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.


Hurting? This is an Excellent Read!

6 06 2018

downloadHave you ever read a book and you could only think of is the people that you needed to pick up a copy of it?  That is exactly how I felt as I began my journey with author Sarah Van Diest in her book God in the Dark:  31 Devotions to Let the Light Back In published by NavPress.  The words of this book were first written to a friend who was in great pain.  Knowing that there was nothing that she could do to make the pain go away, she resorted to praying and writing him letters.  Each day she would send her friend a small note with her thoughts on a section of Psalm 119.  Those small notes and a few more added just for the book are what you have in this devotional read.  This devotional is vGod in the darkry personal and each day’s read is short and concise.  This book of 160 pages is so full of truth, encouragement, Scripture, God, hope, and faith.  If I sound as if I’m gushing about it, then you would be correct.

I could just about tweet this whole book out, if that was possible.  Of course I commend this book to you or somebody that you might know that is in a dark place right now.  It is a wonderful reminder that God is always present in our darkness.  The same comfort that the author sought to bring to her friend who was hurting, can be brought to you.

I received a copy of this book 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.

When God Wants to Drill a Man

10 04 2018

When God wants to drill a man,
And thrill a man,
And skill a man
When God wants to mold a man
To play the noblest part;

When He yearns with all His heart
To create so great and bold a man
That all the world shall be amazed,
Watch His methods, watch His ways!

How He ruthlessly perfects
Whom He royally elects!
How He hammers him and hurts him,
And with mighty blows converts him

Into trial shapes of clay which
Only God understands;
While his tortured heart is crying
And he lifts beseeching hands!

How He bends but never breaks
When his good He undertakes;
How He uses whom He chooses,
And which every purpose fuses him;
By every act induces him
To try His splendor out-
God knows what He’s about.

– Anonymous

Marriage is Worth the Fight

21 02 2018

Imagine being a fly on the wall of a Christian couple as they battle to have what they call a gospel saturated marriage.  Imagine walking with them through their fights, their times of suffering, their struggles with sin, and their victories.  That is what you get in D.A. and Elicia Horton’s newest work entitled Enter the Ring:  fighting together for a gospel-saturated marriage.

D. 512b-d58LUL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_A. Horton serves as Pastor of Reach Fellowship, a church plant in North Long Beach, CA and as Chief Evangelist for the Urban Youth Workers Institute (UYWI). He is the author of three previous books before taking on this project with his wife. This is Elicia Horton’s first book, and apart from being married to D.A. and raising 3 children, she travels the country teaching and encouraging others through rap and poetry.  Both bring a wealth of experience and Biblical training to the writing of this book.

In this book the Hortons definitely do not come out of their ivory tower to teach us about marriage.  They truly take you on a journey through some of their ugliest and most painful parts of their marriage to show the reader the sufficiency of Christ in the life of a believer and his/her marriage.  They call for a gospel-saturated marriage and life in this book, a life that the gospel’s content and implications affect every part of the life and marriage.

The Hortons take us down different roads with each chapter.  In the first two chapters you see what Christian oneness looks like in a marriage and get solid advice on the importance of communication in the marriage and how to get to what they call Level 1 communication.  I must tell you that some of the sections on communication are hilarious as they give us a look into their own struggles.

Their chapter on going the distance gives practical advice on leading your marriage through times of suffering and pain.  Just as you found yourself laughing with the Hortons in chapter 3, you will find yourself feeling their pain in chapter 4.

The Hortons turn more to the Scriptures in their fifth chapter as they go in-depth into the role of husbands, wives, and parents according to the Scriptures.

In the next chapter they take up the subject of purity before and during the marriage.  You get to see the Hortons in very vulnerable spots in this chapter.  The story of the day when D.A. accidently posted an admission to looking at porn publicly when he meant to do it privately made for some interesting reading.

They finish the book off by taking an honest look at the pressures of finance.  We get to learn from their mistakes and also learn from their journey to freedom.  I absolutely loved what they learned while at Summit Church with J.D. Greear.  They even give a sample budget to start a couple off on their journey to financial freedom.

Their final chapter is a Scriptural discussion on what a Gospel saturated life looks like.

A section that I almost didn’t read was the Epilogue, but I’m certainly glad I did because there they address those who are unmarried.  It certainly made me think how I view them and how I’ve misused them in the past in our ministry.  That may be my favorite part of the book.

All in all I enjoyed the book.  I appreciated how the two authors bounced back and forth with their sections.  You get to see their teaching from both points of view.  I believe this will be a great read for a couple getting married or recently married.

I was presented a copy of this book by the publisher for an honest review.

Shhhh. God is Speaking.

10 01 2018

9780735291089Lean in and listen.  That is the message of Mark Batterson, New York Times best-selling author in his book Whisper:  How to Hear the Voice of God published by Multnomah.  I’m going to be perfectly honest with you.  I’m a skeptic when so many people proclaim that they have heard the voice of God.  I’ve always have stated, “How did you know it was God’s voice and not the pizza that you had the night before?”  So when I received this book to read and review I will be honest with you.  I was skeptical.  What can this guy teach me about listening to God’s voice?  Just read the Scripture and you will hear God’s voice I’ve always thought.  I will tell you that Batterson softened up this skeptical mind of mine by keeping his commitment to Scripture while exploring the different ways that our Father speaks to us.

Mark Batterson, lead pastor of National Community Church in Washington D.C., has written several popular books over the years like The Circle Maker and In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day.  He is very good at weaving an abundance of stories with the truth that he has gleaned from Scripture.  This book holds your attention and is easily read.  I found myself running to twitter to quote him several times.How did Job survive hell on earth_ _He fell to the ground in worship._ If you want to make it through the tough times, you have to give God the sacrifice of praise. I know that's easier

The book is broken up into two sections.  In the first he speaks about the power of a whisper and talks about the power of silence and listening.  In the second section of the book he speaks about the seven love languages that God uses to speak to us.  As stated before in each section he is committed to Scripture but very skillfully speaks about the ways that God uses to communicate to us and how we might take full advantage of that means.

God doesn't love us because of who we are. God loves us because of who He is.When we succeed, God says, _I love you._When we fail, God says, _I love you._When we have faith, _God says _IThe chapter on pain is just about worth the whole book.  I know that I will be pulling this book back off of my shelf to reread that section in the future.

All in all I do highly recommend this book.  I can see why Batterson has been so successful in the past with his writing.  This was my first work of his to read but it won’t be my last.  I want to go back and read the books that put this author on the map.

I received a copy of this book 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!