation.  I found the questions to be very helpful.  There is also a church facility audit in the back of the book as well as a secret guest survey that one might give to someone that you have attend a Sunday at your church to see how you are doing.

This is a very helpful book and there is a companion book entitled We Want You Here that can actually be presented to first time guests of your church.

Yes, I do recommend this book to you and your guest services team.  I plan to share it with mine.

I received a copy of this book for an honest review.

A Practical Read on Church Health

28 02 2018

Every January the gyms fill up with people who made the New Year’s resolution to get fit.  It is a time that the year round gym rats do not enjoy, but what gets them through this season of the year is the fact that it will be short lived.  Before long they have their space once again as one by one people step out of their routines.  They do so because fitness is tough and it takes great effort.

In much the same way church fitness requires the same tenacity and effort.  In Building the Body:  12 Characteristics of a Fit Church, Gary L. McIntosh and Phil Stevenson attempt to show what it is goi41sKF0GQxPL._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_ng to take to build a fit church.  Realizing that not every church is at the same place, they have divided each chapter into a section of teaching about that particular characteristic, followed by practical advice on how to improve in that characteristic according to where your church was in the process.

Likening the church to a body that is getting healthy through cardiovascular endurance, muscular strength, muscular endurance, flexibility, and body composition, this book, published by Baker Books, takes you through a list of 12 characteristics that are needed for each section.

I found the teaching section with each characteristic to be rich with nuggets of truth.  I really thought that part of the book was well done.  Where the chapters lost me just a bit was when the authors attempted to give practical application on how to improve.  Because I do not pastor a church that they would describe as elite, advanced, or even intermediate I found myself feeling that this was not written to me.  I found myself struggling through those sections.

One of the parts about this book that was helpful was the chapter that allowed you to track your church’s progress as to its health by evaluating your church in each section. Following this evaluation is a short guide leading you to set goals on improving your health.

All in all I feel that this will be a book that I will refer back to at some point as I seek to build the church that I pastor.  In short I have read better written books on church health but I certainly would not discount this read either.

I was given a copy of this book for an honest review.

Great Discipleship Tool!

4 01 2018

51Ngo61rBaL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_Bearing Fruit:  What Happens When God’s People Grow is the latest book by author/pastor Robby Gallaty.  Robby is the Senior Pastor of Long Hollow Baptist Church in Hendersonville, TN and has become a leading voice for discipleship within Christian circles.  This book is the third and final book in a series which began in 2013 with Growing Up:  How to Be a Disciple Who Makes Disciples followed by Firmly Planted:  How to Cultivate a Faith Rooted in Christ in 2015.

In Bearing Fruit, the author attempts to work through the concept of sanctification, defined by Gallaty as the “process whereby Christ lives His life through us.”  He states that the entire process is God’s doing from start to finish but when it happens, God brings forth fruit.  All of us should strive to be fruit bearers.

But what is that fruit?  That is the question that Gallaty attempts to explore in this book by going to the seven places in the New Testament where the word “fruit” is located.  He then explores the following:  The Fruit of Repentance, Fruit of Ministry; Fruit of Sanctification, Fruit of Righteousness; Fruit of Good Works; The Fruit of the Spirit; and The Fruit of Praise.

I found this book to be a powerful read, especially when you put it up aside the other books in this series.  This will be an excellent discipleship tool that can be used in a small discipleship group setting.  It would be helpful to go through this book with what Gallaty has called a “D-Group:  a gender-exclusive, closed group of three to six people who meet weekly.  He does a great job of really going deep in each of these areas.  If you are like me, you will be underlining quotes along the way.  This book is full of repeatable material that can benefit believers in their walk with Christ.

I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Why should you bring your kids to Sunday School?

1 11 2017

At the church that I pastor we still have age appropriate Sunday School classes every Sunday morning prior to our worship service.  It is something that our discipleship team works extremely hard on each year in getting teachers and material.  Sundays come on the weekends though and some parents find it difficult to get up and give that extra time.  Why should you do it?

You do it because they have a class that is targeted to their age.  It will be a place where they will meet friends and have a teacher that will pray for them, teach them, and love them.  I read somewhere that if you come to church a little earlier with your child that it will equal to over 800 hours of additional Christian teaching before they graduate and children-sunday-schoolleave your home. 800 hours!  Did you hear that?  800 hours!  If the Word of God is true and I believe that it is where Psalm 119:11 says,  “I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you,” it means that your child says 800 hours of the Word poured into them because you got up early.

You do it because that teacher has spent considerable time preparing the lesson for them.  There is nothing more discouraging to a teacher than to spend time in preparation and then have hardly anyone show up.  They have spent time not only in Bible study but in prayer preparing for that time when the kids enter the room.  Nothing says I love my child’s teacher like you having them there for the study.

It just sends the right message to your kids when you bring them to Sunday School and you stay with them.  It shows your children that you believe the Bible is the authority in your own life.  At our church when your child is in class you too have an opportunity to go to class.  There have been plenty of times in my own experience when the truth I needed to hear for that day came in the Sunday School lesson, not the sermon.

There have been too many people that I’ve known in life that look back to a faithful Sunday School teacher as one of the most influential people in their lives.  That can’t happen unless you make the effort to get your child there.  Hope to see you this Sunday!